06 Nov Workshop: Show Don’t Tell: Creating Great Scenes

Show, don’t tell. What does this mean? Narrative nonfiction is a genre that can read like an adventure novel and can be visually cinematic like film. There is Jon Krakauer’s adrenaline-pumping Into Thin Air. There are Maya Angelou’s vivid recollections of childhood in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. And Robert Macfarlane’s engaging below-ground probing in Underland. Throughout narrative nonfiction, a consistent element is to create scenes, rather than tell through factual statements. This difference is what brings the element of narrative and creativity into this genre. There is the unique dance of narrative nonfiction: crafting scenes and conveying information in an equally elegant way.  Facts are easy to write, but scenes take a greater awareness of techniques narrative nonfiction writers use to make their writing come alive, and to read like great fiction.

In this lively workshop, we will read and study great scenes from nature, travel, food, and life writing. We will try our hand at creating scenes through in-class writing exercises. You will leave understanding a variety of techniques and approaches to employ: dialogue/monologue, characterisation, sense of place, narrative presence, and a study of scene arcs. You will understand how scenes function as well: the way a scene, or smaller scenelet, can slow narrative through contemplation or suspense, or quicken it with action and movement. Once writers understand this essential core element of the genre, their writing moves in a significantly different and better direction.

3:30-5:30 PM GMT, Sat 6 Nov — £50

“The Writer-to-Writer Mentorship Program with Kathryn Aalto, sponsored by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, was a tremendous boost to my career as a creative writer. Judging the success of our relationship is easy: less than a year after we started, I have had five of the six essays she critiqued accepted for publication. Kathryn did more than just review and suggest, she recommended books and articles I should read, authors I should follow, conferences and short courses I should attend. She emphasized the importance of developing an online presence. She provided a detailed description of her career as a writer; the path she followed to becoming an internationally known, bestselling author. I still have much to learn, but Kathryn provided, encouragement, tools, and skills that will enable me to grow and chart my own course.”