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Alan Bissett

A huge thank you to all who attended last night, for our busiest event of the year thus far. Alan Bissett excelled as a writing tutor and as an all-round entertainer, bringing the craft of writing alive for the audience.

Intriguing advice was generously offered. Alan explained that a novel is a game of power between the writer and reader, in which the reader wants to lose; he insisted that secrets are a writer’s best friend, helping to maintain a subterranean energy in the story. Alan holds that a successful novel is a slow revelation of secrets, to give the reader the impression that the narrative and characters have hidden depths.

Some great examples of first lines from famous novels were cited, including J. G. Ballard’s Crash (“Vaughan died yesterday in his last car crash”), Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, and Danielewski’s House of Leaves (“This is not for you”).

Alan drew our attention to how a cat is enthralled by a dangling string, but loses interest the moment that the string is dropped. Suggesting that Jaws might be the greatest film ever made, he used it as a yardstick with which to classify plot devices as either “sharks” or “fins” (which is to say, that most of our icebergs should remain beneath the surface). Oh yes, and if you do let the reader in on your central secret, always replace it immediately with another one!

Alan will return in two weeks, for the second installment of this workshop series – so mark your diaries, and arrive early to nab a seat!

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