Thursday, 3 July 2014

When the going gets tough, the tough get writing

As I have said before, I am always struck by the way many writers are drawn to the very toughest of times in people’s lives.

Why do they do that? Well let this story suffice. Years ago, I co-judged a short story competition for teenagers, most of whom wrote about domestic abuse. It was harrowing stuff and we judges were disturbed at what we were reading. What kind of life do these kids led, we asked ourselves?

When we met the winners, you could not hope for happier, cheerier, well-adjusted young people. And the abuse? Well, as one said, ‘that’s where the drama lies.’

As a crime writer I guess I should have worked that out. The Global Short Story Competition receives story after story that focuses on tense moments, difficult encounters, powerful emotions and draws you into the drama so that you can feel the tension, experience the pain and empathise with those in the story.

I am always heartened when I read writing like that. Sometimes, you read a story and think something is missing. For me, if you are going to tackle a tough subject - serious illness, betrayal, separation, abuse - the best writing is the writing in which the author plunges him or herself deep into the action and drags the reader with them whether the reader wants to go or not.
Plenty of time to enter our July Global Short Story Competition at

John Dean

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