Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today
My CFT post this week looks at how “fantastic” and “reality” writing feed off each other. No matter how fantastic the world setting, there still have to be elements about it and the characters that readers can identify with. So there has to be some system of government, some rulers and some ruled, some system of food gathering etc etc to help make the story itself believable.
In a well written fantasy story, these elements are hardly noticeable. They are what I call the necessary background structure to make the whole story work. Not only that, literature would be much the poorer without fantasy stories. It would also be much the poorer without good quality non-fiction. And that’s the way it should be.
What slogan would sum up your writing style? I think mine would be something like “quirky, sometimes twisted, and often humorous”. Before anyone says that sums ME up quite well, I know!!
Questions never to ask a writer (unless you want to run the risk of having something thrown at you) include:-
1. How IS the writing going? (We want to give you chapter and verse, literally. You want a quick one line answer. No winners here).
2. But editing is the easy bit, surely? After all, you’ve got the writing done. Tidying it up a bit can’t take long, can it?
3. Have you given up the day job yet? (Is there any way of answering this politely and still remain friends with whoever dared ask this? Answers on a postcard….).
4. You don’t mind if I borrow your book from the library, do you? (Actually, no. We want to support the libraries. However, we would prefer it if you bought the book – bills to pay and all that).
5. It can’t take you long to write flash fiction/short stories/novellas (delete as appropriate) as they’re all much shorter than a novel. That’s where the hard work is, isn’t it?
(Many thanks to all who sent in wonderful comments on my Facebook page and to those pages where I shared this. Glad to know I’m not alone on this topic!).
Delighted to say I will be a guest speaker at the Hampshire Writers’ Society meeting at the University of Winchester next Tuesday, 9th October. It will be nice to be back at Winchester again as I’m normally there for the Winchester Writers’ Festival and it is a long time until next June when it is on again!
I’ll be speaking about flash fiction (and why I think every writer should try it).
(I know I put up this post last time but can’t resist doing so again! Am looking forward to next Tuesday’s event. Am nervous and excited about it all at the same time!).
Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again
Flash fiction writing has taught me so much about editing, but it has also shown me the joy of choosing the right word to make maximum impact. I’ve found that spills over into other writing I do (especially my Chandler’s Ford Today posts), which is no bad thing.
We all know we should put work aside for a bit before coming back to re-read it with fresh eyes but I have found that doing so means you also look at a story and think “I could have expressed that better”. I then go on and do so!
It is true your best ideas and expressions sometimes have to be “teased” out of you. But the great thing is that the more writing you do, the more you’ll be ready for the “well actually this works better than what I had done originally” moment and won’t think twice about changing something.
The latter I think can be a confidence thing sometimes. You do have to have confidence in your own writing ability but also to trust the process – that as you work, better thoughts will come, all of which will help you improve your story and increase its chances of being published.
It’s important to mix up the moods in a flash fiction collection. I love volumes of stories to dip into as and when I fancy and what I like to find are tales for all occasions. I will always have a very soft spot for the humorous tale but a well written tragic flash story will move me in a way a funny one can’t (and perhaps shouldn’t).
Also given flash fiction has to be character led, and characters all face different challenges, it is not unreasonable to portray said characters in very different moods, which will also affect how you write their stories.
Even in a book which is meant to be sombre, there can be different shades of sombreness in the tales within it. You don’t want to come across in a monotone style. Nor is levity appropriate but I want to see Character A handling a bad situation in this way, Character B reacting differently etc. I will then be intrigued by what makes A and B tick.
As well as mixing the moods of my stories for a flash fiction collection, I like to vary the word counts I use. The majority will be at about the 100 word mark as it is my favourite and the one I seem to gravitate to, but I like to ensure there are some 250, 500 and 750 word stories in there too. For the book I’m currently writing I am also including one line stories.
I love flash fiction collections (not just mine, honestly!), because of their variety. There are wonderful collections out there based on a specific type of flash fiction (usually the 100 or 140 word stories). There are collections with a mixture of length of stories, like mine, but focussed on one theme.
When you’ve not got as much time for reading as you’d like, these books are perfect to dip into. If you like your books electronically, I think flash fiction is wonderful for that. So very easy to read on a screen. And easy to slip into a stocking for that well known festival coming up in December….! (Get the word in early, that’s what I say!!).
Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – The TBR Pile
Confession time. I have a large TBR pile in paperbacks AND on the Kindle. There really isn’t enough time in the day, though it is nice to know I won’t be running out of good reading material any time soon.
Does that mean I won’t want any books bought for me for Christmas or book tokens/cards? Don’t be silly, of course I will!
Okay, I may need to figure out a way of making sure my TBR pile (paperbacks) doesn’t topple over and crush someone (probably me). Or that my Kindle doesn’t explode with the effort of containing all those ebooks for me. But I’ll manage those!
The lovely thing about being a reader and a writer is you’re never stuck for gift ideas, whether you’re dropping hints to your nearest and dearest, or buying for other readers and writers.
As for my TBR pile, back to reducing it a bit at a time (before I inevitably top it up again!).
Fairytales with Bite – A Good Fairytale…
A good fairytale should have:-
1. Believable characters (no matter how magical they are. There should be something about them that resonates with a reader, which is why magic is NOT the be all and end all situation to your characters’ problems. There should be things for them to work out without magic. There should be things about their character which engage the reader so if the old fairy godmother turns up and does work magic for them, your readers are going to be pleased for them rather than see it as a plot device to get your character out of trouble!).
2. Emotional impact. Whether this is where your reader ends up screaming at your character to stop being so stupid or laughs with them or cheers when they get their happy ever after, as long as there is some emotional impact, your story is “getting through”. People will want to read more.
3. Justice will out somehow. This is true most of the time. Stories where the villains win always make me feel uncomfortable. It just doesn’t seem right. This is why I love the cliffhanger ending in The Italian Job with Michael Caine. Even where the villain does seem to get away with it, I like to see some hint that in the future their success may come back to haunt them or they would have done even better had they acted better. I suppose one reason why I like to see justice of some sort being done is because in life, it so often isn’t like that. One appeal of stories overall is that they can reflect life as it should be at times – the underdog does win out, wrongs are put right etc etc. (The other thought here is that perhaps the villain does have cause so are they so much of a villain after all? Food for thought here I think).
This World and Others – Things You Need to Know about World Building
This is definitely not a comprehensive guide but I list below some useful pointers for you to consider when building your fictional world.
1. Identifiable Elements
There has to be something about the world you create your readers will identify with, no matter how fantastical the setting. Worlds have to be governed. How is that done? Every living creature needs to eat so how do the characters in your world do this and what is their food? How are their societies organised? (There must be some sort of organisation – could anyone survive sustained anarchy?). These things are what I like to refer to as necessary background structure. They may not be the main point of your stories but you need to know this information so you can write with confidence about your setting (it is a character in many ways) and that confidence will come through in your writing to your reader.
2. How things change
A living world adapts and changes due to new technologies, diseases forcing change on society, wars changing the political landscape and so on. Again these things may not be the main point of your stories but there should be a sense of your world changing and developing as your characters do within it. It gives the sense that your world really is a live one and therefore infinitely more believable.
What are the major roles in your world? How are genders dealt with (and is there any difference in the roles each play?). What happens to those who won’t accept the roles they’ve been assigned? (There is always at least one who does this and some fantastic stories emerge from that).
It would pay to outline your thoughts on these three points before committing to major writing (especially if it’s a novel you’ve got in mind). Work things out early. It will save you a lot of time later on. Good luck!