F**k your writing. Or…(an essay regarding the use of expletives and profane language in fictional writings)

 

In polite, or politically correct circles one may refer to it as the ‘F word’.

This word first became a public literary issue after it was use in a major novel, Norma Mailer’s ‘The Naked and the Dead’, published in 1948.

Only, it was NOT.

Mailer’s publisher prevailed upon him to change this expletive; this four-lettered, description of sex, to ‘Fug’, so that it did not offend readers.

Given the fact that the book is about men during a war, ‘Fug’ occurred an awful lot of times!

The result was a backlash, a cluster of criticism and discussion in literary circles. This gave rise to the anecdote about Tallulah Bancroft saying to Mailer, “Oh, you’re the man who can’t spell that word”.

 

However, times change.

Nowadays the F-word has lost much of its ability to shock. Far fewer people are now offended by its inclusion in a book or, for that matter, in conversation. Still, authors often debate the role of ‘racy-talk’ in literature.

How much is too much? When have you gone too far, or not far enough?

Okay, before we get stuck with just this one word, let us consider the vast and rich palette of risqué words available and to clarify their ‘technical’ differences. Once we can differentiate between profanities, obscenities, curses and the like, it should be easier to determine how, why and if we should use them.

 

PROFANITY

Is often used to denote an objectionable word. ‘Profanity’ literally means words that are proscribed profane – that is words described by religious doctrine. ‘Proscribed’, in this context means ‘forbidden by written order’, such as, in Judeo-Christian tradition, taking the Lords name in vain (that is, not in Prayer).

“For the love of God, stop complaining” or “Jesus Christ, look at the size of that thing”.

 

CURSES

These call upon a deity, or fate, to cause harm in a visitation.

(Mild) “Damn this zipper”.

(Strong) “God Damn her”.

‘Damned’ is to be condemned to Hell.

‘Hell’ can also be a curse, “Go to Hell”, or a mild profanity, as in “Oh, Hell, the rivers polluted again!”

 

SWEAR WORDS

To swear literally means to take an oath, or to proclaim an oath.

Now, for anyone uncertain about oaths, (married folk take note!) An oath is a resolution or promise which calls upon a deity’s assistance in carrying it out. (Think about how many are in your marriage now!).

Examples: “God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again” or simpler, “By God I’ll show you”

You can swear to bear witness, as in “I swear, you are the best cook in this town”

 

OBSCENITIES

These are words that denote something disgusting or morally abhorrent. (Often connoting sex). The F-word is considered to be one of the most objectionable, along with the C-word.

The relatively modern inclusion of adding the prefix ‘Mother’ often ups-the-ante!

Non, or less objectionable variants of the present participle form of the F-word, beside ‘Fugging!’ include, Fecking, Freaking, flipping and fricking.

To be totally honest, I have no idea why the letter ‘U’ seems to be so ‘flaming’ important!

‘Screw’ is accepted as of the milder and therefore more acceptable terms. Please note, both the F-word and ‘screw’ are used not just used to literally describe intercourse, but to connote ‘Taking advantage of’.

“That Garage screwed me out of £300 for unnecessary repairs”

Generally, words referring to both male and female pelvic areas are considered obscenities.

 

VULGERISMS

I Like this one because this word, this term, covers a lot of bases. If it is crude, objectionable and falls outside the aforementioned categories, you have a vulgarism!

‘Bitch’, ‘Son of a Bitch’, ‘Bastard’, ‘Jackass/Ass, Asshole’ and even ‘Crap’ fall under this heading.

93ce12d32493d93d83d472de26821a62

Now…whether use should use, or not use, any (or all) of the above?

The literary world is somewhat divided around the use of spicy talk, which should not be surprising as our readers are as equally split.

Take two ‘Tough-Guy’ authors, Lee Child and Tom Clancy. Lee does not use any profanities in his writing. Most readers do not notice this. Whereas Tom’s books are littered with profanities…and he certainly sells a lot of copies!

Some readers may be turned off by even one, single, solitary curse word…possible? Maybe. But what is certain is that no-one will buy your books purely because you use raw language. (Although at one time, years ago, they may have well done so).

Does all this mean your safest path is to use no raw language at all?

Writing is a journey and all journeys involve some form of risk. History proves that some writers achieved success, or at least notoriety, because they shunned propriety. Harry Caulfield’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ was shocking in its era and may still be so to young teenagers today.

As you write, look for a balance with what you feel comfortable writing, what you, as the narrator feels is right within your style for this book and what suits the characters and the story you are creating.

What may be right for one piece of work maybe wrong for another.

 

Okay…Why ‘TO USE’

We humans get angry. We crave precise expression and there is something about cursing and using vulgar language that works for us as a release valve for our emotions.

