Creative writing is most often considered an individual pursuit, but it can be rewarding to branch out of your comfort zone and try writing with other people. With this in mind, our most recent Young Writers Group explored the possibilities of writing fiction collaboratively.

Our writers had previously requested a workshop on the sci-fi genre, but we hadn’t got too far into the planning before we realised that a forthcoming masterclass encompassed the same theme.

Undeterred, we decided to approach sci-fi tangentially by introducing our participants to steampunk. Notable examples of this genre include  Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the Mortal Engines series by Philip Reeve.

We set out a basic framework for the story, and assigned characters for which each of our writers would have sole responsibility. Despite being set in days gone by, the story managed to take in the current housing crisis and responses to it.

The first scene our writers had to flesh out was their characters’ arrival at the station, on the way to an unnamed seaside town. Those present included a governess and the family she attended and a wealthy couple. Whilst on the train, each character had a conversation with the conductor, who then became the driver taking them to the hotel.

A break from the main action introduced us to a couple living in the seaside town, and their opinion on the tourists. Meanwhile, there was a fisherman on the shore, convinced that he had seen a monster out at sea. Whilst many of the locals were nonplussed by his assertions, he kept trying to convince them.

A sudden change in the weather ushered in a power cut during a ceremonial ball. The event continued by candle light, whilst the fisherman struggled with the monster outside. The next morning, tragedy was found to have struck overnight. The result was such that the fisherman’s story could no longer be disbelieved, although it ultimately cost him his life.

With the different voices being written by different authors, you might think that it would be jarring to hear the piece back. In fact, it was incredibly rewarding. The resulting story combined elements of steampunk with a thriller-style narrative.

We were so eager to hear how the story ended that we ran over time, but nobody seemed to mind. There was even talk of turning it into an audio-book of some description.

The consensus was that the workshop was challenging, but enjoyable. It is a privilege to give young people the opportunity to stretch their imaginations beyond what they imagine themselves to be capable of.


Casey Bottono