All Blog Posts (115)

Writing conflict

Why is conflict important in writing? Because stories need things to happen and that usually comes out of conflict - characters argue, fight, feud etc.

It is through seeing characters in conflict that we see them at their truest, when their guard is down, when they are fighting something.

You can develop a character through conflict: the meek little parlour…

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Added by John Dean on November 8, 2017 at 15:42 — No Comments

A sense of place

It is crucial if you write about a place that the reader can experience it. 

You have choices: do you write rich and vivid prose to paint a word picture or do you keep it minimalist - describe a tree in a park and we all see a different tree and a different park?  Perhaps we only need to say it is a tree in a park?

Whatever you do, do not make it too long, you do not have a lot of words to play with in a short…

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Added by John Dean on November 8, 2017 at 15:40 — No Comments

Mentoring for writers

Novelist John Dean is running an online mentoring and writing workshops programme for aspiring authors.

John, who is based in Darlington, in County Durham, North East England, and has had twelve crime novels published by Robert Hale, of London, is a co-director of Inscribe Media Limited, which is running the programmes.

John, who also runs creative writing courses in Darlington, said: “Writing can be a lonely pastime and our programmes help…

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Added by John Dean on September 28, 2017 at 10:09 — No Comments

Engaging the reader

What makes good writing? I think good writing is good writing because it triggers responses in its readers. Readers say ‘I have been in that situation, ‘I know someone like that’, ‘what a terrible thing to be faced with’ etc etc.

If readers feel like that, it means that they are being drawn into the story. They stand next to your characters, they fear for what is about to happen, they simply must know what is on the next page.

If a reader does…

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Added by John Dean on September 28, 2017 at 10:06 — No Comments

Building momentum from the off

Here’s some more thoughts on starting stories. The cardinal rule is to include most of the individual elements that make up the story, early on. An opening paragraph should have a distinctive voice, a point of view, a rudimentary plot and some hint of characterisation.

The best way to begin is at the first moment of something interesting happening, which is more likely to grab the reader‘s interest.

If you feel compelled to begin a story with…

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Added by John Dean on September 21, 2017 at 11:21 — No Comments

Creating characters

A lot of my teaching focuses on characters (they are at the heart of my classes, they are, after all, our major tools as writers).

So how do you create them? Here’s some thoughts:

* Maybe base them on people you know but beware of the law. Don’t lift your local vicar wholesale and turn him/her into a cold-blooded killer! Make your characters composites of several people

*Describe their physical characteristics You can do it one bit or slot…

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Added by John Dean on September 21, 2017 at 11:14 — No Comments

Something special

For me, there are plenty of examples of stories which are well written - well-crafted and technically competent. Often, they are very, very good indeed.

But they do not always enjoy success, be it winning competitions or catching the eye of publishers. Why?

I suspect the reason is that they do not have that extra something, that something that makes the story truly live.

Whether it be the description of a place that makes you…

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Added by John Dean on September 21, 2017 at 11:12 — No Comments

So where do those ideas come from?

I’ve been doing a lot of teaching on the idea of ideas lately and came across these excellent quotes.

• People always want to know: Where do I get my ideas? They're everywhere. I'm inspired by people and things around me. (Gwendolyn Brooks, American poet)

• My standard answer is "I don't know where they come from, but I know where they come to, they come to my desk." If I'm not there, they go away again, so you've got to sit and think. (Philip Pullman, English writer)

•…

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Added by John Dean on September 7, 2017 at 9:35 — No Comments

The golden rules of writing

Here are my golden rules for writing.

* Consider the reader - do not write for yourself, always write for the reader.

* Be disciplined - you may wish to pack lots of information in but does the reader need it?

* You may not have put enough information in - you can imagine where a scene is set but have you given the reader the information they need? You may have drawn a character but can your readers see…

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Added by John Dean on August 31, 2017 at 14:50 — No Comments

So what makes good crime fiction?

Following the news that I am to run an online crime fiction course (details in the blog below), I thought it would be useful to look at how to write a good crime story:

* The story should be strong and one that can be told in a short story (most crime stories are novels)

* Create a strong sense of place - the reader must be able to visualise where the action happens

* Create strong characters - do not stray…

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Added by John Dean on August 21, 2017 at 16:31 — No Comments

Online crime fiction course is launched

Crime novelist and creative writing tutor John Dean has launched an online Crime Fiction Course.

