Memories and Motivations

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post, The Importance of Memories, is timely of course as we enter Remembrance Sunday/Armistice Day, but I also look at the topic from the angle of how and why memories are vital to us all as individuals and as countries. I look at the impact of dementia and how singing helps with memory. I also discuss how fiction writers can use memories.

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One tip I’ve found useful when planning out my stories is making sure my characters’ motivations ARE strong enough.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a “do or die” approach either (though the dramatic qualities of that are obvious), but if, for example, Character A wants to buy a special present for Character B, then you must show why Character B means the world to A. Motivations have got to be something any reader is going to be able to identify with (but not necessarily agree about!).

What is your favourite form of writing and/or reading – fiction or non-fiction?

I love (and write) both. Non-fiction can and has inspired ideas for my fiction. It also means having different projects to work on, I never get bored, and I am exercising more “writing muscles” than if I did just write one thing. (I just wish I had more time but then don’t we all?).

I also think where you have a fictional world but which has solid basis in fact (i.e. you have thought about how gravity works in your fantasy setting, what form of government there is etc, based on what we know here), your story has got to be more convincing and stronger as a result.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The best flash fiction is where the writer has stuck to ONE simple idea/theme and followed it through. There really isn’t the room to do anything else and the impact of the story is greater for keeping it simple.

This is not the same thing as simplistic though. The best flash fiction will hit you emotionally, can make you think, can frighten you, make you laugh etc, all in a few words.

Simple writing is where the editing has been done (and often several times) and, to quote the late great Eric Morecambe, albeit in different circumstances, “you really can’t see the join”!

Favourite themes of mine for flash fiction include rough justice, alien life being as intelligent as ours (and usually more so!), and crime (often showing the criminal’s justification, if only to themselves, as to their course of action). It is perhaps ironic that the really big themes – love, justice etc – can be summed up in one word but the amount of variety of stories you can get from these is vast.

I believe the simpler the theme, the better. It comes across well too. You don’t need your readers scratching their heads trying to work out what the theme is.

Looking forward to the Bridge House celebration event in early December. Less than a month to go!

One of the nice things about writing is getting to meet other writers. It is lovely knowing you are not the only one who wants to get their imaginary world down on paper and send it out there in book form.

I suppose one of the biggest things I’ve learned is never to underestimate how long it takes to get a book together! It always will take far longer than you think, as will the editing process, but it will be worth it in the long run.

Memory is my theme on Chandler’s Ford Today this week but it plays a vital role in fiction too. For characters to seem real and therefore believable, they must have a past. That past doesn’t need to BE the story you’re telling but it should impact on it in some way (if only because it has made the character turn out to be the way that they are).

Also the setting in which your characters live, that world should have values and rules, which will be formed by its history. There are likely to be ceremonies and special days which your characters will observe or note in the course of your story.

With flash fiction of course this has to be condensed right down. In my Helping Out, my opening line has a witch helping a fairy and acknowledging she is not supposed to do so. Those last few words immediately imply a whole history of feuding between the two magical groups and the witch is remembering it and, in this case, ignoring it! The story goes on to explain why but her memory of usual behaviours impacts on her actions here. Memories = realities = more convincing fiction.

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Fairytales with Bite Character Memories

I write about The Importance of Memories in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week.  I touch on the subject of memories and fiction writing here too but below are some specific reasons why memories should come into your stories (even if they are just implied.  They often are just implied in flash fiction due to the limited word count but to my mind that makes the impact more hard hitting).

1.  Characters need to seem real to be believable.  Real people have memories.  So do real characters.

2.  Our behaviour is affected by memory – memory of what we did wrong, memory of what we did right and the difference between the two!  Our characters should reflect this too.  They’re not going to get it right all the time (good thing too – no story there!) but do need to show they’ve learned from their mistakes.  That is where memory comes in of course.

