The Writer’s Journey: Introducing Paula Readman

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay supplied the pictures unless otherwise stated. A big thank you also to Paula Readman for supplying some pictures for my Chandler’s Ford Today interview of her this week.

Every writer’s journey is unique. For a story of grit, determination and perserverance, check out Paula Readman’s story in my CFT post this week.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It was a real pleasure to interview Paula Readman for my CFT post this week. While Paula and I have publishers in common, it is also true every writer has a unique writing journey. Discover Paula’s fascinating writing journey in this interview and why grit, determination, and striving to be the best you can be as a writer is SO important to any writer, published or not.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It is always a joy interviewing writers for CFT but it is also great fun interviewing your own characters. I’ve used this technique for my longer short stories but even with my flash fiction, I’ve outlined what I need to know about a character and why it is I need to know that.

To do the latter, I have to quiz my potential character as to why they’d be, for example, greedy. What has triggered that? There usually is a reason behind it even if it is not a nice or honourable one. From all of that I begin to hear my character’s voice and away I go. I have to hear their voice before I can write about them at all.

Think about what you need to know before you write a character. Some writers need to know what their characters look like. I have to know my character’s voice and what drives them above anything else and I find physical description follows from that.

Sounds a bit odd I know but it works for me. I know my character is well spoken and is driven to prove themselves, for example. I quiz them as to why. Possible answer would be to prove all those who said they’d be a failure wrong. Their voice is to cover up the fact they come from a poor background – sounding upmarket is a kind of armour for them.

I’m then thinking of what my character might look like. They’d want to look smart for one thing so how that would manifest itself? Can I give them a real fad for fancy shoes, say, and make that a quirky trait that comes up in the story?

No two authors go about this process of discovery in quite the same way (which is another reason why it is such fun to interview them!). It is a case of working out what works for you.

I’ve often read of writers keeping magazine pictures of people to inspire how they would describe their characters’ physical appearance. I’ve taken that idea and modified it because I know I’ve got to hear the character’s voice ahead of anything else. Then, like a good actor, I need to know the character’s motivation. And then off I go!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My CFT post this week will be a fab interview with #PaulaReadman, author of The Funeral Birds (and with more to come later in the year). She shares with me what books (reading and writing them) means to her. Her writing journey is a powerful one and inspirational. Link up tomorrow.

Interviewing other authors is great fun to do. None of us come into writing in exactly the same way. None of us are inspired by exactly the same things. All of us have a unique voice. And we all love books. What’s not to love?!

Many thanks to Paula for supplying her author shot below. And if you’re wondering what the owls have to do with anything, look up the link when I put it up tomorrow! Update:  Hopefully by now you will have seen the CFT post and know exactly what the owls are about though there is a good clue below!

 

Am making good progress on my edits for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic.

I always feel a certain amount of relief when I get to ANY editing stage on a book, a short story, or a piece of flash fiction. It means I’ve got something I can work with! And, yes, I have cut my wasted words – very and actually especially! Those went before I submitted the book at all!

Over the course of an average week, I’ll have writing slots where I’ll create new stories for competitions, another book etc.

I’ll then have others where I’m writing non-fiction (covering my CFT posts, ACW blog spots, draft articles I hope to pitch in due course etc. A recent edition to this is preparing various posts I can use either here on on Goodreads for those times when I’m pushed for time. I hope this is going to make me more productive as I would like to schedule more posts in advance).

Then there will be those slots where I’m editing. That can feel as if I’m not doing much but I am, of course. The writing really is in the rewriting. The chances of me writing a perfect first draft is remote. The work is in getting rid of the dross from what I hope will prove to be gold!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Some of my narrators in my flash tales are impartial observers and it is something I hope to use more of as a technique in my stories.

The advantages are that I can get straight into the head of this character, they come to the situation in the tale with no preconceptions (as there is no way they could have any), and what might seem obvious to us could appear alien to them.

