All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today
Delighted to share my latest CFT post – Favourite Writing Exercises and Why They’re Beneficial.
I remember being set writing exercises when I was first starting out as a writer and being terrified by the thought of them. There was also no way on this earth I would read any of my offerings out loud! How things have changed!
As I mentioned yesterday (see below!), the fact nobody expects perfect prose helps a lot. I also found listening in to contributions from others helped too. It kind of reassured me I was on the right lines with what I had drafted and that in time built up my confidence enough to start sharing my work out loud. Feedback from that helped still further.
I discuss in my post why it is a good idea to get used to writing exercises and practicing some of the most common ones set (opening and closing lines) also helps enormously.
I found it meant I was less unnerved when a speaker at a conference set such an exercise. I knew I’d already practiced them and while I wouldn’t know (rightly!) what the line would be I had to write to, I knew I could do the exercise. That in turn built up my confidence to draft something for that exercise and with time and practice, you get better at most things, including exercises like these.
Great comments coming in already for my latest CFT post. Do share what your favourite writing exercises are.
Many thanks for the wonderful response to yesterday’s post about my tote bag with the cover for Tripping the Flash Fantastic on it and a big, big thanks to my publishers, Chapeltown Books.
Looking forward to sharing tomorrow’s CFT post as it is about writing exercises and I love these. I never used to do so. I used to feel terrified when I was set any at writing conferences etc but when I realised nobody was expecting perfect prose first go, I relaxed! That funnily enough was when I started to enjoy said writing exercises.
It helps to see them as a fun way to trigger ideas you can polish up later. And that is the whole point. You do polish them up later and from that who knows? I’ve submitted pieces of flash fiction and short stories which started life this way and then went on to be published on CafeLit etc. Talking of which I will have another piece on there later this week which will be a lovely way to start the writing year!
Had a lovely surprise from my publisher today – a tote bag with my book cover for Tripping the Flash Fantastic on it! Guess what I’ll be using to take my books about with me when we can finally have live book events again! One chuffed author here…!
Lady was chuffed to see her best buddie, the lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, in the park today. A good time was had by all. Lady doesn’t get to see her bestie every day so naturally wants to make the most of things when she does. (And her buddy takes the same view!).
My CFT post this week will be about a couple of my favourite writing exercises and why I think they’re beneficial. Link up on Friday. Hopefully you’ll also find it useful.
For the rest of January and into February, I will be sharing via CFT various authors’ thoughts on the impact of lockdown on their book launches. One of those authors will be me of course! But I will be kicking the series off with an interview with someone who is both a publisher and an author and has had to face lockdown and all that has meant from both sides of the writing business. All fabulous stuff and I can’t wait to share these posts. So plenty to look forward to here.
Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again
What do you look for most in a story? I look to be entertained and it is a case of deciding whether to be entertained by a crime story, a historical fiction piece, fantasy, or what have you. For me, stories are all about taking a reader to a different place for a short while (and in the case of flash fiction, it is a very short while – and hooray I found a very I could justify using there! Very is one of my wasted words and nearly always gets the red pen treatment! It is unusual for me to leave any in!).
I guess lockdown has proved again how important stories are. The great thing with stories is you can go anywhere you like with them without moving one step from home.
So your travel guide for this weekend – what is it to be? Fantasy worlds, a dash of flash, a non-fiction book (and yes non-fiction is a form of storytelling too). And if you’re not sure where to start why not try a short story or flash fiction collection? See them as mixed assortments and doesn’t everyone like those from time to time? No calories either!
Whatever you read this weekend, enjoy – and escape for a while! It is a lovely feeling…!
I’ll be talking about writing exercises in my post for Chandler’s Ford Today this week (link up tomorrow) but I like to mix up the kind of exercise I do, whether I’m specifically using them for flash work or not.
I love opening and closing lines (the theme of tomorrow’s post) as these are my two favourite forms of writing exercise but there are all kinds of things you can use as a prompt to start writing. I’ll talk a bit more about that in my post tomorrow but you can pick a random object from your desk, say, and work it into a story. You can use my other favourite things, the random generators, to trigger things to again work into a story and/or use as the theme and/or use as the title.
