Meanings

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, the images come from the marvellous Pixabay

Facebook – and Chandler’s Ford Today

For this week’s CFT post, I look at Meanings, how comedy writing depends on there being multiple meanings to get the laughs (particularly true for puns), and discuss how certain radio shows can help you as a writer learn about the use of language. Hope you enjoy.

Feature Image - Meanings

My inspiration for my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Meanings this week comes from going to see My Husband’s Nuts, the latest production from the Chameleon Theatre Group. (Review next week).

I guessed that there would be at least some reference to the various meanings of nuts within the play (you can fill in your own gags here!) and that led me to look at how much comedy writing depends on multiple meanings etc.

Ideas can be funny things at times. All it needs is that initial spark to create a starting point and you go from there. You just need to be open to recognising that initial spark for what it is AND to see that it really is just the beginning.

I’ve found reading and writing more makes it easier to recognise those initial sparks. And ideas do come from all over the place (and not always at convenient times either!) but you get used to that.

I have brainstorming sessions every so often and just write down all the ideas I come up with then. A lot I do go on to use either for story ideas or CFT blog posts and some I discard.

Closer examination, after a break away from that brainstorming session, leads me to critically decide which ideas have the “legs” and which don’t. But coming up with ideas I don’t take further later on is not a waste of time. Far from it. Sometimes I have to add another element into that initial idea and then it has the “legs”. What matters is there ARE ideas I can flesh up and write up. I think there is a certain element of having to think through ideas to get to the nuggets you can do something with.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posting early today as off to see The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production, My Husband’s Nuts, later tonight. I make no comment on the title except to say I’ll be reviewing the play and production next week for Chandler’s Ford Today. This week’s post will be all about Meanings. Read into that what you will! 😀😀

I’ll be meeting up with my lovely CFT editor, Janet Williams. Going to the plays has become something of a CFT tradition for both of us. I like to think of it as a kind of works outing! What I do know is this evening should be a lot of fun!

Have put in my order for the Best of Cafelit 8. Looking forward to that postal delivery. You never lose the thrill of being in a book!

Am working on a story for a competition and hope to get that submitted over the weekend. I really don’t miss the old days of having to get everything sent off in the post – email submissions are so much easier.

I’m looking at Meanings for this week’s CFT post. I look a little at how the use of certain English words has changed.

I also discuss how radio shows like Just A Minute and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, as well as being great fun, are excellent for writers to learn from. This is particularly true for JAM. (If you get the chance, do check out earlier series where grammatical deviation challenges are particularly useful for writers to learn from).

I look at how comedy writing is so dependent on getting the right meaning from the right words to get the laughs. Well, where would puns be without having more than one meaning?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to say I’ll have another flash fiction tale up on Cafelit soon. Will share the link obviously. Very pleased with the look of The Best of Cafelit 8. Receiving parcels with books with your stories in is a great joy. It doesn’t dim!

How do I decide what is a great moment in a character’s life that deserves having a flash fiction tale revealing said moment?

Well firstly that moment has to grip ME. A writer is their own first reader and if you’re not gripped by the characters and situation you’ve put them in, nobody else will be.

Secondly that moment should reveal something interesting to a reader.

That can be anything from the character finally learns a much needed lesson (humour can work well here), the character changes their ways or deals with a conflict and resolves it.

I’m always interested in how characters resolve problems and why they’ve gone the route they have. I think most readers are fascinated by that. It’s why we read to the end if we are gripped by the tale. We have to find out what happens and that urge to find out has been with humanity for centuries. It’s not going anywhere any time soon!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posting early as off to see My Husband’s Nuts, the latest production by The Chameleon Theatre Group, later on. Oh the power of a title!!

I look at Meanings (including how comedy writing depends on words having multiple meanings to get the laughs at all) for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post. Link up tomorrow.

I sometimes know the title of a flash fiction story immediately because I’ve come up with something I really want to write something to and so off I go. At other times, the title emerges from the character and the story but at all times I have to have a draft title to get me started. I do need a “peg” like that but once I’ve got one, away I go!

But I’ve learned not to worry about changing the title if a better one comes to me. Only the Ten Commandments were set in stone, folks.

(Oh and have literally just had The Best of Cafelit 8 delivered – at 5 pm on Thursday 24th October. I like getting parcels like that! So naturally that needs a photo!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For someone who writes flash fiction, I can’t say I have that many flashes of inspiration! I don’t usually get an idea out of the blue. What I do hear is a character’s voice and I can detect from that something of what their major traits are likely to be.

