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Welcome to Cheltenham Stories

Welcome to Cheltenham Stories. We are a group of writers who meet to share our stories and work on them together. We are always happy for people to come along and join in what we do, whether by chipping in or just by listening and giving their thoughts. We meet at the Sober Parrot, Cheltenham’s alcohol-free entertainment bar, on Sunday mornings from about 10.15 to 12.30. The Sober Parrot is at 7 St James Square, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 3PR.

If you would like to come along, email john@cheltenhamstories.com or telephone 077 88 515387.

Sunday 31 November

This week we are going to do pitching or a letter to an agent (it’s much the same).

You can either base it on a big project you are working on, or one you would like to work on, or even one someone else has done (a famous book) . I want you to bring: 


1. A Title

2. A log-line (that’s the thing you see below the title on a movie poster or the top two lines on the back of most paperbacks). 

3. A short synopsis. No more than 300 words and probably less. 

4. A short description of the book’s genre and who it is supposed to appeal to. 

5. A paragraph about yourself. 

6. Triangulation: three things that the book is sort of like. “In the same vein as”.

This sounds like a lot, but it isn’t really. In real life you’d also send a writing sample. Bring one if you like but no more than 300 words.

We can discuss how we’d turn these components into a real letter to an agent or publisher.

Sunday 24 November

This week we are going to do an exercise I call “reverses polarity”. The idea is to take a characteristic of yourself and write a story in first person in which that characteristic is reversed. For instance, if you are a man, write as a woman; if you are white, write as if you are black; if you are educated, write as if you are unschooled; if you are old, write as if you are young. You can, of course, reverse more than one of your characteristics.

I hope you enjoy the exercise and I will see you next week.

Sunday 17 November

This week we are writing stories in the present tense. Here are some useful links:

https://theeditorsblog.net/2012/01/31/narrative-tense-right-now-or-way-back-then/

https://marksarvas.blogs.com/elegvar/2007/11/present-tense-s.html

https://www.writers-online.co.uk/how-to-write/creative-writing/writing-in-the-present-tense-the-good-and-the-bad/

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/nov/21/rise-of-the-present-tense-in-fiction-hilary-mantel

https://www.novel-writing-help.com/past-tense.html

Some famous books were written in present tense: Bleak House (mostly), Clarissa, All Quiet on the Western Front, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Room, Bright Lights Big City, Wolf Hall, Rabbit Run, The Girl on the Train, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Hunger Games,  If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, Damon Runyon’s stories, All the Light We Cannot See, Fifty Shades of Grey and many more. 


Here are three prompts: 
As soon as I see them, I know I have to have them. 
There is a pile of clothing on the side of the street. 
She is wearing a mask to disguise her identity. 

I hope you enjoy the exercise.

Sunday 10 November

We all enjoyed writing stories from a picture prompt last week, so let’s have a go working from a written prompt. I have three for you:

1. “I have to go!” he/she said, suddenly jumping up from the table. 
2. Something unusual is found in a winter coat pocket. 
3. You get on a bus and end up in a remote town where things seem a little odd. 

Choose whichever one you like. Try and write somewhere in the 300-600 word range and bring along copies for everyone.

Sunday October 27

For next time, we’re going to try writing from a picture prompt. 
Find a picture and write a story prompted by it. It can be a little longer than usual because I don’t think there will be many of us. So up to about 1,500 words or so. Try and make it something with a beginning, middle and end. Bring the picture with you when you come.

 
Here are some thoughts about writing from a picture prompt:  – What feelings does it inspire? – What secrets might it contain? – What does it remind you of?  Does it bring up any memories or other associations? – What might be going on outside the frame?
 – What might have happened right before the scene in the picture?  What might happen afterward? 

Story prompts:
 1) Your character is in the scene you see in the painting.  Something terrible has just happened, and your character is still trying to figure out how to react… 2) Your character is in the scene you see in the painting.  Something is about to happen that will turn your character’s world upside-down…
 3) Your character is in the scene you see in the painting and is about to reveal a secret… 3) Every night, your character dreams about the scene you see in this painting.  These dreams are strangely vivid, and your character is sure that they contain a hidden message…


Of course, you don’t have to use any of these ideas. If anyone can’t find a picture that inspires them, I can send you some. 

Sunday October 20

Thanks to those who came last Sunday. I enjoyed the session and found it really useful. I think I am beginning to get a handle on “showing and telling” at last. 
For this coming Sunday, I thought we could have a look at description
Here are a few links. 
On describing characters: 
https://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/11-secrets-to-writing-effective-character-description
On describing settings: 
https://jerryjenkins.com/setting-of-a-story/
On description generally:
https://www.novel-writing-help.com/descriptive-writing-2.html

On not describing at all: 
https://writingcooperative.com/dont-use-description-in-your-writing-75d059c8e82d

For the exercise, take a couple of pictures from a magazine or newspaper, one perhaps of a person or people and the other of a landscape, a room, or another setting, and try describing them. Bring those descriptions along, with the pictures, and then we can all see if we can visualise from what you have written and compare it with the original picture to see how close you got. 
I think this could be useful. 
John

Sunday September 29

For the group on Sunday 29th, we’re going to have a look at the perennial topic of “showing and telling”. Remember, you need both, but they do different jobs.

If you don’t always grasp the difference, here are some useful links I found: 
https://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/showing-and-telling-the-basics.html
https://www.autocrit.com/editing/support/showing-vs-telling-indicators/
https://www.novel-writing-help.com/writing-a-narrative.html
https://jerichowriters.com/show-dont-tel

Anyway, our exercise for next week is to write a little scene or story in two versions, one predominantly “telling” and the other “showing”. 

Good luck. 

PS. The Stroud Short Story Competition for November closes at one minute to midnight on Sunday 29 September, so if you have anything, go for it. 

Sunday September 22

For our group on Sunday 22nd September, I thought we could try an exercise that comes from the FutureLearn course in Creative Writing that some of you may seen

You have to write a piece about yourself, a relative, a friend, a historical figure or some subject you are interested in and it has to contain one falsehood and three truths. Then you write another that contains three falsehoods and one truth. 


The pieces only have to be up to 150 words each. We read them out and then everyone tries to guess the truths and the lies. I think the idea is to show how you can write imaginary material in such a way that it sounds real. Why not give it a go?