Lockdown Effects on Writing

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay or Pexels are the sources of the images unless otherwise stated.

RADIO NEWS – CHAT AND SPIN RADIO

photo of a copper audio mixer

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RADIO NEWS:

I’m thrilled to say I was on Chat and Spin Radio on Tuesday, 19th May at about 9.35 pm (UK time) talking about my great writing love – flash fiction – and From Light to Dark and Back Again. See www.chatandspinradio.com

AND if you like their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/chatandspin, you’re in with a chance of winning a £20 shopping voucher too.

I’ll be talking more about this later in the week, especially when I have a link to share! (See below)

Now for actors you say “break a leg” as a kind of good luck thing (though I know it sounds anything but!). What do you say for this? Don’t lose your voice, I guess!😀

 

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RADIO INTERVIEW LINK

A big thank you, everyone, for your support following  my interview on Chat and Spin Radio. It was good fun to do and I’m now thrilled to be able to share the link.

I appear at the 27 minute in stage. Appropriately for a flash fiction writer, I’m brief (!) but it was a fun experience to take part in and I hope to do it again at some point.

Hope you enjoy. Also see their website.

The first link given above takes you to their Facebook Groups page. The second one takes you to where the show starts playing. And if you’re a fan of 1980s music, you are in for a treat there too.  My favourite genre is classical  but I have fond memories of 1980s pop and what I heard as I was waiting to go on the show brought back good recollections!

It was also great to put in a good plug for Cafelit as well! I also got to talk about how I got into flash fiction writing in the first place.

 

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And now on to other things!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week, Lockdown Effects on Writing, is one of the few things I’ll write about coronavirus. I look at how the lockdown has affected my reading and writing. I also talk about the first video I’ve made for the Waterloo Arts Festival, given that has had to go online only this year.

The upside to all of this is having to learn new things and develop other ways of reaching out to people.

The great thing is that, regardless of format, books and stories remain wonderful entertainment, whether you write them, read them or, ideally, do both.

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I’ve deliberately chosen not to write much about the coronavirus so my CFT post this week and one other item will be about the sum of it for me.

There are various reasons for this, not least of which is that when life gets grim, I automatically turn to the lighter side of things. I feel the need for balance. I can see me “using” coronavirus in future stories but mainly as a way of giving a period setting! There will be excellent stories and articles directly about the virus but it just isn’t me to specifically write about it.

And I’ll always wave the flag for books and stories that “only” strive to entertain. These things may be easy to read but I can tell you their authors would have worked phenomenally hard to get to that point. I learned a long time ago if someone makes something look easy, they worked hard for years to get to that!

Mind you, the Feature Image I’ve used for CFT this week is probably my favourite Covid-19 related photo (and as ever is from Pixabay).

Feature Image - Lockdown Effects on Writing

What a week it has been! A lot of learning, a new writing experience (radio interview), and a flash piece submitted (tonight).

My CFT piece this week will be Lockdown Effects on Writing and I also talk a bit about my video production and why it was done too. Link up on Friday.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It has been quite a week what with my first radio appearance and in my CFT post tonight I also talk about why I made my first video recently. Both of these are waving the flag for flash fiction as well as for FLTDBA specifically. Plus I’ve learned so much about Zoom and Skype recently.

I’ll also have publication news next week so look forward to sharing that and I’m working on my Edit 2 of what will be my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, as well. Glad to say that’s going well though it is lovely to be at the “almost there” stage.

Plans for the weekend are to continue the editing and I hope to batch write some 100-worders. I find it useful to do that as I can then choose where and when to send them over a month or so. It’s always good to know you’ve got something to send out when you want too!

Happy reading and writing!

Pleased to have sent off another 100 worder tonight. I often batch write these and hope to have another good writing session on this over the weekend. (Is it just me or will it simply not feel like a bank holiday again?).

I often use first person for my drabbles as it gives a sense of immediacy and that is so useful for the shorter flashes.

 

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Fairytales with Bite – Characters With Bite!

My favourite types of character are those with bite (and I’m not a vampire fan either!). So what does with bite mean here?

I adore characters who:-

1. Say what they mean and follow up on what they say they will do (equally applies to villains!).

2. Are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in (and can apply to villains too!).

3. Have good, understandable reasons for their actions, even if you don’t agree with them.

4. Are memorable. Some will have distinctive phrases but for me the most memorable ones are the ones with attitudes I remember and agree with or loathe. Whatever way it is, they stick in the mind, which is precisely what you want your characters to achieve.

5. I love characters with a sense of humour (and even more so if they can laugh at themselves).

6. I adore characters with courage. (Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee and a host of others).

7. I love characters who fight for their own happy ever after, even if they fail. I loathe wishy-washy characters. I’ve got to feel the character has done something and that the story would be incomplete without them. If I feel why is this character in here then there’s something amiss.

What would you list as the attributes your characters must have? And how do you go about showing those in your stories?

By far the best method is to get your character demonstrating cowardice or courage or whatever the attribute is and then readers will pick up on that without you needing to spell it out.  What can be both funny and tragic is when a character thinks they’re brave but their actions show otherwise so do bear that in mind as a possibility as well. Actions speak louder for characters as well as for “real people”!

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This World and Others – What Books Mean To Me

What do books mean to your characters? Is their world a literate one or is the oral storytelling tradition the strongest influence? Are stories welcomed or do your characters have to stick strictly to the facts and imagination is discouraged, punished even?

Can your characters read any books they like or do they have to stick to an official list? Is there a secret underground world of books where banned items can be read?

Do your characters treasure books themselves or do they leave that to others? If so, why?

Attitudes to books and stories can reveal so much about characters and their world settings. There are stories to be written here – lots of them ideally!

 

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May Memories

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay and Pexels supplied the images unless stated otherwise. I am glad to say I’ve contributed some pictures to the CFT post this week!

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

May is one of my favourite months of the year for many reasons. My CFT post, May Memories, takes a look at that and I also share memories of my grandmother who was also called May. I also share what is likely to remain the strangest deep memory recall I’ve had.

I give a round-up of my writing news as well this month and take great pleasure in sharing some gorgeous pics from Pixabay celebrating May (photos of roses always do that for me!). Some of the photos are from my garden too.

Hope you enjoy.

 

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I always enjoy writing my CFT posts but May Memories this week is one with personal recollections in it. I have very fond memories of my grandmother May and I’ve always liked it as both a name and a month. I also liked the old TV comedy series From May to December starring Anton Rodgers. Anyone remember that?

TV funnily enough has not yet sparked a story idea off in me. I tend to get my ideas from writing exercise prompts, proverbs (which give me a theme and often a title), thoughts about characters I could give a life to and so on and what would I do with them if I did write them up etc.

 

I’ll be sharing May Memories in my CFT post this week. It is one of my favourite months of the year for many reasons. (THE favourite is March, my birthday month so there!)😀

I share some personal recollections, a spooky (to me at least) deep memory recall experience – both of which are connected with my grandmother May – and a round up of my writing news for the month. We’re just coming up to the halfway point and it has been quite a busy month already!

But that is an encouragement to (a) keep going and (b) see what else I can get out there/get published etc. I’ve found that whenever I have anything published, it spurs me on to see what else I can do. When I have things rejected (or just not placed in a competition), that spurs me on to look at the story again and see what I can do to improve its chances when I sent it out into the big, bad world again. As I do.

Link up for CFT tomorrow.

PS As you will no doubt tell from the picture below, I can’t wait until I can get to the hairdressers again!

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Yesterday, I got to make my first video. It’s in connection with the Waterloo Arts Festival and I hope to be able to share it (or the link) later on after the Zoom WAF this year.

It was good fun to do and got me out of my comfort zone for a bit. Later, I also hope to put this up on my website and maybe do a couple of others where I narrate some of my flash fiction. Flash is great for this kind of thing. Doesn’t take long. Makes for good download times too!

