Quizzing and Questioning

It’s not often I start a post using the letter Q (which is generally best saved for getting a high score in Scrabble!).

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

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Quizzing your characters can be great fun and often leads to you to finding hidden depths to your creations.

Sometimes you can find your characters are more shallow than you thought initially they would be but you can use that. Shallow characters can be used for comic effect. They can also be a pain in the neck to your lead character.

Work out what their place is in your story. Work out if there is a reason to their being shallow. Do they develop at all? If not, how do they help or hinder your lead?

Work out what you think you need to know about your characters. You should find that leads to other questions but the more you can envisage your creation, the better it is for you to write them into existence. Because you know them well, you will write about/for them with conviction and something of that does come through to your readers.

 

It’s my turn on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog More Than Writers. This time I discuss Feeding Your Writing. (For gardening fans, I will say now it doesn’t involve Baby-Bio, though I admit I love the image from Pixabay below. Given some of my flash fiction is fantasy based this is particularly apt!).

I share some thoughts as to how you can feed your writing and why it is so important. Hope you enjoy.

 

I’m going to be sharing Part 2 of The Chameleons Say Hello series for Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. Their Spring Quartet production, due to be staged in April, is now off, unfortunately but understandably. The Ritchie Hall where they perform does not have a big stage. It is amazing what The Chameleons achieve given the limited space but it does make the 2 meter rule nigh on impossible to achieve. (I’m still in awe at the amazing set they built for Blackadder).

Do check out the interview later in the week and the previous one (there’ll be a link back in the post I put up on Friday). The interviews make for a great look at life behind the stage.

Being the nosey parker that I am, this kind of thing always fascinates me. The world of books can show you different life experiences, real or imagined. Interviews can also you aspects of life that you won’t experience directly but are fascinating to read about nonetheless.

And I hope it is not long, relatively speaking anyway, before The Chameleons get to entertain us again ON the stage.

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I’ve just discovered a new random generator – a random question one! I think I could have some fun with this.

Firstly, you could use the questions to help you develop your characters. Quizzing characters is a great way to finding out more about them before you write their story.

I’ve always found that this leads to better depth of characterisation. I need to know Character A loathes cheese because they were forced to eat it at school because cheese is somehow going to feature in my tale and it will be a major issue for them. Now that’s just a very random example but you see the point.

Secondly, you can use the questions as titles and/or themes.

Thirdly, get your character to answer the question and make that the story!

For example, one question that came up when I found this was:-

If you inherited or won a million pounds/dollars etc, what’s the very first thing you would do with the money?

Now there is definitely a story in that! I shall explore more of this generator. Really pleased to have found it.

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Following on from yesterday’s post, I did write a story based on the random question generator question I shared with you yesterday. Will polish and submit that in due course.

Having another look at the generator, I’ve found you can change category of question as well. That will be useful.

Another thing which will be useful from this is you can ask yourself WHY you have answered the question the way you have.

For example, the question that has come up tonight for me is “If you could start a collection of one kind of item, what would it be?”.

(In my case, books. I already have a good collection but that’s not a good enough reason to stop buying books! All I’m limited by here is budget and, for print books, shelf space! Oh and while I think about it, a big thanks to all of my writing friends for writing wonderful fiction. I’d always been a little bit lacking in reading contemporary fiction. Classics not a problem, contemporary was. Not any more it isn’t! One of my little pleasures in life is walking past my book case with my friends’ books on and even more so at the moment given I can’t see any of them for goodness knows how long. You good people know who you are! Well done and thanks, all!).

Now as well as answering that question directly for a character you’re creating, look at WHY the character would collect antique cuckoo clocks or whatever it is you have chosen. Are they trying to compensate for something they felt is lacking in their life? Are they fixated by time? What problems could that cause them? Have they a deep appreciation for the cuckoo (and yes the possibilities for a funny story are there!)?

So dig deeper. Answer the question. Then look at why. See what you come out with. There will be stories in the answers to the “why” question as well as to the “what” one! Try it and see. Have fun.

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Moving on from random things, which kind of writing competition do you prefer? One with a set theme or one which is open?

I love and take part in both but must admit I do prefer the set theme. It provides a framework for me to work to and I find that useful. It also forces me to think outside the box a bit more because I don’t want to go with a take on the topic that is likely to be a very popular one.

Whatever take I do use is something I want to be able to make unique. So, okay, there’s no new love story in the world for example, but that won’t stop them being written and rightly so. What is wanted is your unique take on a love story and your voice coming through and appealing to an editor.

Taking part and being one of the winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition has been a joy due to this aspect. One theme. One maximum word count set for us all (1000 words so handily just counts as flash fiction!). Fifteen winners. Fifteen different stories and styles. A jjoy to be part of. An even bigger joy to read the collection of stories (and if you want to know more, do check out my Amazon Author Central page – the two collections to date are Transforming Being and To Be…To Become).