That in turn can make us think about how something WOULD look to someone who has never come across it before and therefore doesn’t know what to expect.

So how can you make your observer truly impartial?

By ensuring they are not part of the main set up in the story. They’ve been invited in by someone who IS in that main set up. (Exploring the reasons for that can also make for interesting stories).

For example if your set up is the Court of Queen Elizabeth Tudor, your outsider could be someone who is the servant of one of the ambassadors to that Court. They would never be asked for their opinion by anyone in the English Court or by their boss but they would have some thoughts on what they get to see. Nobody is immune to having thoughts even if you do have to keep them to yourself.

Your impartial observer can share those thoughts in your story though! (And maybe the battle to keep said thoughts quiet knowing they won’t go down well with the boss or the English Court, say).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As you know, I sometimes use a random word generator to kick start story ideas. This works especially well for flash fiction.

Some of the generators allow you to set your own parameters. For example, you can see how many letters or syllables you want in your selections etc. You can even set the first letter and the last one.

When I use the parameters, I focus on word length and maybe the starting letter but leave it at that. I don’t want to be too prescriptive. If the first word generated doesn’t seem to suit, I trigger another three or so. I’ve usually got an idea I can work on within three or four goes on these things. And they’re great fun. (Bear in mind too you could combine ALL of what you trigger for an idea as well).

It could be useful to have a “stock” of these in ready to submit to competitions and markets as and when you come across suitable ones. (And yes I have a stock of stories in! Every so often I have a big writing session where I write a lot of flash. I know I’m not going to be submitting them anywhere for a while but it does mean when I have market or competition information that interests me, I can go through said stock and find something useful to submit).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Reading in and out of your genre inspires your own writing. You also take in subsconsciously how stories are laid out. I’ve never understood the attitude I’ve sometimes come across where, when people find you’re a writer, they seem surprised when you reveal you’re a reader as well!

It was the love of books and stories that I read which sparked my wish to be a writer at all. It is the books and stories I still read that fires my imagination and helps me to “up my game”.

So read away, folks, it’s good for you!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fairytales With Bite – Happily Ever After?

The first indication I had that fairytales did not necessarily have to have a happily ever after ending was when I read Hans Christen Andersen’s The Little Mermaid for the first time. That was an eye opener to me as a child. Likewise how dark The Snow Queen is – the image of the ice piercing Kay’s heart still makes me shudder.

The crucial thing for any story, fairytale or not, is that the ending is appropriate. Also the author should deliver on the promise made by the opening of the story. There has to be a proper resolution, whether it’s a happily ever after or not!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others –

How To Drop Your Characters Right In The Mire

This is not the be all and end all list. I’m sure you can think of others to add to it.

  1. Use the elements of your created world against your character – unstable terrain, dreadful weather, and so on.
  2. Put them up against a tight deadline.
  3.  Put their loved ones at risk if they don’t complete the task you’ve set them whether this is to actually rescue their loved ones or to do something for an overlord to ensure their loved ones are not menaced at all.
  4. Put them in any other situation where failure is not an option though emotional ties are very good to exploit here. (I know, I know. Authors don’t have to be nice to their creations, okay?!).
  5.  Put them in danger directly.
  6.  Or put them at risk of losing that coveted promotion etc. What will they do to ensure they get what they want?
  7.  Get your character having to defend their reputation etc. Putting them up against a blackmailer here is good. Again what will your character do here?
  8.  Make them The Chosen One for a quest. Get them not to be able to get out of it either.
  9.  Going on the adventure is the only way to salvage a bad situation at home or, if that’s not possible, to escape the consequences of where they’ve mucked up here.
  10. Put them under pressure of society expectations. They can’t let the side down.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing for Myself and Perfect Days

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

Facebook – General

Had a lovely time with visiting family today. Lady is very tired – good walking and lots of cuddles from more people than normal and her favourite dinner. Life doesn’t get any better for her…! Very much her perfect day.