John, author of 12 novels published by Robert Hale, and the creator of DCI John Blizzard and DCI Jack Harris, also runs Inscribe Media Ltd, which is based in Darlington in North East England, which will be offering the course.

The online course, which runs in eight parts and can begin at a time and date to suit the student, will help writers to improve their technique and improve…

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Added by John Dean on August 21, 2017 at 16:28 — No Comments

So, where do ideas come from?

I’ve been doing a lot of teaching on the idea of ideas lately and came across these excellent quotes.

·         People always want to know: Where do I get my ideas? They're everywhere. I'm inspired by people and things around me. (Gwendolyn Brooks, American poet)

·         My standard answer is "I don't know where they come from, but I know where they come to,…

Continue

Added by John Dean on August 21, 2017 at 15:47 — No Comments

What makes good writing?

What makes good writing? I think good writing is good writing because it triggers responses in its readers. Readers say ‘I have been in that situation, ‘I know someone like that’, ‘what a terrible thing to be faced with’ etc etc.

If readers feel like that, it means that they are being drawn into the story. They stand next to your characters, they fear for what is about to happen, they simply must know what is on the next page.

If a reader does…

Continue

Added by John Dean on August 21, 2017 at 15:43 — No Comments

The unreliable narrator

I recently taught a course part of which focused on the unreliable narrator, a character who tells a story that the reader cannot take at face value.

The technique has been used for many centuries but only became known as such in the 1960s. Sometimes, the narrator is unreliable by the nature of the character, such terrible people that they cannot tell their stories objectively and resort instead to lies and deceit.

There is another type of…

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Added by John Dean on August 17, 2017 at 13:51 — No Comments

DCI Jack Harris novels are published

Check out my latest crime novels from The Book Folks, all DCI Jack Harris tales set in the North Pennines.

Dead Hill…

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Added by John Dean on June 23, 2017 at 16:00 — No Comments

Open mic nights

The seventh season of Open Mic nights for authors will start on Thursday September 28 after the summer break.

Supported by Darlington for Culture, the nights offer a forum for writers to read their material and audiences to enjoy it and run at Voodoo Café/Cantina, 84 Skinnergate, Darlington, on the last Thursday of the month.

The nights have given dozens of writers from Darlington and further afield…

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Added by John Dean on May 26, 2017 at 9:00 — No Comments

How to write crime fiction

We run an online crime fiction course (you can email me on deangriss@btinternet to find out more) so I thought it would be useful to look at how to write a good crime story:

 

* The story should be strong and one that can be told in a short story (most crime stories are novels)

* Create a strong sense of place - the reader must be able to…

Continue

Added by John Dean on February 8, 2017 at 11:00 — No Comments

Go where the idea takes you

The more I talk to writers, the more I realise the passion that they hold for their art and one subject that seems to evoke stronger reactions than most is ‘where do stories come from?’

This comes to mind because I am teaching a plotting masterclass at Greenfield Arts Centre in Newton Aycliffe on February 16. There are those writers who argue that ideas come out of real life experiences. You go through it as a writer, therefore you are able to best tell the story.

Others recoil…

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Added by John Dean on February 6, 2017 at 11:00 — No Comments

Author launches online crime fiction course

Crime novelist and creative writing tutor John Dean has launched an online Crime Fiction Course.

John, author of 12 novels published by Robert Hale, and the creator of DCI John Blizzard and DCI Jack Harris, also runs Inscribe Media Ltd, which is based in Darlington in North East England, which will be offering the course.

The online course, which runs in eight parts and can begin at a time and date to suit the student, will help writers to improve their technique and improve…

Continue

Added by John Dean on January 16, 2017 at 16:33 — No Comments

Open mic to b held

The season of Open Mic nights for authors will  continue on Thursday January 26..

The nights, supported by Darlington for Culture and which offer a forum for writers to read their material and audiences to enjoy it, run at Voodoo Café/Cantina, 84 Skinnergate, Darlington, on the last Thursday of the month.

Now in their sixth year, the nights have…

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Added by John Dean on January 16, 2017 at 16:11 — No Comments

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