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At what point do I know if a story has come to life?

For me, it’s when I can anticipate the character reactions and actions based on the set up I’ve created for them.

If, say, I’ve created a character who is greedy, I can anticipate them carrying out some action which will help them satisfy that greed. (It doesn’t mean I have to like them OR their actions!). The anticipation should be realistically based on how I’ve portrayed the character.

Sometimes a character surprises me but it will still be in keeping. For example, my character could be greedy for money but what if they’re NOT keeping the money for themselves? What if they’re helping someone else or they’re being blackmailed?

Now that would change the course of the story BUT the greed still makes sense. The actions to satisfy that greed makes sense. It’s the motivation that will change what a reader thinks of the character and that is a good place for a surprise to come in I think.

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Goodreads Author Blog –

What Is It About Reading You Love The Most?

Hmm… could write chapter and verse on this one. I mean, where do you start? But here goes:-

My great love is characterisation so the success of a book to me is dependent on how well the characters appeal to me.

To be honest, much as I love Jane Austen, I’m not keen on Mansfield Park. I much prefer the more rounded Austen heroines in Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion etc.

My second great love here is when the book makes me forget time and the world around me because I’m too engrossed in the world of the story. Now that is an undisputable sign of a great story.

I love it when reading shows me worlds I have not known, including right here on Planet Earth. Good non-fiction comes into its own here.

I love it when I discover new genres. I’ve always loved fairytales and still do, but finding the wonderful worlds of well written historical fiction, crime stories etc., has been fantastic.

I love following the development of characters in series novels. It is like catching up with old friends when you come across them in Book 2 etc and discover in this one they’ve married someone they weren’t dating in Book 1! (You’ve got to find out why, right?).

And, like so many writers, I’ve got a soft spot for quietly overhearing conversations (well, you never know when you’ll hear something interesting that could spark an idea for a story of your own!), reading dialogue in fiction is exactly like that.

Reading helps me unwind, entertains me, informs me – what is there not to like?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAKING TIME AND WRITING CONFERENCES

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Why is it you never have as much time as you’d like for reading and/or writing? Time flies when I write, it drags when I’m doing the housework! There’s probably some natural law about this somewhere…

It’s important then to make the most of the time you do have. Never despise the fact you might only write or read for 15 minutes a day because those pockets of time mount up. At the of a week, you would have had 105 minutes (1 hour, 45 minutes) and you can complete a short story, some flash fiction etc.

 

Books paperback and ebooks via Pixabay

Books – love them, don’t mind the format. Image via Pixabay

REAL WRITING POST - Books take us to the heights

Great characters = great books. Image via Pixabay.

REAL WRITING POST - Let your characters live

Books should keep you gripped and that is down to the characters. Image via Pixabay

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A huge but lovely library. Image via Pexels

Even in the heart of a big city, books are a great form of escape - image via Pixabay

Books are a fantasic form of escapism. Image via Pixabay

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What do I like most about going to writing conferences? Difficult to say but I love the interaction with other writers and it is always good to know it’s not just you that’s faced rejections countless times. Also great to be able to celebrate any good publishing news with others and for them to do the same back. It is vital, I think, to know others do know the same frustrations with writing you feel and experience the same joys with it too.

Naturally, there is what you learn from the courses too, but I think you can’t beat the “buzz” of inspiration that comes from these things. You go home again looking forward to drafting out those new thoughts and ideas that came to you, maybe even try a new style of writing. The encouragement that comes from a good writing conference is invaluable for those times when writing doesn’t come easily or for whatever other reason, you’re not able to write as much as you’d like to.

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Will be off out on the train again this coming weekend so am automatically seeing it as “draft some more flash fiction stories” time! The great thing about writing is you are never short of things to create, edit, edit again, submit, receive rejections on, submit, receive acceptances on etc.

I must try and get some more work off to competitions this year. I have been shortlisted in a couple, which always gives me a buzz, but need to get back to this again. One great thing about competitions is having different themes to work to – I never mind a set theme. The challenge there is in coming up with something which meets the criteria but is engaging and different enough to hook the judge. (If you’ve hooked them, you’ve hooked potential readers).

Golden rules of competitions?

1. Make sure it is a genuine competition. Check out the background of it first.

2. Assuming it is a genuine competition, follow the rules. Stories ARE dismissed if rules are broken. (To do otherwise isn’t fair on other entrants who have stuck to them).

Oh and if you’re entering writing competitions, have fun, good luck and remember if nothing happens this time, you have still written a story that may suit a publication elsewhere. Waste nothing (but be prepared to rewrite).

 

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One of the great things about flash fiction is that a few telling details can conjure up a whole world very quickly. It really is a question of feeding your reader the right information so they put two and two together. (Sometimes of course you throw in the odd red herring!).

