Monthly Archives: July 2014

Friday Fiction – Typographical Error

At last, we have Word its much-underrated word count tool back again. This week’s story is exactly 100 words long – thank you for your patience over recent offerings.

Rochelle is both our hostess and our photographer today. Her picture (black wing tips) reminded me of one I took a few years ago on a trip of a lifetime (red wing tips), and that led me to this little story. I hope you enjoy it, and look forward to reading your comments, good and bad.

view-from-the-plane   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Typographical Error

There was no line where the clouds stopped and the Himalayas began. Peaks and troughs of snowy white gave way to more of the same as the plane soared westward.  Its destination was surprisingly modern for a mountain outpost: evidence that Lhasa Gonggar airport was part of modern China as well as ancient Tibet.

“Meet me at LAX,” Steve had said. But he’d also said, “I love you,” and “I’m sorry,” and “I’ll never do it again.”

Some people would call it a mistake. But as her plane touched down at LXA, Lisa felt she was finally doing something right.

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Sarcasm Font

“There doesn’t NEED to be a sarcasm font, you just have to actually read with discernment and in context.” So says the lavishly beautiful Helena Hann-Basquait. I agree. As I told her, I don’t just need a sarcasm font, I need a sarcasm light over my head, because I find people often miss the sarcasm when I speak, not just when I type.

But tone of voice is definitely more difficult to convey in writing than in person. How many of us haven’t misunderstood an email, text message or letter, because we didn’t see the tone it was written in?

In fiction, there are two kinds of sarcasm – authorial sarcasm and character sarcasm. If a character is speaking, it’s usually possibly to indicate their tone of voice through the attributions. They can get cumbersome – we haven’t got enough words or universal expressions to mix things up as much as I’d like – but it’s still possible to make things relatively clear.

In narrative, though, there are no such props, and we can hardly take the modern technology-driven shortcut and finish the sentence with a winking emoticon. I think at that point we have to trust our readers, and also accept that some will be left behind. As long as I get a mixture between those who say ‘huh?’  at the end and those who saw it all coming from the first clue, I tend to reckon I’m pitching it about right. Layered writing will leave some people behind; twists and tones of voice are never going to work for all possible readers.

Should we have a sarcasm font? If so, we need a few other fonts as well – an angry font, a surprised font and a flirty font would all help writers avoid needing to think about the words we use and the ways we portray our characters; they would save readers from thinking too. And perhaps that’s the problem, we are so used to having everything handed to us by actors presenting the tones of voice, body language and emotions of a story and by directors and cameramen pointing our attention in the right direction at the right time, that we don’t need to imagine anything any more.

But where’s the fun in that? Isn’t it a bit like saying the easiest puzzle is the one someone else already completed?

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Friday Fiction: The Fork People

Still no laptop. Still no word count widget, but I think this one’s 100 bang on. Photo copyright to Marie Gail Stratford, FF central is over at Rochelle’s. Enjoy!

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The Fork People

“They come in the night: thousands of them, streaming in from the hills. They squeeze through the gaps under doors and around window frames.”

“Who, Mum?” His face was bright with excitement.

“The fork people,” I said, trying to keep the frustration out of my voice as I rubbed soap up my arm.

“The fork people?”

“Yes. The people who secretly replace all the cutlery you bury on your plate and then accidentally scrape into the bin.”

“The fork people?”

“Yes. Because there’s no way I’ve become such a drudge that I stick my hand elbow-deep into rubbish every night.”

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Friday Fiction – Boxes

Friday Fiction time again. I’m slightly hampered by technology today, including the fact that my Word Count device seems to be stuck on 99, no matter how many words I add or take away. I suppose I could count manually, but instead I’m just going to ask your forgiveness for possibly going one or two over / under 100.

Rochelle hosts us and Adam Ickes provided this week’s photo. As usual, please feel free to be honest!

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Mrs Mwanna’s house is really weird. It’s full of boxes, like on Hoarders except that Mrs Mwanna’s stuff is all carefully labelled. She’s got this one box where I think she stores her conversations with the spirits, because it’s got a sign on the outside that says In Voices.

She asked me to go and get her a new box of candles out of the back room and I saw the In Voices box and then I saw Joey chewing on a candle. Father Andrews says “The devil lives among us,” but he’s probably just seen Mrs Mwanna’s pet goat.

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Guest Post, sort of

I know you’re busy. I know you are perfectly capable of finding things to read for yourself and you come here to read what I write, but this week I was really blow away by a story written by my blogging pal, Brian. I strongly suggest you head over to his blog now and check out Eleanor Pearl.

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A Second Look (Friday Fiction)

A few people who submit to the Friday Fictioneers (and other prompts) don’t like feedback. Well that’s fair enough for them, but I believe feedback is what makes my writing better. First, because good writers and real readers point out things I am too close to see, and second because my critics never let me rest on my laurels. You challenge me to write better, to question everything and I’m truly grateful.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted “Tea Party” and a bunch of you were kind enough to be honest and say you didn’t get it or got something I hadn’t intended from it. I had been, perhaps, a little too obtuse. That’s my word, not yours, you are all far kinder in your words. Then this last week, out came “Extraordinary“. Laying it on thick, you said, Obvious. (Though again, your wording was gentler).

