IDEAS, ROOM 101, AND SPECIAL CHARACTERS

Another mixed bag plus a link to my page on US based site, Scriggler, where a new story of mine is now up.

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My CFT post this week is the final installment of my 101 Things to Put into Room 101 series. Good fun to write and therapeutic too! Amongst tonight’s items are debt, fake sincerity and all calories in a 99 icecream. (You can guess where I put that in my list numerically speaking!).

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When is the best time to write? When you can! I write mainly in the evenings but if I can sneak in some writing during the day, I do so. What matters more, I think, here is being consistent with your writing. You know you will always sit down at roughly the same time and you will always write X number of words or accomplish this task or that one.

I keep a list of writing tasks I want to achieve and find it helpful as, whenever I tick off one, there is a sense of achievement. Given rejections happen to everyone, that sense of achievement is very welcome.

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Little things reveal a great deal about people. Anyone who always says “please” and “thank you” was brought up to be polite (and not take anything for granted usually too!). Likewise, those who hold doors open for others (regardless of gender), you can reasonably assume at least try to be considerate in other ways.

So little things should give away clues as to what your characters are really like deep down. I think of this as the kind of trait that a character can’t completely hide/suppress.

For example, a character is shown to be a “loudmouth”. Fine but every so often during the story, we also spot the said character lighting a candle as a prayer for someone else. That tells me well hang on, this character has another side to them. A deep, spiritual side they are either not comfortable showing more openly (they’re wary of showing off their piety perhaps) or they somehow feel the need to cover that aspect of themselves up by being “loud”.

So think about what little things will give away what your character is really like. These little things can also back up the main portrayal (and help make it more convincing).

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One thing that can be overlooked in flash fiction is, as with any story, the character still has to be at a point of change in their lives and the tale shows the results of that. The difference, of course, is that in flash, you have much less room to complete that “task”.

But a good flash fiction story will show you a character changing (for good or ill), or resolving a problem. It really is a question of cutting to the chase with flash fiction. There has to be a resolution to the conflict your character is facing, whether that is an internal or external one. Everything that is most important to the character and the resolution has to be in the story and not a word more.

This is why I think it is a good idea for most writers to have a go at writing flash fiction, even if you don’t use it as your main fiction form. Why? The skills you learn in writing to a tight word count will spill over into other things you write. As I’ve mentioned before, you soon find out what your wasted words are, you discover you don’t need many adjectives and adverbs, you do learn to say in one word what you might have taken three words to do etc.

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Flash fiction is great for giving insights into a character which wouldn’t be enough in themselves for a standard length short story (usually 1500 to 2000 words).

With a novel you get to see the whole “tapestry” of the story with all the different threads coming together. With a novella you would see about half of that. With a short story you would see say part of the left or right hand side. With a flash fiction piece, you are picking one spot on the whole “tapestry” to study – and, despite the limited word count, can still produce an “intense” story. Flash fiction can have layers – it just can’t have too many of them!

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Ideas, I think, are all over the place waiting to be picked up and used by writers who can recognize them for what they are and, more importantly, which ones are the “goers” and worth running with.

I don’t write character biographies (though I understand the point of them) but I do jot down ideas based on themes and then work out “What if?” scenarios. I think it important to recognize that ideas need development time.

Yes, a brilliant idea can occur and you write away but in my experience at least it has been ideas coming together to form a powerful whole that has inspired my stories. The advantage of this is that the ideas are layered and means I am building in depth to my stories. (Yes, you could and should have depth to flash fiction. There should be nuances the reader ponders on later).

But it is theme, motivation, and character types that interest me the most. Again looking at the news you can pick up thoughts as to what motivated someone to do this or that and then apply that motivation to your characters. For example, we all understand jealousy and how that can arise. So why would your characters be jealous and what would they do as a result?

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Scriggler – My page

I have put a new story on this called Night Fright but am including the link to the whole of my page here.  Am hoping to add more to this later in the year.

Fairytales with Bite – Five Signs of a Great Character

I do like a list (!) and it has been a little while since my last one on here so time for another!  I would list the following as my five signs of a great character (fairytale or otherwise).

1Being Memorable.  Sounds easy but can be easier said than done.  The advantage is a character can be memorable for good or villainous reasons but there has to be something about them that sticks in your readers’ minds long after they’ve finished reading about them.  Can you say something about your character that would instantly bring them to mind without you having to refer to the story?  (This can be a useful test!)

2.  Having a Life.  Your characters have a life of their own, which may not necessarily be directly relevant to the story you’re telling about them but which feed into it.  For example, a character may be known for usually being a stay at home and then they suddenly go on a quest and they wonder how those who know them will react to this.  The quest is the story but the fact the character has friends and neighbours who will gossip about what they’re up to brings that character to life.  The obvious examples here are Frodo and Bilbo Baggins from Tolkein.

3.  They would be capable of further adventures.  The great characters have traits and skills that would be easily transferrable to other stories about them.  Your readers should be able to picture your characters going off on other adventures.

4.  The characters are willing to be challenged or overcome initial reluctance to face challenges.  I love stories with characters like these, partly because I think about what I (or my characters) would do if facing the same fictional challenges.  This feeds into 3 above, of course.  It is my experience characters like this always do more than their author originally thought them capable of and that is a very good sign.

5.  Their enemies fear them with good cause.  The irony here is that this can apply to the enemies fearing the hero, but also the hero fearing the enemy.  A worthy hero deserves a decent villain to test them.  You can also see why the fear is justified.

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Creating great characters. Image via Pexels.

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Outlining your characters, perhaps. Image via Pexel

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All good aids to writing, though the chocolate is not a great diet aid. Image via Pexels

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Always good advice this. Image via Pexels

This World and Others – What is Special about your Characters?

I think this question is the first thing you must ask yourself before writing your story. What is so special about your characters readers have to keep on reading to find out what happens to them?

The basic answer, of course, is that it has to be a mixture of character traits and personality to make a fully rounded “person” to be the star of your story.  So think about where your characters get their traits from and why they have the personality that they do.  What would happen to this personality if they were put under stress (especially the ongoing for some time kind of stress)?  Would your character still be special or crack under the strain and, if the latter, how can they come back from that?  There are stories to be had there!

Also, what is special to your character?  What do they consider to be the most important things about themselves and why?  Who are their heroes and villains, and why?  What possessions do they have that they value the most (and these don’t have to be priceless antiques.  it could be, say, a battered old teddy bear they’ve had since very young etc)?

Happy writing!

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Fairytales and “Planned” Writing

Have had a lot of fun with slideshows on my Facebook author page this week!

