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Day 20: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Story Plot, Conflict & Resolution

Posted on : 22-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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On Day 11 and Day 12, I posted a short story for the purpose of showing you how I edit a story.  Here I finish my discussion of the story and will be talking about the plot, the conflict in the story and the resolution.

Paper and Pen by Orin Zebest on Flickr CC

Paper and Pen by Orin Zebest on Flickr CC

Plot

The plot is probably one of the most important parts of the story. The plot is all about what action actually takes place in the story. In the case of The House on the Hill, the answer is, “Not much!”

You could actually explain the story in a couple of sentences and everyone would understand what it was about, but it is the inner story – Joseph’s memories and the story of his friend that brings it to life. Short stories are often better if they contain some sort of ‘twist’ or surprise at the end that creeps up on the reader. This can be quite hard to do, as it can seem that pretty much every twist has been done to death.

As an example, I remember when the film, The Empire Strikes Back came out and that plot twist shocked audiences up and down the country – that Darth Vader was Luke’s father. It was pretty momentous and everyone was shocked. In those days, we didn’t have spoiler trailers like we do now. That was an absolutely amazing plot twist at the time which the makers of the film managed to keep secret until the film was actually released. However if a film was pitched today that had the villain turning out the be the hero’s father, it would be laughed at – what a cliche!

I’m not convinced that this plot holds up to scrutiny. I think it needs work to turn this into a good short story. I have to admit that I just sat down and wrote with the intention of pulling it apart so it’s not a problem. I know it needs more work. If it is going to have a twist, then it needs to be a better one that will surprise the reader.

Conflict

The story could not be considered by any stretch of the imagination to be exciting, but there is a certain tension created when Joseph starts feeling unwell. There is a sense that not all is well, but the estate agent is oblivious to anything but herself and the sale. The conflict could do with being built up more to bring a bit more action to the story. Joseph sees his memories of his lost childhood friend everywhere, in the faded photo, in his own memories of the incident that led to her death and even in the cry of the seagulls as he steps away from the house.

Resolution

Joseph has come with the intention of buying the house, but he finds too many memories and decides that the visit around his former friend’s house is enough. He will not be buying the house, but he does have a sense of closure as he leaves it.

Looking back through the story, I feel that it would need some rewriting to include more events happening to make the story more readable and interesting. The initial characters are good, but there needs to be more tension created between them and there needs to be a more definite conflict and resolution. At some point, I will rewrite the story and repost it, so you can see if it has improved at all.

If you have enjoyed this post, please comment below and share to your social media of choice. Thank you.

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Day 19: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Short Story Setting

Posted on : 21-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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My blog posts on Day 11 and Day 12 were two halves of a short story, written quickly to use as an example for editing. Here, I would like to discuss setting.

Sea Cliff 2 by Mary Penny on Flickr cc

Sea Cliff 2 by Mary Penny on Flickr cc

The setting of a story discusses where the story takes place. In The House on the Hill, the action all takes place around an old empty house.

The House on the Hill is a house for sale on a cliff side. The house has clearly been loved, but now it is empty of people, although furniture remains. There is a photo that clearly brings back memories for Joseph as he goes back to look for it.

The house is described as:

  • mail swept from the floor – unlived in
  • coloured window panels and tiled floor in the hall
  • double fronted – so a large house (double fronted is when the house has a room either side of the front door)
  • 3 bedrooms
  • sea-facing lounge with high ceiling and carved plaster
  • faded wallpaper
  • furniture covered with dust sheets
  • threadbare rugs
  • furniture not wanted – if buyer does not want then will be put in a skip
  • old-fashioned Quaker kitchen with quarry tiled floor
  • water still connected
  • patio doors from kitchen leading to an ‘unruly’ i.e. overgrown garden
  • smallest bedroom – a girl’s room with girl’s books

There is quite a lot of information about the house, and one thing as author I need to check – that it does not conflict. The house seems to evoke a number of different eras and perhaps it might be better if it were all tied to one era, the one where Peggy died.

