Behind The Scenes

Image Credit:   As ever, unless stated, most of the images were from Pixabay or Pexels. A big thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Group for their images. Also thanks to Richard Hardie for supplying images related to his and Francesca Tyer’s events for World Book Day.  (And yes it has been a busy few days!).

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today x 2!

Yes, count them, not one but two CFT posts this week.

First up, the start of a new mini-series.

I’m delighted to share a new mini-series on Chandler’s Ford Today. The #ChameleonTheatreGroupChandlerFord share interviews showing what life is like behind the stage. They share some fabulous insights into directing amongst other things in Part 1 (see link).

This series will run at intervals over the next few weeks. Many thanks to The Chameleons for wonderful material and the photos, as ever.

I’m looking forward to their next production, Spring Quartet, in April.

 

I’m always interested in behind the scenes looks at life, whether it is to do with creative writing or amateur theatre. So it is a joy to share a new mini-series on Chandler’s Ford Today where The Chameleon Theatre share their insights into life behind the stage.

Why the interest on my part? Well, partly it IS because I’m nosey (!) but that’s a good thing. Why? Writers have to be interested in what makes people tick. Knowing that helps us to develop convincing motivations for our characters and make their portrayal that much more believeable.

I’m also interested in behind the scenes looks because it opens up worlds that are new to me. That’s a good thing for increasing knowledge and understanding, I think. Understanding is also crucial in creative writing. You also get to understand yourself better I think.

And now for my second CFT post this week!

Am pleased to share a bonus CFT post this week. Every so often CFT has Local Author News slots. The last one was for me when I appeared on #WendyHJones‘s excellent podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show talking about all things related to flash fiction.

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-writing-and-marketing-show/e/67280384

Up tonight is a piece with news from local YA author, #RichardHardie, and debut Authors Reach novelist #FrancescaTyer. They share news of their World Book Day eventsrecently. Francesca’s debut novel The Firestone was recently published.

Hope you enjoy. (Oh and remember the best things you can do to support local authors you know are to go to their events where possible and review their books in the usual places).

(My normal CFT post link will be up tomorrow where I start the first of a mini series from #ChameleonTheatreCompany-Chandler’s Ford. They share insights from life behind the stage. More tomorrow).

 

My CFT post this week is Part 1 of a mini series which will be spread out over a few weeks. As you know, I often review plays put on by our excellent local amateur theatre company, Chameleon Theatre Company.

They have recently been putting together some mini interviews which give a fascinating insight into life behind the stage. With their blessing (obviously!), I have compiled some of these interviews and Part 1 will be up on Friday.

Many thanks to the Chameleons for their wonderful material and photos and I look forward to sharing this post and the others to come.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What fascinates you most about a character?

For me, it has to be their motivation. I’ve got to know why my character thinks it is okay to act the way they are, especially when they’re the villain! It doesn’t mean I have to agree with them though…

The LEAST important thing for me is knowing what they look like, funnily enough. I find once I can hear their voice and know their motivations, physical appearance comes to me then. Mind, I’m not motivated by physical appearance myself. After all the best con men often wear a suit!

I love stories and books that “just” entertain. Yes, sure, I like those that give good messages too but there is a lot to be said for sheer escapism value, especially when life is more challenging than usual.

Let’s just say I probably won’t be reading much in the way of dystopian stories for a while. (It is definitely not a good sign when you can get your requirements there by tuning into the news…).😕

So how to go about being “just” entertaining? As ever, for me, it is all in the characters. I do enjoy setting up a character knowing I’m going to be throwing all manner of things at them to knock them right back down again (and ideally to make me and potential readers laugh). Okay, okay, nobody said a writer had to be nice to their characters. Indeed, it is better when we’re not as any crime or horror writer would also tell you!

I love those characters who deserve being knocked back a bit too. You know the kind of pompous character who needs bringing down a peg or several. The ultimate fall guy in many ways! (Well, they are for me).

For humorous prose especially I do need to get a sense that the writer enjoyed creating their characters. I believe something of that fun does come through in the writing.

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How difficult do you find coming up with a suitable title for your story?

I know I need a “peg” from which to hang my story so I always have a working title. Most of them don’t change and suit my purposes just fine. Sometimes though a better title idea will occur as I draft my tale and that’s fine too. I just swap to the better idea.

I’ve mentioned using phrases and proverbs before and I often use them as themes, but don’t overlook them for use as potential titles. I’ve used a few that way.

You can also see them as a way to get started on a story if, like me, you need some kind of peg to help you get on your way with a draft. I think I have a bit of a mental block over any story that doesn’t have a title to it! There’s some unconscious thought at play here which associates no title with no story. I can’t be having with that so I put in a title to get me started. Nothing is set in stone after all but that is a great thing about a draft. You know it’s not going to be the final version. I’ve found it helpful to take that attitude with titles too.