Do you ever think about what would be the perfect day for your characters? Okay, I know. In your story, you’re going to put them through hell, love doing so, and therefore have no interest in working out what their perfect day would be. All perfectly understandable BUT… (you knew there’d be one!)…

Working out what a character would love will reveal to you more of their personality and how they are likely to take things when their desires are thwarted. Ironically, that will help you work out just how far you can push them until they reach breaking point – and that is when you can drop them right in it.

Have fun!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The weekend has had what I call perfect autumn weather – crisp, dry, reasonably warm. It’s my favourite kind of weather. Lady likes it too. Am not so keen on it getting darker earlier but hey hum, you can’t have everything.

I always think of Keats’s “mists and mellow fruitfulness” at this time of year. It is such a wonderful summing up of the season. I don’t use the weather much in my stories. I tend to imply it with the odd reference to what my character is wearing. (If it’s a big coat it’s either very cold out there or the character’s a softie. You’ll soon find out from the story which is the case!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The joy of word play is exemplified in shows like Radio 4’s Just A Minute, but it is something most writers relish too.

I love it, when writing a lighter flash fiction tale, if I can come up with a pun which fits the story and is better than the original idea I came up with. Sometimes this is for the title, sometimes it is for the end of the story or for a quirky piece of dialogue. Great fun whenever it happens though I must admit it doesn’t happen nearly often enough for my liking but that’s another story (and my problem!).

Flash fiction writing has taught me to pick words with greater care because, of course, I want to make the maximum impact on a reader for the lowest word count possible. Playing on the double meaning of words is not only fun but helps enormously with this aspect of writing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I started writing purely for myself to begin with. I wanted to see if I could write a short story. Then could I do so again. Then could I write a short story in a different genre etc etc. It was some time before I decided to see if I could get the stories published.

I don’t regret that. To a certain extent any apprenticeship was served in all of those stories that (rightly!) never saw the light of day. Learning to cope with rejections was another step on the way. Starting to get positive rejectiosn was another huge milestone.

The writing journey is made up of steps. Publication is the biggest step I think but the journey continues after that. The important thing is to make sure you’re enjoying the journey!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When I outline a piece of flash fiction, I usually ask myself the following questions.

1. What mood would I like the story to be? (There are some competitions or themes where the mood is clearly dictated, but for open competitions, you get to decide this. I’ve always found it has paid me to think about this one way ahead of writing the story).

2. Who is my lead character and why have I selected them?

3. What is my lead character seeking? Do they succeed? How?

4. What gets in my lead character’s way and how do they overcome these things?

You can set your own questions for outlining purposes, of course, but anything that helps you to get to the nitty-gritty of what your story is about and who your character is will be of enormous benefit to you. I’ve found outlining like this has saved a lot of time (and stops me going off at unhelpful tangents).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The one good thing about the nights drawing in is that should help me get more writing done. My main writing session is in the evening after we’ve taken Lady out for her evening walk and had dinner.

We will be coming back earlier due to falling light levels soon and Lady will have to wear her fairy light on her collar again. She’s not keen on it but she lights up the world like a little ray of sunshine (albeit a green coloured one most of the time) and it is the only way to see her in the dark!

What do your characters make of the dark? Do you have any that are scared of it and have to learn to overcome that fear? My characters tend to see it as more of a nuisance than anything else. (As does Lady!).

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I looked at favourite film adaptations of books in my last Goodreads blog. That doesn’t happen with flash fiction, given the form is far too short for that (though famously Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds was based on Daphne du Maurier’s short story. I think the standard length short story is the shortest material that could be turned into a film.).

I have expanded flash fiction ideas into standard length short stories (1500 to 2000 words) where the idea is one I really love and is up to being extended. But I don’t do this often as I’m busily moving on to the next idea most of the time. And I do relish the challenge of coming up with different ideas and characters. It keeps me on my toes!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Flash fiction is a great outlet for those moments which are not long enough to form a standard short story or novel, but which still have interest and good characterisation. I’ve read many an excellent character study in flash fiction and you can learn a lot about how to portray your own characters studying things like this. (It’s also fun!).