Setting also includes atmosphere. The story tries to be mysterious. Does it succeed? I’m not sure it does. It needs to decide if it wants to be a ghost story, a memoir or something else. The setting of the house needs some minor tweaks, but I need to decide exactly what kind of story it is going to be and perhaps add some more clues to enable the reader to follow along.

If you have enjoyed this blog post, then please share it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you.

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Day 18: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Rewrite my ‘About’ Page

Posted on : 20-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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This is just a brief post so that I don’t have a day missing. My revised ‘About’ page can now be read by clicking on the ‘About’ tab at the top of the page.

I had rewritten it fairly recently so it hasn’t had too drastic a change. Some different formatting choices have taken place and I have updated the amount of time that I have been working as a freelance.

Feel free to check it out and comment below. Thanks.

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Day 17: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Testimonials about my Work

Posted on : 18-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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What Others Say

I decided to go into freelance writing following a change in physical circumstances and a realisation that I needed something that meant I didn’t have to stand all day.

The happiest place on earth by Peter Dutton on Flickr CC

The happiest place on earth by Peter Dutton on Flickr CC

I have a steady but not spectacular stream of work and a supportive husband which enables me to keep freelancing. I have enjoyed talking to lots of different clients over the years but have only met 3 in person. I have always tried to ask for testimonials, but not everyone responds. However those who do are very kind and complimentary. My paid work is as a freelance copywriter, writing blogs, web content, product descriptions and anything else that my clients require. The variety of the job is the thing I love about it.

One of my first jobs was for a local website developer. I worked on blog posts and articles on a number of subjects. Lee Davies was a small business owner who built and developed websites local to me and he first asked me to do two articles – one on marble and one about granite. I asked him for a testimonial at the end of a job where he asked me to write some content for his new website and he kindly agreed:

“I have utilised the copywriting services of Sarah Charmley on numerous occasions, and have found that the standard of work has been excellent. Sarah has provided articles and web copy on a wide range of subjects, the content has been focussed and well thought out. Without exception, deadlines for the copy have always been met and in most cases arrived ahead of schedule. Highly Recommended.”

Lee Davies, WebPageOne Solutions Ltd

Thanks, Lee, I enjoyed working with you too. This recommendation has long graced my Portfolio page.

A number of people I have worked for, have never got around to putting pen to paper to give me a recommendation, although I usually try and ask. One who kindly did, has put a review up for me at freelancers.net:

Sarah has freelanced for us on a regular basis since the beginning of 2014 to create product descriptions for our ecommerce website. We have always found Sarah to be a diligent and speedy copywriter, who produces content to a consistently good standard. I would recommend Sarah without hesitation if you are looking for a reliable and good value freelancer.

Clare K.

I began by uploading product descriptions to the website, but was offered the job of social media manager for the website last year. I really enjoy the job, researching and writing regular blog posts on health and promoting them via social media.

I got some great praise about two months after I had started work. They had previously had an SEO company writing their blog posts for them, but they had to come up with the ideas for the posts. I research and write all the blog posts myself. I got this great praise passed on from their other director:

Btw our blogs are WAY better than before, i actually read half of them now, genuinely interesting…

To those of you out there who work with freelancers, if they ask you for a review, do take time to let them know you appreciate them – it can really make a freelancer’s day!

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Day 16: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Halfway

Posted on : 17-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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Wow, suddenly it’s day 16 and I‘ve been blogging consecutively for 15 days! I’m really glad that I took up this challenge and I’m learning a lot from it.

April 2012 Art Challenge Tulips by COLOURED PENCIL magazine Flickr CC

April 2012 Art Challenge Tulips by COLOURED PENCIL magazine Flickr CC

So far I’ve learned:

  • that finding topics can be fun and that it’s important to choose a topic that I feel I can offer some information on
  • that I need to think about keywords more
  • that prioritising time to blog pays off in terms of the pleasure of seeing this blog grow and improving it with new content

This challenge has reminded me how much I do like blogging about my own subject (as opposed to writing blogs for clients) and that it is really pleasing to see the number of blog posts increase substantially. I also love getting emails each day.

