The Uses of Weather in Fiction

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’ve finally got around to talking online about the weather in my CFT post this week, though I go on to discuss its uses in fiction. I also share why I don’t tend to use weather in my stories and look at how it can be done realistically.

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Books I chose for the 7 covers in 7 days challenge on Twitter were:-

Men At Arms (Terry Pratchett)
Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkein)
Code of the Woosters (P.G. Wodehouse)
The Daughter of Time (Josephine Tey)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K.Rowling)
Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie)

Good fun to do but a challenge, given there are so many other books I could’ve included. I chose these on the basis that if I could only smuggle 7 books away with me somewhere, these would be the first ones I’d go for.

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I’m going to be talking about the weather (and its uses in fiction) for my CFT post this week. I avoid using it in my stories, the post will explain why. Link up on Friday.

Lovely to see crocuses and snowdrops out. One great thing about walking the dog is you do get to see things like that which you might not otherwise notice. I’ve seen some spectacular wildlife sights too – sparrowhawks have been known to be in Chandler’s Ford – and buzzards often circle the park. You can always tell when they’re about – the sky goes quiet. Can’t see a little bird anywhere…

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Had a fantastic time visiting the family tonight but a nightmare journey getting over there. What should have taken a maximum of 30 minutes took 90!! Naturally on the way home, it did take under 30.

So this led me on to think about what would be a nightmare journey for your characters. Is it just down to transport problems or what they are facing on that journey? Why are they making that trip? Can they avoid it or change it so it is better? If not, why not? There has to be a good reason for the journey to be made otherwise the reader will think why on earth didn’t Character X just stay at home and avoid all the bother!

The ultimate journey in fiction for me is Frodo Baggins’s “trip” to Mordor in The Lord of the Rings but a journey much shorter than that can still be a nightmare. For example, does your character need to walk a mile to fetch something but they have to go through a neighbourhood known to be hostile to his family?

What does your character fear that would turn any journey into a nightmare? What do they do to overcome that?

Hope these thoughts can seed some story ideas! Good luck!

Many thanks, everyone, for the likes and comments on yesterday’s post about how I produce a flash fiction story.

I also have brainstorming sessions every now and again where I’ll outline a possible story idea or an idea for a character in a line or two. I put those notes aside for a while before revisiting them and deciding then if the ideas were as strong as I first thought they were!

Usually they are, sometimes not (and I discard those), but in the majority of cases, the idea is okay but needs strengthening. That is where I need to dig even deeper into what my character is capable of as that is where I’ll find the trigger for turning an idea into a story. A character that I discover is capable of doing anything for a laugh because they think it is the best way to make and have lots of friends is someone with at least one story to tell (and probably a poignant one).

What if is the classic question to ask both of your character and your idea to get the best out of both.

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My process for producing a flash fiction story goes like this.

1. Have idea for interesting character. (Flash fiction works best with one or two characters at most, though others can be referred to or implied).

2. Work out what to do with interesting character! As you can imagine, this is the REALLY fun bit!

3. Draft the story and check it makes sense.

4. Put it aside for a while and get on with my CFT posts, my novel, more flash fiction stories etc

.5. Come back to the story and read it with a fresh eye. Ask myself what impact it makes on me. Is it the impact I want it to have on a reader?

6. Edit the story based on 5 above but also check for the usual typos, grammatical errors etc. (I wish I could say there were never any but life’s not like that!).

7. Re-read it and if happy submit it to an appropriate market or competition.

I really enjoy reading and writing flash fiction stories which end with a punch. Sometimes that can be literal (!) and is most satisfying when the character has deserved it (and that will be the view your readers will take too). One huge advantage of fiction is wrongs can be righted in a way they’re so often not in real life. I believe that is one reason why fairytales are always popular!

I also love the witty one-liners that can close a story. It’s good to finish a story on an “uplift” where that is appropriate. Of course the set up for that finish happens much earlier in the story and it can be as simple as showing your character has the type of attitude which will make a witty one-line retort likely. (It usually is a retort!).

Above all, it is fun, which is what writing should be after all.

Goodreads Author Blog – Hooks Into Books

I seem to have a “thing” for rhyming titles at the moment. Sure it will be a passing fad…!

What attracts you to a book? Is it the title, the blurb, the cover, or a combination of the lot?

For me, the cover draws me in but the blurb is what clinches a sale for me, whether I’m reading on Kindle or a paperback. If I like the premise of the blurb, I will “look inside” a Kindle book or look at the opening page of a paperback. If it seems to deliver, I’ll go ahead and buy.

There is no such thing as a foolproof system but this works for me!

