York Festival of Writing 2010

Central Hall, York University

York Festival of Writing – what a great event! Especially the Saturday sunshine and sitting around drinking tea with friends. I even discovered a real-life hero who, when I was having a chocolate crisis, found some in his bag and gave it to me.

I did seven one-to-ones as a ‘book doctor’, which were interesting. All the material I’d been sent was a pretty good standard and I talked veryveryvery quickly for nine minutes to voice all my comments in the time allowed.

My workshop was titled, ‘Who’s your hero?’

Katie Fforde attended it, which was fun. I told her I’d be able to add to my CV: ‘Taught Katie Fforde’.

The interactive part of the workshop went like this:

  • Five minutes to create a character sketch of a hero – not necessarily a romantic hero. There were writers there writing historical, social commentary, thriller and SF
  • List 15 words that seemed the most important from that sketch to produce ‘essence of hero’
  • Nominate a market. Make any necessary adjustments to hero to make him welcome in that market
  • Give him a quirk or inconsistency – this might drive the story at some point, possibly by creating conflict
  • Check he suits the market
  • Make certain the hero isn’t too ordinary. He should have something to distinguish him from the herd
  • Check he suits the market

We discussed several main types of hero:

  • Alpha
  • Beta/best friend
  • Loner
  • Adventurer
  • Reluctant Hero
  • Damaged Male

And if you wish more information on these, it can be found in Love Writing – How to Make Money Writing Romantic or Erotic Fiction.

Love Writing

Finally, everyone chose what type of hero they had created and we talked about some heroes having elements from more than one main type. And we checked that the hero would suit the market (you might see my theme, here).

‘One-to-one’ sessions were organised during the day so tutors expected people to creep in and out of workshops as these appointments arose. I was sitting on the desk at the front, spouting my stuff, and the first of these delegates rose to leave. She gathered herself and crept past. I smiled and nodded and carried on while she disappeared through double doors to my left. And she suddenly reappeared and groaned, ‘That’s a cupboard!’ So she had to cross to the other side of the lecture theatre and go out of the real doors with the whole audience hooting with laughter. I was in stitches and we had a lot of fun framing a meeting between hero and heroine that involved the same scenario.

Cupboard Lady, you didn’t come back to the session … but thank you. That was absolutely brilliant. I hope your one-to-one went well.York’s campus is, in parts, ravishing. The ducks and geese wander around the lawns – they’re pretty rubbish at posing for photos, though – and the lake and gardens surround and enhance the impressive modern architecture.

All that had to be done to make it perfect was to add 400 or so writers, agents and publishers and orchestrate them into an entertaining programme that gave the writers the opportunity to hit on said agents and publishers.

And this the organisers of the Festival did. Thanks, guys.

NB I was really lazy with my camera at York but I believe that Liz Fenwick is going to be kind enough to send some to me to post here. If not, you’ll be able to see them on the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s blog in the next few days.


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9 responses to “York Festival of Writing 2010

  1. I love ‘Damaged Male’ as a hero descriptor. It always makes me think of these parcels that arrive with something torn, crushed or missing, and a big sticker stating DAMAGED IN TRANSIT. Though, of course, none of us would ever choose to send him back and ask for a refund, lol.


  2. Wish I could’ve attended your workshop! I’m glad it went well and it was great to see you.


  3. Karen Critchley

    Thanks for a wonderful informative and thought provoking workshop Sue, it was really helpful to me. Particularly well done given that it was late on in the programme. The lady trying to leave via the cupboard would have helped to keep everyone awake but a comedic diversion wasn’t needed with a such an inspiring mentor! Karen x


    • Thanks, Karen! So kind of you to say so. Yes, being on at the end of the programme is a bit daunting, sometimes, and some people with long journeys had already set out. But it was a great, responsive group and that makes ALL the difference.

      Really glad to have helped you.


  4. Thanks for your post on the York Festival, Sue. It sounds like it went off with a bang and everyone enjoyed themselves. Wish I had been there.


  5. Deborah Rickard

    Another one of your really useful blogs, Sue, Thanks. Also thanks for your recent critique on one of my stories via Writer’s Forum – excellent advice and value (please note the restraint I’m exercising on the exclamation key).



  6. There was an endless array of heroes over the weekend. Spoiled for choice …


  7. Arabella

    The birds at York will stand on your feet and jump to get at bread you have in your hand if you want to get really close. Capital A, capital Dorable. Spent most of an RNA conference stealing people’s rolls at breakfast for sessions of duck-jumping.

    Sorry to miss the April w/e – had planned to go but wast stymied by the volcano.


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