Could do better:

  • need to set up that editorial calendar – I can see the benefit of it, but unfortunately it’s been a bit of a frustrating week at work. No excuses, though, should’ve done it!
  • Keep improving SEO. I use All-in-One SEO and I am finding that I understand it better so I can use it more effectively. I may investigate some other options when I have time, though.
  • it would be nice not to be blogging so late at night sometimes, but when you’re running other jobs alongside, better to blog late than not at all.

All these things will help me to blog more effectively and enable my blog posts to be found more easily when the challenge is over. It will also help me to continue writing blog posts more regularly.

What next?

  • I’m in the middle of a series of blog posts on writing a short story and editing it. I intend to continue that
  • Take some of Sarah’s email challenges. This is something I have not been so good at – usually because I already have some content in place
  • Try and be more organised with my blog posts

It’s amazing how fast the first half of this blogging challenge has gone. As I said, it has not been easy: I have had issues at work to contend with and this week the family have been around because of half term. However I am doing my best to keep blogging and I am determined to finish the challenge.

If you are reading this, thinking, ‘Shall I?’ then I would encourage you to sign up for the 30 day blogging challenge. Your blog will thank you for it.

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Day 14: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Love and Relationships on St Valentine’s Day

Posted on : 14-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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Love-Valentine's breeze-rose flower by Kumar's Edit on Flickr CCAs it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I would take little look at the use of love and relationships within the context of this story. Writing a believable love story takes careful thought and the relationship should definitely not be roses all the way.

Your romantic couple should have a quirky way to meet. Ask yourself, when do they first notice each other? What is their first reaction? What do they first say to one another?

Avoid too many longing stares – it gets a bit too much like a stalker. Instant attraction is fine, but not instant love. What kinds of things are your couple willing to do after a first meeting and what would be out of bounds? Build-up is just as sexy as full on passion.

What happens when your couple meet again? Do sparks fly or do they have an argument? Try finding interesting situations to put your characters in and see how they react. Use friends/relatives to help or hinder the relationship. Do keep some secondary characters in there – it’s not healthy for a couple to shut themselves off from their friends and they will need someone to support them when things go wrong.

Have the relationship grow. What is the end result going to be. The relationship will need to be tested and have some ups and downs. The problems in the relationship need to match the stage of the relationship, for example you are far more likely to be jealous of an unknown friend in the early stages than in a settled relationship. Try and always think imaginatively as you tell your couple’s story.

Actually, rather than tell everything, show it. Have your hero’s face have a muscle working in his cheek as he sees the girl he likes with another – bit of a cliche, but I know that you can do much better than that – and it’s only an example.

Finally, make the dialogue as realistic as you can make it. There’s nothing worse than a stilted conversation. The real thing can be awkward, full of ums and ers, and halting starts and stops. When a declaration of love is made, ensure that it is not all one-sided, let the other side speak too, unless narcissism is one of your hero’s faults…

If you have any tips to add about the writing of love and relationships, then please leave them in the comments below.

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Day 13: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – 10 Ideas for Writer’s Inspiration

Posted on : 13-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge, Uncategorized

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My story was written by using a picture as a prompt. I keep a folder called ‘Writer’s Inspiration’ on my Pinterest account. Any picture that looks like it could come in handy as part of a story some day is saved there. Using picture prompts is a great way to inspire a story.

