Wednesday, 15 March 2017

A Masterclass from Bali Rai

The MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester joined together with Literary Leicester today to bring us an inspiring masterclass presented by Bali Rai.

Bali Rai was born in Leicester. He grew up in a multi-cultural, multiracial community, an experience that has had a definite influence on his writing. His first book was the best selling (Un)Arranged Marriage and he went on to become one of the UK's most successful YA authors. Today we were given a glimpse into his writing world, a chance to see how he has become so successful in his craft.

Bali Rai's enthusiasm was infectious
"All humans are nosey parkers," he told us. We must make sure that our audience wants to know more. We must elicit in them first sympathy and then empathy for our characters. Throughout the afternoon he kept bringing us back to this point, to considering who our audience is when we are writing. How we can connect with the audience became his mantra.

He stressed how important it is to analyse each section, each paragraph. Every sentence needs to be there for a reason. If it doesn't have a reason then get rid of it and make sure all the content will connect with the audience. 

How well do we know our characters? He asks his characters questions about their habits, desires, emotions. Only when he knows the characters really well can he portray them in a three-dimensional way. Only then will they connect with the audience.

He dropped in many pieces of advice as he spoke, sharing lessons that he had learnt from experience. The beginning of a novel is the hardest and most important to get right. Character is more important than setting. If you find yourself staring at a blank screen then turn it off and take a break. And yes, as a writer he believes in ghosts. Why be rational? You're a creative writer! 

"Everything comes back to connection with the audience," he reminded us and he practiced what he preached. For this afternoon we were his audience and he certainly connected with us. We were with him all the way.


  1. Wow - this sounds like an excellent lecture and you are a sponge soaking up the info. Thanks for sharing with us. So much to think about and indeed, first chapters truly do set up the character, the interest, the direction - every word, every sentence should lure folks into the story. Excellent post

  2. Hi Ros - can quite agree with Joanne's comment - you do sound like you're living your writing dream. What fun to meet this local author, who has used his talent so propitiously. Sounds like you learnt lots ... so useful and encouraging and lucky to be able to attend ... congratulations - good with all your projects and this MA .. cheers Hilary

  3. What a great speaker - it's wonderful to hear people who are truly inspiring.

  4. I remember being up for a book award with him, when he'd published his first novel. He was a sweetie


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