Paul’s Story Trigonometry (Part 2)

Story Trigonometry IMAGE 1-1

Paul’s Story Trigonometry (Part 1)

A little while back I presented an interesting model to help writers understand the central conflict in a story. I’ve since expanded upon the model and presented it as a blog post for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Germany / Austria. The post includes two different models:

  1. central conflict, two main characters
  2. central conflict, multiple main characters

I personally find these models very useful for critically reflecting upon an early draft, thereby paving the way for a strong rewrite. You might find the models useful too. Here’s the link to the post at SCBWI Germany / Austria.

2018 Creative Writing Program now open for registrations!


The January to April 2018 Creative Writing Program is now open for registrations! Check out the website or download the program (pdf) here: CWOTG_Program_Q1_2018

Check out page 2 of the program for some January creative writing challenges and your chance to win a place at any one of the workshops.

I look forward to meeting you at a workshop very soon!


Writing on the rocks! Second Valley, South Australia, January 2018

Paul Malone

Open Mic for Charity


Many people (and prairie dogs) believe wearing a hat significantly improves their singing 🙂

Along with good friends at Write Now, and with guest host and award winning YA novelist, Keith Gray, I’ll be hosting another Open Mic at Cafe Korb this December.

Proceeds to The Gruft for their winter charity action: sleeping bags and warm food for the homeless. More details about the Guft.

The Open Mic charity event is a great opportunity for creative people to meet up, to perform on stage (if they wish) or simply enjoy the performances, and to contribute to a wonderful and greatly needed cause.

When: Friday 8th December, 7.00pm to 9.30pm

Where: Cafe Korb in Vienna’s 1st District

Cost: Donation to the Gruft*

Full details and to book here

Hope to see you there

* venue hire will be deducted from proceeds




Vienna Creative writing Workshop


The November 4-week creative writing workshop began on Friday at The Vienna Workshop Gallery. I was delighted to meet creative people from such diverse nations , this time as far afield as New Zealand and Eritrea to European neighbours such as Italy, the UK and Bulgaria. And of course, gallery owner, Valeria MacKnight was there flying the Brazilian flag.


Paul and Valeria at The Vienna Workshop Gallery

Over the course of the evening participants got to know one another and share their writing in the gallery setting, with a wonderful exhibition by Brazilian artist As Marias von Leca Araujo. The exhibition runs until the 20th of November. I highly recommend you check it out!


Publication news


Isn’t it time you tried writing in the bathtub?

When not coaching at the short story boot camp or running creative writing sessions in Vienna, Austria, I’m writing.  My most recent short story “Night of the Sand People” was accepted for publication this week by The School Magazine–Australia’s leading children’s literary magazine.  Another one of my stories “How to Catch a Rainbow” (also accepted by The School Magazine) is likely to come out in print in the next few months.

As much I love seeing my stories in print, it’s an equal thrill to see writers who have participated in the short story boot camp get their stories published. These are such exciting times for the participating writers and coach alike!

If you’re interested in participating in the next short story boot camp in Vienna, Austria, keep an eye on this page for dates (winter 2017). I hope to see you there.







May 2017 short story boot camp


With the May 2017 short story boot camp kicking off in Vienna tomorrow, one particular short story competition presents itself as a potential target market for participants’ boot camp stories. Perhaps you might be interested in the Berlin Writing Prize too. With the competition titled “Home is Elsewhere” many European expats and immigrants with an English language background will be interested. If you’re interested, here are the details:

The 2017 Berlin Writing Prize

More news on the short story boot camp to follow soon!


May Creative Cafe


A creative envelope to contain “inspirational snippets”!

What fun we had at the May 2017 Creative Cafe session in Vienna! Among our various creative writing activities, we used our “inspirational snippets” (gathered in the days leading up to our session) to spontaneously write team stories. Each person had around two minutes to contribute to the circulating stories. I have typed them up (unedited, naturally). The different colours represent a change of writer. The underlined words are that writer’s inspirational snippet.


collaborative story 1

When I was small, I dreamed of what it would look like to be all grown up. To be able to do everything you like. It turns out, it is not like that at all. It is all about living through seasons. Seasons of love. As an old willowy lady I can tell you that I don’t agree with you, sorry for that; things just seem to turn out so differently compared to your imagination. But, in fact what helped me through my most difficult times was therapeutic cooking. I can concentrate on slicing vegetables, breaking eggs into a bowl, making dough out of flour and water and feel the change of elements in my hands. I did not ever think about any problems at all until it hit me. I am living in a lie! All the steps I made during my life lead me to this U4 subway in Vienna! It was the first thing I learned in Vienna and I as sticking to it for the last 15 years!

collaborative story 2

Joshua stood nervously before the frosted glass door, waiting to be let in.

“Howard M. Smith, Director,” stood on the door. Remember, it’s all an act, Joshua reminded himself. Suddenly the door opened He looked very surprised because nobody was behind it. Got inside the dark room he saw there only one big Vikings teddy bear. All of your life you tried to be pragmatic, Joshua told himself. Maybe it’s time to let yourself go completely to the situation. In the corner of this dark room there was a pink door.

“If you see through this door,” said Joshua, “you will see your alternative future. But be aware! Once you know what could be, you won’t like your present life anymore.” And suddenly the dark room cleared, bright summer light flew in and Joshua saw his life.


As you can see, these stories are quite nonsensical. Still, the exercise gave writers the opportunity to write spontaneously and collaboratively, to use their “inspirational snippets”, and it was an interesting way of getting to know one another.

Aside from the team stories, writers dabbled in some poetry—creating “riddle rhymes” and “puzzle poems”. We all enjoyed guessing the answers to one another’s poetry.

