25 January 2018

Known for his book 'Lifers', author Martin Griffin, visited the pupils who are entering the The Portico Sadie Massey Awards for Young Writers and gave us guidance on how to write a successful story. 

Firstly, Martin told us to imagine that a hand on a clock had gone and we had to think of the most creative thing to put in its place. Some of us thought of things like flowers, hearts and snakes. The hardest part of the whole exercise was that there were no limitations given, therefore many of us struggled to think of something that could replace it. After we shared what we had discussed with people around us, he showed us the responses of a group of fourth graders in an American elementary school. They came up with some very creative ideas, however, he showed us that the teacher of the elementary school had added limitations as to what could be the hand, for example: something the colour green, a living thing, etc. As the teacher had added the limitations, this showed us that as your creativity builds up, be sure to add your own limitations. If they aren't included, the ideas would be cliché, thus creating an unsuccessful plot. 

In addition to this, Martin listed and showed us some of the clichés we should avoid using in our creative writing. These include the most simplistic of story lines that lack creativity - for example, the long and exaggerated "Noooo" should not be included. To avoid our stories falling within these clichés, Martin informed us of three different writing techniques of limitations to consider when creating our narratives. The first of the writing techniques was "So What, What and Then What?" Or in other words: so what has happened before the story began, what is happening now and what will happen as the story progresses? This technique would allow us to establish a past for our characters which would improve our creativity. This technique showed us that as the amount of limitations increased, so did the creativity! The second technique was "Flaw and Challenge". Martin told us that every fictional character must have a ‘flaw’ which creates a challenge. In a narrative story, the "Flaw and Challenge" technique allowed us to identify a character's flaws or challenges which we particularly found useful in coming up with ideas for our narrative pieces. Thirdly, Martin explained the "Talisman Technique", which was taught to him when he was studying at university. He felt that this particular technique had helped him in all of his successful novels. For the pupils, this technique was new, and creating an object with magical powers and then having the character lose it, provided many ideas for our narratives. Martin also explained the importance of our opening paragraphs and how these have such an impact on the story as a whole. He did this by showing us videos of the openings of the film Oceans 11 and from this we gathered what the story would be about. The clips adopted the technique of ‘So What, What and Then What’? 

Overall, all pupils who participated in the writing workshop benefitted greatly. Martin was fantastic at giving us narrative advice, but the highlight of the workshop was the discussions which allowed us to collectively try out the techniques that he suggested. We would like to thank Martin for his great advice and the preparation which went into the event. We would also like to thank Mrs Baylis for all of the preparation she put into the organising the afternoon. We can’t wait to start writing our narrative pieces! 


by Caitlin and Natalie (Year 10)