Tuesday, 24 September 2013

First Words

Today we talked dialogue.

I am a reluctant writer at best, let alone when writing dialogue. Within prose, I tend to find any dialogue dry and stunted, so avoid it at all costs. So play-writing is a nightmare.

As we had some new additions today (including some boys, horrah for gender equality!), Kate started us off by introducing ourselves again. Then she got us to look at some of Craig Taylor’s One Million Tiny Plays About Britain. These are observational stories, little snippets of the everyday, in which it feels like you are eavesdropping as you read. Not much happens, but you are thrown in the middle of a story, given a sample of a life, and left to draw your own conclusions.

Kate is looking for us to produce One Million Plays About East Oxford. Now of course, as soon as this was proposed, everyone said they didn’t know what to write about, there is nothing special about East Oxford, it’s boring around here... But with some prompting, people started to realise that they have funny relatives, oddball friends, unique places. We have different languages and accents, numerous backgrounds and cultures, and a million little stories to tell.

Having only lived in East Oxford for a year, I could only write about what I know, and what I know is Cowley Road. The idea that sprang to mind was to do with the times I take friends out along the Cowley Road for dinner – there are so many restaurants from which to choose! And there is one friend in particular (whom I adore) who always insists on paying and we always have the same conversation.

A first draft is never perfect, and I have some work to do in order to tighten up this piece and build up the comic tension. I also want to make it slightly more universal, as I felt like Craig Taylor’s characters were the sort where everyone knows someone like that.

The group felt a lot more focused today. We had a few who needed help, but most are loving the creative writing side of it and seem a little worried about the academic element of the AS they can opt to sit. My advice has been to focus on the bit writing for pleasure, and they can make their decision about the AS later in the year. First Story is so much fun, and such a brilliant experience – I find that understanding the writing process completely alters my love of reading, because I have a better knowledge of how the writer developed their novel, play or collection of poems. For the students, having creative writing skills will also help with their academic writing, giving them a new approach to structure and form. And it builds their confidence – last year, I saw delicate flowers transform into budding butterflies of literature.

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