Brainstorming and Rainbows

Image Credit:  All images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General

I’ve mentioned before that every so often I brainstorm ideas but I do this for non-fiction, as well as for flash fiction and short stories. I jot down thoughts for future Chandler’s Ford Today articles, note ideas for future blog posts for different places including for the Association of Christian Writers, and material for use on my website.

This is a great use of odd five minutes of time which build up every now and then and means I’ve always got ideas to work on. It is usually these ideas I work on further when I’m travelling by train anywhere, though that’s not going to be happening for a while!

The point though is if you’re not sure what to work on, jot down possible ideas. Even if you don’t work on them immediately, it means you’ve got a store of ideas to turn to later on and that is a good thing.

 

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Thought the Queen’s speech tonight was spot on (Sunday, 5th April 2020). Hope it encourages people. I know it did me. Encouragement is needed (and too often undervalued).

Now on to writing matters. Encouragement can come into our stories too. I think the best example is Sam Gamgee’s role in The Lord of the Rings. He literally carries Frodo at times. So how can we show encouragement in our stories? Well, pretty much the same way we show encouragement to each other.

I know a kindly and timely word does me the world of good especially in stressful times. Getting a character to do the same for your “lead” should have an inspirational effect. I also think it important to show our leads under stress, needing help from others, as that adds realism to our characterisation too.

Realistic characters have the ring of truth to them and that makes the world of difference to readers sympathising with your “people” and “buying into” your story.

 

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I am sorry to hear Boris Johnson is so ill and hope and pray he recovers soon. Regardless of political or any other kind of belief, I wouldn’t wish coronavirus on anyone. (Nor should anyone else).

On a more positive note, and the reason I’m late on here tonight, was I was discovering the joys of video calling with friends from the Association of Christian Writers. I’ve “gone” to the odd webinar, had video calls one-to-one on things like What’s App with my sister etc., and am now “doing” Slimming World online via Zoom, but tonight was one of the single biggest online chats I’ve taken part in.

It was good fun and lovely to see everyone, albeit at a distance. We did look like we were contestants on the old quiz show, Celebrity Squares though. For anyone not growing up in the 1970s, it was a quiz show based on the old game of noughts and crosses and celebrities were in boxes of 3 x 3, which is why tonight’s video call reminded me of that.

On Sunday, we’ll be having a virtual Easter Day service with communion (we’ll be bringing our own bread and wine!).

So all very different but the need to stay in touch with our friends and family does not change. Nor should it.

And what can writers contribute?

Stories and articles to entertain – don’t underestimate the importance of entertainment. It can be a coping mechanism.

Stories and articles to cheer – and I think we could all do with that.

Stories and articles to inform.

Stories and articles to encourage other writers in their craft and readers. We don’t know what difficult journeys they might have but if a story or work of ours lifts spirits for a while, that’s good.

And other than walking the dog, I shall be only too glad to be at home tomorrow.

Take care everyone.❤️❤️❤️❤️

black and white laptop

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Pexels.com

 

I’ve had to change how I exercise Lady at the moment (though overall she is doing pretty well). It has been lovely spotting the rainbow pictures, whether they’re chalked on the ground, or on paper in people’s windows. Thanks all. They are cheery.

Question for you: What do you get if you have an upside down rainbow?

Answer: A multi-coloured smile! See below.

So whichever way up the rainbow is, it is always a good thing!

Whatever you are reading or writing, whatever creative work is your “thing”, I hope it makes you, and others smile. We could all do with that.

Facebook – General – and Publication News

Bonus post from me tonight.

Delighted to say I have a new story on Cafelit – Getting the Job Done.

Hope you enjoy.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

So what should a flash fiction piece aim to do? It should illuminate something of a character. It should produce a good response in a reader (whether to make them laugh or cry etc).

There should be a sense of there being nothing else to say and that the story works perfectly as it is – a mini form of fiction. It should never feel as if it has been artificially cropped to fit a word count requirement!

If a short story is a moment in time, then a flash piece could be described as a half moment, a blink if you like, but you can still take quite a bit in during that blink!

 

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How can flash fiction reflect deeper emotions and attitudes such as encouragement? You need another character to do that for the lead, surely, and that increases the word count?

Yes, of course, but this is where the beauty of flash comes in. It has a range of word counts up to the maximum of 1000 to play with. So if your story needs to be 750 words, with your lead person needing support and encouragement along the way, then so be it. Don’t lose vital characterisation for the sake of the word count.

Ask yourself always what is is the reader needs to know.

Ask yourself always what the character has to do and how they can achieve it.

Ask yourself always when the character needs help, how does that happen? Who assists them?

It is generally true in flash fiction you can’t have too many characters. But you can certainly have a couple of them. I also get some of my characters to refer to others who are “off stage” as this shows my character has a life outside of the world of the story I’ve put them in.