I prepared notes. There was no way I could do something like this off the top of my head. Even if I could, I don’t think it would be a good idea anyway. I’ve long found preparation is key for so much in writing, even if you don’t always use all of the material you’ve drafted. (Some of it may come in handy as website material later).

Now on to my CFT post and this week I’ll be sharing some May Memories including writing news from me. Link up on Friday.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring writing wise!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction is a great vehicle for reading out loud precisely because it cannot take too long to do! Having made a video for the Waterloo Arts Festival event, I hope at some point to do more to put on my website as it occurred to me this would be another way of sharing stories online.

And I must admit I still love being read TO in the form of audio books. Much as I love reading to myself, there is something special about someone else telling you a story. So if you’re wondering what to read next, maybe it should be a case of what you’re going to listen to next?

Oh and a big thanks to Ana Coelho for the pic of me reading from my The Professional at last year’s Waterloo Arts Festival. (And also to Paula Readman for the Cafelit 8/Nativity shot, which is one of my favourite photos. Hey, I’m not going to pretend to be unbiased here!).

 

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Does classical music influence what I write at all?

No! What it does do is relax me and when I’m relaxed, I’m more productive so win-win here.

I have found in the past other types of music can alter my mood and therefore what I write and that can be used knowingly and deliberately but you do have to be aware of it happening. I once tried to write a murder scene in a longer short story when a cute love song came on. Threw me completely!

So classical it is and will remain!

 

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I chose Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens as the music for the FLTDBA book trailer. I’ve always loved the piece (I got to know it through the Jonathan Creek detective series which used it as the theme) and I wanted quirky music to go with my quirky fiction!

The music also reflected the theme of From Light to Dark and Back Again pretty well too. The lovely thing is I am a great fan of classical music and I’m sure I can think of something suitable for Tripping the Flash Fantastic in due course. It’s not as if I’m going to run out of composers or anything…!

 

Fairytales with Bite – Three Words

For fiction writing, you could look at catchphrases for your characters.

Catchphrases have to be memorable to work, also you need not to get tired of them (and that’s even more true for your reader!), and so are best kept short to help achieve those points. I would opt for a three-worder here.

If your characters were limited to three words as their pet phrase, what would they be and why? (I suspect the most famous one here would be I’ll Be Back from The Terminator). But what would you choose for your creations?

Would your pet phrase match your character? That is, if they’re a feisty character, would their phrase reflect that? Or would they downplay that side of things a bit (especially if they wanted to put off an enemy)? Would they be sarcastic or would their phrase be a cover for what they are really like?

Food for thought, I hope. The important point is to know who your characters are, how they would speak and sound (to a reader) and, if a catchphrase would be appropriate for your characters, to choose one that fits them well.

 

This World and Others –

Questions to Ask your Characters

This is by no means a definitive list. I’m sure you’ll think of other questions to ask!

One great thing about this topic is that it is a timeless one! (Bear in mind also if you’re writing non-fiction, if you are using a narrative voice, you can treat that voice as a character, so some of these questions at least may also be worth trying).

So what to ask then as part of your outline?

What do you really want and why?

What stops you getting what you really want?

Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?

How are you going to achieve your objectives?

Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?

Are you making your life unnecessarily complicated? (Worth asking this one – any complications getting in the way of your character achieving what they want should be those that arise naturally out of the plot. There should be nothing that seems “faked” to increase the tension in the story. The tension should be genuine, the obstacles real and so on. For a non-fictional narrator, a good question to ask instead of this one is are you communicating as clearly as possible (i.e. go for clarity, not gobbledegook, don’t make your narration unnecessarily complicated? Are you conveying the facts reasonably? Are you backing the facts up with evidence? What are your sources?).

What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?

What if you’re wrong? (How would your character handle that? That could make for a really interesting story).

Are there limits you won’t cross (and if so what are these? What is your thinking behind this?).

Are there rules you are prepared to break? What would the consequences be? How are you going to limit your risk (or are you not worried about that? Some characters aren’t!).

Does fear of or respect for others hold you back from achieving your objectives? How do you feel about this?

What are you like under pressure?
Now if answering those questions doesn’t generate story ideas, I’d be very surprised!

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Zooming Around and Cyberlaunch Tips

Image Credit:  Pixabay and Pexels as usual, unless otherwise stated. Many thanks.

Special Note:  Today, 8th May 2020 is the 75th anniversary of VE Day. My parents and grandparents, who lived through this, are sadly gone, but to all who gave up so much so that we could live, thank you. You are not forgotten. Nor should you ever be.

My parents were evacuated, my father more than once as many East End families came back to London before having to leave again due to the doodlebugs.

My grandparents? One served in the Forces before being invalided out and then working as an ARP warden. He saw things as an ARP warden nobody should have to see. My maternal grandfather was in a reserved occupation – he worked in munitions and was often bombed out.

There is much to be thankful for despite our current difficulties.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I hope this week’s CFT post, Zooming Around and Cyberlaunch Tips, proves particularly useful. I share my thoughts about Zoom. I go on to share hints and thoughts about having a cyberlaunch. I discuss what I found useful when I had mine for From Light to Dark and Back Again and what I learned from this.

Naturally in the fullness of time I’m looking forward to having another one for Tripping the Flash Fantastic!

What I do know though is preparation is key! And a cyberlaunch should be fun for you as author/host. That fun will be picked up on by those attending your launch.

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I hope the tips on cyberlaunches in my latest CFT post, Zooming Around and Cyberlaunch Tips, prove useful. The good thing about holding events like these is you will always learn something from them in what worked well, what you could have done better and so on. Those you take with you to your next event!

Going to other cyberlaunches, as well as being great fun and supportive of other writers, also provides good opportunities to learn.

I held a raffle when I had mine for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I used a random number generator and allocated a number to every visitor. When it came to doing the draw for a prize, I simply put in the range of numbers from smallest to largest and picked out the winners that way.

That wonderful tip was something I picked up from a cyberlaunch I went to (and I’m sorry I have forgotten whose that was but I will say a big thank you now as it did prove useful and I am sure it will again!).

Facebook – General – and Publication News

Good support at 8 pm for the Clap for Carers though Lady decided not to use her vocal talents this week. I’m sure she’ll make up for it another time…

Am absolutely thrilled to say I am one of the winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival’s Writing Competition. Many congratulations to all of the other winners who are:-

Mehreen Ahmed: Dolly
Gail Aldwin: The Price of Firewood
Christopher Bowles: Chroma
Maxin Churchman: Pulling Together
Jeanne Davies: Utopian Dream
Jo Dearden: A Small Clay Vase
Linda Flynn: Fishing in Troubled Waters
Anne Forrest: Number Twenty-seven
Dawn Knox: Rising from the Ashes
Roz Lyn: Circle Time
Paula R C Readman: Cobalt Blues
Hannah Retallick: Bookclub for the Elderly
Theresa Sainsbury: Transforming Teenagers
Allison Symes: Books and Barbarians

I will miss enormously NOT going up to London for the Festival, meeting up with my fellow writers for a very convivial pub lunch etc, but there will be online events so I will look forward to those.

What with the news of two of my stories being in Cafelit 9 later this year, it has been quite a week! This is the lovely side of writing of course. What doesn’t get seen is the work that goes into those stories over weeks, writing them, honing them, sending them off, and then waiting to hear.

This is why I like to have something I’m about to send off, another competition in mind to have a go at, and something I’m resting ready for editing after a suitable time break away from it. Over the course of a year, it means I’ve submitted a number of stories. Some will be accepted, some won’t but even there I can revisit the tales and try them out again with another market/competiton. I’ve had work published doing that.

Now on to the next story, which is almost ready for submitting!

 

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Another reason for outlining my characters is I want to be able to see the world through their eyes and until I know certain things about them I can’t do that. What their attitudes are is, to me, far more important than knowing what they look like.

I know some writers need to know the physical appearance of their characters first and then work out what else they need to know from there.

But what matters here is finding the starting point that works for you, whichever way around it happens to be!

