Creating Characters

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated. Also a big thank you to Richard Hardie for the images supplied for my second CFT post which appeared over the weekend, more below.

Facebook – General – bonus Chandler’s Ford Today post

A busy week on CFT for me this time. My second post this week shares news from YA author, Richard Hardie, about his link with Doctor Who. All very exciting and a feather in the cap for Richard. Well done! Check out the post for more details.

Facebook – Association of Christian Writers

More Than Writers blog spot – Creating Characters

It’s my turn on More than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers.

I talk about Creating Characters and share hints and tips, including a list of questions that will help you outline your “people”.

Hope you find it useful. (And many thanks to those who have commented on this. Much appreciated).

A good TV or film adaptation of a book only works if the images shown roughly coincide with the images I had from reading the text. The Inspector Morse series did this, as did the Poirot and Miss Marple series (with David Suchet and Joan Hickson). Film wise, I thought Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings had it spot on.

Are there any books you would like to see made into series or films? Which ones and why? Are there adaptations that haven’t worked for you? (I couldn’t get on with the Marple series. For me, Joan HIckson was perfect in the role and that was that).

When it comes to writing my stories, I put myself in my character’s shoes and see the world their way. I don’t always like my characters by the way! (Oh and a big thanks for a tremendous response to my ACW post on More Than Writers yesterday which was all about Creating Characters. Glad it was useful).

What I have found is you DO have to inhabit your character’s space so you can write about them/for them effectively.

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One very tired Lady on the sofa tonight. Had a great big play with several pals, including her “boyfriend”, a lovely Collie gent, and her best pal, a Rhodesian Ridgeback. I should imagine they’re pretty shattered as well!

Enjolyed listening to the Movie Music Hall of Fame on Classic FM today. I was right about the top two and pleased about them too. Must remember to find out where the Pink Panther theme came in (and there’s an earworm for anyone of a certain age!).

I usually write with classical music on as I find it helps me relax and when I relax, I’m more productive with the writing. Other things I have to have on my desk are my dictionary, my Scrivener for Dummies guide, my publisher guides (Writers and Artists and Mslexia) and plenty of pens (I know! I’m using a laptop, what do I need pens for? I guess I just like to see them around!).

I don’t have any rituals before writing. I just open my laptop and get on with it but I do like to see the accoutrements on my desk. I suppose it’s a case of Allison going into her comfort zone sort of thing.

And now I am IN my comfort zone, time to get on with more writing then!

 

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I can’t say a particular writer made me pick up my pen and start writing. I’ve loved books and stories for as long as I can recall. I loved writing stories in English lessons at school (and I’ll be talking a bit more about that in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week).

But it took me a long time to figure out I really ought to get around and write seriously. It took two major life events to wake me up here! My only serious regret with writing is NOT starting a lot sooner than I did.

But it is wonderful to say that all of the writers whose books are on my shelves (and the electronic one too!) have added to my love of stories and storytelling. For that I will always be grateful. And then there’s the joy of discovering new writers too.

If I could invent things I would invent:-

1. Elastic time so I never run out of time to read or write.
2. Calorie free chocolate.
3. Calorie free prosecco.
4. A stamina “topper-upper” for those times you could really do with it!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t know about you but I find it unsettling it is 8.30 pm in August in the UK and it is pitch black out there! (Not due to the weather either). The seasons are definitely shifting. Talk about going from light to dark!

I’ve mentioned before that one of my favourite writing exercises is writing to a set opening line. The ones that work best for me are the ones that can be taken in more than one direction. For example:-

1. The door remained locked despite her efforts.
2. He was on time, as the note insisted, but nobody was about.
3. The fairy godmother was on early shift.

Now all three opening lines here have comic as well as dramatic possibilities. (The door could remain locked because it took her a while to realise she was using the wrong key. He might be on time but what if he turned up at the wrong place and forgot to check? As for the fairy godmother, what could she expect to have to do on early shift that she might not face later on in the day? Definitely scope for humour there and that would almost certainly be the way I’d take these story ideas).

I find it useful to jot down initial ideas from an opening line and then go for the one that is a little way down my list. That is the idea which is not likely to be the obvious one and could well be open to my putting a twist on it, which I always love doing.

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One of my favourite stories in my new book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, involves a librarian and a snake. Can’t say more than that at the moment but it was great fun to write! By all means, let your mind boggle at the thought of that!

But then that is the fun of fiction. You can write in any genre, any time period, and the impossible isn’t so much in things like fantasy, magical realism etc.

Whatever you write, it is important to enjoy it. I mentioned to a friend and fellow author (the lovely #ValPenny) that you have to enjoy what you write, especially if it is a book, because you’ll be promoting said book for a long time.

You as the writer have got to be able to live with what you’ve written and enjoy living with it too! That’s an aspect to the writing life which isn’t often considered I think.

