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Alan describes his approach to the masterclasses:

The workshop
I used the 'scaffolding' method to teach the students how to transform the image they had seen into a strong, engaging narrative.
I stressed two key elements:
Tension - don't give too much away too soon
Show, don't tell - don't list a series of chronological events. Use description, metaphor and simile to bring the scene to life. As Stephen King says: "Description starts in the head of the writer and ends up in the head of the reader."

I then broke down the lesson into bite-sized pieces, giving the pupils enough guidance to feel supported and clear about the aims, but also stepping back so that they could explore their own take on the experience. We spent about ten minutes on each paragraph with me giving them teaching prompts as they wrote.

Paragraph one:
How did Perseus feel as he approached the doors to the banqueting hall? What was he carrying? Describe them in detail? Why was he there? Give the reader a brief clue to the plot as a kind of flashback but don't tell them too much. They won't be able to take it all in at once. What sentence structures will you use? Can you include a subordinate clause e.g. Heart pounding, he edged towards the great doors.

Paragraph two:
Describe Perseus' entrance. What sound did the doors make? How did the guests react? What about the palace guards? What was the expression on Perseus face? What did the sword and Medusa's head feel like in his hand?

Paragraph three:
This is dialogue. How did Perseus address the crowd? What do you have to remember about writing dialogue? What punctuation will you need?

Paragraph four:
Describe how the guards confronted Perseus. What did Perseus do? What did it look like, sound like, as the guards were turned to stone? How did the other guests react? What happened to the furniture?

Paragraph five:
Describe how Perseus finally discovered the King. How did the King move? How did Perseus pursue him? Use flashback to fill in the details of the plot. Choose a good last line to keep the reader's interest.

These are some of the skills taught during the workshop:
  • a strong opening
  • figurative writing
  • good description (metaphor, simile, striking choice of adjectives)
  • strong verbs
  • dialogue
  • internal monologue
  • tension
  • show, don't tell
  • good vocabulary choices
  • a strong ending
Image of quote from Alan's story.Click here for Alan's story.
Image of student.This is Alan Gibbon's Masterclass page.
Image of student.Click here for Student Responses.
Image of 'Perseus Turning Phineas to Stone' by Giordano, early 1680's.Click here for About the Painting.
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More about Alan Gibbons