It took me a while to work out which way WAS the best route for me to take. But all that practice in writing early on, though the results were never published, has paid off now. I know what works for me and I go with that.

Where variety comes in is how I approach writing the story. Sometimes I start with the end line and work backwards. Sometimes I use the more conventional start to end approach.

Practically always, I find I need to change the beginning of a story. It is usually only once I’ve got the first draft down I can figure out the best start is at, say, paragraph three, and the opening two are either not needed at all or I can salvage useful bits of information and drip feed them into the tale later. I know I often have to work my way into the “real” story and that’s fine. The dressing to help me do that never stays in the final tale you hopefully get to see!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Another way to mix up how you approach writing flash fiction is to take a closing line from a story of yours and then use it as the opening or a title to a completely new story. I’ve not done this YET but I have in my draft third book used the same characters in more than one story AND have someone else refer to them in yet another tale.

A little while ago I had a series of linked flashes on Cafelit which was prompted by an exercise in the Prompts book by Gill James and that was good fun to do. See link!

As you know, I like to mix up the mood of the stories I write plus I like to write in different genres too. My overall favourite will always, I think, be what I call my fairytales with bite (aimed at an older audience, usually with humour and/or with a twist). But I have enjoyed writing historical flash fiction and hope to do more of this too.

Prompts 2020

Image by Gill James

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again –

and Publication News! (Yes, it’s been a good week!)

It will be lovely having another story in the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition ebook anthology during the summer. It will be the third year in a row I will have had a story in there. This year’s theme was Transforming Communities and my story is called Books and Barbarians. I’ll leave you to wonder about that one for the time being!

Every writer had to write to a 1000 word count maximum and all on the same theme. The other ebooks from the Waterloo Arts Festival (publisher: Bridge House Publishing) are a fantastic mix of styles and moods.  Here is the link to Transforming Being. The first in the series was called To Be…To Become.

The books prove, to me at least, that each writer has their own voice and, as a result, we really are not in competition with each other. Do check the books out. Available you know where….

 

What do characters in a flash fiction story need to have? For me this would include:-

1. A strong voice. They have to be distinctive and intrigue a reader enough to want to follow their story.

2. An intriguing personality (though it doesn’t necessarily have to be a nice one!).

I also need to feel at the end of the story that no other character could have/should have been the lead.

When writing the story, I want to be fascinated enough by the character to WANT to write about them. I usually know fairly quickly when outlining thoughts for a story/character that yes, this is going to work because…

I sometimes know that the character will work if I beef them up a bit here and here… (and that’s nearly always a sign I needed to do a bit more outlining at the beginning to get the character right but that can be and is fixed).

And talking of which, I have a character in a draft story that definitely needs my attention!

Happy writing!

 

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Fairytales with Bite – What is Your Favourite Fairytale?

I would list my favourite fairytales as:-

Cinderella

Snow White

The Little Mermaid

The Ugly Duckling

Puss In Boots

Toy Story series!

Shrek series

Be fair, I didn’t say they had to be just books now!

Common themes here:-

  1.  Wrong being righted.
  2.  Not judging by appearances.
  3.  Animals being smarter than humans – okay just the cat in this instance but be fair, what a cat!
  4.  Evil being thwarted.

All great individual themes for stories of your own there! And yes, you can still write fairytales with animals in them. It never did Roald Dahl any harm!

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This World and Others – Interaction

When you set up your created world, are you getting it to engage with other worlds or is it just one universe you are concerned with? The advantage of having at least one other world in your set up is the possibility of conflict between World A and World B, which can lead to some great stories. The disadvantage is you have at least two worlds to think about and plan for fully before you start writing.

Having said that, bear in mind, as with The Lord of The Rings, you can have one complete world and within it varying countries/regions. Here you will need to give careful thought to what these have in common and what the differences are. Who lives where and why? Do they get on with the other regions and if not, why not? How are they governed? Do different governing styles lead to conflict and what are the results?

Also think of interaction at a local level. Local officials can often have more sway over people’s lives because they are dealing with said local officials all the time. The people may never  have dealings with the overall government so what are the local officials like? What actions of officials might lead people to rebel? Again, think consequences and happy writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Writing Does For You

Image Credit:  As ever, the images are from Pixabay or Pexels, unless stated.  A big thank you also to The Chameleon Theatre Group for their pictures in the Chandler’s Ford Today post.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m delighted to share Part 3 of the mini-series from The Chameleon Theatre Group’s look at life off the stage.

This week they share what their favourite performances have been. I would be hard pressed to name my favourite show from them. I’ve relished their classic drama and some wonderful comedy and hope it is not too long before they are able to be back on stage again.

Good writing, for me, is all about character portrayal convincing the audience (a reader) but it is also true for acting. Actors have to convince those watching them and a good show always leaves you with that feeling you have left the real world to enter another one for a short while.

A good show can leave you feeling a bit disorientated when you have to come back to the real world again, as indeed finishing a good book can do. And I am pleased to say every Chameleons show I’ve been to has left me with that feeling of total immersion in the world they’re showing me on the stage, which is a very good thing indeed.

It really is all about the characters and how they are put across, whether you are writing them or acting them!

Captions over on the CFT post.

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Another good show of support at 8 – well done all. Tonight, Lady decided to join in. Okay she can’t clap but she can bark so that counts! Now back on the sofa, dozing, duty done!

I’ll be sharing the latest in the Chameleons mini-series on CFT tomorrow. This time they’ll be sharing some of their favourite productions. I’ve been to a number of their shows now and I would be hard pressed to name a favourite though Blackadder was outstanding, as was All My Sons. Very different moods too

!What do I look for in a good show? There is a lot in common here with what I look for in a good book. I want great writing, moments that move me whether to laugh or cry etc and to be totally convinced by the characters (as written or as performed in the case of a show).

How does a character convince me enough to believe in their portrayal? For me, a series of different things need to add up. The main one is I need to know what their main trait is and how that manifests itself. It isn’t always directly either. Characters can fool themselves as to what their main trait is – it is how the great hypocrites of literature work after all. They never see their own hypocrisy!

I also need to see how characters react when things go wrong. Their reaction should be true to that major trait.

For example, take The Ladykillers (brilliant film and stageshow – The Chameleons performed it a while back but alas I didn’t get to see their version).

We know from the outset that the Professor is a master planner. As the story develops we see how that plays out but we also see how he unravels as things go wrong. That makes sense. Someone of that kind of nature would be thrown when their very clever plan is wrecked by something they didn’t anticipate. Couldn’t anticipate even.

Do check The Ladykillers out if you don’t know it. It’s a fab story and you’ll see what I mean about the Professor!

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Facebook – General – and

Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers –What Writing Does For You

It’s my turn on More Than Writers, the blog spot of the Association of Christian Writers. My topic this time is What Writing Does For You.

I also ask how we can make the most of writing and how to ensure we keep on enjoying it. Enjoyment of writing is vital. It is that spark which keeps you going no matter how many rejections etc that come your way. I share a few tips too.

Hope you enjoy.

 

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Following on from yesterday’s post about the random generator (see below!), one of the questions from that would also be useful for setting up clashes between characters.

What is the meaning of life will have different meanings and nuances for different characters.

If Character A thinks the meaning of life is to be found in nature but Character B thinks it is all about development (both as an individual and as a society), there will end up being conflict. The latter is far more likely to consider development worth it regardless of the cost. Character A is unlikely to agree! And off you go with your story!

Also consider whether your particular clash could be used for comedy or tragedy. Some themes are useful for either so exploit that. There’s nothing to stop you taking a theme and using it in two different directions for two different stories after all.

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I had a quick look at the random question generator tonight for ideas on developing story ideas.

For example what emerged tonight included:-

1. What is the meaning of life?
2. Name three beautiful things in nature.
3. What is the biggest personal change you’ve made?

