Review – NottWords workshop with Lara Elena Donnelly

There’s something decadent about knocking off work early to go to a writing workshop. And so it is with a light heart that I bid my work colleagues a good weekend and appear at the door to Nottingham Writers’ Studio on Friday afternoon for Lara Elena Donnelly’s workshop Who is your City?

Lara starts us with some inspiration from fiction and offers a way to find your city – real or imagined – before letting us loose describing our world. First, find your mood. Then map the geography. Finally look at the detail. Who is in your city? What do they do? Where do they do it? Most importantly, why do they do it?

Details aren’t always going to make it into your book (though I’ve read several authors who’ve never heard that piece of advice…) but help to cement your world in your mind and make it more convincing.

Listening to Lara speak, I apply her words to my half written novel. I like the idea of starting with the mood or atmosphere first, why do I want the book to be centered around this place? It’s the sense of space, the freedom of anonymity it gives, while being conveniently located. I remember the elation I felt when I sat in Dulwich Park a few months ago on a fact finding mission and I try to capture that – the place, the way I suddenly spotted my characters there, everyone slotted into a role, going about their fictional business but still pointing out all the blanks I hadn’t considered yet.

We are few but we are ambitious. World building seems to come easily to those in the room who read or write science fiction or fantasy novels, but the principles of the workshop apply to all writing and, while we started out with something based in reality, I’m not sure any of us ended up there.

The workshop can be found at Lara’s blog – give it a go, it’s really useful for world building of all kinds. You never know you might end up somewhere completely different…

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