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Loved the Royal Wedding. Loved the music and the sermon especially. A modern fairytale? Absolutely fine by me.

Ironically, I think one thing that can be overlooked about fairytales by some is the fact that they are based on a sound knowledge of human nature. The classic fairytales call a spade a spade when it comes to jealousy, cruelty etc. There is no pretence about the fate Snow White faced at the hands of the Wicked Queen, or that Cinderella really loved being treated the way she was by her stepmother and stepsisters.

Fairytales, I think, can be amongst some of the most honest fiction there is when it comes to holding a mirror up and reflecting what humanity can be like.

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Looking forward to taking part in the Hursley Park Book Fair next month. I’ll also be giving a talk on flash fiction as part of this. Will be posting more details a little nearer the time (here and via Chandler’s Ford Today).

Pleased I’ve sent off two flash fiction stories for the Bridport Prize. (Nothing ventured, nothing gained). Getting quite a few stories together now for a future third collection, which is great. I also hope to spend some time on non-fiction later this year too. Always good to have plenty to be getting on with writing wise!

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I like a mixture of planned writing to a topic and “free” writing. These posts are always in the latter category as, with the exception of flagging up my CFT posts, I never know quite what I’ll be writing until a few minutes before I get started. It keeps it fresh!

For CFT and other blogs, I do have to think well ahead for topics. How far ahead depends on how much research I need to do and things like the date the post will go out. For example, I know when the Fryern Funtasia will be each year so that tells me what my post for that week will be.

I like the mixture of planning and NOT planning – it keeps me on my toes! As for my flash fiction, I brainstorm opening lines every so often but deliberately don’t write the stories up until later. I want to give myself some thinking time here. I then set aside time (often on a train journey!) to get on and write those stories down. I know the theme, how I’m starting and likely possibilities of where that opening line can take me but that’s all. And away I go!

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My CFT post later this week will be the last in my series 101 Things to Put Into Room 101. I’ve had no trouble whatsoever coming up with 101 things… that DOES say a lot about me/human nature in general I think.

Will be talking about flash fiction at the Hursley Park Book Fair in June. Hursley Park is the home of IBM and is a well known landmark between Hursley and Winchester. Looking forward to this a lot. A number of local writers will be taking part – and the event is free and there is parking! More details a bit nearer the time. (Will be the biggest event I’ve taken part in to date).

Writing wise, do you find it easiest to have a good opening line to “peg” your story to or have a cracking ending that you work backwards from to get to the start point? I use both methods and like them both, though numerically I’ve written more from the starting point of a good opening line. I suppose it does feel more natural to write a story that way.

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Busy preparing a couple of flash fiction pieces for a competition. Been a while since I submitted competition entries (not deliberately, you know how it is. You become engrossed with other writing work etc). Want to do better on this front so am starting to make diary notes to remind me to do it.

Really pleased that my last competition entry, for the Waterloo Festival anthology, did well and will be included in that ebook when it comes out. Naturally I shall post about it nearer the time!

I’ve been making greater use of my writing diary since earlier this year for sending in work to Cafelit and that has worked well. Why is it that almost making an appointment with yourself to do something like this can and does make all the difference to whether you actually do it or not?

I suppose it is because seeing it in the diary makes me block out time to actually get the job done. I need to block out more time!

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What do you like most about flash fiction? I love being able to suggest a whole world in a few words and leave readers to fill in the gaps. I really enjoy having the boot on the other foot as well and filling in the gaps my fellow flash authors leave in their stories. I don’t want the writer doing all the work for me and so I try in my writing to make sure I’m not doing that.

Having the reader fill in the gaps keeps them hooked and reading your stories! The main thing to remember is to make sure they have the crucial points they will need to know to able to fill in those gaps.

Use what you know of our natural world and blend it with some imagination to create your own fictional one - image via Pixabay

Use what you know of our world and your imagination to create something really special. Image via Pixabay

Humans are immensely creative - image via Pixabay

Let those ideas flow! Image via Pixabay,

The fantastic world of books must include non-fiction too - image via Pixabay

The wonderful world of writing should include non-fiction, which benefits from creative techniques too. Image via Pixabay.

A wonderful palette of colours - image via Pixabay

A wonderful palette of colours. Image via Pixabay.

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Grow as a writer? Grow your reading! Image via Pixabay

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What impact do your stories have on your readers? Image via Pixabay

Themes pour out of good books - image via Pixabay

Let the writing flow and if music can help it along even better! Image via Pixabay

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There can be reality behind fairytales. Image via Pixabay (and image used as part of book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again)

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Flash fiction for impact. Image via Pixabay

 

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Need to send more material off for flash fiction competitions. Have just sent off two new stories for the Bridport Prize. Would love to have a shortlisting there. I know, who wouldn’t?!😀

Am pleased with the stage I’m at for a potential third flash fiction book. Going on all those train journeys has helped no end! Alas, I’m not due on a train again for a while…

I find when I’m writing the stories, I tend to write a “batch”, then have to switch back to non-fiction for while, before getting on with the next “batch”. Not sure why that is but I have found switching like this keeps me alert to the challenges of both forms of writing. The other advantage, of course, is there is zero chance of becoming bored!

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What is your favourite way of opening a flash fiction story? I am very fond of using the first person and taking you straight into the character’s head. In the space of a few words, you will know what that character is like and what dilemma they’re facing. I like efficiency (and you have to be spot on here when writing flash).

The other major way I use to start a story is to set the scene quickly. For example, from Pressing the Flesh, I start with “It was 3 am. The neighbours were sleeping”. (I would hope they were incidentally but this tells you that the character has somehow made sure of this point. That should immediately make you want to know why they would do that and what on earth they’re up to!).

 

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Do you set out to write a collection of stories based on a specific theme or wait and see what emerges from the stories you have written? FLTDBA was really a case of the latter, though I did surprise myself a bit at how many of my stories involved rough/poetic justice of some kind!

I don’t think there is a right or wrong way here incidentally. It’s just I can’t see myself writing to a specific mood of story. You do have to write with conviction, whether you are writing funny tales or deeply serious ones. I suppose the answer if you prefer to write to a theme is to set one which is fairly broad and can be interpreted in different ways/moods/settings to give yourself as much flexibility as possible. I do know you’d need that! Writing can be hard enough without putting too narrow a restriction on yourself.

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This post has been inspired by the Royal Wedding (which I loved). I suspect there will be a book about it before long! There was a lot of talk during the commentaries about modern fairytales, which is fine with me. I’m all for fairytales, ancient and modern. My first reading love was the classic fairytales.

Thinking about it further, maybe children are drawn to the classic fairytales because they know they are honestly written?