Firstly, you could use 1 for a character who is trying to find out the answer to this! I could see both funny and adventure stories emerging from how your character DOES try to find out an answer to this. Also do they succeed and how do they define success here? Is their meaning to life different from everyone else’s around them and if so how and why? What are the consequences? Definitely stories to be had there!

You can also use this question to work out what drives your character the most and again stories can come from finding that out especially if their driving ambition is at odds with those around them.

Secondly, you could use 2 to find out what your character thinks here. Can they easily come up with answers here or do they despise nature? What would they do to defend what they really like in the natural world? There are definitely stories to be told there!

Thirdly, you can obviously apply 3 directly to a character. What made them make their biggest personal change? Why couldn’t they have stayed as they were? Again there would be good stories to come from that.

Good luck and happy writing!

 

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As well as interviewing your characters prior to writing their story, a writer can always ask questions of their “stars” as they get the first draft down. It’s useful to check every so often that your characters are “up to the job” of being in your story.

Putting your characters through the emotional wringer is a lot of fun (for the writer naturally) but it is a good way of finding out what it is your people are capable of and whether they can surprise you.

If you envisaged Character A as being timid, quiet, unassuming etc., what would a dramatic event do to them? Would it change their personality for good and if so, how? Would having to say, come to the rescue of someone else, bring them out of their shell?

All worth thinking about. The point of change is not just about the dramatic events in the story. It is about the point of change in the characters too.

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Fairytales with Bite – When The Magic Wears Off

There are times I wonder what happens when the magic wears off in a classic fairytale. Does Cinderella become fed up with her Prince Charming or he with her come to that? There are stories to be written there of course (and a fair few humorous ones at that!) but while magic is an important part of a fairytale, it is not the only one.

You still have to like the characters enough to root for them. You still have to think that, once the fairy godmother has packed up her wand and gone home for the weekend, the characters can get on with their happily ever after without her. They have to be strong enough characters in their own right to do that. No amount of magic wand usage in a story is going to save a weak character (in terms of how they appeal to a reader).

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This World and Others –

What Do You Need to Know About Your Created World Before You Write It?

Even for a piece of flash fiction or a short story set in another world, you ought to work out what you need to know before writing your story. It will affect how you write the tale for one thing (in terms of approach as well as what you put in the story).

If, say, your created world doesn’t have oxygen, your character is going to have to be breathing something else (!) – so what is this and how do they manage it? For example if your world is an underwater one, do all of your characters have gills? (They don’t necessarily need to be fish).

If it is a magical world, is your character able to perform magic or is he/she/it part of a lowly underclass forbidden from using it? (There could be some interesting stories there).

If your character is from one of the “lesser” species in your created world, why are you writing about them as opposed to the “top dogs”? What do you need to show us? (An obvious theme here would be to show that “lesser” species could produce heroes etc).

For a short story, a few notes will probably be enough to get you started. Working it out in advance will save you so much time later. I’ve found it helps me “cut to the chase” far more efficiently when getting that first draft down.

For a longer work, you will need a decent outline as it will be even more important for you to know your way around your own creation before committing too much to your story. Inevitably you won’t put everything in but the material you have left over may well be suitable for a second story or be excellent background material to share with future fans on your website.

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P’s and Q’s = Publication News and Questions

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

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What have I learned from books I couldn’t finish?

Thankfully these are few but even these can help a writer. How? What I’ve learned from these includes:-

1. What doesn’t appeal in a character (to me at least). From that I can work out how to avoid this in the characters I create.

2. What kind of dialogue switches me off. This is almost always dialogue that goes on for too long and/or doesn’t tell me or show me anything useful.

3. What kind of description switches me off. Again, it is almost always description that goes on for too long. I want to get to the core of what is happening and long descriptive passages slow the pace down. Not only that, if they go for too long, they irritate! What I am after is the telling detail I really do need to know.

On a more positive note:-

What have I learned from books I’ve loved?

1. What DOES appeal in a character.

2. What kind of dialogue makes me glad to be “eavesdropping” on the conversation between characters.

3. What kind of description helps me to visualise something beautifully and the turn of phrase that takes my breath away in a good way.

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Publication News

A big thanks to fellow Swanwicker #PatriciaMOsborne for hosting me on her blog again today. I have been on before with her sub-100 words story challenge and am on there again today with my tale, Danger of Not Listening. I suspect this may resonate with many of you!

Please see link below.

The story was great fun to write and I hope you enjoy reading it. A big thanks to Patricia for having the flash fiction challenge. It’s good fun to take part in and to read the stories coming in!

 

classic close up draw expensive

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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Have picked another competition to have a go at for a short story. Also drafted more flash fiction over the weekend. Homes to be found in due course!

Favourite part of writing though remains that moment when I’ve got that first draft down and have something to work with. Even after all these years of writing, I still feel a sense of relief to have got to that point!

I like editing. I see it as giving my story or blog posts that “oomph” factor as well as taking out errors, repetitions etc.

When I started out writing, my goal was to prove to myself I could write stories. After that I aimed to be published. Then I aimed to keep on being published. Now my goal is to keep that going but to stretch myself with my writing (especially on the flash fiction), try competitions new to me, and explore my non-fiction side more.

The writing journey should be a fun one after all! It has its frustrations of course but generally you should be enjoying what you write. That enjoyment can make all the difference as to whether you keep going or not.

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I’ll have another story up on Cafelit next week and look forward to sharing the link. It’s definitely what I call fairytale with bite!

My CFT post this week will be Part 3 in the mini-series where our local amateur theatre company, The Chameleon Theatre Group, share insights into life behind the stage. This week they’ll be looking at some of their favourite performances and sharing the reasons why they’ve picked these. Link up on Friday.

Have started fleshing out ideas for another competition. I like this stage of working out possibilities. The nice thing with this is the ones I discard I may return to at a later date. It is a case of the best fit for the competition. The other ideas may well prove to be useful for other markets/competitions later on.

I find the Scrivener templates very useful for outlining. I start with my lead character and as their major traits and what they want come to me, so often so does the story. Or at least an idea of what the story is likely to be.

But you can set up your own template. My top tip always would be to focus on getting the character(s) right. Work out what it is about them that intrigues you (as it will intrigue a reader too).

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Finally got my story submitted today. Found one tiny error on my final read through, sorted it, checked it again, all okay, and send! I always do edit my stories on paper.

When editing on screen I think your brain fills in the gaps. It doesn’t seem to do it on paper. I’m sure there is some clever reason why that happens. All I know is it does and I’d never be without a paper edit and the old red pen!

Now to find another competition to have a go at …. and have got one! Not flash this time, a standard length short story, but I do like to keep my hand in there too!

Am continuing to draft flash from the Prompts book and hope to get those out to different places throughout the year.

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It was great fun to be part of #PatriciaMOsborne‘s sub-100 words challenge again today. Link below.

I do have a very soft spot indeed for the drabble (100-words story). It forces you to focus on what matters in your tale but there is room for that lovely telling detail on which many a wonderful twist depends.

I would also recommend having a go at writing 100-words tales as a form of writing exercise. It is a good way to warm up your “writing muscles” and the great thing is there is now a big market for flash fiction, both in publications and competitions. So those writing exercises, once honed and polished, can find a home somewhere and add to your writing CV if they get published.

What’s NOT to like about that?

 

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I’ve been known to interview my characters from time to time. For flash fiction, where I generally only have one to two characters, this can still be done but I do this in abbreviated form (appropriately enough).

Whatever I write fiction wise, I need to know the character’s major trait and what it is they want. Answering those two things alone will give you a lot of the drive for you to write your story.

If you know your character’s major trait is a desire for peace and quiet and they want to get rid of their very noisy neighbour… well all sorts of things can come from that.

I would see those two questions as the foundations of a character outline. Then think of what else YOU need to know about your character so you can visualise them, hear them, know how they would act and react. Yes, they can surprise you but the surprise should arise naturally out of your outline.

In the example above, the character would do all the legal things to try to get the noisy neighbour to stop being so loud but what if that all failed? Could the character become angry enough to commit murder?