I like taking pictures when I’m out anywhere (not that this is happening for the foreseeable future!) but do look up your old pictures. Can any of those inspire a flash fiction story?
And however you start writing your tales, be sure to enjoy the process. That matters. I believe at least some of the writer’s enjoyment of the process does come through in the finished work and readers pick up on that subconsciously.
Anyway, why wouldn’t you enjoy what you write?!
I’m currently drafting a short story which I suspect will end up being at about the 1500-2000 words mark, so well above the flash limit, but I mention it here as I’ve fallen for the lead character and know I have got right under their skin.
Now I do this for all of my characters but this one does have that extra sparkle about them and I adore that. Hopefully future readers will pick up on this and love this character too in due course.
You need to fall for your characters and get under their skin for flash stories too, albeit this has to be done on a smaller scale. It helps to focus on the one thing that makes your character worth writing for and the one incident that is their story. What is it you have to write up?
Outlining helps here as you list what you love about your character and what could happen to them based on their situation. You then pick the strongest scenario based on that list. It will be the one that grabs you the most. Take time out to think about why that is. I suspect it will be because the scenario will bring out something special from your character, whether it highlights their sense of humour, sense of fair play, or simply just shows them in their best light.
And then enjoy every moment of writing the story up!
Fairytales With Bite – Favourite Kinds of Fairytale Character
Do you have favourite kinds of fairytale character? I always root for the underdog but I also love characters like Shrek that overturn perceptions as to how their characters are normally seen. Well, why can’t there be a good ogre? The word ogre itself conjures up the image of something nasty but who gave it that link? It also leads to the interesting question of what is the difference between a bad fairy godmother and a good witch? Who would you rather have in your corner?!
I also think fairytale characters are metaphors for us. There are the goody-goodies who never put a foot wrong, the ones who start out wrong but turn out okay in the end, the ones who are just plain evil (and usually they’re the ones after power which naturally they will only use for their own purposes). Maybe this is why fairytales resonate with us all still. We recognise the character types.
This World and Others – What Makes Your World Work for a Reader?
What is it about your fictional world that you need to get across to your reader? What do they need to know about how things work?
The ideal of course is for your characters to show your reader the world they live in.
Readers pick up on context so think about that when writing dialogue. Dialogue in fiction needs to sound as natural as possible but you also don’t want characters to tell each other what they might be expected to know.
Character A: I hear our newly elected Lord Mayor Renstung is a complete….
Hmm… a lot of telling here… also you want your readers to judge the Mayor for themselves and not be told what to think.
And it is highly likely Character B will know about the recent election and the new Mayor so what would be a better way of showing readers the situation here?
Character A: Did you like the results on Thursday?
Character B: No. I was hoping old Whatitsface would be our new Mayor, not that complete…. Well you know what Renstung is like.
Character A: Hardly likely to forget am I?
Character B: I know you’ve mentioned the burning of your village on his orders but I don’t think you told me how old you were when that happened.
Much better. Yes, a higher word count but you find out something about Character A here, Character B comes across as sympathetic, and you can sense why these two are likely to be friends. For one thing, their views on politics look similar just from this short exchange.
When it comes to narrative, and you need to describe, say, the Mayoral building, do so succinctly. Think impact. What do you want your readers to see?
The Mayoral Hall was built in the 50th century and looked like a wedding cake carved out of marble. It had won awards for its architecture but the prize giving committee were all members of Renstung’s cabinet.
This is okay. You get an image.
There was something about the marble Mayoral Hall that made people shiver as they went past it. It might look like a wedding cake but countless people had died inside It. Nobody was sure of the numbers.
I would go with this wording. You still know it’s marble (the age isn’t the most relevant thing so I’ve cut that out), I’ve still given you the shape of it, but I’ve also associated it with horror. And that would be the most important thing for your readers to know.
Always ask yourself if you were reading your work as if it it had been written by someone else, how does the writing make you feel and react? There should be a reaction!
Favourite Writing Exercises and Why They’re Beneficial https://t.co/Pa4FUYGvyL Hope you find my latest post from CFT useful. I discuss a couple of my favourite writing exercises here.— Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) January 8, 2021