Seasonal Stories and Songs

Image Credit:   Unless otherwise stated, all images come from Pixabay

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I’ll be looking at what makes a good story for the next CFT post. I promise to make it a reasonable length as I know I could write chapter and verse, quite literally, on this topic! I know, I know – the irony, given I write flash fiction and I’m duty bound there to keep it short!

I’ve mentioned before I have “patches” of reading one specific thing – e.g. crime stories – before moving on to the next thing I fancy. At the moment I’m particularly into short story collections. Hope to be reviewing a couple on Amazon before too long.

Stories coming up that I always enjoy at this time of year are Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather (probably going to watch the DVD), A Christmas Carol (have watched the Muppet one which is brilliant but I also like the Patrick Stewart version), and possibly The Polar Express. (I like that as it is not twee. I loathe twee).

I love the carols as so many of them are stories in themselves and/or encourage strong imagery. My favourite there is probably In the Bleak Midwinter. Fabulous poem by Christina Rossetti. I love both tunes to the carol but for me the Holst one is THE one to sing along to.

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Part 1 of Hogfather watched tonight. Cracking story and the film adaptation is wonderful. Fantastic music to it too. Do check it out. I’ll be watching the final part on Friday I hope.

Am feeling virtuous as have given my desk the pre-Christmas tidy up. Yes, it did take a while. It doesn’t take long for clutter to gather. I freely admit to not being the tidiest writer in the world but I do know where everything is so there!

What must I have on my desk? Well, aside from the usual pens, PC, printer etc., there have to be the family photos, notebooks, my dictionary, Writers and Artists’ Yearbook, the Mslexia Indie Press Guide, and Scrivener for Dummies.

I also have my writing diary and the projects I’m working on and a lovely doggy calendar (which is one of those will do for any year types. Each date has a picture of a dog and a suitable quote to go with it). Incidentally, Lady takes no interest in my writing whatsoever. She’d rather curl up on the sofa with my other half!

I deliberately keep reading material well away from my desk. The temptation to read rather than write is far too obvious! (And not that easy to resist!).

Murphy’s Law For Writers (an occasional series!):-

1. Your printer will run out of paper and/or ink at the most inconvenient time.

2. You will either have loads of ideas for stories/articles or none at all.

3. Your favourite writing conferences will always have several talks/workshops to go to but they’re all on at the same day and time. (I know. I don’t envy those who put the timetables together. Anyone who prepares timetables come to that…).

4. You will never find a new notebook when you want one, though you know you’ve got loads. There’s nothing for it, of course, but to go out and choose another!

5. You will find that notebook you were looking for when you get back with your purchase. Never mind.

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Have just got back from a lovely evening at our church’s Carols by Candlelight Sing-Along. The church goers used to go around the village singing carols. Now the village comes to the church and frankly it is warmer, more comfortable, we can have tea, coffee, mince pies etc., and a lovely time is had by all. In between the carols were Christmas cracker jokes and poems!

Why did one of Santa’s helpers need to go to the doctor?
Because they had low elf-esteem.

Not sure the writer of that one is going to get any prizes but I am very happy to claim I DIDN’T write it! Mind you, a good cracker joke is one that can make you laugh or groan so I guess you can’t lose here!

All of the carols tell the Christmas story in different ways. Now there is inspiration for writers. There may be only a few basic plots but it is what we do with them that gives a story its uniqueness.

Oh and we did sing my favourite carol, In the Bleak Midwinter (and it was tonight too – very foggy!) and to the tune I love – the Gustav Holst one.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A good flash fiction story should have:-

1. Impact (whether it is to make a reader laugh or cry or to surprise them).

2. A strong lead character.

3. Not many characters. Many of my stories are single characters only (though they often refer to others and that can tell you quite a bit about the “off stage” people and my lead’s attitude towards them. It’s not always nice!).

4. Leave the reader feeling as if nothing more could be added to the story.

5. Have a good pace to it (and funnily enough that goes for reflective pieces too. The pace must be suitable for the kind of story you’re telling).

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Is it worth analysing flash fiction given its brevity? Oh yes!

Coming across flash tales you love still gives you the opportunity to work out what it is you DID love about them. You can still look at why the story worked for you. You can also think about how you would have approached the theme in the story you’ve read and why you would take the approach you would.

Also if you come across flash fiction tales that don’t grip you for whatever reason, again take the opportunity to look at why. Then look at your own work and see if any of the points you noted might apply to your stories.

Taking time to figure out what works or doesn’t work in a story always pays off, regardless of the word count.

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Another form of writing prompt that can prove useful is to list ten words associated with something and get all of those into a story. For Christmas as a topic you could have:-

Elves
Tree
Tinsel
Reindeer
Cards
Presents
Cooking
Music
Stories
Post

The clever bit will be to ensure you use the words in a way that makes sense but doesn’t seem too obvious. (Mind you, the idea of the elves doing the Christmas Day cooking while the reindeer look on horrified at the mess the elves are making is one that quite appeals to me!).

It’s also useful to think of connections but to then go beyond the obvious ones. For example, we associate the elves helping Santa get the presents ready but what if the elves decided they’d had enough for one year and went on strike? How would that story resolve? (Who would mediate between Santa and the elves? I have images of someone like Cinderella’s fairy godmother being called in but then I have an imagination like that! What could yours come up with?).

So if you’re stuck for story ideas try listing some words and using some or all of them in a tale. Make the story as ridiculous or otherwise as you want. Have fun with this. The idea is to help you “relax” into writing (which I always find increases creativity).

Singing carols tonight reminds me that stories can be shared in many formats. Each carol tells its own tale though for me Ding Dong Merrily On High is not so much a carol as a challenge. I’m asthmatic and have to take a breath halfway through the long “Gloria” so I sing it as “Glor….or…..or TAKE IN BREATH…. or….ia”! Hmm…. very much a case of taking a run at it and giving it my best shot and that will have to do!

I guess carols could be considered a form of flash fiction. I can’t think of any of them that would be above 1000 words!

 

Goodreads Author Blog –Weighty Tomes

I guess the reason Santa’s sleigh is as big as it is must be to take the weight of all of the books that are given as Christmas presents. (He must’ve loved the invention of the Kindle. Think of all the weight and space saved!).

On the assumption you have made it on to Santa’s nice list, how many books have you asked for this year?

I don’t ask for as many as I used to funnily enough. I download many to my Kindle. I almost always pick up books to read at book events such as the Bridge House Publishing I was so pleased to be part of last weekend. (Still saving Santa time and effort here. That’s got to put me on the good list alone, surely!).

The heaviest hardback I own is The Collected Works of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Wonderful book. Beautifully illustrated too but not something you have on your lap for a quick read.

The heaviest paperbacks I own are The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Seven Basic Plots. Neither are books you’d want to drop on your foot!

But I love all my books, whether they’re ebooks or print, whether Santa brings them or I pick them up.

Of all the joys in life, books, music and chocolate are my top three.

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