All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Deeply sorry to hear of the death of HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh today – 9th April 2021. His marriage to the Queen is a truly great love story.
Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today
So sorry to hear of the passing of HRH Prince Philip today. The story of his early life is an amazing tale in itself.
Pleased to share Story Types, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. Hope you enjoy it. I discuss why I mix up the type of thing I read and share what reading widely does for me as a writer. If you ever wanted to know why every writer under the sun tells you to read widely and well, my post is a good place to start to find out why.
Looking forward to my new series which starts next Friday. One good thing about a series on book covers is that I’m not going to have any problems at all in finding pictures to use for this! A huge thanks in advance to the authors who are taking part in this series with me and I will share more on this next week.
Glad to say my new Chandler’s Ford Today post is up tomorrow. This week I’m talking Story Types. I look at the type of stories I like to read (as well as write) and share some thoughts about how mixing up what you read gives concrete benefits to what you write. I look at flash fiction and short stories, as well as novels, and share thoughts on how my reading feeds directly into what I write. It can be forgotten we take in more than we think when we read. For one thing, we unconsciously take in that this is how a book should look etc. Link up tomorrow.
From 16th April, I begin a three part series called Judging a Book by its Cover. Really looking forward to sharing that. I do share my own (of course) but plenty of guest contributors share theirs and what they hope a reader would take from them. Some fascinating insights here. So plenty to look forward to here for the rest of April.
Am so glad there wasn’t any snow today but it’s still cold! More irritated today by the temporary traffic lights just down the road from me were stuck on red in both directions. You can imagine the chaos. Any sign of workmen? What do you think?!
Another cold day (and yes a little bit more snow today). Brrr…
I was chatting earlier today over at #Val’sBookBundle about book collections you either still have or remember treasuring as a child. And some great memories were shared. I love the whole idea of collections – what a great way to encourage you to keep on reading. (It’s why I also understand and enjoy series novels).
But short story and flash collections encourage you to keep on reading too – just in a different way. I like to read through to see if there are links throughout the book. Even when there are no links, I want to find out what the next story or flash piece is all about. And then I like to work out which of the various characters I liked the most and why. (I can always learn from that).
The important thing then is to keep reading but I am preaching to the converted here, I hope!
My current read is The Diary of Isabella M Smugge by #RuthLeigh (and the hashtag is so apt here, just trust me on that one, or better still, check the book out and find out why).
Am moving on to the first Richard Osman one shortly after that so plenty to look forward to, reading wise. (Don’t watch nearly as much TV as I used to. To be honest, I don’t miss it. The time I would’ve spent watching the box I now spend writing and I feel bereft if I haven’t managed to have my usual creative session here. Anything special that comes on, I tend to record and watch while ironing etc. The glamorous writing life? Err… perhaps not! But it’s still fun and I can’t imagine my life without the writing and that’s a good thing).
Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again
Each flash story I write is the important moment in a character’s life. That is what I want to highlight. You can imply back story but you don’t have much room in which to do it. So how I do this?
I sometimes get a character to remember something.
In my story Enough Is Enough, from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I show you the character’s back story as it leads directly into the action she is going to take.
Sometimes I get the character to relate some of their back story to another character. I do this in The Terrified Dragon where my hero reveals something of his past to the angry villagers surrounding him.
So there are ways in which to do it but, as ever with flash, it is best to be brief! Readers do pick up on things that are inferred and I must admit I love doing this myself whether I’m reading a flash story or a novel. I don’t want the author to tell me everything. I do want to work out some things for myself. I just need the relevant information for me to be able to do that.
As well as picking appropriate names for your characters and their settings/eras, give some thought to place names. Especially for fantasy and science fiction, these should still be easy for your readers to pronounce. No Mxzyoriaquantian here, thank you!
Whatever you write, it pays to read your work out loud. For novels, a section at a time is good. (I know. I have it easier here writing flash fiction!). But the thing to remember is if you trip over what you read out loud, so will your reader. You don’t want anything getting in the way of their having a fabulous reading experience as they read your latest wonderful prose.
