Julian Gough’s Short Story Workshop‏ – part three

Parts one and two can be found here and here.

After the Saturday ended at 4pm,  I went home knackered but invigorated. I was fast asleep by 9:30pm.

I was raring to go the next morning, even though it meant another 06:30 wake-up. Julian was his energetic self and once again gave us some great things to think on:

  • On the nose dialogue – I think we’re all guilty of this with first drafts.
  • Adverbs – An endangered species these days, but he says not all of them should be wiped off the face of your story (e.g., “You’re a fucking idiot,” she said fondly.)
  • Dramatic Irony – He often mentioned that you want your reader to ‘lean in’ when they read your story. This is one way to help that.
  • Comedy/Tragedy – Basically, just a matter of Point of View. If the reader is inside the head of the character, and they slip on a banana skin, then it’s terrible. But if it’s from an outside observer’s POV, then it’s hilarious.
  • Voice/Prose – I’m editing a multi-protagonist story right now. I’ll have to go through and make sure they all have their own, unique voice and not sound like clones.

Towards the end of the day, Julian went on to talk about Dan Harmon‘s fascinating, eight-step, modern take of Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces theory. Julian followed this up by saying how he also likes to look at Amazon reviews by some random person. He then looks through their Amazon review history and he often spots a timeline/life thread that could make an interesting story.

It was at this moment he wanted us all to do another twenty-minute writing exercise. We had to create a number of Amazon reviews from an imaginary person that kind of mirrored, as much as we could, the eight points of the Hero’s Journey. Some of the writers in our group struggled with the concept of this exercise, but good old Mr Subconscious was on it in a flash. So below is the five Amazon reviews from one imaginary person that I read out to the group.

All the characters in these fake Amazon reviews are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Please don’t sue me!

Item 1 – Condenser Microphone
Rating = 5 stars out of 5.
I recently bought this microphone with the winnings from coming first in my local pub’s Karaoke contest. It’s AWESOME! Makes you sound even better.

Item 2 – How to become a better singer DVD by Britley Spearing
Rating = 4 stars out of 5.
A very good instructional video, but I noticed some of her singing was off-key, so I’m only giving her a four out of five.

Item 3 – One-piece sequined jumpsuit
Rating = 3 stars out of 5.
This looked amazing in the picture, and even though I ordered the right size, it’s WAY too tight around my stomach.

Item 4 – My Life, an autobiography by Simon Cowbell
Rating = 0 stars out of 5.
Stupid, useless, high-waisted arsehole! Writes a boring book about his fake tan. I didn’t even buy it either, I nicked it from Tesco.

Item 2 – Dummies guide to Flipping Burgers
Rating = 5 stars out of 5.
I don’t care what the haters think. This book will kick-start my career to greatness.

That brought out quite a few laughs around the room.

With the end of the course soon approaching, Julian talked at length about the publishing business and his experiences with it. I gained more valuable knowledge about traditional publishers. Mainly the aspect that your work needs to go through a filter, in order to stand out. Whether that filter is winning or getting short-listed in a contest or being published in a magazine.

I’ve always been dead set on self-publishing my full-length novel; I was ninety-nine percent certain I’d do it myself. I’ve researched all the topics on doing this, and I’ve already commissioned a talented artist to create my cover. But after listening to Julian, I might just try approaching agents with my manuscript first. If no-one bites, no problem; I’ll do it myself.

Once the course ended, I thanked Julian for all the valuable information he passed on to us and for inspiring me so much. He’s helped me put a name and a face to my subconscious, and he’s energized me to write more. I’ll definitely try and enter a short story contest in the near future.

Now back to the painful editing of my novel.

p.s. Have a look at Julian’s work; I really enjoyed CRASH!

One comment

  1. Trillianapher · · Reply

    Amanda Palmer talks about the idea of a “filter” in art in one of her blog posts (she calls it “art-blender”): http://blog.amandapalmer.net/20130618/

    “we start off with all these fresh ingredients, recognizable (a heart, a finger, an eyeball, a glass of wine) and we throw them in the art-blender. i only let things mix very slightly. i keep my blender on 2 or 3. you can recognize the component parts: in the final art-soup, the finger might be severed and mangled, but you can peer into your bowl and see that it’s a finger, floating there, all human and bloody and finger-y. neil puts his art-blender on 10. you wind up with a fantastic purée, but often you have no fucking idea where the experiences of his life wound up in the mix of his final product. if you see a finger, it’s not recognizable as a human one. and that’s part of what makes Neil Gaiman (capital N and G) work.”


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