Your average fairytale does not pull any punches about exposing what is wrong. There is no pretence Snow White didn’t face an awful fate at the hands of the Wicked Queen. There is no “acceptance of her situation” by Cinderella! Change has to happen, injustices need to be righted, but in this world some magic is needed to make that happen.

Now if we could only make it happen in this one! Mind, if I could bring my fictional fairy godmothers and the like to life, they’d have a huge shopping list of things to put right, so it is probably just as well I can’t.

Back to the reading and writing of books then!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEWS, FAIRYTALE RELATIONSHIPS, AND STORY IDEAS

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My CFT post tonight is the penultimate one in my 101 Things to Put into Room 101 series. I have had no trouble whatsoever in coming up with 101 things! This probably says a lot about me but never mind…

As well as the horror of ripped jeans, I consign “easy to open packets” and the ability to lose scissors into the vault of doom. The latter of course is a real pain when wanting something to cut open the supposedly easy to open packets…

Part 6 - How many of the packets in a supermarket are that easy to open

How many easy to open packets are here, I wonder, and how many REALLY are easy to open? Image via Pixabay.

Part 6 - We'll be with you between 9 am and 6 pm with your parcel, argh

“We’ll be with you between 9 am and 6 pm”. Hmm… not exactly helpful is it? Image via Pixabay.

Part 6 - A ban on trumpet playing wasn't my first thought on bad manners but here things are different

A ban on trumpet playing? Image via Pixabay

Part 6 - End of the world predicted

I can predict there will be more end of the world predictions! Image via Pixabay

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What are the signs of a really good story for you? My top five would be:-

1. Not wanting the story to end.
2. Wondering how the characters would have carried on with their lives after the story ended.
3. Re-reading the story several times. (In flash especially a second or third reading will often reveal meanings and inferences you didn’t pick up the first time. You then really get to appreciate the depth of the story in such a tight word count).
4. Wishing you had written it!
5. The ending is so apt for the story, you can’t imagine it ending in any other way.

Comments welcome!

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Where do story ideas come from? Mine come from a wide range of sources including proverbs and other sayings, books or films that I’ve loved, to objects on my desk that have particular meaning for me.

I’ve learned, over time, to be “open” to ideas and not instantly dismiss them as being “too silly” or what have you. I will explore the idea to see if I can do anything with it and nine times out of ten I can.

I’ve only abandoned an idea once or twice in all my years of writing and I know now that was due to my not having outlined enough. By outlining (and spider diagrams can be useful here), you can work out whether an idea has “legs” or not or whether it needs something else to bring it to life.

 

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It’s funny how often in writing we remember the bad reviews but not the good ones etc. However, there is a flip side to this. I remember my first acceptance (hello, Bridge House Publishing, for my A Helping Hand in their Alternative Renditions anthology). That will always be a special writing moment.

I can’t recall my first rejection though. Nor do I wish to! I do wish I could recall my LAST rejection but that would mean stopping writing and I’m one of those people where the pen would have to be wrested away from me. And that is the way it should be!

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Does mood affect what you write? The jury is out on this one as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve written funny stories when feeling sad (it was therapeutic doing that). I’ve written dark stories when feeling cheerful. (Not entirely sure what to make of that one).

What matters most, I think, is you have to decide what is going to be the mood of your story and then write accordingly. Deciding on the mood will then lead you to think about why you’ve chosen that and what character or type of character would be best for your tale. Sometimes I think putting a story together is exactly like putting a jigsaw together. The pieces are interconnected but you need a starting point and using mood of story can be a useful way to “kick off”.

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What influences your writing? Books and stories you’ve admired by other authors? A cracking film that kept you on the edge of your seat for over two hours? A special symphony?

I expect that your influences come from all over the place. What is lovely is when a couple of them combine and you can create a new story from that combination. For example, your lead character loves gothic novels and classic railway engines. How could you use that in a story? (Could be fun finding out. Indeed, SHOULD be fun finding out!).

What is great here is that by reading/watching films/listening to music etc, you can ensure you never get stuck for an idea again. The “trick” is to read widely/watch films across many genres/listen to several types of music etc. Think of it as casting your net really widely!

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It is only when you are putting a collection together, you realise sometimes just (a) how much you have written and (b) that more work is going to be needed to get that volume right.

Where themes emerge, you will want to group them together (so you’ll need to get your contents page right for one thing and that will keep changing as you move things around).

The importance of VERY accurate proof reading will dawn on you in a way it may not have done before! (You want “your baby” to be perfect, yes?). Also, you will soon realise you cannot rush the proof reading stage to be sure of accuracy.

But enjoy the process. This is a very special part of the writing life – you are that bit nearer to publication.

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Busy preparing a couple of flash fiction pieces for a competition. Been a while since I submitted competition entries (not deliberately, you know how it is. You become engrossed with other writing work etc). Want to do better on this front so am starting to make diary notes to remind me to do it.

Really pleased that my last competition entry, for the Waterloo Festival anthology, did well and will be included in that ebook when it comes out. Naturally I shall post about it nearer the time!

I’ve been making greater use of my writing diary since earlier this year for sending in work to Cafelit and that has worked well. Why is it that almost making an appointment with yourself to do something like this can and does make all the difference to whether you actually do it or not?

I suppose it is because seeing it in the diary makes me block out time to actually get the job done. I need to block out more time!

Fairytales with Bite – Relationships in the Fairytale World

I write this post on the eve of the Royal Wedding in the UK between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  So there will be a lot of talk about “fairytales” as in “fairytale weddings” tomorrow.  And yes, the happy ever after fairytale ending is a classic one.  But if you take a deeper look into fairytales as a whole, you will find that most relationships in a fairytale world are fraught ones!

1.  Cinderella.  Didn’t exactly have the happiest relationships with her stepmother and stepsisters.

2.  Snow White.  Having a stepmother actively trying to kill you puts Cinderella’s woes in the shade!

3.  Hansel and Gretel.  Could sympathise with Snow White.  Would feel, at best, disappointed their father ever agreed to the stepmother’s scheming at all, even if it was reluctantly.

4.  The Emperor in the Emperor’s New Clothes.  Couldn’t rely on his courtiers to be honest with him.  Quite sad really.  Makes me wonder if his vanity was an insecurity issue. How did he react, later, after his foolishness was soundly mocked?  He really needed someone to tell him he was being an idiot (and be honest enough to admit he needed that, as I think we all do).

So jealousy, hatred, and insecurity are huge themes here.  Hmm… fairytale relationships?  Perhaps not quite so happy ever after then!