Or do they believe revenge is a dish best served cold and find another way to get their own back on the neighbour? I would then need to know why that character longs for peace and quiet so much. (Noisy childhood? Prone to migraines? Desperate to have their own little haven? Having worked so hard for it, they’re not going to see this snatched away from them etc). But once I knew what was behind their major trait, I could then work out what they were capable of. There is always a reason! And the storyline comes together nicely having thought this all through.

 

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As well as interviewing your characters prior to writing their story, a writer can always ask questions of their “stars” as they get the first draft down. It’s useful to check every so often that your characters are “up to the job” of being in your story.

Putting your characters through the emotional wringer is a lot of fun (for the writer naturally) but it is a good way of finding out what it is your people are capable of and whether they can surprise you.

If you envisaged Character A as being timid, quiet, unassuming etc., what would a dramatic event do to them? Would it change their personality for good and if so, how? Would having to say, come to the rescue of someone else, bring them out of their shell?

All worth thinking about. The point of change is not just about the dramatic events in the story. It is about the point of change in the characters too.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books for Difficult Times

Have your reading choices changed during this difficult period?

I must admit I’m not really in the mood for any kind of dystopian story when we seem to be living right in one!

For me, I’m reading short story collections, non-fiction on writing, and lighter works. I don’t need the “heavy” books in terms of mood right now.

One of the roles of a book, for me, is to provide entertainment, escapism, and uplift. So especially in difficult times, I don’t want difficult books to stretch me. I need to be in the right frame of mind for that.

I have found I’ve not had any problems writing stories during the lockdown. I have struggled to read. I can only assume my subconscious is fine with one creative activity but not more than that!

This is a pain but I know it will pass. If I become particularly tired, I find the same happens. When I am more rested, I’m away with reading again.

Have you found the desire to read increases or decreases with your mood? What do you do to overcome that?

For comfort reading, and there is a good role for that at the moment, I have to turn to cosy crime, short stories by Wodehouse, and usually favourite books I’ve read many times. I want the comfort of familiar material. Once I’m feeling better, then that is the time to try something new.

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Fun With Words

Image Credit:  As ever Pixabay or Pexels supply the images unless stated otherwise.

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I share another lighthearted post on CFT this week called Fun With Words. Here are some fun word games to have a go at, all involving book titles (but you could easily adapt these games to film and song titles etc).

The games are very inspired by I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and other radio shows but I do sometimes use things like this to wind down with if a writing session has been particularly intense.

Have fun! Have a laugh! Sometimes it is just great to be silly for a bit…!

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Very much a lighthearted day for me today which has been lovely. As well as my CFT post on word games, which was huge fun to write, I’ve just completed my movie education by finally getting around to watching The Blues Brothers in full. Loved it. (Had always seen snippets before and yes I know. I should have done this years ago but better late than never!).

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Well done, everybody, in my neck of the woods for the great support shown at 8 tonight (Thursday, 23rd April) for key workers. Lady came out with us tonight but was bemused by it all. 😊

I’m looking forward to sharing my CFT post tomorrow. I share some wonderfully silly word games based on books and give some examples. Hopefully they’ll raise a smile and the games can be adapted for use with song titles, film titles etc. The sillier the answers the better!

I sometimes use word games like this to help me wind down a bit if the old writing session has been intense, as it can be at times. Having a laugh with the language is good fun to do! It also makes a useful reminder that writing should be fun, it doesn’t always have to be deadly serious. The moment the joy goes out of writing for me will be the time for me to hang up my pen but I can’t see that happening. The world of stories is just a fabulous place to be, reading them, writing them or ideally doing both but it is important to have fun with it too.

There are some things which really are better now. Cut and pasting work is so much easier. When I was a mere lass, cut and pasting involved a pair of scissors and a Pritt stick.

For my secretarial career, I used everything from a manual typewriter to a 486 PC. (My mobile phone has almost certainly got more go in it now than that old 486). That was in the space of about 10 years too.

Neither do I miss carbon paper or having to change typewriter ribbons. I know there has been a resurgence of affection for the typewriter. I understand that. I loved my old Olympia. (You just didn’t want to drop it on your foot, else broken foot!). The typewriter was never the problem, it was all the stuff that came with it.

The past really is a different country. Best visit only I think. As for being able to submit work by email now… woo hoo! I used to spend ages in Post Office queues getting stories sent out. Much as I love the Post Office, I’ll save queuing there for when I need to send parcels out.

So why the nostalgia fest tonight? Partly because this period of reflection is making us reflect more and this has come out of that. Partly because I really am glad to see the back of the typewriter ribbon and the Pritt stick (especially with the amount of chopping and changing I do to my stories at times).

Oh on a lighter note. My CFT post this week will share some thoughts on word games for you to try. All very silly and good fun. Link up on Friday.

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My theme for tonight has been fun with words but playing around with the language is useful for all writers. Not only does it stretch your vocabulary (and knowledge of meanings), I think it strengthens your ability to write precisely. It really is a case of the mot juste!

For flash fiction writers, especially when we use humorous endings to a story, then knowledge of how puns work is crucial. And good fun to find out too so win-win!

 

I don’t often get story ideas when I’m out walking the dog. What I do get are interesting snippets that might become part of a flash tale later. These can vary from seeing a wonderful shade of red on a plant that might become the colour of my villain’s coat to hearing a noise I can’t quite place. I then work out what it could be and perhaps twist it to give it an other worldly feel for a story.

Sometimes I see a house I like the look of and wonder what kind of fictional characters could live there. What are they up to? What if they loathe the house and why would they do so?

Triggers for story ideas can come from all sorts of things. Over time I’ve learned to recognise these for what they are and then it’s a case of filtering so I use the strongest ideas only. Often it can be a case of combining two or three trigger thoughts and that’s when I’ll start getting ideas for a character. That’s when the story process really takes off for me.

But being observant and taking in little details to store away for future use is a good idea. You can have fun with it too.

I have a lovely book of inspirational quotes for writers on my desk, all of which are short pithy paragraphs. It was a freebie from Writing Magazine a while ago and every so often I dip into it.

I usually find something to remind me of what I am supposed to be doing (!) and some form of encouragement that generally I AM doing the right thing. It’s also a great source of comfort that whatever writing problem you’re facing right now, others have faced it before you and overcame it.

How do I know? Well one lovely quote describes the bowel clenching terror of a novelist writing their first draft… You can apply that equally to any writer getting their first draft of anything down. I know I always feel better once I’ve got something down that I can then knock into shape. I love editing and see it as THE key to good story writing. Nobody gets it right on the first go, ever.

One usual reminder that is handy for all flash fiction writers is to remember NOT to overwrite and to be economical with your descriptions. This is where the restricted word count of flash is a blessing as it kind of forces you into doing this.

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Fairytales with Bite – Fairytales and Animals

It is a peculiarly appropriate link with Fairytales with Bite tonight given animals have some kind of bite! But animals often play more than a walk-on part in fairytales.

I’ve always had a soft spot for talking animals in fiction and, naturally, fairytales play an important part in this. The animals are often wiser than the humans around them. (I’ve always liked the Puss In Boots character and even more so as he is portrayed in Shrek!).

I’ve written stories where the Three Bears are easily far nicer than Goldilocks (well, she is a vandal and porridge thief when all is said and done).

Animals can be used to represent character types too. In The Three Little Pigs, you find one sensible pig and two foolish ones. The latter should have listened to the former. How often have we wished we’d listened to good advice given by family and friends? It is a strong lesson put across in a simple story but even as a kid I remember thinking I would definitely go and live with the pig that made his house out of brick!

I would like to know what happened to the rats when the spell wore off in Cinderella. Did they remember any of their unusual experience? Or did they just know if any woman came near them waving a stick with a star on it, the best thing to do would be to run for the hills?!

The other reason I like talking animals is they can be used to show intelligence, wisdom etc are not just qualities reserved for humans. We don’t know it all. The animal kingdom would have good cause to rise up and moan at us all, would they not?