Also a character can recall words of encouragement so there are ways to get this kind of deeper characterisation into flash fiction and not exceed the maximum word count.

In darker times, do you prefer to read longer works or shorter ones?

I know regardless of what I read, I want the tone to be uplifting in some way. And flash fiction has a role to play here. Given its brevity, it is a perfect vehicle for the short funny story to cheer people up. I often finish a story with a punchline. Flash lends itself well to that.

For longer works, for me it is always Wodehouse or Pratchett that I tend to turn to first.

But take pleasure in your reading and writing. That’s always a good thing to do anyway but particularly now I think.

For a story to work properly as a story, there has to be a pivotal moment of change. In flash fiction, there isn’t much time to set that up of course. This is why I generally start with that moment and the story then shows the consequences.

(And even when I don’t, my opening is written in such a way as to signal to the reader the moment of change is coming soon and you have got to find out what is going to happen, haven’t you? You make the premise so promising, “no” is ruled out as an answer to that immediately!).

For short fiction, the pivotal moment has to be as close to the start as possible (otherwise why would a reader be interested?), so this, for me, is another side benefit to flash fiction. It means I know I have to hit the ground running! That’s no bad thing.

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Goodreads Author Blog –

Titles – What Is It About Them That You Like The Most?

What is it about a book title that encourages you to look inside the book itself?

I like titles (of stories, books or what have you) to give me some idea of the mood of the story and, where possible, its genre too.

My next flash fiction book will be called Tripping the Flash Fantastic which I think manages to do both. From Light to Dark and Back Again, my first flash collection, was specifically chosen to reflect the mood of the stories and the range of moods for the collection as a whole.

I like titles that sum up the book’s contents well. You can’t misunderstand The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection can you?! (Fabulous book too. Conan Doyle was a genius and I’m sure we owe the concept of the flawed detective to him. Certainly he can take the credit for popularising it at least. Holmes’ drug addiction would still be controversial now. As an aside, I wonder if that is why Conan Doyle chose that, believing drug use would never be uncontroversial. Just a thought).

For my flash fiction stories, especially for those competitions and markets where the title is included in the word count, I like to keep titles short. I’m also fond of alliteration every now and again. Well, let’s face it Pride and Prejudice is a much more memorable title than Jane Austen’s first idea, First Impressions. (To be fair that would’ve worked. It’s not a bad title. It is a question, I think, of working out what is better for your work and she certainly did that).

Some of my favourite book titles include:-

The Lord of The Rings. Doesn’t that make you want to find out who the Lord is and why the Rings matter?

Interesting Times (Pratchett). Again, doesn’t that make you want to discover what the interesting times are and who they are happening to?

Murder on the Orient Express. My favourite Christie novel for many reasons but the title is an instant attention grabber.

It is the book title that makes me want to read the book’s blurb and, from there, the opening paragraph or two.

Yes, a good cover will catch my eye and it is important but if the title intrigues me, then even if the cover isn’t as good as it could be, I’ll try the book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind The Scenes

Image Credit:   As ever, unless stated, most of the images were from Pixabay or Pexels. A big thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Group for their images. Also thanks to Richard Hardie for supplying images related to his and Francesca Tyer’s events for World Book Day.  (And yes it has been a busy few days!).

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today x 2!

Yes, count them, not one but two CFT posts this week.

First up, the start of a new mini-series.

I’m delighted to share a new mini-series on Chandler’s Ford Today. The #ChameleonTheatreGroupChandlerFord share interviews showing what life is like behind the stage. They share some fabulous insights into directing amongst other things in Part 1 (see link).

This series will run at intervals over the next few weeks. Many thanks to The Chameleons for wonderful material and the photos, as ever.

I’m looking forward to their next production, Spring Quartet, in April.

 

I’m always interested in behind the scenes looks at life, whether it is to do with creative writing or amateur theatre. So it is a joy to share a new mini-series on Chandler’s Ford Today where The Chameleon Theatre share their insights into life behind the stage.

Why the interest on my part? Well, partly it IS because I’m nosey (!) but that’s a good thing. Why? Writers have to be interested in what makes people tick. Knowing that helps us to develop convincing motivations for our characters and make their portrayal that much more believeable.

I’m also interested in behind the scenes looks because it opens up worlds that are new to me. That’s a good thing for increasing knowledge and understanding, I think. Understanding is also crucial in creative writing. You also get to understand yourself better I think.

And now for my second CFT post this week!

Am pleased to share a bonus CFT post this week. Every so often CFT has Local Author News slots. The last one was for me when I appeared on #WendyHJones‘s excellent podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show talking about all things related to flash fiction.

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-writing-and-marketing-show/e/67280384

Up tonight is a piece with news from local YA author, #RichardHardie, and debut Authors Reach novelist #FrancescaTyer. They share news of their World Book Day eventsrecently. Francesca’s debut novel The Firestone was recently published.

