murder, we wrote

We seemed like a a civilised group. Polite, welcoming, passing the sandwiches. But we definitely wanted to kill the baddie. No half measures. Murder was called for.

We’d talked about character motivations, backstories, the parts of the story where we had flexibility. We learned something of exposition, complication, mini climax, major climax, resolution and coda. We learned a lot about rhino horn.

My morning had started with an early bus journey (along with an abundance of bus characters and a man reading tractor magazines), reading of a nearly finished story and a visit to a library. As part of creativity month, crime writer Brian McGilloway was facilitating sessions in four different libraries, with the output of the process being a story written by all participants. Each group wrote a chapter. Ours was the last chapter. Threads to tie up, puzzles to make sense of. It was a fascinating process, with flip charts and notes and minor squabbling.

‘Could we?’ ‘Will we?’ ‘Maybe..’ ‘No, because’ ‘But then we’d have to…’ ‘That won’t make sense’

How do you real writers do it? I think I need a writing partner to chat to/ irritate- we could  write under a name combination like some folk do, Speccy Yourname, or Yourname McSpec.


The big issue was how a character was to die. Quietly in bed aged 96 was not an option. We wanted drama, excitement, revenge. We wanted it all in one chapter. We wanted it in Omagh.

The plan was to work out the story before lunchtime and write it after. Luckily, ‘lunchtime’ was flexible, because we talked and talked and dismissed many scenarios. Eventually one of us had a light bulb moment. Starvation/ fatigue/ common sense meant that nobody had any arguments left. We embraced the moment, and the lunch.

Later, refreshed, we wrote up bits. Eight people, four pairs, four sections of the chapter. it worked.

The finished chapter (and overall story) is not a masterpiece. That wasn’t the point. The story works. Each chapter was created in a day by a group who turned up at a library somewhere in NI. The story was taken forward the next week by another group, in a different location. Around 50 people wrote this story. Brian was probably driven demented by the process and the editing,

I loved it all. Reading, thinking, puzzling, a wee bit of writing. Great stuff, and a joy to not have to explain or get distracted or wonder about the other things I should be doing. I almost decided to not go- fatigue, anxiety, being a big sleepy scaredy cat -but I’m glad I did. It really was worthwhile.

You can read the whole story here. I was involved in Chapter 6.

Thanks to all my fellow murderers!


11 thoughts on “murder, we wrote

  1. With a name like Slightly McSpec people might mistake crime novels for memoirs. Keep it up- there is more to this than just your own enjoyment.

  2. I will go back to read the whole story when I’m a little more awake! But I love the process of the group writing and so entirely applaud the benefits of taking the time to work creatively. It’s an excellent way to balance some of the weightier subjects that can take over your whole being. Good for you! And I agree with GM…more!

  3. I like writing like this, Fiona… picking up the pieces and then leaving other pieces for someone else to pick up… it’s a bit like that folded paper game where each person draws a different body part and everyone’s surprised by the end result. The stories work as they can veer off in so many different directions…

    1. Do you know, Ada, I’m just reading that book ‘Lean In’ about seizing opportunities, putting oneself forward etc. I’m assuming you were Sheryl’s inspiration?

      1. Lean in further! I would shout at dear Sheryl as she peered over the edge of the Humanities Beacon moat at the crocodiles below, but alas, she always was a timid wee thing. I do sometimes wonder what became of her.

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