Who has not, at some time, experienced a moment when a string of expletives has not felt exquisitely sublime rolling off your tongue?

The same is so for your fictional characters. Be true, be honest to them. Let them have their voice.

Moreover, if you want your stories to be realistic about the settings, battlefields, bars and domestic disharmony, well-written raw language will bring your characters to life, give them a heartbeat and authenticity.

 

HOW TO USE

Spicy language generally works best when it’s used sparingly, or at least in moderation. That way, you preserve the element of the unexpected, which can be a pressure-reliever for both character and reader. Aside from conveying anger or frustration, raw talk can also be humorous, in that it reveals how a character truly feels about something.

Take this line for an instance: “I ate another doughnut”.

Compare it with: “I ate another goddamned doughnut”.

You instantly get a clue about this character and her relationship with doughnuts.

You may have one character who habitually uses profanity, in contrast to others who don’t. That, in itself, is a good individualiser.

If you, yourself, are not too familiar with foul language a problem can occur when used wrongly, or as often happens with inexperienced writers, it is thrown in will-nilly. If it is used it MUST sound real. If you are uncertain try visiting areas where this language is commonly used, construction sites, wharves, military establishments and prisons for example. Grab a coffee in a nearby café at lunchtime and eavesdrop on the clientele’s conversations!

However, a word of warning. Even if, say a group of Miners, use an expletive every other word, it is unnecessary for you to make your own characters speak exactly that way. Just as when using dialects and accents, you have to use raw-talk wisely. This helps keep the reader grounded in your imaginary world and avoids the pitfalls of over-use/over doing it.

Consider your characters, employ common sense.

A hospital Matron, wearing a starched linin apron, may not utter a single un-PC word in public, but she may let loose a barrage in the principal’s office over a dispute, or howl out a string of profanities during sexual fulfilment.

2c4a1f5016efabe9261e0c78049014bf

How NOT to USE

I mentioned some writers, Norman Mailer and Tom Clancy who chose to include bad-language into their works, but they pale into insignificance, almost, when it comes to literary genius. The bard himself, William Shakespeare, knew how to spice-up his writings and attract an audience in doing so.

He wrote the mother of all literary cuss-outs. (Cuss is simply a variant of Curse), in King Lear; but interestingly there is no profanity or obscenity as we know it, merely terrifically imaginative vulgarisms, delivered with passion. Here it is, the Earl of Kent preparing to thrash the crap out of Goneril’s loathsome lackey, Oswald:

KENT (TO OSWALD): “A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-liver’d, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, super serviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch, one whom I will beat into clamorous whining if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition”.

Knowing the historical references helps; for example, “broken meats” means leftover table scraps. But even without that, we can luxuriate in the rant. This is a beautiful speech for many reasons: It’s forceful, it’s unique, it covers many aspects of insult, it clearly communicates one character’s contempt of another, and—important for many in Shakespeare’s audience—it avoids serious curses and obscenities.

It’s a shining example of how a writer can invent insults way more entertaining than those found in the standard lexicon.

You can do it by brainstorming aspects of your characters and their circumstances:

“He was as appealing as a baboon’s butt”.

“You are the worst thing to happen to the world since call waiting”.

“May you be condemned to an eternity of weak coffee, warm gin and a driveway paved with roofing nails”.

By now, I think you will agree that it’s useful to explore—and perhaps even challenge—your own comfort zone.

Certainly if it is not you, it won’t ring true. But whether you decide to write common curses and vulgarisms into your work or not, your characters do need a verbal pressure valve. Do not use tacky asterisks to replace vowels. Just have fun with the process and remember that a ‘fug’ by any other name might sound remarkably original.

 

NOTE.

If your novel purports to reflect real life, then they must include profanity, if the life they reflect includes the use of profanities.

Let’s get real folks, you may have grown up in an era when books and movies were censored, but do you really think that in the Old West, cowboy’s actually said “You no-good-so-and-so” before drawing their six-shooters and blowing holes in one another?

Did the troops, dug into their fox-holes during WWII always speak in to each other in such a decorous manner?

I think not!

Some popular entertainment admittedly goes OTT in drenching dialogue in profanity, Such as in the opening sequences of ‘Born on the 4th of July’, but that is an exaggeration, not a fabrication, of reality.

 

So, why do people swear?

This will not cover any new territory. I expect that every angle regarding this has been covered in about every bar in every corner of the world!

People swear because the majority of profanity is emotionally charged. It can express anger, fear, sadness, joy, despair, frustration, ignorance, racism, homophobia, ageism, violence, sexism and all the other ‘isms’ and ‘tions’ you can name.

