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My CFT post this week is called Plays – The Joys and Challenges. This looks at playwriting, its links with flash fiction and the oral storytelling tradition, and why reading books of scripts (often TV series publish these) is a good idea if you would like to get into this genre.
I look ahead a little to my review next week when I will be reviewing The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production, Spring Trio of Plays. Playwriting has its specific challenges. How do you convey information without having a character talk all the time? How can your set convey enough information for the audience to be able to fill in gaps (and for radio the set has to be made of things the audience can hear so they can work out where they are!).
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Further to my flag up for my CFT post this week about The Joys and Challenges of Plays, I must admit I was surprised to find there are certain elements in common with flash fiction.
One is that an audience has to imply a lot from the way actors act out stage directions and have to take in a whole world from the set (no descriptions or exposition here).
With flash fiction, due to the word count limits, I have to select the most important things for a reader to know and leave them to fill in the gaps. (For me that is one of the joys of reading and writing flash).
But it was nice to be surprised to find these connections to flash here!
Had a lovely evening watching a Spring Trio of Plays performed by The Chameleon Theatre Group. Review to follow on 3rd May though I do talk about the joys and challenges of playwriting in tomorrow’s CFT post.
Basically what I’m saying here is the reason for the late post is I’ve been out gallivanting. And a jolly good gallivant it was too!
My CFT post this week looks at the challenges of playwriting.
I’m off to the see The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production, Spring Trio of Plays, tomorrow. I like their “mixed assortment” productions like this. Firstly, there’s a good mix of humour and drama usually and, secondly, it is a great opportunity to stage some shorter plays. Link up to my post on Friday. Hope to review tomorrow’s show next Friday.
I would say “break a leg, darlings” but the stage in the Ritchie Hall, home to the Chameleons, isn’t high enough! So I’ll settle for the good old-fashioned “good luck” instead.😀
Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again
I sometimes write up to the 1000 words limit for flash fiction. Inevitably when I do this is a relationship kind of story as I have more room to bring in or refer to other characters having a major bearing on my MC’s life. My stories, Expecting and Rewards, in FLTDBA are good examples of this.
I relished having more words to play with when I wrote these two stories, but, even when you write to the upper limit more often, you still need to write with precision. What you show about other characters has to be relevant to the story but you can achieve more depth here than in the very short flash fiction stories. Mind, depth is not the main purpose of those tales anyway.
Mood is an important factor in any story but with flash fiction it is particularly important to decide what it is going to be before I start writing. Due to the limited word count, the mood of the piece has to be set very early on.
Yes, a twist can come at the end to change the mood, but generally the mood (grim/funny etc) stays constant through the piece. I then work out how best to portray that mood.
A lot is implied of course, it has to be, but that’s no bad thing. Less really is more when it comes to flash fiction and I know as a reader I love working things out for myself.
Some thoughts on flash fiction:-
F = Fun to Write
L = Language to be direct and specific
A = Action – conveyed in as few words as possible
S = Story complete in and of itself
H = Hero/heroine but room for only 1 or 2 characters.
F = Fairytales and fantasy work well in a flash format
I = Imagination – let it run riot and then hone what you come up with to produce a piece of hard hitting flash fiction
C = Characters. Have to make impact quickly as flash fiction has to be character led.
T = Truth – flash fiction is as capable of conveying truths about the human condition as an epic novel!
I = Intense. Has to be due to the word count restrictions (but that makes truth hit home quicker and harder)
O = Omnipresent narration can work well in flash.
N = No restrictions on what genre of story you use for flash.
Fairytales with Bite – Looking for Links
I was surprised to find links between flash fiction and plays in my latest CFT post, which is on Plays – The Joys and Challenges. More on that in the post itself but it made me wonder about links in our stories.
Some of these are planned of course but others can crop up as you are drafting your story. One of the great joys of writing I think is when you’ve drafted a story and you spot other links between characters/with your theme etc., all of which have come out of your sub-conscious mind.
Reading widely in all genres and including non-fiction will help feed that sub-conscious mind which is why doing this is such a good idea for all writers, regardless of what you write.
You want to be able to draw on thoughts that have occurred to you as you read something, which you may not have noted for a story at the time of reading the piece concerned, but which come back to your mind as you write/edit etc and you realise it could fit in really well with your character.
So where to look for links then?
1. Look at links between what characters fear. Enemies can be united by a common fear of something or someone else. Those links can be played on for good or evil.
2. Look at links between what characters love. That can also be used for good or evil. If two characters love the same person, there’s going to be fallout from that.
3. Look at links with regard to what makes people tick. The basic drives – the need to survive and pass on genes to offspring – are common to most of us. It is how we act on them that differentiates us of course. One of my favourite moments in Star Wars is the famous scene where Darth Vader reveals he is Luke Skywalker’s father. Luke is horrified of course. The very thought of there being any link at all between him and Vader is horrifying for Luke. What links can you use to make other characters react in a similar way?
Three Writing Exercises to help with World Building
It’ll also help convince you that this world could exist. You are the first believer in it after all. Having worked things out in advance as to how things can work will also help against the dreaded “slump in the middle”. You will already know what you need to know about your created world. You can focus on the drama of your story with that knowledge behind you.
1. System of Government. Draw a flowchart as to who runs what, what their powers are and how these feed in to each other (local government for example is always answerable to national government at some level).
2. The Need to Survive. Write out ten things your “people” need so they can survive. Draw a spider diagram of how they can obtain these things.
3. Cultures. Is your world going to be a mono-culture? If not, what other cultures are there? Draft ideas as to what these could be, how the multi cultures interact with each other (if they do at all), and whether there is any sense of superiority (justified or not) by one or more of these. If it is a mono-culture, were they always that way or have they driven others out?
Hope you have fun with these. Be as detailed or as scanty with details as you wish but the idea is this will give you something to refer to as you write your tale.