Last night was a chance for members to hone their editing skills on Colette’s piece ‘ Little Liar’. An interesting little character study on that very human of personality foibles, mendacity. I’m afraid I arrived a little late so was not privy to the full, frank and honest discussion that took place but hopefully it was helpful to all concerned.

One issue that did come up was the question of whether to use quotation marks for speech or not. There is no hard and fast answer to this, in creative writing there are only suggested guidelines not rules. Many people like them (quotation marks) and they can help distinguish speech from the narrators thoughts (especially in a first person narrative). For dialogue the most important guideline is that it should flow well and not leave the reader confused as to who is talking.

The argument for not using quotation marks arises from the strong, authoritative role that a third person narrative (in standard English) can have. There is an unwritten bond between the narrator and the reader. We instinctively trust the narrator not to lie to us when they describe a scene, report dialogue or get inside someone’s head. However when some of the characters speak in dialect (eg scots) and others speak in standard English, then by association the latter characters can (almost sub-consciously) assume some of the authority of the narrator (who is also speaking in standard English). The result then may be that the characters who speak in dialect are somehow less important. One solution to this is not to emphasise (or separate out) the dialect speech from the rest of the narrative ie to avoid using quotation marks.

When writing your own stories there are many choices to make: quotes/no quotes, first person narrative/third person narrative, past tense/present tense, etc. Ho Hum. Lots to think about. Too much perhaps. Sometimes you just have to go with your instincts as a writer, and bear in mind who your audience is.

Fortunately technology can help. I have occasionally used my work processor to change a story from third person to first person (and vice versa) using the wonderful ‘Find and Replace’ option to see which one works better.

After tea the pantomime Thespians exited stage left for a semi-dress (not as racy as it sounds) rehearsal. Meanwhile the remaining members did a flash fiction exercise based on the words ‘Japan’, ‘Gardener’ and ‘Fruit’. Excellent musings ensued, many featuring that tranquil and elusive beauty of the cherry blossom. Hmmmm very Zen…..

Remember we are trying to see how many Scottish Icon stories/articles/poems we can get for a possible book Even if you have done one for the competition why not have a go at another. Remember there are no constraints on these. They can be fiction or non fiction, poetry or short story and up to 3000 words in length (40 lines for a poem). If you have any (including the recent competition entries) please email them to the following address .

Ho Hum Onwards and Upwards.