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What the Inner Circle Writers' Group Can Do For Your Fiction

Click on the links below for direct access to resources that will completely transform your fiction:

 

Boosting Your Creative Enthusiasm

How powerful do your ideas have to be? Do you have goals for your fiction? How can you get so excited about your own work that you overcome every obstacle? This answers all these questions and much more!

 

Character Construction

Starting with a radical redefinition of what a fictional character actually is, this guides you through the steps you need to take to make your characters attractive to readers - and points out what NOT to do too.

Attracting Readers

Making characters attractive is one thing: compelling readers to turn page after page, gripped by scene after scene of your writing is quite another. Here you'll learn about the four major driving factors which virtually force readers or viewers to stick with you till the end. 

Emotional Commitment

 

How can you get emotional commitment from readers? At what point does 'attraction' turn into 'loyal attentiveness'? Learn all about emotion and how to create it here.

Plot Structuring

Successful plots move forward like well-oiled machines. Stories have sequences in them which are not accidental, but universal. Gluing the reader to the page is only part of it: this teaches you the rest! 

Quality of Style

All the things that are normally grouped together as 'literary devices', ways of manipulating and managing reader attention, operate at story level, chapter level and even word and sentence level. Learn about them all here

Fulfilling Expectations

How can you ensure tht you don't disappoint your readers? What are all readers looking for? Make sure your story is fulfilling conscious and unconscious needs with this.

 

FREE Fiction Self-Assessment Questionnaire

This simple questionnaire 'X-rays' your fiction to discover its basic strengths and weaknesses.

 

General Advice

 

Get professional feedback about your work, and find out how to build a proper foundation for your fiction, and stand a chance of actually get published. 

Here are some FREE articles

to support you:

This ever-expanding library of articles is designed to give you insights and tools for your own writing:

'Little Gidding''s Ghost

Eliot started writing 'Little Gidding' while recovering from an illness, completing the first draft in July 1941. But he was unhappy with it, considering that the pressure of the air raids on London, had made him write it too quickly, and he set the poem aside, not returning to it until August 1942. He finished it in September and published it in October’s New English Weekly, in which he had also first published the second and third of the Four Quartets, which 'Little Gidding' was intended to conclude.

The Opening of 'Little Gidding'

’Little Gidding’ by T. S. Eliot is a long poem which merits detailed study. It is the culmination of Eliot’s poetry in many ways: a crowning culmination, in which many strands come together.

The Words of T. S. Eliot

British essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888 – 1965) was one of the twentieth century's major poets. Born in the United States, he moved to England in 1914 at the age of 25, and was eventually naturalised as a British subject in 1927, renouncing his American citizenship. His poem ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1915), was seen as a masterpiece of the Modernist movement.

Who Wants To Be A Mediaeval Millionaire?

When teaching 11 to 14 year olds about mediaeval literature like Beowulf or Gawain and the Green Knight, one runs into the enormous barrier of in some cases a thousand years of cultural and linguistic changes which act as an abyss between the modern student and the works.

The Insight of Keats

One of the main figures of the Romantic movement, John Keats (1795 – 1821) only managed to get into publication four years before his death. His poems were not generally well received by critics during his lifetime, but by the end of the 19th century, he had not only become one of the most beloved of all English poets, but had had a significant influence.

The Melting of Modes

Renowned Canadian academic Northrop Frye, outlines the shape of fiction in his book Anatomy of Criticism

Shakespeare: Bypassing the Barriers

It was common practice in schools a few years ago, and may still be, that, in order to ‘do’ Shakespeare, the teacher would play Baz Luhrmann’s film Romeo + Juliet to a class of students and then take one scene from the original play and examine it in close detail. An essay was then set on that scene. This constituted ‘doing’ Shakespeare, after which the teacher and the curriculum moved on.

