Friday Fictioneers: The Cursed Necklace

lvbydawne_3I bought a ruby necklace from the jewelry counter and boarded the train. An hour into the journey the train derailed, killing everyone on board except for myself.

In the hospital the necklace told me that it was ancient and evil and that it had cursed me by making the train crash.

‘But,’ I said, ‘I survived. So you’re more like a good luck charm.’

It was quiet for a long time, the ruby blushing brightly. Eventually, it said, pretty unsurely, that survivor’s guilt would be my curse.

I shrugged and dropped it in the wastebasket on my way out.

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Another Friday Fictioneers story with prompt supplied by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

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Friday Fictioneers: The Last Sermon

church_and_tree-claire-fuller

I’m so glad you could join us here today for my last sermon. As you’ve probably read, the Atheists have won. God is dead.

It is with a heavy heart that I give this final address but, hey, it’s not all bad. We had some ups and downs. The Dark Ages were a low point and that pesky Inquisition is a tad embarrassing in hindsight but think of the good religion has done, not in a real, physical sense, but the spiritual good.

Now, as the collection basket goes around, please, be generous, it is my retirement fund after all.

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Another Friday Fictioneers story with prompt supplied by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Evernote

moleskineh-1_4At the moment I’m planning Book Two while I wait for my beta readers to finish reading and we have our round-table book discussion in a week’s time. A practice I fell out of in recent years was taking a notebook everywhere I went to write down ideas as I had them. Not sure why I stopped doing it. I have a billion notebooks at home and I continue to have ideas but I fell into the trap of thinking I would just remember everything when I got home which sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t.

Recently, I downloaded Evernote. It is a note making app on which I can make notebooks and fill them with different ideas. The best part of it though is that I have Evernote on my phone, my iPad, my computer at home and I can access it on its website on my computer in work. It’s also on Fiona’s phone and iPad too just in case.

I have a single account that all the devices sync to so if I make a note on my phone it will appear on my iPad and computer too. Because I have my phone with me all the time it means whenever I have an idea it appears everywhere and can copied straight into a word document quickly and easily.

Elmore Leonard’s Rules for Writers

moleskineh-1_4There is an article that was in the Guardian I read a few years ago and I find myself going back to now and then just to hold my hands over the creative spark and breathe a little air on it to fuel it into a raging flame of chapters, characters and plot.

The article (in two parts) has been mentioned on this blog before and it is a long list of tips from writers. Tips for beating writer’s block, for getting started, for avoiding distractions, for writing dialogue, etc, etc.

My favourite aspect of the article is that there is so much advice being offered you can pick and choose the ones that apply to you. One writer may suggest writing early in the morning and another might suggest writing late at night but I like to relax at night so I’ll agree with the early morning writer. One suggests intent, passionate description while another (in this case Elmore Leonard) advises simplicity.  Well, personally description is not my strong suit so I champion Leonard’s wisdom.

Elmore Leonard died yesterday. I have read some of his work and thoroughly enjoyed it. I remember reading a critic write that Leonard doesn’t write a story so much as sidle up next to you in a bar and tell you it. I recently started watching Justified, a TV show based on a short story of his, and have been taken with the colourful dialogue and the lack of cliché when it comes to his characters. His criminals are not evil masterminds but instead idiots or opportunists and in the episodes I’ve watched the cops and criminals have been able to have funny, poignant dialogue exchanges that flow nicely without seeming forced.

The above-mentioned article begins with Elmore Leonard’s top tips for writing and it was only when Fi sent me them this morning (in a separate article) that I realised I had been trying to follow all ten of them without attempting to mix and match. When I first read the bigger article, back when writing was something I read and when people asked me what I wanted to be and I would mumble that I wanted to write a book while not doing anything about it, it must have been these rules that affected me the most and soon after reading it was when I kicked the writing stuff into high gear. After these tips I stopped trying to copy other writers by writing long-winded, pointless, terrible descriptions. I stopped writing redundant things like ‘Who are you?’ I inquired, confused at the identity of the newcomer. I stuck with said and so far, it hasn’t steered me wrong. Below I have copied out the rules that helped me so much in the hope that they help you as well. And go here and here and read some other rules just in case somehow these don’t give you the help you need.

