Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today
My latest CFT post, The Importance of Memories, is timely of course as we enter Remembrance Sunday/Armistice Day, but I also look at the topic from the angle of how and why memories are vital to us all as individuals and as countries. I look at the impact of dementia and how singing helps with memory. I also discuss how fiction writers can use memories.
One tip I’ve found useful when planning out my stories is making sure my characters’ motivations ARE strong enough.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a “do or die” approach either (though the dramatic qualities of that are obvious), but if, for example, Character A wants to buy a special present for Character B, then you must show why Character B means the world to A. Motivations have got to be something any reader is going to be able to identify with (but not necessarily agree about!).
What is your favourite form of writing and/or reading – fiction or non-fiction?
I love (and write) both. Non-fiction can and has inspired ideas for my fiction. It also means having different projects to work on, I never get bored, and I am exercising more “writing muscles” than if I did just write one thing. (I just wish I had more time but then don’t we all?).
I also think where you have a fictional world but which has solid basis in fact (i.e. you have thought about how gravity works in your fantasy setting, what form of government there is etc, based on what we know here), your story has got to be more convincing and stronger as a result.
Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again
The best flash fiction is where the writer has stuck to ONE simple idea/theme and followed it through. There really isn’t the room to do anything else and the impact of the story is greater for keeping it simple.
This is not the same thing as simplistic though. The best flash fiction will hit you emotionally, can make you think, can frighten you, make you laugh etc, all in a few words.
Simple writing is where the editing has been done (and often several times) and, to quote the late great Eric Morecambe, albeit in different circumstances, “you really can’t see the join”!
Favourite themes of mine for flash fiction include rough justice, alien life being as intelligent as ours (and usually more so!), and crime (often showing the criminal’s justification, if only to themselves, as to their course of action). It is perhaps ironic that the really big themes – love, justice etc – can be summed up in one word but the amount of variety of stories you can get from these is vast.
I believe the simpler the theme, the better. It comes across well too. You don’t need your readers scratching their heads trying to work out what the theme is.
Looking forward to the Bridge House celebration event in early December. Less than a month to go!
One of the nice things about writing is getting to meet other writers. It is lovely knowing you are not the only one who wants to get their imaginary world down on paper and send it out there in book form.
I suppose one of the biggest things I’ve learned is never to underestimate how long it takes to get a book together! It always will take far longer than you think, as will the editing process, but it will be worth it in the long run.
Memory is my theme on Chandler’s Ford Today this week but it plays a vital role in fiction too. For characters to seem real and therefore believable, they must have a past. That past doesn’t need to BE the story you’re telling but it should impact on it in some way (if only because it has made the character turn out to be the way that they are).
Also the setting in which your characters live, that world should have values and rules, which will be formed by its history. There are likely to be ceremonies and special days which your characters will observe or note in the course of your story.
With flash fiction of course this has to be condensed right down. In my Helping Out, my opening line has a witch helping a fairy and acknowledging she is not supposed to do so. Those last few words immediately imply a whole history of feuding between the two magical groups and the witch is remembering it and, in this case, ignoring it! The story goes on to explain why but her memory of usual behaviours impacts on her actions here. Memories = realities = more convincing fiction.
Fairytales with Bite – Character Memories
I write about The Importance of Memories in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. I touch on the subject of memories and fiction writing here too but below are some specific reasons why memories should come into your stories (even if they are just implied. They often are just implied in flash fiction due to the limited word count but to my mind that makes the impact more hard hitting).
1. Characters need to seem real to be believable. Real people have memories. So do real characters.
2. Our behaviour is affected by memory – memory of what we did wrong, memory of what we did right and the difference between the two! Our characters should reflect this too. They’re not going to get it right all the time (good thing too – no story there!) but do need to show they’ve learned from their mistakes. That is where memory comes in of course.
3. Your world setting will have rules and values it expects its citizens to live by. Your characters will know what these are, will know what special days and ceremonies there are, and will live their lives i obedience to all of that or be rebelling against it, but again your characters need to know and remember what these are!
4. We are shaped by our memories in terms of who we are and why we are the way we are. Our characters should be too.
5. We can be haunted by memories, especially of those we’ve loved and lost. Our characters should be too.
This World and Others – Character Traits
What are the most useful character traits for a writer to use? My thoughts would be:-
1. Whichever trait you choose, it has to be “open” enough to go in several directions. For example, if your character has a “brave” trait, does this mean they are brave all the time? Are there some fears they really cannot face but because they are brave in other areas that hides this? Are they brave when out and about with friends but cowardly at home? Lots of directions you could go in there.
2. Whichever trait you choose, it should be something most people can identify with/aspire to. Most of us want to be decent, kind, brave etc. I love reading characters who have those traits and who overcome against all the odds. Instant reader sympathy.
3. Whichever good trait you choose for a character, they should also have a fault that goes against it, something they have to manage and control. (A good example of that is The Incredible Hulk! Mild mannered most of the time but boy when he becomes angry the sparks fly!). You have internal conflict here and also what happens when another character has seen the good side and suddenly comes to see the bad side for the first time? What are the reactions there?