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Had a lovely day out at Swindon (yes really!) visiting the Steam Railway Museum. Great place and one of my favourite things there is being able to walk under a locomotive so you can look up at the workings etc. It is strangely beautiful, especially the brass.
What gets to me every time I visit a place like this are the personal stories. The stories of the navvies (how many of them were killed cutting out the routes for the lines?), the stories of the workshop men creating every single piece for a train by hand, and later the way women took over the roles of men during WW2 and had to give those roles back again. (One soul on a video being played admitted she’d loved her job, didn’t want to leave, but was glad it was because the men were coming back and hadn’t been killed. Lovely lady, lovely attitude).
Having said all that, I was not impressed with the way people were crammed on to GWR trains today. Hardly the legacy Isambard Kingdom Brunel would have wanted to leave – the GWR was very much his railway – but that is another story….
Just had a look at the new Doctor Who trailer. Looks interesting. Have no problem with 13 being female (I thought Missy was great too). What I do want from the new series is good, strong storylines. Looking forward to seeing the series. Doctor Who is one of the few things I will tune in to watch live.
Favourite episodes to date? Hard to say but I did love Matt Smith’s “Vincent“. One of those stories you wanted to be true! Great introduction to the works of Van Gogh too (which is fantastic anyway but also ties in with the original idea behind the commissioning of Doctor Who. The idea was to entertain AND educate, show viewers history they may not know and so on. If you’ve not seen An Adventure in Space and Time which tells the story of Doctor Who itself, I’d recommend it. Good insights.).
Images below taken by me at the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff back in 2010. Very sorry that’s gone now.
One of the joys of writing shorter fiction is that, if you have a longer project in development, you have something you can submit to markets and competitions in the meantime. So this is one reason why I believe that for novelists, it is a good idea to write shorter fiction too.
Assuming these shorter pieces are published, well it all adds to your writing CV and helps to raise your profile. (I’ve always thought that a strange phrase incidentally. Has anyone ever wanted to sink their profile?!😁).
When I’m engrossed in a story, I just want to read on for as long as possible before I have to sleep. Always, always, always it is a case of the characters gripping me enough to want to find out what happens next.
This can be a good test for your own stories. Put them aside for a while and come back to them and read them as a stranger would. Are you engrossed with the story? Is there anything you would skip? Does anything “jar”?
Naturally the answers to those should be “yes”, “no”, and “no” though I concede it can take several edits to get to that point!
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Good tip for developing characters is to go and visit any kind of museum where you find out how people lived in the past. (It should also make you grateful for the many blessings we have now!).
Why? I am always moved by the personal stories that come out from visits like this and you find yourself wondering whether you could have been like that person. What would your reactions and actions have been? Could you have worked so physically and mentally hard as they did and keep that going day in, day out? (It does develop a certain amount of grit and you could show your characters developing this even if their situation is very different. Why and how did they develop THEIR grit?).
Then you could think of a character, perhaps one that has been “brewing” in your imagination for a bit, and put them in that historical situation and see how they’d manage.
The great thing is this technique does not have to be confined to historical stories. Going back into the past is like visiting a different world so you could have a fantastical world which has developed way beyond ours, or is way behind ours and set your stories there
Let’s say you’ve been to a museum which involves craftsmen (wood, metal etc), well what would the equivalent be in your story world? What people or strange alien beings would they employ? What would they need the craftmen to produce for everyday use or special occasions? What are these craftsmen like?
Something to ponder I think…
Many thanks to all who liked or commented on my recent stories on Cafelit. Much appreciated!
I loved writing those stories (and indeed love all that I write) and hope some of that love of writing and the characters comes through.
Certainly when I am reading works by other writers, I think you can sense the author enjoyed their work and that kind of enjoyment is contagious in a good way, even when the story itself makes you shiver with fear or laugh your proverbial head off! And that’s just how it should be…
Happy reading and writing!
My favourite trigger for a new flash story is coming up with a title and having fun with the different possibilities that offers.
I sometimes use spider diagrams to work these out, more often or not I jot down a quick note as to story idea A and then again for B and see what I like best. I do know now not to necessarily go with the first idea I’ve come up with but to dig deeper and to see what else I can come up with.
Another favourite starting point is the lead character. I tend to hear how they sound rather than spot how they look straight away, but if their voice is powerful enough and intrigues me, I get on and draft a story about them.
The nice thing is there is no one way to generate ideas for stories, all have their merits, and I think it both useful and fun to mix up how you do this. I think it helps to keep your enjoyment of writing fresh.
My late mum always believed in being short and to the point. Think she’d be pleased I take the same approach by writing flash fiction!
You lose any fear of killing adverbs or cutting whatever isn’t necessary for your story when you write flash and, of course, you can carry that over into whatever other writing you do. There’s no chance of getting confused over your characters either given, realistically, you only have the room for 1, maybe 2, main people.
I admit I do miss the fact you can’t have subplots in flash fiction, that really is the privilege of a short story or a novel, but I do love being able to cut to the chase with the very short tale. Definitely a case of you pays your money, you take your choice here.