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When do you know you are really going to enjoy the story or book that you’ve started? For me it’s by the end of the first page. If I’m not gripped by the story by then, I’m unlikely to go much further with it.
I’m pleased to say though that there have not been many books or stories which I’ve given up on. This is why my To Be Read pile is as big as it is! (It’s not that much smaller on my Kindle either but at least that won’t topple over under the weight!).
By the end of the first page, I want to know who the lead character is going to be (even if they are just referred to at this point) and some idea of what the central conflict is going to be about. Then there has to be the “I’ve GOT to find out what happens next” moment. Without that, I don’t read on.
What kind of story prompts do you prefer? Pictures? An opening line? A finishing line?
I’ve used all in my time (and plan to keep on using them too), but my favourite is the promising opening line. I love finding out where that line can take me. I also believe if the writer is having a whale of a time writing the story, something of that enjoyment will show in the tale itself. I think the writing flows better.
Having said that there have been times when what I thought was a promising line turned out to be a dead end. I see this as a false start scenario and I abandon the tale and start again. I have tried seeing if I can make what I’ve come up with better but the answer is inevitably no as I think it is clear to me that my heart wasn’t really in it. I think that can show through in the writing too.
The great thing with the latter situation is if, later, an idea comes to you that resolves the problem with the story (or you think it will), there’s nothing to stop you digging that tale out and giving it another go. I suppose what I’ve learned here is not to panic if a story doesn’t work out right. Go on to the next one. Come back to the old one if better ideas occur as I’m writing something else (and that happens a LOT. I can be writing my next CFT post when a good story idea crops up. So I pause, jot the idea down, go back to my CFT post and then have a look at the story idea later. The benefit of this is I can take a good hard look at that idea and judge better whether it really is a “goer” or not. As a result, my “abandon a story because it really isn’t working” rate has decreased significantly).
Looking forward to being at the Hampshire Writers’ Society tomorrow night to talk about flash fiction.
Also looking forward to the Bridge House celebration in London in December and the Association of Christian Writers’ Day in London later this month.
What with writing and taking the dog out, it’s a social whirl! (I get to talk to lots of lovely writers and equally lovely dog owners. Some of course encompass both roles!).
Am writing this early as I don’t expect to have a lot of creative energy left after the Hampshire Writers’ Society meeting tonight! (But in a very good way of course…😀)
Later in the week, I will be sharing on Chandler’s Ford Today Part 1 of a three part series on the joys and challenges of writing series novels. Many thanks to #JenniferCWilson, #ValPenny, #AnneWan, #WendyHJones, and #RichardHardie for taking part in this. Link to go up on Friday but what I can reveal now is their thoughts about this topic are riveting. Very much looking forward to sharing this over the next three Fridays.
The lovely thing is there is a wide range of fiction represented here from children’s and YA to crime to historical fiction with a twist. Much to learn from here.
I think one of the best things about writing is you never do stop learning how to develop and improve what you write. Nor should you want to stop seeking to improve and develop! As well as making you a better writer, this kind of thing is so good for your own well being anyway.
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Just because a story is short, it doesn’t mean it lacks insight. Far from it. I love well written flash stories for the intensity of the impact they make and the characterisation in them has to be good.
You are relying, rightly, on the character to “carry the story” so they’ve got to be strong enough to do so. Strong enough in the sense that there is enough about them to interest the reader. Strong enough to make the reader care about them and so on.
The great advantage flash has, of course, is that there is NO padding whatsoever. It really does cut to the chase.
Every story should reveal something about a character and their development (or what the lack of that does to/for them).
Flash fiction does that too but in a greatly compressed word count. This is why flash fiction can have such a big impact on readers. If your story is a grim one say, there is no room to “soften the blows”. What the reader sees is what they get and so on…. very much direct and to the sharp point.
Equally flash fiction can be great for a much needed laugh as ending a story on a punchline can work well. (Has to be a great punchline though!).
One of the most difficult things about flash fiction is working out where to stop. It is very easy to come up with, say, a 250-word story, which you think needs a little addition or two and then you have a 500-word tale. Well, that’s okay, isn’t it? It’s still flash fiction after all.
Well, yes and no.
Yes, the longer version would still be flash fiction.
No, in that the ideal length of your flash story should be when you have said all that is needed to be said and not a word more.
I gauge what the correct word count is for a story by looking at the impact the story has. If at 250 words it doesn’t have enough impact, then yes I will add to it but only until I’ve got the required emotional resonance from the character(s). I will then edit the piece until I still have that resonance without loss of quality of the story.
My worry about expanding a piece is you could easily dilute the impact, which is something you don’t want. Every word in flash fiction has to justify its place in the story, otherwise out it goes. You do learn to be ruthless about cutting when writing flash but that’s no bad thing.
One useful thing about flash fiction is I’ve often found the best way to explain it is to read a couple of examples. The ultimate in showing not telling perhaps! Also, it doesn’t take too long and you get the idea very quickly. It shows there is a proper beginning, middle and end to the story.
What flash fiction must never be is cut-off prose. The story still has to be a complete story in and of itself. That doesn’t stop you taking the basic idea and developing it further.
For example you like the character in your flash fiction so you want to write more stories about them. Absolutely fine.
Likewise, you love your flash fiction story but know it could be developed into a 1500 word or so standard competition entry story where you have the room to put in a sub-plot which you wouldn’t with the short, sharp flash version of it. Again, absolutely fine.
What flash fiction should be is fun to write (and that will mean it should be fun to read too).
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Classic -v- Contemporary
Which books do you prefer reading? Classic or contemporary? I love both, naturally. A bookworm isn’t going to worry about when a book came out. They just want the book to be good…
A lot of my contemporary reading is either flash fiction collections or crime novels. (I know: it IS a nice mix! Some of the flash fiction collections, including my own, include crime stories in them).
My classic reading includes Austen, Wodehouse, Dickens, Christie and so on. I like to think of these almost as comfort reading. I know the stories. I know I will love them. It’s what I turn to when life gets particularly stressful. I want a known quantity at that point.
Terry Pratchett deserves a category of his own in that I read or listen to his works when I am in good need of a laugh. He never disappoints!
The flash fiction collections in turn amuse me, scare me, make me think and so on. I’ve got to be ready for the challenge of at least some of the stories in these. And that’s fine. Good stories should make you think (even if they make you laugh or scream as well).
I tend to flit between catching up with lots of book reading, then switching to magazine reading. The important thing? I am reading – and loving it all!