The phrase less is more could have been written for flash fiction fans. You don’t always want lots of details for your characters. You want your reader to find the heart of the character quickly and focus on that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog – Books Into Films

My favourite adaptation has to be Peter Jackson’s take on J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings – the vision conjured up seemed to match what I had thought when I first read the trilogy.

It was wonderful “seeing” The Shire. The darkness of Mordor was vividly brought to life too.

I’ve also loved the adaptations of Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, Hogfather, and The Colour of Magic.

I would love to see an adaptation of Men at Arms and Raising Steam.

I still don’t understand how you can get three films out of The Hobbit though!

Having said all of that, I am all for film adaptations of books as long as they stay faithful to the book. I don’t “get” changing endings, character roles etc. It makes it a different story to the one the author originally intended and I really can’t see the point of that.

What are your favourite adaptations and why?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best and the Worst

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week looks at some of the best (and worst!) decisions I’ve made in writing! I also share some thoughts on where to get good advice. Hope this proves helpful.

The writing journey is precisely that – and there are bound to be things like potholes, wrong turnings etc along the way. Doesn’t mean your particular journey has to come to a grinding halt though. I’ve found offen things that were not great at the time, I’ve (a) learned from that experience and (b) gone on to do much better.

What is your favourite one liner?

Mine is an Eric Morecambe classic – “He’s not going to sell much ice cream going at that speed, is he?”. Surreal and very, very funny. (Oh and correct too – nobody sells ice cream at speed!)

In fiction, I love Jane Austen’s, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife”. Delicious irony here and a great foretaste of what is to come from Pride and Prejudice.

I don’t know how often Eddie Braben wrote and rewrote that line for Eric Morecambe or how often Jane Austen wrote and rewrote her classic opener – but definitely worth the effort in both cases!

On a sadder note, I was sorry to hear of the death of Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan from Blake’s 7 – great acting and a fantastic character to play).

My CFT post this week will be about The Best and The Worst. I take a look at some of the best and worst decisions I’ve made as a writer. (There will be tears before bedtime… mine!). Link will go up on Friday but what I hope will come from this will be a few thoughts on where to go for advice and not being afraid to say no to something that is not good for you or your writing. You’ve got to to see yourself as being in this for the long haul – the VERY long haul!

It was interesting trying to work out what I considered the best and worst decisions I’ve made (to date at least) when it comes to writing/publishing.

You can see my list on my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week (I’ll put up the link tomorrow). It took me a while to figure these out and even then when it comes to the worst decisions, something positive has come out of those. So, overall, that is okay!

As with so much in life, you can only make the best decision you can at the time, but I found out early on it DOES pay to be as informed as possible. This is why bodies like the Society of Authors and Alliance of Independent Authors are vital.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Time for some six-word stories then:-

1. While the light lasted, danger abated.

2. “Help me”, he screamed to silence.

3. When the going gets tough, tough!

4. The planet destroyer was wheeled out.

5. So near to the Sun now.

6. I never forget a face, sunshine.

I thought it would be appropriate to have six of those!

 

What are the most important points any flash fiction writer needs to bear in mind?

1. The story has to be character led – and that character has to grab the reader’s interest from the very first words. (No waffling here!).

2. The story’s ending must be appropriate for the tale and be a satisfactory conclusion. Doesn’t mean it has to be happy though!

3. The opening line, in any form of writing, is crucial to hook interest but in flash fiction, where there is no such thing as spare word count, that line must grab your reader immediately. (Does your opening line make you think YOU would want to read this story if it had been written by someone else?).

4. Use the title to set the scene or mood of the story for you. (This is particularly useful for those competitions where the title is NOT included in the word count permitted. Do make the most of that).

