Lists and Zooming Around

Image Credit:  As ever, all images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General

Am finding my social life has perked up no end – thanks to Zoom. Hmm… Lady has got used to “disembodied” voices coming out of my computer! She still doesn’t like it (who can blame her?) but she goes and curls up somewhere instead of barking at the screen. Progress takes many forms, folks.😊

Mind you, some things don’t change. When I was a kid, I used to have to stand on a box so I could be seen over a pulpit when I read a Bible lesson. For Zoom, I have to sit on a cushion so I show up clearly enough for people to be able to lip read me if they need to/want do. Some things don’t change much! 😕

In other news, I’m finding having a session once or twice a week where I just draft blog posts is proving useful. It is proving handy having a batch of posts good to go when I’m pressed for time.

Generally I prepare these Facebook posts “live” and I am doing so now. There are times I come to this not knowing at all what my topic is going to be but I like that. It forces me to think and be more creative and then that flows well into the rest of the writing I’ll do afterwards. Also it means I can respond to news, writing news etc as it comes up during the day.

But the crucial thing is whatever you write, whether it is for publication or not, is to enjoy what you do. I can’t imagine a life without writing in it somewhere and that is how it should be.

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Zoom church was lovely this morning – and that was a combination of words I never expected to write!

I continue to make progress on my various projects though I always feel I should be achieving more. I cheer myself up with the thought most writers think that though!

I find I can’t work on one thing at a time before moving on. I have to have at least two to three different things on the go, partly because while I know when my writing slot is going to be each day, there can be some variation in time allocated to each one. I can adjust what work I do according to the time available so this is why having a couple of things on the go at any one time works well for me.

Also it means usually I’ve got something out there for consideration, something I’ve written but which needs some “resting time” so I can edit it properly, and something else I’m drafting. I find that useful.

Hope to have another lighthearted CFT post up later this week. Details to follow.

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What aspect of writing do you find the most challenging?

For me, it’s not letting my characters talk too much! I love writing dialogue. Failing that, writing their thoughts is also good fun. And, yes, I could go on at length which is why the flash fiction format works so well for me. It forces me to face up to the fact I can’t do that and I DO have to stick to what is relevant! There is a point to a strict word count!

What aspect of writing do you find the most fun to do?

For me, it’s finding that word or two which I know will either add depth to my characters or describe something well but economically. If I were to say, for example, Madame X had a velvet chaise longue (as I’m sure she would!), it is the word velvet that makes the difference for me. It helps me to visualise better. (I can also hazard a guess at what the rest of Madame X’s furniture will be like too!).

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What do books do for you? For me they:-

1. Entertain.
2. Inform
3. Take me to other worlds (and quite often it’s different aspects of this one).
4. Take me back in time (so I can see how others lived. This nearly always brings about a deeper sense of gratitude for what we have now, especially literacy. I just know I would’ve been a peasant in medieval times. Any chance of reading? None whatsoever. Chances of dying young in childbirth? Very high. Hmm…).
5. Keep me out of mischief. For a bit.
6. Show me just what a wonderful world of stories we have out there. There is at least one genre to suit everyone.

Happy reading!


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Judging what to leave out of a flash fiction story can be tricky at times. I’ve sometimes been caught between two useful character details but I really only have the room for one of them.

This is not down to word count either given the range of different markets and competitions I could go for and I would just change which one I plumped for.

When I say I haven’t the room, what I mean is the story would feel too “top heavy” if I put all the details in. You learn to get a feel for this over time. Less really is more in flash fiction. It is the telling detail that matters. And it is a question of deciding which telling detail is the most important one and therefore should be the one to make the cut.

For me, it’s usually down to the impact factor which helps me decide what goes in. Detail A may strengthen understanding of a character’s motives. Useful. Detail B may show the character has a pathological hatred for something. If my story is showing a character being driven by something, then Detail B is almost certainly the one to go in.