The second half of the session was devoted to writing short fiction. The session was based on the essay “Three Flat Tyres and the Outer Story” by Ron Carlson as published in The Cambridge Companion to Creative Writing. Writers experienced for themselves Ron Carlson’s methodology of using the outer story (the unfolding physical events) to discover the inner story (the characters). Everyone managed to write their story opening using the above method. And writers were so enthused, many said they would be returning in June.

The last of the spring creative writing sessions is coming up in Vienna this June. Then its time for summer break! If you happen to be in Vienna this June, I hope you might join me for what promises to be yet another fun creative writing session. More info here.

Creative Cafe in Vienna



On Saturday April 1st I ran the very first Creative Café creative writing session in Vienna (Austria). With ten participants from various countries (it really was a multicultural event!) the creative writing session was vibrant, inspiring, and plenty of fun.

We kicked off writing extended metaphors, answering the question: What kind of animal are you? We had bats and cats, dogs and eagles who morphed into penguins. Some wrote rhyming poems; others, prose reeled out in a dizzying (and exhilarating) stream of consciousness. Later we played with words and came up with wonderfully unique imagery. We explored absurd titles chosen through a lottery of words. And we explored our trove of unique objects (everyone bought along a couple). Curiously, a simple lace doily caught a few participants’ attention, and at least one complete flash fiction piece based upon the doily was written in the space of ten minutes.

After a well-deserved break where people seemed to click like old friends, we launched into a team story, using another lottery of words. We drew “Waffle Dust”, and so the story was pinned down: Ether is in a televised waffle making competition. She’s attracted to Gregory, the official taster. Everyone launched into their own version of the story. We all had a good laugh reading them out!

We closed with some reflective writing, stepping way back in time, discovering memories imbued with strong feeling. Here too there was remarkable synergy: three participants wrote about being on the swing. Happy times! Everyone went away with inspiration and plenty of writing material to draw upon. I am curious to discover what might develop.

The next creative writing session is coming up in May. I look forward to seeing a few familiar faces and a few new ones too.

If you happen to be in Vienna at the time: Creative Cafe

Creative writing during meetings (shh!)



Okay, I shouldn’t be asking you this. It might get you into trouble. Still, I can’t help myself:

Have you ever tried creative writing during a meeting?

Maybe it sounds irresponsible and risky—what if you get caught? People might even argue it’s downright disrespectful. Still, if you’re serious about creative writing on the go, you’ll know better than to pass up such a golden opportunity.

I know of someone (let’s just call him Barry) who admitted to creatively writing during a big meeting.

“It was brilliant,” Barry said. “I wrote this amazing story while that dull meeting dragged on. People were drifting off, staring out the window, looking at their phones, all busting to get out of there. But my pen was blazing! If they had seen the heat coming off my page as I wrote, someone would have reached for the fire extinguisher!”

Barry got away with it, it would seem. I asked him how he did it.

Here are Barry’s ground rules for creative writing during a meeting:

  • Don’t tell anyone what you’re doing, not if you value your job.
  • Try and remain peripherally aware of the meeting conversation, just in case someone asks you a question.*
  • Do not smile when you write. People will notice.
  • Try and frown a little (as if you are taking serious notes), and look up every so often at whoever is speaking (as if interested).
  • Do not write profusely. Write in stops and starts as if taking notes.
  • Never attempt to creatively write if you are hosting a meeting. People will definitely notice.

If you find yourself, like Barry, in one of those meetings where your role is little more than that of a human seat warmer, why not open up your notebook and get writing. Like Barry, you may discover a wonderful story waiting.

*How Barry answers a question when he hasn’t been listening:

“That is an excellent question!” Look around the table, raise an accusing brow. “Would you mind repeating it for those who weren’t paying attention.”

Writing on trains

Writing on trains!

Writing on trains!

Have you ever written in a train? Writing in trains as they speed down the line can lead you to the most unexpected destinations. Come prepared though: a solid notebook and steady hand are required. Or you might unfold your laptop.

In a train you can sit back (if a seat is free) and enjoy the ride. Watch your hand track the pen across the page, leaving a stream of words like smoke from an old locomotive. Maybe you have to stand and write and constantly adjust your balance to the train’s faltering rhythm.

“Excuse me,” someone says, nudging past you writing mid-sentence as they make haste for a vacant seat. No matter. Write anyway.

A train is your magic crucible of glass and steel and time. How long until you reach the end station? Not long enough if you don’t turn up the heat on your writing.

People talking loudly on mobiles, someone doused in sickly aftershave, another rolled in stale tobacco, the air thick with the rain carried in on umbrellas and jackets and slippery boots–all these impressions pressing in on that intimate space around you where those words, like colourful autumn leaves, hang ripe for you alone to pluck. All you have to do is keep that pen moving.

Pleasant, unpleasant, neither pleasant nor unpleasant–so you may perceive your surrounds from moment to moment in a train. Do you allow preconceptions of “how things should be” when writing to derail your creative journey? No way! A creative writer on the go embraces it all and keeps on writing.

Listen to the brakes squeal as the train pulls into your station. Feel the crowd milling past as you take note of all you’ve written, Not a bad writing session at all!

Have you had a similar experience writing on a train? If you haven’t, give it a try—set off on your own creative journey.

Incidentally, it’s rather impossible to take a selfie while writing. A kind woman took this photo for me. We had brief chat. She is an art therapist living out my way and helping children at Vienna’s large hospital (AKH). She rides her bike and then a train to get to work. Like me, I believe she enjoys every train journey.