Assuming I like the sound of this character (whether they’re hero or villain doesn’t matter – all I need is to see possibilities for them), I ask myself what situations would they hate having to deal with and why. I then dump them in those situations. It’s time for my character to sink or swim then! No shortage of conflict here either (especially internal conflict). And yes, I know, I’m all heart to my characters – NOT!

There’s no point in putting your super duper character in a situation you know they can handle. Where’s the story in that? Give them hell and then some. It will challenge you to work out how your character deals with it and that is where the story is!

Have fun dropping your characters right in it then!

Fairytales With Bite – What I Like in a Fairytale

  • Strong characters (even if they themselves don’t think they are but prove it later)
  • To see wrong being righted (with some help from a fairy godmother and a magic wand. Be prepared for pumpkins to be involved. Just go with it… it’s part of the fairy godmother’s stock in trade).
  • Humour. While the character of Buttons is not in Cinderella to the best of my knowledge, I can understand his addition to the traditional pantomime. If the main character can’t be humorous, for whatever reason, best to get a sidekick to do it then!
  • A good and appropriate ending, usually a happy one though there are exceptions (The Little Mermaid as told by Hans Christen Andersen is a classic example here).

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – Deciding on a Setting

How do you decide what setting is best for your characters?

  • The setting has to meet the character’s needs. If a character is on a quest, where are they likely to meet those who will help them/supply them etc? Also where are they going to and why? What kind of obstacles must they overcome to achieve their objective?
  • The setting has to be appropriate to the characters. You wouldn’t get a mermaid to live in an inner city etc (well she wouldn’t last for long if you did!).
  • What kind of world do you want to create? Have you got a hankering for forests? Then create a world which has plenty of them and think about what kind of characters would live in woodlands? Which characters would hate that? Would there be conflict between the two types (I should think so but good stories always come out of conflict!)?

 

 

 

Work In Progress/Flash Fiction Ideas

Image Credit: Unless otherwise stated, all pictures are from Pixabay.

Facebook – General

A week today and I’ll be at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School again. Can’t wait! Always good to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and learn so much from the different courses and workshops. The usual dilemma of which ones to go to applies… but I know I’m in good company with that!

Many thanks to all who’ve read Stolen on Cafelit.

Hope to get another story off for a competition this coming week. Am making a conscious effort to increase my throughput (so to speak) and am pleased I’ve done better this year on this than I did at the same time twelve months ago.

As for where I don’t hear what the results are or where I receive outright rejections, I will review those stories later in the year and see if I can submit them elsewhere. Usually, I can. Sometimes I can spot something, after a break away from it, that could do with strengthening so I work on the story and then re-submit it. Very little is wasted!

Update:  Am pleased to say I will have another story up on Cafelit on 12th August. More nearer the time.

And the first thing people will want to know is the title - Pixabay

I can’t remember what the first story I wrote was. It was not published but to begin with I didn’t write with publication in mind. My first thoughts were to see if (a) I could write a story at all and then (b) can I repeat the process?

I kept doing that for a while until I had a reasonable number and then started submitting work (on the grounds I had absolutely nothing to lose so may as well give it my best shot. If I was published I’d be thrilled to bits. I was – and I was! I still love that thrill of knowing something of mine has been accepted for publication. That’s the nice thing. That thrill does not diminish!).

I will always remember the first story that was published though! (A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology. I suspect time will stand still long before I forget that!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pleased Just a Minute is back on Radio 4. That and Clue are the main comedy shows I listen to now. JAM is a wonderful way of discovering just how hard it is NOT to repeat, deviate, or hesitate when talking on a topic. Know I couldn’t do it.

Repetition in writing is something I have mixed feelings on. I sometimes repeat a word or phrase deliberately for emphasis. Sometimes I get a character to use a particular word so whenever it comes up, you know it’s that character who is speaking. (I avoid tags as much as possible but generally stick to he said/she said/it said when I do need to use them).

When I edit, I’m looking out for the repetitions I didn’t mean to do and there are always some! (This is another reason for reading work out loud by the way. I’ve found I’ve missed things even looking at a printout. Reading the work out literally brings home your repetitions and other failings as you hear yourself speak and realise you’ve used a phrase several times when you didn’t need to or mean to).

Delighted to say I’ll have another story up on Cafelit next week too. More details a bit nearer the time. Looking forward to sharing the link while I’m at Swanwick too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I don’t schedule posts as often as could but I will be preparing a two-part CFT article on Making Space, which I’ll schedule for this Friday and the one after. (I will be very tired but happy after a wonderful week at Swanwick for the second part of my post, which will focus on making space as a writer. More details on the first part tomorrow).