This World and Others – Advice to My Much Younger Self

I wrote a Chandler’s Ford Today piece on this a while ago where I discussed what I’d tell my 20-year-old self.  I thoYouught I’d revisit the theme and list some things I would tell myself when I was starting out as a writer that I know now but didn’t then.

1.  Expect rejection but don’t be fazed by it.  Use it to improve what you do.

2.  Submit to honest competitions as often as you can.  It is all useful experience in submitting work for outside criticism and in meeting deadlines.  If you do well and win or are shortlisted, you can add that to your writing CV.  And always check out the background of the competition so you know you are submitting work to a reputable one.  It’s not you, there ARE charlatans out there.

3.  Be open to trying different forms of writing.  Had I done this when younger, I would’ve discovered the joys of flash fiction that much sooner!

4.  You can never have too much A4 printer paper or toner cartridges or pens.  Stock up.  Take advantage of special offers when possible.

5.  Submit work to honourable online sites as well as for print anthologies etc.  Your body of work will soon build up doing this and you cover both audiences – those who only read online, those who read “proper” books and most people go for both anyway.

6.  Don’t underestimate how long it will take you to be published.  It always does take far longer than you dream of!

7.  Before entering any contract, get it checked by the Society of Authors (UK) or other reputable equivalent body.  You can save yourself a lot of heartache and money doing this.

8.  Expect to be addicted to (a) notebooks, (b) nice pens, (c) going to good writing conferences, and (d) tea/coffee etc to keep you going as you write.  Save up accordingly!  Start now…

9.  Read as much as you can, contemporary and classic, fiction and non-fiction.  You may think you’re already doing this but writing has made me read much more than I ever did before, sometimes for review purposes, sometimes not.  You need to know what’s out there now.  It can help you find your own niche for one thing.  You can then play to your strengths here which will give you a greater chance of success when approaching publishers.

10.  Remember practically everybody struggles to find an agent, it isn’t just you.  Rejection is never personal either.  It can be easy to forget these things.  Keep going.  There is a lot of truth in the saying the professional writer is the amateur who didn’t give up.

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LIFE’S LITTLE IRRITATIONS AND TEN FAVOURITE THINGS

A nice mixture of moods this time I think!

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What do cooking chocolate, zips that break too easily and roundabouts that are too small for purpose have in common? Easy peasy. They’re some of the items I’ve consigned to Room 101 in the latest part of this series. (I’m now up to No. 75!). I also share my thoughts on product name changes and fake news. So a nice mixed bag here tonight!

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What aspect of writing do you like the least? I suppose for me it would be the line by line edit for typos, grammatical errors etc, anything that I would call the technical side of writing.

Yet without that side, the chances of work being accepted do decrease given you have to present your work as professionally as possible. Anything that reduces a professional impression, such as weak spelling etc, will impact on your story.

The nice thing, though, is that if spelling, grammar etc are weak points, ideas like a writing buddy can be a real boon. (Going to good creative writing classes can help you make friends, get feedback on your work, including on this kind of thing, and help you find someone who might end up being your writing buddy!).

I also think there isn’t a writer anywhere without blind spots as to certain words/grammatical issues. My blind spots are “effect” and “affect” (I always have to double check them against the dictionary definitions to make sure I’m using the right one).

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Do you prefer alien settings in your flash fiction or tales that are firmly rooted on to this planet? I like both, no real surprises there, but here are some advantages to consider.

The biggest advantage to having an alien world as a setting is you get to choose what that world looks like, how it is run etc. Only drawback would be is it is too easy to just keep on creating your world and never getting on with the story. So just stick to the bare bones of what your reader really does need to know.

The biggest advantage to setting a world here is that the background information we know already. You really do just to fill in relatively minor details such as what part of the world they’re in (can give your readers ideas about likely weather patterns and so on).

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Although flash fiction by its nature might seem quick to write, it still needs careful crafting to ensure every word carries its weight and justifies its place in the story.

Yes, obviously, novels do take far longer and the joy of those is having the room for sub-plots and being able to characterise more deeply. Having said that, one of the great joys of flash fiction for me is being able to shine a sharp light on say one aspect of a particular character. That IS the story. Nothing more to be said. Nothing more needs to be said.

 

Writing first, editing later but both needed - image via Pixabay

Preparing a talk or a flash fiction story perhaps. Image via Pixabay.

Stories can be created and read on just about any modern device - image via Pixabay

Big screen, little screen, LOTS of stories on either! Image via Pixabay

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Let your stories have impact. Image via Pixabay

Themes pour out of good books - image via Pixabay

Let the writing flow and if music can help it along even better! Image via Pixabay

Fill that blank sheet with ideas from non-fiction as well as other fiction works - image via Pixabay

The basic necessities of the writer’s life!

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Flash – for light or dark fiction! Image via Pixabay

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There can be reality behind fairytales. Image via Pixabay (and image used as part of book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again)

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1. Books can take you into worlds beyond anything we know here. This is especially true for science fiction and fantasy.

2. Books can shed light on history both in non-fiction accounts and historical novels. The latter also has the advantage of being able to show what a historical figure could’ve been like as an individual, based on what is known about them. The author is not saying they are definitely like this, just that they could’ve been.

3. Reading a book encourages you to keep reading others. Not only is this relaxing, this improves your own appreciation of the written word by reading different authors and types of book.

4. You learn so much about characterisation by reading widely, in and out of your own genre.

5. Reading across non-fiction and fiction will help feed your own imagination. What can you do in your stories the authors you’ve read have not etc? (Also different writers have sparks for story ideas from varying sources. Where you get your sparks from will almost inevitably not be the same as where I get mine. At best there MIGHT be some overlap but we are all inspired by different genres and styles, What we do with what inspires us is unique to us too).

6. If you want to try out an author new to you, but are not sure about committing to the cost of a hardback etc, you can always borrow from the libraries and support them while you indulge in a good read!

7. Short story collections, including flash fiction, are increasingly popular so if the thought of a full length novel is not for you at this stage, why not try shorter fiction? There is something out there that will suit you! I love the fact there is a book out (and usually several) for anyone and everyone.

8. I suppose I am particularly conscious of this being a woman, but literacy is not something that has always been available to so many of us. So therefore I want to make the most of being able to read and write. There is a whole world of stories out there to explore.

9. Especially reading non-fiction, you can increase your own education significantly. Above all, it should be fun to find out things you didn’t know.

10. Last but not least, as a writer, by reading as well you are supporting the industry you hope to join or have become part of. Whether you are self or traditionally published, I can’t help but feel this is a good thing to do. I also can’t see how you can write without reading well. You have to know what you like and dislike to come up with your own stories and how can you do that, other than by reading?

Comments welcome!