Hope you enjoy. (Oh and remember the best things you can do to support local authors you know are to go to their events where possible and review their books in the usual places).

(My normal CFT post link will be up tomorrow where I start the first of a mini series from #ChameleonTheatreCompany-Chandler’s Ford. They share insights from life behind the stage. More tomorrow).

 

My CFT post this week is Part 1 of a mini series which will be spread out over a few weeks. As you know, I often review plays put on by our excellent local amateur theatre company, Chameleon Theatre Company.

They have recently been putting together some mini interviews which give a fascinating insight into life behind the stage. With their blessing (obviously!), I have compiled some of these interviews and Part 1 will be up on Friday.

Many thanks to the Chameleons for their wonderful material and photos and I look forward to sharing this post and the others to come.

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What fascinates you most about a character?

For me, it has to be their motivation. I’ve got to know why my character thinks it is okay to act the way they are, especially when they’re the villain! It doesn’t mean I have to agree with them though…

The LEAST important thing for me is knowing what they look like, funnily enough. I find once I can hear their voice and know their motivations, physical appearance comes to me then. Mind, I’m not motivated by physical appearance myself. After all the best con men often wear a suit!

I love stories and books that “just” entertain. Yes, sure, I like those that give good messages too but there is a lot to be said for sheer escapism value, especially when life is more challenging than usual.

Let’s just say I probably won’t be reading much in the way of dystopian stories for a while. (It is definitely not a good sign when you can get your requirements there by tuning into the news…).😕

So how to go about being “just” entertaining? As ever, for me, it is all in the characters. I do enjoy setting up a character knowing I’m going to be throwing all manner of things at them to knock them right back down again (and ideally to make me and potential readers laugh). Okay, okay, nobody said a writer had to be nice to their characters. Indeed, it is better when we’re not as any crime or horror writer would also tell you!

I love those characters who deserve being knocked back a bit too. You know the kind of pompous character who needs bringing down a peg or several. The ultimate fall guy in many ways! (Well, they are for me).

For humorous prose especially I do need to get a sense that the writer enjoyed creating their characters. I believe something of that fun does come through in the writing.

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How difficult do you find coming up with a suitable title for your story?

I know I need a “peg” from which to hang my story so I always have a working title. Most of them don’t change and suit my purposes just fine. Sometimes though a better title idea will occur as I draft my tale and that’s fine too. I just swap to the better idea.

I’ve mentioned using phrases and proverbs before and I often use them as themes, but don’t overlook them for use as potential titles. I’ve used a few that way.

You can also see them as a way to get started on a story if, like me, you need some kind of peg to help you get on your way with a draft. I think I have a bit of a mental block over any story that doesn’t have a title to it! There’s some unconscious thought at play here which associates no title with no story. I can’t be having with that so I put in a title to get me started. Nothing is set in stone after all but that is a great thing about a draft. You know it’s not going to be the final version. I’ve found it helpful to take that attitude with titles too.

Fairytales With Bite – Wishes

One of my favourite things about fairytales is when wishes are granted. The greedy never get away with theirs precisely because they always ask for the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

I love that aspect of things. I was very conscious even as a kid there was so much unfairness and cruelty in the world. The idea of a fairy godmother turning up to put things right for their ill-treated goddaughter always appealed (though I still wonder why Cinderella’s one turned up so late in the day. Come on, she could’ve helped Cinders a lot sooner. There is only so much domestic drudgery that could be claimed to be good for the soul and Cinders had gone well past that point when her fairy godmother deigned to make an appearance).

So in the grand scheme of things, what would your characters wish for and why? You are their fairy godmother as you bring them to life on the page. So what attributes would you grace them with and why? What would your characters strive for and why?

Do you think your characters are worthy of achieving their objectives? They don’t have to be. Villains are never worthy but should have understandable reasons for being what they are. What do you want your characters to be and why?

If your characters are allowed wishes, how will these turn the story and in what direction? Wishes being granted but proving to not be all that the character wanted could make a good story too.

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This World and Others – World Essentials

For me, what I want to see in a created fictional world would be:-

1. A system of government (even if it is not the point of the story. There should be some sort of reference. For one thing, a reader would want to know if the main character was one of the governing or one of the governed).

2. What characters eat and drink and how those things are produced. A line or two is usually enough to convey that. When a character is on a journey, what food do they take with them? Where did they get it?

3. A sense of where the world is going. In The Lord of the Rings there is no doubt the world there is in turmoil and every part of that world is affected by it.

4. What your characters make of the world they’re in. They don’t have to like it!

5. How is transport organised? Does everyone have access to the same kind of transport? Is there a “them and us” situation here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Characters and Being a “Proper” Writer

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

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What I look for in a great character:-

1. I totally understand why they’re acting the way they are. It doesn’t mean I have to approve though!

2. You can see how they got into the situation they’ve got to overcome and are keen to see if/how they get out of it again. You believe the character has the potential to get out of it and it’s a case of seeing whether you were right about that or not.