I usually schedule posts for when I’m due to be away but, increasingly thanks to Evernote and a smartphone, I’m drafting posts and then putting up later the same day. I often use train journeys for this as well as my flash fiction. It means I get a nice mixture of writing done.

I need to try to write up posts in batches more often and schedule them, as I’m sure that will prove to be more efficient. The nice thing is as well is if something topical comes up, you just change your schedule for whatever you WERE going to post. You can always use that another time. The only thing to watch is to ensure any batch posts are all timeless and could go up at any time.

Pleased to say I submitted another story yesterday for a competition. Have submitted more work at this time this year than twelve months ago so pleased with that. Need to catch up on the writing prompts in my diary too as I know those will trigger more stories.

As you can no doubt tell, I don’t have time to get bored! But that is a very good thing indeed…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Favourite things about flash fiction for me:-

1. Can read a story in one sitting. (Invaluable when I’m short of time).

2. Great for twist endings (which I adore).

3. One-liners and punchlines work well here too and again I adore those.

4. You can set your character in any genre you want. It is only the word count you’re watching. I’ve found as a result the story has to be character led as that is more direct. There is no room for descriptions or interaction with many other characters after all.

5. I love writing dialogue. Not a lot of room for that in flash but what I can do is show you some of my character’s thoughts and I love writing those too. The great thing with that is you will pick up on the character’s general attitude to life. In dialogue they may disguise that especially if they want to impress someone.

Sometimes a flash story tips over and becomes a longer 1500+ tale and that’s fine. It just gets submitted to a different market/competition.

I’ve learned over time to let my character(s) have their voice. The trick is ensuring that what emerges IS relevant to the story (or deepens it and makes it more meaningful).

Writers need to come with an in-built “you’re waffling and you know you are, cut NOW” detector!

The critical test for me is to ask myself does a reader really need to know this? Will their enjoyment of the story be greater if this is in the piece? If it’s Yes and Yes, the material stays in. If there’s any doubt on either, out it comes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Loving listening to the Pink Panther theme on Classic FM tonight. (You’ll be humming it all night now. I know I will but it is wonderful music! Loved the films AND the cartoons. I don’t know how many other films spawned cartoons either).

So you have distinctive and memorable pieces of music then across the genres. The challenge for writers is to make OUR writing distinctive and memorable.

For me, the only way to do that is to have stand-out characters. It’s never about the plot for me. It’s always about whether the character engages me regardless of whether the story is a 50 word dribble, a 100 word drabble, or a 250,000 word epic saga!

I find working out what my main character’s chief trait is going to be a useful way to unlocking what makes them tick, WHY that trait is their chief one and so on.

For my flash stories (and especially the first person ones), I have to know what my character’s voice is before I start writing them. Are they whiny? Boastful? Remorseful etc etc? Only when I think I’ve got a handle on who they really are do I start writing the story. Outlining like this has saved me a lot of time later.

Where I’ve found ideas for flash fiction stories includes:-

1. Proverbs (to use both as titles and themes).

2. Advertising phrases

3. Taking a period of history I like and writing from the viewpoint of one of my favourite characters from that period.

4. Other well known phrases (e.g. my Circle of Life, Pressing the Flesh, and Coming Up Roses).

5. Turning stereotypes on their head (e.g. my George Changes His Mind. Let’s just say I have an alternative view as to what happened when George met that dragon).

6. Using an alliterative title and seeing where it takes me (e.g. my Pen Portrait). The more open to interpretation the title, the better.

7. Taking a book I like (e.g. Pride and Prejudice) and writing a snapshot story from the viewpoint of one of the characters (e.g. my Changing My Mind is from the viewpoint of Mr Darcy).

8. Picking a fiction genre and seeing if I can write a flash fiction story in it. (I’ve written what I call light horror such as my Calling the Doctor in this vein).

9. Posing a question as the title and again seeing where it might take me.

10. Using a letter format from one character to another to generate a story.

What I like most is mixing up the methods used. It keeps me on my toes and I think makes the writing more interesting. It is really important to have fun with what you write, I think.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog – Books You Can’t Finish

I’m glad to say there aren’t many books I haven’t been able to finish but I guess this is one of those things that happens to most of us.

I always think it’s a bit of a shame when this does occur and I ask myself just why I couldn’t finish the book. The answer is nearly always that the characters didn’t grip me enough to make me want to find out what happened to them.

These days, given life is short and I have to TBR pile to be seen to be believed (and on my Kindle too!), anything that doesn’t hook me quickly is discarded.

It’s a good challenge to me as a writer to ensure I do put plenty of hooks into my flash fiction and short stories.

It also makes you appreciate those wonderful writers who can keep doing this book after book after book over many, many years. When I think P.G. Wodehouse wrote over 90 books and was consistently funny, well for me that’s genius and should be recognised as such.

