I am currently about a quarter of the way through my Master of Arts in Creative Writing course at Tabor university in Adelaide, South Australia. I am undertaking this course to hone my skills in writing and to focus my attention on giving my writing career a solid basis on which to grow. I am tackling writing projects that normally I wouldn’t bother doing, like writing essays on set topics.
A few days ago I received back two essays I wrote last semester. Both were written for the unit of study called Literature and Christian Faith. This study looked at various major English texts ranging from Chaucer to Shakespeare through to Beckett (Waiting for Godot). The tutorial paper I presented was to look at the Christian and Biblical themes of George Eliot’s novel Silas Marner. It had been some 40 years since I last read this novel and I thoroughly enjoyed rereading it and studying it. My tutorial presentation went over well with some good discussion between others in the group. I also enjoyed writing the paper and I received a Distinction for it.
My major essay topic requirement was to pose a question of my own choosing. Because I am a graduate I did not have to address the set questions. I chose to write an essay on the theme of condemnation based on a verse from the Bible (Romans chapter 8 verse 1). In my paper I assessed the portrayal of some of the characters included in the following texts:
- The Canterbury Tales by Goeffrey Chaucer
- Othello by William Shakespeare
- Paradise Lost by John Milton
- Silas Marner by George Eliot.
My main focus was to assess how the characters either condemned themselves or each other through their words and actions. I found the whole exercise both stimulating and inspiring. I was very pleased with the result – another Distinction. This means I gained distinctions for all three papers for the unit, giving me an overall Distinction for the subject. All that effort was worth it.
Writers must also be readers. Writers can gain so much by reading the classics. By reading and studying good examples of writing, especially those that have stood the test of time, writers are able to improve their own skills.
Good reading and good writing.
There are literally millions of web sites about writing on the internet. (Don’t believe me – type ‘writer’ into Google.) All are clamoring for your attention. How do you sort the good from the not so good? How do you avoid the downright useless?
The well respected Writer’s Digest magazine has compiled its annual 101 Best Sites for Writers. This is a good starting point if you are searching for information to help you on your way with your writing career.
And if none of them satisfy your needs – you can always come back here.
In fact – I wish you would.
I have 60 years of living an interesting life to look back on so I have no shortage of writing ideas. I’m not going to exhaust those ideas very quickly either. I have many experiences and ideas to call on – sometimes choosing can be a challenge. Don’t be discouraged by this if you are quite young just launching your writing career. Even young writers have a wealth of experiences to dig into to discover those little gems to write about.
I read the following quote a few days ago:
‘If you’ve survived adolescence, you have enough to write about for the rest of your life.’ Flannery O’Connor.
How about a few hints and ideas to get you started?
- Write about your most successful achievement so far.
- Write about a time you were very angry with your parents or siblings.
- Write about the time your parents were very angry with you.
- Write about your most embarrassing experience.
- Write about your proudest moment.
- Write down a list of your strengths and weaknesses.
- Write about your goals, ambitions, dreams and even fantasies.
- What needs to change for you to become a writer?
- Write about the person you admire the most.
- Write about the person who has influenced your life the most.
- Write about the things that inspire you.
- Write about the things that anger or disgust you.
When you have written several paragraphs using one or more of these ideas, think about how you can turn this into an article for a magazine. Perhaps you might use your piece of writing as a starting off point for a fictional story.
For example, say you wrote about your proudest moment. Take that experience and turn it into a short story. Because this will be fiction, you can change the details. Also change the names of people involved – to protect both the innocent and the guilty parties! Let your imagination soar. Give your character problems to solve, crises to survive or conflicts to resolve before that ‘proudest moment’ occurs.
One of the assignments I had to complete last semester for my Master of Arts in Creative Writing was a research paper on some aspect of writing. Graduate students were able to negotiate their own topic.
Point of View
I decided to write my paper on the importance of ‘point of view‘ in any piece of fiction. I also planned to cover the different forms of point of view and the relative strengths and weaknesses of each. An ambitious project; whole books have been written on the subject. I only had 2000 words. I must have sounded convincing however, because I received a Distinction for my paper (and only one mark off a High Distinction).
The importance of Point of View
Here is a small extract from my introduction:
Point of view is of vital importance to all writers of fiction. Point of view may appear to have little to do with plot or structure, beginning or ending and even characterisation, but it can impact upon the effectiveness of those elements. Point of view is how the story is told, who tells the story and how it sounds to the readers. â€˜To put this most simply, point of view is merely a decision the writer makes that will determine through whose eyes the story is going to be toldâ€™. (Elizabeth George, crime writer) This is a fundamental decision that needs to be made by the writer right at the beginning.
The effects of Point of View
The point of view chosen by the author fundamentally affects the way readers will respond emotionally to the fictional characters. For example, if the story is told from the point of view of rapist, this will differ markedly from the story told by the victim. It will totally change the mood, tone and voice of the writing. It could also impact upon how the characters are depicted by the author.
I may write about this topic in more detail in future posts. Let me know in the comments or via the contact form if you’d like to read more on this topic.