Looking Back and Trailers/Videos

Image Credit:  As ever, the images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless stated otherwise.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I review last Friday’s online event for the Waterloo Art Festival’s Writing Competition for my CFT post this week.

It was great fun (though I admit missing getting together with the other writers involved in this. Still there’s always next year and I think Zoom has a role to play even when things get back to whatever comes to pass as being normal!).

I share the trailer for Transforming Communities, the ebook launched here. I also share a video where I read an extract from my winning tale, Books and the Barbarians. Enjoy!

Transforming Communities Full

It was a joy to review how the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Event worked as an online only “get together” last Friday for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I also share the book trailer for Transforming Communities. Also see below.

This ebook is a compilation of the fifteen winning entries and includes my story, Books and the Barbarians. I also share the link to the video I created for the Festival. I read an extract from my story on that. Hope you enjoy.

Zoom and other social media have been a lifeline in keeping some writing events together. Indeed as I write this I’ve just come off a very interesting Zoom session looking at marketing. (There is always something to learn with that topic!).

I take the view if I can’t together with author friends and go to writing talks in person then I will do so online whenever possible. I must admit though I am looking forward to the usual events being back again but I see a use for Zoom and the like long after “normality” returns.

I hope these platforms make events more accessible to those where transport is an issue for one thing. There is great good to be kept there I think.

 

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C = Creating new fictional people is always fun.
H = Heroes or Villains? You need both.
A = Aspirations of the characters are something a reader should identify with; ideally the aspiration of the villain should be in direct contrast to that of the hero.
R = Reasons for behaviours, attitudes etc of the characters should be sensible to them and a reader should be able to see where they come from here.
A = Agreeing with those reasons is not necessary!
C = Conclusion of the story should result in resolution of the conflict between your hero and villain.
T = Tension should ratchet up throughout the story as hero and villain race to try to achieve their objectives, knowing one of them has to fail.
E = Energy should come from your characters so your readers feel these people could be real in some world somewhere.
R = Rationality is in the eye of the beholder; a villain will find reasons to justify their actions and those reasons will be rational enough to them.
S = Super stories as a result of the above? But of course!

Happy writing!

 

I’m a fan of the quiz show Pointless and love the word rounds. No surprises there to be honest. I like Scrabble and the quick crosswords, things like that. What word games do you like? Do you find they help your writing?

When I have time, I sometimes use word games to help me relax AFTER a writing session as they can be a good way for me to wind down yet still have fun playing with words.

Many decades ago, I used to write wordsearch puzzles for our church magazine (and to show how long ago that was, the magazine was produced on an old Gestetner duplicating machine. (For younger readers, these are the days before the photocopier became readily available. The last T-Rex had just left the earth.. you know the kind of thing. 😆).

Words are fun. They’re even more fun in a story or blog post!

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It was good to see some fellow flash fiction writers as part of the Zoom course I was on this afternoon. I learned a lot. I was also encouraged a lot by it too. I also hope to put some more things into practice over the next few months!

One nice thing about flash fiction in particular is it is an easy form to share online. The reduced word count means it is easy enough to share a story and it is the best way I know of showing people new to the format what flash fiction is all about.

And it is lovely to share some new stories on this page too from time to time. I find it great fun to do and I hope to share some more before too long.

I hope to catch up with some story writing over the weekend. Whatever your writing and/or reading plans are, I hope you enjoy them!

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Although flash fiction is necessarily short, I still mix up the length of sentences in my stories. I like a nice balance of short and longer sentences to give my tales a sense of rhythm. To me, this seems more natural to read. Nothing is at a fast pace all the time. Even in a flash story there can be pauses even if it is a pause of one line before the action starts up again.

Happily listening to Holst’s The Planet Suite on Classic FM when I drafted this. My favourite from it, Jupiter, is always one piece I turn the volume up for!

What I love about this suite is that each piece within it reminds me of a musical short story/flash fiction. Each piece represents each planet and they are so different. It is, to me, as if each piece is telling its own story.

And so nice to write and/or relax to as well!

Do you listen to music while writing? What kind helps most and why?

 

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Fairytales With Bite – 

Ten Things I Look For in a Good Story

I suspect there won’t be any great surprises here but each one should be a challenge to all of us to ensure we keep doing these!