Now back to my reading…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Started and Moving On

Facebook – General

I often think the hardest part of writing is getting started! Once I’m away on a piece, whether it is a FB post like this, a flash fiction or longer short story, I get the “bit between the teeth” and get on with it until I’ve got that first draft down.

I’m not deliberately procrastinating incidentally. I set myself down to write at pretty much the same time every night and get on with it. It’s just finding those first few words to get the ball rolling…

Ah well, time to get on with the next piece!

Does music help you with your creativity?

I write usually with classical music on in the background (courtesy of #ClassicFM most of the time). It doesn’t matter whether it’s Beethoven’s 5th or his Moonlight Sonata, I find that just having the music on relaxes me and I just get on and write more effectively.

I am very fond of the Saturday Night at the Movies show on Classic and it is amazing how the right music can make a film. I bet you can name at least four John Williams’ themes for a start. Think of the films you’ve thought of WITHOUT that music. Almost impossible, isn’t it?

Sometimes when I create characters, I think of what music would best suit them. It never makes it into the story itself but it does help me to picture them better so I write about/for them with more depth and that DOES show in a story.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Enjoying the new series of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue on Radio 4. Always love the word play on here. You can’t keep a bad pun down, no matter how much you might want to!

Playing with the language, inventing puns etc, is something I occasionally do as a writing exercise. Always good fun. Makes you think in a different way. (Just how excruciating can I get with a pun?!). Sometimes that has triggered story ideas precisely because I’ve allowed my brain to go off on a tangent for a bit. Try it and see what you come up with. If nothing else, you should have fun with some mental word games here!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Delighted to share more publication news. My flash fiction piece, Moving On, is now live on Cafelit. Hope you enjoy, especially if you’re considering a career change!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When do you know if a flash fiction piece has had impact?

If you’re really lucky, a reader will tell you so but for me generally it has been when I can recall most, if not all, of the story days later and it still makes me feel the way I did on first reading it. And that applies whether I’ve written the piece or not. There is a kind of “hits you between the eyes” feeling to stories like this.

 

Looking forward to sharing more publication news next week. Also looking forward to the Bridge House event in London next Saturday and seeing old friends and meeting new ones there!

Plus, as ever, am planning to do plenty of writing on the train journeys. All hail, Evernote, I get so much done!! I find I either write several flash fiction stories or draft one or two CFT posts in an average train journey. So at some point I ought to go on a long train journey – hmm… what could I get drafted on the sleeper train to Scotland I wonder? If I ever find out, I will report back.😀😉

Will be reading some flash fiction pieces at the Bridge House event on Saturday. Looking forward to that. Looking forward to hearing all the other wonderful stories from my fellow authors there as well. I love sitting back entranced. And how often, as adults, do we get to be read TO? Not often enough I suspect.

To love writing you have GOT to love reading (though taking in stories via other forms such as audio is fine but nothing for me will beat a book). I owe a huge debt to my late mum for instilling a love of stories and reading in me at a very young age. She got to see my first published story – A Helping Hand in the Bridge House Alternative Renditions anthology – and my dad got to see my first book, From Light to Dark and Back Again, published. There’s a pleasing symmetry to that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My latest flash story, Moving On, which is now on Cafelit, was one of those tales where I started with the opening line and based the story around it. I wanted something different to the normal meaning associated with “learning to let go”. I like taking phrases like that and putting my own take on them. Give it a go, it is good fun!

http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/20…/…/moving-on.html

 

Goodreads Author Programme BlogImpact of Writing

The impact of writing on the world in general cannot be underestimated.

As well as the Bible, Shakespeare, Dickens etc., all of which have contributed so much to our language and whose stories have been the inspiration for so many others, there are things like the Domesday Book and Magna Carta.

Historical documents which colour so much else in life and law. Nobody could have foreseen at the time of writing just how much impact these would have (though there would have been many hopes about the Magna Carta. Not least that King John was hoping to get rid of it again as soon as he possibly could! An early recognition of dangerous writing perhaps?).

What makes us love our favourite books and stories the way we do? It is also down to impact. The impact of them stays with us. We want to be like the heroic lead characters perhaps. We feel fear for the characters we love as they face dangers. We feel relief, joy etc when our favourites survive.

So do writers’ play with their readers’ emotions then? Yes but it is always best done subtly. The reader has to be willing to go along with the writer here. The writer has to deliver on the promise of his/her opening lines. We have got to be able to identify with those in the story to want to find out whether they make it through to the end or not.

So the impact of writing is everything then. As readers then we need to decide what impact we want to experience.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.