The Truth in FLTDBA is a good example of the right detail being a pivotal part of the story. I don’t directly tell you this is an aliens from another world story. I tell you the name of the spaceship the alien flies in and you take the rest from there.

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I use a variety of methods to generate stories including setting myself an opening line and taking the tale from there. I sometimes set myself a closing line and work out the story from a “backwards” point of view. Agatha Christie did this too.

What I’ve not done, and I guess I should give it a go at some point, is set myself an “in the middle” line and work either side of it! I do know of one competition a year at least that does set a middle line like that and I should imagine it’s an interesting challenge.

I’ve been brainstorming ideas for a third flash fiction collection and some of the lines I’ve come up with I will definitely save as closing lines. I’ll have a go at setting one or two as middle lines and see how I do!

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Flash fiction can be used to reflect moods (your own and that of your characters). My story, They Don’t Understand, is an example of that. It is a poignant piece about an older man looking back at the life shared with his wife. I would also describe this as a character sketch.

I do sometimes write pieces that would never make a standard length short story (1500 words or so) but make ideal reflections on character (circa 100 to 300 words) and make an interesting sideline to my “standard” flash fiction stories.

I like character pieces as a good one will make you reflect on what the “star” has shared with you in the story and make you ponder as to whether you would do the same.

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I write flash fiction so my first priority is to tell an entertaining story yet keep the word count down.

One great way of doing this is to give the reader the information what they need to know, but no more than that. They are the ones who put two and two together. For example in one of my stories I mention the name of the spacecraft the alien narrator flies. It is all you need to know to get the gist of the story.

Great books across the genres have been doing this for years, long before flash came on to the scene (though I think flash, as a format, is the “flagbearer” for this now).

I love Agatha Christie, as I’ve mentioned before, for the puzzle element to her stories. I like authors who give me space to work things out (and later in the story I find out whether I was right with my conclusions or not). I also think those books are more memorable because you and me, as readers, are taking an active part in those books as we read them.

I also like P.G. Wodehouse for the details he seemingly without effort puts into his story. He sometimes refers to the meals being offered. I think that’s a great way to draw people into the story, it also gives an idea of the wealth and status of the characters.

 

 

 

 

 

The old way of writing a story! Image via Pixabay

WHEN IN DOUBT…

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In When In Doubt, I suggest some things you can do if you are in doubt about characters, your plot, and/or writing competitions.  Hope the tips help.  Re the writing competitions, I also give some pointers as to what to look for especially if the fee seems to be steep.  Sometimes this is genuine.  You would expect to pay more for a novel competition as you are paying the judges’ for their time in reading your book.  Golden Rule:  always check it out and if in doubt ask other writers, writing organizations like the Society of Authors and see what reports there are about the competition on the net.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Murphy’s Law for Writers looks at how the infamous Law, which says if anything can go wrong it will, applies to writers.  I look at writing conferences, powercuts and deadlines amongst other things.  For example when it comes to powercuts, Murphy’s Law would be:-

Powercuts:  Never happen at a convenient time for anyone.  Yours will happen just as you were about to save a mammoth writing session.  You will lose it and have to redo it.  (This will only happen the once though as after that you will become paranoid about it happening again and will be selecting back up options every five minutes!).

Can you think of anything to add?

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I look at three letter acronyms for writers tonight.  For example, FBP = Forgot Backup, Powercut.  Yes, there’s a theme tonight!  Always back up work frequently.  I once lost a whole evening’s work when I forgot to do this and a power cut hit.  Never again (I can’t stop the power cuts but I can back up!).

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ideas-the-spark-for-writing-competitions-image-via-pixabay

Don’t let power cuts take your ideas. Back up your work frequently.  Image via Pixabay

 

 

FAIRYTALE HEADLINES

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Fairytale Headlines shares some lighthearted ideas as to what headlines you might see in a magical world newspaper, magazine, or advertising supplement.  I include tabloid reaction to the tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker and how the Three Bears might be involved in these publications.  Hope you enjoy!

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Getting Feedback gives useful advice on something that should be of immense value to writers – reaction to what you have written!  I share what I look for when seeking feedback and also general pointers on competitions.  For example, I always look for a competition’s track record before deciding to enter it.  And while I haven’t mentioned it in this post (as I forgot!), I will add for newly set up competitions, I look at the people behind it.  There will be a track record somewhere for you to judge whether you have a go at the competition or not and, if in any doubt, always check things out with a reputable writing body such as, in the UK, the Society of Authors.

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I talk about music in my post here tonight, what I listen to as I write and how this has changed over time.

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I listen to wonderful classical music concerts in the comfort of my own home.  Image via Pixabay.

I listen to wonderful classical music concerts in the comfort of my own home. Image via Pixabay.