They Came from Mars and Other Top Tips

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

When a spoof works… CFT Review – They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning?

Delighted to share my review of this fabulous production, the latest to be staged by The Chameleon Theatre Company – Chandlers Ford. It was huge fun spotting the references and recalling the musical links.
I also go on to discuss the “rules” for a good spoof and why I think humour is the hardest genre to write well.

Spotting all the references and gags here would take at least two visits to the show!

Images supplied by Lionel Elliott, Mike Morris and The Chameleons. A huge thank you as ever. Captions on the CFT post.

 

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Further to my earlier post about The Chameleon’s latest production, just why is humour so difficult to write well?

(Said production incidentally easily has the longest title of a play I’ve reviewed and I can’t see it being beaten any time soon! Well, what do YOU make of They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning? Try saying that quickly! Go on give it a go!).

So humorous writing – the pitfalls (and this is not a comprehensive list by any means):-

1. Humour is subjective. Not everyone gets your style of joke.

2. Sometimes you will come across people who really don’t like funny writing of any kind. My late mum loved books across a wide range of genres (including sci-fi) but just didn’t get funny writing. It was her blind spot. This happens. Nothing you can do about it. (And yes I went the other way and LOVE funny writing!).

3. Humour doesn’t always translate well between countries, cultures etc. So to get something that does cross boundaries is pretty special.

What is your favourite form of humorous writing? Where the humour is “in your face” or do you prefer the subtle one-liner etc?

I love all humorous writing but if I had to pick a favourite, I adore those one-liners which can turn a story on its head and make you laugh at the same time.

You can bet the writer would have written and re-written that line several times to get it spot on and it wouldn’t have just been the words themselves. The rhythm of a sentence can make a difference to how funny it is perceived to be. Punchlines are generally short for maximum impact for that reason.

As part of my CFT review of The Chameleons’ latest hilarious production, I’ll also be looking at what makes a spoof work and what I think some of the “rules” are. Link up tomorrow.

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My CFT post this week will be a review of the Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production. They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning doesn’t trip off the tongue but is a classic example of a title showing clearly what the story is – a spoof!

I will be discussing spoofs and comedy as well as part of the review. Link up on Friday.

What amazes me with the Chameleons though is I have seen them stage everything from Arthur Miller’s All My Sons to Blackadder to hilarious pantos and all of them have been wonderfully entertaining.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Five top tips:-

1. Never be afraid to change a title if the one you first thought of just isn’t making enough impact on you. (It won’t on anyone else either. Trust your gut here and don’t be afraid to play around with titles until you find one that does hit home).

2. Think about the emotional impact you want your story to have on a reader before you write it. Take a little time to figure out how best to achieve it. This is where outlining is useful, even if you do a broad outline.

3. Once the story is written, put it away for a while. When you re-read it, read it out loud. Hear how your dialogue sounds. Is there anything in it to trip you up or does it sound clunky? What looks good on paper or screen doesn’t always translate well into being read out loud.

4. Assume you will have to edit more than once. We all do! (But see it as getting your story into shape and helping increase its chances of being published).

5. Be open to trying new forms of writing as you may discover avenues you hadn’t considered but which you discover a skill for. I hadn’t started as a flash fiction writer! ‘Nuff said.

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Favourite endings for flash fiction tales for me include:-

1. A punchline that turns the story on its head.

2. A laugh-out loud moment. (You then read the story again and pick up on the clues that show this moment is coming but which you missed first go, being too eager to find out how the tale did end. Guilty as charged on too many occasions to count on that one).

3. A poetic justice ending. I love those and several of my stories include this. (Subconscious wish to put the world to rights I suspect is coming out here!).

4. A revelation. This can be a character finally showing what has motivated them, some aspect of their personality that hasn’t come out until the end and which makes a huge difference to the outcome, or an action to finish the story on.

Fun with Flash:-

1. Flash stories can be ideal for those characters who would drive people nuts if their tales went on for too long so have some fun with this. Keep your tale short and you can use characters you might otherwise have to discard.

2. Punchlines work well in flash. I sometimes use them as twist endings to a story. But again punchlines work best if they’re kept short so flash fiction can be a good vehicle for them.