Occasionally a swear word can encompass all the above in a single word. That one word can grab people’s attention like no other when timed appropriately and, let us face it, very few things are quite as entertaining as listening to a person who has raised profanity to an art form.

You may disagree with those statements. I do not give a flying F**k…see what I mean!

When read that you do so as if I had written the word in full. Even though I ‘bleeped’ it out your mind supplied the details. Now your reaction was either positive or negative, depending on your personal personality. But you reacted.

Like I mentioned above, nothing ground breaking. Just a prelude to the answer you are seeking.

a4e22afb7cae9977e1076e8e1c256e25

‘Should YOU use profanity in YOUR writing?’

Writing is a process which takes pieces of ourselves and puts it ‘out-there’ for the world to see. It does not matter if you are writing literary fiction or genre fiction. Every character, setting, plot and sub-plot reveals a little about who we, as writers, are.

I doubt, very much, if a single day passes without you worrying about what you are writing.

(read that again if you wish, I’ll wait).

You see, every word we scribe invites judgment, criticism, commentary and, perhaps introspection. When we write something which surprises us, we often, most times, question where it came from.

That is because that we writers are a real self-conscious group. We are half scared to death of rejection! But if we filtered every word, considered the perception of each sentence through, say our Mothers, or Fathers, minds we would write nothing. Nothing at all.

What we have, what is so special, so personal is that little bit of ourselves that we add to the mix. Some reveals itself in plot, some in character, but most in the voice, in the narration, in our storytelling. That is where much of our fears lie, in revealing too much of ourselves, exposing our innermost to that ridicule and rejection.

BUT…if you do not add that to the mix the reader will smell you coming from a mile away. You will small like a fake, read like a fake and be discarded as a fake.

So, how does that answer the question about using profanities in your writing?

CONSIDERATIONS

As a writer you need to be true to yourself. You need to be true to your characters and voice. But don’t forget the other people you need to be true to:

Your Audience/Genre – If you forget who your audience is, for a single sentence or word, you will have lost them. If your audience demands a lack of profanity, then you had better not allow profanity to slip into your work. Not unless you are OK with alienating the very people you are trying to reach.

Your Editor – Your editor wants you to succeed. Your editor wants you…needs you…to sell books. You ignore your editor’s advice at your own peril.

Yourself – I know I have said this before, but I repeat it here for a different reason. If profanity is something that you are personally uncomfortable with then you will sound fake if you try to use it, regardless of the character in question. In fact, if a lack of profanity is one of your defining personal characteristics, then your characters will sound fake if you use it. Because, after all, your characters are nothing more than an extension of yourself. An audience can smell a fake a mile away. Be true to yourself, whether that means using profanity or avoiding it.

I am not going to tell you the world is going to smell like roses after you write something that raises people’s eyebrows. Especially if those eyebrows belong to people who are closely related to you, or who travel in social groups that are important to you. But you did not become a writer to fit in, did you?

I hope not.

Your writing has a chance to entertain, move, and bring people together.

It has a chance to shine a light on topics you care about in ways other writers have not.

It also has a chance to alienate you.

There is a chance your writing will be considered so offensive that society wants nothing to do with you. It is doubtful it will ever get that bad! but writing is taking a risk. Every time you put pen to paper you are stripping down and getting naked in front of the world.

There is never going to be a time where you do not question, at least once, “should I have written that?”

Recently I have read plentiful cursing in Stephen King novels, Nora Roberts books, and even (very sparingly) in John Grisham stories.

I have seen the use of cursing in both genre fiction and literary fiction. In some books just a little and in some a fair amount.

So, in full and final answer to the question… You are a writer. Welcome aboard the crazy train!

Image result for crazy train

© Paul White 2016


Love reading? Love writing? Why not take a look at Sneak Peek, the site that brings Readers & Authors together.

 http://goo.gl/Vw6Vqm

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

A bit about…Designing your Books Cover.

C&Vfront3

I shall try to stay away from as many technical words and as much jargon as I can.

Also, as designing a book cover can be an emotive subject, almost as much as writing the content. I shall say that the following are my personal observations and views, they are not a definitive or an absolute. I do not think any opinions regarding forms of art can be so.

Please feel free to comment, add your own insights and feedback regarding this subject.

So, where to start?

For this, I shall take a tip from the famous philosopher Winnie the Pooh, who said, “The beginning is a very good place to start!”

Your manuscript is completed, edited, re-written, polished, edited, beta read, proofread, edited, formatted and is now ready to go to print.

You are ecstatic. This is your masterpiece.

Now all you have to do is get people to read it.

To do that you need to sell lots of copies. (Unless you simply want to give it away?)

To sell lots of copies you need to attract people to your book.

To do that you need your masterpiece to stand out from the crowd.

Standing out from the masses of other books means having a great cover.

