It starts with a good story

Don’t write to be famous, write to tell stories — then create a believable world, says R.P. MacIntyre, the next writer-in-residence at Red Deer College.

R.P. Macintyre

Don’t write to be famous, write to tell stories — then create a believable world, says R.P. MacIntyre, the next writer-in-residence at Red Deer College.

MacIntyre will be in Red Deer providing advice and feedback to fledgling writers from May 7 to 15 as part of RDC’s Ten Days in May program. The Saskatchewan-based fiction writer, whose first name is Rod, expects to see some common mistakes crop up among young or inexperienced writers.

Perhaps the biggest problem is failing to understand the importance of using setting to help create characters, said MacIntyre.

For instance, would Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights have been the same novel if its characters weren’t shaped by the bleak, wild and isolated English moors?

In another vivid example, MacIntyre noted The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien “invented an entire reality, complete with its own language and characters that would not have been believable if they weren’t part of this world.”

He likens this to the Star Wars movies or even Dumbo. “Dumbo had to be part of a cartoon circus. He couldn’t have been part of a real circus because real elephants don’t fly,” said MacIntyre, who has written several short story collections and novels, including Yuletide Blues and Apart (co-written with Wendy MacIntyre, who is no relation).

MacIntyre grew up in Saskatoon in a family that didn’t yield any other writers, but did have several excellent storytellers.

MacIntyre believes this talent lies at the root of good writing. “Some people are confused by the notion that they want to be famous. But to be a writer, you need to want to tell stories.”

He advises students to read more than they write and to write about what they know. For many this will mean recounting incidents that happened within their own families. “It always enthralls the whole class,” said MacIntyre to hear human relationship stories being read aloud.

“Whatever moves you most, write about that and you’ll find an audience.”

Manuscripts from Central Alberta writers (up to 20 double-spaced pages) must be submitted by Monday, April 27, for consideration. The written submissions will be juried and successful applicants will be notified before the start of MacIntyre’s residency.

MacIntyre will also give a public reading from one of his works at the Red Deer College library at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 7. And on Thursday, May 14, he will deliver a lecture called Sweat the Big Stuff at 7:30 p.m. at the college library. Refreshments and a cash bar will be available at both events.

Questions about the Ten Days in May program can be directed to

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