I didn’t post either story as a rush job. In neither case did I sling out my first draft or something I wasn’t happy with, but you were there anyway, my faithful critics, to push me to on to another step, another improvement.

I want you to know I’m listening. I want you to know that I’m grateful. I may not always agree with your comments, but I always appreciate them.

This rewrite of Extraordinary is for you. For everyone who gives feedback, good and bad, and takes the time to help and encourage other writers. As ever, you are welcome to leave your thoughts, whether good or bad.

Extraordinary

When Libby watched Footloose with her sisters, they mocked the Eighties hairstyles and fashions, but she absorbed the lessons of the story itself: Confidence, individuality, strength.

At school, she tried to carry her hips with a bit of a sway, like Ariel. She was strong, unique, confident: unbeatable. The feeling outlasted even her teacher’s jibe.

“Sit down, Elizabeth,” shot Mr Caber. “You’re not on the catwalk now.”

“Meow,” Iain’s voice snarled behind her. It crowded over her like a stormcloud, building into something dark and powerful. Sliding down in her chair, Libby thought about how one boy can change everything.

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Friday Fiction – Extraordinary

When I first glanced at this week’s photo, it looked like a fairly normal photo – it wasn’t until I looked on a bigger screen that I saw the roiling clouds. I’m sure this week we’ll get a few boiling skies and alien / Armageddon scenarios, but my story goes more with my original impression.  As usual, your feedback is welcome.

Photo credit goes to Kelly Sands, the words are mine, all other credit belongs to Rochelle!

kellysands

Extraordinary

That night, Libby watched Footloose with her sisters. While they mocked the Eighties hairstyles and fashions, she absorbed the lessons of the story itself. Freedom, independence, strength.

At school, she tried to carry her hips with a bit of a sway, like Ariel. The feeling lasted until she reached the classroom.

“Sit down, Elizabeth,” shot Mr Caber. “You’re not on the catwalk now.”

“Meow,” Iain’s voice snarled behind her. It crowded over her like a stormcloud, building into something dark and powerful. Libby thought about how one boy can change everything. She wished he was changing it for the better.

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The Mr Darcy Effect

He’d been on the acting scene for more than ten years before it was released, but I would hazard a guess you’d never heard of Colin Firth until he played Mr Darcy in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. And then, suddenly, he was the nation’s heart-throb.

Colin Firth hadn’t changed. He’d become better-known, but that’s all, and that isn’t enough to explain why pulses raced for him in Pride and Prejudice but not, say, Circle of Friends. The truth is (vast overgeneralisation alert), we ladies might like looks, but we fall for personality. And most of those women fell for Mr Darcy, not Colin Firth. They just weren’t very good at noticing the difference and now Firth can command a higher salary and expect much better audience figures as a result.

For the record, I’m not a fan. The man can act – I thoroughly enjoyed The King’s Speech, for example – I just don’t find him swoon-worthy. But then I will completely admit that my John Hannah crush is as much to do with Matthew from 4 Weddings and A Funeral and James from Sliding Doors as the man himself.

So what’s this got to do with writing?

Well, two things, one directly relevant, one more tangential. First, when writing romantic heroes, it’s worth bearing in mind that the reader doesn’t need Mr Drop-Dead Gorgeous as the male protagonist. You can afford to make the guy average-looking, even physically flawed (see Mr Rochester), because your female protagonist and your readers need to fall in love with him for what he does and says, not just what he looks like.

The second point is about character in general. It’s easy to spot the writers who have spent a long time on physical checklists. They tell you everything they can about a person’s appearance. It’s the same with non-people characters – the places and organisations that populate a story – and for which these writers like to give endless and careful details in every description.

But at the end of the day, what makes for good writing is the substance of the characters, of the places and of the plot. The reason we read on, and come back, and recommend the book to a friend, is what everyone does and how they make us feel.

Whether they are romantic heroes or not, have us fall in love with your characters for their brilliant, uncomfortable, noble personalities, even if we think they look good in a wet t-shirt.

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Friday Fiction – Broken Telegraph

A quick (but heartfelt) Welcome Back to Rochelle, and Thank You to Claire Fuller for hosting and photographing respectively.

This week’s gorgeous photo made me think of many things, including the wonderful poem Ozymandias, which I urge you to read if you haven’t before. In eschewing skin-disease and Neptune, I eventually settled on the wonders of myth and legend, but a few iterations later, this story is another step removed. If the last line doesn’t make sense for you, click on the link to read about the reference Mummy is making. As always, I welcome your comments.

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Broken Telegraph

“Mike says Simon told Adam that Danny’s brother saw Luke climb the old oak tree and fight off an eagle to steal her egg, and then climb back down with it in his mouth, and now it’s going to hatch and he’s going to have a pet eagle. Like Harry Potter.”

The breathless report was delivered along with Matty’s backpack, all before he was through the school gate.

“Harry Potter had an owl,” I mused.

“Mummy! Luke’s a hero! And a thief! Aren’t you going to punish him?”

“Well, let’s find out what happened first. Three-and-fourpence won’t help the advance.”

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