3. If you have a short scene in a longer work that you’d like to keep in but can’t justify as it is an amusing character sketch (for example) but nothing more, how about turning it into a piece of flash fiction? Let it stand on its own. Flash is brilliant for focusing on one character and one moment in time. Waste not, want not. (You may find in turning it into a story, the scene suddenly develops “legs” after all).

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Fairytales with Bite – They Came From Mars

My CFT post this week is a review of a wonderful spoof staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group. The title is likely to remain the longest of any play I’ve ever reviewed. Try saying They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning in a hurry!

No matter where your story is set, or how outlandish your fictional world is, it still has to be populated by characters whom we can understand and either root for, or love to hate. They must generate an emotional reaction in us. Their motives must be ones we can understand.

The setting should also be one we can get behind. After all, we know how our planet works/is run. How is this done in your fictional setting? Are there corrupt politicians for example? (I refuse to believe that could just be on Earth!).

Especially in a fantasy world, some ideas of what it looks like, how the species live, what kind of wildlife is there etc deepen your characterisation of the setting itself. (Setting can often be a character in its own right and I don’t think it’s a bad idea to treat it as one. It means you think it out for a start!).

Images for the review are on the CFT post and many thanks to the Chameleons for them.  Images below are from the ever marvellous Pixabay.

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This World and Others –

Top Tips for When Writing Isn’t Working as You’d Hoped

It happens. You go through phases where writing is either difficult or simply isn’t working out as you’d hoped. Lots of submissions. Lots of rejections. Few acceptances. Do you wonder if you should keep going? Some tips I’ve found useful to keep me going during difficult times include:-

1.  Read More. Feed your own imagination. Remind yourself of why you love stories and why you wanted to write any.

2. Remove the Pressure.  Deliberately write just for your own pleasure. Make up complete nonsense. Have fun. (Later, if you can do anything with the writing, even if it is just the odd line or two makes it into a story, say, then fab. Even if not, you’re taking time out to play with words and again remind yourself why you wanted to write).

3.  Look at Where You’ve Come From Writing Wise.  How much have you written over the years? Can you list publication credits (online and in print)? If not at that stage, have you had shortlistings? Are you simply submitting more stories for competitions than ever before? Remember  you define what success in writing is. Yes, publication is the obvious goal but it isn’t the only one. Saying you’ll write 3 or 4 stories and then try and get them published later is a fine goal too.  Look at what you’ve learned as you have written more. Have you learned how to improve your editing skills? Have you picked up tips on the way that are helping you write better now (I would be surprised if you hadn’t)? All of these are good and worthy things.

4.  Find supportive writing buddies via online groups or in creative writing classes. We all need to be reminded we’re not alone. Others do understand our compulsion to write. Others understand the frustrations of trying to get published. You need that support. It can make all the difference during low times, creatively speaking.

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Looking into the past... Image via Pixabay

PRIORITIES, REMEMBERING, AND A REVIEW

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

This week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post is my review of Murdered to Death by Peter Gordon, recently performed by the Chameleon Theatre Group. I look at what you look for in great spoofs and discuss the wonderful Agatha Christie send-ups in this highly enjoyable play, which was brilliantly performed by the Chameleons to a packed house. I hope they put on more spoofs. I have a very soft spot for funny plays (funny books too come to that) and spoofs are a fantastic part of this.

Image Credit:

All images for Murdered to Death kindly supplied to Chandler’s Ford Today by Lionel Elliott and taken by Liz Strevens and Marilyn Dunbar, all of The Chameleon Theatre Group.

Many thanks.

Image Credit:  All images below are from Pixabay.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When is less is more? Certainly in flash fiction. Also on Twitter (I’ve been following the debate on the increase in characters from 140 to 280 and agree that the tighter character limit increases creativity. If you can say something in 140 characters, why on earth would you want to say it in more? There is no point to writing which isn’t necessary to the story!).

Twist endings depend on the less is more principle. In The Truth in From Light to Dark and Back Again the last sentence contains the twist in a total of 10 words (and by my rough tot-up 68 characters including the full stop!). In Serving Up a Treat, the twist was in 8 words (which this time is 39 characters including the full stop).

A guiding principle for me has been to write what needs to be written and get out! (It is in the edit that you work out what does need to be in the story. It can be surprising just how much can be cut too at times).

(From Light to Dark and Back Again can now be found in MIBI Gift Shop in Chandler’s Ford, along with Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords by fellow writer and friend, Richard Hardie. Images below taken by me and many thanks to MIBI. I hope to write a CFT post about how local communities can help their writers and vice versa).

