Studying Psychological Fiction with the Young Writers

Our most recent Young Writers workshop found us exploring the elements of psychological fiction with the group, by request from a couple of the participants.

We began by discussing examples of ‘mad’ characters in children’s fiction, citing people like Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, Count Olaf from Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events and Bertha Mason from Jane Eyre.

Elements of this workshop relied on the participants using their own experiences perhaps more than we have invited previously. Our first exercise offered a variety of options for time periods and physical settings for their stories, whilst the second exercise asked them to recall a nightmare they might have had or devise such a scenario.

They then had to decide what pressures might be impacting the character they’d created and give their character a secret. To flesh out their characters, we asked them to imagine that the people surrounding their character had noticed changes. They had to write about the character’s behaviour from an outside perspective.

The longest writing exercise involved a conversation between the chosen character and an animal before we asked them to return to their earlier list of uncanny objects and choose a ‘talisman’ for their main character. What is that talisman, and why is it significant?

Then came the point of combining everything they’d done up to that point into a 100-word story, which they could share with the group.

A variety of narratives emerged, touching on themes of grief, possession, and transformation amongst others. It was wonderful to see that the writers understood their responsibility to write about mental health sensitively.

Some said that they would have appreciated more time to flesh out the exercises. I pointed out that the aim was to provide a scaffold from which they could work.

Our next workshop will strike a lighter note, as we will be discussing and writing about ideas of Utopia.

Our next Zoom workshop will take place on July 8th 2023

by Casey Bottono