143:365 Come sail away with me by martina15 on Flickr CCHere are ten other ways to find your muse:

  1. News headlines. LM Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables when she saw a headline in a local newspaper that told the story of a couple being sent a girl orphan instead of a boy to help on their farm. News headlines can offer all kinds of interesting possibilities for stories, so it’s worth checking them out.
  2. A song title or listening to music. Some song titles tell great stories. Why not take a song title and use it to inspire a story? Listening to music can put you in the mood for creativity.
  3. Take a walk. Exercise can help to inspire you too. If you have come to a sticky point in your story, then go for a walk to wrestle with it and sort it out.
  4. What about using unusual place names as either somewhere to set your story, or as the name of one of your characters. Develop the story around it.
  5. Fan fiction is very popular these days. Take your favourite TV show or book and develop the story of a minor character or just write them another adventure.
  6. Agatha Christie suggested washing the dishes helped her to sort out her plot points.
  7. People-watch. When you sit in a cafe, ride on a bus or train, even walk through town – watch the people around you. When you find an interesting character, think about their story and their character and use it to tell an interesting story.
  8. Overheard conversations can often bring an interesting idea for a story – just don’t get caught doing it!
  9. Dreams can sometimes provide imaginative if slightly surreal ideas for a story.
  10. Stories involving your family’s past or memories can be really interesting – just change the names and some of the details if it’s a fictional story.

As you can see, inspiration can be found anywhere if you are looking for it. How do you get your inspiration for either a story or a blog post? Let me know in the comments below.

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Day 12: 30 Days of Blogging – Story, Part 2

Posted on : 12-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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Days 11 and 12 of my 30 day blogging journey have been two parts of a story. Through the next day or so, I will then be editing the story. To read the first part of the story, go to day 11.

Cliff erosion by Clare Wilkinson on flickr CCHere is the concluding part:

Story so far:

Janice, the estate agent, is showing Joseph, a potential buyer, round an old house on a hill when he has a funny turn. Janice takes him through to the kitchen to find some water.

He followed her through an interconnecting door and found himself in the kitchen. It was old-fashioned with wooden Quaker doors and a quarry tiled floor, but it had a comforting feeling. Janice perched him on a high stool while she ran the water to find him a drink. He looked out of the patio doors which overlooked the garden. The grass was high and uncut, the garden looked unruly and unkempt. He thought of his ancient petrol mower. That lawn just might be the death of it.

Janice was looking at him with her bright blue eyes. “Feeling better?” she asked.

He nodded but it was unconvincing.

“Forgive me, it’s been a long journey.”

She nodded in return. “ You have family in the area?

“Once I did. They have probably all moved away now. I do have childhood memories of this place – it was the old house on the hill even then…”

Janice nodded once more, not really sure how to respond. She decided to move on. “Shall we look at the other reception room?”

Joseph followed her through and there was no incident. He went upstairs and found the bedrooms made up as though they were expecting a guest. He felt slightly unnerved as though he were being watched. The sun began to dip lower.

The smallest room had obviously been a child’s bedroom. He stopped by the toys, covered with dust and arranged higgledy piggledy on the the shelves. He looked at the book shelf: ‘Little Women’ and ‘Anne of Green Gables’, old books with leather binding and that old book smell.

“Would you like to go outside?” asked Janice as they came down the stairs.

Joseph said that he would.

Out in the back wilderness, a crazy paving path led away from the house and disappeared into the undergrowth.

“How far back does it go?” he asked. It was impossible to see the back fence.

“About 100 foot,” answered Janice. She was ready to get back to the office, her feet were killing her and it was definitely time for a cup of coffee. “Is there anything else you would like to see?” she asked politely, praying the answer would be ‘no’.

“I would like one more look round,” answered Joseph. “I will be fine on my own. I will see you in a couple of minutes.”

Muttering under her breath, Janice left the house. Joseph took a deep breath and walked back to the first reception room. It took him a moment to locate the photograph, but suddenly, there it was. Peggy beamed out at him from a faded colour washed photo. She was a lot younger than he remembered, wearing a bright bow in her hair and one of her front teeth was missing. Joseph grabbed a corner of the dresser as his head swam again.

The solid wood pulled him back from the memories. He thought of himself and Peggy running along the beach, shouting with the sheer joy of being alive. He remembered the delight of the warm sun on his back, the sand between his toes, the coldness of the sea when you dared to venture in for the first time.

Other memories crowded in. Peggy, a little older, playing hide and seek among the dunes. It was a game that she had been particularly good at. On this one day, unfortunately she had been too good.

