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What have I learned from books I couldn’t finish?
Thankfully these are few but even these can help a writer. How? What I’ve learned from these includes:-
1. What doesn’t appeal in a character (to me at least). From that I can work out how to avoid this in the characters I create.
2. What kind of dialogue switches me off. This is almost always dialogue that goes on for too long and/or doesn’t tell me or show me anything useful.
3. What kind of description switches me off. Again, it is almost always description that goes on for too long. I want to get to the core of what is happening and long descriptive passages slow the pace down. Not only that, if they go for too long, they irritate! What I am after is the telling detail I really do need to know.
On a more positive note:-
What have I learned from books I’ve loved?
1. What DOES appeal in a character.
2. What kind of dialogue makes me glad to be “eavesdropping” on the conversation between characters.
3. What kind of description helps me to visualise something beautifully and the turn of phrase that takes my breath away in a good way.
A big thanks to fellow Swanwicker #PatriciaMOsborne for hosting me on her blog again today. I have been on before with her sub-100 words story challenge and am on there again today with my tale, Danger of Not Listening. I suspect this may resonate with many of you!
Please see link below.
The story was great fun to write and I hope you enjoy reading it. A big thanks to Patricia for having the flash fiction challenge. It’s good fun to take part in and to read the stories coming in!
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Have picked another competition to have a go at for a short story. Also drafted more flash fiction over the weekend. Homes to be found in due course!
Favourite part of writing though remains that moment when I’ve got that first draft down and have something to work with. Even after all these years of writing, I still feel a sense of relief to have got to that point!
I like editing. I see it as giving my story or blog posts that “oomph” factor as well as taking out errors, repetitions etc.
When I started out writing, my goal was to prove to myself I could write stories. After that I aimed to be published. Then I aimed to keep on being published. Now my goal is to keep that going but to stretch myself with my writing (especially on the flash fiction), try competitions new to me, and explore my non-fiction side more.
The writing journey should be a fun one after all! It has its frustrations of course but generally you should be enjoying what you write. That enjoyment can make all the difference as to whether you keep going or not.
I’ll have another story up on Cafelit next week and look forward to sharing the link. It’s definitely what I call fairytale with bite!
My CFT post this week will be Part 3 in the mini-series where our local amateur theatre company, The Chameleon Theatre Group, share insights into life behind the stage. This week they’ll be looking at some of their favourite performances and sharing the reasons why they’ve picked these. Link up on Friday.
Have started fleshing out ideas for another competition. I like this stage of working out possibilities. The nice thing with this is the ones I discard I may return to at a later date. It is a case of the best fit for the competition. The other ideas may well prove to be useful for other markets/competitions later on.
I find the Scrivener templates very useful for outlining. I start with my lead character and as their major traits and what they want come to me, so often so does the story. Or at least an idea of what the story is likely to be.
But you can set up your own template. My top tip always would be to focus on getting the character(s) right. Work out what it is about them that intrigues you (as it will intrigue a reader too).
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Finally got my story submitted today. Found one tiny error on my final read through, sorted it, checked it again, all okay, and send! I always do edit my stories on paper.
When editing on screen I think your brain fills in the gaps. It doesn’t seem to do it on paper. I’m sure there is some clever reason why that happens. All I know is it does and I’d never be without a paper edit and the old red pen!
Now to find another competition to have a go at …. and have got one! Not flash this time, a standard length short story, but I do like to keep my hand in there too!
Am continuing to draft flash from the Prompts book and hope to get those out to different places throughout the year.
It was great fun to be part of #PatriciaMOsborne‘s sub-100 words challenge again today. Link below.
I do have a very soft spot indeed for the drabble (100-words story). It forces you to focus on what matters in your tale but there is room for that lovely telling detail on which many a wonderful twist depends.
I would also recommend having a go at writing 100-words tales as a form of writing exercise. It is a good way to warm up your “writing muscles” and the great thing is there is now a big market for flash fiction, both in publications and competitions. So those writing exercises, once honed and polished, can find a home somewhere and add to your writing CV if they get published.
What’s NOT to like about that?
I’ve been known to interview my characters from time to time. For flash fiction, where I generally only have one to two characters, this can still be done but I do this in abbreviated form (appropriately enough).
Whatever I write fiction wise, I need to know the character’s major trait and what it is they want. Answering those two things alone will give you a lot of the drive for you to write your story.
If you know your character’s major trait is a desire for peace and quiet and they want to get rid of their very noisy neighbour… well all sorts of things can come from that.
I would see those two questions as the foundations of a character outline. Then think of what else YOU need to know about your character so you can visualise them, hear them, know how they would act and react. Yes, they can surprise you but the surprise should arise naturally out of your outline.
In the example above, the character would do all the legal things to try to get the noisy neighbour to stop being so loud but what if that all failed? Could the character become angry enough to commit murder?
Or do they believe revenge is a dish best served cold and find another way to get their own back on the neighbour? I would then need to know why that character longs for peace and quiet so much. (Noisy childhood? Prone to migraines? Desperate to have their own little haven? Having worked so hard for it, they’re not going to see this snatched away from them etc). But once I knew what was behind their major trait, I could then work out what they were capable of. There is always a reason! And the storyline comes together nicely having thought this all through.
As well as interviewing your characters prior to writing their story, a writer can always ask questions of their “stars” as they get the first draft down. It’s useful to check every so often that your characters are “up to the job” of being in your story.
Putting your characters through the emotional wringer is a lot of fun (for the writer naturally) but it is a good way of finding out what it is your people are capable of and whether they can surprise you.
If you envisaged Character A as being timid, quiet, unassuming etc., what would a dramatic event do to them? Would it change their personality for good and if so, how? Would having to say, come to the rescue of someone else, bring them out of their shell?
All worth thinking about. The point of change is not just about the dramatic events in the story. It is about the point of change in the characters too.
Goodreads Author Blog – Books for Difficult Times
Have your reading choices changed during this difficult period?
I must admit I’m not really in the mood for any kind of dystopian story when we seem to be living right in one!
For me, I’m reading short story collections, non-fiction on writing, and lighter works. I don’t need the “heavy” books in terms of mood right now.
One of the roles of a book, for me, is to provide entertainment, escapism, and uplift. So especially in difficult times, I don’t want difficult books to stretch me. I need to be in the right frame of mind for that.
I have found I’ve not had any problems writing stories during the lockdown. I have struggled to read. I can only assume my subconscious is fine with one creative activity but not more than that!
This is a pain but I know it will pass. If I become particularly tired, I find the same happens. When I am more rested, I’m away with reading again.
Have you found the desire to read increases or decreases with your mood? What do you do to overcome that?
For comfort reading, and there is a good role for that at the moment, I have to turn to cosy crime, short stories by Wodehouse, and usually favourite books I’ve read many times. I want the comfort of familiar material. Once I’m feeling better, then that is the time to try something new.