Image Credit:

All images below taken by Allison Symes.  Many thanks to MIBI.

Image Credit:  All images below are from Pixabay.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog

What do your book choices reveal about you? Well, for a start, hopefully, that you have excellent taste in books!

Your choices should also reveal you are widely read, with a good selection of non-fiction books, as well as fiction, on your shelves.

Certain titles give themselves away, of course. Having the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook on your shelves points to there being a writer or artist in the household!

Your choices should also reveal which genres are your favourites as these will tend to dominate your bookshelves. (In my case, it’s humorous fantasy and yes I do have a shelf full of Terry Pratchett and Tom Holt’s works).

On the non-fiction front, your choices should reveal what your favourite genre is here (for me, it’s anything historic).

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Fairytales With Bite – Priorities

What are your characters’ priorities and why have they chosen them?  (Did they get to choose them or did family/tribal expectation force them to “choose” the priorities they have?).  What are the priorities for your world’s government(s)?  What stops them or individual characters from fulfilling their priorities?

I must admit I sometimes find it difficult to work out my priorities (given all my jobs do actually need to be done!).  This is where deadlines (actual and ones you set for yourself) can be useful.  They give you something concrete to work towards, can help against procrastination and, I think, help you achieve more in terms of your writing than you would without them.

The biggest but nicest problem I have had this year is giving the right priority to publicizing From Light to Dark and Back Again (including taking part in things like the recent Chandler’s Ford Book Fair) and getting on with my other writing.  I know I will get this balance right eventually (experience does show!) but I also know I haven’t got there yet (as I said, experience does show!  So does lack of said experience!).

Writing directly to screen

Prioritising writing work isn’t always easy.

This World and Others – Remembering

This weekend has Armistice Day (11/11), which given it is on a Saturday this year is followed by special services throughout the UK (where I’m based) on the nearest Sunday to it.  It is a strange thing about us as a species that we need to actively remember especially those things that are the most important.  The biggest lesson from history, I think, is the importance to remember and then maybe some of the worst mistakes we’ve made won’t be repeated.  At the very least that is a good thing to aim for.

This week has also seen the second anniversary of my mother’s passing and I can’t believe where the time has gone.

On a happier note, as I’m settling in our new rescue dog, Lady, happy memories of my previous dogs, Gracie and Mabel, are flooding back as Lady shows some traits common to them all.

On a writing front, what would your characters choose to actively remember?  What are the most important things for them?  What does this say about them as characters?  What made them choose these things?  Do any of these things go against what would be their cultural norm and, if so, what consequences do they face?

Looking into the past... Image via Pixabay

Lest We Forget.

 

DEVELOPMENTS/MAKING PROGRESS AND BOOK FAIR REPORT

Lots happening tonight!

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

I shared details of my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post earlier in the day about last weekend’s Book Fair. Going to share it again as my lovely editor has turned the galleries of photos into slideshows (which look fab. Many thanks, Janet).

I take a look at, not at only the event itself, but why I think the Book Fair helped writers (and is of wider benefit to a community that no longer has an independent bookshop). I also love the fact that when writers work together, great things can happen and the Fair was a great example of that.

Image Credit:  The photos in the slideshow are a mixture of those taken by me and my lovely Chandler’s Ford Today editor, Janet Williams, who started the site alone and has developed it into a popular online magazine.  Slideshow right at the end of this blog post.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I love the way stories can come in so many different formats – literally everything from flash fiction to epic novels. This aspect was very well represented at the Chandler’s Ford Book Fair last weekend.

Then there are the formats of “transmission” – everything from the book itself to the audiobook to the play and film scripts. A good story is adaptable to more than one medium and can be appreciated and loved in more than one medium too. I have a soft spot for radio (and one thing on my To Do list is to try to write something for radio that makes it on to the air).

As well as “straight” stories, so to speak, there are the well-done spoofs, which are a sheer joy to read or watch. Last weekend was a busy one with the Book Fair in the morning and my going to see the Chameleon Theatre Group’s production of Murdered to Death by Peter Gordon in the evening.

I’ll be writing about that for next week’s CFT post but just wanted to say now that the story world, regardless of genre, truly is a fantastic one. The fact it can send itself up via farces/spoofs as well just adds to my love of stories overall.