Fairytales with Bite – Life’s Little Irritations

My current series on Chandler’s Ford Today is all about life’s little irritations (and is called 101 Things to Put into Room 101)From a fictional viewpoint, it doesn’t matter whether you write short or long fiction or, indeed, what genre you write in, but you can guarantee your characters will have more than their fair share of life’s “little irritations”.

So what are these and why do they rile your characters so much?  Do some of your characters handle the trials of life better than others and, if so, why and how?  What would count as an irritation in your fictional world that here on our own planet might be seen as a catastrophe or something your characters shouldn’t be wound up about at all?

Are the irritations you portray shared by other characters in your stories?  Is there anything that the society/world you’ve created considers an irritation and how did it come to be seen this way?  (There is always a reason for these things!).  Answering all of these will help you flesh out your world and your characters better and that is always worth doing.

This World and Others – Ten Favourite Things about Characters

I do love a list!  Ten favourite things I like about well portrayed characters include:-

1.  Such characters show me something about my own nature (for good or bad!).
2.  I can identify with the characters, sympathise even.
3.  I will “root for” characters and “feel” their struggles, which is not quite the same as 2 above.  For this, I have to really like the characters concerned.  With 2, I can identify with say what a villain is up to (they’ve been crossed once too often and are now out for revenge), but I’m not going to root for them to succeed in their aims.  I often hope ambiguous characters will not turn out to be villainous in the end or at least have motivations that are understandable.  The best of these will do both.
4.  You can “see” exactly where a character is coming from.  That leads to empathy (which I believe can encourage empathy generally and that is no bad thing).
5. Characters will show you the world they live in and how they handle it.  Is there something I can learn here?  (That includes what not to do!).
6.  For a character that’s set in a historical period, you can compare how they handle their situation and ponder how you would do so.  (I love Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice but can see her situation as almost being prison like.  For her not to marry Mr Collins, when it would have meant helping her family, was a brave thing to do.  It would also be seen as selfish, especially by her mother.  Here, I am so glad I have never faced something like that).
7.  As a writer, you can put your characters through the emotional wringer!  Heartless though that may sound, it is also huge fun – and it will be where your story really is.  It is all in the conflicts.
8.  Sometimes a historical character can change your mind about a period in time or a well known historical figure.  The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey did this for me with regard to Richard III and Henry VII.
9.  Characters can show up injustice clearly.  Think To Kill a Mockingbird here or something like Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
10. Characters can say things you would love to say to others but for whatever reason rightly decide it’s best not to!  And I’m not saying more than that….!

 

WRITING DIARIES, REVIEWS AND CLARITY

Another nice mixed bag I think!

I am on Goodreads and part of their author programme so if you wanted to send me questions about flash fiction, blogging, writing for online magazines, I’d be pleased to hear from you.

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Do you keep a writing diary? I find mine useful for planning out when I want to have work done by etc. (I don’t always achieve what I originally set out to do, life can get in the way sometimes, but I find I end up achieving what I set out to do, albeit occasionally later than I’d have liked. I think if I didn’t plan out what I think I’d like to get done, then I wouldn’t get as much written).

It’s also useful for keeping a note of submissions sent, where to, results etc. Naturally acceptances are written down in capital letters! I don’t think I’ll ever get over the buzz you have when you know a piece is going to be online or in print and that is how it should be.

 

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My CFT post this week will be Part 5 of my 101 Things to Put into Room 101. I’m up to No. 75! Link up on Friday.

Off to see a local show with my lovely CFT editor tomorrow and again next week. Seems like ages since I’ve watched a play so am looking forward to both of these plays. Reviews will probably follow! I have to say I have been impressed by the quality of the local theatre productions I’ve seen. Always a good sign when the time seems to whizz by as you’re watching.

I must try and get around to seeing one of the Discworld plays at some point. Love the novels, curious to see how the plays work. The great thing about seeing plays is that it is another way of taking in a story. I think it is a good idea to mix up the “formats” in which you do take in stories. No chance of being bored, sometimes a play will get across something in a way a novel doesn’t quite do and so on.

I admit though it would be a challenge to make a play out of a piece of flash fiction though!

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Reading widely is a sensible thing to do regardless of what genre you work in, given doing so helps you feed your own imagination. Ideas for stories spark from all over the place. The trick is to be open to receiving those ideas. (Also it does make sense to support the industry you want to be part of!).

What drives a story are the characters, of course, but knowledge of human nature/how politics works/history etc can inspire how you create the world your people live in. By knowing what we’re capable of as humans, you can create your own worlds based on what we know here. If we act in this manner, how will your people act? Are they better than us or worse? As a result, it will make your world seem more “possible” and believable to a reader.

What will change here is the length of the story you are writing. For flash fiction, you have to convey a sense of the world your people are set in quickly. A few telling details are key here. If you say your character lives under a dictatorship, that is enough for the purposes of your flash fiction. We all know what dictatorships can be like so our imaginations will fill in the details your flash fiction piece doesn’t have the room for. If you were writing a novel, you would want more details as to what that dictatorship is like, possibly how it came into being, and what happens to those who rebel against it.

 

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Clarity is important to any storyteller but when you have limited word count as with flash fiction, it is vital. The words you use can often carry more weight as you select the ones that will give you the most meaning without using up too much of your word count.

I’ve come across some annoying examples of how NOT to write in adverts, business speak etc, and I think the main reason why these things irritate so much is because they lack clarity. Someone somewhere with these examples has equated lots of words with lots of meaning. To quote George Gershwin, “it ain’t necessarily so” as any flash fiction writer would tell you!

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Likes, Dislikes and Using “Dead Time”

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My latest CFT post is Part 4 of my 101 Things to Put into Room 101. I’m up to No. 60! Tonight’s “delights” to go into the vault of doom include rats, overpriced clothing for those of us with height issues (in either direction) and those people who dislike fake flowers. I bet they don’t suffer from hayfever!

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Am planning to get on with some flash fiction writing whilst out and about on the train tomorrow. Great use of dead time and on my last trip out like this, I managed to write at least five stories (which are in the second collection I’ve submitted to Chapeltown Books). I can’t give you an exact number as I stopped counting after that.

One lovely thing about writing, regardless of genre or whether you write fiction, non-fiction or both, is you are never short of things to be getting on with while out and about on public transport! I also use dead time like this to draft future ideas for Chandler’s Ford Today and Association of Christian Writers’ blog posts.

Am I a convert to the smartphone? You bet! Picture below from one of my CFT posts from late last year but given the topic of this post, I thought it apt to use it again!

