Introduction to Story
Worst Sentence Contest
Let’s have a bit of fun and shake loose that annoying fear of not being ‘good enough’. We’re going to do this with a good old-fashioned worst-opening-sentence contest. Why the worst sentence? It’s a great exercise in getting you into the headspace. To write badly deliberately means having to pick apart how a sentence works so you can disrupt it. It’s also fun to give yourself permission to write something awful.
This activity is actually a variation of the popular annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.
The contest is named for Edward Bulwer-Lytton, a British author hugely popular around the world in the nineteenth century — so popular, in fact, that the Brisbane suburb of Lytton (and Bulwer Island at the Port of Brisbane) is named after him. Lytton published 30 novels along with a number of plays and verse and is responsible for many quotables, including ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’.
But Lytton was also responsible for this mélange of an opening sentence:
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
—Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)
It’s a long, meandering passage, full of florid language, irrelevant asides, and awkward turns of phrase. More importantly, it says nothing, other than the weather was miserable. And of course there’s the dark and stormy night, the passage that Charles M. Shulz would later turn into a superpowered cliché via Snoopy’s typewriter. Somewhere in the 150 years since its publication, this one sentence has become an emblematic of all bad writing everywhere.
In some ways, Lytton has been unfairly tarnished. A lot of writers from that time wrote exactly like this, many of them inspired by Lytton and many of them committing far greater sins against our language. On the other hand, here we are still talking about Lytton when all those other writers have vanished into obscurity.
The rules to the Bulwer-Lytton contest are simple:
- Try to write the worst opening sentence you can. Seriously, go nuts.
- It must be a single sentence, no cheating; if you know how to use a semicolon, use it.
- Sentences may be of any length, but if you’re going beyond 50 or 60 words you’re stretching credulity.
- While clichés are welcome just this once, be sure to bring something original as well.
- If you expect somebody else to read it, then keep them in mind; even a bad sentence can be entertaining.
And hey, if you’re proud of your awful sentence, you can always enter this year’s contest. Imagine the auspicious start to your career if this is your first published piece. Things can only get better!
The art and craft of storytelling
It’s all about telling a good story and telling it well. Whether it’s for the page, the screen or the stage, understanding the fundamentals of good storytelling is crucial to keep your audience riveted, from the first word to the last page.
Our five-part introductory course gives you a thorough understanding of all aspects of storytelling or creative narrative. How to use pace and tension to drive a plot, how to create compelling characters and how to make your settings pop. Learn everything you need to know through detailed information, practical exercises and examples drawn from dozens of successful, contemporary Australian writers. All this at your own pace to make sure you get the most out of every stage of the course. And once you complete the course, you can come back for a complete refresher or dip in and out, anytime you want!*
Whatever your writing goals, a solid grasp of narrative fundamentals or storytelling will help bring out the best in your writing.
In this course, you will learn:
- The fundamental structures and devices that drive a plot
- How write engaging narratives that keep your audience riveted
- How to structure your narrative to manage pacing and heighten tension
- The skill of creating compelling characters that connect to your readers
- The building-blocks of of story
Introduction to Story is entirely self-guided, so you can progress at your own pace. The course will teach you the core skills of telling stories that are engaging, well-developed, and fun. Course content is delivered in a series of written lessons and exercises.
Once you’ve purchased the course, the content will remain open to you so you can come back any time for a refresher or dip in and out of the course content.*
How to access this course
This course is available from the moment your purchase is confirmed. Just go to the curriculum tab, click the first lesson, and start learning! You must be logged in to access your purchased content.
QWC members – please note that your QWC Membership ID cannot be used to access course content on this site. You must first register on this site. To do this, simply go to the top right-hand corner of the window and click ‘register’. Then just follow the prompts! Once you’ve done that, you can select the course you’re interested in and follow the purchase link. When you get to the checkout on this site, the page will prompt you for a discount coupon code. Enter the your QWC Membership Discount Code and your discount will apply instantly.
For more information have a look at our Online Learning Frequently Asked Questions here.
* Once purchased, you will have access to all the course content for up to two years.
- Lectures 27
- Quizzes 0
- Duration 8 hours
- Skill level Beginner
- Language English
- Students 96
- Certificate Yes
- Assessments Yes
What is narrative? This module will explore the psychology of narrative, and offer a quick refresher on basic writing craft.
Plot and Structure
Where to start the story? How should a story be structured? Plot is both the sequence of events that make up a story, and the structure those events take. Learn to develop a compelling hook, plot & story structure that will keep your readers furiously flicking until the end!
Character and Dialogue
No story can exist without characters! In this module, you’ll learn to lay the foundation for creating compelling characters and believable and revealing dialogue.
Where does your story take place, and how can you evoke this place in the minds of your audience?What is the context of the world you are creating? In this module, you will explore how to paint a picture of the story with your words.
POV and Voice
Who is telling a story and how they’re telling it is as important as what they are talking about. Learn who is the best character to tell your tale and how you find a character voice that is so compelling, your readers won’t want to part with them.
Narratives are capable of communicating a lot more than what is on the surface. Mastering the themes of your work means understanding what your story is about, at its heart. This module will show you how to identify the themes of your work, and how to use motifs and symbols to enhance those ideas.
Everything you need to start writing your story!
I have procrastinated for many years in starting my novel, but this course both inspired and pushed me to start. The small, yet relevant exercises gave me the stepping stones to begin and feel confident in my writing abilities. I knew of ‘Theme’ and ‘Voice’ and their importance, to which I overwhelmed myself trying to fit them in my story, but this course simplified it and reassured me that I am on the right path! I also love that you can access this course over and over!