Of course, another great hook is reading a book by an author whose works you know you like. I love series novels and my favourite of these has to be Discworld. Each book original and entertaining but there’s enough familiarity with the world to make you feel right at home as you continue to enjoy the series.

Whatever you read, enjoy!

Fairytales with Bite – Signs Your Character Isn’t Strong Enough

This is by no means an exhaustive list but signs your character isn’t strong enough include the following.

1.  Forgetting their name!  It can happen. It’s bad enough when a reader does it but if the writer does so, then the character is in real trouble.  If they’re not memorable enough to you, they certainly won’t be to anyone else.

2.  Running out of things for them to do.  Yet the plot is strong, the other characters are ticking along very nicely with plenty of dialogue, action etc.  You need to ask yourself whether you really need this character in the story after all.  If you feel you do, look at why.  Could this character be combined with another in the tale to make one really strong creation that keeps the reader’s (and writer’s) interest?  You need to keep in anything and anyone that moves your story onwards.  You also need to ruthlessly cut what you really don’t need.

3.  Their dialogue isn’t distinctive enough.  Your reader should be able to tell who is speaking in a story by the style of the language used by the characters.  Character A talks in clipped tones, Character B tends to laugh a lot after talking, Character C has a lisp, Character D has a strong northern accent (as someone once said, everywhere  has a north!).  If you can’t tell your characters apart by how they speak, they’re not distinctive enough and again I would look at whether you really need them in the story.

This World and Others – The Weather and Its Uses in Fiction

This is my CFT post for this week and I discuss my views on weather being used in fiction, as well as showing some ways it can be done realistically.

Whether you use weather or not, the general point is that your fictional world must seem realistic to the reader, no matter how fantastical the setting.  That may well mean you do need to share some details as to what the climate is etc to help readers get a better understanding of your creation but only put in the details the reader has absolutely got to know and leave it at that.  Your reader will want to fill in some gaps for themselves.  Also, you don’t want them switching off because all that lovely research detail you put in and you found fascinating has done nothing whatsoever for them!

Ask yourself if the reader really needs to know this.  I’ve found the simple approach of “just the facts, Ma’am, just the facts” is a great way of working out what to put into a story.  I’ve also found it best to share those facts in as palatable a form as possible.  No great splurge of information but drip feeding it as and where necessary makes it easier to take in and therefore more entertaining and acceptable to your reader. And that is where the reader will keep on reading and hopefully loving your story!

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Mixing It Up

Facebook – General

Which author do you turn to when the world is grim and you just need to step away from it for a bit? My mother always used to say “stop the world, I want to get off” when the world seemed particularly madder than usual, a feeling I totally understand at the moment.

My go to choices are Pratchett, Austen or Wodehouse. In a grim world, comedic writing is very much my first choice of escapism. (And unlike alcohol and chocolate has no calories in either!).

One of my big bugbears is why humorous writing can be looked down in certain circles. If something looks easy, that writer worked their socks off to get their prose to that point. Easy writing is hard writing and even harder editing.

I’m a big fan of the “what if?” school of developing story ideas. I look at all possibilities when I’ve got an interesting theme/title/character to play with (one of them is the trigger – it isn’t always the character for example. I would say it’s a pretty even split between my three triggers here).

I start by writing down the “obvious” links and dismiss those but in the act of writing those down, the thought “oh I could do this instead” crops up and that’s when the ideas really start flowing. It’s also when the writing really kicks off and that’s a great place to be.

I do use spider diagrams sometimes. Sometimes I draft a series of sentences outlining possibilities and then go with the one I like the best. (You can guarantee if it’s quirky, 95% of the time I’ll go with it!). But I like to play with ideas before I commit to one. The great thing with this approach is if Idea B appeals to me but Idea A is stronger and appeals to me more, than I’ll go with A. But there’s nothing to stop me having another look at B and developing that further for another story another time.

Busy night yesterday submitting flash fiction pieces so pleased with that. Third collection coming along well too.

I often draft fiction and non-fiction pieces with eyes open to potential markets and then submit at a later date. This is to give me time to put work aside for a while and then look at it with fresh eyes before editing and submitting those pieces.

Regarding the non-fiction, which is relatively new to me, I’m putting those pieces aside for a bit as I need to work on pitching to the markets I have in mind (but I wanted to make sure I had written the articles first. There is no such thing, to my mind, as wasted writing. If I find I can’t sell these pieces, I will end up recycling them in other ways. Also, you do write better the more often and regularly you write even if you can only write a small amount each time. It all builds up over time and I am one of those writers who likes to know they have the work to submit before approaching a market!).

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Am looking forward to seeing a local production of one of my favourite stories, A Christmas Carol, on Thursday night. Review will follow in due course.