Fairytales with Bite – Character Likes and Dislikes

In my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post, I consign various items to Room 101. Amongst the items in Part 4 of my series are rats, people who dislike fake flowers, and overpriced clothing for those of us with height issues (in either direction.  Am not unbiased here!).

I love fake flowers because (a) they are of a much higher quality than they once were and (b) I’m a hayfever sufferer!  Thinking about this made me wonder about what quirky likes and dislikes your characters have.  I’m thinking of those things that would really make them stand out to a reader.  It is vital readers can tell characters apart and distinctive personality traits, likes and dislikes are great ways to achieve those necessary differences.  We’re not all clones after all, so our characters mustn’t be either.

Think about also why your characters have their likes and dislikes.  (Yes, people can and do have irrational likes and dislikes but, in fiction, you have got to convince the reader your characters are believable.  I find having a good reason for them to be the way they are, which would include their tastes, is a surefire way of achieving believability).

Part 4 - I'm all for stopping spam, the electronic and the meat kinds

I loathe spam – the electronic or the meat kind! Image via Pixabay

Part 4 - Success is one thing but being famous for being famous is beyond me

Success but should it be because you’re famous for being famous? Image via Pixabay

Part 4- Ambition is not the same thing as talent or being famous on merit

Ambition is no substitute for genuine talent. Image via Pixabay.

Part 4 - Wastefulness

This sums up humanity’s wastefulness. Image via Pixabay

This World and Others – Using “Dead Time”

Using “dead time” in a more efficient way so I can get more writing done is something I have improved on in the last six months or so. This is partly because I’ve finally got a smartphone (!) and I also use Evernote as an app to draft stories, articles etc when I’m out and about on train journeys etc.

The nice thing with this is not only do I get more work done, I haven’t got the distractions of all I have to do at home getting in the way. I can focus purely on writing for a while, which is bliss. One lovely thing about writing, which I touch on in a Facebook post tonight as well, is that whether you write fiction, non-fiction or both, there are always things to work on, edit or write!

On my last big train journey, I managed to write at least five flash fiction stories (I admit I gave up counting after that). So think about your pockets of time that can easily be lost. How could you use those? I remember being annoyed when I took my car in for service as I was happily drafting stories while waiting for that to be done. I was well into the writing zone when they told me the car was ready!

Main task for me now here is to submit more flash fiction to Cafelit as well as get on with ideas for my third book. My second book is in with Chapeltown Books now so fingers crossed!

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Scrivener and Stories

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My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be Part 4 of my 101 Things to Put into Room 101. Is proving a fun series to write. Link up on Friday.

One of the biggest difficulties I have is prioritising time. I find I have to block out time to write, else guess what? I don’t write!

I use Scrivener on my PC and I find that great for organising my notes, especially for my non-fiction work. See one of my earlier CFT posts. I use Evernote on my phone and am increasingly using train journeys to draft a few flash fiction tales using it. I’m off again on my travels on Saturday so hope to get a few short pieces under my belt (or more accurately on my phone!) before I get home again.

 

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My favourite opening lines to stories are those that take me straight into the world of the tale or the mind of the character. You don’t need a lot of words to convey enough information for the reader to fill in the gaps. Flash fiction as a genre proves that.

For example from my Rewards in From Light to Dark and Back Again:-

She must go, Becky thought.
Becky paced her thick, red lounge carpet a dozen times. The beautiful Gemma had decided one boyfriend wasn’t enough.

You have the main character and her state of mind here. The thick, red lounge carpet is an indication Becky has (a) a home and (b) she probably isn’t poor. She also has a situation to resolve! All in 24 words.

Often I’ll write a flash piece and realise when I read it back, there are more clues to pick out than I originally anticipated. This is no bad thing. It means my subconscious is clearly working and something is coming through into what I write! That can be developed further or left as it is as a hint to the reader. Happy writing – conscious and unconsciously!

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You learn a lot when you write stories. Firstly, you learn about rejections as, unless you are phenomenally lucky, you will receive loads of those. Secondly, you realise fairly early on that write what you know, while a very useful start, is simply not going to be enough. You need to be able to write about what you can find out too!

This is why reading widely, in and out of your own genre, fiction and non-fiction, is so important. The more you feed your mind, the more you will have to draw on when writing your own work.

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A successful flash fiction story is one you’ve read where everything that is needed to be said has been! You should feel as if the writer could not add anything to the story without “over-egging the pudding”.

As with any story, a flash piece still has to have a beginning, middle and end (even if that end is a twist one). It should not feel like a piece of prose cut down to meet the word count requirements.

I love flash fiction stories where I would love to know more about the characters despite their role being over. That indicates real “life” behind the characters and their story.

 

REAL WRITING = REAL CHARACTERS

A busy few days and I also have a new flash fiction story to share with you.

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My latest Chandler’s Ford Today post sees me resuming my series on 101 Things to Put into Room 101. This week’s post sees me reach No. 45! Do you agree with my choices? Comments welcome in the CFT comments box.

Feature Image - Part 3 Room 101 Post

My latest CFT post. Image via Pixabay.

Decisions, decisions

Decisions, decisions and a not terribly helpful signpost. Image via Pixabay.

Still this kind of board might raise a smile

This notice may make you smile though. Image via Pixabay.

Could Room 101 be behind here - image via Pixabay

The vault of doom aka Room 101. Image via Pixabay

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Busy, busy. I have a short post up on Chandler’s Ford Today regarding Richard Hardie’s author events at the Winchester Discovery Centre on 3rd April. If you like YA fantasy and are in the area, why not pop along? Entry is free (though there are books to buy!). See http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/local-author-news-richard-…/

My usual Friday slot tomorrow sees me resuming my 101 Things to Put into Room 101 series. I incorporate everything from snow to shoes that pinch your feet (though if they pinch anything else, you’re doing something very odd with your shoes!).

My monthly post for the Association of Christian Writers is online tonight. My spot is the 29th of each month. This means I get every three Februaries off!

My post is Real Writing = Real Characters and talks about the importance of honest portrayal of characters. If they’re right so-and-sos, then you portray them as such. (How you do that is up to you but there must be no doubt in the readers’ minds that the character IS a right so-and-so!).

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What are your characters’ favourite memories and why? How do they influence their actions in your story? Can showing some of their memories help you create a richer, more fully rounded character? I think so.

Now with flash fiction, there isn’t the room for a lot here so you have to pick the most important memory and focus sharply on that. Or you tell the story where the character is looking back on something.

For example, in my flash tales, My Life and Changing My Mind, I have my take on Pride and Prejudice told from the viewpoints of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, each with their own story. To combine them in one tale would have made the stories lose impact (though it would still have been well within the flash fiction word count limit). Mind, it did make it easy working out where they had to be in From Light to Dark and Back Again – right next to each other!

