Top Tips!


We’re delighted that you want to take part in our Twisting A Tale competition. It’s a great way to try your skills at writing, and we can’t wait to see what amazing stories emerge.

We’ve come up with some top tips to help you on your way. 

  1. Don’t overcomplicate it.

You’ll be creating an extract which is between 500 – 1000 words long, so you’ve only got a short time to grab the judges attention. Rather than trying to create a whole plotline, try just describing a particularly powerful scene, think of Fagin’s imprisonment, or the murder of Nancy. Scenes can be exceptionally powerful even without too much context.

  1. Stand out

With a short extract you really need your characters to leap out of the pages. Think about how Dickens created characters such as the Beadle, Mr Bumble with his ridiculously pompous manner, or the Artful Dodger with his iconic top hat and overcoat. These features make sure the characters stay engrained in our memories.

  1. Break the comfort zone.

One of the reasons Dickens became so popular was because he took on such dark or serious subjects, and wrote about them unapologetically but with humanity and often with humour. He didn’t shy away from describing poverty, starvation and criminality in vivid detail, and he made the readers think more deeply about these subjects. Don’t be afraid to take on difficult subjects.

  1. Mix the emotions

One of Dickens’s strengths was to weave between comedy and tragedy, or comedy and fear. It makes his narratives more compelling and hooks the reader from the beginning. You might be writing a comedy, but don’t be afraid to weave more complicated context into your narrative, or conversely, try and include elements of light-heartedness or comedy into your drama.

  1. Don’t tell the whole story.

Because this is only an extract, you don’t need to tell the whole tale from beginning to end. Create an extract that draws the reader in, a narrative which is gripping and exciting, and then end on a cliff hanger to leave the reader wanting more. You may not want to leave too many open questions, since that can leave the reader feeling unfulfilled, but ending too simply may not be as memorable. 

  1. Be yourself

We can give you all the tips in the world to write like Dickens, but this should be your story, with your own perspective and your own voice. You might research loads of different writing styles and tips, but ultimately you want to create something which is truly yours. As Dickens himself said “I have thrown my whole heart and soul into Oliver Twist.”


Head back to our competition main page. 

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