Elmore Leonard’s Rules for Writing

1 Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2 Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, but it’s OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks.”

3 Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But “said” is far less intrusive than “grumbled”, “gasped”, “cautioned”, “lied”. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated” and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.

4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” . . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs”.

5 Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

6 Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”. This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos­trophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.

8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”, what do the “Ameri­can and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story.

9 Don’t go into great detail describing places and things, unless you’re ­Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

The 100 Word Novel – Forty: Shot

shotBea kicked at the wooden door but it wouldn’t give. The inside of the hut was illuminated by the rising flames. She screamed for help but heard nothing but the crackling fire.

And then she heard a voice, a lady’s voice giving out commands.

Then more voices and arguing and then the crack of a gunshot.

The door collapsed inwards as someone kicked it in on the other side. Two men hurried into the room, grabbed her and dragged her out into the cold.

The doctor lady stood there, gun in her hand and a dead body at her feet.

Previously on the 100 Word Novel: Introduction to the 100 WORD NOVEL. Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Interlude Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty-One Chapter Twenty-Two Chapter Twenty-Three Chapter Twenty-Four Chapter Twenty-Five Chapter Twenty-Six Chapter Twenty-Seven Chapter Twenty-Eight Chapter Twenty-Nine Chapter Thirty Chapter Thirty-One Chapter Thirty-Two Chapter Thirty-Three Chapter Thirty-Four Chapter Thirty-Five Chapter Thirty-Six Chapter Thirty-Seven Chapter Thirty-Eight Chapter Thirty-Nine

Ideas and How to Grow Them

moleskineh-1_4Book One is finished. Still needs some polish and I still need to hear from my readers what works and doesn’t work but from my own read and from the first reviews that have come in it hangs together plot-wise and is an engaging story. If those two things didn’t work then the whole thing would be for nothing.

In a few weeks I’ll begin rewriting and preparing my cover letters and finding agents to contact and then once the first packages have been sent I’ll start writing Book Two.

Now I’ve got ideas, all manner of ideas. Ideas that have been percolating in my brain for years and ideas that are a shimmering haze on the horizon, unformed, vague, that may turn out to be mirages or may be bestsellers.

Something that has happened to me a lot throughout my life when I mention I’m writing a book or want to write a book is people say to me, ‘Oh, I have a great idea for a book’ and then they tell me the idea in a sentence or two and, mostly, they are good ideas but the trick to having a good idea is knowing how to turn a good idea into a good story.

A podcast I listen to (Writing Excuses) discussed plot and story and said that these days good/successful stories seem to be the ones that mix an original idea and a familiar one.

Inception: Familiar – Heist story, original – takes place in dreams.

Breaking Bad: Familiar – Crime show about drug dealers, original – drug dealer is a mild-mannered chemistry teacher.

Harry Potter: Familiar – Kids at school, original – everyone’s magic

For myself I currently have an idea that I’m working on that doesn’t really have a plot. There is a world, characters, a few quirky ideas but at the moment they just sit there on the page not moving forward. I’ve started thinking of plots to match up to it now. Is it a love story? A murder mystery? A heist story? At the beginning of the process I find it’s easier to take an established plot and use those beats to get the ball rolling. Once I start thinking of my idea as a murder mystery for example I may find a better plot unfolding instead. When I was writing Book One it was, at first, a coming of age story (familiar) set during the fictional election battle between Bobby Kennedy and John Wayne (original). As I was planning it I forwarded the established beats of that genre and with each beat I would ask, ‘How can I subvert that? How can I make it familiar but original?’ And sometimes I would leave it as it was and sometimes I would flip it on its head and in the end it was flipping one of the conventions on its head that made the story what it was and got me excited for writing it.