Symbolism in 'Brighton Rock'

Graham Greene’s novel Brighton Rock is an interesting example of an Irony, a story which draws its power from the classic patterns and symbology of a traditional Epic by turning those things upside down.

5 Simple Golden Rules for Writers

When you think about writing your book (or story or whatever it is you’re working on) does it initially seem to you like a mountain over which you will never be able to climb? 

 

Do you feel apathetic about the idea of writing it, even before you sit down to begin? 

A Survey for Creative Writers

Here is a list of questions for creative writers.

 

If you wish, you may cut and paste these into an email, answer them (one word answers are fine, but you may want to elaborate on certain points), and then send your answers to me at this address:

 

grant@clarendonhousebooks.com

Providing Rewards

See if you can immediately write down your goal as a writer. It might be that you want to make a lot of money from writing; perhaps you want to write a best-seller which will enable you to retire; or maybe you have just always had a novel ‘inside you’ waiting to burst out. 

The Moment of Truth

Now we reach the moment of truth. Does your fiction achieve its desired result? You can only really tell this from completed works. Think of the number of works of fiction which you have read or seen or experienced in some way which you felt were faltering in some way during the story, but which managed to recover to produce some kind of fulfilment at the end; conversely, think of those works that seemed to be going along fine and then which failed to deliver the goods in the closing chapters.

Quality of Style

Style is the way in which a writer uses words and other devices right there on the page in front of the reader.

 

Whereas Ideas, Characters, Attractive Power, Emotional Commitment and even Plot could be described conceptually to some degree apart from the story itself, style is the story itself: it’s what we end up with once all the planning and structure and background development have been done. As this is the aspect of fiction most clearly seen by the reader, and the one in which he or she has the most direct contact, this is the thing upon which the quality of a piece of work is most often judged.

The Power of Plot

Things like Ideas, Characters, Attractive Power and Emotional Commitment usually take place in the scenes or chapters of a work, or build up cumulatively over the length of a story. But most stories need a framework upon which to hang these things. The interesting thing is that these frames normally come in a standard shape and do similar things.

Emotional Commitment

Let’s say that you have a work jam-packed full of powerful ideas, bristling with exciting and recognisable characters, and filled with attractive power - what could go wrong?

The Thoughts of Charles Williams

Charles Walter Stansby Williams (1886 – 1945), famous as an author and member of the Inklings along with J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and others, was educated at St Albans School, Hertfordshire, and was awarded a scholarship to University College London, but couldn’t complete the degree because of a lack of financial resources. Williams became an editor at the Oxford University Press (OUP) and continued to work there until his death in 1945.

Attractive Power

Whether or not you have good ideas and working characters, the trick underlying everything is to be able to attract readers.

 

This is a much more mechanical process than you might think.

The Universe That 'Turns'

Of all of C. S. Lewis’s vast contribution to literature and to thought in the Twentieth Century, it is his last book, The Discarded Image, which is perhaps the most under-valued.

Characters and Your Fiction

There can hardly be a work of fiction without this thing called a ‘character’. But there is a great deal of false and misleading information out there about what a character is and how to devise a successful one. The construction of characters or viewpoints turns out to be much simpler - and stranger - than you might think.

Some Quotes from Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy (1840 – 1928) an English novelist and poet, regarded himself primarily as a poet, though his first collection was not published until 1898. 

Ideas and Your Fiction

Ideas underpin any piece of fiction. They make the difference between the book that doesn’t get sold and the bestseller; they also make the difference between the bestseller that a couple of years later you find on the second-hand bookshelf, and the bestseller which is read again and again and made into box-office-shattering films.

A Brief Look at Desdemona in 'Othello'

If we accept momentarily that there is a female companion archetype in fiction, as outlined in How Stories Really Work, then it’s worth looking at Desdemona in Shakespeare’s Othello in its light.