3.  Your world setting will have rules and values it expects its citizens to live by.  Your characters will know what these are, will know what special days and ceremonies there are, and will live their lives i obedience to all of that or be rebelling against it, but again your characters need to know and remember what these are!

4.  We are shaped by our memories in terms of who we are and why we are the way we are.  Our characters should be too.

5.  We can be haunted by memories, especially of those we’ve loved and lost.  Our characters should be too.

This World and Others – Character Traits

What are the most useful character traits for a writer to use?  My thoughts would be:-

1.  Whichever trait you choose, it has to be “open” enough to go in several directions.  For example, if your character has a “brave” trait, does this mean they are brave all the time?  Are there some fears they really cannot face but because they are brave in other areas that hides this?  Are they brave when out and about with friends but cowardly at home?  Lots of directions you could go in there.

2.  Whichever trait you choose, it should be something most people can identify with/aspire to.  Most of us want to be decent, kind, brave etc.  I love reading characters who have those traits and who overcome against all the odds.  Instant reader sympathy.

3.  Whichever good trait you choose for a character, they should also have a fault that goes against it, something they have to manage and control.  (A good example of that is The Incredible Hulk!  Mild mannered most of the time but boy when he becomes angry the sparks fly!).  You have internal conflict here and also what happens when another character has seen the good side and suddenly comes to see the bad side for the first time?  What are the reactions there?




Writing Acronyms

Facebook – General

Possible writing acronyms coming up… see what you think.

ABC = A Biro, Candidly (when asked what the best thing to write with is!).

DEF = Definitely Edit Flash. It may be a very short story but editing is still required! No short cuts. No matter what its length, a story still has to be fine tuned and honed. I don’t think there has ever been anyone who can turn out the perfect short story in one go and leave it that AND keep on doing this for short story after short story etc etc. I know I’m not going to be the one to break that rule of thumb.

GHI = Get Huge Imagination. Best way of doing that? Read widely. Read lots. Read books. Read magazines. Listen to audio books. Watch films. Absorb stories no matter what their format. Think about what the writers here have done and then work out how you’d do it and why especially where you think something doesn’t work. (Or at least doesn’t work for you. Have a look at what that is – what can you learn from this that you can apply to your own writing).

Next installment tomorrow!

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Some more writing acronyms then…

JKL = Just Kill Lines. Lines that aren’t working. Lines that don’t flow as well as you thought they would. (Reading work out loud is a good test for this, you will literally hear the words flow well or not). Whatever doesn’t move your character or your story forward (or shows something the reader needs to know but STILL takes the story forward) has to go!

MNO = Manage Named Objectives. What are your character’s objectives? What must they achieve? Know what these are in your own mind before putting pen to paper or writing to screen. The idea is for your readers to discover what the objectives are through your characters rather than telling them directly. It is also a good idea to keep objectives straightforward and having them based on a need is useful foo. LOTR – need to destroy Sauron’s ring of power. Straightforward, to the point, and “simple”. How the objective is then achieved (or not!) is where the story really kicks off.

PQR = Practice Quality Reading! (Confession time: I did look up literary words beginning with Q and could only find Quatrain! The poets amongst you can make far better use of that than I can!). What do I mean by quality reading? I think of it as reading widely, often, across genres, non-fiction as well as differing types of fiction. See this as feeding your imagination. Ideas spark from other stories. You will see how an author wrote a story. You think to yourself well I’d do it this way… So go on and do so! But the more you read, the more you can kick start your own imagination and that has got to be a good thing.

More on writing acronyms then…

STU – Setting, Tense, Understanding.

Your reader should have a sense of the setting very quickly. You can share more details later, especially in a longer story. In my Job Satisfaction, I start with “Thud! The fairy returned to what she’d wrongly sworn was an open window”. I don’t need to tell you it is a fantasy story – the two words “the fairy” do that for me. “The window” tells you she’s making house calls too!

Tense – I use a lot of present tense in flash fiction as it quickens the pace but whichever you go for be consistent with it.

Understanding – A reader should have a real understanding of what your story is likely to be about by the end of the first line or so.

