Reading Debts and Colours

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

Facebook – General

It’s colourful out in the garden at the moment with the laburnum in bloom and my favourite, the lilac, out too. I wouldn’t wear the combination of yellow and purple but for garden plants, they work beautifully!

Colours are a good way to work in a bit more detail into your fiction for few words. For example, instead of saying something was red, say it was crimson or scarlet. Be specific.

And if you want some inspiration do a search for colour charts. The paint companies have loads online and there are other lists of colours available including nail polish shades. So think pink (to quote the Pink Panther), think blush, think hot pink etc etc.

I love the telling detail in a story. I don’t need lots of description. Writing flash fiction also means I haven’t room for it anyway. But I can picture a crimson chaise longue better than if the colour isn’t in there.

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Submitted a short story for a competition today and have picked out the next one to have try at so am pleased with that.

I try to ensure I have a story “out there”, one I’m drafting, and a completed one I’m “resting” so I can come back and edit it later.

I need sufficient distance away from a story before I can edit it. I’ve found if I don’t do that, I have one of two responses to the story. One is it is total rubbish. The other it is the best thing I’ve ever written! Neither is true!

What IS true is there is a potential great story here but it needs the dross editing away from it, turns of phrase sharpened up etc. Nobody ever writes a perfect first draft and that’s fine.

I love Terry Pratchett’s quote that a first draft is “you telling yourself the story”. And that does sum it up brilliantly. It is then a question of making that story as good as you can make it before sending it out to the market/competitions. But you have to be able to realistically assess the strengths and weaknesses of your first draft and time away from the story does help enormously with that.

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What proverbs could be adapted for writers?

1. If at first you don’t succeed…. rewrite.

2. Try, try, try again and don’t be afraid to change writing direction if you need to do so. If you find novel writing is not for you, go for short stories, flash fiction, non-fiction writing etc. Try the different forms out and have fun with them. It should become apparent which other forms take your fancy. Run with them!

3. Never say… no to a good edit. We all need them!

4. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Have this thought in mind when you editing. Look for the weak points in narrative or characterisation. Think about what a reader might consider weak. Put your work aside for a while so you can read it as a reader would. It can help to record a piece of work and play it back so you hear it as a reader would.

5. A little bird told me that networking with other writers will bring you friends who understand your compulsion to write. The writing community is generous with its advice and support and we all need that! And in time you will be able to share advice and support based on what you’ve learned. What goes around really does come around here but it is generally beneficial. I’ve had cause to be grateful for good writing advice which has come my way and I’ve no doubt I will be again!

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One event I was looking forward to going to was the Waterloo Arts Festival but that is now being held online and I will share more details about that a bit nearer the time. Meanwhile my social life on Zoom continues to blossom…!

Have submitted another story for a competition so am well pleased with that and have picked another one to try. The lovely thing about this is even if the stories don’t do anything in these competitions, I can always revamp the tales and try them again in other competitions later on.

Very little is wasted in writing. You may not get to use something immediately but that’s okay. You may find it useful later on. And you can always learn from what worked, what didn’t and so on. A number of times a story that didn’t work out in one environment found a home in one that suited it better.

Persistence, the willingness to relook at and rewrite stories, and stamina – all underrated qualities but oh so necessary!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was talking about colours in my author page spot earlier this evening and looked back at how often I have used colour in my flash tales. There is the odd mention in From Light to Dark and Back Again but I do have some linked flash tales which revolve around a colour coming up in my follow-up book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic.

Telling details that are useful for flash fiction precisely because they don’t take up a lot of room include:-

1. Colour

2. Noise/Sound (I don’t want to know something was noisy in a story. I want to know the kind of noise. For example, I would rather read Martina dropped the saucepan lid for the third time as opposed to Martina was being clumsy in the kitchen. The first version gives me more detail as to HOW Martina is being clumsy for a start and I can picture it. Being clumsy could mean almost anything here. I’ve found it has paid to have specific details which a reader can visualise, even if it means a few extra words, than something general that they can’t imagine).