In fairytales, they can at least put their side of the story and show their best qualities. It makes a refreshing change for humans/humanoids not to be the the heroes or villains of the story. Finest achievement here is probably George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Animals in that book definitely do get a powerful message across!

This World and Others – World Differences

What are the main differences between your fictional world and what we know here? Why have you gone for these? If, for you, the most important thing about your fictional world is there is no violence on it whatsoever, then your characters are going to have to find other, far more imaginative and interesting ways to resolve disputes. And there will be disputes. There is no story without conflict after all.

Also think in times of physical geography. What does your created world have that we don’t? What ideas from Earth have you put into your fiction? Water will have to come into it somewhere, given life is not possible without it, so how is that controlled? Does your world have enough water or is its chief problem is that it has too much of it?

When it comes to focusing on a particular place in your world, work out what it is about this place that makes it worth being singled out to write about! The Lord of the Rings brings The Shire into it because we need to know where the hobbits come from. We also need to know about Mordor and all that it signifies. So what does a reader need to know about the setting you’re putting before us?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reasons To Be Cheerful

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, all images are from Pixabay or Pexels.

 

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Those of us of a certain age will recall Ian Dury and the Blockheads thanks to the title of my CFT post this week – Reasons To Be Cheerful.

I am on a “cheery post for the time being” roll for CFT for the moment! Hope you enjoy.

And please do send in your own reasons to be cheerful. A bit of cheer goes a long way for us all right now.

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Following on from my Reasons to Be Cheerful theme for Chandler’s Ford Today this week, what reasons could we have for the writing community specifically? Some thoughts:-

1. We get the joy of creating interesting characters and then dump them right in the mire. We then have the additional pleasure of working out whether they sink or swim.

2. Positive feedback from readers is truly wonderful. (We really do appreciate good reviews, folk!).

3. There is nothing to beat the buzz of knowing you’re going to be published whether it is online, in print, or both. That buzz does not fade over time either. How often can you say that about something?

4. Story creation occupies the brain, inspires the imagination (and the more you write, the more that happens), and is just a fabulous thing to do. And there are markets for it! Creativity is a major part of what makes us human and for someone like me who cannot draw, sculpt or what have you, writing gives me a creative outlet I can enjoy.

5. You get to explore ideas. You can “live other lives” through the lives of your characters. (Mind you, if you are a crime or horror writer, I wouldn’t take this literally!!).

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Have been catching up on reading this week and that’s been a joy. It’s nice to get back into it again. I still don’t really know what that took a dip when the lockdown started.

Maybe my subconscious felt you can do one creative activity, Madam, but you’re not doing two. Well if that is the case, my subsconcious can pack its bags. Don’t want that happening again. I love reading and writing equally and that’s the way it should be.

I’m looking forward to sharing my CFT post with you tomorrow. It’s called Reasons to be Cheerful (and yes I am of that age who recalls Ian Dury and the Blockheads!). I’ll be sharing some positives. It is very much a time for the more cheery post I think.

I hope there is plenty of cheering for the NHS and key workers shortly! (This post was written on Thursday 16th April 2020. Oh and there was!).

 

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Hope to get my flash fiction piece submitted later this week. Then time to pick another competition to try. It helps me “raise my game”. Anything that doesn’t get placed I can rework and submit elsewhere later on so I see that as a great way of ensuring I’ve got new material out and about somewhere.

Have been taking part in a friend’s book and author game today (my entries included Stormy Weather by Gail Force and Standing Upright by Ei Leen Right amongst others).

Fun and pun games like this are great for writers. Why? As well as being fun to do, it makes you realise how good or otherwise your vocabulary is to be able to find those puns! Another challenge to raise my game then! I’ve always had a soft spot for word games, I think most writers do. It’s great to play with the language and see what you can come up with. You can also use games like that to help get you into your writing session or as a way to wind down from one.

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I’ve been talking about reasons to be cheerful tonight but for flash fiction writing, I find I have to set the mood for my lead character pretty much from the outset. There isn’t the word count space to allow for much in the change of mood.

I use mood (shown through dialogue or thoughts) to indicate the attitude of the character. You will know within a line or so what my character is going to be like in terms of attitude to others and so on.

The advantage of setting mood quickly is I hit the ground running with my stories. I take you straight into the action/setting.

The disadvantage of doing this is you are showing your hand as a writer immediately. So any surprises you want to bring in do have to come as twist in the tale finales that are appropriate to the character and the set-up.

But then that’s fine with me! I love reading and writing those kind of tales. It’s just that if you want to show lots of mood changes, you would probably be better off with a longer, standard length short story, rather than flash fiction. Flash has to show up THE single most important point of a character’s story. Anything that is not directly relevant to the story has to be cut out. The message here is then to focus on what you really need to get across.

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Very good turn out for the NHS and key workers around my way tonight. Well done, all.

What can you learn from flash fiction?

1. What you really need to know about the character in it. A good flash fiction story will leave you with the feeling nothing more could be added to it. Also that nothing could be taken away. You will have insight into the lead character in well chosen words equally well placed. One word can completely turn the mood of a story.

2. What the story really is – with flash there’s no room for anything that isn’t relevant to the tale. This is why I think it is a great thing for all writers to do. Concise, precision writing is useful no matter what your main writing work might be.

3. What words give “value for money” and can carry weight for you. He raced uphill is far stronger in impact than he ran quickly up the hill and you save three words!

4. You will lose all fear of killing adverbs. No more “ly” words when a stronger word will do the work for you. No more she said irritatedly when you can say she snapped.

Whatever you are working on at the moment, have fun with it! I find flash great fun to write and having fun with your writing is vital. It helps keep you going.

One of the joys of loving stories is that this comes in really useful for you as a writer.

You can work out what it is about the stories and their characters you love. From there, you can try to work out how the writer achieved this. Is there something you can use there? If your favourite story has a feisty character, how has the author shown that? They won’t have just told you the character is like that.

Also it is the love of stories that drew us into writing our own in the first place so it is only right that we should keep that love going! We need to be inspired. Reading widely fires up our own imaginative powers so there you have it – the perfect reason to keep reading! But the better thing is to let that reading inspire your writing and you keep writing too!

 

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Fairytales With Bite – Why Analyse Fairytales?

Analysing any kind of writing will help you work out what made a writer decide to write the story in the way they have. There is a lot to be learned from that.

You can also learn from stories you’ve disliked. Work out what it was your disliked and why. Then you know what to avoid in your own! Also work out what you like and dislike about the characters for the same reasons.

Fairytales are interesting to analyse because most of them have a message behind them. Work out how the fairytale gets that across without being preachy. How can you use that for your own stories? How do the characters illustrate the points made? Do they learn from the mistakes they make in the course of the tale? When wrongs are corrected, how is that done?

Fairytales are realistic about cruelty. There is no glossing over Snow White’s stepmother’s deeds, for example. But the reason for her cruelty is pure and simple jealousy, which remains such a powerful motivator. So look at your cruel characters and ensure their motivations are strong enough to justify, if only to themselves, their reasons for being the way they are.

Fairytales can also be tales of redemption. Would such a thing work for your creations?

Fairytales mainly have happy endings. Is a happy ending appropriate for your tale? How can you make that happen in your story without it being sickly sweet? Characters in fairytales generally deserve their happy ending. Do yours?

So just on these points alone, I think fairytales are well worth analysing for tips on improving your own writing!

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This World and Others – What Is Important?

This is a good question to ask because it will depend on your characters. A character on a quest is going to think getting to their destination is the most important thing of all. A ruler will consider achieving what they want to achieve is the most important thing (for good or ill. A real test of whether a ruler is a villain is whether what they seek enriches them or genuinely helps those who they rule over! Same as here really!).

So you need to decide what your characters think are the most important things of all. Then you put problems in their way to stop them achieving their most important things of all. The story fires up when they work out how to overcome all of that, assuming they do.