VWX (hmm… two challenges here)! Viewpoint, Worldview, and X-Ray Vision

Viewpoint – Whose story is it? Are you telling the tale from the viewpoint of the lead character or someone close to them observing what is going on? Again, be consistent.

Worldview – Your characters should reveal this in their attitudes and thoughts about things. Are they going with the prevailing worldview or rebelling against it? Again their attitude should make that clear.

X-Ray Vision = Confession time: am cheating a bit here. Will you be using an omnipresent narrator who really can see and comment on everything (hence the X-ray vision tag!)? Or will you be seeing everything through the eyes of one character so we only see what they can see? Again, be consistent.

My CFT post this week will be a look at the importance of memories, an apt topic as we approach 11th November. Link up on Friday. Memories are such a huge part of we are (which is why dementia is so tragic) and this should apply to our characters too. Their past may not BE the story but it should be hinted at they do actually have one!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

How about some autumnal flash fiction stories? Some even go up to three lines!

1. The falling leaves were suffocating her.

2. You know they call that cold wind the Beast from the East? Well, it devoured three workmen, two posties and a milkman on its way through our villages last night.

3. The creature liked the nights drawing in so early. Hunting time was extended and there was always someone slowly trudging home to pick off at leisure. The creature called it Happy Hour.

Hmm… there’s a theme developing here! Hope you enjoy.

Allison Symes – 3rd November 2018

The challenges with writing flash fiction are:-

1. Ensuring every line grips your reader.
2. Ensuring the tantalising opening line is backed up with a powerful closing one. No damp squibs here, thank you!

I have brainstorming sessions every so often where I jot down lines. Some are obvious opening lines (to me anyway!). Others look as if they could finish a story. So I either work out ideas that could come from an opening line OR work backwards from a closing one and see how I could have got to that point. All good fun.

I think it a good idea to mix up your writing methods like this. It keeps you on your imaginative toes for one thing.

We’re in fireworks season here in the UK at the moment. (Fortunately my dog, Lady, is not at all phased by them). So if you are setting your story in a fantasy world of some sort, what would they use to mark occasions? I always did love Gandalf’s fireworks in The Lord of the Rings (and the film really did do justice to these in the opening scenes).

What sort of music would your world have? Is music banned? Do only the privileged elite celebrate anything or does everyone join in? Some story ideas there I think!

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Favourite themes of mine for flash fiction include rough justice, alien life being as intelligent as ours (and usually more so!), and crime (often showing the criminal’s justification, if only to themselves, as to their course of action). It is perhaps ironic that the really big themes – love, justice etc – can be summed up in one word but the amount of variety of stories you can get from these is vast.

I believe the simpler the theme, the better. It comes across well too. You don’t need your readers scratching their heads trying to work out what the theme is.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Seasonal Reading

Do you worry about reading according to the seasons?

I generally don’t, though will concede I read more during the autumn and winter. There is just something about the longer dark evenings that encourage getting the Kindle out or raiding the To Be Read pile. For me, it is one of the joys of the colder times of year. (The other is hot chocolate!).

But what I read doesn’t change much during the year. I read according to mood. So if I fancy crime, I read that. If I want historical I go for that. (Sometimes I fancy historical crime!!). The great thing about reading and writing flash fiction is one collection can cover a lot of moods in one volume! Mine falls into that category.

I will put my hands up to re-reading Terry Pratchett’s Reaper Man around Harvest Festival Time and his Hogfather in the run up to Christmas though but that is about it for me for seasonal reading.

What I would like to do more of though is read more poetry. I know what I like in that line when I come across it but it is remembering to do so. For me it is the easiest thing in the world to reach for prose to suit my moods. And of course the majority of the time that is exactly what I do.

I do have what I call “comfort reading” books and these are generally humorous like Pratchett or Wodehouse. When I want a sure fire bet to entertain and amuse me, these are where I head first.

So what do you read seasonally?