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What is the purpose of flash fiction? To create a miniature world a reader can literally dive in and out of in moments yet still leave an impact on them. To say in a few words (and with greater impact) something that would lose its power if put into a longer story.

I suppose one thing that really has drawn me to the form is the fact I’ve always loved working things out from clues the author gives and you do that a lot with flash fiction. I don’t want the writer telling me everything!

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I think humour lends itself well to flash fiction because the best gags (or at least the ones I remember best) are short and to the point. (Mind you, the Two Ronnies’ Four Candles is an honourable exception to this and such a fabulous play on words too. Should imagine that was a delight to write. Likewise Morecambe and Wise with Andre Preview in their Christmas special – sheer joy from beginning to end.).

The nice thing about flash fiction is I’ve found it opens up the genres you write in. After all in From Light to Dark and Back Again, I have crime stories, relationship stories, light horror stories and so on. A lot of my lighter tales play with humour too – I’ve used a lot of irony. So mix up your humour styles and see what flash fiction you can generate. Above all, have fun doing this!

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Why should any writer read well and widely in AND outside of their own genre?

The simple answer is you are feeding your imagination by reading. I’ve had ideas for stories by reading works by others, especially in non-fiction. Something I’ve read has just triggered that spark and away I go! So the more you read, the more likely you are to get that spark and you are “fishing from a bigger pool” too. You expand your own knowledge and therefore you can expand what you write about too.

With non-fiction, a story can emerge from reading, say, a historical fact, and wondering how that would affect characters from differing backgrounds.

So never feel guilty about “just” reading. It is the flip side of writing and a highly enjoyable one at that. After all, if you don’t want to read, why would you want to write? There has to be that love of books and stories inside you to trigger that desire to write. That love can only come through reading – whether your preferred format is Kindle, paperback or audio doesn’t matter. All that matters is you read!

Cafelit – The Art Critic

Am pleased to share my latest piece of flash fiction, The Art Critic.  Do check out Cafelit.  There is a wealth of fabulous stories on there and I am so pleased to be part of it.

A great way to relax - with a book and a cuppa - image via Pixabay

Great way to relax. Now where are those biscuits? Image via Pixabay

Fairytales with Bite – Publicity IN your stories

On my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week, I resume my series on 101 Things to Put into Room 101One of the things I mention is annoying adverts.  This led me to wonder how advertising, business, publicity etc could work in a fictional world.

How do your characters survive?  Presumably by working so what do they do?  What products are made in your world?  How are others persuaded to buy them?  Are there things your world does not allow to be made or sold and if so what and why?  Is there a black market (there usually is!)?

Also how do your characters find out what is going on?  Can they tell what is truth and what is propaganda?  Are adverts truthful?  Are there governing bodies regulating these things?  Or is your society a simpler, barter based one?

Talking of adverts, I will just share a flash fiction story of mine, The Art Critic, which is now up on Cafelit.  Do check out the website for some fabulous stories by a whole range of authors.  I’m delighted to have work on here.  Hope you like the story.

This World and Others – Your Character Likes and Dislikes

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week sees me resume my series on 101 Things to be Put Into Room 101So far I’m up to number 45!  I’ll have no trouble finding 101 things to banish…

What are your character likes and dislikes and why?  if your character loathes the colour brown, to name one example, what is the reason for it and does that loathing make them change their behaviour in any way?  Could that loathing change the way the story ends because the character’s actions change (and not necessarily for the better either)?

You almost certainly wouldn’t use all of this in one story but listing what your character likes and loathes is a great way of finding out all about them before you write the story properly.  You will write with a deeper knowledge of that character (and it does show through).

From the writers’ viewpoint, I dislike characters who have no reason to be in the story but are clearly making up the numbers and  I have come across this.  (Earlier in my writing life, I’ve been guilty of it but I think many of us have been.  The important thing is to realise the characters don’t have a role to play and cut them out). Each and every character has to have a very good reason to be in your story.  Each and every character has to be distinctive (even if it is, say, Character A loves flowers and Character B hates them because they have chronic hayfever.  Easy to tell those two apart!).

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READING/WRITING FLASH FICTION

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My latest Chandler’s Ford Today post is Part 2 of my 101 Things to Put into Room 101. Amongst other things, I consign to eternal doom stilettos, bad grammar, confusing road signs and the 5 pence coin. What would you put in the vault?

As for the image below, are the dogs slow? Are the dogs and children slow? Or could it even be that the dogs’ children are slow?! Or are all the animals on this farm slow? (That is anything going faster than a slow walking pace is not kept on this farm?!).

If you ever doubted that the comma is important, then let this convince you it really is, it SO is!

PART 2 - Some commas here would be good - image via Pixabay

Oh for some commas here! Image via Pixabay

PART 2 - You know what it is meant here - image via Pixabay

Really?! Image via Pixabay

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One thing that is important with flash fiction is you should be reading it as well as writing it (and not stop at just reading your own!). Not only does this give you a greater appreciation of what can be done with the form, you increase your reading of contemporary fiction.

I have no problems at all finding time to read older fiction (Wodehouse, Austen, Dickens etc) but a good reading “diet” must include what is out there now (or has been published fairly recently). Another advantage of reading widely like this is that it will open your eyes to publishers willing to take collections.

Also, I can’t think of any author who wouldn’t appreciate this kind of support. And you would too, wouldn’t you?

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Fairytales With Bite – Biting Comments

My new mini-series on Chandler’s Ford Today is a humorous look at what things I would put into Room 101, that famous creation of George Orwell.  Part 2 of 101 Things to Put into Room 101 includes items as diverse as stilettos, bad grammar and confusing road signs.

I think stilettos are one of the most stupid things ever invented because they’re not good for your feet or your spine.  When I did wear them, back in the day so to speak, I always dreaded getting them caught in some grating somewhere.  Now that comment is not that biting, I feel, but some of my characters do come out with very pointed remarks at time – and rightly so.  It is part of their personality to do so and the situations they face also justify pointed criticism.

So what kind of biting comments would your characters make?  What would drive them to be like that, or are they like this all the time anyway?  How do the other characters respond?  What kind of conflicts can you get out of this to drive the story along?

Have fun finding out!!

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This World and Others – Inventions

In my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post, which is Part 2 of 101 Things to Put into Room 101, I list, amongst other things, stilettos.  I describe these as one of the most stupid inventions ever.  They don’t do your feet or your spine any good and when I did wear them in my younger years, I always dreaded getting them caught in a drain cover etc.  There are lots of stupid inventions out there but this is my pet peeve.  They are stupid shoes.

