Joyce Holms – 6th November, 2013

We had a special treat last night. Our visiting speaker, the delightful Joyce Holms – author, teacher and apparently sometime window-dresser and assistant in a detective agency (like it!) gave us the benefit of her writing experience. Priceless nuggets of information came thick and fast. You could practically see the smoke rising from frenzied, overworked pens as they scribbled notes at several times their normal speed. Ah, but it’s all very well making notes, Joyce tells us, the thing is, you have to go out and act on them. (Point taken Joyce.)

     Speaking of notes and note-books, those well-known weapons on the writer’s armoury, we should do more than just jot down the occasional, fleeting idea or good title. Joyce recommends going out to different locations – railway station, dentist’s waiting room, a crowded bar for instance – deliberately collecting impressions using all our senses. Making lists is also recommended – names, unusual occupations or hobbies and interesting locations. She pointed out how often in TV drama, conversations between detective and witness take place in, for example, a strip-club. This can chirp up a tedious but essential bit of dialogue by giving the viewer something interesting to watch!

     We also had tips on dealing with the boggy middle of a story, where the pace has begun to sag; a ten-point check list of aspects to consider in building rounded characters and the various ways we can put information into the reader’s mind without actually ‘telling’ them. All in all, it was a master-class and I shall be very annoyed with myself if I don’t immediately set about putting all this into practice in my own writing.

      As Joyce told us, ‘Nothing in fiction is ‘quite’- everything has to be ‘very’.’

     Well, Joyce’s talk was very interesting, very amusing, very informative and very much appreciated by everyone present.

Maggie Bolton

One comment

  1. Doothy Gallagher

    So true, Maggie, couldn’t agree more,

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