3. I love characters who come out with great one-liners but only as long as they arise naturally out of the situation and the character. It must never feel forced.

4. They stay with you in your imagination long after you’ve finished reading the story!

Examples of great characters for me:-

1. Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy

2. Jeeves and Wooster

3. Sam Vimes and Lady Sybil Ramkin – Discworld

4. Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee

5. Aslan – Narnia

6. Ebenezer Scrooge (though I prefer him AFTER the visitations! Am very fond of the Muppet Christmas Carol. Thought that was the best Muppet film too).

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I’m delighted to share Part 3 of Peter Russell’s local history series on The Hutments for Chandler’s Ford Today. If you have any memories to share of a part of the community that has now gone, do comment via the comments box. I know Peter would be pleased to hear from you.

Feature Image - Hook Road Hutments and My Family

It has been a good writing week. There has been plenty of progress on the novel. I’m enjoying it ! (That HAS to be a good sign, right? 😊😉).

Short story and flash fiction submitted. Am fleshing out another standard length short story for a competition and have got another “resting” for me to have a look at again, hopefully later this week.

Almost done on next week’s CFT post too. Continuing to add to my website and working on a non-fiction project.

So, no, I’m never short of things to do but that’s how I like things to be!

I’ll be talking about progress and success and how to judge them in the CFT post for Friday.

Am really looking forward to the Bridge House celebration event. Not far away now. It’s a great chance to catch up with friends and to make new ones!

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Word association can be a great way of triggering words to use in a story. You can play the standard way by setting a word and then finding others to link to it – e.g. play, toys, games etc.

Equally you can play the I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue version where there should be no connection at all to the chosen start word – e.g. play, universe, green.

Whichever version you go for, I suggest setting a limit of how many words you are going to use – I find that helps me focus. But of course you can raise or lower that limit for future stories.

 

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How do you know if you’re a “proper” writer?

1. You scorn the very idea you have too many notebooks.
2. You develop a thing for collecting nice pens too, some of which you will actually use.
3. You dread power cuts as they always seem to happen in the middle of a writing session.
4. You have the great joy of having a number of books written by friends on your shelves.
5. You are even more thrilled when your works are on the same shelves!
6. You can’t wait to tell everyone your latest publication news.
7. You open the latest copy of Writing Magazine and look for people you know in the letters page and the Subscribers’ sections in particular.
8. You feel a little miffed when you come across an issue when there isn’t someone you know in it. (It’s a kind of something’s not quite right with the world feeling).
9. Launches, especially online ones, are a regular part of your life and you love them all.
10. Your TBR and TBW piles never diminish but that’s the way you like them.
11. There is no such thing as having too many books. What you CAN have is not enough shelving.
12. You just feel SO at home in book shops and libraries.

Okay, guilty as charged on all those. How about you?

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I always consider impact to be the most important aspect to my flash fiction writing, but do you go about creating the impact you want to achieve?

Some of it is out of your hands. You may write a funny story but a reader doesn’t find it amusing – this is why humorous writing is so hard to do. It is subjective after all but what can you do to level the playing field a bit?

Having decided what the impact of my story is going to be, I look at what would make ME feel that impact. For example, if the tale is going to be a sad one, what would trigger that feeling of sadness in me?

Then it’s a question of picking the most appropriate trigger for your story. I prefer to go for understated emotional impact too. A story that tips overs into melodrama can put people off. I know it would do so for me. But sadness that is shown through the character without laying it on with a trowel will always make me want to read more if only to find out if the character “overcomes” the sadness or is beginning the process of adapting to the sitution by the end of the story.

For example if your story is about a fairy godmother rapidly approaching retirement and she really doesn’t want to retire, you could take that in a humorous or sad direction. So decide what you want it to be first.

If funny, what would make you laugh? Would setting your character into a ridiculous situation do it or are you better off having a wise cracking character who comes out with tremendous one liners?

Think about what you would like to read here as if the story was being written by someone else. I’ve found this to be really useful and hope you do too.

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Have you tried writing a piece of flash fiction to, say, 25 words, and then separately, writing it out to, say, 250 words?

It’s all perfectly legitimate but there will be different markets and competitions for the two stories.

I sometimes do this as a writing exercise (it’s a good way to get into a session of writing).

Not all stories or characters will be capable of being expanded. If the impact you are seeking to make on a reader is over and done with in 25 words then leave it at that. Never ever pad out a tale.

But if you CAN expand the story because the character is capable of so much more (and that’s the key way to judge whether a story IS capable of being expanded), explore what else you can do with that character and then you can either submit the two stories to two DIFFERENT places or pick the one you like the best and just submit that.

I like my titles to give a flavour of what is to come in the story without giving away too much. I like the title to lead people into wanting to read the rest. Of course, the challenge for me is to make sure I deliver on that promising title!

