As ever, unless otherwise stated, the images are from Pixabay.
Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today
My CFT post this week is Landmarks With Meaning. I share some of those that have the most meaning for me but I admit some are a lot more scenic than others. I’ve found the landmarks which mean the most almost always tie in with special memories/family connections and that is how it should be I think.
I don’t just stay with my local area either and found an excellent example of photo editing involving an elephant and Big Ben but you’ll just have to look at the post (or the slideshow below!) to see that one for yourself! I share a few thoughts on cathedrals I’m particularly fond of too and one of them has close links to one of my favourite authors, Jane Austen.
Hope you enjoy the post and do share in the CFT comments box what your favourite landmarks are and why.
What have I learned from the various stories I’ve read over the years (and there’s far too many of them to give you a number!)?
Firstly, you do take in how a story is laid out and that covers everything from punctuation usage to indenting (or not where appropriate). You get a feel for a publisher’s house style even if you’re not aware of it at the time. This is why it is important to read contemporary fiction as well as classic by the way. Styles change.
Secondly, over time, you work out what your tastes in fiction are and discover what you don’t like too. Funnily enough, the latter is useful. It tells you what you don’t want to happen with your own creative output. Work out what it was you didn’t like and why. Did the dialogue not ring true? Was it over complicated? Then work out what you would do about the piece if you had been writing it. What you pick up answering those questions will help you a lot when it comes to editing your own output.
Thirdly, you do discover what it is you like about the characters. I’ve always loved heroines who know their own mind (which covers a lot of ground, fortunately. I’m a big fan of Elizabeth Bennett, Jo March, George from the Famous Five, to name but a few). Work out what it is you like about your favourite people. What character traits would you want your people to have and why? When creating villains, give them good reasons to be the way they are.
There is always a back story. It may not make it into your main tale but you need to know why your characters are the way they are. You can also ask yourself questions about characters from your favourite authors. What made the writer develop them this way?
And you get a darned good read out of it all too!
I’m looking at landmarks with meaning for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. I share a few of my favourites and why they mean so much. Link up on Friday.
In other CFT news, I will be sharing a mini series over the next couple of months or so, spaced out at roughly three to four week intervals.
Our excellent amateur theatre company, The Chameleon Theatre Group, have been sharing a number of mini interviews which make for fascinating reading at life on the stage and behind it. First post up for that will be on Friday, 13th March. Looking forward to sharing that with you.
Am off to the Association of Christian Writers’ event in Birmingham on Saturday. The topic is Effective Public Speaking. Should be interesting and useful.
Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again
It was lovely having another flash story on Cafelit earlier this week (Taking Time Out From the Day Job). I am very fond of humorous stories.
The main point I have in mind when I’m writing these is that the humour must arise naturally out of the situation I’ve put my character in. That is the only way funny stories work for me whether I write them or read them. You can’t force humour on to a character or the story. It never works.
But I always love those moments when a good line emerges naturally from what my characters are saying or doing. I love those characters who I know can drop themselves right in it (so often a great cue for humour) because I’ve outlined them well enough to know what they are capable of doing/saying so they would drop themselves right in it. It all has to seem seamless to the reader.
When I don’t have a lot of time to write, I will often jot down what I think will make promising opening or closing lines to flash fiction stories and then write them up at a later date.
Where possible I will also add in a quick note or two as to how I think the story will go. For example, a line like “The thief realised they would not get out alive” seems to be a dead end line (in every sense!). I could make a note here to say this will be a closing line, mood of story = sombre or poetic justice. I could then add in a note to ask what the thief was trying to steal – fire from the gods.
Hmm… that was never going to work out well, was it? It does mean though, when I’m next at my desk with more time to write, I’ve got the outlines of a story already there, just begging to be written up and away I go.
How do I judge if my own flash fiction stories are ready for submission?
Obviously I check for typos, grammatical errors, and my hated wasted words. (I do feel a certain sense of satisfaction in erasing THOSE!). But I ask myself some questions:-
1. Does the story make the impact on me I thought it would? Usually the answer is yes and I’m happy but sometimes I have to go on and ask myself something else.
2. If the answer is no, is the impact I have created BETTER than my initial thoughts? Sometimes it can be. I’ve sometimes written a piece where I wanted the impact to be that I had made people sympathise with my character. All very nice and all that but if I can make myself feel like crying in sympathy with that character, this is even better. It means the impact is deeper than I originally planned. There is literally more feeling, I see that as a bonus, always. People remember stories for how they feel about them (which is why childhood stories are so often favourites for people throughout life).
3. Last but not least, I put the piece away for a while, re-read it at least one more time (and often twice) and again ask the impact questions. I also ask if I could improve the piece any further and if so, how? When I get to the point where I can’t think of anything here, I send the story off.
Of course meantime, I’m also drafting other stories so I always have something to work on. I love drafting stories while I’m “resting” others. It helps with work flow rates no end!
Fairytales With Bite – Why The Bite?
I came up with the title Fairytales With Bite as a way of showing that yes, I write fairytales but they are not twee. The original fairytales are anything but twee of course, indeed many of them act as warnings (beware the Big Bad Wolf being just one of them!), but a good fairytale should have bite to it.
I’ve always loved the fact most fairytales ensure evil does not triumph. Even as a kid, I was deeply aware the world is so often unfair. Fairytales were and remain a great way to escape that for a bit but they can still get a powerful message across, while being an entertaining story.
The Little Match Girl from Hans Christen Andersen is a stinging indictment on poverty and homelessness, which hit me hard when I first read it (and it it still does). But it is a phenomenally good tale. A good story, whatever its genre, should have the power to move readers, whether it is to make them laugh, cry, or scream, or what have you.
That’s where the bite comes in – and the good thing is you don’t have to include vampires in your story to get that bite in!
This World and Others – Stories In Other Worlds
What do I love most about reading stories set in other worlds? Well, they can reflect on aspects of our life here (which can be illuminating at times!). The way an alien society is run can reflect well or badly on how we do things here on Earth.
What should come through in such stories, and the ones we write, is being able to understand the characters in those stories and worlds, their actions and motivations and so on. Those basic elements don’t change much. Every species needs food, shelter, to be able to reproduce itself etc. We can understand what characters are capable of doing to ensure they have those things.
Societies need to be governed in some way so how would yours differ from what we know here? Why have you chosen those differences? Would you want to visit if you could?
Now I’m sure there could be some interesting answers to that last poser! If the answer is no by the way, do look at why. You may well be right to not want to visit the world you’ve created. What is the “message” behind that? If your created world is a heavily polluted one, say, you wouldn’t want to visit but look at why it is worse than what we know? How did it get to that state? Is anyone trying to do something about it? What obstacles are in their way?
There should be some cracking story ideas there. Happy writing!