Larkin: An Overview

Philip Larkin has been called the other English poet laureate, though he is widely read in Europe and in the United States. Larkin’s idea of a poetry is the act of constructing ‘a verbal device that would preserve an experience indefinitely by reproducing it in whoever read the poem.’ Rarely interviewed, it is not an easy task to get an overview of his life or work other than from the work itself

The Character of Richard III

Some works could be labelled ‘character-driven’, while some are ‘plot-driven’.

 

Shakespeare’s Richard the Third is an example of the first kind.

The Difference Between Prose and Poetry

Classically, prose is defined as a form of language based on grammatical structure and the natural flow of speech. It is normally contrasted with poetry or verse which is said to depend on a rhythmic structure, using meter or rhyme.

Rossetti's 'The Woodspurge'

In September, 1848, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt and others founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, whose artistic goal was a return to simplicity, presenting nature directly, with faithfulness and attention to detail, but with spiritual resonance. 

A Handy Glossary of Drama Terms

Drama has its own terminology. Understanding it helps to understand the plays and their meanings more fully. Here is a handy glossary of some terms used when discussing Drama.

The Wisdom of E.M. Forster

Edward Morgan Forster (1 January 1879 – 7 June 1970), known as E. M. Forster, was an English novelist, short story writer and essayist.

A Series of Questions About 'Macbeth'

If we want to understand Shakespeare’s Macbeth as a play, there are a series of questions that we can ask which take us deeply into both storyline, character and theme. 

Building Vocabulary

Anyone interested in improving their job opportunities, raising their IQs and boosting their success in the education system could achieve all three by focusing on one key area: words.

The Skeleton of 'Hamlet'

Imagine a story which begins with death. A young man who has lost his father is being brought up by a close family member, but encounters an old man who orientates him to the villain of the tale. However, his advice on what to do is questionable and even twisted. 

7 Things to Keep in Mind About Writing

A simple search on Google will give you a glimpse of the many thousands of books and blog posts that there are on writing. And on this blog, in earlier posts, we have dismantled some writing advice and seen what works and what doesn’t. Here are some tips based on what is given in detail in the e-course How to Write Stories That Work - and Get Them Published! and from experience.

H. G. Wells and 'The Red Room'

H. G. Wells. the scientific rationalist and author, famous for the novels The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, The Time Machine and many other works, ventured in 1894 into the realms of the gothic horror story, popular during the Victorian era, with ‘The Red Room’.

Great Expectations

In Charles Dickens' Ironic masterpiece Great Expectations, it's not difficult to spot our protagonist. 

The Doctor as Warrior

We have been tracing the development of the character of the Doctor as part of charting the three successful pillars upon which the programme is built.

Austen's Use of Character

One of the defining figures of early 19th century literature, Jane Austen wrote six novels, most of them set in the Hampshire countryside where she lived her whole life. Her work is noted for its economy, formality and subtlety, but what makes Austen’s work tick is people.

The Mediaeval Heavens Part 1

We’re so used to thinking of the physical universe as obeying certain ‘laws’ that we can get muddled about the idea of it. 

A Simple Poetry Checklist

Here’s a simple checklist for studying a single poem that tries to cover the different aspects that one ‘should’ know about any piece of poetry.

The Futility of Essays

To meet the basic requirements for writing an English Literature essay in a school context, there is surprisingly little really useful guidance.

The 'Turn' in the Character

If we can grasp the rather strange idea that characters in fiction are not ‘people’ at all, but constructs, almost mechanical in nature, then we can see a kind of genealogy of character, or a relationship between them as constructs.

'Eucatastrophe' in Stories

Consider the most powerful, memorable moments in your own reading. Think for a moment about the scenes in your favourite books or films which created ‘goosebump’ sensations for you. Try to recall the exact incidents which had the most lasting effect on you as a reader.

Writing Stories Forwards, Backwards, Inwards and Outwards

Even the most primitive of stories use the question ‘What will happen next?’ to lead readers on and on through whatever adventure the narrative is about.