NOT a good cover, a great one.

That’s it.

Simple…

NO?

You are right.

Creating a great cover is not as simple as it first seems. All those thoughts and ideas in your head need transforming into a visual and onto relatively small area AND you need the title, maybe a sub-title, a sub-heading, or a catch-phrase. Then there is your name, you want that on the cover too, don’t you? Oh, and the back-cover ‘blurb’ you need that…now what about some graphics, images on the rear cover too? Is there enough room for that and the barcode?

That’s a lot to consider.

Yet that is only the most basic ‘stuff’! Colour, Images, illustrations, copyright, text style, point size, trim, bleed…oh, you have not thought this far ahead yet?

OK, let’s get basic.

Firstly, you have to get rid of any preconceptions you have. (Not easy).

It is almost impossible to detach yourself from your book, your story, ‘your baby’. But you must if you want a cover which will sell your book.

Nobody but you will ever see, or feel your story as you do. Each reader will have their own personal interpretation.

That is how reading works.

Don’t get caught in the trap of believing otherwise.

Creating a cover is like a black art. It is a totally different skill to writing. Please do not confuse the two.

A book cover’s paramount job is to communicate the book’s content and convey information concerning both what the book is about and what the book is like.

The front and back flaps have something to say and experienced readers may find clues in a summary statement or author’s note. But the text and graphics on the cover deliver the most immediate and indelible impression. A cover’s imagery can establish character, setting, and plot. A cover’s style can suggest tone, mood, and narrative quality. And extraordinary covers employ both elements in synergy.

 

The second step, be sure of your target audience. That is the people who read the same genre as your book. (Known as demographics in the trade)

You need to ascertain what they look for in a cover, what it is that attracts them to pick up a book, to read the back jacket and ultimately buy.

Big publishing houses spend a fortune on researching this, millions of pounds a year. An amount I doubt you have to spare, even after scrabbling down the back of the sofa.

So use the big publishers as your research, this will only cost you time.

Check out other authors book covers in the same genre, particularly the mainstream published authors. Walk around the store, surf the net. See what the new trends are. Make notes, take photos, make a ‘like’ board.

This is a good starting point.

 

The next step is to decide what you want the cover to ‘say’. I am not talking about the use of words (yet); I am simply speaking of image perception.

Here are two simple rules:

Don’t Show Too Much of Your Character

It may be tempting to show your book’s main character on the cover, but this usually is not a very good idea. Most readers prefer to use their imagination to depict the story and characters in their own head.

Be Simple, Strong and Symbolic

Refrain from depicting a specific scene on the cover of your book.

It is better to be more symbolic or iconic with your cover design. Try to come up with a simple eye-catching idea that anyone will understand on first sight. Keep in mind that most people will see your book as a tiny picture on a bookstore website or out the corner of their eye in a bookstore. In either instance, a strong, simple, symbolic cover is much more likely to catch their attention than one that is complicated or cluttered.

 

 The next consideration is the text.

What typestyle (fonts) to use.

Do not use (anywhere): Comic Sans.

This font is only acceptable if you are writing a humorous book, or intentionally attempting to create a design that publishing professionals will laugh at.

Please, no font explosions or special styling. Usually, a cover should not contain more than 2 fonts. Avoid the temptation to put words in caps, italics caps, outlined caps, etc. Do not be tempted to “shape” the type either.

Where to put your Title and Authors name; Top, middle, bottom, vertical, horizontal?

The title should be big and easy to read.

This is more important than ever. (Many people will first encounter your cover on a screen, not on a shelf.)

Do not forget to review a thumbnail image of the cover.

Ask yourself this; Is the cover compelling at a small size? More people are buying books on a Kindle or mobile device, so you want the cover to read clearly no matter where it appears.

You should also anticipate what the cover looks like in grayscale.

 

Now, back to the artwork.

Rule no. 1, Do not use cheap clip art on your cover. I’m talking about the stuff that comes free with Microsoft Word or other cheap layout programs.

Rule no.2, Do not stick an image inside a box on the cover. This is known as the “T-shirt” design. It looks extremely amateurish.

Rule no.3, Avoid gradients. It’s especially game-over if you have a cover with a rainbow gradient.

Rule no.4, Avoid garish colour combinations. Sometimes such covers are meant to catch people’s attention. Usually, it just makes your book look freakish!

After all this, if your head is not spinning from the do’s and do not’s I will be surprised. Let me make it simple with a great example of excellent covers.

The bestselling author, Sophie Kinsella’s novels have about everything that is right when considering a book cover.

These romantic comedy covers have not been created by accident. They are specifically designed and crafted via Penguin Random House.

Clearly, the target audience is a, young, twenties something, fun, flirty, feminine female.