3. State of decoration When a story calls for the action to take place in a “set”, a brief indication of the state of decoration of that set helps make a greater impact. For example, if I told you poor old Martina’s kitchen was dimly lit though you could still see the peeling paintwork, that will conjure up a stronger image than if I said Martina’s kitchen was shabby and dark. The peeling paintwork is a specific detail a reader can hone in on.

So think specifics. A reader literally doesn’t need chapter and verse here but well planted details do make a big impact.

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C = Creating your own people is great fun.
H = Have a ball outlining their flaws as well as their virtues. Nobody’s perfect after all.
A = Attitudes reveal a lot about characters so what will yours be? Why have your characters got the attitudes they have? Think backstory here.
R = Reality. Readers identify with characters who ring true. Their attitudes, motivations and actions should be understandable, no matter how bizarre a setting you might put them in.
A = Actions can include inaction funnily enough. A character not acting at all or quickly enough can turn a story as well as a character taking direct action.
C = Compassionate or Completely Selfish? What will your people be? What are the consequences for your characters here?
T = Tension. There is no story with conflict/tension and some of the best is between characters with either different attitudes OR where they both want the same goal but cannot agree on the way to achieve it. Up the ante here! The tension should be something readers can identify with and have sympathy over.
E = Energy. A well outlined character will have an energy of their own and seem to come to life on the page. It will be a joy (most of the time anyway) to write their story. It really does pay to think your characters out.
R = Reason. Your characters should have good reasons for being the way they are/for seeking the goal that they are. It doesn’t mean other characters/your readers/you yourself have to agree with those reasons! But there should be a sense of understanding where your villains, as well as your heroes, are coming from and why.
S = Story, story, story = characters, characters, characters.

Have fun planning your next lot of people out!

 

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What topics/genres have I covered in flash fiction? This is not a definitive list but gives a good idea of the flexibility of the form when it comes to genre. I have:-

1. Given an insight into historical events from either an outsider viewpoint or from a historical character one. This will feature in my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, due out later this year.

2. Given individual flash fiction stories to Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy in From Light to Dark and Back Again. I used first person for both of them

3. Killed some very nasty characters off in my flash crime tales. Now that is always fun to do.

4. Ensured poetic justice was dished out in appropriate ways for characters who deserved it.

5. Shown viewpoints from other worlds/fairytales.

6. “Flipped” legends particularly the tale of St. George and the Dragon. For more see FLTDBA.

All good fun to write. And I think the flexibility of genre probably is the single most important reason why I love flash fiction, reading it and writing it.

What has helped me the most when writing flash fiction? I would say it was the following tips:-

1. Don’t have too many characters in your stories.

2. Focus on THE most important part of your tale. What IS the story?

3. Work out what it is the reader HAS to know so you ensure that goes in. Work out what can be inferred and infer it! (I must admit I love being left to deduce things when I read other authors and it is a real strong point of flash fiction for me).

4. When editing, look for your wasted words. Don’t worry you seem to be unable to stop writing them at all. It is what the edit is for after all.

5. Put your story away for a while, get on with more flash fiction, and then come back to your tale so you read it with a fresh eye. Ask yourself what is the impact on YOU now you’re reading it as a reader would? Is it the impact you planned?

And good luck!

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Goodreads Author BlogReading Debts

Do you remember how you developed a love of reading?

I remember being read to regularly when I was a child and my late mother taught me to read before I started school back in the 1970s. She was told off for doing it too. Apparently she’d done it the wrong way! (These days I think she’d be given a medal!).

Not that I felt anything was amiss. I owe Mum a huge debt for giving me a love of books and stories and I’m sure she’d be pleased with the end results for yours truly.

I also spent a lot of time in local libraries in my teenage years. They were a great place to go for someone who loves books, who didn’t have any money, and it was a great way to explore genres and authors which were not represented on the book shelves at home.

Mind you, that was a tough call. Mum had almost everything on her shelves from science fiction (H.G.Wells) to thrillers (Ian Fleming) to classic (Dickens and Shakespeare).

Her one blind spot was humorous prose. It completely bypassed her so on my shelves are works by Terry Pratchett and P.G. Wodehouse. It was a kind of joke amongst us that Mum would read Terry Brooks (The Shannara series) while I’d read Terry Pratchett (Discworld)!

The best way of repaying any reading debt is, of course, to read and keep reading! So on that note…

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