Blake's Battle to Build Jerusalem

’Jerusalem’, by William Blake, from the preface of ‘Milton a Poem’, first printed in 1804, was originally called ‘And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time’.

Tolkien and 'Final Participation'

According to Owen Barfield, close friend of C. S. Lewis and a member of the Inklings group, as well as being an influence upon Tolkien, the human consciousness was progressing from one based upon an external and unknowable underlying reality, which our senses and unconscious minds organised for us into the world that we perceived and knew, through a stage where these organised elements (or ‘collective representations’ as Barfield called them) were separated out from us through what we call scientific method, eventually arriving, he hoped, at a condition in which the individual human imagination would re-create the world in harmony with the underlying reality - or not, as Barfield pointed out.

Tolkien and the Somme

On July 1, 1916, the British launched a massive offensive against the German lines in the Somme River region of France.

Owen Barfield and the Nature of Reality

Owen Barfield, British philosopher and close friend of C. S. Lewis, said once that Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry, his famous work about the evolution of consciousness and much else was his own personal favourite.

Larkin's 'The Whitsun Weddings'

Poetry, like other forms of creative writing, is fiction, in the sense that it is ‘made up’: the poet puts words together not for any other reason but to convey a thought or experience creatively.

The Creation of the Doctor

Whereas once it had commanded the airwaves and helped to win the war, by the late 1950s the BBC was under siege from independent television, which, unrestricted by the corporation’s remit to ‘inform, educate and entertain’ had wooed audiences by focusing on simply entertainment.

'Lighted by the Candle Within': E. E. Nesbit's 'The Railway Children'

We know from How Stories Really Work that fiction follows certain templates in order to be successful. Rather than detracting from the power of a tale, a fixed set of guidelines, skilfully applied and hardly ever deviated from, almost guarantees that a story will reach readers and survive the passage of time.

The Miracle of Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan'

It’s part of the legend of the composition of the poem ‘Kubla Khan’ that it arose out of drug-induced reverie. Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge says as much in his foreword to the poem: ‘if that indeed can be called composition in which all the images rose up before him as things… without any sensation or consciousness of effort’.

7 Steps to Compose a Good Detective Story

Detective stories are amongst the most popular genre of tale in the modern age, and it’s not hard to see why.

Andrew Marvell's 'The Garden'

I lived for some years on Highgate Hill in North London. A small statue of a black cat, protected from passers-by by a cage, supposedly marks the spot where Dick Whittington’s pet lingered, urging his master to turn back to become Lord Mayor of London - but further up the hill, I noted in my many walks to nearby Waterlow Park, there is set in the brick wall a bronze plaque that bears the following inscription (pictured above)

All Worlds Are Story Worlds

Narrative’ as a term originated in the 17th century and comes from the Latin word ‘narrat-‘ meaning ‘related, told’, which comes from the verb narrare (from gnarus ‘knowing’).

Readers Are Your Employers

Think of readers as your employers for a moment. 

 

They have a job that they need doing. They’ve (potentially) turned to you to do it. 

 

What is the job?

The Joy of Writing

We all work extremely hard already as writers. To be told that we have to do more is not an easy thing to hear. But the truth is that, unless we stay on top of things in particular ways, the harsh financial facts of life will catch up with us.

The Darkening of Comics

’Initially, Watchmen gained a lot of its readership because it was taking an unusual look at superheroes, but actually it was more about redefining comics than it was about redefining one particular genre,’ said Alan Moore, the famous writer of what has been called the greatest comic book of all time, to a London music newspaper a few years ago.

The Shifting Archetypes in Early 'Doctor Who'

We have seen in earlier articles that the Doctor began his life on the television screen in a role approximating that of a villain: he was an aggressive, mysterious old man who suddenly and impulsively kidnaps the two teachers who stumble into the Tardis, innocently seeking an explanation for the odd behaviour of one of their students.

