Monthly Archives: August 2014

Friday Fiction summer rerun

Why is it that being on holiday means having less time for your hobbies??? Luckily, I’m not the only one this week and Rochelle’s summer rerun allows me to recycle some writing time. Here’s the entry I submitted for this week’s photo back in August 2012.


What do you think? Can you see changes in my writing style over the last two years? I wrote this before I had a son of my own – I wonder how it would change if I wrote it again now.

PS Sorry for the issues with the link – the joys of trying to create a post on an ipad. Hopefully it works now.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Uncategorized

Effectively Using Affect

Do you know how long it took me to write that title? Too long. Why? Because in spite of my confidence with 95% of English grammar, I am absolutely INCAPABLE of dealing with the difference between Affect and Effect. I’ve looked it up approximately 1000 times and each time I think “yes. right. easy.” and then it comes time to put it into practice and I’m dead in the water. So this post has two purposes…

1) Seeking Help

Anyone got a nice easy, reliable way to tell these two pesky words apart? Grammar Girl has this to say, but somehow that doesn’t seem to stick well in my head in times of trouble!

2) Recording the Differences

Failing the above (in which case I’ll update this post, give you credit and sail off into the proverbial sunset happy), I feel like it might help to at least note the right usage here.

EFFECT (noun)

Usually when you want a noun, it’s Effect. The effects of something, in effect something and even sort of verby phrases like “come into effect” and “take effect”, because the word itself is still a noun.

AFFECT (verb)

Usually when you want a verb, it’s Affect. How will A affect B? A affected B in this way, etc.

So far, it ought to be so good. And Grammar Girl points out that if you just treated the words in this way, you’d be right 90% of the time and therefore can afford to just do that. Which you’d think I’d manage and get over myself. But I cannot bring myself to keep the bathwater of that last 10% in order to save the baby of the 90%, so I stumble through life using whichever feels right and usually getting it wrong. Lesson in life, I suspect. My problem is, there are exceptions and, I’m afraid, I need to know and deal with them too. Here they are:

EFFECT (verb)

Used as in: “The person effected a change”.

Now, reading and studying this I can see that this is subtly of different from affect (verb). Effected is more … active, Affected is more passive. But in the heat of the writing moment, I just find this completely flummoxing. Two verbs? Meaning roughly the same thing? ARGHHH…

AFFECT (noun)

 Affect (noun) is a term in psychology to mean the appearance of emotion eg She took the news with a flat affect. This one’s easier to ignore. Apparently we need it because we can’t know whether there’s an actual effect (noun) because we don’t know what the person is thinking. Or something. Anyway, I’ve looked this up in a couple of places and I think even I don’t feel the need to worry about it. By the way, “He affected a display of emotion” – to mean that someone put on a display that didn’t match their real feelings, which is probably linked to this, is still Affect (verb), just another meaning of it.



Filed under Grammar Rules Simplified, Writing

Friday Fiction – Time Flies

Friday Fiction time, and once again I’m word count tool-less and now short of time. To quote my husband: “You’ve been writing that a long time. It’s only 100 words, I could write that in a couple of minutes.”  Seems like I’d better get back to the family, so I’ll leave this at 98 and let you fill in the final two words yourselves!

More carefully-written stories from this week’s prompt can be found on Rochelle’s host site, the photo is courtesy of Roger Bultot.


Time Flies

When we moved to Brickman’s Worthy, it was a short-term plan. Our family would grow; Steve would get a better job, or I would, and we’d move for that. Then Jo’s baby toys morphed into toddler toys, then into school uniform and a bicycle, and still we turned a blind eye to the bathroom suite, rather than spend money on one we wouldn’t be around to appreciate.

Now I stand before that avocado sink, listening to Jo on the phone to her latest boyfriend and I wonder when we planted so many roots, and how deep they go.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

The Gun On The Wall

Here’s my problem. Chekhov was a pretty important chap in the writing world. I’d like think he knew what he was talking about. And he says, if you put a loaded gun on stage in Act 1, you’d better see it goes off in Act 2.

I love foreshadowing. I love the clever little games great writers play with their readers to make their works richer and to reward those who are really concentrating. There are also problems with disobeying Chekhov’s principle and its opposite or corollary, the surprise ending that comes totally out of the blue.

Let’s be clear on what we’re talking about here.

Chekhov didn’t like the idea of a story in which we note a gun on the wall in Act 1, but then nothing happens to it. He called it an unkept promise.

But we also don’t like a story in which a family with no cause to own a gun and who haven’t mentioned a gun, suddenly and miraculously solve all their problems by pulling a gun from a drawer in the final scene.

I want there to be at least hints about something in the drawer, or about Dad having done something uncharacteristic, or the eldest daughter hanging out with the wrong crowd or something. 

As I mentioned recently though, there’s a problem with clues.  Some people will be reading so closely and paying so much attention, that as soon as they see the gun, they will know how things are going to end up. I often find myself being that sort of reader, and it’s almost as bad as seeing a spoiler.

