Wishing and Outlining

My post is up a night early due to other commitments over the next few days but hope you enjoy.  There is still time to take advantage of the book offers as part of my author of the week promotion but you only have until tomorrow, 18th January.


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my latest CFT post, Three Wishes. Great fun to write. So go on then – what would your three choices be? Have a look at the ground rules and assumptions (they’re not arduous, really, and I think they’re fair too) and then have fun picking your three. Comments on my CFT page would be great.  (And find out why space comes into my choices).

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My CFT post will be going up a night early so look out for Three Wishes tomorrow. What would you wish for if your fairy godmother turned up and allowed you to have said three wishes? There are ground rules (no wishes for more wishes for a start! She has got a busy round you know) – see the link tomorrow. Great fun to write this piece. Looking forward to sharing the link.

Also am off to the local panto next week with my lovely CFT editor, Janet Williams. Will be a hoot, I’m sure. Whenever I go out like this it’s for Shakespeare, a funny or serious play, and panto! Still, I guess it is a good mix!

feature image - three wishes

My latest CFT post. Pixabay image.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Linking in with my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week about Three Wishes, what would you choose as a flash fiction writer? Mine would be:-

1. To always get the word count right for the story. (Not necessarily the competition or market. You may just have to find a competition or market the story suits better but the story HAS to be right).

2. To never run out of ways to find ideas for stories. (Random word generators, slogans, classic themes, the old question of What If? all come into what I use for mine but it is good to have a variety of ways to generate those ideas. For one thing, it keeps things fresh for you).

3. To never run out of ways of generating titles. Due to flash fiction’s restricted word count, getting the title right is hugely important. It can be used to convey the mood of the story and its genre and save you precious words doing that in the body of the tale. As with any story, the title has to tempt the reader in to reading the rest. You want to get it right!

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Am away at the weekend so hope to draft a LOT of flash fiction while on the trains! Great use of dead time. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how quickly I got used to (a) using an app on a smartphone to write stories, blogs etc while travelling and (b) that using the stylus was no problem at all.

Main thing I loathe is my local train company has taken OUT all of the mobile phone recharging points that were on board (and put there by the previous train company, whom I miss a lot). The new lot have literally blank-plated the plug sockets out! Why? I saw the recharging points as a useful customer service and I really can’t quite believe that a lot of power would’ve been drained. Nobody is plugged in ALL the time! Oh well…

Echoes can be useful in flash fiction. In my Pen Portrait I refer to a character that follows the “Shirley Williams school of thought rather than Margaret Thatcher’s” when it comes to caring for hair!

If you recall both of those politicians, you will remember they had very differing hair styles. I’m sure the latter’s would not have moved an inch even in a hurricane. (Also for those who don’t recall but wish to do so, it’s easy enough to look up pictures of these two. Indeed you only need to look up one of them to get some idea of what the other would be like here).

What’s useful is the mention of these two politicians will give a reader an idea of the age of the character without me spelling it out, as well as what their approach is to brushing their hair!

Think about what you could use to convey information across to readers like this. Echoes are a great word count saver!

Fairytales with Bite – Wishing, Just Wishing

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is called Three Wishes and asks what would you choose if your fairy godmother turned up and granted you the customary three wishes?  Naturally, there are ground rules but check the post out and have fun picking yours!

For this post, I thought I’d look at what your characters would wish for.  Okay a lot is going to depend on your story, genre, etc but some general pointers I think would cross all of that and be true for most of them.  These then are:-

1.  To be well thought out before my writer puts me to paper or screen
I’ve found outlining a character to be a useful tool.  I don’t put down every single thing but I need to know their major traits, what might send them “over the edge”, what drives them etc. By the time I’ve thought about all of that, I can hear the voice of that character and once I’ve got that, I can write them into existence!  I’ve found that time spent initially in thinking about what I need to know here has saved me time later in editing and not having weaknesses in characterisation and/or the plot.  The lovely thing here is each writer can decide what they need to know.  It will vary from writer to writer.  It can vary from story to story too.  For example if you know you are going to write a humorous tale, you can ask what would your character dread happening to them because they’d be so embarrassed?  There would be a lot of humour potential there!

2.  To give me dialogue I can actually speak and which doesn’t sound like “authorese”.
This is where reading your work out loud pays off.  You can literally hear if the words flow or not.  If you stumble over dialogue, a reader will too.  Time to edit then! Speech itself, as well as speech patterns of characters, must seem natural.  You want to convey that this is something a “real” person in these circumstances might actually say (even if the setting is fantastical).

3.  For the writer to know what they are doing!
We’re back to outlining again.  Your characters need to have a function to justify their place in your story.  So you really do need to know what they are doing in your story and, as importantly, why.  Once you know that, you can write with confidence (and it does show through).

This World and Others – Outlining

Do you outline? Should you outline? Is there one absolute way TO outline?

Firstly, I do outline and I have found it has saved me a lot of time editing and fixing problems in the characters/plot because I’ve worked out the main points first.  That to me is the best reason of all to outline.

Secondly, I think most writers should outline.  Working out your direction before you start off, especially on a major project, makes a great deal of sense.

Thirdly, no!  For a flash fiction piece, I once wrote one sentence as I knew my story idea could go in one of two directions and naturally I wanted to go with the strongest idea.  By writing down that sentence, I could then see what was the strongest idea and I went with it.  For short stories and novels, I obviously outline more.

I don’t outline every single thing.  For characters, I look at what drives them (as that reveals their attitudes to life, to others etc).  For a story I want the beginning and end and a point in the middle which will usually prove to be the turning point.  I deliberately allow room for my imagination to kick in and have found when ideas come to me as I write the story, I can jot them down, look at my outline, work out where they’d fit in and away I go.

I will sometimes outline a setting to help me get a clear picture of it in my head.  For a setting I already know well, I may look at what might surprise me about it and see if I can be surprised by it.

Outlining is a tool.  How you make use of it is up to you but it is good to have that tool in your writers’ toolbox.  Use it to serve your writing.  I’ve found it pays off.








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