Core Needs

In your work, you must have some kind of idea of what you are offering to the public, even if you are still in the planning stage. You should at least have a notion of whether you have written or want to write a Comedy or an Epic, or a Tragedy or an Irony.

Becoming a Truly Successful Fiction Writer

To be a truly successful fiction writer, attracting readers must happen on every page of your work - ideally, with every line.

Frye and Modes of Fiction

Fiction is indeed a vast universe, but it follows laws not dissimilar to those laws we take for granted in the physical universe around us.

The Importance of Endings

Endings in stories are incredibly important, but many would-be writers get lost in a labyrinth soon after starting and never make it to the middle of their tale, much less the end.

Endings in 'Star Wars'

In finishing your story, you are trying to do two basic things:

The Doctor and the Sensorites

As we have seen, in Doctor Who’s third broadcast story, ’The Edge of Destruction’ Hartnell’s Doctor, proud and arrogant, who began as a quasi-antagonist in ‘An Unearthly Child’, becomes an ally of and friend to Ian and Barbara, the teachers he had kidnapped.

Caging Unsuspecting Readers

Master authors use every trick in the book to capture and hold reader attention. What is known as ‘great writing’ or even ‘good writing’ is simply the use of certain subtle techniques at a word and sentence level, in the framework of larger structural arrangements, all of it aimed at ‘caging’ unsuspecting readers for the duration of a tale.

12 Ways to Increase Tension

Even the simplest story is driven forward on the back of the basic questions ‘What will happen next?’ and ‘What is really going on?’ They are the devices which create and increase suspense. But what are some simple, practical ways to introduce them into your story?

Master Authors and the Four Key Questions

Successful stories ask readers four key questions:

A Short Checklist for Independent Publishers

Are you interested in independently publishing a book?

 

What that means is getting a book into the hands of readers either through electronic devices or hard copy without going through the centuries-old route of using a traditional publisher.

Tough Advice for Writers

If you are really serious about wanting to make a living from writing, there are five hard-hitting bits of advice that you probably need to confront:

C. S. Lewis on How to Write

In 1954, C. S. Lewis wrote in a letter to Cynthia Donnelly about the role of Christianity in his or anyone’s writing:

'Doctor Who: The Edge of Destruction'

‘The Edge of Destruction’, first broadcast in February 1964, is a curiosity. This is partly because David Whitaker, the script-writer, appears to be confused as to what he was trying to achieve, and partly because the story was a two-part ‘filler’ to make the original series up to thirteen episodes, and, hard though it might be to believe with hindsight, there was a question as to whether Doctor Who would be renewed for a second series.

'V for Vendetta': Epic or Irony?

It’s peculiar that V’s mask from Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel V for Vendetta has become an iconic representation of the ‘Anonymous’ organisation, a real-life anarchic group operating mainly online to disrupt elements of what it perceives as the establishment.

A Reading of the Opening to Forster's 'A Passage to India'

As a work of Irony, Forster’s A Passage to India opens as you might expect, by mentioning the place of hollow meaninglessness which is suggested at the heart of every Irony: 

 

Except for the Marabar Caves—and they are twenty miles off—the city of Chandrapore presents nothing extraordinary.

The Warrior Figure

Obvious as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, or Hans Solo in Star Wars, less obvious as Fielding in A Passage to India or Sirius Black in Harry Potter, the warrior figure in literature has many common traits across the world of fiction.

'Doctor Who' and the Perfect Antagonist 2

As we saw in an earlier article,‘The Daleks’, originally aired in 1963/4, came at a pivotal point in the development of Doctor Who.

Some Comments About Drama in Schools

Expecting a student to be able to write sensibly about a play directly from a reading of the text alone is like expecting someone to know what a cake will taste like just from reading the recipe, expecting someone to be able to drive after reading the Highway Code, or expecting a blind person to describe colours. Plays are not texts: over 90% of what they are and what they mean is dependent upon action and interpretation.

'Doctor Who' and the Perfect Antagonist