Memories and Collections

Facebook – General

What memories are special for your characters and why? Are they shared memories with other family/tribe members or individual ones or both? Does your created world have special events where certain memories are officially recalled? Is the past a good place for your characters to visit or do they block out all memories to avoid inflicting more pain on themselves?

This post came about because I was showing some lovely photos of my maternal grandparents’ wedding (set in the grounds of Chiswick House) to other members of my family today. I only came across these photos after I cleared out my late parents’ house. My only regret is had I known of their existence before, I would have quizzed my mother in particular over one photo where she and her younger sister were bridesmaids. There were people in this photo I didn’t know and the family and I took intelligent guesses at who they were.

I guess this shows the importance of maintaining memories and cherishing what is vital from the past, your past. So how do your characters do that?

When you read a book outside of the genre you write in, what are you looking for?

I’m looking for a world I can identify with (though almost inevitably I wouldn’t want to live there!) and characters whose motivations I understand (and usually sympathise with).

I like a fast pace to the story and other background information to help me make sense of the setting. I also want there to be gaps that I have to fill in with my imagination. I want the dialogue to hook me so that I have to read on and not notice the “he said/she said” tags. Well written dialogue does make me skip over these tags as if they weren’t there.

And when I’ve finished the story, I want to feel as if not one word could be added. I also want to regret coming to the end of the story because I enjoyed it so much.

And the challenge here is to write this way myself so hopefully people will feel the same way about MY stories!

I have collections by several of my favourite authors on my shelves – Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse, Terry Pratchett to name a few. Love all that they wrote. Tremendously difficult to pick a favourite book by any of them.

What I especially adore though is when they take their major characters and put them into situations they would never have anticipated encountering. For example, Murder on the Orient Express gives Poirot a moral dilemma (and I won’t say more than that – no spoilers here). It’s not the kind of moral dilemma he would have anticipated facing. And it is how he handles that which, for me, makes this story fascinating. (The TV version with David Suchet is particularly good on this aspect).

So can you take the usual situations your lead characters would reasonably expect to face and subvert them? That what has worked for your lead characters before cannot possibly work in this new situation so they are forced to come out of their comfort zone and “go for broke” because they have to solve this new condundrum, no matter what?

One thing is for sure: do this and there will be no lack of drama/conflict in your story!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One of the biggest issues facing writers is getting their book out there and, once that has been achieved, how to market it without annoying everyone! One simple thing is just to let people know where it can be found and leave it at that. So taking my own advice then…!

FLTDBA in the Swanwick Book Room

FLTDBA for sale in the Swanwick Book Room. Image by Allison Symes

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Chapeltown Books have a distinctive central image in a frame such as with mine. Image by Allison Symes

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Back cover of FLTDBA. Image by Allison Symes

I was enjoying an old Doctor Who episode earlier this evening when Catherine Tate came in as companion, Donna Noble, to David Tennant’s Doctor. Great episode. What I liked about the character of Donna was her feistiness, her abilty to think on her feet, and the fact she wasn’t letting the Doctor get away with ANYTHING. Her character claimed that the Doctor needed someone to stop him sometimes. I think it’s a fair assessment too.

But this highlighted for me the fact well written characters shine through whatever story they’re in and make themselves and the tale memorable. Something to always aspire to when writing my own characters I think.

The joy of coming up with one line stories is you can either leave them like that and perhaps enter them into 25-word flash fiction competitions OR you can expand them.

From there of course, you can either have a longer flash fiction story or go to 1500-2000 words (standard short story competition word count). I think if you were to go much beyond that, you would be changing your initial idea as you would need more characters, at least one decent subplot and so on for the story to be able to “stand up” over that greater “distance” and still make sense.

I don’t revisit my one-liners that often but it did occur to me perhaps I should do so more regularly! A case of double whammy for the writer here I think!

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