TALKING INTERVIEWS, FICTION, AND ANIMAL CHARACTERS

A good mix of topics for tonight I think!

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So a good interview then should encourage the interviewee to talk. What would be the equivalent for fiction writers? I think a character outline that helps you realise there is more to your creation than you first thought of! I love that moment when characters almost come to life before your eyes. You know then you definitely have someone worth writing about!

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Can’t remember the last time we had snow this late in the UK. Lady had a fantastic time in it again (though I also think she was trying to set some kind of record for how much of it she could (a) roll in and (b) eat! They say border collies are intelligent…😁).

Am pleased that I’ve submitted a short story and a flash piece this weekend. Good to get the ball rolling with both formats (though I am busy drafting ideas for a third flash fiction collection and am enjoying that). Plenty coming up with CFT over the next few weeks too.

What do I like best about writing overall? Tough one to call but I think it is the variety of what I do. The challenges for crafting a CFT post are different from those I face with writing a short story or a piece of flash fiction but I love it all. Absolutely no chance to get bored but would love more time to write… (says she, strongly suspecting that all writers have said this at some point!).

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Do you find yourself writing and/or reading in one particular format for a while before you switch to another? I do with fiction.

I’m just getting back into some short story writing after a gap (though during that time I’ve been drafting ideas for a third flash fiction collection, have been promoting From Light to Dark and Back Again, and finally submitted the second book to the publisher. Not necessarily in that order incidentally!). (Medium-term goal is to get a standard length short story collection out there).

With reading, I seem to need to read all I can in a genre before switching to another. Well, I guess I could call it immersing myself properly in a genre! (Before anyone claims it’s being obsessed in one genre, then being obsessed in another, guilty as charged so to speak, but I think most writers could identify with that. There has to be a certain amount of obsession with characters to be able to write about them properly I think).

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I’ve always been fond of animal characters in stories. I’m thinking of stories from Watership Down to Timmy the dog in the Famous Five series by Enid Blyton. Loved them all. (And The Wind in the Willows is one of the all-time classics!).

Not sure they’re the kind of story I could write but that is the great thing about fiction. What you don’t write yourself, you can love reading in tales by another writer. (It also helps with the old adage about reading widely outside of your own genre, as well as inside it).

So what do you love reading that you don’t feel you could write yourself?

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My CFT post later this week will be Part 2 of my interview with fellow flash fiction writer, Gail Aldwin. She shares her thoughts on “real” and ebooks, writing tips and talks about character creation amongst many other topics. Link to go up on Friday.

What I find particularly interesting about interviews like this (and many others I’ve read elsewhere) is finding out which writing tips writers list as the most important. There will always be overlap (we’re all going to encourage reading for one thing) but the order in which a writer lists these things can be revealing.

It is also interesting to find out what are the joys and woes of writing in a particular genre, especially if it is not one I write in. Good writing is good writing, no matter what the format, but the challenges of that cross the divides. It is the technical challenge of individual genres that fascinate me as there is a wide variety here. But the one single challenge that faces us all is making our stories believable.

 

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The important thing to remember with flash fiction is, despite its very short form, it still needs crafting and editing, as much as any other kind of story would. I find it can sometimes take longer to edit a flash piece over a standard length short story because of the conflict between getting your word count down and still having a decent tale to submit.

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A perfect story is one in which every word is needed to complete it. This shows up sharply with flash fiction, of course, and one huge advantage to writing it is it does sharpen your editing skills. It also makes you choose stronger image creating words given you are using fewer words to begin with!

You also learn to imply a lot of the story given you haven’t got the room to spell it out in detail. I’ve always loved stories which allow me to fill in the gaps or work things out for myself so I guess flash fiction is a natural choice for me.

I am glad to see more flash collections coming out as hopefully this will encourage people to read and write it. I would love flash fiction to be shown as a great way of getting reluctant readers hooked on books given you’re not asking them to commit to too much in one go.

 

Even in the heart of a big city, books are a great form of escape - image via Pixabay

Books are a fantasic form of escapism. Image via Pixabay

A great way to relax - with a book and a cuppa - image via Pixabay

Great way to relax. Now where are those biscuits? Image via Pixabay

The basic kit for a writer - image via Pixabay

The writers’ basic kit. Image via Pixabay

What a fantastic home for books - image via Pixabay

What a beautiful home for books. Image via Pixabay

Another lovely library, this one is in Canada - image via Pixabay

Another beautiful library (this one is in Canada). Image via Pixabay

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What has happened as a writer that you did not anticipate when you first started out? For me, I never expected to write non-fiction (Chandler’s Ford Today) or flash fiction (From Light to Dark and Back again).

In the former case, it was a writer friend who told me about CFT and encouraged me to send something in (NEVER underestimate the importance of networking, you never know where it may lead!). In the latter case, I saw Cafelit had issued a 100-word challenge and I thought I’d give it a go. Not looked back since, as they say.

So I suppose I have learned to be open to trying new forms of writing and see where it takes me. It’s a fun journey too!

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With flash fiction, you have little room for world building. (Little room for anything, actually!). So you have to convey an impression of a world with a few well-chosen words and leave your readers to fill in the gaps.

I think this is probably my favourite thing about this genre as I love being able to envisage what characters get up to once the “official” story is finished. (I understand fan fiction, wouldn’t write it myself, but do “get it”). I like being made to fill in the gaps and work things out. The challenge for the flash fiction writer is to give the right information so that readers can do this without giving too much away or slowing their story down.

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Pleased to share the link with National Flash-Fiction Day tonight. The Day itself is not until 16th June but I love the idea of a whole day devoted to this form of fiction.

Okay, I’m not unbiased but I’ve always loved stories where I’ve had to work things out as a reader. As so much has to be implied in flash, I guess I should’ve realised sooner than I did that this was going to be a major format of writing for me. Still better late than not at all!

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Are you someone who only reads “proper” paperback books or are you a full convert to e-books?

I cross the divide. I love paperbacks, they’re a great format, but I have found e-books to be brilliant too. They’ve also saved me a major packing dilemma for when I’m away at writing conferences or on holiday. No more worrying about how many books I can take. Thanks to the Kindle, I can take as many as I like! I only wish it could give me more reading time but devices have their limitations!

But there are certain books I can only envisage reading in paperback – Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series with their wonderful covers for a start.

My main reading session is just before I sleep and I read paperbacks and from the Kindle then. I relish both! I do like the bookmark function and find that useful. I am forever losing “real” bookmarks from my paperbacks. Mind you, I often lose pens too. Hmm… doesn’t sound fab from a writer, does it?

I’ve not really tried e-magazines yet though I suspect that will be the next big area I’ll explore.

So what do you prefer? Do you think one genre works better in one format and, if so, which and why?

In the meantime, happy reading, no matter what format you’re using!

 

 

 

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