Charlie Laidlaw is an author and tutor at Creating Writers

The four elements to every story are: context, plot, characterisation, and conflict resolution.  In some degree, all play a part in every novel ever written.

Over the next few blogs we’ll take a closer look at each one of them, starting with context.

It’s very easy to take context for granted.  For example, you’re from Manchester and you’ve decided to write a chick-lit novel set in Manchester.

Okay, but how do you describe the city to those of us who don’t know Manchester that well?  Or not at all?  There may be streets or areas of the city that are known for their clubs or pubs.  But don’t assume that we know that.

But also don’t assume, if it’s not important to the story, that we want to know every little detail.  Remember, you’re writing a novel not a travel guide.

We want to get a feel for the place, for the city, for its clubs and pubs.  We want to feel that that the author knows Manchester and its people.  That the characters in the book speak with authenticity.


Or your book could be set on the planet Zarg, which none of us (presumably) have been to.  But how much about this planet do we need to know?

You might be enthralled with this mythical world, and want us to feast on all the little details you’ve dreamed up.  But you’ll probably only be force-feeding us with stuff we don’t want to know.

You’ll be trying to impress us with your imagination.  As a writer, never attempt to impress your readers by trying to be clever.  Let your book be impressive, let it speak for you.

In other words, tell us what we need to know, and be wary of telling us what we don’t need to know.  When you go back to what you’ve already written, be ruthless: edit out the waffle.

Context is only one facet of the writer’s trade.  If you’d like to learn all of them, why not speak to us.

Creating Writers has two creative writing courses, an introductory course and our flagship Diploma course – with a real qualification at the end of it.

Both courses are online, but with lots of Skype face-to-face tuition.  While there are set modules to complete, we also tailor the course around you and your aspirations.

Our ethos is to work with you as an individual, with your own reasons to be on a course with us.

You can complete each course in your own time, to fit in around your other commitments.

For more information, you can contact us here.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash