Image Credit: Images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Now there’s an interesting combination of topics for the letter R in my In Fiction series.
I'm a published flash fiction and short story writer, as well as a blogger. My fiction work has appeared in anthologies from Cafelit and Bridge House Publishing.
My first flash fiction collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again, was published by Chapeltown Books in 2017.
My follow-up, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, was published by Chapeltown Books in 2020.
I adore the works of many authors but my favourites are Jane Austen, P.G. Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett.
I like to describe my fiction as fairytales with bite.
Now there’s an interesting combination of topics for the letter R in my In Fiction series.
I use questions a lot in my storytelling and, to a certain extent, for blogs like this. How? Well, it is appropriate I set a question to start this piece!
Paragraphs and punctuation may not be the most immediate things to spring to mind for the letter P in my In Fiction series but they have important roles to play in creative writing.
It was a pleasure to be back at Ritchie Hall in Hursley Road to watch The Chameleon Theatre Group perform their postponed pantomime, The Dragon of Wantley. This was originally due to be staged in January.
Janet and I had a wonderful evening which was full of laughs. Comedy can be a real tonic at times (as can farcical comedy which pantomime excels at) and I must admit I walked home, feeling cheered and uplifted for watching a fabulous show. After the last couple of years, a good laugh was exactly what was needed.
Is there such a thing as original fiction? Hmm… you may think that’s an odd question for me to ask and the answer to that must be “yes”.
Names are as important in fiction as they are to us in life. Names give us a sense of who we are. They are a major part of our identity and names can reveal so much about ourselves.
Names can indicate someone’s likely social class, whether they’re traditionalists or not, and something of their family background too. Writers can play on that to help add depth to their characterisation. Names can also indicate the genre of a book. Well, you’re not going to find the likes of Frodo Baggins turn up in a Jane Austen novel, are you?
It is the irony of all fiction writing that, while everyone knows the stories are made up, people want characters they can believe.
These characters must be true to life so a story writer’s job is to make their characters seem real enough that, if the situation could happen in reality, these would be the characters who would also exist in reality.
Laughter is one of the great joys of life and it has a huge range. This is reflected in fiction too. There are the laugh out loud stories, those wonderful moments of irony, slapstick, the great one-liners and so on. What matters in stories is that humour arises naturally out of the characters and the situations the writer has put them in (and often the greater the height from which the author has dropped their characters in it, the better).
Forcing humour never works. Something is funny or not, as the case may be. When I interviewed Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh on this topic, their insights showed how difficult writing writing humour can be though both ladies manage it magnificently despite writing in different genres. Fran writes memoir with humour. Ruth writes women’s fiction with humour.
My topic this time for the In Fiction series is a study in contrasts.
Kindness and killing feature heavily in fiction, the latter particularly in the crime and horror genres. Kindness turns up in the classic fairytales and in fantasy and will often be those moments in a story when our hero/heroine has to rely on someone else to help them through a difficult time. It is that break, that help, which enables them to go on and successfully complete their quest etc.
This acts as a reminder to us that no man is an island, we all need help and kindness at times, and that kindness can reinvigorate us. Fiction should reflect that.
I’ve recently returned from the Scottish Association of Writers (SAW) conference, which was held at the Westerwood Hotel, Cumbernauld from 18th to 20th March 2022.
How come a Hampshire based lass ended up here? Two reasons really:-
1. I am a member of History Writers, an online group only meeting once a month on Zoom. This group is affiliated to SAW. I gave a talk to them this month on historical flash fiction. I have written some historically based pieces, hope to do more, and have a general interest in history anyway.
2. Wendy H Jones! I know Wendy thanks to the Association of Christian Writers and she is president of SAW. She also set up the History Writers group. Now I’ve mentioned the importance of networking as you make wonderful writing friends and opportunities can arise too. Let nobody say I don’t take my own advice!
Wendy invited me to judge one of SAW’S competitions – the Margaret McConnell Woman’s Short Story – and to run a flash fiction workshop. I was only too pleased to accept.
This post is timely because by the time this goes out I will be up in Scotland again for the Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference. I’m running a flash fiction workshop there and have judged one of their competitions (the Margaret McConnell Woman’s Short Story).
I hope to interrupt my In Fiction series to report back on how things went soon. And yes I loved the train journey (Waterloo, King’s Cross, Edinburgh, Croy) – the scenery on much of the route is amazing. It’s the second time I’ve been up to Scotland in the last few months as I was at the Brechin and Angus Book Festival back in November.
They say that a picture is a thousand words but don’t discount those words. For one thing, one thousand words is a flash fiction story! An artist paints with oils, watercolours etc., whereas a writer paints with words. And those words can make a powerful impact on readers.
By inventing characters readers can identify with, we can use those characters to convey deep truths in what we get them to say and how we get them to act. We can also use those characters as representations. Allegorical tales are the classical example of this.
One aspect of fiction, whatever its genre or length, is it does reflect on our behaviour. It isn’t flattering either, most of the time. The classic fairytales, for example, call evil out for what it is and the kind of evil shown in them (such as cruelty to step children) is something we see only far too often for real.
Stories tell us what we know. Even in the most fantastical of settings, there will be something we can identify with (otherwise, why would we read such things?).
And human behaviour is the direct reason for any story. We use stories to try to make sense of the world we know (and perhaps more than ever in crisis times such as the one we’re going through now with the situation in Ukraine).
Geography may seem unglamorous but it plays a major role in many great stories. The Lord of the Rings would not work without its geography of The Shire, Rohan, Gondor and, of course, Mordor. (I’ve always loved the map at the start of the book too).
Wuthering Heights wouldn’t be the same without its geography and The Hound of the Baskervilles would not work nearly so well if the story wasn’t set in a bleak setting (to intensify the mystery as to what the hound is given it’s easier to hide something monstrous on a moor!).
The definition of framework is an essential supporting structure of a building, vehicle, or object. Well, that can be extended out to include stories. They need a structure to make them work.
A story of whatever length has to have an opening which hooks the reader in but the closing line must deliver on the promise of the set-up at the start of the tale. Weak endings leave a reader feeling cheated (aka the “why did I bother reading that” scenario and no writer wants that).
Dialogue is something I love writing though I use it more in short stories (1500 words plus) than in my flash fiction (1000 words maximum).
I’m sure this topic could go on for several weeks but I thought a whistlestop tour of some of the major character types you’re likely to come across would be fun.
Best friends, often otherwise known as sidekicks, have an invaluable role to play in fiction. They shore up, sometimes literally, the lead character who is struggling with their task. The most famous example of this is Sam Gamgee from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings who did carry both Frodo Baggins and the Ring of Power for a while as the story progressed.
Best friends are there for moral support too and to be a sounding ground for the lead character. Well, we all need someone to sound off with at times, right? And characters in stories reflect us and our behaviour and attitudes (for good and ill), so this aspect is important.
Some of my favourite childhood books involved animals. Think about Timmy from The Famous Five by Enid Blyton. I suspect he was the most intelligent of the lot of them.
I am an asthmatic, it was worse when I was a child and there was no question then of being able to have a dog of my own. But I could read about them and loved doing so. Ironically now I have no problems with having a dog as a companion and I still love reading. Neither do I mind animal characters as long as they are realistically portrayed.