Best known for her ‘Shopaholic’ series, the main images on these covers are of highly stylized woman, with a clutch of designer carrier bags, against a background suggestive of location.

Here are three examples which follow all the rules (do’s & do not’s).

51-0SPdiUsL._UY250_519s6VsDJ0L._UY250_51Yy5LBLjgL._UY250_

 

These are my suggestions for a great book cover:

Keep it simple.

Avoid clutter.

The only hint at the content.

Go with the latest trends in your genre…OR…

Take a punt at something ‘outside the box’ (but try to keep within these guidelines).

Below are some covers I love, even my own award-winning designs…Oh, didn’t I mention I also design covers for Indie Authors…how remiss of me!

ARSONGR-lifeboatSofEmfront1

privacybcFLOYD7full-dark-book-cover2

If you would like to contact me about cover design, please feel free to email me at pwauthor@mail.com 

Please put ‘book cover enquiry’ into the subject bar.

Thank you, Paul.

 

How do your characters move?

Three men wearing masks,and holding guns while running(blurred motion)

It has been far too long since I have written a new post for this blog. The reason is that I have been busy writing my own stories for future publication.

During this time, as I reviewed and edited, I noticed how often I fell into the same trap as many others writers.

You see, as we writers scribble down our words our poor little fingers cannot keep up with the flow of information coming from our minds, so we tend, at least in the first draft, to use words, or a set of words which are the easiest, it is not a matter of laziness, because we know that we shall have to come back and make adjustments and corrections. It is simply a way of getting our thoughts on paper (or the computer screen).

But how dull, how boring and undescriptive that leaves our work, and how darned repetitive is ‘she said, he said’ or ‘he walked to the door, she walked to the door’. Yet it is often the way one must scribe their initial thoughts before they flit from our minds and disappear forever into the gloom of the forgotten.

My pet hate, the one I shall address here, is about movement, the descriptive movement of the characters which inhabit the fictitious worlds of our stories.

When I read that someone has ‘suddenly stood up’ or ‘started to walk to the door’ I cannot help but cringe.

No one ‘suddenly’ stands, they either stand or they do not.

No one ‘starts’ to walk, they either walk or they do not.

So my friends I have a little, sorry, a rather long list of possible alternatives which are far more descriptive. This is not, in any way, a definitive list, but merely an Aide-mémoire to help when we have a ‘mind-block’.

(For simplicity you will see they are all ‘he’-‘she’, but you will get the gist!)

I do however hope you find it useful, or in the least suggestive. Feel free to cut/paste/copy/bookmark or whatever you will. I have, after all, written this to help us all.

THE LIST!