I occasionally use questions as story titles but prefer the statement, though I try to keep this as open as possible. Most of my titles could be taken in a humorous or serious direction.

I’ve mentioned before I have to have a title to work to as I draft my story but I am more than happy to change it if something better comes along as I am writing. It does sometimes and it is best to go with the flow here. Again, as with the story itself, I am looking for the likely impact of the title on the reader. The stronger impact title always wins.

 

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Do you ever think of music to suit your flash fiction stories?

The main time I have was coming up with ideas for the music for the book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I plumped for Saint-Saens Danse Macabre – quirky music to suit quirky fiction.

One of the things I love about music (and especially classical) is that, like flash fiction, there is something to suit every mood. I’m not going to be at any risk of running out of ideas for suitable musical themes any time soon either!

I’ve not yet used a piece of music to influence a story idea but may well give it a go and see what happens. The potential is there!

Goodreads Author Blog – Juggling the TBR Pile

I must admit I couldn’t physically juggle my TBR pile. There would be an almighty crash and some inventive language on my part, I think, if I tried that.

I love reading a mixture of fiction across many genres, non-fiction, short stories, novels, articles etc. I also like to mix up reading on the Kindle with reading “real” books but I also want to put magazine reading into the overall mixture too.

Over the course of a week, I try to cover most of those bases. I’m currently reading historical fiction, true crime, short stories, flash fiction, and my own novel (on Kindle. I’m reading it as a reader would. It has been illuminating!).

Over the course of a week, I have been thoroughly entertained too!

And yes I have a TBR pile on my Kindle too. One of the reasons I don’t put a Kindle app on my phone is so I don’t have a TBR pile on there as well.

It is true – too many books, too little time!

Still I’ll press on and have a fab time doing so.

Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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?

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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!

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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!).

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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).

 

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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!)?

 

 

 

Titles and Quirky Characters

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Ahead of a review on They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning, which has to be a strong contender for the all time longest play title (!), I look at titles in general.

I look at the role they play, why I change my use of them for flash fiction, and discuss how they can set a mood you want your reader to pick up on or can be used to keep said reader guessing.

How easy (or otherwise) is finding the right title for you? I share a few thoughts on that too.

Image Credit:  As ever, the marvellous Pixabay.  Captions on the CFT post.

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Looking forward to the Chameleons’ production of “They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen’s Guild’s Coffee Morning”. Just try saying that quickly! Should be good for several laughs and I look forward to reviewing this next week.

Lady and I have not enjoyed the heat. Shout out to all our human and doggy friends. You know who you are. Keep cool! Glad it’s going to cool down tomorrow. The thought of the Tube in this heat on Saturday when I’m in town… uggh. Sympathies to all who’ve endured it today (or will do shortly). Still I guess it’s a great test of whether your deodorant works or not…!

How do I go about writing reviews for local theatre productions and the like? I always try to find something positive (I’ve never been a fan of hatchet jobs. I think it says more about the reviewer than whatever it was they reviewed). I look at the story. I look at the performance of that story. I also look at the background to the story (and I am looking forward to researching tonight’s one. Is going to be fun!).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I thought From Light to Dark and Back Again was a long enough title for my flash collection, but it is well beaten by They Came from Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning, the play recently staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group.

I look forward to sharing a review on that on Chandler’s Ford Today next week though I do discuss the importance of titles on CFT this week.

I’ve discussed titles before here but I can’t stress enough how vital it is to get them right. I must have a title to work to when writing almost anything but if a better idea occurs to me as I’m writing (and it does), then I’ll switch. Only the Ten Commandments were set in stone!

For flash fiction competitions where sometimes the title is part of the word count, I take extra care. I work out whether I want my title to give a good opening to the story, or whether I want it to set a mood, or to be open to more than one take on it, so I can keep a reader guessing. What I decide here will determine how long that title is and that will then set how much room I’ve got left for the story itself.

Where I don’t have to worry about the title being part of the word count, then I tend to focus on the impact I want it to have and I can give myself a bit more leeway as to how long I want the title to be.

Generally, though unless you are writing a spoof as the play clearly is, you are better off keeping a title relatively short.

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Having spent most of the day feeling like I was being roasted (goodness knows what my cooking time to the pound would be and yes that does show my age!), along with the rest of the country, it’s a relief to get to my desk where it is relatively cool. Note the relatively.

I find with flash fiction I can get the story ideas down fairly quickly (which is fab. Nobody wants to work too hard in this weather). Where the time and effort comes in is in the crafting of those ideas. Have I really used the right words to conjure up exactly the images I have in mind? Can I think of anything better? The answer to that is almost always yes!

The one thing that cheered me up a long time ago was knowing that nobody but nobody has ever written the perfect first draft! So I never worry about perfection in my writing. It’s not going to happen. Even when you send a piece out, it’s as good as you can make it at that time and that’s absolutely fine.