 

My stories are in The Best of Cafelit 4, 5 and now 6 and also by Bridge House Publishing (Alternative Renditions). My first collection From Light to Dark and Back Again is published by Chapeltown Books.

My stories are in The Best of Cafelit 4, 5 and now 6 and also by Bridge House Publishing (Alternative Renditions). My first collection From Light to Dark and Back Again is published by Chapeltown Books.

Fairytales With Bite – Developments

There have been developments in my writing career which I thought I’d take the chance to share now.  I also hope to look at how I’ve changed the ways in which I develop my characters.

Firstly, I’m now part of the Goodreads Author Programme.  I am blogging on here once a week but am also open to questions on its Q&A section.  So if there is anything book/story/writing related you would like to ask, please head on over and send me some questions!

Secondly, Goodreads have author/book widgets for those writers on their programme, meaning you can link to reviews of my book, From Light to Dark and Back Again.  Also listed on Goodreads is Alternative Renditions, an anthology by Bridge House Publishing, where the first thing I ever had appear in print, A Helping Hand, was published.  I think it is quite a nice symmetry to have my first book and my first published story listed in this way.  (What is also nice for me is my late mum, who so encouraged my love of books, got to see my first published story.  My dad, who I lost earlier this  year, got to see my first published book).

Thirdly, I am now taking part in more book related events and loving each and every one of them.  The latest was a local Book Fair and my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is a report on this.  There are plenty of pictures so it does give a good “flavour” of the event.  All good fun and I very much hope there will be more Fairs like this.  I hope to have more news of further events later on in the year.

As for character development, increasingly I am looking at what impact I want my characters to have on my readers.  This is, I think, essential for flash fiction with its tight word count.  The stories have to be character led so I am looking more closely at my characters’ motivations and what they are prepared to do to achieve their wishes!  I am also looking at how I want my characters to make the reader feel.  Those two things together, I’ve found, are giving me a clearer picture of my characters in my head before I actually write them and are helping with the writing of the stories immensely.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34146438-from-light-to-dark-and-back-again

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Let your stories have impact. Image via Pixabay

This World and Others – Making Progress

All writers should, obviously, seek to make progress with what they do but I would add that the progress should be what you are happy with.  Writers work at different paces so therefore progress has to differ.  Besides, nobody can guarantee publication or an instant best seller but you can work towards the first (and hope for the second, we all do!).

Also with the second, most of us would recognise that book sales are not necessarily the most reliable indicator of a book’s quality (am not going to name titles here, but I’d be surprised if you couldn’t think of some titles where you wonder how that got published at all! Again, we all do).  I think most of us would recognise then that you need to put your work out there, do what you can with regard to marketing (this will vary from writer to writer), and that sales build up over time (usually).

What I’ve sought to do since seriously trying to write for publication is to make steady progress year on  year.  Some years that has been just to have more work online.  Now I do have a book out, From Light to Dark and Back Again, my aim has been to promote it as much as I can and carry on writing the follow up to it.  I’ve recognised that book marketing is an ongoing thing.  Even when I have book 2, book 26 or what have you out there, I will always be referring to my back list etc.  So to a certain extent marketing for any one book doesn’t really stop.  Therefore it makes no sense to put myself under unnecessary time pressure.

On my Fairytales with Bite site tonight, I’ve written about Developments (both mine and in how I write characters now, as opposed to when I first started writing) and I share that link here.  I am now on the Goodreads Author Programme and talk about that in this post and welcome writing related questions on the Q&A spot it has so please do go and have a look and come back to me!  I’ve shared on there the Goodreads widget leading to my book reviews, below I share the widget showing my books.  What is nice here is you see both my first published book and the anthology, Alternative Renditions, where my first published story appeared, A Helping Hand.

As for progress for 2018, I don’t really make New Year’s Resolutions but I do over the Christmas break, think about what I’d like to see what happen – and then do what I can to achieve it.  At the end of the year, if I’ve achieved it all, brilliant.  If I’ve achieved some (and especially if opportunities have opened up where I didn’t expect and I’ve rightly followed those), equally brilliant.  If I’ve achieved “just” some, then that’s fine too.  Onwards and upwards!

Image below is just a screen shot but if you follow the links above via Goodreads you will come to my author page with all relevant information on it.

Goodreads Snip

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