In Terry Pratchett’s marvellous Discworld series, I loved his inventor, Bloody Stupid Johnson, whose ideas never seemed to quite work the way the inventor had envisaged!

So in your created world, who are your creative people, your inventors, your engineers etc?  It helps to bring a world to life if we the readers can see at least part of how your world works for those who live in it.  What are the technologies?  Are your societies developed or are people held back by the lack of progress?

Does your world have anyone whose inventions go wrong or whose ideas get pinched by someone else?  (There is a whole raft of stories there about how someone would cope with that/get their ideas back and so on).

 

READING AND WRITING PREFERENCES

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What do I like to write best – my flash fiction or non-fiction such as my Chandler’s Ford Today posts? No contest. Love them both. Wish I had more time for both. Also means I never, ever get bored.

I find it helpful to spend some time writing, say, flash fiction and then I switch over to CFT posts. It is just great to be inspired by writing something different to what I had just been working on. I have to take different approaches to what I write and going from one to the other and back again keeps me on my toes.

I am going to try this year to prepare more of my CFT posts (the non-time dependent ones) in advance as I have done this before and find it a great way to free up time overall for other writing work. Didn’t get to do much of this in 2017. I like being able to schedule posts in advance and it is a facility I could do with making more use of.

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Am having a lot of fun writing my 101 Things to be put into Room 101 mini-series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Part 1 went up on Friday and I’ve already drafted Part 2. Am not having any trouble at all coming up with things for this! Grumpy old woman, moi? Surely not!

The joy of writing non-fiction like this is I can have fun with my writing in a different way to my fiction. With that, I love inventing my characters and the situations I put them in but with articles like this, I put my imagination to work and bring facts in to back it up! Well, sometimes anyway. Features like this one are, of course, opinion pieces but it is great to have fun coming up with something you hope will entertain others as well as being able to express views.

And I still want wasps booted into Room 101!

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An interesting point came up in the comments box on my latest CFT post which referred to characters “knowing” they were about to die and later it turned out they hadn’t!

My response was that stories, of whatever length, do have to be logical and make sense. In this case, I would have written the character as genuinely believing they were about to die (and I would also have shown some of her bodily reactions to this – shaking, racing heart etc).

Equally later in the story, if the character had just been plain grateful to have been wrong about her earlier assumption, that would have modified things. But this comment reminded me my characters can only believe things. Their knowledge has to be based on what they CAN know or honestly believe to be true.

This comment also acts as a reminder when editing a story to go back and check that everything does make sense. Otherwise, you will lose your readers as they will see straight through anything illogical like this.

Let creativity spill out - image via Pixabay

Let the creative process flow! Image via Pixabay

The fantastic world of books must include non-fiction too - image via Pixabay

The wonderful world of stories. Image via Pixabay

Books illuminate and fiction is made stronger by using non-fiction to support it - image via Pixabay

Fiction is strengthened when backed by fact. Image via Pixabay

Historical records can be an invaluable source of inspiration - image via Pixabay

Historical records can be an invaluable source of inspiration. Image via Pixabay,

Good books should bring illumination to a situation, make you see things as you haven't before - image via Pixabay

Aiming for more “magic” from my stories this year! Image via Pixabay.

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What is your preferred form of reading? The paper/hardback or Kindle?

I love both but must admit the Kindle is a boon for when I’m away and has saved so much room in my suitcase! It is also nice to know I will definitely not run out of things to read. Also, I find the battery life is reasonable and I do like being able to go to weblinks etc from within an ebook.

However, you can’t beat a good browse in a bookshop and a leisurely half hour with a paperback and a cup of tea, My only complaint here? I wish I could do it more often!

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Benefits of writing flash fiction:-

1. You really do learn to write to a tight word count!

2. Your editing skills improve as you use the more powerful words to conjure up images in your reader’s minds. No room for waffle here!

3. It can act as really good practice for writing a blurb etc.

4. You focus on what is the nub of the story and get to the point quicker.

5. You can now enter all the flash fiction competitions!

 

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Am enjoying drafting some opening lines I plan to write up as flash fiction stories.

I like coming up with the bizarre, the other-worldly and the simple statement which I sometimes twist into something less simple!

For example, in from Light to Dark and Back Again in Health and Safety, the story starts with my character wondering why people are moaning. The tale then reveals the character is Goldilocks and she is sharing her version of events, but that opening line could have been ANY character in ANY setting at ANY time. It did not have to necessarily be a fairytale character.

I do like lines like that which offer so many possibilities.

I write batches of flash fiction at a time, polish them, submit them (and hopefully they then end up in a collection!).

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What is the special something about your characters that mean you absolutely HAVE to write their stories?

I often use the major trait of a character as a starting point (and find it easier to write characters whose traits I like. With the ones where I hate the traits, I have to get inside the head of the character to see how they justify their attitude. That can be disturbing at times when you realise how easily they can justify their stance!).

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Part of the role of fiction is to show up truths that can’t necessarily be proven by pure fact. Truths about the human condition, truths about what love is and so on.

Flash fiction does this too but in fewer words! I like to think of flash fiction as shining a spotlight on a theme and, of course, the shorter the piece, the greater the intensity of that spotlight!

The challenge can be where you direct that beam or sometimes even knowing where you’ve aimed it! Sometimes you write a piece and the theme can take even you by surprise.

I always write to a character. I know who my leading people are and why they are in that role. I don’t always write to a specific theme and sometimes the theme just leaps out at me AFTER I’ve drafted the story.

When I was editing From Light to Dark and Back Again, it struck me then just how many of my stories dealt with some kind of poetic justice. I never set out to write to that theme (though I guess the things you feel strongly about are bound to come out in your writing somewhere along the line!).

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What I Like in a Book Review

This applies to reviews for my From Light to Dark and Back Again as well as those I give for other books!

A good review has:-

1. No spoilers but enough information so the reader knows what they will be reading in terms of genre etc.

2. What the reviewer likes – good characterisation, twist in the tale endings etc.

3. No waffle.

4. No negativity. (The way to criticize a book is to say what you liked, what you thought didn’t work so well etc as the writer will be expecting this. Your thoughts on what didn’t work so well can be very useful to them. What you don’t write is a “hatchet job” on the book or the author).

5. A rough idea of book length and time taken to read it (though I must admit I don’t always remember this one! I DO stress when reviewing flash fiction collections the great thing about this genre is you can read it one sitting but it is also great for dipping in and out of).

6. What you would like to see from the author next time (i.e. next book in the series, continued great characterisation, less of the blood and gore, if appropriate etc).

7. Total honesty from the reviewer.

What would you add to this list?