Stories – and why Flash Fiction isn’t new

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post The Story of Stories – Ali Babais effectively a two parter in that I discuss how I discovered the story of Ali Baba and next week’s post will be a review of that as a panto recently performed by The Chameleons.

It is always a great joy when writing these posts coming up with suitable Feature Images and I can’t recommend Pixabay and Pexels (both free to use sites) highly enough. Tonight’s image is my favourite to date. Many thanks, Pixabay!

I also discuss some of my favourite character types in this post and why fairytales definitely are NOT twee.

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Had a great time at Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, the pantomime staged by The Chameleons this year. Review to follow on CFT next week though for tomorrow’s post I do share where I came across this story and the special memories the book it was in has for me.

Yes, everyone did join in at the appropriate times in the panto.

Oh yes they did!

Reorganised my TBR pile earlier today. It is as large as ever but in a much neater heap now! To be fair, the pile IS slowly coming down but it is always the way I finish a few books, then somehow a few new ones make their way on and I’m back where I was!

Have almost finished drafting a story I want to submit later this month/early in February for a competition I took part in last year. Have got ideas for the annual Bridge House story too and want to flesh those out and go with what I like best.

I’m talking a little about the story of stories and why I think oral storytelling will never die out in my CFT post this week. Link up on Friday.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

In many ways flash fiction isn’t something new. It just hasn’t been known by that name. Many of the parables of Jesus come in at under 500 words (and quite a few under 100!) and I suspect that many of Aesop’s Fables would also qualify.

The ideals of the very short story are conciseness and clarity. There really is nothing more to be said! It is an art form to get to the level of conciseness required though but this is why I think every writer should try flash fiction. It beefs up your editing muscles a LOT!

I don’t have an issue with serious stories. They serve a major purpose and can be a great way of getting a message across and usually on causes needing that.

However, I am a huge fan of stories “just” being for fun and things like pantomimes, where the story is acted out, and a great time is had by the cast and the audience are, I think, vital for keeping a proper balance.

There has to be light AND dark in fiction I think.

Can you cover concepts such as freedom in flash fiction, given its limited word count?

I think so. You can show what it means to ONE character. You can show your character’s attitude to it. You can’t go into much depth due to that word count restriction but you can imply so much with your character’s attitude and reaction. The reader can then figure out just how important (or otherwise) the concept is to that character.

You can show a character’s attitude to freedom by what they do to attain it (and that can be to restrict the freedom of someone else or to remove them if they are seen to be the obstacle to that freedom). Actions and attitudes then are the way to convey what a character really holds dear.

Fairytales with Bite – Where Stories Go Wrong

Where stories go wrong can be down to a number of factors but I list what I think are the most important points below.

1.  Character not strong enough.
By this I mean the character does not grab the reader’s attention.  There is not enough in the character to make the reader want to have their attention grabbed!  A reader needs to either identify with the character and so follow the story to see if all works out in the end, or be very happy to see your character get their comeuppance and again follow the story through to find out if they do!  (I remember wanting to cheer when Molly Weasley in Harry Potter “dealt with” Bellatrix Lestrange – and sorry but I refuse to accept that’s a plot spoiler now!  The point is the characters or Molly and Bellatrix grabbed my attention.  One I wanted to succeed, the other not to and so I was hooked).

2.  Story not strong enough.
There isn’t enough conflict or drama to warrant there being a story!  Things have got to happen in a story and sometimes those things are not necessarily dramatic but they are everything to your characters.  The reader needs to find out how your people will react if things do or don’t turn out well in the end.  Is there enough in your story to make readers want to find out what happens next?  It can be a good test to step aside from your work for a bit and come back to it as a reader would.  Is your story the kind you would eagerly pick up from a book shop because its opening lines and its blurb grip you?

3.  Characters not distinguishable from each other.
Each major character has to have their own voice.  A reader should be able to tell who is who.  If they can’t confusion sets in and nobody will read a story like that.

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This World and Others – The Story of Stories

I look at this in my latest CFT post and it was a temptation to go straight into a history of stories.  Instead I focused on one – Ali Baba (partly because I’m reviewing the panto of it next week!) – but what is fascinating about stories like this which cross cultures and time is why they have.  My own feeling is that the characters and themes of the stories still resonate and they will continue to survive because of that.

The challenge for us as writers then is to ensure our own characters and themes resonate so readers will want to engage with them.  How can we do this?  By ensuring that our characters have virtues we aspire to and failures we can sympathise with!  No goody-goodies.  No villains who act in ways we can’t understand.  There has to be a reason for them acting the way they are, even if the reason isn’t a good one.  A reader has to be able to see where the character is coming from even if they think (rightly or wrongly) the character is going in totally the wrong direction!

As for themes, you can’t beat the big ones of love, justice, redemption etc.  What matters is the take we bring to these themes.  My voice (and therefore my characters) will be unique to me, yours will be unique to you.  Mix things up.  Often the themes of love and redemption are used together and very powerfully too.  So write about what matters to you.  If justice is your raison d’etre, then how can you convey that in a story?  Do you have a character who fights passionately for justice or who has been a victim of injustice?  What makes your character special that they’re going to stand out to, firstly, an editor and, secondly, readers?

Work out what you would like your story to convey.  Planning is vital, I find, to stop me going off at a tangent.  Focus.  Edit. Fine tune your story so you ensure it meets your theme.  Cut out anything that doesn’t help the story with that objective.  And have fun doing it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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