he lowered his head

she hung her head

he ducked

she bowed her head

he covered his eyes with a hand

she pressed her hands to her cheeks

she raised her chin

he lifted his chin

her hands squeezed into fists

his hands tightened into fists

she clenched her fists

she balled her fists

he unclenched his fists

her arms remained at her sides

he shrugged

she gave a half shrug

he lifted his shoulder in a half shrug

she gave a dismissive wave of her hand

she raised a hand in greeting

he waved

she held up her hands

he lifted his hands

she held up her palms

he threw his hands in the air

she brushed her palms together

he rubbed his hands together

she made a steeple of her fingers

he spread his hands

she gesticulated

he waved his hands

she clapped her hands

he snapped his fingers

she held up a finger

he pointed

she gestured with a thumb

he jerked his thumb toward…

she extended her middle finger toward him

he gave her the finger

she gave him the thumbs up

she put her hands on her hips

she shoved her hands in her pockets

he jammed his hands in his front pockets

she rested a hand on her hip

she jutted out her hip

she folded her arms

he crossed his arms over his chest

she hugged herself

he wrapped his arms around himself

she rocked back and forth

she spread her arms wide

he held out his arms

she held out her hand

he extended a hand

he shook his head

she nodded

he bobbed his head

she tilted her head

he cocked his head

she inclined her head

he jerked her head in the direction of…

she turned her face away

he looked away

his breaths quickened

she panted

she was breathing hard

his chest rose and fell with rapid breaths

she took in a deep breath

he drew in a long breath

she took in a sharp breath

he gasped

she held her breath

he let out a harsh breath

she exhaled

he blew out his cheeks

she huffed

he sighed

she snorted

she laughed

he giggled

she guffawed

he chuckled

she gave a bitter laugh

he gave mirthless laugh

she tittered

he cackled

she rubbed her shoulder

he kneaded his shoulder

he rolled his shoulders

she tensed her shoulders

he massaged the back of his neck

she rubbed her temples

she rubbed her hands on her thighs

she ran her hand through her hair

he threaded a hand through his hair

he raked his fingers through his hair

he shoved his hair back away from his face

she toyed with a lock of hair

she played with her hair

she twirled her hair

she wrapped a curl around her finger

she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear

she undid her ponytail and shook out her hair

she tossed her hair

he buried his hands in his hair

he stroked his beard

he scratched his beard

she tugged at her earlobe

he bit a nail

she chewed on a cuticle

she picked at her nails

she inspected her fingernails

he plucked at the cuff of his shirt

she picked a piece of lint from her sleeve

he adjusted the lapels of his jacket

she fiddled with her earring / bracelet

he twisted the wedding ring on his finger

she played with her cell phone

he tugged at his shirt collar

he adjusted his tie

she smoothed down her skirt

she scratched her nose

he scratched his head

he rubbed his forehead

she rubbed her eyes

she pinched the bridge of her nose

he held his nose

she slapped her forehead

he smacked his forehead

he facepalmed

he slapped a hand over her mouth

she covered her mouth with her hand

she pressed her fingers to her lips

he held his finger up to his lips

he rubbed his chin

she pressed a hand to her throat

he clutched his chest

he leaned against the wall

she bounced on her toes

she jumped up and down

he tapped his foot

she stomped her foot

she folded her hands in her lap

she drummed her fingers on the table

he tapped his fingers on the table

he slammed his hand on the table

she pounded her fist on the table

she set her palms down flat on the table

he rested his hands on the table

she set her hands on the table, palms up

he leaned back in his chair

she hooked her feet around the chair legs

he gripped the arm of the chair

she put her hands behind her head

he put his feet on the desk

he fidgeted

she jiggled her foot

he swung his leg

she crossed her legs

he uncrossed his legs

she crossed her ankles in front of her

she stretched out her legs in front of her

he sprawled out

he put his feet on the desk

she cringed

he shuddered

she flinched

he shivered

she trembled

his body shook

she cowered

he shrank from…

she huddled in the corner

he pulled away

she jerked away

he turned away

she jolted upright

he stiffened

she straightened

he tensed

he jumped

she jumped to her feet

he stood up

she rose from her seat

she relaxed

he hunched

she slouched

her shoulders sagged

his shoulders slumped

she wilted

he went limp

he rolled his shoulders

she squared her shoulders

she clasped her hands behind her back

he puffed out his chest

she thrust out her chest

he propped his chin on his hand

she rested her chin on her palm

he yawned

she stretched

he turned around

she whirled around

he pivoted

she reeled

she stepped away

she drew nearer

he leaned closer

she inched forward

he loomed closer

he paced

she shifted from one foot to the other

he swayed on his feet

she dragged her feet

she pumped a fist

he thrust his fists in the air

she punched the air

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.

Understanding Black. (Notes for writers).

Vanishing-Flame-Wallpaper-black-28305469-1024-640

Be it poetry, the opening scene of short story or an emotive section of a novel, the colour black is often utilised by writers to project or convey a ‘certain feeling’ to the reader.

But how many of us have actually considered why we perceive black in the way we do?

As one of the tools in our wordsmithing armoury should we not understand why the word black can be such a powerful device?

Generally black embodies the values of death, depression and evil. It can be used to describe something terrible or maybe a void.

But why do we identify black with badness, immorality or malevolent actions?

It is common in our society to use the word black as an exclusion, such as blacklist, black mark, or black sheep. We also apply it to people who we perceive of unpleasant actions, such as saying they have a black heart or black soul.

You may say it is because one wears black to a funeral, or it is the colour of mourning. But that is not necessarily so. In other cultures, such as China and India the traditional colour for mourning and reflecting death is white.

Not until Bollywood adopted and merged some western ideology into the Indian cinema, would you ever see anyone wearing anything but white sari at a funeral. In fact it would be considered impolite to wear black at any Hindu funeral.

Much of this form of the perception of black is a Christian/Western opinion based on ancient observation or teachings, much based on historical legend.

Ancient Greek myth has it that at the beginning there was just ‘Chaos’ or Khaos. (This does not mean ‘Disorder’ in the contemporary sense, but rather ‘Chasm’, in the sense of a dark, gaping space).

downloadKhaos gave birth to Erebus, the darkness of the Underworld and Nyx.

Nyx was the goddess of the night, one of the ancient Protogenoi (first-born elemental gods). In the cosmogony of Hesiod she was born of (Khaos) and breeding with Darkness (Erebos), produced Light (Aither) and Day (Hemera), first components of the primeval universe. Alone, she spawned a brood of dark spirits, including the fates, Sleep, Death, Strife and Pain.

Nyx was a primeval goddess usually represented as simply the substance of night: a dark veil of mist drawn forth from the underworld which blotted out the light of Aither (shining upper atmosphere).

Even in Nordic legend black has a prominence. The fire giant whose sparks made the universe.

