A field guide to creative writing students: Part 5

Fellow twitchers, scholastibiologists, random browsers who stumbled in here looking for something else – welcome. How have you been? I have lately been seized by a writing frenzy, confining me to my inner worlds. I have begun a third novel, when the second is not yet completed, and the first is yet to find representation. ‘She’s crazy!’ you may cry. ‘Doesn’t she know that the most important part of being a writer is to say that you are one, and never actually do anything?’

To which I reply: yes, I may be crazy, but flip tooth umbrella hopped a pumpkin.

Elsewhere, in our campuses nationwide, an unmistakeable dread has settled over the student body. An inescapable threat to their existence looms: midsems. This predator is second only to finals in its ravenous appetite for the souls and sanity of scholars. Many students’ will to live shall wither and perish in these coming weeks.

Even the creative writing family, Scripturae, is not immune. While these species’ survival largely rests on their ability to make things up, they must nevertheless prove themselves with a test of academic rigour. The simple text analysis essay provides a prediction for the eventual outcome. This is one piece of work that Imitor imitor cannot transplant wholesale from her favourite franchise.

Surprisingly, though, this week’s target species often flourishes under these conditions.

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A field guide to creative writing students: Part 4

While in the field this week, you may have noticed a change in the air. It is the third week of the tertiary teaching semester, and in universities across the nation, students are adapting to their new routines. The mass migrations of O-Week are long finished. Most students – save, perhaps, last week’s Uselus lazybastardus – have satisfied their academic needs for now.

The earlier weeks of semester are characterised by panic and uncertainty: will they continue this subject after all? Can they persuade that comely member of their preferred sex to become their lecture buddy or lab partner? What the hell is a pedagogy? Now, this friskiness has largely come to an end. The attentive scholastibiologist will instead spy expressions of resignation and creeping existential dread upon the faces of the university wildlife. It is too late to change subjects, too late to defer the course. The student must complete the unit of study, or perish. Perhaps both.

It can be difficult to come up with a decently developed piece of creative writing by Week Three, which has led to the evolution of this curious creature…

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A field guide to creative writing students: Part 3

Welcome back, fellow scholastibiologists. I hope you have had an interesting week in the field. Lately, I have been frequenting one of my favourite old haunts, a university bookshop. Camouflaged as a helpful member of staff, I’ve observed a stunning variety of campus life! I’ve even had a few near-death experiences. Several times a day, in fact, I am approached by dominant males of genus Halitosus, which emit from their mouths a poisonous gas that can knock an unwary scientist out cold. If you are ever attacked by these creatures, do not inhale!

I’ve also spotted plenty of members of the Scripturae family. Why, only yesterday, I observed both Megacranius annoia and last week’s species, Midlyfcrisus autobiographiiin the wild, along with several other species we shall explore later in the series: Platonicus sitnextumi, Imitor imitor, Devastator virtuosus. As semester has just begun, I recommend getting out in the field while the twitching is good.

One species I have not observed in the bookshop habitat was this week’s featured organism…

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A field guide to creative writing students: Part 2

Welcome back to my field guide to the unique and delightful creatures of the university creative writing faculty! Attentive scholastibiologists will remember last week’s spotlight on Megacranius annoia, and its distinctive habits. Perhaps you have encountered this species in the field. Perhaps you have even spotted him fitting into some other ecological niche – reading Nietsche   Neitzche  Nietzsche in the corner of a train carriage, or cheekily masquerading as Barista superior in that cafe down the street which serves everything, even sandwiches, in a jar.

This week, we’re continuing our exploration of the family Scripturae with…

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A field guide to creative writing students: Part 1

Ah, the university campus. Such a rich and beauteous ecosystem. Anybody who attends one of these biodiversity hotspots is sure to have precious memories of the wildlife. How marvellous it is to watch the courting dance of the attention-hungry post-post-modernist actor, every bulge enhanced by a rainbow bodysuit for the viewing pleasure of its prospective mates! Who can help but sigh at a pack of adorably sleepy international students, snoozing the day away in the comfiest library chairs? And the not-quite-rhyming roar of a stampede of student protesters is a sound never to be forgotten!

With so much variety on campus, it can be difficult for a budding scholastibiologist to recognise every species that he or she may spot. Therefore, for the next few weeks, Amelia Mellor’s Fantastic Narratograph will bring to you this helpful field guide. The taxon I shall chiefly explore with you is the family Scripturae – the creative writing school. Each week, I will feature a different species that you are likely to encounter. Perhaps you have seen them all!


This week’s featured species is…

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Five mistakes that make dialogue unreadable

Exactly what it says on the tin, chums. We’ve covered character tropes, bad metaphors and genre boundaries. Today, I’ll be covering five ways of writing dialogue that can harm a reader’s experience. Again, I’m writing today as a reader/viewer, not so much as a storyteller myself, and under the right circumstances, anything I say could be wrong.

Let us begin!


5. Wait… What’s Going On? 


‘But it’s my car!’ 

‘You’re not allowed to drive it.’ 

‘She’s right. Come inside.’ 

‘You stay out of it! I’m just going to the shop!’

‘You’ll get in trouble.’ 

Just what we need today.’

‘I’m sure we can all find a way to -‘

‘You shut up!’


The absence of dialogue tags makes this very confusing to read. We can’t tell how many people are in this scene. We can’t tell who is saying what. We can’t picture their actions, or where they are.

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The Road Not Taken… For Good Reason

This isn’t exactly a true story, but it might as well be. I’m one of Planet Earth’s lost people. I budget an extra twenty minutes’ travel time whenever I drive somewhere I haven’t been before. That way, when I get lost – and it is a ‘when’, not an ‘if’ – I have time to freak out, stop, check a map, find my bearings again, and reach my destination on time. Usually. If human genetic engineering ever becomes ethically acceptable, we should create a person with the magnetic direction-finding abilities of a migratory bird, to spare future generations from the woes I have suffered. And Siri can’t be trusted. She gets a laugh out of sending us meatbags out to Woop-Woop. It’s her only source of entertainment as everybody’s electronic slave.

Whenever I hear a school principal recite Robert Frost’s ‘Road Not Taken’ – and don’t they always? – I find myself thinking about would have happened if the narrator had possessed my terrible sense of direction. So, with apologies to the folk poet, here is this week’s oh-noetry.


Blue roads diverged in Apple Maps

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