You also need to decide what is the most important aspect to your story. Yes, especially in a novel, there is room for sub-plots but they should seek to serve the main one and never be an “add-on”. They should blend seamlessly into the main narrative.

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Murphy’s Law For Readers

Time for some lightheartedness I think… hence my CFT post. More in a moment.

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

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I thought a lighthearted post would be useful for my slot on Chandler’s Ford Today this week – hence Murphy’s Law for Readers! Hope you enjoy this and do send in your own Murphy’s Law suggestions for Readers via the CFT comments box.

The post takes in readers and books, readers and libraries, and readers and book events etc and so I’ve taken a broad approach here! Hope you enjoy.

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It is always good fun to write humorous posts for Chandler’s Ford Today and I hope the Murphy’s Law For Readers which is this week’s piece amuses you! It amused me when I wrote it so I hope that’s a good sign! (I wrote a piece on Murphy’s Law for Writers a year or so ago so that is everyone on the reading and writing fence covered now I think).

Many thanks to our church for sending a Good Friday service sheet for us to use at home today. It was great but must admit to missing seeing everyone and I hope it is not too long before we meet again. It really does not feel like Easter to me. Mind you, the weekends don’t really feel like weekends either at the moment.

I would be glad to have a writing routine anyway as I am one of life’s planners (as much as possible at the moment anyway) but am finding having this routine now to be incredibly useful. It’s a bit of normality in what is an abnormal situation for us all.

Nice lot of cheering in my neck of the words for the frontline workers. Well done all. (This is happening ever Thursday night at 8 pm in the UK for the duration of the lockdown here – I don’t know whether anything similar is happening elsewhere but I do think this show of appreciation is a very good thing indeed).

Looking forward to hearing where my choices for the Classic FM Hall of Fame come in this year’s chart. They count this down over the Easter weekend. My choices were:-

1. Jupiter (from the Planet Suite) by Holst
2. Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams.
3. Danse Macabre by Saint Saens (and used as the theme for Jonathan Creek and the book trailer for my From Light to Dark and Back Again – see below! So this music will always have special meaning for me!).

Need a sort out of my writing desk so that is on the cards for me to do tomorrow. Yes, have been putting it off. I refuse to believe I’m the only writer who does that.😆😆

Have resumed playing tennis on the old Nintendo Wii to help with my exercise levels. Well I say playing… let’s say I give it a go! Lady doesn’t like it though and goes and hides while I “strut my stuff” here. Of course it won’t help she can’t possibly get the ball here and no collie will like that.

Writing wise, am working on a book proposal for my non-fiction idea but that will take a while to do. Am also fleshing out ideas for a flash piece for a competition so plenty to be getting on with.

My CFT post this week will be a lighthearted one about Murphy’s Law for Readers. I wrote one about a year ago for writers so it is only fair readers get their turn! Link up on Friday.

Am slowly getting back to reading again which is good. I’ve had no problems writing but think my focus has been on ONE creative activity rather than two.

Reading is a creative activity in its own right in that, for fiction, you should be able to engage with the characters. For non-fiction, you should be gripped by what you are discovering and hopefully go on to find out more about the topic you’re engrossed with.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am happily drafting a flash fiction piece for a competition at the moment. Have got the character and her voice as I like it. But she’s spouting on a little bit too much for the word count requirement so she is going to be shortened! It is one of those cases where I know she can be shortened without losing her style and indeed her style will come through better at the reduced count.

This is where I need to work out what is VITAL for the reader to know. Anything that is not something I could honestly call vital comes out.

This is why I do like writing the longer flash fiction stories too as those give you a bit more room to play with and there you can have characterisation that adds depth and strengthens the story. This is where you can have that “little bit more” which adds flavour to a story.

I think it is a good thing to write a mixture of word count stories so you get a real feel for writing short and spare tales and longer ones with added “value” that you simply can’t put into a shorter story. But what I do know is when I’ve got my character and their voice right, the word count has to suit that. I know I can simplify what I’ve drafted for my current story and I should do that anyway. It should take me to the required count but there are times I really can’t get a story down any further without losing something important – so I don’t! You do get better over time I think at working out when to call it a day.

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One thing I have found useful with regard to having an Amazon Author Central page is having my book trailer on it for FLTDBA. I very much hope later in the year when hopefully Tripping the Flash Fantastic is out that a book trailer for this will also appear.

I have had some fun on my website with book trailers too. (https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/book-trailers/)

As well as the ones for FLTDBA and the Bridge House/Cafelit/Waterloo Art Festival Writing Competition collections I’ve been involved in, I have created a basic trailer for one of my stories from FLTDBA. I hope to do more of this as and when but I mention it because flash fiction is ideal for this kind of thing! You want something nice and short that is easy to read on a screen… hmm… on to a winner there I think!

 

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What do I like best about story and flash fiction collections?

I like the range of moods that can be contained in one book (which directly inspired the title for my own From Light to Dark and Back Again of course).

I love being able to dip in and out of such a book, whether I read it in paperback or via the Kindle.

I love them as they are brilliant for those times when I don’t have time to read or don’t feel like reading a huge amount. Indeed it is often the collections that get me out of the latter mood and into reading novels and non-fiction again.

I also just love the whole idea of reading a book full of little self-contained worlds with a host of characters. They are just fun!

They’re huge fun to write too!

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Fairytales With Bite – 

What Fairytales Have Done For Me

I’ve loved fairytales for more years than I care to remember, encouraged no doubt by my parents buying me The Reader’s Digest Complete Collection of Fairytales. This is a two volume set which I still have. (One of the books is bound up with tape to keep the spine together!). I spent hours reading the stories and admiring the wonderful illustrations. So what have fairytales done for me as a writer then?

  1. Fairytales have a strong message which they get across without lecturing and in an entertaining way.  I find that inspirational (and a challenge to always “raise my game” here).
  2. Fairytales don’t shy away from calling something evil that is evil. There is no mistaking the goodies and baddies here. The characters are clear cut and their actions and thoughts are consistent. That’s all useful stuff for writers.
  3. Fairytales have endings which are appropriate. Generally these are happy ones but there are exceptions and that’s  okay too. What matters is the ending is appropriate to the story.
  4. When magic is used in a fairytale, it is always used to assist and it is rarely the first resort. Characters still have to use their intelligence and take advantage of others forms of help coming to them.

 

This World and Others – The Arts

What place do the arts have in your fictional “other world”? Is there music? Painting? Creative writing? Are these things valued or despised? Does everyone have access to them or only the privileged few?

For your characters, what do the arts mean to them? What role can the arts play in their story?

When fleshing out your creation, think of the arts as a way of adding culture and depth to your created world. You can always use things like statues as well known landmarks your character has to reach to meet someone etc. That tells a reader there is sculpture in your world at least (and therefore likely to be other art forms too. It also reveals there is at least some appreciation of these things and this is a good indicator of likely intelligence levels too).

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What Do You Need to Know?

Image Credits:  A big thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Group for kind permission to use their photos for the Chandler’s Ford Today post.  All other pictures are from Pixabay or Pexels.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s good to welcome the Chameleons back to Chandler’s Ford Today. The second part of their compiled interviews takes a look at the technical aspects of staging a production. Topics covered include lighting, sound, set design, and props. Hope you enjoy. Many thanks to them for the photos and info!

Looking forward to going back to seeing their fabulous productions again in due course. I am missing my “CFT works outings” with my lovely editor, Janet Williams.

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Always nice to have a compliment – many thanks to the Chameleon Theatre Group for the following:-

Great second piece today from Allison Symes in Chandlers Ford Today, utilising Sheila’s superb series of articles about all things behind the scenes.

Feature Image - Part 2 - The Chameleons Say Hello... to the Technical Side
It’s a joy to share Part 2 from the Chameleon Theatre Group for my CFT post this week. I love behind the scenes looks at most things being the nosey parker that I am so interviews like this give me a glimpse into different aspects of life. I find that endlessly fascinating.

