The Power of Language

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, images are from Pixabay

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I think I may have found my favourite image for this week’s CFT post. There is so much truth in it, don’t you think?!

I look at the Power of Language and discuss rhetoric, the role of swearing, putting words INTO the language, and how flash fiction has affected how I use language. I also feel we should celebrate language, its richness and its origins. English of course notably borrows, sorry steals, from other languages and is the richer for it.

I also find proof of someone cheating at Scrabble…

Hope you enjoy! Captions over on CFT.

 

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If you ask most writers what every new writer needs, I think the answers would be something like:-

1. Comfortable working environment with good support for your back given you can be at your desk for some time.

2. A willingness to commit what time you can to writing and to accept you are in for the long haul.

3. The ability to develop a thick skin when rejections/critical feedback/bad reviews come in, as they do.

4. Pens, paper, laptop, printer, and all requisites.

5. Tea/coffee/other drink of choice which will keep you going.

6. The ability to focus.

7. Accepting rewrites (often many) are a necessary part of the process.

8. A love of books in a wide range of genres and a good reading habit.

9. A willingness to learn and improve your craft.

All of these are vital BUT I would add in:-

10. An appreciation of language and what you can do with it. Play with words, have fun with them.

(It’s not just because I talk about the Power of Language on my CFT post tonight, though it helps!).

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Questions to ask as you outline a story:-

1. What is its mood?

2. Why is it the right mood for the story?

3. What makes the lead character tick?

4. Are they the right lead character for this story? (It doesn’t always work out the way you think it will. I’ve rewritten a story from another viewpoint which proved to be far better than the one I’d originally chosen. If something doesn’t seem to be working, it may be worth looking at whether you are telling the story from the right character’s viewpoint).

5. What does the lead character want?

6. Why does it matter? (This one is crucial. The motivation has got to be strong enough to convince a reader a character would do X, Y, Z etc to obtain it).

7. What gets in the lead character’s way?

8. How are they going to overcome the obstacles? (At outlining, you may only have the vaguest idea but there should be something within the personality of your character that will make all the difference to the resolution of the story).

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I’ll be looking at the Power of Language in my CFT post later this week. I share my thoughts on rhetoric and swearing amongst other things (and there’s a good mix!). Post up on Friday.

It’s one of those topics I should have had a look at before given flash fiction writing has meant I have to concentrate on the impact of the words I use given I can’t use as many as a short story writer (1500+) or a novelist (80K or so).

I’m also looking forward to sharing a new series, What Books Mean to Me, where guest writers share their answers to three specific questions. I finish the series by answering them myself. I didn’t pick easy questions, honestly. One of them is a question all writers would want to “modify” but more on that when the series starts in October.

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Glad to report I will have a short story called Three Wishes up on Cafelit on Monday. Will share the link then. Yes, I’ve been flirting with the longer form of fiction but have also written new flash work this week. So a very good week then!

But I will always have a very soft spot for the flash fiction with fantasy at its heart. This is a relatively new one of mine which I hope will make it into a future collection.

And it solves a mystery too.. what DID happen to Humpty Dumpty?

I’M BORED
‘It’s up to you, I really don’t mind,’ Joe said, swinging his legs idly against the brick wall.
‘Grrr… all I asked was what would you like to do today, as a considerate friend does and as I ask every bloody day, and you still come up with that rot. Are you incapable of giving me a straight answer? I get so bored trying to come up with different things for us at least to try. It is boring sitting on this wall all the time.’
‘Then stop asking me such a stupid question then,’ and with that Joe pushed Humpty Dumpty off the wall.
The mess on the pavement was impressive. Humpty had been a huge egg.
‘Not going to be bored any more, are you, Hump?’

Ends
Allison Symes – September 2019

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Do you ever use photos as writing prompts? I do occasionally (and usually use the ones in my writing diary) but there are some pictures I just know I couldn’t write about. Why?

Because I know I can’t have enough distance from the subject in the photos. Therefore I wouldn’t be able to write objectively. Without that objectivity, the story fails. I’ve got to be able to see the characters IN the picture as exactly that.

Landscapes are easier to do but if they are of places I know well or have special memories attached to them, then they’re out, again due to the lack of objectivity.

See what you can do with the ones below then. Pixabay as ever are the image suppliers here (except the ones of sunlight around a Scottish loch. I took that while on holiday earlier this year and was amazed at how the light worked on this one).

As I use first person a lot in my flash stories, I don’t use many names. When I do though, I look for something that will indicate age, class/background, their level of formality they’re likely to countenance etc. It saves on the word count too!

My parents named me thinking you couldn’t abbreviate Allison. Wrong! I never minded being called Ali (and still don’t). I deliberately gave my son a name where all the abbreviations of it we liked as much as the full name. Win-win there.

So what can you do your characters here? An Abigail is likely to be more formal than an Abby. What would you make of a George as opposed to a Georgie (and that can apply to male or female characters)?

Think of how you want your characters to come across to your reader. That should be the benchmark for you to decide on the appropriate names for your people.

Fairytales with Bite – Character Motivation

Character motivations can cover a wide spectrum. There are the “obvious” ones of love, revenge, seeking justice etc but motivations can be more subtle than that – for example the wish to prove someone wrong.

What matters is whatever the motivation is, it is the be all and end all to your character, even if it seems to everyone else they’re making a fuss about very little.

A motivated character will do whatever it takes to get what they want and the important thing is to ensure your people are driven enough.

It’s not enough for a character to just want to stay out of trouble. But if your character goes to extraordinary lengths to stay out of trouble then  a great deal of humour or tragedy can result from that.

What could be behind that? Maybe they’ve got a bet on with a friend to stay out of trouble for six days, say, and the friend has always been right in the past but this time our hero wants to prove them wrong and is determined to do so. They’re fed up with their friend being right all the time and finally want something to go their way.

There, the motivation is powerful enough and understandable. Your readers have to get behind your character to carry on reading their adventures after all. Naturally your character’s friend will know or be able to guess at their friend’s motivation here and will do all they can to scupper any chances of success. Voila! Instant clashes and tension as you work out how your hero does or does not prove the friend wrong.

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This World and Others – The Power of Language

My CFT post this week looks at The Power of Language.  I look at this from a variety of angles, including how flash fiction has affected how I use language.  But let’s turn to this topic from the viewpoint of our stories and created worlds.

Is your created world one where everyone speaks formally? Is it one where you have to know the right language to use to be able to get anywhere in life and only certain people have that knowledge?

Is the power of language suppressed in any way? For example, does your setting allow for free speech, good access to different literature etc. How are journalists and other writers treated? With respect or are they considered threats? (Sadly, they too often are for real of course).

Where magic comes into your stories, does it have a special language all of its own? Is it widely accessible to beings of all backgrounds or again do only certain people have the knowledge? How are they stopped from controlling everything?

Some story ideas there I think!

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