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Fairytales with Bite – Quirky Characters

There are those who might feel that the reason I love quirky characters is because I am one!  Hmm…

So what is it about quirky characters that appeals to me so much, both in terms of reading about them and writing them myself?

  1. Humour – there’s usually a lot of humour, often irony, involved here. That appeals directly ever since I first came across irony in Pride and Prejudice which I read at secondary school many, many moons ago. That book was an eye opener for me in terms of how irony can be used (and the best kind is subtle with it too). It paved the way for me to appreciate more direct irony in the works of Terry Pratchett and P.G. Wodehouse, to name but two, later on
  2. The Unexpected – The irony (!) here is you expect the unexpected from quirky characters. You’d be a bit disappointed to say the least if they didn’t come out with something. Often this is the pivoting point of the whole story too. What is fun is trying to guess what they come up with.
  3. Memorable – You remember quirky characters. It’s why I’ve always loved Jo March in Little Women and George in The Famous Five. Again I wanted to find out what they could do and whether they could surpass what had gone before. It kept me reading! The trick for a writer is to achieve the same thing. It is also the challenge! What is it that makes your characters memorable?

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This World and Others – Titles

I look at Titles in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week and hope you find it helpful as I share some thoughts on where to find good title ideas. I also discuss the uses of titles. But now to look at the topic from a different angle…

Firstly, the world in which your story is set – do they use titles to denote rank? Do these differ between species? Are some species excluded from any titles at all? How are titles given? Can they be earned and, if so, how?

Secondly, property (you knew it had to come in somewhere!) – how does your world distribute title to property? Can anyone own property? Do your characters have to earn their right to obtain title like this? Or is all land owned by one feudal or royal overlord and all title is held by them?

Can title (of any sort) be challenged or revoked? Who would do so and why?

Now there are some thoughts for story ideas for you!

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Publication News

I look forward to next week when I can share publication news of a story that has a special place in my heart. More details next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books, Books, Books!

Facebook – General

I suspect I’m preaching to the converted with the title for this post but never mind!

Books have been a vital part of my life since goodness knows when but I’ve only been writing since I turned 30…. X number of years ago!! Quite a considerable number of years in fact but not so many as when I first discovered the joys of reading and would spend many a happy hour in the local library.

Why did it take me so long to make the connection between “you really love books and stories” and “you really like writing your own stories” so you should become a writer? Goodness knows. Looking back on it, it is daft I didn’t start writing sooner but the main thing is I am writing now!

My advice to anyone pondering if they should write or not is to give it a go and have fun creating characters and stories. Whether you then try to get published is up to you. There’s nothing wrong with just writing for your own satisfaction. What matters is you’re writing and loving it.

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I loved watching the TV series of Black Beauty when I was a kid. That encouraged me to read the book by Anna Sewell. Southern TV, as it was back then, adapted some of the Enid Blyton Famous Five books and I loved those too. Pity they lost the franchise because that ended the series pronto!

So a good TV adaptation can encourage people to get back to the books, which is very much A Good Thing! This also happened with me with Oliver Twist. Alec Guinness and Oliver Reed were superb as Fagin and Bill Sykes. Had to read the book after watching the film.

With The Lord of the Rings, I had read the trilogy first. The magic of those films was bringing to life the images I had conjured up in my head of what Middle Earth looked like. (I still like the look of the hobbit holes. I’m about the right height to live in one too!).

I love it when creative media feeds off AND benefits other creativity like this.

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So terribly sad to see the news about Notre Dame. I hope the damage is as limited as possible. Also that restoration can take place as soon as possible too.

On to other things…

The only time I specifically write to a theme is when entering competitions. I’ve usually got a character in mind when I’m thinking about a new flash fiction story and work out, from their main characteristics, what theme would best suit them. I can’t say whether this is the right or wrong way to do things but I do know it works for me.

My other use of themes is to trigger ideas for a new story and then I spend some time working out which kind of character would best suit it. If I can’t work out a suitable character I don’t write the story.

For me it is all about the characters, always.

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I suppose my first introduction to short stories must have been the Reader’s Digest Collections of Fairytales, which I still have.

I was never conscious of this when reading these books (over and over and over and over again etc!) though I do recall being stunned at how long The Little Mermaid was and that it really didn’t have a happy ending. That was an eye opener for me. I didn’t know stories could be like that!

I also loved The Snow Queen with Gerda being the “action lead”. That was an eye opener too. Here was a girl off having all kinds of adventures to rescue her neighbour from said Snow Queen (and the splinter of the evil mirror in his heart). Loved that on first reading.

Here is where you meet ideas for future characters of your own – by reading widely and discovering them in other stories, then wondering what YOU could do with a character like that. You then wonder what setting YOU would put them in and what adventures/problems YOU set them. YOU wonder how your characters would sound and act and react and all of this comes together, creating a story that is uniquely yours. Writing and reading are truly wonderful things.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The Book Depository UK has FLTDBA listed as available within 2-3 business days. Amazon currently has it available as one month plus! I don’t know why this happens but it does pay to check out online retailers for availability, whether it is in books or anything else!

