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My CFT post this week is Reading Aloud Allowed. I look why reading out loud is such a good idea for writers but also why it is beneficial for readers too.
I look at performance prose, take a look back at the Waterloo Arts Festival, and sing the praises of audio books too. The latter are great for all sorts of reasons, not least of which is they are a means of getting stories to people who won’t necessarily go to the printed word first, if at all.
Many thanks to Ana Coelho for the picture of me reading from The Professional last weekend. The whole event was huge fun and I’ve practiced what I preach about reading aloud too!
Image Credit: Ana Coelho as mentioned above (she also took the one of Paula Readman, Gail Aldwin and I in the pub ahead of the Festival). All other images by Allison Symes bar one Pixabay one. That won’t be difficult to spot! Captions on the CFT post.
I love that moment when you’re writing a story and you suddenly know you really have got your character spot on and they seemingly come to life in front of you. It’s at moments like that I can’t write the words down fast enough but it is such a good feeling.
Outlining what you think your character will be like is a good way to generate further ideas which will help that character take off.
I love the Scrivener story templates (character and setting – and I also love the way setting is treated almost as a character here. I’ve found it helps a lot. It makes me think about my setting more and as a result how my characters react to said setting. There can be stories to write in that alone).
Of course you can design your own. Think about what you really need to know about your character before you write their story. What makes them what they are? What are their biggest fears? What makes them laugh? Whatever outlining questions you go for have fun with this. Dig deep too. Look at why they have the fears they do. What are their triggers?
Then write their story. I believe it will come across that you really do know your characters well enough and that you are writing with conviction.
I’ll be discussing the joys of reading aloud in my CFT post this week. Okay there are some places where it is best not done. (You’d get some funny looks on the bus, particularly if you were the bus driver. 😉😀). There are benefits to reading aloud though both from the viewpoint of reader and author. Link up on Friday.
Practising what I preach here. I’ve added in a couple of additional pictures since I put this post up initially on Facebook. Many thanks to Ana Coelho, Dawn Kentish Knox, Geoff Parkes, the Hampshire Writers’ Society, and Janet Williams (my lovely CFT editor) for taking various pictures of me at work and for their blessing to use the images. It is very difficult to take selfies of yourself in full flow and certainly would not be a pretty sight!!
Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again
I’ve found generating stories come into two categories for me.
1. The idea comes quickly, I know it’s a winner, and off I go and write it up. OR
2. I have an initial idea, which builds up over time to a much stronger one.
Option 2 takes longer to write up and edit but I’ve found some of my longer, more thoughtful pieces have emerged that way.
Both options are equally valid. I love that feeling when the words and ideas just flow and you know you are creating something good. Yes, it will need to be shaped later but that’s fine and another enjoyable task. But to run with the story idea is huge fun.
I equally love an Option 2 story when it has taken me a while to get there but I can see how much further the tale has strengthened and developed over that “brewing” period and that it has turned into something special.
I’m writing directly to screen most of the time now thanks to Evernote on the phone and a good laptop and Scrivener. It’s good fun and it saves a lot of time not having to type up notes the way I used to have to do.
BUT I always carry out a final edit of any stories, posts etc., on paper as it is too easy to miss things on screen. It can be too easy to “fill in the gaps” mentally as you read something but the gaps are still there and will stand out to any editor/publisher/agent.
You’d think with flash fiction being so short that would be easy to edit on screen. Sure, I can do the basic edits that way and do so but I still run out the story on paper for the reasons given above. There must be some sort of psychological “block” at work here helping a writer to see things that aren’t there but should be or in missing blatant errors.
All I know for sure is a final edit on paper works for me.
The important thing with any submission is you have got to get it as good as you can make it and I don’t want to let myself down by sending something in only for me to spot errors in my copy of the MSS later. You make that mistake once – early on as a writer – and not again!
How do you know when a flash fiction story is the right length? Not everything suits a 50-word, 100-word tale etc.
The answer for me is when you cannot add another word as it would just tip the balance of the story over. You CAN have too much of a good thing!
Also when you cannot remove another word from it because to do so would spoil the rhythm of the prose or take something away from the character/setting.
It’s then a question of establishing the word count and sending the piece off to the appropriate competition/market. So never worry if you’ve set your heart on writing a 75-word story but it works better if it stays at 150. Far better to leave it at the latter.
Fairytales with Bite – Reading Aloud Allowed
Do your characters read? If so, what do they read? Do they read out loud? What is their schooling like (where reading aloud is really encouraged of course)? Do you have characters who struggle with reading or is your fictional setting one which is aggressive to the idea of books and learning?
Is your fictional world one where stories are treasured? Is there an oral storytelling tradition? What are the legends which generally are the basis of oral storytelling?
Now you are bound to have some story idea triggers from answering at least some of that!
This World and Others – Using Sayings in Fiction
I use sayings and proverbs in fiction as (a) titles and (b) themes for stories. There are so many stories that could be written on the theme of, for example, “revenge is a dish best served cold”. You can also subvert that idea and “prove” the saying wrong if you wanted to do so. See proverbs and sayings as a useful resource both used directly or having your characters react against the saying you’ve picked.
Looking through a book of proverbs can be a great way to trigger story ideas. It is also useful when you’ve written a piece to look back through it and see what theme emerges from it that you hadn’t planned out. I suspect a lot of the time what you come up with here will link in with a well known saying. Why?
Because we write from the depths of our soul and our life experiences will come into that. This will include things we read, things we have read, things we know to be true or things we know could be true. Proverbs and sayings will have affected us subconsciously over years too. Some of course we will have had direct experience of and so know them to be true and so could write stories on these based on our conviction they are true. Proverbs and sayings will influence how we think and therefore how we write.