During our late March workshop with the Young Writers Group, we explored themes of betrayal and plot twists. The Young Writers took to the theme of betrayal and plot twists like ducks to water, informed by their extensive knowledge.

We began by introducing the concept of the Ides of March. One participant summed it up succinctly for the benefit of the whole group. Reflecting on this, we invited participants to consider the concept of betrayal and what it means to them. This informed a discussion of betrayals and plot twists in books and films they have enjoyed.

One of the main writing exercises during this workshop invited participants to imagine a betrayal they had experienced from the point of view of the person who had betrayed them. After this, we provided a number of picture prompts to spark new stories, using Anna Murphy’s postcard exercise as a basis. Our writers also faced the challenge of imagining these characters’ shopping lists as a way of making them more real. Difficult though it is, a shopping list challenge can really help to bring a character to life.

Participants’ stories were constructed using found elements from the photographs provided, but it was down to them to add a plot twist before writing either the opening paragraph or the blurb.

There were lively discussions about whether weaponry really had a place on a shopping list, and a compromise. If you can’t think of what would be on their shopping list, what does that character want? Somebody wanting something, and somebody else stopping them from getting it is the most basic story formula there is, after all.

Ultimately, we gave the writers the challenge of pitching their stories to us as though we were publishers. We invited them to read either the blurb or the first paragraph, and highlight what made their stories unique. Everybody rose to the challenge, and spoke about their work confidently. It is wonderful to see them embrace the idea of not dismissing their creations.

by Casey Bottono