And I will put in another word about reviews. They really do help authors. Amazon sit up and take notice if you have 50 reviews. If you’re not sure what to write, one line saying what you liked (or loathed) about the book is sufficient. It is a great irony that even a review where someone didn’t like s book still helps the author of that book when it comes to the “numbers game”.

My own policy for reviews, whether it is for groceries or books, is to have a good look through what people have said. Usually there is a consensus and I can then go with that or not as I see fit but I find reviews a useful guide when I’m on the other side of the fence. So please do review! Thanks!

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I sometimes use alliteration in my flash fiction titles (Pen Portrait, Telling The Time etc) but I haven’t deliberately done this. In each case the title has been the right one for the story and the alliteration is a nice side effect!

I also think it is better to have things that way round rather than try to think of a clever title and try to make the story fit it. I can never see how that would work. Something would feel artificial about it.

I have to have a title to work to when writing a story (of any length) but I will change it if something better pops into my head as I’m working on the first draft. I use my titles to help me set the mood for a story. I sometimes use titles which can have a secondary meaning that the story makes clear.

The important thing is that the title suits the story.

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Once I’ve got a flash fiction collection written and edited, I spend some time working out what would be the best “running order” for the stories. This can take some time but it’s worth it.

From Light to Dark and Back Again lives up to its name (!) but the big plus with that was it helped me group stories beautifully!

The reason for all of this? I don’t just want my individual stories to make an impact on a reader. I want the book as a whole to do so too so taking a step back and planning what stories goes where helps enormously with that.

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What is the worst aspect of writing flash fiction?

For me, it’s coming up with a character with a strong enough voice. Once I’ve got that (after some outlining), I can set that character wherever I want and away they go!

It’s not enough for a character to be pushy or what have you. There has got be strong enough reason for them to be like that. Give them this and you will take the reader with you even though the reading journey for flash fiction is necessarily a short one!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Playing with Genre

With my flash fiction, I like to play with genre a lot. As flash fiction has to be character led due to the strict word count, I can have great fun putting that character wherever and whenever I want. I’ve written fantasy flash fiction, historical flash fiction, crime flash fiction etc as a result.

I’ve read excellent collections by other authors too. Some focus on one genre. The Great War by Dawn Kentish Knox is a great example of a themed historical flash fiction collection. Do check it out. The characterisation is very moving.

But it is not just in the flash and short story form that genre can be played with, far from it.

I love the crossover novel. It blends the best of the two (usually) genres it is mixing and gives something unique to the reader as a result. A good example to check out here is Jennifer C Wilson’s Kindred Spirits series which crosses ghost stories with historical fiction. Great mix!

I think readers are much more flexible over this than writers/publishers realise at times. I know what I like when I read it even if I can’t categorise it! And while categories ARE important, I don’t think they’re meant to be straitjackets either.

Have fun with your reading/writing and mix those genres!

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Story Changes

Facebook – General

Can a story change you? Yes. My view of Richard III was changed by Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time. I discovered the wonder of irony in fiction thanks to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

And this doesn’t just apply to books either. One of my favourite Doctor Who episodes is the Matt Smith one about Vincent Van Gogh. Beautifully done – and one of those Who stories you wish was true. Do check it out. I see there’s a thread elsewhere on FB today on this, which is what brought this topic to mind. The episode, Vincent, bears repeated viewing too and loses none of its emotional impact.

And, as ever, the impact of any story is all down to the character. They’ve got to be strong enough (even when they’re vulnerable and weak) to make us want to root for them.

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What do I like most about writing non-fiction such as my CFT posts?

It’s the creativity involved in it. Okay that creativity is based on research but I still need to present my posts in ways I hope will be entertaining to others. It’s a different challenge to fiction where I’ve got to make up characters that will hopefully convince readers these people are “real enough” for them to want to read on to find out what happens to them.

I like the mix of writing here. Keeps me on my toes and I’m never short of things to write!

Sent off my competition entry yesterday. It’s so nice being able to submit work online. I am from the days when everything had to go via the post and I can’t imagine the amount of post and time I’m saving in being able to send things in electronically now!

Where the post is still wonderful is when you receive your copies of your book through your door! Nothing beats that feeling. There, delivery online doesn’t have quite the same feel about it!

Am working on non-fiction projects and my next flash fiction collection so plenty to keep me occupied. My CFT post will be looking at playing with words and form. More on that later in the week.

What is it about your characters you like the most? For me it’s all about their approach to life. I’ve always had a soft spot for those awkward characters who will question authority, point out its faults, do something to rectify said faults, and land in trouble as a result. (They always do land in trouble).