So it is a case of selecting the right detail for the right occasion. What serves the story/character best is the way, I think, to judge this.

F= Find fantastic characters to write about but keep them few in number. Too many cooks spoil the broth = too many characters in a flash fiction story make it top heavy and can lead to confusion in your reader. Focus on one or two characters only.

L= Learn what makes your characters drive. Ask the old “luvvie” question “where is my motivation in this?” as it is a good one to ask of your characters. It will also help you focus on what really matters to your character and your story.

A = Always know what the story is and ask yourself what the point is and is your plot moving on to that point. Flash focuses on ONE important moment for your character. The limited word count means you have to shine a spotlight on ONE small area only but your story can make a powerful impact because of that.

S = Story, story, story. It’s got to be a cracking story. What will keep the reader reading? Think of your hook, lure the reader in, and deliver on the promise of that hook. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and ask yourself, when editing, is this achieving the impact I want the story to have? Change anything that doesn’t serve the story well.

H = Have a strong conclusion whether it is a one-liner or a twist ending. You want your reader to leave having thoroughly enjoyed your story and feeling not one word could be added or removed from it. Oh and above all Have Fun! It’s a mantra of mine that you’ve got to enjoy your writing to be able to keep going with it.

Good luck and happy writing!

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What aspect of a character do you look out for when you start reading a story?

I want some idea of their general attitude. How they treat or refer to other characters in the story is usually key to telling me all I need to know!

Now okay sometimes this can be a red herring. A twist at the end can turn my assumptions around but I love that.

I then go back and look at the story again and see if I can pick up any clues as to what the character was really like early on. On a second reading I usually find something. Of course, I can note how the writer has done this and then see if I can do something similar for my twist flash tales.

You really do learn from other writers, past and present, and this is just one excellent reason to read widely and well. None of us are going to re-invent the wheel after all. So be inspired and use that inspiration to fire your imagination. Your take on characters will be unique to you.

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So how do you decide which ONE pivotal moment is THE one to write about for your flash story?

For me, it has to be the one that makes the most impact on your character. Sometimes this is the obvious dramatic moment but it isn’t always.

In my Time for Tea, the crucial pivotal moment (from my viewpoint as writer rather than reader) is when the narrator reveals someone else has told them something about their adult children. The narrator doesn’t think to question it. An alert reader will. But this moment sets the course for what the narrator is going to then do and that is why it matters. Quiet moments or revelations can turn a character and their story just as much as louder, more obvious moments can.


Goodreads Author BlogLists

Do you make a list of books for gift ideas to share with family and friends as hints for birthdays, Christmas etc? I do. There is always a list to be made!

But I also like to list traits in characters I admire and work out how I can use something similar when I create my own characters.

One of the great joys of reading from a writer’s viewpoint is you learn so much from other authors and you can use that to strengthen your own writing. You also get to see how dialogue is set out and so on.

It is vital to read a good mixture of material though from comtemporary to classic and non-fiction should be included too. The more you read, the wider the net of potential ideas.

You read a wonderful story or piece of non-fiction writing and that can inspire you to wonder well how would I have tackled this topic. What take would I have taken on it?

Of course lists lead to incredible To Be Read piles, both physically and in electronic form, but that’s a nice problem to have!

Another fun list would be to create an inventory of places connected with books you would like to visit once the lockdown is over. On my wish list here would be the British Library and Gladstone’s Library to name but two.

How about thinking of books to take with you on a retreat? My list there would have to include something by Austen, Pratchett, and Wodehouse, and naturally I would be taking the Kindle for this. (The saving in weight and luggage space would be considerable though the main thing would be to not forget to take the charger for it).

Then there’s the list of books your friends have told you about that you haven’t got around to reading yet. That too can be a formidable list.

But lists involving books are fun! Just relishing the possibility of reading all of those lovely books is wonderful. Getting to do so is even better. And now back to my TBR list I think!

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