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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 15: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Editing a Story – Characters

Posted on : 15-02-2016 | By : admin | In : Uncategorized

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On days 11 and 12 I published two halves of a story. This story was written for the purpose of showing you what I do when I edit. I have deliberately published a first draft, with very little editing apart from immediately spotting spelling mistakes etc so that you can see how it will change from first draft to the finished story.

Grungy girl in photo booth by simpleinsomniaWhen we are children, we write a story and it is done, but as adults, there is always polishing that can be done. Sarah (Arrow) has said that your blog posts don’t have to be perfect – no, they don’t, it is good if they are as close as you can make it in the time that you have.

Today, I’m going to focus on characters. In this story, there are two main characters: Janice Jones and Joseph. I don’t usually make all my characters in a story begin with the same name, but today, I have!

The characters are rather sketchily drawn – only small details about their appearance are mentioned in the story.

Janice:

  • smart and professional
  • has bright blue eyes

Her personality has a few more hints:

  • an estate agent – immediately conjures up a picture of suit and briefcase/laptop bag
  • has noted that the client is a cash buyer
  • purses her lips when annoyed but does not show anger
  • thinks of the money
  • finds Joseph a glass of water
  • Feet hurt – does this indicate high heels?
  • Needs a cup of coffee – addicted to caffeine?
  • mutters under her breath

Joseph

  • elderly gentleman

I am amazed that this is the only description of the appearance of Joseph, so I think I would add a few more details, but would try to make sure that they add to the story rather than just inform the reader.

His personality is:

  • a little impatient with Janice
  • Attuned to the house – he feels warm
  • has a funny turn where he seems to hear voices – twice
  • used to have family in the area
  • looking to buy in the area
  • cash buyer – so has some money
  • has memories of the house in happier times but also in sad
  • has lost his wife

So, there is more about Joseph’s personality than his appearance. This perhaps makes him a little mysterious which was probably my intention in the first place.

The final character in the story is Peggy. Her story is told in flashback and through a photograph that Joseph finds. She is a young girl who knew Joseph as a young boy. We know that she died young and that her death affected Joseph. The story ends with Joseph saying goodbye. Was he saying goodbye to the house, Peggy or both? The story leaves it to the reader to decide.

So to sum up, I need to edit:

– the characters need small details about their appearance adding

  • the details given need to add to the story
  • the details should be ‘shown’ rather than ‘told’
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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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Meet Keith Havers – The Creative Writer Interview

Posted on : 27-03-2015 | By : admin | In : Author Interview, Blog

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Keith Havers is a short story writer who has had stories published in Take a Break’s Fiction Feast, That’s Life (Australia), The Weekly News, People’s Friend and The Lincolnshire Echo. He also has a short story published in the charity anthology, ‘100 Stories for Queensland’. He is a member of the Trowell Writers’ Trust and Nottingham Writers’ Club. He has had several first, second and third places in their short story competitions over the last few years. In 2008 he was runner up in the National Association of Writers’ Groups annual competition for short stories. In May 2009, he was awarded second place in Writing Magazine short story competition and the entry is available on their website.

You can find Keith on Twitter@KeithHavers

And he blogs at www.grammargrub.blogspot.uk

 

Name:  Keith Havers

Writer Alias (if you are willing to let us know):

I use my real name Keith Havers in all my published work so far. No alias.

How long have you been a writer?

I joined Trowell Writers’ Club in 2006 so I suppose that should be considered my starting point.

Rough idea of where you live.

I live just outside Nottingham.

Do you sell stories/articles to local or global publications?

I sell short stories to magazines which are also published in other countries.

  1. What is the first piece of writing that you remember doing?

I can’t remember the first piece of writing I did but I remember that, as a kid, I was always putting something down on paper. I’ve always been interested in science and technology (I have a degree in electronic engineering) so some of the stuff I wrote was non-fiction but I also had a go at stories and scripts.

  1. What made you realise that you wanted to write for a living?

I don’t actually write ‘for a living’ I have a couple of other jobs as well. I just wanted something else to supplement my income when I realised that my engineering career was coming to an end.

  1. Where was your first story published?

My first published story was in the charity collection 100 Stories For Queensland in 2011. Shortly after that I made my first sale to Take A Break Fiction Feast.

  1. Is there a story that you wish that you had written?

I’m sure we’d all like to have written something hugely successful like Harry Potter or Fifty Shades. You have to keep the dream alive.

  1. What is the one tip that you would give aspiring writers?

Persistence is the key. You have to keep sending your stuff out. Even if it keeps coming back. Re-write it or write something new and send it back out there.

  1. What is your current project?

I don’t have a project as such. I just keep churning out the short stuff, send it off and hope for the best.

 

Thank you, Keith for agreeing to take part in The Creative Writer Interview. I would like to wish you all the best with your short stories.

 

If you are a blogger, freelance copywriter, author or any other kind of writer and would like to take part in the The Creative Writer Interview then email me: sarahthecreativewriter[at]gmail.com

 

 

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Book Review – Creative Writing: The Essential Guide by Tim Atkinson

Posted on : 12-03-2012 | By : admin | In : Blog, Enjoying Writing

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Published by Need2Know

Thinking of starting a career in creative writing? Then this book might be for you. It is easy reading and at just over 100 pages, not too long.

As an introduction to the world of creative writing, this book works well. The author writes with a light touch and self-deprecating humour, and his style is easy to read. He also has a taste for unusual similes which become more obvious after his discussion on stereotypes and clichés in Chapter Two which discusses the writer’s voice. It made me think more about the clichés I use without thinking because they have become such a part of our language.

There are chapters covering getting the writing habit, reading as a writer, fact and fiction and editing as well as a basic introduction to different kinds of creative writing such as short stories, poetry, playwriting and novel writing including genre fiction. There are other books covering these kinds of subjects in greater detail, but this book gives the reader an overview of creative writing and the kinds of avenues that they might like to explore further.

I like some of the quotes in the sidebars – they are always relevant and often funny in a true kind of way. The author takes some examples from his own work (well, at least he owns the copyright) and is not afraid to show the nuts and bolts of writing in that the examples can be less than perfect. I also like his advice about not deciding too soon which genre you would like to write in – as you develop you may find more than one genre suits you whereas if you limit yourself too soon to one particular genre then you may miss out on some of your best work.

There is a great list of resources at the back for aspiring writers to try, and they include both web resources and books so you don’t have to be online to find some of them. At the back of the book more published books by Need2Know will offer more in depth reading on some of the subjects.

As an introductory book for a novice writer I would highly recommend this book: the writer mentions the well-used saying that ‘everyone has a book in them’ and I know several people who would like to write who might enjoy reading this book as a way of inspiring them to begin.

Even for writers who have been writing for a while but are beginning to feel that they might like to try different kinds of writing, it might also be worth a read as it does offer a good overview of the world of creative writing.

Favourite Quote:

‘Basically, if you’re writing a novel (as opposed to, say, a short story) you’ve got to take the reader on a bit of a holiday: short stories are away-days; novels are the full vacation and War and Peace is the year-long round-the-world cruise.’

(Creative Writing: The Essential Guide: Chapter Six: The Novel)

This book review is entirely my honest opinion of the book. I have no affiliate links with Need2Know or Tim Atkinson.

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