I also love the characters that never give up, no matter what, and the ones determined to prove themselves. Fairytales are full of these kinds of characters and rightly so. They can be inspiring. (Sometimes they can act as a warning!).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One useful way to reduce word count for your flash fiction is to use words with more than one meaning. Readers then pick up the meaning you want to use from the context of the rest of the story.

For example, the word “muppet” can be used as an insult as in ‘Oi, you muppet” or it can be used as a reference to Jim Henson’s wonderful creations, as in “my favourite muppet was Miss Piggy”. (Still is incidentally!).

A good double meaning word will lend itself to puns which can be great ways to end a story too.

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I love funny flash fiction as it makes its impact quickly and generates a good belly laugh as an instinctive reaction. Mind, that’s the kind of instinctive reaction you want!

The impact is nearly always down to the closing line and the challenge is to come up with a powerful punch to end the story.

But a lot of fun can be had in setting up an oddball situation and letting the humour come out of that. (The advantage here is the humour won’t feel forced. It really will arise naturally).

I loved choosing the music for the book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I went for Danse Macabre, which was also used as the theme to Jonathan Creek. Danse Macabre is quirky music, which suits my stories well, but I try not to be influenced by music while I write.

I’ve found classical just relaxes me. Rock and pop can and has affected my mood while writing. It’s difficult, I think, to write a tender love scene, say, when you’ve got Highway to Hell blasting out on the radio. (Good image though, yes?!).

So I think I’ll stick to Beethoven’s 5th or the 1812 Overture when I want something really loud that won’t affect what I write!

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Some of the most recent writing prompts in my diary have included:-

1. Writing about a pancake being tossed.

2. Writing about a spring flower (picture provided!).

3. Writing a description of Persephone leaving the underworld.

4. Writing about Demeter’s feelings as she watches Persephone return to the underworld.

And coming up soon will be the challenges to write about:-

1. An Easter egg hunt

2. Using a Shakespeare quote to get started on a piece.

3. Listing words describing a train journey and using all of the senses.

4. Listing favourite foods and using all the senses to describe preparing and eating them.

I’ve really enjoyed the prompts I’ve written to so far and looking forward to the others. What I like best is the real mix. And there’s nothing to stop you using your own photos to spark ideas here. The important thing is to have fun here!

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Goodreads Author BlogTitles

How important is a story title to you?

I have mixed feelings on this one. With my reader’s hat on, a good title will draw me in but it generally isn’t what makes me buy the book. That is down to whether I like the blurb and opening paragraph.

Sometimes it’s down to whether I’ve read the author before and know I am likely to enjoy the new one (though I always check the blurb and opening paragraph out.).

With my writer’s hat on, I’m looking for titles which will convey the mood of my story and draw readers in. This is particularly useful for my genre, flash fiction, where every word has to “punch its weight”. A good title here can save a lot of words in the overall count and let your readers know what to expect.

When writing, I usually start with the title as I need a peg to hang the story from but I have changed titles as and when I need to, given sometimes a better one comes to me as I write. I just need a starting point.

When reading, if a title is really good, by the end of the story it will be apparent as to how well it suits the tale. You won’t be able to imagine a better or different one. When a writer feels like that about their title, they’ve got the job done!

Oh and this applies to non-fiction books and articles just as much as fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time Pockets and Titles

Facebook – General

Managed to draft a little non-fiction whilst out and about today. I love Evernote and my smartphone! Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers’ Day on 20th October. As well as hearing inspiring speakers and learning so much there, the train journey to and from is also very useful for getting some more work done!

I learned a long time ago it pays to use whatever pockets of time you have to write. Those pockets mount up literally over time and I’ve learned to adapt. If I’ve got 10 minutes, say, I’ll use that period to brainstorm ideas for stories and CFT posts. If I’ve 30 minutes, I’ll draft a couple of flash fiction stories (though I will edit separately later).

Favourite things about titles? I love titles that can carry more than one meaning or take the reader in more than one direction. (It also has the advantage of being a wonderful shortcut when writing flash fiction – think of all those words saved!).

I love titles that can conjure up the mood of the story to come (and usually it ends up conjuring up the genre too). I like those titles where an author has taken a well known saying or proverb and twisted it to suit their purposes. (I do this too). That triggers instant curiosity in me to find out whether the story delivers on the promise of that title. I’m glad to say the vast majority do.

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I sometimes use spider diagrams to help me work out the best ideas for a story. This technique is most useful when I’ve got a promising title to work with but want to work out all possible options coming from it. (I want to make sure I don’t miss any and also not to go with the most obvious option).

There is something about seeing a diagram that encourages lateral thinking. Also flowcharts could work well too.

Sometimes photos can inspire story ideas. If you have a family portrait, who are they, is there anyone missing from the picture (and if so who and why), and what led up to the portrait being taken. Was everyone happy to take part or is the portrait a picture of a group hiding secrets and resentments? Plenty of food for thought there I think!