Fairytales With Bite – Wishes

One of my favourite things about fairytales is when wishes are granted. The greedy never get away with theirs precisely because they always ask for the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

I love that aspect of things. I was very conscious even as a kid there was so much unfairness and cruelty in the world. The idea of a fairy godmother turning up to put things right for their ill-treated goddaughter always appealed (though I still wonder why Cinderella’s one turned up so late in the day. Come on, she could’ve helped Cinders a lot sooner. There is only so much domestic drudgery that could be claimed to be good for the soul and Cinders had gone well past that point when her fairy godmother deigned to make an appearance).

So in the grand scheme of things, what would your characters wish for and why? You are their fairy godmother as you bring them to life on the page. So what attributes would you grace them with and why? What would your characters strive for and why?

Do you think your characters are worthy of achieving their objectives? They don’t have to be. Villains are never worthy but should have understandable reasons for being what they are. What do you want your characters to be and why?

If your characters are allowed wishes, how will these turn the story and in what direction? Wishes being granted but proving to not be all that the character wanted could make a good story too.

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This World and Others – World Essentials

For me, what I want to see in a created fictional world would be:-

1. A system of government (even if it is not the point of the story. There should be some sort of reference. For one thing, a reader would want to know if the main character was one of the governing or one of the governed).

2. What characters eat and drink and how those things are produced. A line or two is usually enough to convey that. When a character is on a journey, what food do they take with them? Where did they get it?

3. A sense of where the world is going. In The Lord of the Rings there is no doubt the world there is in turmoil and every part of that world is affected by it.

4. What your characters make of the world they’re in. They don’t have to like it!

5. How is transport organised? Does everyone have access to the same kind of transport? Is there a “them and us” situation here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interviews and Characters

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

For my CFT post this week, I look at why writer interviews are so useful. I also share news of an interview I’ve taken part in, more details on that next week, and share memories of an interview that went wrong and another that involved an Emu! Anyone growing up in 1970s Britain will remember the latter!

I look at what I think makes for a good interview too and share my thoughts on interview etiquette. I also share a little of how I go about interviewing authors for Chandler’s Ford Today (and I hope there will be many more of those later this year).

I discuss the art of interviews as part of my Interviews post on Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Good preparation for an interview is important for both parties to it, of course. But it is just as important for writers, as well as interviewers and interviewees, to think of good questions. (In the latter’s case, anticipating questions that are likely to come up gives you time to prepare your answers).

For fiction writers, you may well want to interview your characters to find out more about them and what makes them tick before you write their stories. (I do this as part of my outlining process. I have to ask what the character thinks makes them tick. They don’t have to be right! Other characters may have completely different ideas as to how Character A really ticks!).

For non-fiction writers, it’s a question of working out what research you need to do for your project and there you ask yourself what you think you need to know. As you start working on your project, other questions will inevitably crop up but, having already decided where and how you will research and found answers to those initial questions, you will know where to look to deal with the other ones as they come up!

I often find this to be the case for my CFT posts. I know a thread I need to look into initially to help me write on my topic. Inevitably there will be threads from those initial ones I need to check out to see if they are relevant to what I want to write about. Sometimes they are. Not always. It is important not to be sidetracked but this is where asking yourself what you really need to know first can help. It helps to keep you focussed.

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How well do you know your characters before you start writing your stories?

Particularly for flash fiction, I outline what I need to know about my character before I work out what their story is.

A character who is a loud mouth is going to need a tale that will show this trait in action and the resultant consequences. This could easily be a funny story or a tragic one.

A quiet mouse of a character is going to need a tale that will either show when that trait saves the day or they get so fed up of being treated as a doormat, they rebel. Then you can go into the consequences…

I’m a great believer in getting the character right. Then it is a question of deciding what kind of story they WOULD naturally be at home in and whether that shows them at their best or their worst. Either can be a great deal of fun!

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My CFT post this week will be about interviews and what I think constitutes a good one. It’s a timely post for me as you’ll see when I put the link up on Friday! (I also hope to be sharing more interviews later in the year on CFT too).

Moving on, let’s think of a wish list for writers. My top three wishes would be:-

1. Time expands so you can do all the writing you want and the boring things of life (e.g. housework) somehow magically go away. I do see that as one wish, so there!

2. There are never any tech issues. Computer batteries won’t go too flat. You’ll never get a power cut at any awkward moment (if only!). You’ll always be able to connect to the net. I’m sure you can think of loads to add to that one!

3. Never running out of ideas and enthuasism for writing (again I see that as one wish on the grounds the first bit is no good whatsoever without the second part as well).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I see a novel as akin to seeing a beautiful tapestry on a wall. You step back and literally see the whole thing. You are rightly taken in by its scale and how much it covers. There are so many wonderful threads to follow and your breath is taken away wondering at the mastery in putting such a thing together. You are immersed in the whole world portrayed.

A novella is like seeing one half of the tapestry, complete in and of itself, with plenty of stunning details to take in but simply not as much as the full novel, which is fair enough. But there is more than enough to capture your interest, plenty of threads to follow, again just not so many as the novel, but exactly the right amount for what you want to take in and enjoy. (I’m very pleased to see the form is back. Why? Well, people have all kinds of tastes in reading, not just in genre, but in length of story that they want too. There is plenty of scope for the novella).