At the moment I’m letting the idea percolate and eventually I’m sure something will click into place (with this idea or a different one) and just like that I’ll have another book to write. It’s exciting. There is a world of characters sitting somewhere in the recesses of my brain just waiting to live and die and love and speak and when they’re ready they’ll introduce themselves and we’ll make something really good together.

20 Historic Black and White Photos Colorized

Some amazing pics colourised for your viewing pleasure. Favourites: Einstein, Chaplin, Bulletproof vest, Hindenburg and every other one.

TwistedSifter

 

One of the greatest facets of reddit are the thriving subreddits, niche communities of people who share a passion for a specific topic. One of the Sifter’s personal favourites is r/ColorizedHistory. The major contributors are a mix of professional and amateur colorizers that bring historic photos to life through color. All of them are highly skilled digital artists that use a combination of historical reference material and a natural eye for colour.

When we see old photos in black and white, we sometimes forget that life back then was experienced in the same vibrant colours that surround us today. This gallery of talented artists helps us remember that 🙂

Below you will find a collection of some of the highest rated colorized images to date on r/ColorizedHistory.

I’ve also provide a list of some of the top contributors (in no particular order):

zuzahin aka Mads…

View original post 752 more words

Writing = Done, Reading = Done, Editing = Pending

moleskineh-1_4Last night I finished my read-through of my book. Some of my beta readers have finished and some are still trying to get finished before the deadline of the 31st August when we all meet together and discuss the book at length so I can hear some opinions of people who didn’t write the book.

I gave myself six weeks off from the book, letting it sit in a draw where I could leave it and try to forget it as best I could so when I picked up six weeks later it would be as fresh as it could be.

The experience of reading it was interesting since it required me to pretend I was reading it for the first time as a reader not a writer. This was something that proved impossible so I just set about going through line by line making notes about bad jokes, bad characterisation and superfluous words. It took about a week to read the whole thing in this manner and my findings will be discussed with my beta readers but it was satisfying to be able to say that, some changes aside, it hangs together well. There is a plot that can be followed and plot points flow into each other. There is some sketchy characterisation with one character in particular but my red pen made quick work of what needs to go and what needs to stay.

So far the pieces of feedback I have got have been positive and I am hopeful that before the year is over I should have a few copies on their way into the world heading for agents and publishers.

Exciting times.

Friday Fictioneers: They Do Grow on Trees

copyright-roger-bultotCar tree seeds are actually quite small.

They need to be planted in rich, loamy soil where they’ll get direct sunlight. Cultivated properly a car tree will grow quickly and after a few months they will sprout affordable family cars.

The cars must be picked soon after they have ripened though because their weight will pull the tree out of its roots.

The cars can be driven as soon as they are picked and each will have a rich pine throughout.

Once you have picked your car be sure to check for woodpeckers under the seats and behind the radio.

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Another Friday Fictioneers story with prompt supplied by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

The 100 Word Novel – Thirty-Nine: Watch

zippo-1_lJoe stood on the walls watching the privates douse the storage hut with gasoline. A huge smile halved his face. ‘Finally,’ he muttered. ‘Something worth watching.’

The privates circled the hut splashing its walls and roof until their cans were empty. They tossed them into the snow and Sergeant Pride removed a Zippo lighter from his pocket.

Over the cold, biting wind Joe strained to hear the screams and shouts coming from within the hut.

Pride lit his lighter and shielded the flame against the wind. Joe saw him say something that he couldn’t hear before he lit the gasoline.

Previously on the 100 Word Novel: Introduction to the 100 WORD NOVEL. Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Interlude Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty-One Chapter Twenty-Two Chapter Twenty-Three Chapter Twenty-Four Chapter Twenty-Five Chapter Twenty-Six Chapter Twenty-Seven Chapter Twenty-Eight Chapter Twenty-Nine Chapter Thirty Chapter Thirty-One Chapter Thirty-Two Chapter Thirty-Three Chapter Thirty-Four Chapter Thirty-Five Chapter Thirty-Six Chapter Thirty-Seven Chapter Thirty-Eight

