Do you know Michael J. Elliott?

A simple question…”Do you know?“…but one which can make you double think, one that can make you question your own logic and knowledge.

You start asking yourself “is that the Michael I know?” or “Does he spell his surname with two t’s?“.

Little doubts, little nags, little uncertainties start to creep into you mind.

The same things happen when your read the work of this particular Michael J. Elliott. When you think you have the tale ‘sussed’ along comes a little twist and throws you all to kilter.

Oh, don’t try and predict the ending; even if you are close, you will be wrong, it will be scarier, or harder, or the character will suffer more…or less…before they die…or live happily ever after. That is of course if it has anything to do with that character at all.

This is why I love reading Michael’s stories…this is the Michael J. Elliott I do know, the one who does spells his name with two t’s!

I wanted to take a peek into Michael’s psyche, I wanted to know how a man of his undoubted talent conjures up such spellbinding tales so, I asked him a few leading questions.

You could say that these questions are Choice Cuts!

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

Micheal said: No, I really think you need to LOVE books and writing. It’s an art form like anything else and artists simply wouldn’t create if they didn’t have the drive and the passion.

.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes! In my first collection, Portraits of Dread, I wrote a story called Defective goods. It was a creepy send up of a well known British comedy show. I named all the characters after the actors from the show or their characters. I was hoping clever readers would spot the connection. In my new collection, Choice Cuts-A Bite from The Dark Realm, I have a story called Penance. It’s about an ancient order of nuns. I have named all the Sisters after famous figures from history. Eagle eyed readers will be able to guess the convent’s secret just from the names. I love throwing in those sort of references in my work 🙂
.
Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
I’ve read a lot of writer’s craft books which have certainly taught me a lot about the “rules” of writing. That has been a big help in my journey as an author.
.
What did you edit out of your latest book?
Two stories didn’t make the grade for this collection. The first was titled, Once A Jolly Swagman. It was a ghost story centered around the famous Australian song and poem. I hadn’t finished it but when I went back and re read it I found it just rambled, way too much padding with nothing really interesting happening until the build up. I’ll keep it and give it a good edit so that you may see it in another collection at some time. The other was entitled, The Snow Globe. I dithered with so many options about how the protagonist finds this globe and what it actually does that I eventually decided to cut the story out completely.
.
My final question was, what kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I take a lot of notes and Wilkipedia is my best friend lol. I’m writing Mr Westacott’s Holiday atm. It’s set in two time frames, 1900 and 1970. The setting is Britain. I was born and live in Australia and was a teen during the 70’s so I had no idea of British fashion of the 70’s, the distance between two of the towns in the book etc. I’m very grateful to the British members of #The Awethors for helping me out with these questions.
.
Choice Cuts- A Bite From the Dark Realm will be released on Halloween 2016 and is currently available for pre order at Smashwords and Amazon for the special promotion price of 99c (will be $4.99) Also available in paperback for $10.99

Choice Cuts is available worldwide via Amazon on this link http://authl.it/6a0

and from Smashwords here 

mikeelliotts

Other books by Micheal J Elliot

mje_n
mje3n

25108244

Don’t let the rain drown your novel

180288691_d1

Too many times do I read the same old, same old, scene.

It’s raining, grey clouds overhead. Drizzle, cold wind.

Why?

Because it is a funeral, or someone has discovered a friend’s death.

OR

There is a tempest, heavy rain, thunder, lightning. Gale force winds rattling the windows.

Why?

Because its eerie, a big house, a derelict building, a graveyard. Or the cars broken down on a country road.

OH, PLEASE. Come on. Enough is enough.

I know you want to set the scene, make the reader ‘feel and see what is in your mind. But not like this; not again.

Hollywood and television overworked this format years ago. Mary Shelly used it way back in 1817… (yes, I know Frankenstein’s Monster was not published until 1818. 11 March 1818 to be precise! but Mary completed her work in May 1817).

ampaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa_zps05f08d26

After that, I can understand some writers utilising Mary’s techniques (which she stole anyway!); but that was almost two hundred years ago! Surely you can work your wordsmithing magic without falling back on this old literary cliché?

Let’s take a look at the graveside scene again. This time, dismiss the notion of grey skies and rain.

Try and build that ‘feeling’ you want, let’s say, for this exercise, sadness and sorrow. (Although in another version it could be joy and relief, dependent on your character’s viewpoint).

‘The solemn parade of black clad mourners slowly crunched their way over the gravel and melted into the dimness of the church, passing under the gothic arches of time worn stone’.

Here the tone is set using a few simple, but descriptive words, to create the mood. ‘Solemn, black, mourners, slowly, melted, dimness, gothic, time-worn’ All carefully selected words that imply the general emotion of the procession.

An alternative may be something along these lines.

‘James glanced at Mary, her eyes glistened as tears formed. Small dew-drops of sadness sparkling, reflecting in the sunlight. The scent of yew trees and grass added to James’s sense of numbness as he watched the coffin being lowered into the grave’.

IMG_4424Approaching the scene from an oblique angle often offers the author an opportunity to ‘drip-feed’ the reader, only giving them a small bite sized piece of the overall scene with each sentence. This allows for an element of surprise, or revelation.

Neither of the above paragraphs have fallen back to the old ‘grey sky and rain’ chestnut. Yet they convey the very essence of emotion which one wishes to communicate with the reader.


 

Onto the scary stuff!

The haunted house? The killer lurking in the dark woods, the stranded car on that country lane.

Hey, guess what?

You’re right, it’s NOT raining here either! No lightning, no storms and no doors banging in the wind.

So, how to get away from those ‘same old, movie style embedded notions’.

Well, let’s try. Let’s start with an approach to that (possibly) haunted house or old barn.

‘Two huge stone eagles balanced precariously on the dilapidated columns. The bindweed twisting about their talons as if securing them, denying them of flight. Framed between and beyond stood the old mansion house. The bright sunlight reflecting from the walls enhanced the blindness of long lost windows. Empty hollows, gaping holes beckoning us towards them’.

Locals say the owner of Ohio’s Milan Mansion was a practicing witch.

Note the ‘bright sunlight’. This time using the opposite, of what has become expected, to enhance the ‘darkness’, the brooding mood.

Not a raindrop in sight and the clock is not about to strike midnight!

As for breaking down on a country lane, perhaps having to abandon your vehicle to seek help…Let’s attempt to approach this in an unexpected style too.

‘He had been foolish for stopping; but nature would not wait and the hedgerow of holly offered the ideal shelter to hide behind while he answered her call. The car was going nowhere. The tyres just spun in the deep snow. With each attempt they sank lower until now; now the car was axel deep. He was stranded.

In the far distance the occasional puff of smoke drifted upwards into the crystal blue, cloudless sky. Turning his collar up, ramming his hands as far into his overcoat pockets as they would go, he started to plod through ankle deep snow towards the smoke. Gregory guessed it was from a cottage chimney. How wrong he was…’

Here I have constructed the paragraphs to portray a relatively normal situation, feeding the reader small tidbits about the weather, not only to ‘set the scene’, but as miss-direction, so that I can increase the effect of the final few words.

I beg you, if you are about to write, (or re-write), a section of your novel where you have been sucked in by the old ‘rain & storm’ caper, alter it. Dismiss the rain; freshen up your narration, pleasantly surprise your readers with something new and exciting.

Please do not let the rain make your book a wash-out.

Thanks for reading, Paul

Feel free to comment, leave feedback and ‘follow’ Ramblings from a Writers Mind.

Oh, don’t forget to read the new edition of CQ Magazine. It is jam packed full of great ‘stuff’!

https://issuu.com/ramblingawaymagzine/docs/cq4prt1_1_2016

CQCov3

Tips on Creating Settings for your Characters and Scenes.

Hong-Kong-Night_1920x1080

I was going to call this post something simple, like ‘somewhere’ or ‘place’, but then I thought that it may be a little to oblique, so I ended up with the rather long title above.

Pretty much is the same with content. To make this as comprehensive as possible without (I hope) getting boring, I have had to write far more than I do in many of my other posts. I am sure you will see why as you read through.

Simply put, this post is all about creating a setting, or many settings, for you story. Somewhere your characters can live, somewhere they can go about their business in a way that helps bring them to life, a way that makes them ‘real’ people to your readers. Which is what we all should be seeking to achieve, a sort of Holy Grail for writers!

Let’s take a look at the three basic options we have.

The first is to use a Real Location.

This could be a village, a town, even a city, say Paris or London, or it could be somewhere much humbler like a hotel, a café, your kitchen or maybe a cellar?

Whilst the ‘where’ has to blend into you story while enhancing the readers pleasure, that is not the initial prime concern one should have. If you are using a real setting the most important aspect is to ensure accuracy.

This means research.

Even if you live in the place you intend to feature. Misrepresentation, whether it is a matter of geography, culture, or something in between, will be considered a travesty, it will be a failure in your story.

Make sure, when you include a detail or piece of information, that it is correct, or at least feasible. It must makes sense, be credible and contribute to the image you are portraying.

Go there! If at all possible go to the location, find details, talk to local people. Look about, notice how the buildings stand, what transport is available, what colour is it? Consider the language, do they have a dialect or use slang? What are the most noticeable aspects of the culture?

Now you have acquired this information you have to write it in a way that builds, or recreates that place for the reader. If the reader has never been there you must lead them in, be their guide in introducing them to the place. If they know the place already then your part is to re-create their memories.

To do this you must ‘show’ them, give strong sensory detail, get them involved and interested, especially in places unfamiliar. Make them feel they are getting to know it and you have them feeling you are portraying it accurately.

imagesDon’t be afraid to use dialect. I would not recommend attempting to write a dialect, a least a phonetic representation, as this shouts doom! But be aware of such in dialogue; for instance what do the people in this location call a long sandwich? Is it a Sub…or a Hoagie, a Hero….maybe it a Baguette?

Getting ofay with the vernacular could make or break your story. But be careful, a misplaced slang word can throw you readers sense of place haywire.

Remember, not every story will fit into every setting. As with the characters and the plot the setting should be a living part of the story, it should interact with everything else on the page. If you tale is not working here, try a new location, or place a new section of the plot in this setting. If you have a disconnect you work may just collapse.

Now we move on…

The Fictional Location.

Here, wherever here may be, you are in total control. Nothing can be here, nothing can exist without your consent. This is you world where you can construct anything you like to be part of your story, even if it is a far-fetched creation.

But let’s start a little simpler. If you need to create a school or a restaurant or some regular societal value, you have no worries if somewhere similar exists, because ‘yours’ is purely fictitious.

A simple example could be an underground railway. If you have no idea of how the London Underground operates, so what? You can design and create your own public transportation system, one that fits into your plot, one that works with your characters schedules. It does not have to be an accurate representation of anything from the real world.

Please do not allow these facts to preclude your story from remaining realistic in terms of how certain types of place operate on a general basis. You still have a duty to your readers to portray a believable scenario.

The location may be best suited if, say for a town, it can be placed near somewhere in the real world. Possibly south of Huston, or just over the Tyne river outside of Newcastle. This will aid your story in finding its cultural roots.

Now the third of our three.

A Fictional setting in the Real World.

This is a far from unusual tactic employed by authors. There are many novels set in small fictitious towns which are then placed in a real counties or countries.

If you aim to do this then your town should be, at least in its initial appearance, similar to real towns in that region. This is to create believability. Yet by creating your own town as a setting you have almost as much freedom as you would with one set in a total fantasy.

Another benefit is that the townsfolk and/or your main characters can have specific feelings or views about this setting. Such as ‘it is haunted’ or ‘or it is a dying town’. No one can refute this, because the place does not actually exist.

This format works well when creating locations which do not exist, within one that is real. For example you may need to have your characters meet in a bar. Create a bar rather than using one that is real. This solves and can also absolve you from future problems. vampire1

Of course one area that fake settings placed in the real world are great is in the realm of fantastical realities. Think vampires, ghosts and Harry Potter! Here one uses the real world to disguise something hidden or a secret.

Let us go a little further.

You are writing a romantic novel and in all good tradition and faith you choose Paris as the main setting of the book. It would therefore be wise to assume that, most of your readers will have a strong conception, a healthy mental image of Paris before they read a single word of your novel.

If the words ‘the Eiffel Tower’ are spoken your reader will automatically conjure up a mental image. The same goes for ‘the Statue of Liberty’. All you need to do is paint the picture of how, at that particular moment, the city lights refract from the River Seine. Now your reader can picture your character in that setting.

Now consider that your novel is in a fictional city.

Firstly you will need describe the city in far more detail, including the landmark ‘tower’ your character is to propose on. This will take a lot more writing, which is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you need the word count!

Also it is not always to your benefit if the readers are familiar with the setting. After all many readers perception may be based on, or limited to, the ‘picture-postcard’ vision of a city and it is possible that you wish to portray a very different side of that metropolis.

So your descriptions will have to be vivid enough to dispel false perception while constructing a new mental image to bring the reader closer to the one in your own mind.

While in a totally fictitious location the reader can bring no preconceptions with them. You will, therefore, have a blank canvas on which to paint your words.

To wind all this up…

images (1)If you are to set your location in an actual place, a real setting, then detailed knowledge or meticulous research will be demanded. The payback for this is that a romantic novel set in Paris has far stronger ‘shelf-appeal’ than one set in a fake city. A place no one has heard or knows of.

The same is true if your novel is set in New York, New Deli or cruising along the Nile. Choose a place lesser known and the majority of your readers would not have heard of it anyway!

In writing, particularly in the case of a full length novel, it is evocation of place and atmosphere. It is almost impossible to deal with these as separate elements. Place can and does determine atmosphere. For example where else could Stephen Kings ‘The Shining’ have been set? It had to be that isolated, snow-bound hotel on a mountain.

Some writers have the tenacity and patience to craft meticulous settings, they build amazing and entire worlds. Others approach by the minimalistic route, sprinkling few, but highly suggestive details into the narrative.

It matters not what genre, or what style you use your story will take place somewhere. A small room, a foreign country, another planet. Your setting can be a backdrop or a character itself.

But take a while, take a look. If most of the novels in your genre are set in a particular kind of location, say a shed, a farmstead kitchen or a city tower, that is a good indication that is what readers of that genre expect, possibly demand.

It does not mean that you have to stick with tradition or stay with the norm. That is your decision, to go with the run of the mill or similar, or do you strive for something new? Maybe you will compromise, add that slight twist?

