Monthly Archives: June 2013

Editing Progress Report

Visitors are wonderful, wonderful things. They provide company and support, practical help and even babysitting. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

But they aren’t great for editing, so having gone into this last couple of weeks a bit ahead, I’m now slightly behind: 41.5 chapters down, when I should be at 43. I’m hoping to make it up to 42 and I’m still pleased with the progress. I’ve got a month left of this full-scale rewrite to go and hopefully I’ll finish it on time…

 

Wish me luck!

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Inspiration Monday – One Click Away

To save time this week, I’m cheating with InMon’s “One click away” prompt. It reminded me of this flash I wrote a couple of years ago. I wasn’t too sure about it, but it won a lot of praise at the time and was runner up in a flash fiction competition, so maybe I just can’t judge my own writing that well. See what you think…

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Not with a bang, but a tweet

There is a button which, in theory, only the President can push.

“We have declared war on Iran. Iran is nuclear equipped; all citizens are advised to prepare.”

The message hit every cell, twitter feed and newsreel in the country.

Some whitewashed windows or stockpiled water. Millions prayed. The majority panicked. Shops were raided. Protest groups demanding peace or pre-emptive strike clashed violently in the street. The streets were littered with bodies, whole streets were burning. The army was too depleted for Martial Law to have effect.

By the time the message was declared a hoax, its mission was accomplished.

 

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Friday Fiction – Louisa

This week’s FF prompt has the slightly unusual description, of being from “Indira by way of Scott Vanatter“. I’ve no idea what that means, but thanks to both of them – and to the driver of our bus, Rochelle – for setting me going on this particular story. I hope you’ll see where the first line came from … I thought it was kind of cute when I spotted it.

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Louisa

My grandmother, never prone to tact, once described Louisa as having “a face like the back of a bus.” But I loved her.

I was seven when I first saw her, intoxicated by the promise of long weeks idle. Louisa became the herald of summer; her annual visits anticipated just as eagerly. September, at thirteen, I found some words to say and she, fifteen and all grown up, responded with a smile, then went away.

The back of a bus, only seen as it leaves you standing, unsure, at the side of the road. Perhaps Granny was right after all.

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Paranoia and the Acclaimed Novel

At the risk of dipping a toe into controversy…

Everyone seems to be up in arms at the moment about the government “spying” on their communications. I must admit I’ve not been following it that closely, but I’m not sure what the great revelation is – we known for years that keyword scanning and the like go on, that GCHQ or the like therefore have access to our communications and that therefore (at least in theory) they could abuse that power.

I also happen to have just finished reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I’d never read it before, but apparently it was the one book chosen for the “Keep Toronto Reading” campaign. There are obvious reasons why – it’s set in a dystopian future where everyone fills their head with mindless TV and books are not just abandoned but banned. Less obvious reasons and a few conspiracy theories also abound but I’ll leave those to your imagination (or your search engine) to fill in.

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It’s a while since I read 1984, but F 451 strikes me as a slightly lighter touch on the whole dystopian future thing. Nevertheless, it has some clear warnings to those who wish to find them there, and received critical acclaim with comments describing its world as bearing “many alarming resemblances to our own.”

So, whether or not we are sleepwalking into a police state in reality, it occurs to me that playing on people’s fears might be a good route to publishing success. At least, if one can’t provide Harry Potter-esque escapism to distract the masses and keep them “happy”!

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Series and serials

It seems to me that one of the strengths of the Friday Fictioneers group is its flexibility. The rules are there (use the picture, stick to 100 words, read other posts), but some people write poems, others prose. Some are religious about the 100 word limit (hand up!) while others use it as a guideline. It took me a long time to embrace Rochelle’s suggestion to take the picture as “Inspiration not Illustration” but now it’s my motto (although I never seem to get as far from it as she manages; I guess my muse is still stuck within the proverbial box!).

One issue that seems to be exercising the group right now is whether the stories should stand alone or be part of a serial. Personally, I prefer to write individual pieces. There are two reasons for this.

1)      I hate to constrain my writing. Once I start, I infinitely prefer to just let things flow, so I wouldn’t like the constraint of a weekly prompt to incorporate.

2)      I write enough long fiction; I use FF (and the other prompts I follow) to stretch my writing imagination with different settings, narrators and plots.

I sometimes break my own rules. I have a few characters whose stories I don’t feel I’ve told yet. So occasionally, where a prompt reminds me of them, I come back to them. There’s no order or unity to the pieces – they just come from the same universe. They are, if you like, a series rather than a serialisation.

