BRAINSTORMING AND IDEAS

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How do you know your ideas are strong enough for a story?

1. When the ideas haunt you and you are almost literally itching to get back to your desk to get on with the writing. (These days I use Evernote on my phone so I can at least make a head start! Great way to make the most of “dead” time. Last time I had to wait while my car was being serviced, I’d drafted three pieces of flash fiction on my phone!).

2. When you can’t wait to find out how the story ends!

3. When the characters seem so real to you, you feel a bit disappointed you know you can’t meet them in “life”.

4. When that initial idea, the spark, triggers other ideas and you can suddenly see the story opening up before you.

Of course, you can’t beat the nitty-gritty of getting on with the writing itself. If the ideas are really strong, the writing will flow. It has been my experience that when I’ve not thought out the ideas enough, that is when I can get stuck. I’ve only ever abandoned two stories in my time due to that (which I don’t think is a bad return rate) but I want to make sure there are no other incidents of that!

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Am happily brainstorming opening lines I hope to use for flash fiction pieces. I love doing that and then I love the challenge of writing to that line. Am also getting back into writing standard length short stories. (Have just submitted one and am outlining another). I would like to write more flash and more short stories than I did last year so I think that would be my goal for 2018.

I’d also like to try to write more of my blog posts ahead of time and schedule them as appropriate. I do this sometimes but last year for some reason didn’t. I wrote the blog post in the week that I knew it would appear. So I am planning to block time out more to do specific tasks and see if, overall, I achieve more. I think I will.

Meantime, back to the stories!

 

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When does a character really catch my attention?

When I find I’m looking forward to the next scene they’re in and am rooting for them to succeed. (This is awkward if the one you’re rooting for is the villain! Go on, who half wanted Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham to somehow get away with it in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves simply because the portrayal was so good? It wasn’t just me, was it?).

So when I am developing my characters, I am looking for that special something about them, which will catch my readers’ attention. The real trick is to then ensure your characters HOLD your readers’ attention! So your characters have plenty of work to do then (as indeed do you!).

I have found a trait that most people will sympathise with or at least understand is a good way in to developing that special something in a character. Courage, for example, is a good trait to use as you can ask where did that come from in your character? Has it ever been tested etc? You’ll get some great stories out of answering those two questions alone on that one trait.

 

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What would you like your stories to achieve?

I’d like mine to entertain, whether it is to make people laugh or shudder (so much depends on the mood of the tale here!). I’d like books to be seen as valid forms of entertainment (I think it would help encourage people to read more, which is never a bad thing). I want people to remember my characters.

One sign of a great story is when it is easy to recall your favourite line(s) from it. Another is when you look forward to re-reading it, perhaps for the umpteenth time, but you still have as much joy in this reading of it as you did on the second or third, say.

There are certain stories I do re-read at specific times of the year. I try to re-read Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather in the run-up to Christmas and usually Reaper Man in the run-up to Harvest. Sometimes I don’t get to read the books but listen to the audio versions instead but that’s okay. I get to spend time with some wonderful tales again.

So what do you re-read during the year and why?

 

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I do like my opening lines in a flash fiction piece to tell you as much as possible in as few words as possible. For example, from You Never Know, I start with “So you think I live a luxurious life as a tour guide?”

So what does that tell you? I’ve established the character is employed and in what capacity. They are clearly at odds with someone – the tone of the line tells you that. It is also clear the character is about to try and justify themselves. But why does that matter and to whom? Of course, reading the story tells you that but in 12 words, I’ve managed to convey quite a bit of information.

I like to think of this kind of opening to a story as “hitting the ground running”. The trick then is to keep running so the story fulfils its opening promise. Game on, then!

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What aspect of book promoting have you liked the most? I’ve enjoyed going to book fairs and having my own signing events (but one thing I learned is I needed to do more of them! Having said that, personal circumstances at the time last year did get in the way somewhat. However, this is something to correct for future occasions!).

The main thing I’ve disliked has been getting the balance between promoting the current book and writing the next one right. I didn’t manage that as well as I could have done with the result being the second book was submitted later than I would’ve liked. Lesson learned: block out time for specific writing tasks and stick to those. That will increase the amount of actual writing achieved. (One thing about writing for Chandler’s Ford Today is it means I have a deadline to work to on that so blocking out time to work on my pieces there is easier to do. I need to set myself deadlines for my fiction and block out time to make sure I meet them).

I have, however, learned to use “dead” time better (especially when on train journeys) thanks to finally getting a smartphone and using Evernote to write and save my drafts. That has helped a lot and I’m sure will continue to do so.

From diving board to keyboard via Pixabay

The keyboard beckons…

Writing first, editing later but both needed - image via Pixabay

Preparing a talk or a flash fiction story perhaps. Image via Pixabay.

Classic Books - image via Pixabay

Classic Books. New Books. Love them all!

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Grow as a writer? Grow your reading! Image via Pixabay

Stunning place in which to read and review - image via Pixabay

Simply stunning… image via Pixabay

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog

What makes you recommend a book to a friend?

For me, it has to be the great characters in the book. If I think they’re great, my writing and other friends are likely to think so too.

I’ve never understood the character -v- plot debate. Characters drive the plot. Their actions and reactions are pivotal to the entire story.

Characters have to be well enough portrayed to make the plot work. A plot will fail if the characters are not up to it. A strong character can and does make all the difference to whether a story succeeds or not.

So I’ll happily recommend books with great characters. I won’t recommend books with convoluted plots but where the characters, for whatever reason, don’t make me sit up and take notice.

How about you? What are your thoughts here?

 

 

 

 

 

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