Whatever you are writing consider the scope you have for creating the right setting. You may want to have a small room or you might want your novel to spread across galaxies, even the entire universe.

155240

Whatever you choose I hope that in some small way this has given you an insight to possibilities not before considered.

Oh, just before you leave I would like to say you can check the setting and locations I have used in my books by visiting my website at

http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white

Thank you for reading yet another of my Ramblings, Paul.

Seven indispensable sites no Author or Writer should be without.

writers-block As you will know, the normal style of my posts are to bumble away rather randomly about various topics or subjects which are playing on my mind at any given moment. This post is not one of those. I believe, at certain times there comes a point when a more direct approach serves better. This post is one of those! I hope you find it informative and useful. Please let me know, thank you, Paul. No matter how an experienced writer we are we always, I will say that again, ‘Always’ need help, assistance or guidance at some point during the writing, editing, publishing or marketing process. Over the years I have been writing I have amassed a collection of various sites which I find invaluable. I have mentioned some of these in a previous post, http://wp.me/p5nj7r-8h & have also shared Melanie Rockets blog http://wp.me/p5nj7r-86 which I hope you will take a look at as it contains so much useful information. I have not however, until now, shared other sites which I use on a frequent basis. These are a rather eclectic collection covering a wide range of topics, not all are directly connected to the actual act of writing, but all are indispensable as far as I am concerned.


So here they are, in no particular order!

How many syl-la-bles I enjoy this! It is primarily an educational site for teaching poetry, but take a look at all the helpful pages like the Syllable counter, syllable dictionary, English grammar, How to count syllables, poem workshop and teaching resources. I am certain you will find some things more than helpful and keep returning as I do. http://www.howmanysyllables.com/poem_syllable_counter_workshop/


Author It. For all with eBooks this is a great app. It creates a ‘short link’ from your books ‘ASIN’ so when a potential reader clicks on the link it takes them to an intermediate window which shows the national flags associated with each Amazon server. The reader just ‘clicks’ on the relevant flag and is directed to the correct countries Amazon site for purchasing your book. So no more searching and listing a whole host of links, this one does the lot! I recommend you check this out. Helpful Authl.it is brought to you in association with the Kindle Users Form. Authl.it is designed to make linking and promoting Kindle eBooks as easy as possible worldwide. With our system you can easily generate a single link to direct your readers to the Amazon store for their country or region. http://authl.it/


. Writing World. SO much I could say about this site, it is just a MASS of info. Apart from comprehensive info about writing, from beginners to experienced, this site has information on dealing with rejection, writers block, writer’s life, time management & so much more It also covers Genre writing, children’s writing, flash fiction, non-fiction writing, travel, memoires and more. There are inclusive articles on Syndication, freelancing columns, journalism and…..lots more too! Publishing, social media & reviews & releases. And that is just for starters! This is a MUST site. But do not just take my word go take a look yourself! http://www.writing-world.com/rights/rights.shtml


Freelance fees. What should you charge for an article in a magazine, or for public relations or maybe for digital media? Do you have any idea? What about cancelation charges or fees? Bet you have not thought about that. Well these folk at London Freelance have and it is all shared with you right here. http://www.londonfreelance.org/feesguide/index.php?&section=Welcome&subsect=All&subsubs=All


Writers Workshop. Established in June 2005, The Writers’ Workshop is the world’s leading consultancy for first time writers. They offer professional feedback on your work, run courses, host events, provide a mass of free advice, and – when you’re ready – They can use their extensive connections to find the literary agent who is right for you. I need to say no more! http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/agents-advice.html


QR code generator. A bit of fun and another great way to get interactive with your potential readers, use the QR code on the back of your book to get readers to view the trailer for you next novel. Or simply link it to your website or author page. It is up to you. http://www.qrstuff.com/


Add this. A host of smart website tools for WordPress. Take a look and choose your weapons! https://wordpress.org/plugins/addthis/faq/


These are all sites that I use on a frequent or regular basis. I have found each one advantageous and effective for my needs, so you could say they are ‘tried & tested’ by Moi!


Thanks for reading, I am open to all feedback and comments. I welcome new followers so don’t be shy at pressing that ‘Follow’ button! Have a great day, Paul.

A piece on the noble art of writing ‘Flash Fiction’.

flashfiction2

Basically flash fiction is a short form of storytelling.

Trying to define it by the number of words is a futile exercise. Purists may give a figure of 100 words, but that is arbitrary at best.

For most a story of under 1,000 words can be considered flash fiction, some even stretch this number to 1,500 words.

What is generally accepted is that ‘flash’ is an extremely short medium in which the writer must tell a complete story. Fragmented tales are not tolerated.

The challenge is to tell the tale in a way that every word is absolutely essential, discard all words which can be considered superfluous, leave only the gleaming white bones of direct narrative.

thediplomat_2014-04-05_04-34-09-386x258

Ernest Hemingway stated this wonderfully in his (over-quoted) dictum referencing an iceberg: Only show the top 10 percent of your story, leave the other 90 percent below water to be conjured.

Although it is a rather worn and overworked cliché it is one that should be born in mind when writing flash fiction.

Flash fiction is not a new phenomenon created by social media or the internet, it is an ancient writing form which has existed for millennium.

Some other names for this form of writing are: Sudden, fast, quick, postcard, minute, furious, and even skinny fiction!

The French often term this as ‘nouvelles’.

In China, pocket stories, minuet longs and palm-sized writings are frequently used terms.

download (2)I have also heard flash fiction referred to as ‘smoke stories’. A reference that it only takes as long to read a flash story as it does to smoke a cigarette!

.

I know that this is a very short post in comparison to most of my ‘Ramblings’, perhaps it should be called a ‘flash blog’?

Thank you for reading this, enjoy the rest of your day.

I the meantime I shall leave you with a little ‘micro fiction’ piece which was inspired by the aforementioned Mr Ernest Hemingway.

‘Colt45. Used only once. Includes 5 shells. Sale due to recent bereavement’.

© Paul White 2015

Why not mosey over to my other blog ‘Further Ramblings and read some irreverent ruminations.

A great find for better Book Marketing

writers-block

Like most authors I am continuously looking for ways to do things better, not only improving my writing, my plots, characters, details and realism/escapism of my words. But also in ways to promote my work, to get my books in front of potential readers, dare I say, even to create ‘fans’ of my writing, people who just ‘cannot wait’ to read my next book.

None of these things are easy and, as I often ask myself, why do I bother at all to make my work public? Why do I publish my stories, and why, oh why do I expend so much time promoting my books and my blogs?

There must be a much easier way to achieve my goals without spending hours upon hours in front of a computer ploughing my way through the hosts of social media sites, in the hope that one person may, just may buy one of my books today.

The trick is of course to have a marketing strategy and a comprehensive promotional plan. Yep, that was the first thing that sprang into my mind the moment I finished my first book.

When that final keystroke printed the ‘d’ in ‘The End’ I should have been focused on an

integrated advertising and publicising stratagem, designed to maximise exposure and to create interest and awareness of my book in all the constant and variable media channels, avenues and vehicles possible, being fully inclusive of traditional forms as well as online technology based means such as social media platforms and internet related mediums

or at least something along those lines.

But I chose to heave a great sigh of relief and swill down a cold beer.

I do not think that I am alone in doing such a thing on completing a one hundred and ten thousand word novel either?