The other day, watching a TV show (I won’t spoil anything by saying what), I watched a character trip over the rug in hi house. He stopped, straightened it and went about his business, but my brain was saying “I wonder if the actor did that by accident and they kept it in … no, because he wouldn’t have straightened it if it was an accident … and anyway, he’s not a good enough actor to pull that off, it looked staged…”. Sure enough, a few scenes later, the trip-worthy rug was plot-critical, as I’d already decided it would be.


Filed under Uncategorized

Friday Fiction – A New Chapter

When I saw this week’s photograph, my first thoughts turned to suicide notes. Perhaps it is the Robin Williams news that took my mind so readily in that direction; I don’t know.  I resisted it though, partly because I suspect others might have had a similar idea, and partly because an old desk has another meaning for me. The story that follows is almost all fiction, but there’s a grain of truth in it, and if I could find the real note that inspired both the story and the author (tucked away somewhere; I assure you I haven’t lost it) I’d have copied its wording more faithfully.

Thanks to Rochelle for hosting us, and her husband Jan for the photograph. So rich with elements, it could have inspired 100 different stories. Oh, wait, it probably has!


When I opened the desk, it held a note.

Dear Little Friend, I have served faithfully for generations. Now a new chapter begins: we will make great discoveries together, I am sure.

With it was a photograph of Grandpa sitting at the desk, writing. I often looked at him or the note when homework, characters or life had me stumped.

The note and photograph are tucked into a drawer that’s always lacked a handle. The Universal Author calls me to my epilogue now, but my Grandson will find them when he is ready and another chapter will begin with him.




Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Knowing What We Know

I used to love pub quizzes – one of the forgotten casualties of the information age. It’s just not the same when people can sneak a look at Google on their phone. But almost as much as entering them, I enjoyed setting questions – ferreting out obscure and less-obscure bits of knowledge to make the quizzes interesting and fun for all concerned. It was always a challenge though, it’s hard to know whether your own questions are easy or hard enough. You want the answer not to be common knowledge, but also not so obscure that nobody knows the answer, but when you know about something, it’s easy to assume other people do too.

For example, to me, the question “Name all the current drivers in Formula 1” is relatively easy. But to me, “What’s Jen’s credit card PIN?” is easy too, and it certainly wouldn’t be a fair question for a pub quiz. (Or a very wise one, given you given out the answers at the end!)

Writing is sometimes similar. As the author, you know who is speaking, how they feel, what their tone of voice is and what they really mean. You also know more generally what you’re talking about. For example, in my LAX/LXA story a couple of weeks ago, I knew what the airport names and letters referred to. But that immersion can make it hard to decide exactly how much you need to explain.

I thought LAX = Los Angeles was common knowledge and I thought I’d made LXA clear enough with the references to the airport name and Tibet / China. But some of the comments made it clear that neither of these was necessarily true. Now, in a 100 word flash fiction, you have to some extent to leave the readers to infer everything, because you’re limited in what you can say, but in longer fiction the problem should be surmountable. However, over-supplying information isn’t the answer either. That way boredom lies, for the reader who got it at line 1 and doesn’t want you to slow down the story by hammering home whatever point made there.

To some extent, the answer comes in beta readers – once you see how a story affects members of your writing group or whichever friends you trust to proofread, you get a better feel for how well you’ve put across the story in your head. Even then, I think we have to accept we’ll always have a few people at either end of the spectrum and they won’t form our core readership base. That’s why I never understand writers who only ever ask one friend (often their partner) to beta for them, all they are really doing is learning to write for that one person.

The rest, I hope, lies in practice and study – in exercises like Friday Fiction, that allow you to access lots of beta readers over and over again, and in consciously reading other books to see how that author struck the balance (or failed to!).

What think you?


Filed under Writing

Friday Fiction – Displacement

I’m one of those people whose mindset and mood are often influenced by the books and TV I’m embroiled in at the time. For example, The Good Wife is making me highly suspicious, Breaking Bad made Bjorn Rudberg’s photograph – this week’s prompt – look like a drug lair and either the news from Gaza or having recently finished The Book Thief is responsible for the war-torn setting I envisaged for the story below. Those who know I’m now reading a book about transsexuals shouldn’t read too much into the last line, however!

Your comments on my story are welcome. Thanks to Rochelle as always for hosting, and to Bjorn for what is almost certainly not a surveillance snapshot.



Oskar could hear Ma cursing the pot on the stove for holding too much water, too little of anything else. She hated it for starving her family, for giving them hard choices. Who’d chew the meat tonight? Not Oskar, that was certain. Ma? For the sake of the baby growing inside her? Or Father in order to be better able to earn something to put in the pot tomorrow?

He was late again. Earning money, or spending it on beer to ease the admission he’d come home empty-handed.

Oskar kicked a stone and hoped he’d never grow into a man.



Notes on double entendres can be found here and here, if you are interested.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing