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Get Set

Updated: Nov 20, 2019

Vivid sense of place in this compelling novel

Get Set

The focus of this and next week is setting. One of the tasks set in the Craft Seminar is to read a story with a strong sense of place. There are many to choose from on my bookcase. I had thought of choosing Hazel Prior’s ‘Ellie and the Harpmaker’ with its lyrical evocations of Exmoor, but instead I have elected to reread ‘Bitter Orange’ by Claire Fuller. The book has a powerful sense of place, I vividly recall the setting of “Lyntons”. A second reading will allow me to focus on the task of highlighting the way in which the setting is brought to life without getting lost in the story. I’m fortunate in that I have no difficulty writing in the margins of my books or marking texts which interest me.

This presents me with a minor dilemma. I am halfway through reading ‘Milkman’ by Anna Burns, but hey, I’ve read more than one book at once before. Besides, I’m still dipping into Raymond Carver’s short stories and have begun to sample ‘The Bloody Chamber’ by Angela Carter; more of this another time.

In ‘Writing Fiction’ Burroway says that ‘Like dialogue, setting must do more than one thing at a time.’ Such as showing character, displaying emotions or the symbolic undertones of the story. ‘Bitter Orange’ is set in a semi derelict country mansion in the late 1960’s and the faded splendour of the house reflects the fading fortunes of the three characters who occupy it. I shall show some examples of way Claire Fuller creates the setting next week.

First outing of work inspired by the DIYMA

During this week I attended a memorial function for a friend who recently died, much too young. I mention this because at the function many people performed songs in his memory. I had written an ‘I Remember’ piece in the style of Joe Brainard and performed this. I had a lot of positive comments about it, but none touched me as much as that of my friend’s wife, who told me it had made her cry, and could she have a copy. I gave her the copy I had and shared a tear with her. I would never have thought about writing a piece like this if I hadn’t undertaken this course of study so my thanks go to Andrew Wille

This weeks workshop

The subject of this week’s workshop with George was the ‘Novel in 1500 words’ exercise we had both completed. Writing Experiment 1 from

The exercise involves writing scenes from a novel in ten or so chapters of about 150 words each. My understanding of this exercise is that what it should not be is a synopsis or a plan. It should show the voice of the story and the narrative arc and character journey through selected detailed scenes. Both George and I found the pace of our attempts sluggish to begin with and too fast in later ‘chapters’. It was an insightful exercise. I shall be using this technique to explore novel concepts in the future. It seems an effective way to ensure the right ‘voice’ for the story and a full understanding of its main characters and plot.

Writing Workshop Exercise completed

Writing Experiment 1 A Novel in 1500 words from

Other Writing

A 500-word piece for my local writing group.

Current Reading

‘Writing Fiction’ Burroway, Chapter 5

‘Reading Like a Writer’ Francine Prose Chapters 5/6

‘The Art of the Character’ David Corbett Chapters 3/4

‘Milkman’ Anna Burns, about half way through

‘The Stories of Raymond Carver’ Short, sharp, funny, horrific, believable.

‘The Bloody Chamber’ Angela Carter

‘Bitter Orange’ Claire Fuller (reread)

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Unknown member
Nov 13, 2019

Hi Helen. I loved EATHM. Hazel has got the voices just right.


Helen Baggott
Helen Baggott
Nov 13, 2019

What did you think of ‘Ellie and the Harpmaker’? I adore what I've read of it thus far.

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