Which brings me back to the start of this rambling, ok it does not, but I’m going back there anyway!

So how can I do things better? As for the writing it really just comes down to writing, editing, re-writing, more editing and then doing it all again. That is something generally called practise and, in all honesty, that is the only way anyone can improve, although some suggestions and mental nudges can help stimulate ones muse.

In this blog, if you care to look back and read some of the previous posts, the archives, you will find a plethora of tips, ideas and ‘other stuff’ which will assist, I hope, in doing just that.

The second part, the marketing and promotion, which is the bit we all would like help with, the bit we could all do with making easier. Once again I have jotted down a few tips in the back catalogue of this blog.

But, and this is a big but, there is so much ‘out there’ that I am still finding. Some I dismiss as pretty darned stupid, inappropriate, or too expensive…even a few ‘dodgy’ sites and apps. I am certain you know of some of these too.

However, every now and then I come across a gem or two, or three. When I do I try to share them with you via this blog,‘Ramblings from a Writers Mind.

Today’s little gem is in fact a big shiny diamond.

Melanie Rocket’s website is a pretty cool place to visit if you are a writer or author. The problem is where I start in explaining what she has going on here.

Firstly I think a brief bio will set the scene, so here goes.

MER-logo

Melanie’s background of writing, photography and television production, positioned her perfectly for the Internet. She has been developing websites and marketing strategies for the Internet for the past 20 years and has worked with some of the top Internet marketers in the world.

Melanie has written twenty-six books, thousands of articles, hundreds of television scripts and is a non-stop idea machine. She often says, “I work far harder for my clients, than I do for myself!” This is evident from the strong Internet presence she develops for her clients.

Her clients have referred to Melanie as “the Web Witch, the Internet Wizard, “the Internet Goddess, the Traffic Cop” and as “Simply Amazing.” Melanie happily answers to all of them, though she admits to preferring “Goddess.”

Check out Melanie’s blog about book marketing http://melanierockett.com/category/book-marketing/

Or how about tips on using WordPress http://melanierockett.com/category/wordpress/

Like something more, then take a peek at some time saving software  http://melanierockett.com/category/productivity-tips-and-tools/

Looking for a good book reviewer? Check out the directory http://melanierockett.com/book-reviewers-directory/

There is so much more here too, like the services Melanie offers.

“I work one-on-one with authors and publishers to assist them with their  book writing and publishing projects.  From consulting to coaching to providing marketing advice and services.   It all starts with an email or a phone call”.

You can contact Melanie via her ‘contacts’ page on her website, just use any of the links above.

I hope you find at least one thing to make your life easier and your marketing planning better.

Books end

Have a great day, Paul.

Ex Libris legatum

o-STEAMPUNK-WRITER-facebook

As we age we amass many life skills; some taught to us by teachers, lecturers, professors and our parents, some self-learned by patient practice and repetition, while most such lessons are thrust into our consciousness simply by the pure events of living life itself; births, love, passion, loss, hurt, pain, grief and death.

At some point, during the period betwixt being born and gasping our last breath, we have also, hopefully, gained some wisdom.

Although only too often, such wisdom is realised and recognised far too late in life for us to use it in any true and meaningful way, such as the cruel nature of growing older.

However, for those who manage to avoid a premature departure from this world, those who never got hit by lightning or run over by a trolley bus, become in some respect like a soggy sponge! Yes we droop and some often uncontrollably leak and dribble I am sure, but the analogy I was trying to draw was one of absorption and storage.

I know for a fact that I know more than I know I know, even if in that knowledge there is the realisation of knowing that one knows nothing.

With that stated clearly I will return to the train of thought which initiated my fingers to start tapping away today; that is, that within these southerly wilting, rather wrinkly, fading bodies which those ‘of a certain age’ seem to acquire, for the majority of us at least, are still our sprightly, lively young minds that have seldom aged beyond fifteen…or maybe (for legal reasons) that should read eighteen!

lgk3dvgehj4witu1j9gi

Now….these minds of ours need a little control. You see they tend too often fool us by considering that whatever they think that we, (those of us who are over 40 something…{no not waist size}…years of being alive), still have the physical ability to achieve such things as skateboarding, zip-lining, mountaineering and even imbibing in a large amount of alcoholic beverages and awaking in the morning with a clear head….hummph….I wish.

The reason that our minds ignore our creaking joints, throbbing tendons, scar tissues that pull as taught as an elastic band every time we move like this…ouch….I should not have done that! Is that once-upon-a-time we have done all of those things, once-upon-a-time when that same mind was in its infancy and knew nothing of risk or fear, that mind which we (mostly) protected from going too far; well far too far, too often.

Now during all those life-threatening adventures, (those naughty and dangerous liaisons, the arguments and battles, the fights and flights that our immature brains took us on), we collected lots and lots of information, comprehension, realisation, skills and familiarity.

In other words, we gained awareness, understanding and experience, this is how we became educated and intelligent, and this is what gives us an erudition of life. This is what we loosely and casually refer to as wisdom and knowledge.

These are the life skills one collects in the only way possible, by living over a long period of time, or at least the longest period that time allows our weak and feeble bodies to function. Gladly, but tinged with some forms of sadly, mine is doing…..okay….at this moment.

You see I have out-lived many thousands of others over the years I have been walking upon this earth, (which I can still do….unaided). I am glad that I saw the sunrise this morning, the sad is that many did not.

Over the preceding years, many of those who never got to see the sunlight today are a whole host of friends and family, many older than I, many younger. Worst of all some had only minutes of life with which we could chart their age.

IMG_4424The fact is, that the number of people who are older than I is quickly diminishing. Now my mourning’s are frequently for those of my own generation, a generation who should use the life skills and knowledge that they have acquired to help and nurture those who are young enough and fortunate enough to have one of those minds which believes it is protected by an invincible body, such as our own did all those years past.

All that we have learned by events of life and living; those births we have witnessed, our loves, both lost and lasting. The passionate moments, some intimate, comprised of twisting limbs and thrusting loins, others of the soul; music, art, theatre, dreams and scenes, vistas of natural beauty. The recollection of our times of loss, of hurt, of feeling pain; both physical and of the heart, not forgetting the grief and deaths.

This is our accumulated wisdom.

This is what we should share, what we should endeavour to teach our children and their children.

‘Ahh’, I hear you say, but children do not listen, do not take heed, so it is best to leave them to find their own way.

I do not disagree.

However, (which is a nicer way to say but, because there is always a but)! If we share our knowledge, leave it somewhere our future generations can discover it for themselves, then they will learn, or at least hopefully be guided by that which we have spent a lifetime accumulating.

This is why I believe I have a duty to leave my own thoughts behind me when I have gone when I have shuffled from this mortal coil.

No one can teach from our personal experiences as we ourselves can.

This is why I choose to write. Even within the lines of my fiction, on the pages of my fantasies, are woven the truths of life and the facts of living.MagicBook

The words within my books and short stories are my bequest to the world, to a future I cannot be a part of, at least in person.

I chose to be a writer, not for monetary wealth or recognition, but to leave a legacy beyond the simplistic value of personal greed.

My wish is that my words are read by the generations yet to come.

Maybe then my life will not have been lived in vain.

Ex Libris legatum Paul White.


Thank you for reading this Rambling.

To find out about my Published Books & Short Stories please visit my web page, http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white-writer

© Paul White 2015

How to write a book which agents WILL accept…… (probably)…………..(or not)!

This is not my usual type of Rambling post, in fact this is not a Rambling at all, but a serious article…without nice pictures to look at :-(


I posted an article a short while ago entitled ‘Why would you ever bother reading a book’.
The majority of folk understood that there is absolutely no other medium which can take you on the same journey, in the same personal manner, as reading a great story.
However there were still some, a very few I am gild to say, who admitted to not reading, not wanting to read, or suggested that watching a film or television is exactly the same as reading!
Oh how my head hurts!!!
However that said there are reasons that so many books ‘out there’ do read in much the same way as a movie is constructed. One of the main reasons for this is the demand from mainstream publishers for the majority of their titles to follow a predictable format.
This is a very similar format which is used in mainstream visual arts, film, televised plays, series etc.
The main reason is that it is the literary agencies and publishing houses duty to sell books AND make a profit while doing so.
With only a very few exceptions, by selecting manuscripts which follow the old ‘tried & tested’ formats the publishers almost guarantee a return. The downside is that many great stories are left untold, the public’s choice diminished.
This results in too many authors’ works are rejected in favour of those who are willing to ‘sell their soul’ for a few sheckles by producing the same story over and again, the only difference being the location and the characters names.
Many Romance, Thriller, Crime and Fantasy writers are skilled at using set formulas. I shall mention no names here. But you know who they are!

So what is this wonderful formula?

Simply it is a set of between six and nine ‘Plot Points’ which can be applied to almost any story in any genre.

I shall now endeavour to explain.

(This is a longer than normal post, but for clarity it must be. So if you have little interest in story construction you may leave now)!

So may all of you who do not wish to ‘Sell out’ your individualism, the artistic artisan skills of a indie writer……Just saying!

I have said above that a conventional STORY PLOT has between six and nine ‘plot points’, I will work with eight points; just to be awkward!

So first we must grasp what these points are intended to do, after which we can look into each in a little more depth.

Stasis

This is the “every day life” in which the story is set. Think of Cinderella sweeping the ashes, Jack (of Beanstalk fame) living in poverty with his mum and a cow, or Harry Potter living with the Dursley’s.

Trigger

Something beyond the control of the protagonist (hero/heroine) is the trigger which sparks off the story. A fairy godmother appears, someone pays in magic beans not gold, a mysterious letter arrives … you get the picture.

The quest

The trigger results in a quest – an unpleasant trigger (e.g. a protagonist losing his job) might involve a quest to return to the status quo; a pleasant trigger (e.g. finding a treasure map) means a quest to maintain or increase the new pleasant state.

Surprise

This stage involves not one but several elements, and takes up most of the middle part of the story. “Surprise” includes pleasant events, but more often means obstacles, complications, conflict and trouble for the protagonist.

Critical choice

At some stage, your protagonist needs to make a crucial decision; a critical choice. This is often when we find out exactly who a character is, as real personalities are revealed at moments of high stress. Watts stresses that this has to be a decision by the character to take a particular path – not just something that happens by chance.

In many classic stories, the “critical choice” involves choosing between a good, but hard, path and a bad, but easy, one.

In tragedies, the unhappy ending often stems from a character making the wrong choice at this point – Romeo poisoning himself on seeing Juliet supposedly dead, for example.

Climax

The critical choice(s) made by your protagonist need to result in the climax, the highest peak of tension, in your story.

For some stories, this could be the firing squad levelling their guns to shoot, a battle commencing, a high-speed chase or something equally dramatic. In other stories, the climax could be a huge argument between a husband and wife, or a playground fight between children, or Cinderella and the Ugly Sisters trying on the glass slipper.

Reversal

The reversal should be the consequence of the critical choice and the climax, and it should change the status of the characters – especially your protagonist. For example, a downtrodden wife might leave her husband after a row; a bullied child might stand up for a fellow victim and realise that the bully no longer has any power over him; Cinderella might be recognised by the prince.

Your story reversals should be inevitable and probable. Nothing should happen for without reason, changes in status should not fall out of the sky. The story should unfold as life unfolds: relentlessly, implacably, and plausibly.

Resolution

The resolution is a return to a fresh stasis – one where the characters should be changed, wiser and enlightened, but where the story being told is complete.

Ummph. So you got all that?

Now you have your eight points, so let’s delve a little deeper.

Consider the above the ‘rough sketch’ of you stories outline. Now you need to build your guide so you do not wander ‘off track’ or write yourself into a ‘dead end’.


Now let’s build you story into that Novel.

The beginning

Plots, subplots, characters, goals and conflicts are introduced at the beginning of a story. Your goal is to pull the reader in with an exciting opening, then begin setting up the basis for the rest of the book. Depending on the length and complexity of your story, the beginning generally amounts to about the first 50 pages.

The start of your story is where you introduce your main characters’ attributes and motivations. The qualities you give your characters are what makes the reader care about them. Your characters’ behaviour, reactions and introspection, as well as their ever-evolving goals, draw sympathy and interest from the reader. The main characters in your story don’t have to be the moral equivalent of Snow White, either. Even character flaws and sins can draw the reader’s sympathy.

Don’t be afraid to get inside your characters – revealing their most heinous thoughts and secrets along with their most noble ones – in order to create compassion in your readers. It’s important to think about your characters’ conflicts, motivations, intentions and weaknesses right from the start. As the outlining process grows more intense, your insights into your characters will deepen, and your finished manuscript will be much the better for it.

Conflict

Your reader needs to be assured from your very first sentence that something suspenseful and exciting is happening or about to happen. Conflict is the root of everything exciting and suspenseful in your story.

Conflict can be internal or external. Each of your main characters should have internal conflicts – opposing desires, beliefs or motivations. External conflict can (and should) occur between characters, but characters can conflict with other things as well (such as fate). A solid plot gives all main characters (including the villain) internal and external conflicts.

Advertisement

Be sure to lay the groundwork for conflict in the beginning section of your outline.

Keep the following tips in mind when building opportunities for action and suspense into the beginning of your story:

1 Keep the reader on edge with baffling contrasts in characters, setting and dialogue. If you put two seemingly opposed characters in play together, you’ll intrigue your readers and they will stick around to figure out why.

2 Take advantage of pacing, especially as you move toward and through the middle of your story. Don’t rush in to pick up the story threads. Keep the reader guessing.

Draw out scenes involving rescues and explanations. Offer the reader unsatisfactory alternatives to problems. Alternate suspense and action within your outline, even if just by giving yourself stage directions for accomplishing this.

3 Carefully construct mood by using description, dialogue, introspection and action.

4 Use foreshadowing. Foreshadowing shouldn’t answer the crucial questions of a story but, instead, create possibilities or uncertainties that will evoke mild or extreme tension in the reader.

Conflict, suspense and motivation will be the driving forces behind your story. Lay the groundwork for them in your outline, and they will reach their full potential in your story.

Now that we’ve reviewed the fundamentals of writing a good beginning, let’s discuss the first section of the story evolution worksheet:

1 Conflict is introduced

Most writers have been advised to begin each story with a bang. There’s a good reason for that. You want to hook your reader as early as possible. Detail here what will happen in your first scene, and briefly describe how the conflict you introduce at this point will dominate your story through each section. Also, hint at looming conflicts. As your beginning progresses, you’ll want to fully introduce the villain.

