It’s Panto Time – Oh Yes It Is!

Time Away is the title and theme of my CFT post this week. I look at why it is important (nobody works well on a flat battery after all) and share some ways I have time away even when at home.

I drafted this on my way to an ACW Committee Retreat and am having time away literally, but also thanks to the joys of headphones and Classic FM. Mind you, writing is a fabulous way to be in a world of your own!

My CFT post this week is called Time Away. I look at the importance of having some (!) and why I don’t really like the word retreat.

I also look at how I work, writing wise, when away (and yes Evernote and my trusty phone play a huge part in that), but I also look at ways I have “time away” even when I am at home. Link up sometime on Friday (yes I am having time away this weekend so it is a timely post).

Am looking forward to a CFT “works outing” to the panto Atlantis tomorrow night. My lovely editor, Janet Williams, and I will have a lovely evening being entertained by The Chameleon Theatre Group though, in fairness, they will entertain the rest of the audience as well! 😆😆

And it has been so nice this week to get out with the dog and not get an absolute soaking! (Mind, Lady really doesn’t care. She dries far quicker than I do!).

I’m off to the panto tonight (oh yes, I am!). I’ll be going to see Atlantis, the production by The Chameleon Theatre Group. It’s not a story I know so am looking forward to finding out what it is!

Signs of a good panto:-

1. Lots of laughs.

2. Dreadful puns – and loads of them.

3. Physical comedy usually involving props.

4. Someone HAS to say “it’s behind you” at some point (though quite how that is going to work in an underwater setting, I am keen to find out!).

5. There will be a Dame with a very dodgy wig and over the top makeup. (And the setting can be anywhere from underwater to outer space and you’ll still have this!).

6. Jokes the kids won’t get but you will. Oh yes you will…

7. Some references to today’s culture (pop songs, who is taking part in X Factor etc. Most of that will go over my head. I have no interest whatsoever in X Factor but I’ll pick things up from context).

8. A total lack of subtlety.

9. A longer term result of a good panto is when kids especially are more willing to go to the theatre later on because they adored going to panto. Christopher Biggins mentioned panto creates the future theatre audiences on a recent edition of Pointless Celebrities. He’s right on that. (I’d love flash fiction to be a way into reading longer works for reluctant readers. You do have to start somewhere).

10. Everyone leaves having had a fab time, and that goes for the cast too!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One aspect to travelling is all sorts of mini moments occur, any one or more of which could trigger story ideas. The idea though is these things should only be a trigger.

You hear a couple arguing over something that seems trivial to you but which clearly matters to them. So think about situations where your characters do that.

Why is winning the argument so important? Who does win and how? What are the consequences?

Have fun!

Flash fiction makes you focus on THE single most important aspect of your story. I like to think of it as precision writing but as I’ve mentioned before the most important factor for me is the impact my tale will have on a reader.

Then, and only then, do I worry about the word count. If a story works better at 250 words then so be it. I just submit it to relevant markets/competitions instead of, say, the 100 word market/competition I thought of initially.

Nobody says you have to like every single one of your characters! You do have to understand their motivations well though. Agreeing with them is another matter entirely!

Whatever your length of story though, it is crucial to have a really strong character you will enjoy writing about, even if you hate what they do.

I’ll be enjoying the one-liners in Atlantis, the panto currently being staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group.

A very good one-liner will have a huge impact on the listener/reader. It can turn things around in the course of few words (and that’s a good trick for any flash fiction writer to learn).

One aspect of pantos I love is where they have mini stories within the overall one. I’ve always had a soft spot for them and I’m looking forward to finding out what the ones in tonight’s production are. There will be some and they will tie in with the main plot seamlessly too. (Again a good thing for any fiction writer to do).

Fairytales With Bite

A classic pantomime is often based on fairytales for several reasons:-

  1. Everyone knows the story. Part of the fun in panto is knowing why the jokes work. You need to know the story for that.
  2. The fairytales have strong and clear plot lines with obvious goodies and baddies.
  3. Fairytales are open to sub-plots. The story of Widow Twankey is not the main part of the Aladdin story. It’s good fun though and the character has become a brilliant one to use as the pantomime Dame – dodgy wig, over the top clothes, and make up that has to be seen to be believed.
  4. Happy ever after endings, which are a must for panto, are a strong point for fairytales.

And panto plays its part in keeping fairytales alive.

This World and Others

Another reason why I loathe the idea of fairytales being twee and only for kids is because, while the world is a magical and strange one, the characters are realistic.

The fairytale writers show an in-depth understanding of human nature and just what we can be capable of doing and saying.In our created worlds, no matter how oddball they are, we need to do the same.

Readers latch on to characters. Finding out about the strange world they live is is huge fun but it is the character portayal that draws us into that world in the first place.