Tag: literature

#WriteHereWriteNow: How to make the most of direct speech

We love direct speech.

As writers, nothing brings life to our work more the actual words people say.

Quotes, dialogue, comment — whatever you call it. We need the words of others to add emotion, opinion and drama.

Just try reading a book by the journalist and author Jon Ronson.

The man behind The Psychopath Test and others has made a career out of using direct speech to optimum effect.

But quotes mean handling interviews and therein lies the issue: sometimes interviews go wrong.

Try this clip, for example. Unluckily for the Channel Four News presenter Krishna Guru-Murthy, this car-crash celebrity interview has since gone down in history.

Next step forward Rhys Ifans. The Ruthin-born actor became legendary for all the wrong reasons a few years ago after a magazine interview turned into a study in interview hell.

Handling interviews is not easy and a skill only acquired through practise over time. That, and making mistakes.

We’ll be discussing how we use direct speech and how to get the best out of our interviewees at the next #WriteHereWriteNow meeting at Storyhouse, Chester.

Share your experiences and join the conversation before the next meeting by posting below.

Over to you …

Liked this? Try also Can we learn to write better?

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#WriteHereWriteNow: Can we learn to write better?

I was on assignment in Stockholm last week and looking for an idea.

We obsess, as writers, about the words. We analyse the craft and devour books about the technique.

Writing in the Guardian recently, the columnist Ian Jack discussed the perennial question: can writing be taught?

He suggests that, while we can study templates and consult with experts, nothing beats the age-old concept of practise. He says:

Writing is like riding a bicycle: its techniques are best not dwelt on.

For me, it’s about the ideas.

If the ideas are poor then, no matter how erudite the words, then the writing will not shine.

If there’s no angle, no hook, no reason to grab the attention of the reader, then it’s just more words on a page. And we have enough of those already.

The writer David Quantick says ideas are gold.

In his book, How to Write Everything, he describes the craft of coming up with good ideas as even more crucial than the craft of writing itself.

A good idea is simply one that inspires something you are capable of writing, something that might sustain.

But can we learn to have good ideas?

We’ll consider this at the next #WriteHereWriteNow meeting.

As for me, wandering around Stockholm in search of a good story?

Well, let’s just say a visit to the Abba Museum [pictured above] and a night at the Pop House music-themed hotel may just make a Scandi-pop story about Eurovision-crazy Sweden.

Thank you for the music.

Liked this? Try A new writing group comes to Storyhouse, Chester.

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A new writing group comes to Storyhouse Chester

Image: Storyhouse.com

Storyhouse opens this week.

The new arts centre is big news for Chester and already riding the crest of local support.

But it’s not just a new theatre, cinema and library. A major aspect of the project is the community programme.

That’s why I’m leading a new writing group, based at Storyhouse, from this month.

It’s called #WriteHereWriteNow and open to anyone who wants to find their voice as a writer.


We all have a story to tell but not everyone has the opportunity or confidence to do so.

This new creative community offers an opportunity to express yourself in a supportive environment.

Expect workshop-style activities and occasional guest speakers, based around Storyhouse events.

We will look at ways of getting your story out there — from blogs to flash fiction via magazine features — and craft our work together.

Never tried a writing group before? No problem. Here’s an outlet for your creativity.


We meet monthly on the last Thursday, starting May 25th. It’s free. No, really.

The sessions run 7.30-9pm and we will be in the Meeting Room. Subsequent dates are June 29, July 27 and August 31.

To find us, take the cinema stairs and follow it round to the left to the meeting room. You can take drinks up from the bar, or we’ll retire there afterwards.

There’s space initially for 14 people.

Please bring your own iPad/laptop or similar device.

You will need to create an account via the Storyhouse website in advance to use the free public WiFi. No need if you have already bought show tickets through the site.

More events listed at the Storyhouse activities page.

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Story of the week: Uncovering the life of Jules Verne in Amiens, France


*photo credit: famouauthors.org

He is one of our greatest ever travel writers, producing 62 novels and 18 short stories to transport his readers to fantastic new worlds.

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of his death and his adopted home, Amiens, capital of France’s Picardy region, is holding a year-long cultural festival to celebrate his legacy.

The author in question? Jules Verne, author of Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864) and Around the World in 80 Days (1873).

Early years

Verne was born in Nantes but moved to Amiens, home to his wife, Honorine, in 1871.

He went on to produce many of his best-known works from their house in rue Charles-Dubois. The Maison Jules Verne re-opens after renovations in the spring of 2005 as a major museum, showcasing over 30,000 items of Verne memorabilia.

Festival events, however, kick off on New Year’s Eve with 21st Century Voyagers, a giant parade through town accompanied by fireworks and marching bands.

Jules Verne week (March 21-27, 2005), meanwhile, will see Vernians gather in Amiens for a week of lectures, readings and debates.

Weekend break

For a weekend in Paris combined with short festival hop, Amiens is just 70 minutes away from the French capital by car, or one hour by TGV train from the Gare du Nord.

The Unesco World Heritage listed Notre-Dame Cathedral is the largest Gothic edifice in France, while the lively St-Leu canal district has a Left Bank feel and is packed with restaurants; try Les Marissons for a taste of traditional Picardy cuisine.

Verne was an inveterate traveller and made sailing expeditions in his boat, le Saint-Michel, including trips to Britain and Denmark.

But, in later life, he became a leading member of Amiens council, using his influence to champion a new municipal circus.

Verne had always been fascinated by circus arts and, today, Le Cirque Jules Verne remains one of only seven working indoor circuses in France.

Throughout his life, Verne dreamed of a “time when the creations of science are beyond the imagination.”

Now, 100 years after his death, his moment has finally come.

What did you think of this story? Post your comments below.

This story was first published in High Life magazine in 2004.

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