2 Story goal is introduced

The story goal is your dominant plot thread. You will introduce it at the beginning of the book. Review your plot sketch worksheet from your preliminary outline (Worksheet 4), then describe the story goal and how it will push your story forward through each section.

3 Characters are outfitted for their tasks

The character sketches you have created as part of your preliminary outline will help you continue to think about who your main characters are and how they’re involved in achieving the story’s goal.

Your characters should be designed with the resolution of the story goal in mind. They should have strengths they themselves aren’t aware of at the beginning of the story – strengths that evolve steadily throughout the course of the book as the characters face adversity.

They also should have internal and/or external weaknesses that hinder their progress. Detail these things in this section.

As you think about the first 50 or so pages that set up the premise of your book, continue to expand on the three points we’ve just covered. These points will help you come up with everything you need to keep your audience reading voraciously.

The middle

If you haven’t already, review the plot sketch worksheet (Worksheet 4) you began while creating your preliminary outline. The middle is usually the largest portion of any book. In this section, plots, subplots and conflicts work together to create a tug-of-war between the story goal and the opposition. Essentially, the action in the middle section of a book revolves around the main characters confronting the opposition, though most of the time this opposition is hidden from or unseen by the lead characters.

Your main characters must grow throughout this section of the book. Therefore, each of the events that take place within this section will require multiple scenes to work in and work out. In other words, you will be planning multiple scenes for each pull in the tug-of-war between your main characters and their opposition. The longer your book, the more complex this tug-of-war will be.

Here’s how the story evolution worksheet can help you to plan out the middle of your book:

1 Characters design short-term goals to reach the story goal

For each main character, introduce short-term goals that will assist that character in reaching the story goal. Give a brief description of each goal and how each character is attempting to reach it. Use your plot sketch (Worksheet 4) as a springboard for this section.

2 Quest to reach the story goal begins

In this section the characters put their first short-term goals into action. Sketch out what they go through during this time.

3 First short-term goals are thwarted

The first short-term goal proves impossible. What events take place to make this failure come about?

4 Characters react with disappointment

Characters react differently to disappointment, and these reactions show the kind of people they are. Provide insight into each major character’s reactions.

5 Stakes of the conflict are raised

Giving up the quest to reach the story goal is never really an option, though the characters may wish they could. In every exciting story with worthy heroes, something always happens to make it impossible to concede defeat. Inevitably, the stakes are raised and a new danger is introduced. Detail the new danger and its effect on all subplots.

6 Characters react to the conflict

In this section describe each main character’s initial reaction to the new danger or problem.

7 Characters revise old or design new short-term goals

Though the initial reaction to the danger is usually one that’s far from calm and logical, this must be a temporary reaction. Eventually, each main character will need to devise a new short-term goal to lead him/her closer to reaching the story goal. Briefly describe each character’s plan of action.

8 Quest to reach the story goal is continued

The characters put their new short-term goals in action. In this section, sketch out what they go through during this time.

9 Short-term goals are again thwarted

The new short-term goals prove as impossible as the first. What events took place to make this failure come about?

10 Characters react with disappointment

Character reactions will run the gamut here, but each character will be tiring of the battle a little more each time he/she fails.

11 Stakes of the conflict are raised

Remember that each time something happens, it must create ever more dire consequences if the characters don’t act quickly.

12 Characters react to the conflict

Show marked growth in the characters. Make the readers empathise with them. At this stage you can repeat steps 7-10 as many times as necessary to accommodate your story’s length and complexity. Steps 11 and 12 aren’t repeated here because the cycle becomes more dramatic with each repetition, thus allowing the last half of the middle portion of your book to be even tenser and your characters more desperate.

13 Downtime begins

The last section of the middle portion of the story begins with the downtime, which precedes the black moment. Your characters are coming to feel they have nothing left to hold on to. Detail these feelings.

14 Characters revise old or design new short-term goals

Your characters are going to make their next decisions out of sheer desperation. From this point on, they seem to lose much of their confidence – or, worse, they’re feeling a reckless sense of bravado that may have tragic consequences. What are their new goals and how do they plan to reach them?

15 The quest to reach the story goal continues, but instability abounds

Though your characters are ploughing ahead bravely, each step is taken with deep uncertainty. How does this action unfold?

16 The black moment begins

The worst possible failure has now come to pass. The short-term goals made in desperation are thwarted, and the stakes are raised to fever pitch as the worst of all possible conflicts is unveiled. Describe it in detail.

17 The characters react to the black moment

Characters react to this major conflict with a sense of finality. Never will there be a moment when the outcome is more in question than in this concluding section of the middle of the book.

The end bit….

At the end of a book, all plots, subplots and conflicts are resolved. In the last few chapters, the characters are finally given a well-deserved break from their recent crisis. Here’s how it takes shape through the story evolution worksheet:

1 A pivotal, life-changing event occurs Something crucial must happen in the first part of the end section – something that will change the lives of the characters irrevocably.

2 Characters modify short-term goals one last time

Whatever the life-altering experience the characters face, the desperation that drove them only a few chapters earlier is completely gone. They’ve never had such clarity of purpose as they do at this moment, and they revise their goals with the kind of determination that convinces the reader they can’t possibly fail.

3 The showdown begins

The main characters and opposition come face to face. It’s in these moments of confrontation that the main characters move to accomplish the story goal.

4 The opposition is vanquished and the conflict ends

You know the showdown that follows the moment of clarity very well.

5 The story goal is achieved

That which all the characters have been striving for has come to pass and this will affect everything. Detail the consequences of victory.

6 Characters react to the resolution of the plot and subplots

In this section, release is given to the characters who have worked so hard to achieve the story goal. Describe their reactions.

7 Characters revise their life goals

At this point the main characters have learned what they’re capable of. Now their life goals are revised.

8 Possible re-emergence of the conflict or opposition

At the end of a book it’s possible for the conflict or opposition to re-emerge – just when you and the characters thought it was safe.

Using a story evolution worksheet to plot the course of your story helps you to:

(1) see a snapshot of the highlights of your story; (2) pinpoint with accuracy precisely where potential problems are within the story; (3) make the weak areas of your story more solid; (4) avoid sagging, uninteresting middles; and (5) avoid repetition in your stories.

Once you’ve learned to see the framework of a story, you’ll never look at a book the same way again. What was invisible has become visible, even stark. As an author yourself, you now hold the key to creating the strongest framework for your novels.

Structure is something that every agent, editor, publisher, Hollywood executive, public speaker, marketer and story teller talks about, to the point that it can seem complicated, intricate, mysterious and hard to master. So I want to give you a starting point for properly structuring your novel, screenplay or presentation without overwhelming you with rules and details and jargon.

Here are what I consider ten key elements of structure – ten ways of looking at structure that will immediately improve the emotional impact – and commercial potential – of your story.

  1. THE SINGLE RULE OF STRUCTURE

There is only one rule for achieving proper plot structure: What’s happening now must be inherently more interesting than what just happened. The goal of structure – the goal of your entire story, in fact – is to elicit emotion in the reader or audience. If your story is increasingly compelling as you move forward, that’s all you need to worry about.