Surt is the King of Fire in Norse mythology, the Lord of the Fire-Giants of the realm of Muspellheim.20a7f6c18823e6ed7d2cf7e4b25c4d4e

In the beginning, there was only the blackness of Ginnungagap, and then Surt appeared out of the blackness with his flaming sword and touched the land, it lit up and became the Realm of Fire.

Eventually it drew close enough to Niflheim, the primal Realm of Ice, that it warmed and melted the frozen earth, revealing Ymir the primal frost-giant and Audumhla the Great Cow. In this way, life was created from the meeting of fire and ice.

With these ancient wisdoms and beliefs being passed down the generations it is no wonder that darkness, that the deep black of night still has a resonance of anxiety and apprehension within us all.

Modern knowledge may have more acceptable theories such as the big bang, yet even here it is suggested that it was many thousand millennia after the bang before the first stars began to form, which is almost inconceivable to comprehend.

The thoughts of endless night, a total void of nothingness, a black hole encompassing the entire universe is frightening to most.

So it is not surprising that based on tradition, folklore, socially established conventions and custom that we westerners perceive black to hold the qualities of evil, depravity and immorality. Much of this is due to our cultural dread and fear of the unknown, the unseen and the minus light of darkness.

Now, add a touch of Hollywood movie conjoined with mass media and you have an ideal breading ground to spread rumour, fabrication, falsehood and fiction, all of which so easily becomes assimilated into the psyche of modern society.

saint-francis-borgia-helping-a-dying-impenitent-goya

Suddenly black is the epitome of all evil, it is the quintessence of Goyan nightmares, of original sin, of death, of satanic rituals, black mass, sexual depravation and transgression.

Black becomes the cloak of darkness for vampires, the shadow where werewolves lurk, forests of malevolent spirits and the embodiment of evil itself.

Or does it?

Because there is another side to black, a lighter, brighter side to this deepest of darkness.

Fashion, glamour, opulence, style and desirability.

Black is the new black.

Here lies a social and perceptive disjuncture.

The sleek aesthetics of glossy black fashion, a world of sequins, leather of obsidian jet chic and metallic black Ferraris.

Here is a transgression from black’s authority of depression and nightmare.

This is a juncture where modern mindfulness separates the black associated with the natural world, the world of dark recesses and shadows of mystery and myth, from the brighter black of the contemporary, enlightened and progressive world of today.

The little black dress, appealing, sensual, hinting at naughtiness, suggestive of excitement. This is sexy black, the black of lacy underwear, of thin straps revealing rather than concealing, the offering of promise.

black-101

Yet even here the evocative black is tinged with an inference of deprivation, of transgression from the acceptable. It is that, the allure of going beyond the boundaries, the immorality of wild or illicit acts which is attractive, which whets our carnal appetites.

The modern black, the black of this world is the white light black of Newton and Robert Boyle.

So be it.

Therefore to know, to understand which black to choose when weaving that spell in your novel of dark fantasy, or which black to spill across the pages of a bloody thriller is a most important element.

Select the modern black, the industrial manufactured black for seduction and pride, for sex and sheen.

Take hold of the natural, the organic, ancient, primordial black which seeps uncertainty, drips terror and dread for your dark scenes, your night horrors and death itself.

Choose your darkness well my friends, write admirably and when the shadows of sleep creep upon your wearied eyelids, shutting the out the light, sleep soundly in the comfort of the black night……If you dare.

© Paul White 2015

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

You may also enjoy reading some of my short stories at: https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/

0074bd6682ca87013572bdaae6ee2bc9

Sitting in the garden

DSCF0141


As the title indicates I am writing this as I sit my garden.

I am sat at the large table on the raised decking which is, at this time, bathed in dappled sunlight. I can hear the water from the falls melodically splashing into the ponds, and the heady scent from the mass of blooms is gently wafting around me, carried by the light breeze.

It is, in my opinion, the perfect place and atmosphere for a writer to work.

Since coming into the garden a short while ago I have furthered a piece, which is destined to be a jointly written story with another writer, one who I adore and respect. Written a poem, which by the time you read this will be in my book Teardrops & White Doves (Available via Amazon)! and I am now attempting to write something of interest for you in this Rambling of mine.

As with many of my Ramblings I do not have a particular subject or topic in mind when I begin to write, I just start to tap away at the keys and hope that something evolves that is informative, interesting and enjoyable to read.

In fact, if I achieve any any two of these three things then I shall consider this Rambling a success!

images (2)

I have, in past Ramblings, spoken of Writers Block, Inspiration, Creativity, Imagery and a whole plethora of various subjects, many which have absolutely nothing to do with actually writing at all. but of the common tasks and problems we writers face in our daily lives.

