April/May 2019 Writing Challenge: Working with subtlety
All About Writing’s latest writing challenge offers the winner a literary assessment on 5000 words of writing worth R 2750 or a voucher to the same value to use on one (or more) of our courses or programmes.
But there’s another reason to enter, perhaps even more important. Our bi-monthly creative writing challenges give you is a chance to tackle something on a small canvas, which is not of your own devising. It allows you to take the kind of risks you might be loath to in your own work. And it gives you the chance, in a small, focused way, to sharpen a very specific skill or technique.
Write a scene in which a well-meaning neighbour (perhaps in an attempt to help: catch a cat, or investigate a possible threat) manages to stomp all over your protagonist’s young cauliflowers, which she’s been cultivating for some time. She’s upset.
In this challenge, try not to be obvious, about either his actions or the emotions of your protagonist. Don’t make your characters, particularly the neighbour, into a clumsy stereotype. Be subtle. Have neither of them yell at the other!
Write no more than 250 words. Paste your entry into the body of an email and send to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight on 31 May.
- Chekhov said: Don’t Tell Me the Moon Is Shining; Show Me the Glint of Light on Broken Glass.
- It’s always more powerful to be oblique than “on the nose”. Don’t tell us there’s a fire. Show us the smoke. Give us the effects, we’ll infer the cause.
- It’s almost always better to give your readers too little than too much. Be subtle.
- If you’re too obvious about showing that a character is loving, or clumsy, he’ll come across as a cartoon character. Don’t let him stamp on the cat’s tail and bang against the antique table. Let him try to avoid the cat and stumble, knocking into the table.
- You don’t always need to take your readers every step of the way. Show someone preparing to go out. Show her return, weeping and bleeding from the nose. We know the intervening events will be revealed eventually. In the meantime, it fills us with suspense.