  1. Characters I love or love to loathe. They’ve got to be memorable.
  2. Situations which are critical for the characters. They’ve got to strive for something important.
  3. A setting I would love to visit! (Anyone fancy a trip to The Shire in The Lord of the Rings? Mordor, I’d be happy to miss!).
  4. Great pace. Absolutely no boring bits!
  5. It’s a story I’d be happy to re-read at any time and enjoy it all over again.
  6. Humour, where apt for the story and the characters. I have a very soft spot for irony.
  7. Tragedy, when necessary as it often is, not to be overdone. (I think tragedy has much more of an impact when it does not become melodrama).
  8. Snappy dialogue.
  9. Catchphrases I can remember – and enjoy doing so.
  10. The story shows me something of the human condition which I’d either not considered before or reaffirms something. Funny stories can do this surprisingly well.

What are the most important elements to a story for you?

 

This World and Others –

Where to Find Ideas for Creating Your Fictional World

The best way by far is to read plenty of books across all genres and I do mean all. You can obviously learn directly from science fiction and fantasy as to how their worlds are set up. You learn a lot from what the writer decided you as the reader needed to know. But bear in mind you can also learn from history (fiction and non-fiction).

There is a lot of truth in the saying “the past is a different country, they do things differently there”. For a writer that’s wonderful stuff. So consider going back in time and having your fictional world set there. But do your research.

For example, readers may not need to know every detail of King Henry VIII’s court but they do need to know how many times he was married and how that affected life in the country (clue: it did and in a massive way!).

As for crime novels, again look at what the authors decided you needed to know. Setting is often used almost as a character in its own right in crime novels. What can you learn from that and apply to what you’re writing?

Work out a list of what you think you need to know. Then do a second one working out what it is a reader needs to know so they get the most from your story. And good luck!

 

Summer Reports/Flash Fiction Tips

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Writing my CFT post this week about Summer Reports brought back many memories. I can report that when I left school, they then went and closed it! Hmm…

Also, do you remember having to put your chair on your desk as the picture shows? (As ever most of the images in this post are from Pixabay, captions on the CFT post). (And yes I do remember the days of school milk. It was either horribly luke warm or ice cold and not in a good way).

Summer is a good time to take stock as there is still enough time left in the year to set a few goals and have a good attempt at achieving them. And that doesn’t just apply to writers either.

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Am finding the muggy weather a bit of a trial as is Lady. Doesn’t slow the writing down, though it DOES slow me down! This is where I’m glad writing is not a sport in any way, shape or form! Currently at desk with French window open, listening to classical music. Bliss!

I used to write in total silence, then I moved to music (pop and rock) but found the mood of the songs could affect what I wrote (which was fine when I wanted that and a pain when not).

I don’t know quite what it is about classical but it doesn’t have that effect. It just soothes me and once in a relaxed state of mind, off I go and write and drop my characters into some enjoyable mayhem. (Well, enjoyable to me that is. Definitely not for them but they’re not meant to enjoy it! Nobody said the life of a character in a story had to be easy, far from it. Where is the drama in that?!).

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My CFT post this week will be Summer Reports. I look back at my school reports (they closed my school after I left – am not kidding!), suggest what a good report should do, and give a writing report on myself too. (That alone should tell you I think it’s been a good year!). Link up on Friday.

I will add now though that a good report, as well as writing successes, should always spur you on to greater efforts!

So happy writing and good luck for future endeavours!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

How about an A to Z of flash fiction writing tips? I’ll be holding my breath seeing what I come up with for Q as well but here goes…

A – Alliteration in your titles can make them memorable. (Examples from me are Telling the Time and The Truth, though I haven’t consciously singled out the letter T for alliteration usage, honest!).

B – Backstory. Not a lot of room for this in flash fiction but what you can do is hint at it and leave readers to fill in the rest.

C – Characters. Couldn’t really be anything else. Characters drive the story, regardless of its length. It will be the characters readers remember and either love or love to loathe.

D – Dialogue. Again not a lot of room in flash fiction so keep it to the point. For any story dialogue has to earn its place by moving the story on or revealing information the reader needs to know (and it can be both). This is even more important in flash fiction.

E – Episodes. Yes, you can write linked flash fiction where either one character features in more than one story or they are referred to in another tale. I didn’t do this in From Light to Dark and Back Again but have played with this in my third flash fiction collection (currently in draft form) and it is good fun.