Am also pleased to say I’ll have some publication news, from different places, over the next few days and am looking forward to sharing some links to new stories with you.

Am also looking forward to sharing an interview with an author of a very special cookbook via Chandler’s Ford Today in next couple of weeks.

My post this week will be looking at light and darkness. Link to go up on Friday.

Not impressed with the cold weather. Am very much looking forward to dodgy CH boiler pump being sorted out tomorrow. Meanwhile, I am wearing loads of layers! It is just a pity that writing isn’t a warmth generating activity but there you go!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

F = Fun stories, told briefly
L = Lights up the characters
A = Animated dialogue and internal thoughts
S = Show, not tell (and what else could this be)
H = Hard impact from few words

F = Fantasy and fairytales feature in what I do
I = Imagination running riot (what fun!)
C = Characters compel you to find out what they’re up to.
T = Truth emerges in fiction, better than straight telling.
I = Inventiveness emerges from using low word counts
O = Omnipresent narrator, first person or third? I use all.
N = Narrator must be intriguing to your readers.

Some thoughts about flash fiction!

Time for some more one line stories.

1. The swirling leaves made a great disguise for a human-hungry shapeshifter as nobody spotted him turning up for his latest snack.

2. When even the bats find the dark too scary, you know there is going to be trouble.

3. The fairy godmother smashed her wand against a pane of glass and watched as the splinters turned into a pair of beautiful shoes – one user only for these.

4. Find the monster, the people cried, though they screamed when it was found.

5. Being befuddled was Molly’s normal state of being, which is why they didn’t let her have her magic wand any more.

Allison Symes – 18th November 2018

I have three main triggers for writing flash fiction: a character who intrigues me, a theme I just have to write about, or a title with interesting possibilities so I just need to find out which is the most fascinating and go with that!

I’ve found it pays to have different writing triggers. It keeps things fresh and I’ve never believed in the “one approach suits all” school of thought. I’ve never seen how that can work! Being open to different methods helps with competitions where the theme is set for you anyway.

I do recommend having brainstorming sessions every so often where you just jot down potential ideas. I must do so again myself soon but it is great to come back to these later and work them up into stories or articles for Chandler’s Ford Today, as the case may be. It also means never being short of anything to write about!

(And photos can make a great trigger too. Another reason to love Pixabay!).

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Publication news coming later this week with new flash fiction stories from me and in different places too. Looking forward to sharing the links with you as and when. Nice mixture of word counts here too.

What makes me decide when a piece really won’t work as a flash fiction story and that it has to be a standard competition length short tale instead?

When the theme is such a powerful one, I need to give the characters more room to explore it is the basic answer. As you write more, you develop a gut feel for when to stop a story (nearly always turns out to be a piece of flash fiction) or when you need to continue (this is where it can become a 1500 short story instead). Just be open.

 

Goodreads Author Programme BlogMixing It Up

I like to mix up what I read in terms of genre and word count. I love (and write) flash fiction, likewise short stories, but there are times when nothing but a full length novel will do. There is no way Tolkein could have done justice to The Lord of the Rings in three short stories!!

Having said that, I am still stunned they managed to get three films out of The Hobbit, given it was only one book. Hey ho…

The correct word count for any story, of course, is when no more can be said and when to remove anything would be to the detriment of the tale in some way.

I think as a reader of too many years to count, you do develop an instinctive feeling for when a writer has got the word count right. I want to feel at the end of a story disappointed it has come to an end, but at the same time, know within myself, there really was no more to be said. Naturally that’s a challenge to me for my own writing but this is a good thing. It keeps me on my toes!

One of the things I love about creative writing is one of the best tips any writer has to improve their skills is to read widely and across the genres, including non-fiction. You do learn by absorbing what others have done before you. Absolutely no problem with that, then, and bring it on!

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Heavenly books. Image by Pixabay

THE OUTSIDERS

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

In fairytales, the outsider often ends up being the hero/heroine.  What reaction would your characters have if an outsider turned up amongst them?  I look at this in The Outsiders.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

What If is probably my favourite question to use when trying to generate story and article ideas.  You can apply the question to your characters and yourself, in the case of the former to find out what they really are made of, and as for the latter, to discover what you are made of!  Now where will those discoveries take you?

FACEBOOK PAGE

Just a short post tonight so have put in full here.

Back on the old exercise bike for me tomorrow so I can catch up on my reading. Just as well pixels don’t have calories, or anyone at my cyber launch will have put on several pounds and been the worse for wear in other directions too.

Glad the lighter evenings are here. Mabel is too. Much prefers things when she can see what she’s doing. Now if only certain drivers would take that view…

Do your characters know in which direction they're going? (Border collie is optional!). Image via Pixabay.

Mabel. Image taken by me.