The sand had given way and Peggy had been carried to the bottom of the cliff. Her head had hit a rock. She had been declared dead at the scene. Joseph had met another girl, married and after 30 years of marriage, had recently lost her to cancer. It had reminded him of the loss of his youth and he had come back to remember her.

Joseph sighed and stood up. He headed to the front door where the estate agent was waiting in the car. He had thought of buying the place, doing it up and giving it a new lease of life, but he knew that there were too many ghosts waiting for him in there. As he left, he thought he heard a seagull shout. It sounded like, “Joe! Joe!”

Joseph left and knew that he would never be able to return. He had said goodbye.

You may have had a different idea of how the story ended. Let me know in the comments.

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Day 11: 30 Day Blogging Challenge: A Story, Part 1

Posted on : 11-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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The Old House on the Hill

The estate agent turned the key in the lock. The key was large, wrought iron and it took her two goes to turn it. The heavy lock clicked open. The woman, smart and professional, pushed open the door. It swept two months of mail to one side as it opened.

Lincombe Barn, Downend, Bristol 1968 by Robert Cutts on flickr CCJanice Jones, the estate agent, stood to one side to let the elderly gentleman inside. He didn’t look like a typical buyer, but the form had said that he was a cash buyer and customers like that had to be offered only the best. The late afternoon sun threw coloured panels on the tile floor as they entered the house. Apart from the mail, the house looked almost as though it were still in use. Joseph felt the warmth as he stood in the hallway, getting his bearings. The estate agent was still in full professional mode.

“ The property is double-fronted,” she explained. You have the main reception room through there, and the kitchen and second dinning room through the other side. Upstairs…”

“Three bedrooms, thank you, I have read the particulars,” Joseph said.

Janice pursed her lips, then thought of the commission. “Where would you like to start?”

Joseph took a step towards the main reception room. “How about in here?’

He led the way and walked into the room. The lounge was facing the sea with high ceilings and carved plaster. The wallpaper was faded but had clearly once been an expensive pattern. The furniture was covered in dust sheets and the rugs were looking a little threadbare, but he could see that once the house had been loved.

“The furniture can come as part of the house,” said Janice, “but if you decided not to take it on, the current owners are happy to pay for two skips to remove the rubbish.”

Joseph eyed an old oak dresser and bureau. It was beautiful furniture, but he doubted that he would have a need for it. He took two steps towards the back of the room and suddenly his head swam. It felt as though he had suddenly transferred to another time, another place. He heard children’s laughter, a woman shouting then the sound of crying.

“Mr. Lawrence?”

He turned and jumped.

From being near the door, Janice was suddenly right behind him.

“You gave me a fright.”

“Sorry, but you looked as though you might faint. The colour drained from your face. What is it?”

Joseph couldn’t answer her. The experience had left him shaken.

“I don’t know,” he said, “perhaps the heat…”

“Come through to the back,” said Janice, “it’s cooler.”

This is what I have done with the writing prompt that was published yesterday. It is the first part of a story. It is a first draft. The second part will be published tomorrow. If you like the beginning of the story, you are welcome to guess how it ends. Don’t forget to post links to your own stories from the writing prompts.

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Day 10 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Writing Prompts

Posted on : 11-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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Old house on a hill by Rennett StoweA writing prompt is something that is designed to spark a story or poem in you. There are ideas all around us everyday, but it is important to tune your brain up in order to notice them. Writing is almost like a muscle – the more you use it, the better you get.

Today’s blog post is a writing prompt. Use the picture to spark a story, a poem, a piece of flash fiction, a song or whatever you want to write. If you do, then let me know in the comments. My writing will be posted here tomorrow.

Pick the one that speaks to you best:

Either:

The House on the Cliff

or

A girl sits on a cliff top all afternoon, staring out to sea. Who is the girl and what is her story?

or

A note is left tied to a bench on a cliff that overlooks the sea. What is the note and what is the story behind it?

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