PREVIOUSLY ON THE 100 WORD NOVEL…

CaptureIn the not-too-distant future a virus known as The Lady has wiped out ninety-nine percent of the Earth’s population. A group of 100 survivors (civilian and military) have taken refuge in a civil war fort turned historical attraction. They are led by a council of six: a doctor, a lawyer, the former deputy mayor of a local town, a factory foreman, a gift shop manager and the head of the military presence at the fort. Recently they have met to discuss the fate of one of the survivors who it is believed has become infected with the disease that has nearly eradicated Human life on Earth. After much debate it was voted four to two that Bea, the eight year old that is under suspicion, should be killed for the good of the other survivors.

The doctor, Peg, and the lawyer, Kat, were on other sides of this decision and it has caused a rift in their marriage, especially as Kat moved out of the tent they shared while Peg performed a dangerous appendectomy using the primitive means available to her.

Also in the Fort is Joe, a night watchman with an unhealthy obsession with a girl named Viv and a short temper.

Viv has begun a romance with one of the military men in the fort, Private Parks, and the pair hope to eventually escape the fort in the dead of night and live happily ever after.

The most senior of the military men, Captain Butler, has assigned some men to burn the storage hut that Bea is quarantined in to the ground with her inside and when we last saw Bea she was waking up to smoke and heat with no way to escape…

To catch up: Introduction to the 100 WORD NOVEL. Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Interlude Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty-One Chapter Twenty-Two Chapter Twenty-Three Chapter Twenty-Four Chapter Twenty-Five Chapter Twenty-Six Chapter Twenty-Seven Chapter Twenty-Eight Chapter Twenty-Nine Chapter Thirty Chapter Thirty-One Chapter Thirty-Two Chapter Thirty-Three Chapter Thirty-Four Chapter Thirty-Five Chapter Thirty-Six Chapter Thirty-Seven Chapter Thirty-Eight

Essentials for editing the first draft

After I finished my book I waited six weeks before I looked at it again. The idea is to forget as best you can the story you’ve just spent a year writing. At the same time eight of my friends are reading copies and on the 31st of August we will meet up at my apartment and I will fill them with good food and booze and we’ll talk about the book.

In order to be prepared for this book club event I need to get reading my book so last week I started the process of reading. Of course its not really reading. I know what happens in the story and what happens to each character so its more me looking for mistakes, plot holes, ideas that go nowhere, pointless dialogue, etc.

To do this you need certain things.

1. A book that you wrote. Have it printed off as I find writing on computer screens is counter-productive and messy.

WP_20130809_0012. A pen. I went for the red pen as in school I mark my kid’s work with a green pen and as good as it is for my student’s self esteem there is still nothing that screams “FIX THIS!” than the sight of red ink.

WP_20130809_0023. A notebook. Inside you can record all the pages you need to return to, ask yourself questions (i.e. why did you just write description of Washington instead of actually describing it? Thanks Past-Sean), write your acceptance speech when you win the Booker prize or doodle a picture of a train with human legs.

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4. A bookmark. Mine was made for me by my nearly two-year-old nephew and is awesome as you can see.

WP_20130809_0075. Tea. Ahhh tea, elixir for the soul. The best thing about tea is that my wife, knowing my love of it, brings me tea when I look in need of tea and as a bonus I get a big smooch off her as well so its all good.

WP_20130809_0066. Chilled orange juice because it’s hot as Hell in Turkey at the moment.

WP_20130809_0037. Scented candle. The scent of choice? Mint choc chip. Helps me relax and makes me think of ice cream. Brilliant.

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8. Spirit Animal. Just in case you need someone to talk to who always agrees with you.

WP_20130809_0049. Music. At the moment its LCD Soundsystem, M83, John Legend, Fleetwood Mac, Kanye, Big Boi, Nick Cave, Radiohead, Bloc Party, Mumford and Sons, Gold Fields, Otis Redding, Rolling Stones and many many more.

WP_20130809_009And that’s it really. Remember to stay hydrated and that the best cure for procrastination is to wash the dishes or go for a long walk.