Names should be tested this way. I’d also flag up dialogue or thoughts too. What looks good written down doesn’t always read so well and testing this by reading work out loud will flag up what you may need to simplify. No reader is ever going to moan about having an easy, seamless read. They will moan (and worse stop reading) if you make life unintentionally difficult here.
When I pick names for my flash characters, I obviously try to make the name suit the story genre. For example, in Losing Myself in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, one of the characters referred to is Graxia. That is meant to conjure up an alternative, probably magical, world setting – and the story does take place in one.
In Identity I had an older man as the main character so I went for an older man’s name here – Walter. (That also happens to be the name of one of my grandparents but no my fictional Walter is not based on my granddad! But the name is appropriate to conjure up a sense of age given Walter is not a younger person’s name).
In Being Yourself I thought the name Jane Stephens would give an idea of a lady probably in her late twenties or early thirties and who you wouldn’t be surprised to find working in a library where the story is set.
Keeping an eye out on names prevalent now (as well as using older books of names) is not a bad idea if you need a hand in coming up with suitable names for your people. But always bear in mind your story setting. Does the character name suit that?
Fairytales with Bite – The Villain
So what would be your definition of a “good” villain? For me, it would be someone (or something!) who is a worthy opponent to your hero and who has understandable reasons for doing what they are/being what they are. Okay, you don’t have to agree with those reasons, far from it, but you should be able to see where the villain is coming from here and what drives them to take the actions they are taking.
It is just as important for the villain to be as well rounded a character as your hero. You need them both to make a great story. No conflict otherwise. And the needs of the villain and the hero should be diametrically opposed. In The Lord of the Rings Frodo Baggins wants to destroy the Ring, Sauron wants to get it back and use its powers. No compromise possible there. There has to be an outcome too.
So thinking about what your villain and hero want and ensuring they are at cross purposes also helps gives structure to your story as there can only be one winner and one ending (happy or otherwise).
A good way of working out what your villain wants is to have a closer look at their background. If a villain, say, comes from a background where the only way out is to be more powerful than everyone else around them, well there’s a pretty powerful motive for you. It would also keep them going. The fear of falling back into being “weak” again would also kick in here.
As with any kind of characterisation, work out what you think you need to know about your people (alternative beings are available!). Work out what drives them. Work out what could get in their way. As you do all that, story ideas will kick in and a good structure along with it. What’s not to like about that?!
This World and Others – What Helps Your Villains to Thrive?
Is there anything about your created world that encourages villains to thrive? In The Lord of the Rings, Mordor is such a suitable setting for Sauron. (Good question here – does the darkness of Mordor come from him or does he make Mordor dark or is it both?).
Is there anything about your setting that encourages your characters to turn to evil to make their lives better, regardless of what that does to anyone else? What kind of politics exist in your setting that would lead to someone wanting to do whatever it takes to get to the top of the political tree? (And how do they achieve that?).
In a magical setting, do your villains use magic themselves, are they aided by it, or is it something they reject and they obtain power another way?
What is it about your setting that makes it difficult for the hero to beat the villain? If a people have been used to tyrannical leaders for centuries, would they suddenly take to a hero who wants to usher in a more democratic system or would they reject the hero and enable the villain to continue? (There would be a fair amount of fear of change coming in here, another obstacle for your hero to overcome, but does the setting itself contribute to that?).
The obvious use of setting almost as a character in its own right is, for me, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis where it is always winter but never Christmas. That is a powerful image and made me wonder whether that could ever change. Of course, that is the whole point of the story – something has to change and here it is a question of reading on to find out how.
Could you use your setting in a similar way? Does it seem to hinder the hero?
Story Types https://t.co/R9ljrBqFqg Pleased to share Story Types, my latest CFT post. I discuss why I mix up what I read and share what reading does for me as a writer. If you wanted to know why every writer tells you to read widely, my post is a good place to start to find out! pic.twitter.com/YG0WpT0Ozw— Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) April 9, 2021