But commitment to what you write shows up here and not just in the hard work it needs to get those stories written in the first place.

Writing is good for you as it stretches you and develops your imagination. It is also good fun experimenting with different forms of writing and discovering where your strengths are. But even when you’ve found the style of writing that suits you best, writing should still keep pushing you.

Pushing you to keep on producing good work.

Pushing you to discover new markets/competitions for your work.

Pushing you to get better at editing your work and polishing it as well as you can to give it its best possible chance out there in the big, bad world.

Pushing you to develop new skills including but definitely not limited to reading your work to an audience, making the most of technology to produce items that can help you market your work more effectively, and so on.

What writing doesn’t do is allow you to rest on your laurels and that’s a great thing. Why? Because you want to keep on developing. The writing journey should be as much fun as possible. Different things come up along that journey, things you would not have expected when starting out, and by developing you will be ready to tackle those things and have more strings to add to your bow.

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Am looking forward to taking part in the Zoom session with #GillJames and #DawnKentishKnox on 26th September. I hope to be reading a story or two, including one from Tripping the Flash Fantastic. You did hear it here first!

I will share the link to the event later in September. You do need to register but the event is free. I’ll also be flagging it up via Chandler’s Ford Today in due course.

Flash is great for reading aloud at events etc. It doesn’t take too long to read. It makes an immediate impact and the “deeper” stories resonate with you and linger long in the memory afterwards. Nothing to dislike there!

And I’ve said before it is a good idea to read your work out loud so you can hear how it flows, whether the dialogue etc comes across as smoothly as you’d like etc. If you trip over your words, a reader almost certainly will. Again with flash, this doesn’t take long. I’ve spotted things I’ve needed to change many a time doing this.

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Goodreads Author Blog Book Dilemmas

What book dilemmas, I hear you ask?

Well, there is the obvious one of which book you are going to read next from your naturally huge TBR pile.

I refuse to believe that doesn’t give you pause for thought from time to time! (I get a little annoyed with myself for doing this. I realise the half hour I spent deciding what I’ll read next could have been spent on reading!).

Then there is the dilemma of whether you’ll reduce the TBR paperback pile or the one on your Kindle.

Then there is the dilemma of whether you’ll read short stories or another novel or non-fiction.

There is no one right answer to how you answer these.

I find I read a load of things on my Kindle for a while, then switch back to paperbacks for a bit, and that’s fine with me.

I just need to stop wasting half hours every now and again making up my mind and just get on with what matters – the reading!

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Writing – and Multiple Projects

Image Credit:  As ever, unless otherwise stated, the images are from the marvellous Pixabay

Facebook – General

Full of cold at the moment. Not a happy bunny though booking my place for this year’s Swanwick Writers’ Summer School HAS cheered me up no end!

Also looking forward to the next edition of Writing Magazine because I love turning to the letters page, the subscribers’ news etc and see how many friends have got a mention in there! It’s nice to see the numbers going up!

Writing wise, I’m focusing on non-fiction at the moment though I have got short stories “brewing” ready for me to look at them again with a fresh eye. I find the time away from stories really useful, as when I do go back to them, I will see their strengths and weaknesses with an unjaundiced eye, but I hope to get back to these sometime next week. One I want to submit within the next couple of weeks.

Writing takes you away from the world for a bit. Just a pity it can’t get rid of the sniffles as well…

 

The advantages of having more than one project on the go:-

1. You never get bored.
2. If you get stuck on one thing, work on the other. Ideas for resolving the problem(s) on the first will come to you while you work on something else. One of the chief Murphy’s Laws for Writers, I think. I do know that this has always been the case for me.
3. You can work on smaller projects and see (hopefully) submission successes while still working away on a longer project you know will take longer to place even when you’ve finished writing and editing it.
4. You can try different kinds of writing and see what you like best.
5. When work has been submitted, you’ve always got something else to work on.

I’ll look at the disadvantages tomorrow.

 

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Following on from yesterday’s post, now it’s time to look at the disadvantages of having more than one project on the go.

1. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed. (My advice here is to plan things out as much as you can. When you know you haven’t got much writing time, use what you’ve got to get little pieces done. It makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something – you have! – and the great thing is you can polish these pieces up and submit them later. Also remember if you only have time for say a writing exercise or two, do them because you will get some useful material from them for later, which could feed directly into the projects you’re working on. Likewise, if you can only write a page or two for one of your projects, get it done. Those pages or two mount up over time.).

2. You can feel torn as to which project you should be working on. (It can help to set yourself deadlines here but be realistic. If you’re working on a novel, and say a collection of short stories or flash fiction, it simply IS going to take you longer to complete both but that’s okay. Work out when you would like to get these projects done by in an ideal world, then add time on given it isn’t an ideal world (!), and work to that timetable. Also accept life will get in the way sometimes so don’t beat yourself up if that happens. It does happen to everybody including those who do only work on one project at a time).

