Dystopia seems to be an ever-popular theme with our students, and our most recent Young Writers workshop offered a twist on this theme by weaving current events into the workshop.

In October the British Library fell victim to a cyber attack where criminals held the entire online catalogue to ransom. The impact of this continues to be felt, as library staff persevere in restoring access to the invaluable digital resources.

We began by introducing the central themes of dystopia and invited our writers to imagine a world in which knowledge was strictly controlled and books were banned.

We offered four prompts to inspire the prologue to their pieces:

  • ‘It started with a library…’
  • ‘This was a ransomware attack…’
  • ‘The library itself is a crime scene…’
  • ‘They say that knowledge is power, but…’

In the exercise that followed, we invited the participants to embellish their teen protagonist and reflect on what teaching and learning might look like in a world where books have been banned for 30 years.

Of course, this is also a world in which storytelling has become an illicit activity. Stories are shared among close knit groups, from memory. The writers were asked to imagine what one of these gatherings might involve as well.

The twist in the story comes with the fact that the narrator has decided to write a book, knowing the risks. Our writers were invited to explore the character’s motivation for undertaking such a controversial act.

We then presented the writers with the idea that their characters had discovered a secret library, and asked them to respond to questions about what this library might look like and how the character feels upon entering it.

Finally, we gave the writers a choice between responding to a question:

  • What happens to the character’s book?
  • Are they discovered and punished?
  • Can one book change the world?

Or answering the prompt ‘Your character has one page left to write on inside their book. What do they say?’

This workshop was popular with the writers because of the different prompts that we used.

Our next Young Writers workshop will take place on Zoom on Saturday 9th March between 10:00am and 12:00pm.

The theme will be Unreliable Narrators.

Booking information can be found here