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Technical NotesTeachers' Guide

Teaching Notes - Chapter One

Before you start

You might want to ask your school or local library to buy a copy of Steve’s first book, The Malifex, to use as a prop in the first lesson, and for your students to read in their own time. It can be ordered from any bookshop or is available on Amazon.


  • To introduce students to the Personal Demons project
  • To encourage students to think about the skills necessary for writing fiction
  • To encourage students to think about what is necessary for an opening chapter

Introduction to the Project

Explain to the students that they will be helping a novelist who's having difficulty with his novel.

Tell them that Steve Alton has written three books for teenagers, but that he is stuck on his new novel, and has asked for their help.

(If you or your school has a copy of Steve's first book, The Malifex, show it to the students. If your school library has not bought a copy of The Malifex, you might like to find it on Amazon to remind the students that his books really do appear in the shops! You could ask the students to think about what the book cover suggests about the book)

Go to http://demons.english.cam.ac.uk/book_cover.html (if using Internet Explorer on Macs) or http://demons.english.cam.ac.uk/book_cover.swf (if not using Macs) and type your school's name into the front. Your school's name will then appear on the next page as the author of the ‘book'.

Watch the short film clip on the front of the ‘book' and then ask for ideas as to what the book will be about. Then click on the ‘book' to see the next pages.

You will see Steve's ‘writer's notebook', with his ideas for his new novel (which will be called Personal Demons). You might want to read out these ideas aloud, as they give a good introduction to the themes of the novel.

Click on the picture of Steve at his desk to play the video. You will then see a video of Steve, talking about his new novel, and asking the students for help. (Use the controls below the picture to pause or rewind the video).

Explain to the students that they are going to help Steve write his novel. He has put together all his first drafts, and is inviting schools to help write them. As they write pieces for the novel, they will be sent to Steve.


Choose Chapter 1 from the menu (http://demons.english.cam.ac.uk/book1a.html)

Students now begin by watching a brief video designed to get them thinking creatively about Steve's writing. The video shows 'Blake' and 'Maria' walking down a school corridor. (Use the controls below the picture to pause or rewind the video). This video was shot by students at Dinnington Comprehensive as their filmed response to Steve's opening chapter. Ask the students what they think the film shows. Who are the people? What is the significance of the sound-track?

Click on the picture of Steve at his desk to play the video. You will then see a video of Steve, talking about his new novel, and asking the students for help. Remind students that authors write many drafts of each novel. They are about to read Steve's first draft of the opening chapter of Personal Demons.

Quickly brainstorm the qualities an opening chapter should have. Write up these qualities on the board. Then click ‘click here to read my first draft' to see Steve's draft. Read the chapter aloud. (It should take about 4 minutes) Ask the class what they thought of the first draft. Compare it to their checklist on the board. What would they keep? What would they want to improve?

Then go onto the next page, where you'll meet Steve's editor, Mel. Read Mel's email. She asks Steve to add more drama in to the episode.

As a class, the students should brainstorm ideas for adding more drama to the section in red. For example, perhaps Blake might fall backwards onto the headmaster and end up in detention, or he might fall into someone's dish of cottage pie from food technology.

They should then write their own versions of Blake's meeting with Maria. This may be anything from brief paragraph of description to several pages! Students should be reminded to focus on quality rather than quantity, and of the key points for

Follow up

Once the students have written their own versions of the scene between Blake and Maria, they should share them with the rest of the class.

You may wish to choose the best ideas from each student's version, and re-write them into a class version. This can be done using an interactive whiteboard. If you are pleased with the class version, your students might like to send it to Steve, at personaldemons@gmail.com.

If you would like to, you can show your students the re-draft written by the students of Newman School, Rotherham. To see this, click on the image of Arnie, the Help Demon.

Steve has also included his redrafted version of Chapter 1, which can also be found by clicking on Arnie, the Help Demon.

Video Transcript:

This is the transcript of Steve's video for Chapter 1.

Below is the first draft of the opening scene of Personal Demons. Now, this scene introduces Blake, the accident-prone hero, and also the lovely Maria, the heroine. Blake finds Maria very attractive, but unfortunately Maria doesn’t really seem to notice Blake. This is the first of several scenes in which Blake tries to win her affections but fails. Later on in the story, he comes across a book of magic spells which he uses to summon a demon in the hope that that will improve his chances with Maria. Sadly, it doesn’t really go according to plan. So have a read, and pay particular attention to the sections in red.