  1. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE GOAL

The events and turning points in your story must all grow out of your hero’s desire. Without an outer motivation for your protagonist – a clear, visible objective your hero is desperate to achieve – your story can’t move forward. Repeatedly ask yourself, “What does my hero (or heroine) want to achieve by the end of the story? Can readers clearly envision what achieving that goal will look like? And will they be rooting for my hero to reach that finish line?” Apply the same questions to whatever scene: “What does my hero want in this sequence? And how is this immediate goal linked to her ultimate outer motivation?” If your answer is “I don’t know,” or, “They don’t,” your story is dead in the water (a sailing term that means “adrift, not going anywhere”).

  1. MORE, BIGGER, BADDER

Structure is built on desire, but the emotion you must elicit grows out of conflict. The more obstacles a character must overcome, and the more impossible it seems that he will succeed, the more captivated your audience will be. The conflict must build: each successive problem, opponent, hurdle, weakness, fear and setback must be greater than those that preceded it. Repeatedly ask yourself, “How can I make it even harder for this character to get what he wants?”

  1. SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW

In each successive scene, something must happen that has never happened before: a new situation for the hero; a new secret to reveal; a new ally to join; and new enemy to confront; a new lover to pursue; a new (even bigger) problem to solve; a new tool for solving it. If scenes are interchangeable, or if nothing of significance changes from one scene to the next, you’re treading water.

  1. BEFORE AND AFTER

In creating the overall structure for your story, look at it as symmetrical, and divided into three sections (these are NOT the three acts – we’re looking at structure a bit differently here). Section 1 shows us your hero at the beginning of the story, living his everyday life. He’s stuck in some way – settling for something, resigned to a life that isn’t that fulfilling, or oblivious to the fact that deep down he longs for more.

At the other end of this symmetrical structure is another portrait of that same hero, this time transformed. Living a different life, more mature and self-aware than he was at the beginning. This final sequence must give us a clear picture of your hero, after having reaped the rewards (positive or negative) for finding (or not) the physical and/or emotional courage that was necessary to achieve his goal and complete his journey.

In between these before and after snapshots is the journey itself – the hero’s pursuit of that all-important goal.  This is where the compelling desire and the overwhelming conflict come face to face. But without those beginning and ending sequences, the structure is incomplete, and the story won’t work.

  1. THE OPPORTUNITY

At the end of that opening snapshot your hero must be presented with some opportunity. Something must happen to your hero that will engender her initial desire, and move her into some new situation. This is where the forward movement of your story begins, and it is out of this new situation (often geographic, always unfamiliar) that your hero’s outer motivation will ultimately emerge.

  1. FOCUS & DETERMINATION

Whatever outer motivation drives your hero, she shouldn’t begin pursuing that goal immediately. She must get acclimated to her new situation, must figure out what’s going on or where she fits in, until what has been a fairly broad or undefined desire comes into focus. Only then can she begin taking action toward the specific outer motivation that defines your story.

  1. LINES & ARCS

Structure applies to both the outer journey of achievement, and the inner journey of transformation. In other words, as the hero moves on the visible path toward that finish line, facing ever increasing obstacles, he must also gradually find greater and greater courage to overcome whatever fears have been holding him back and keeping him from finding real fulfillment or self worth. Repeatedly ask yourself “How is my hero changing in this scene? How are his emotional fears revealed and tested?” And, ultimately, “What does my protagonist have the courage to do at the end of the story that he didn’t have the courage to do at the beginning?” Whatever the answer, this is your hero’s character arc.

  1. SECRETS & LIES

Superior position is the term for telling your reader or audience something that some of the characters in the story don’t know. This gives you one of your most powerful structural tools: anticipation. When we know who and where the killer is before the hero does, or when we know the hero is keeping a big secret, we will keep turning the page to see what happens when that conflict appears, or that secret is revealed.

  1. TURN FANTASY INTO REALITY

Your job as a writer is not simply to take the reader to incredible places and show them exciting or astonishing characters and events – it’s to make the reader believe they are real. Your reader wants to suspend disbelief, but you’ve got to enable them to do that, by having your characters behave in consistent, credible ways. Your audience is eager to embrace fantastic, faraway worlds, bigger than life characters and startling events, but only if your characters react to them the way people in the real world would. You can even give your hero extraordinary powers, but we have to learn how she acquired them, and these powers must be limited in some way, in order to make her vulnerable.

This list certainly doesn’t cover every element or principle of plot structure that I lecture about or use with my consulting clients. Nor does it reveal all of the tools and turning points at your disposal. But every story I have ever encountered that followed these ten principles was properly – and effectively – structured.

Or you could just lay back and watch a film………but then it will not be a movie of YOUR book, but someone else’s!

Why would you even bother reading a book?

d4f39e4be1965d2032516bad71332757

    Believe it or not this was said to me today in a general conversation. Needless to say that the person who spoke these particular words did not know I was an author; I did not enlighten them either!

    However, for my part these simple few words started a chain of thought that, as the day progressed, continued to reoccur in various forms. This post is the result of some of the fleeting impressions these musings have left me.

    By the way I am solely writing with regards to reading fictional books, as this was the original topic of discussion this morning.

    For those techno-loving geeky types, I am not separating e-books from their paper counterparts as they were not distinguished as separate entities during the debate.

So on with the post…….Firstly, why read a book when we are surrounded by a plethora of various media platforms, allowing access to just about every form of entertainment available by a simple click of a mouse, a push of a button, or a touch of a screen?

My answer to this is that all forms of moving picture media leaves very little exercise for the mind.

Once again I will say ALL forms, whether it is a chick-flick or shoot-um-up film, a drama, play, soap opera, or another genre.

Each and every one spoon feeds the viewer the information required and therefore leaves very little, if anything for the imagination to create.

However involved the viewer may become in the plot of the programme he or she is watching, their mind is purely focused on the screen, watching antics and listening to the words of the actors alone.

Do not get me wrong, I enjoy a good film as much as the next man; I love watching plays and intriguing dramas, and yet no matter how well directed, produced, or acted they may be, such simply cannot begin to compete with a well written book.

What is so special about reading is that it can do something that no other form of entertainment can possibly achieve.fit-girl-working-out-fgp9n

A book can give your mind a ruddy good workout, a neuron enhancing, cognitive improving gym session like no other.

Allow me to explain……When you watch something on a screen you are seeing a story through the eyes of the director, via a screen writers interpretation of a story that has most probably been adapted from another medium, possibly that well written book I mentioned a short while ago.

Therefore what you are seeing is actually a director’s vision, of a third of fourth hand edited version of an original work. Doesn’t seem so good now does it?

Another downside to watching a screenplay is when one of the characters, (which will be the actors portrayal of the watered down interpretation of the directors version of that original piece of work), walks across the car park and drives away in a dark shiny car, you will see exactly from which direction the actor enters the car park, see how the parking lot is lit, know what model car he climbs into, and just how fast he drives away.

That is okay, but it is hardly fascinating, is it?

However, within those magic pages of a book all that action is yours, and yours alone. No one else will ever see the same man walk through the same car park and slide behind the wheel of that car. Only you know how the parking lot smells, which lights were dim and flickering. Only you can sense the suppleness of the leather seats and watch through the windshield as he drives, tyres squealing, up the ramp and out into the….daylight / darkness of a rainy night?

090720_carchase_seven-ups_1

Now you are beginning to see why I love reading.

Everything conjured up by the words on the page are designed to stimulate your mind, not only by guiding you through the storyline, the plot, sub-plots and twists to bring you to a conclusion, but to excite every cerebral nerve in your mind to create entire worlds where you can escape to for hours on end.

