Catherine MacPhail – 7th November, 2012

With 43 books under her belt, our guest speaker this week, Cathy MacPhail, certainly knows her stuff. She gave us lots of good advice over the course of the evening.

She likes to start with a character and pick up snippets from all around to add to the story. A good character can create their own story and finding the right voice can bring the story to life. One of her characters, Granny Nothing, was ‘born’ in Tesco when she heard a very unique granny speaking to her grandchild. It’s useful to think of a stereotype and twist them round.

She suggests writing down a story idea as a book blurb and building from there. There must be conflict, cliff-hangers at the end of chapters, and a deadline in the story is useful for focussing the mind. She illustrated all her advice by reading extracts from her work.

She suggested finding a way to give information through action and also humour.

Always ask ‘What if?’

She advises that we don’t make the outcome too predictable – give the reader the ending they want but not how they expect it. See how it is going to end then throw in a problem or a challenge.

Over the tea break, Cathy asked us to take her first line, ‘I heard the knocking at the door and I knew they had come for me,’ and see what would happen. There were lots of totally different stories created.

Cathy told us about some exciting news – filming is about to start on a script based on her book, Another Me.

She also gave us an exclusive reading of her latest book due to be published next year.

It was a fascinating, funny, inspiring night.
Janice Johnston

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