However, it seems that as my Rambling have developed, from very short notes about whatever was at the forefront of my mind, to my later posts (which have unconsciously, and almost subliminally from my point of view, strayed into the theme of the techniques of writing), I have won the minds, if not the hearts of so many of you, so many friends, that I now feel so very humbled indeed.

I mean that in all honesty and with my hand firmly placed on my heart.

I read each and every comment you post in reply and try my best to answer them all.

So this is a thank you, a big thank you to all of you who read my irrelevant scribbling’s regularly, and a welcome to those of you who may be reading a Rambling for the first time.

   I hope it will not be the last time you do so!

As for the subject of this particular Rambling, there really isn’t one!

Except to say that for a writer, as with so many artistic vocations, the stimulus needed to create are many and varied. For me the atmosphere of my garden right now is an absolutely perfect environment to get those creative juices flowing.

I hope I have not squandered nature’s gift of a beautiful day, but have, in some respect, justified her benevolence.

Thank you all for reading this Rambling.

Bless you, Paul.

   To see more of my work, or to find out more about me, visit my website

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

A bit on Literary Techniques

Generally, my Ramblings are a rather….well general!

I do not tend to write in a scholarly constructive fashion, because I do not consider myself a teacher or an authority of literary genius.

article-1391937-0C50A38B00000578-288_233x423

I prefer to allow indefinite abstract descriptions to suggest and evoke the reader’s own perceptions and introspection to convey the message of each Rambling.

There are however certain aspects of writing I find myself trying to explain, to those who ask, on a frequent basis.

It can be rather difficult to clarify the particular methods and the reasons I utilise certain styles and narrative form when writing for an assortment of diverse projects and various fictional works.

So, unlike many of my previous Ramblings, this one addresses the topic with a little more directness.

I say a little more because in my heart of hearts I believe that the soul of the writer, the artist that lays within, is the greatest asset of all. No one can learn to write unwillingly; the writer must have love and passion above teaching and education. The writer must want to write above all else.

As mentioned above this Rambling touches on the subjective matter of literary techniques, in particular, style and narration. So firstly I think I should try and define these two separate, but closely related subjects.

I will not, in this Rambling, do more than skim the surface of this issue as I do not want to become too bogged down in technicalities.

Ok then, Narrative. Sometimes referred to as ‘the writer’s voice’. I do not like this term as it can be very misleading.

A narrative is the voice a reader ‘hears’ in their mind when reading. This is NOT the writer’s voice, (which is why I dislike that term), yet it is created by the writer. To explain it better, it is like an actor speaking the words of the scriptwriter in a film or play rather than the writer speaking his words directly.

The effect in a drama is the actor(ress) uses their skills of timing and intonation to convey the words in a meaningful and powerful way. This is pretty much what happens in the reader’s own mind when they read your written word. The reader will ‘hear’ the various voices of the characters and the general narrative as if being spoken by a third party.

A good writer can have many of these voices, according to the type of story or article being written, or the writer can keep one consistent form of narration to establish his/her own unique and recognisable narrative voice.

Narrative techniques are employed to provide deeper meaning, it helps the reader to use imagination and to visualise events and situations.

The literary elements in narrative include settings, plots, theme, characters and so on. The literary techniques used in the application are best understood as being metaphors, personifications, imagery, backstory, flash-forwards, similes, foreshadowing, perspective, and hyperbole; Basically figurative language.

Got that?

o-confused-woman-facebook1

Now a little about Style.

Style has a broader sweep than narrative. Some writers have a comprehensive style, one which is ornate, long, and complex. These are packed with metaphors and imagery. Others have a more direct, straightforward style, they tend to be constructed of simple sentences and spares prose.

A good exercise to clarify this is to read two newspapers or high-quality magazines. These usually have a determined style, a house style if you like. Yet throughout, each article and report will be written by a different author whose own narration is evident to their particular piece. This way the newspaper or magazine’s continuity stays together.

I will not, at this time delve any deeper into this subject, but leave you to consider the above. For those of you who are hardened and experienced hacks, I apologise for this Rambling as it is less of a Ramble than is my usual want. (You will no doubt have noticed that the above narrations are far from my norm)!

However, not all who read this are trained, tutored or as experienced as you may be.

I love writing, it is my hobby as well as my work and I am happy to share whatever knowledge I have; which is really very little.

I shall end this not very Rambling Ramble with an apology once again for being quite direct and not wandering off track and into the back alleys of randomness. I promise my the next Rambling will be back to my normal irrational narrative style.

Note….’Narrative style’….now does that confuse you?

Catch you next time, Paul.

Please feel free to visit my website and browse around. Email me when you buy one of my books, I might just send you a gift 🙂

https://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white