It is your personal world, an exclusive world, where every drop of rain, each blade of grass, the people who inhabit it, the scents, the very texture of material are all yours, and yours alone. A semi-mystical fantasy world where love, hate, lust, passion, jealousy and forgiveness can be experienced without fear.

There is no other form of entertainment that can even come anywhere close to that which can be delivered by a good book.

As I have said above, I love reading, I enjoy the escapism it provides. Which is also why I enjoy writing; when I write I hope to give my readers the same experience, the same satisfaction that I get when I’m deeply lost, in my own netherworld, following the storyline of a Novel.

Even if you do not read one of my books, please buy one, even two of somebody else’s and start reading straight away. I know you will enjoy.

Thanks for reading this!

Paul.

A Story’s Voice

Timeless_Books

    I have just finished reading a novel.
   I shall not reveal which, or who the author was, because I shall be telling of a certain dislike within the pages of that book. I will say that this was the first book of hers that I have read and overall I quite enjoyed the story. But there was one thing that really annoyed me, and that ‘thing’ has taken the shine off a pretty good read.
    I shall reveal what that ‘one thing’ was a little later, because firstly I need to explain the premise of this Rambling.

As you will know I am a writer, and like most writers I like to read. I like to read good stories, be it a short story, a novella, or a full blown heavyweight novel.

What I find most enjoyable is a book that speaks to me, a story with a captivating voice. I am not talking about audio-books, I am speaking of the written word.

You may then ask, how can a book talk? So I shall, in my bumbling, haphazard way endeavour to explain.

When, for instance, you open a fresh new book, and cast your eyes over those first few lines, you start to create a ‘voice’ in your head, a voice that will tell you the story which is printed upon those pages.

Without becoming too technical, that silent voice you hear, the voice that is only audible from inside your own mind, is what we writers term as narration.

Simply put it is rather like listening to someone else reading out loud, like your mother may have read you bedtime stories as a child as you lay in bed drifting off to sleep. The only difference is that all this occurs solely within your own mind.

So when you read it is not the author you are listening to, but an intermediary, an ethereal entity! But this intermediary is not there by chance, it is the craft, the skill of the author who has created this unseen reader.

Please do not confuse narration with style. Most authors have a certain style of writing, of describing their tales. It is the style often reflects the character of the writer. Most writers will admit that much of themselves, and many of their personal experiences, are frequently woven into their works.

Regardless of a writer’s style, the narration can, and most often will alter with each new piece of work, unless it is part of a series when it is important, even critical, to keep the narrative voice continuous.

Some people who are new to writing may not understand the way a reader assimilates the words from a page, and often this is why some struggle to write in a manner that flows smoothly, whilst experienced writers will use a particular form of narration to compliment the piece they working on at that time.

For instance in my short stories, my Flash Fictions, I use a number of various narrative forms which I hope enhance the readers experience of each. Below are three examples, all written in my ‘style’ yet told with a different narrative ‘voice’.

1, Jumping a Boxcar

Sunset.

The last train.

I was waiting by the rails, backpack on the ground beside my feet.

That backpack was full. Everything I owned was crammed in there. Clothes, razor, soap, two towels, one face flannel, and three books.

That was it. That was the total of my life.

At least regarding material things.

You see, as I stood by the tracks waiting to jump a boxcar to wherever that train was going, I was carrying far more than the contents of that backpack.

 

She had told me that everything would be alright, that things have a way of working themselves out.

But that takes time, and I knew that I had taken enough of her time already.

Three years.

Well, two years, seven months, three days and twenty two hours to be precise. During which time I had broken almost every promise I had ever made to her; and that was unfair.

I promised I would look after her, get a good job, earn a decent income, buy her gifts, chocolates, and flowers. That we would have our own place, a nice car. I said I would make her happy, that we would be happy.

That I would never leave.

They were all lies……………………….

 X

2, Life in the Warzone – Yellow Petals

    Izdihar came running into the house shouting ‘Mummy, Mummy, look at what I have for you’.

    Fellah turned to look at her daughter, who had not stopped running, and deftly caught her in her arms, lifting Izdihar off the ground so their faces were level.

    ‘You have a beautiful smile for your Mother.

     ‘No Mummy, I have found you a flower’ said Izdihar, holding out a single closed bud on a green stem. ‘I found it by the wall. I brought it home for you, because I love you Mummy’ she said with pride in her voice.

    ‘Well then, I thank you my darling. I love you too. But this flower will soon wither and die if we do not find it some water’ said Fellah.

    Rummaging about in the kitchen Fellah found a shallow saucer. This would have to suffice thought Fellah. Water was too scarce to be wasting it on flowers, yet she was reluctant to upset her child, so a small amount on the saucer would keep Izdihar happy and allow Fellah to show her appreciation of her daughter’s kindly deed.

    Fellah placed the saucer onto the low shelf and dribbled a tiny amount of water into it. Sitting at the table with Izdihar, Fallah carefully cut the bud from the stalk and placed it into the water. Fellah did this with a ceremonious flourish that pleased Izdihar, who was grinning from ear to ear with pride, knowing that she had made her Mother happy………………………….

 X

3, Missy

Missy turned the steering wheel sharply, swinging the car violently to a sudden halt in the parking lot. Her lips were pressed together, jaw clenched, supressing the pent up emotion that he had, once again stirred within her. Tears began to dribble down Missy’s tender cheeks.

Why was he like this? He was a man who was so sure, so certain of himself, so controlling, that after all these years one would have thought that he did not need to be such a bully, that he would have no need to be so verbally aggressive and well, downright abusive.

After dropping him at his office Missy had started to drive aggressively, tyres squealing on the tarmac as she pulled away. It was just then that her phone bleeped.

Missy knew instantly who this was. She felt those small tremors jumping in her stomach with her excitement. A pack of wild butterflies suddenly fluttering into the air simultaneously. It was a text message from Anura……………………….

X

You will see from these examples that while my writing style remains personal to me, the form of narration varies to take into account the feeling, the ambiance and quality, I wish to give each particular story.

If I have done this well, (and I do hope I have!), you would of read each of the above in a slightly different tonal voice, and at a differing pace.

That then is my (long winded), but simple explanation of narrative.

I hoped you also recognised the narrative voice I am using now, in this Rambling?

Which, in a roundabout way, brings me to my opening gambit, the book I have just read.

In her book the author has a character who talks really loudly, to indicate this all his speech has been written in capital letters ‘LIKE THESE RIGHT HERE’, which I found distracting in the least, and most patronisingly annoying.

It is quite simple to use the narrative to convey that a character has a loud, booming voice. It is not only disquieting to have the CAPITALS break up a line of text, but I found it interrupted the narratives flow. It made me feel that I was reading rather than ‘living’ the story.

If you are writing please, please, use your skill as a wordsmith to express your characters qualities, personality and temperament, and do not try to draw an image with your text. If I had wanted pictures in my book I would have purchased a comic……Nuff said!

Thank you for reading. I hope you found the contents informative, even useful?

cropped-cropped-fict-orig1.jpg

Please take a look at my flash fiction & short stories at ‘A Little more Fiction’ where you can read many of my works, including the full stories from which the extracts above were taken. Just click on this link http://wp.me/5od8T