Now what insights into your characters do you need to reveal to your reader? I’ve found it useful to work out what it is I need to know and what a reader needs to know. The two are generally not the same. I need to know, for example, a character is lazy. My reader just needs me to show the character demonstrating that.

Sometimes a character does need to “tell” something usually to another character, revealing something of their background and motivations. For example, in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, it is the ghosts who unlock the sadness behind Scrooge and which go some way to explaining why he became the man he did – and why he needed to be set free from that. I’ve always found the scene where Scrooge BEGS to not be shown any more incredibly moving. But we are reliant on the ghosts telling Scrooge his own past to make him face up to it. The story then becomes whether Scrooge changes or not.

So what do you need to know about your characters? How can you best show things to a reader? In many ways your characters act their scenes out. I’ve found that thought useful to help me make sure my characters only reveal things that they would be reasonably expected to know or deduce. They see what they see. They do what they do. They deduce based on reason. The readers draw conclusions from that.

Good support for the applause for carers round my way, well done all. Also got to see two bats fly overhead. That’s a bonus. I like bats. Much misunderstood creatures though you have to admit they wouldn’t get very high in the All Time Graceful Flying Stakes! (Some pun intended).

I’m not struggling to write at the moment but I am struggling to read much. I know I’m not alone on this right now, I also know it will pass, but it has bemused me a bit. I tend to read more when upset etc, especially the humorous prose, so this has surprised me.

Looking forward to sharing further publication news next week.

Am preparing non-fiction material at the moment so will “indulge” in some flash fiction writing at the weekend. I like the contrast between the two types of writing and it keeps me on my toes. Never a bad thing that.

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My CFT post this week will be Part 2 – The Chameleons Say Hello… to the Technical Side. Our local amateur theatre group have been conducting a series of interviews which I’ve compiled into articles. This week’s one looks at lighting and sound amongst other delights. Link up on Friday. And I must add I am really looking forward to their next production whenever that may be.

Insights into how things work are always fascinating especially if you’re curious (and I SO am!). A writer needs to have at least a basic level of curiosity as to what makes people (and therefore characters) tick to be able to write at all, I think. That curiosity develops into what would Character A really do if push came to shove. It is always fun to find out!

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When it is possible to do so, I enjoy my “CFT works outings” with my lovely editor, Janet Williams, to the excellent productions staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group, who are featured in my CFT post tonight. Am really looking forward to resuming being able to do these again!

Janet and I have enjoyed National Theatre Live productions too. So what it is about plays that attracts a flash fiction writer then?

Simply, it’s because it is huge fun spotting the pivotal moment in a play when you know everything is going to change, whether for better or worse. Working out what the tipping point is helps fiction writers of all kinds too.

My tipping points can be the very last word of a story (Calling the Doctor is an example of that). It is often the line before I deliver a punch line or finale which has a twist in it. It is sometimes towards the beginning of the tale. My Punish the Innocent with its opening paragraph has the reader knowing from that point that everything is going to change dramatically for the characters in the story. What follows through then is how.

Have fun working out where the best place is to put your tipping point. Early can work well because your reader will want to follow through on the outcome. Right at the end can also work well because you have carried off a very successful twist ending if you can keep a reader guessing until then.

 

Time for some one liners, though I will admit to sharing one on the Association of Christian Writers page earlier today.

1. The dragon decided to turn veggie.
2. The house was empty because the walls seeped.
3. Mary decided she had a talent for art but she was alone in that view.
4. The genie took one look at who had rubbed the magic lamp and vanished inside again.
5. Treasure was meant to be found, not bite hard the person who found it.

Hope you enjoy. One-liners can of course be used as a writing exercise as an opening or closing line.

 

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Masks are symbolic of drama of course but you could argue characters in stories sometimes wear them. (Best one for me here remains Severus Snape and I’m not going to say more though I strongly suspect this would not be a plot spoiler by now!).

How do your characters hide the traits they themselves aren’t proud of? How do they convince other characters they really are “the business” when perhaps deep down they know full well they’re not? If they are a double agent, how do they convince both sides they’re working for them?

Masks can be used by characters in more subtle ways. A character is heartbroken for some reason but they have to carry on and appear to be “strong” to help someone else cope. How do they do that? DOES it help? When does the mask come off? What are the consequences?

Now there’s definitely a story or several in there! Have fun…

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Fairytales With Bite – What Fairytales Don’t Do

Fairytales don’t gloss over the reality of human nature. So many of them show cruelty (Cinderella and Snow White to name but two) and there is no glossing over this. Others show poverty. Others show the importance of love.

Think about Hansel and Gretel. It has always bugged me why the father didn’t show the stepmother the door for even suggesting abandoning the children to their fate but there you go. I’ve mentioned before Disney couldn’t film the stories as originally written. Fairytales were often (and still can be) used as warning tales. We talk about wolf like behaviour – a nod to the Big, Bad Wolf I think.

Fairytales, despite their magical elements then, are realistic about behaviours and motivations then. They don’t flatter. There is a blunt honesty about them that appealed to me even as a kid. The ring of truth always did hold appeal to me.

I couldn’t get on with characters that were too good which is why I always found it easier to sympathise with vain Amy rather than saintly Beth in Little Women. (Before you ask, I was sorry Beth died. I thought that whole storyline was beautifully done and I also liked the way the impact of her death was shown too).

I’ve always loved those tales where great wrongs were put right. Even as a kid I knew full well that didn’t always happen in life. There is a comfort to fairytales I think that shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to things like that.

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This World and Others –

How Does Your Created World Help or Hinder Your Characters? 

This is an interesting question because it can be taken in several directions. Firstly, think about the political landscape of your world. If the politics define that a character from an area should never associate with anyone from another area because of past history etc., what would happen when characters are forced to ignore all that and go against what their society would expect from them?

Secondly, there is the geographical aspect too. If you’ve got a long journey to take and there are mountains in the way, some thought has to be given as to how your characters tackle those (and that does include finding another route of course).

Thirdly, the state of development in your created world makes a difference too. Your character is off on a quest (note: it is never for something as mundane as nipping to the shops for a pint of milk, your character must have real problems to solve!). Right, that’s fine, they’re all geared up to go but how do they do it? What is the transport like? Must they walk? Are horses considered sacred and only certain kinds of people can ride them? (Naturally here your character will not be of that class and again will defy expectations here. There should be consequences).

Think about what your character needs to be able to fulfil their quest. Think about how what is around them will help or hinder them. Usually it will be a question of both. A created world will have something practical your character can use (otherwise there is no chance of them fulfilling the quest).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Times and Story Games

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

For my CFT post this week, I discuss the interesting times we’re living in right now but I also share thoughts and tips on how to start creative writing. I also share a story game which is good fun to play and can be played by all ages!

Any writer will tell you that writing is therapeutic and fun. Inventing your own people and situations stretches you, is good for the old brain, and is a lovely art form for those of us who can’t draw for toffee, sew etc (and yes that does include me). To have a finished piece of work is fabulous. You created that story. The buzz of that never palls.

So have fun. If you’ve wanted to try creative writing but have wondered where to start, have a look at my post. And writing just for the sheer fun of it is a great joy to do. It is how most of us, who have gone on to be published, started after all.

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It was emotional joining in with the applause for the NHS tonight. Plenty of cheering going on round my way too. Well done, everyone. More appreciation for what is so easily taken for granted is always a good thing.

In other news as they say, and as a flag up to other authors with works out there, if you’re not registered with ALCS, check it out. ALCS is the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society run by writers for writers. Am thrilled to say I’ve had my first modest but lovely payment through on this. Many thanks to ALCS. If you’ve got published works out there, join them! (It’s free if you’re a member of the Society of Authors too).

Writing wise, am editing a story for a competition and hope to get that submitted by the end of the week. Email submission was always a blessing but even more so now.

Keep well, keep safe, God bless. Happy reading and writing. Support Your Authors. Go on, you know you want to!