5. Whether you’re writing a character study, a crime story, or writing for laughs, each word must contribute to the tale. There must be no wasted words.

6. Have fun with your stories. I love the fact flash fiction has to be character led. It gives you so much scope.

The cat sat on the mat
(Waiting for the postie)
All ready to surprise
While feeling all toastie.
Why should the household dog
Have all the games and fun
The cat, ready to roar,
And see postie was “done”
Would be Number 1 pet
With a prank, the best yet.
Postie duly obliged
With screams to wake the dead
No-one had told him the “cat”
Was a lion instead.

Allison Symes – 6th September 2018

If my regular postman reads this, I’ve only got a pet dog, okay!

Each flash fiction story is its own little world, of course, but the flash of illumination (in terms of what drives a character to act the way they do) can be taken and developed further for longer stories.

I don’t do this as often as I once thought I might because I’m generally moving on to the next idea, the one after that etc., but I have managed to write flash pieces and then get standard length short stories out of the same idea. Double whammy! Different markets and competitions are available to you too doing this. Something to consider…

What I am doing with the book I’m currently working on is having a few flash pieces with the same characters in, showing different aspects to what is happening with them. Am really enjoying that.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog – Favourite Moments

Some of my favourite moments in a book come when a character has to face up to something they would never anticipate and find a way of dealing with it.

For example, my favourite Agatha Christie novel is Murder on the Orient Express, because Poirot has to deal with a situation he would not have guessed at and which in many ways should never have been able to happen. The David Suchet TV adaptation particularly plays on this element. (Not going to say more than that – no spoilers here! But if you’ve not read the book and/or watched the TV adaptation, try and do so. It really is a great story).

This element works especially well with a series character like Poirot when you have already come to know a lot about how they operate and think. To have that all thrown up in the air keeps the character and you, the reader, on your toes. Always a good thing, I think.

It confirms to me that what makes a really good story is the strength of the character, whether they’re a hero or a villain. Plots are fine but you need well rounded characters to carry them out!

Fairytales with Bite – Fairytale A to Z Part 5

M = Myth/Mythology. 
So many of the classic fairytales are based on old legends and myths.  The Brothers Grimm collected German ones. Hans Christen Andersen also collected (and embellished!) and of course went on to write superb tales of his own.  So look into your country’s myths and legends.  Look at the themes emerging from those and write your own fairytales around that.  I do wish people wouldn’t just dismiss something as “just a fairytale”.  There’s no “just” about a fairytale.  There is so much truth in them – and that should be reflected in our own stories too.  Honest writing = characters that grip people because they can identify with them.

N = Numpties
I love this Scottish word for idiot.  And fairytales do need their idiots (especially if they themselves don’t think they’re idiots or realise they are). There is great comic potential here for one thing. The Emperor’s New Clothes is a great example of a numpty in power!  Even the rich and powerful can be taken in by clever conmen.  One of the things I love about Puss in Boots is the miller’s son knows and accepts the cat is cleverer than he is!

O = Origins
This ties in with M above.  Look at the origins of fairytales.  Think about the origins of your characters.  What made you want to write about them?  How do their origins impact on their lives and the stories you are going to write about them?

This World and Others – The Best and the Worst

It is appropriate to come full circle on this tonight!

Following on from my Reflections post last week, I’ve been busily reflecting too this week!  My CFT post looks at The Best and the Worst decisions I’ve made with regard to writing/publishing and I hope this will prove useful.  A faulty step or two does not derail the whole writing journey and I think sometimes that needs to be said out loud.

What would be the best and worst decisions that your characters have made, especially your lead ones?  Do they learn from their mistakes?  How do they handle the fallout?

Often with decisions, it is a question of making the best judgement possible based on available knowledge at the time.  Sometimes the best decisions come as a result of taking time out to take stock and reflect (that word again!), and/or seeking advice from others.  Do your characters do this?  If so, what is the impact on them and your story?