More next time…

Advantages to writing one line stories:-

1. They can be expanded later for a longer flash fiction story/standard short story (1500 words+).

2. Easy to share on a FB post or on Twitter!

3. Great practice in honing your editing skills.

4. They’re the ultimate proof, I think, people DO have time to read. Come on, how many people really can’t spare the time to read one line?

5. They can make a great introduction to the wider ranges of flash fiction formats.

6. They can “break up” longer flash stories in a collection. I like a mixture of word count flash stories in a book (no surprises there, I know!).

7. Playing with words is fun and coming up with different styles of stories keeps you on your toes as a writer. That includes varying your word count ranges. Varying your word count ranges will increase the number of competitions/markets you can try.

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Top tips for flash fiction writers:-

1. Read plenty of flash fiction yourself. You’ll get a feel for what you like and dislike and you see what is already out there. Where can your work fit in?

2. Engage with other flash fiction writers at writing conferences etc. No one person knows all the markets and competitions out there (and new ones spring up which may well be worth investigating).

3. It is lovely when YOU can pass the word on about a useful market/competition. What goes around does come around. I can’t stress enough that supporting other writers is not only a kind thing to do, it is a hugely sensible one. Partly because as mentioned in 2 above, others can tell you things you didn’t know (including on the scams that happen – it pays to be aware), which may help your own career but mainly because writing is a lonely profession. When all that seems to come in are rejections, you will be glad of the support of other writers who know exactly that this is like.

4. Experiment across the word count ranges and see what suits you best. You may find your niche at 250, 50, 1000, or pretty much in between.

5. Do send work into competitions regularly. It helps you hone your skills. As an aside to this, read winning entries, especially when accompanied by judge’s comments as you can learn so much from those.

6. Write, write, write. Edit, edit, edit!

Fairytales with Bite –

Ten Things I look for in a Good Story

I suspect there won’t be any great surprises here but each one should be a challenge to all of us to ensure we keep doing these!

  1. Characters I love or love to loathe. They’ve got to be memorable.

  2. Situations which are critical for the characters. They’ve got to strive for something important.

  3. A setting I would love to visit! (Anyone fancy a trip to The Shire in The Lord of  the Rings? Mordor, I’d be happy to miss!).

  4. Great pace.  Absolutely no boring bits!

  5. It’s a story I’d be happy to re-read at any time and enjoy it all over again.

  6. Humour, where apt for the story and the characters. I have a very soft spot for irony.

  7. Tragedy, when necessary as it often is, not to be overdone. (I think tragedy has much more of an impact when it does not become melodrama).

  8. Snappy dialogue.

  9. Catchphrases I can remember – and enjoy doing so.

  10. The story shows me something of the human condition which I’d either not considered before or reaffirms something. Funny stories can do this surprisingly well.

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This World and Others – Summer Reports

I look at Summer Reports in my CFT post this week and discuss, amongst other things, what a good report should do, irrespective of whether someone is academic or not. I also give a summer writing update for me!

But from a writing viewpoint, what reports could you write, for whom, and how could they help you?

1.  Character Reports
I use Scrivener and in their story template they have outlines for characters (and settings) which you can fill in with as much or little detail as you want.  You can of course create your own, but I have found these enormously useful in working out what my characters are really made of and, therefore, I write them with more conviction. I hope they come across that way too! So writing a report on  your characters can help you discover things about them, help you give depth to how you portray them and so on.

2. Report on your Story
I find it useful as part of the editing process to look at the story as if I hadn’t written it and was discovering it for the first time as a reader would. I look at what my overall impressions are, what I think worked well and, as importantly, what didn’t! The crucial thing is to be totally honest here, otherwise this idea won’t do anything for you.

Sometimes my “report” here is just a series of notes such as Character A comes across well, they’ve got great humour, but where do their flaws come in? Is Character A too perfect? Once you’ve made notes like this, put the story and the notes aside for a while. Re-read the story after a week. Look at your notes and see if you still think the same.

If you have trusted beta readers available, this is where they could be invaluable but total honesty about what works and what doesn’t is key here. Keep in mind you want to produce a story that is as good as you can make it. If several people tell you something doesn’t work, take this seriously. If one says that, then it could just be opinion and you will then need to decide if it has weight or not.

So reports then are useful to a writer but honesty is key. I can’t stress that enough.

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