June Newsletter: Let’s hear it for the bad guy

 In Newsletters, Writing Challenge

This month we’re going to stand up for the bad guy.

Not only will our new competition back him, but we thought it worth giving a little thought to the person we all love to hate.

Protagonists are all very well. We lavish love and attention on them. But do we pay proper attention to the antagonist? I’m talking fiction and non-fiction here.

First of all, let’s give him his proper name. “He” shall henceforth be known as the “forces of antagonism”, since your protagonist may well be facing challenges from the environment or fate, rather than a person or group of people.

We’ve challenged you with a competition which highlights one of the most important aspects of whatever it is that stands between your protagonist and what they want most: they must be worthy.

We don’t care much for a protagonist who is more powerful than the forces she stands against, or who battles and wins out over a stupid opponent. Who will bother with the hero who climbs a hill that makes her puff a bit; who battles an affliction that is easily cured? The forces of antagonism should test everything she’s got – mentally, emotionally, psychologically and perhaps spiritually.

I mentioned non-fiction because the same applies. Sure, write a story about growing up in the outback or your father’s time as a trader, or a farmer. But select those sections of life in which you (or he) were really up against the wall – even if the demons hounding you were in your own head.

I hope that helps you develop the story you’re busy working on. Hone your skills, or get yourself going, by entering our competition, which I’ll include below. You could just win a full literary assessment of a piece of your writing.

Richard and I will give our usual honest but kind advice, pointing out what works and what could improve your writing.

How we can help if you’re just beginning

If you don’t have a piece of writing yet, but are ready to dip your toes in the literary pool, we can help there too. Our introductory course, the Power of Writing, will familiarise you with the basics of writing creatively.

We’ll help you to improve your writing voice, observe actively, use details vividly, write compelling dialogue and how to show rather than tell. All of these will enhance your writing – not matter what kind of writing you do.

Run entirely online, the course is there for you whenever you’re ready to take the plunge.

Perhaps you’d prefer to write for the screen

There’s been a great blossoming of television production in South Africa, where we now produce more daily dramas – both soaps and telenovellas – than either the US or Britain. In addition, streaming services like Netflix and a host of others, offer the tantalizing prospect of having our best ideas produced for worldwide distribution.

Our Creative Screenwriting Course, which begins on 23 July 2018, will teach you the essential elements that make up scripts for both the big and the little screens.

The course is run entirely online, with a great deal of personal feedback and individual attention, both written and through webinars.

Award-winning scriptwriters Michéle Rowe and Richard Beynon, who run the course, both have decades of experience in the industry.

The 10-module course is filled with easy-to-learn principles on how to tell a great story, how to develop compelling characters, and the rules of plotting and structure.

Suitable for beginners, it is also substantive enough to satisfy screenwriters who are “stuck” or who want to refresh themselves on the basic techniques of their craft.

Community news

Congratulations to Marilyn Cohen de Villiers on the publication of her third novel, Deceive and Defend, the third and final book in her Silverman saga. Marilyn’s book will be the thirty-third to be published by All About Writing alumni since 2010.

She will be launching Deceive and Defend in Cape Town at the Jewish Literary Festival on 17 July and in Jo’burg at Bookdealers in Greenside on 21 June. Be sure not to miss the panel discussion on alternative forms of publishing with Marilyn, Colleen Higgs of Modjaji Books and others at the JLF.

Congratulations to Creative Writing alumni, Anita Powell and Harriet Anena, who have short stories longlisted and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize this year.

Penny Castle has decided to self-publish a novella Cure – the sci-fi, time traveling adventure that her son, Joshua conceived with her before his death. Click here to sign up to find our more.

Mark de Wet is about to publish his second book, The Cape Rubaiyat. He says it took 34 years to complete and was worth every second it took. We say never give up, perseverance in writing is always worth it.

Our own Trish Urquhart was one of the producers on Voetsek! Us? Brothers?, a documentary showing at the Encounters Film Festival in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The devastating film, made over the course of 10 years with remarkable access to those affected by xenophobic violence as well as those who participated in it, shows how the violence is intricately woven into the very fabric of South African life.

And finally All About Writing has teamed up with psychologist Pierre Brouard to run a pilot creative writing project at Zonderwater Prison in Cullinan. The project was initiated directly by prison inmates, who are desperate to learn the skills to write their stories.

Pierre is a long-standing associate with whom we run our Character Course. He was the perfect choice for a partner in this project. Pierre’s interest lies in the healing aspects of writing as he sees story telling as a way to build empathy for oneself and others.

We’re looking for some help with funding to match All About Writing’s contribution. This will cover stationery, printing, transport, trainers’ and facilitators’ fees. If you can contribute, or know anyone who might be interested, please get in touch with us.

And the winner is…

We received an excellent crop of entries for this competition.

A great many of you tried your luck – and we’d like to congrautlate you on the enthusiasm of your response. We were impressed by the overall standard of writing, and by the wealth of inventiveness. In the end, sadly, there can only be one winner – but we’d like to award ribbons of excellence to a number of entries any one of whom might, on another day, have been judged the winner.

The laurels go to Penny van Zyl for a scene that rigorously avoids explanation, and that intrigues on a number of levels.

And unstinting praise goes to Deidre Johnson for her story that points to a whole world of unexplained mystery; to Shirlane Douglas for her wonderful evocation of both a Roman battlefield, and the hint of a murder mystery to come (write it Shirlaine!); to Sue Guthrie for the start of another fine and suspenseful murder mystery;  to Mary Mercer for her body in the boot story, full of intrigue and a great final line; to Alison Bradshaw for her “Murder Most Fowl”; to Katoji le Roux, who’s featured before in our lists of winners, for her funny-macabre take on murder; and to Bianca Ackroyd for her interesting second-person take on the subject.

Notice a theme here, people? No wonder murder mysteries have become the stomping ground of women writers.

Well done to all of you. And, Penny, we’ll be sending you details of your prize which is a place on our intensive fourteen day coaching programme, Focus on Scenes, which you can begin whenever it suits you. Read all the winning entries here.

The June/July challenge

All About Writing’s latest writing challenge offers the winner a mini book report on the first 5000 words of your manuscript (or detailed feedback on 5000 words of writing) worth ZAR 2750. Click here for the challenge, a tussle with the antagonist. And you’ll find some more writing tips that will help you create a worthy bad guy.

A happy writing month to you all. If it’s winter for you, curl up somewhere with a warm laptop. If you’re in summer holiday season … there’s no excuse. You have the time and space to get creative.

Warm regards,

Jo-Anne and the All About Writing team


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