3. I can’t help but sneak in another advantage here in that I’m working on big projects which I know will take ages to complete but that’s okay. Meanwhile I’m getting short pieces written and out and building up publication credits etc. All of that will add to my writing CV when I am ready to submit the big projects later.

But deciding what works for you writing wise, and what YOU feel you can sustain long term, whether you work on one or more projects at a time, is key here. Key to getting things done. Key to you being happy with your output. Good luck!

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W = When you get to invent worlds and people for fiction or present interesting information for non-fiction.
R = Really get to understand why characters are the way they are and, for non-fiction, discovering more about your topic.
I = Imagination fires up and triggers more story ideas and, for non-fiction, imagination helps you see connections that can trigger further blog posts, articles etc.
T = Time – there’s never enough!
I = Insist on carving out writing time for yourself, whether it’s for a short period or longer; you will feel better in yourself for having that time and others will benefit from your having the benefit of the writing buzz for a while too.
N = Never running out of ideas to work up as stories or blogs or articles.
G = Genre – plenty to choose from; there’s bound to be at least one to suit you.

Just some of the many things I love about writing!

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My two favourite kinds of flash fiction stories are those which end on a punchline and make me laugh, or where the twist is so good, the ending take my breath away. Neither are easy to write but are so worthwhile to do. They’re the stories you remember the longest.

I’ve found when writing funny tales, it pays to start with the punchline and then work out what could lead to that coming out “naturally” from the character. It is far more convincing doing it that way. You don’t want the punchline to seem like it is a set-up.

 

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One of the joys of flash fiction is the word count limit means having to leave the reader to infer things.

Now I have always loved “filling in the gaps” in novels and the longer short stories where I’ve become attached to the characters. You know the kind of thing – wondering what other adventures they might have had after the main story is over. On those grounds, I understand fan fiction, though I don’t write it. Nor have any plans to do so.

But where a story has real emotional impact, I find that impact is stronger precisely because the writer has not had the space to spell it all out. I can and do work that out for myself – and love doing so. The challenge for me as the writer is working out what a reader must know to be able to fill in the gaps successfully for themselves.

 

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One of the things I love best about flash fiction is creating characters. I always like to look at what a character’s main trait is as that can be very useful for dropping them right in the mire from a great height should I wish to do so!

For example, if I have a character who believes they are brave, I could then put them in a situation where they have to prove they are (or discover they really are not! The latter especially could have comic potential).

It is when I nail down the main trait(s), I start to have a feel for the character’s voice. Someone who thinks they’re brave is likely to be boastful (well, they’ve got to tell someone else haven’t they? It”s no good thinking you’re brave if you can’t show off about it!). That in turn gives me ideas on how they are likely to speak and the kind of language they are likely to use.

There are many different ways in to character creation but I do like this one.

Creating a Flash Fiction Story

INGREDIENTS

A strong character you can identify with and want to write about (readers will identify with them and will want to read their tale).

An idea as to what impact you want your story to have on a reader. This will affect the story mood and how you craft it.

Simmering in the back of your mind, an idea of which competition/publisher you will submit the work to and, of course, already know what their submission requirements/deadlines are.

METHOD

1. Get the story drafted. (To paraphrase P.G. Wodehouse, it’s time to apply seat of pants to seat of chair).

2. Put aside a for a while and start drafting another!

3. Come back to your original story, read it through (and where possible out loud too so you can literally hear how dialogue etc sounds), and then edit.

4. When you’re happy with the story THEN worry about the word count. Check to ensure there are no wasted words in your tale (cut out things like very, actually etc).

5. Once done, if your story has a strong impact at 250 words but it would be weakened if you tried to get it down to 100, then leave it at 250 and submit it to a suitable competition/market.

6. Apply steps 2 to 6 to the second story!

Have fun!

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Goodreads Author Programme – First Books

Do you remember the first books you read or had read to you?

I can’t honestly say I do though the Reader’s Digest Collection of Classic Fairytales does rank very highly in this list. I still have this two volume set, though the spines are “taped up” thanks to years of use!

The illustrations in these books are lovely and I spent many a happy hour poring over them as a kid. The stories are the originals from Grimm, Perrault, Andersen etc.

I do remember collecting the Famous Five series. Southern TV, as it was then in our ITV region, had adapted the series and paperbacks were reissued to link in with this. Have no idea what happened to those books. Do know they’re not with me now. I recall going to our local newsagent to buy the paperbacks (in the days when you did have independent newsagents!).

The first books I chose for my home after getting married came to me via the old Odhams collections. You paid a subscription and received one new book every month. I collected Agatha Christie novels (and collections of short stories), which I still have.

What is important though is those first books were never last books!!