A short story is like seeing one quarter of the tapestry. There is still plenty of detail. There are interesting threads to follow but obviously not so many as for a novella or a novel. You are taking in a world in minature and that’s fine. Maybe you want to enjoy some of these before taking in the whole of the tapestry again. (I often read flash fiction and/or short story collections in between reading novels).

Flash fiction is like focusing on one section of that quarter of the tapestry. You can’t see the whole picture. You are literally too close to it. Everything else around that section is blocked from your view. What you DO do is find those wonderful moments of sheer detail that those looking for the bigger picture will overlook as they have so much to take in and follow. They are standing too far back to spot what you are looking at. You are focusing on the ONE most important thing and can tease out every vital detail from that. You will pick up on things missed by the longer forms of creative writing.

And I love them all! (Whatever your preference is here enjoy! Writing and reading are two of the most wonderful things in life).

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Story time again. Hope you enjoy.

Putting My Face On

If I can fake this, I’ve got it made.

I’ve only got to go and meet John at 3. I don’t want to go but it will be the acid test. If I can keep my act together when I meet him, I can keep it together for anyone. Anyone, I tell you.

So if a bit of lippy and rouge are what I need to cover how I feel, so be it.

Well, I say I’ll meet him. It’s really a question of seeing him.

John’s in the Chapel of Rest at the local undertakers.

I put him there.

ENDS

Allison Symes – 6th February 2020

Now this is one of those tales where I knew my lead wasn’t looking forward to meeting John but I then had to work out why. So I did! Could’ve taken this in all sorts of directions but that is the joy of flash. It is open to genre and I fancied this one being a crime tale.

The irony is I can change the mood of the story completely by adding a few words to the ending.

If I added “I put him there – and so wished I hadn’t” – the mood of the story completely changes. Yes, there could still be a crime element but tragedy becomes the lead genre here instead.

So have fun with your flash fiction. Think about what impact you want your character and story to have on a reader.

 

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The story I shared yesterday, Putting My Face On, was something I came up with while out on a walk with my dog, Lady. I mentioned yesterday I could’ve changed the mood of the story by adding a few words. That is one of the arts of flash fiction if you like. You can change mood with a judiciously placed word here and there. The fun bit for you as the writer is working out what mood it is you want to go with!

The story on the book trailer for FLTDBA is one of my favourites. Part of the reason for that is the whole mood of the story turns on the very last word of Calling The Doctor. Do check the trailer out and you’ll see what I mean.

One thing I make sure of is that whenever the twist of moods comes in the story, it IS something that could reasonably be expected from the rest of the tale based on the information given.

Calling The Doctor does this because the conversational style of my narrator here is (a) consistent and (b) ties in with the mental image you will form of the character especially their age and such a conversational style would be appropriate for them and their age. The story leads up to … but that would be telling now, wouldn’t it! But the denouement is appropriate given the facts already stated by my narrator.

And very conveniently here is the book trailer with Calling the Doctor for you to check out!

Fairytales with Bite – Favourite Character Types

We all have our favourite kinds of characters, the ones we instantly gel with when we come across them on the page/on audio/on video etc. Some of mine include:-

  1.  The underdog. I always look out for the character who is bullied, despised, overlooked etc. I am never surprised when this character beats all the odds and has transformed their life by the end of the story. I adore stories like that.
  2. The fairy godmother. I love these. They are the agents through which cruelty and neglect will be put right. (Think Cinderella especially). Sadly we only know cruelty and neglect are so often not put right and even as a kid I remember being aware of that. Fairytales are comforting in that in those you know things will be rectified. I think we all need that comfort sometimes.
  3. The one who sees the error of their ways. Firstly, they too can be used to transform the story. Secondly, I like anyone who can see the error of their ways in life as well as in fiction! I am also very fond of redemption stories. I like to see characters being redeemed (it gives hope for us all!) but it has to be done in a way that makes sense. This is why I think gradual realisation of said errors is far more realistic.

Whatever your favourite kinds of characters, happy reading!

This World and Others – 

What I Like to See in Created Worlds

  1. I like to get a picture of the overall world. This is partly because I’m nosey (!) and partly because I like to be convinced the writer really has thought it through.
  2. I like to see a system of government, even if it is a basic one. A world does have to have someone leading it after all. (Best one here: Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Lord Vetinari from the Discworld series).
  3. I like to know how people live. I love the Middle Earth/Shire scenes in The Lord of the Rings. Okay, I could probably make myself very cosy and comfortable living in a hobbit hole as I’m not tall (that’s my example of understatement for this week!). More importantly, again it convinces me the author has thought this through and recognised different species will have different kinds of home and so on.
  4. A sense of how the different species get on, assuming they do. Where there are conflicts, and I would expect some, I want to see how these originated. Both sides in the conflict should have good reasons for holding the views they do, even if they are only good to them and their people. It should be something a reader can understand.