Others choose their own path. The posts from Craig Townsley’s “Owl and Racoon” series are some of my favourite FF stories, while I can’t deny that Joe Owens’ serialised murder mystery had me clicking back each week to see who got accused next.

Ultimately, unless our Great Leader starts imposing restrictions, I think it’s a case of “whatever works for you”. If the writing’s good, it’s good either way around and maybe if the aim is to build up a following, people (outside the FF circle) are more likely to come back for the next stage of a story.

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Friday Fiction – Ted

Another guest, so another quick post for FF. This week’s picture comes from Cabin Fever and you can see more responses to it at Rochelle’s homepage for the group.

Under my 100 word story is the longer version I wrote first. I sort of prefer it, but a word limit is a word limit! As ever, feedback is welcome and feel free to just read the short version if you prefer.

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Ted

He came to the Palace every day, to marvel at the guards in their resplendent uniforms and to watch the ships coming in. He didn’t know what resplendent meant, but his Grandfather had used it, back in the days when the old man hobbled beside him, and the word was his only legacy.

The ships carried every sort of cargo, but the trawlers were Ted’s favourite. Piles of fish cast, stinking, onto the jetty.

It was beside a pile of fish that Ted waited every morning for his Father’s ship: last seen heading East in search of the golden albatross.

***

Swan Song

He came to the Palace every day, to marvel at the guards in their resplendent uniforms and to watch the ships coming in. He didn’t know what resplendent meant, but his Grandfather had used it, back in the days when the old man hobbled beside him, and the word was his only legacy.

The ships carried every sort of cargo, but the trawlers were Ted’s favourite. Piles of fish cast, stinking, onto the jetty. Sometimes one or two were still alive, flicking bright scales across the concrete in a swan song of beauty.

It was beside a pile of fish that Ted waited every morning for his Father’s ship: last seen heading East in search of the golden albatross.

And it was beside a pile of fish that the guards found the man they recognised as their daily visitor. Some had said he was a ghost even before that – even the oldest couldn’t remember a time before his visits began – but the old man’s body was real enough. None had seen him arrive that day, but many people had heard him singing, the same ancient sea shanty he sang every day, something to do with a golden bird.

 

 

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The Story Behind The Stories

I know that some followers of this blog enjoy reading the story behind the stories I write, so here’s a bit of “process” for last week’s shorts. Spoiler Warning – if you haven’t read the stories, click on the titles and read them first!

Man, What Are You Doin’ Here?

When I saw this prompt, what sprung to mind was the joke which forms the final line of the story. It became the first line, and I imagined initially that it was said by an actor on stage. I envisaged a teenage girl, watching the play and not enjoying it. She was cynical and angry (aren’t a lot of teenagers?!) at the people laughing around her. I wondered why she was there, pondered her being on a bad date, or even being an escort. I added a leery older man beside her, his arm creeping around her shoulders… But the story didn’t go anywhere. It was too long to squash into 100 words and the short version just felt like a prurient snippet rather than a story.

I backed off, but kept the first line. It seemed like a corny joke, but what to do with it? I’ve done stories of Dad Jokes before, so I didn’t want to repeat that. When I hear bad jokes, I often feel like laughing even though they are terrible. And hence Miranda’s reaction was born. The bad date idea returned and I wrote the rest of the story right to the last line. But I wanted her to make a joke back to him, and the pedals line didn’t seem strong enough to end on. Jokes aren’t my forte and I couldn’t come up with anything better, so in the end I swapped the two jokes around, and I think it makes the story work better.

Curiosity Shop

The unhappy escort from the theatre was still in my head when I came to write my InMon story the next day. I liked the idea of someone going into a shop out of curiosity (rather than a shop full of curiosities) and the first few paragraphs came easily after that.

I wanted the girl’s name to tell us a lot about her, especially combined with her Mum’s outlook and behaviour. I hope I’ve made it clear enough that she’s from a rich family, but trying to make her own way in the world.

Having written most of the scene, though (up to the Dad with the credit card), I knew that Minty wasn’t a hooker, high- class or otherwise. But she was doing a job her Mum wouldn’t approve of, and working on the streets, so I wondered what else she could be doing? It came in a flash of inspiration (If the muse is on holiday, at least she’s sending postcards) and then all that was left was to craft the reveal.

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