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Day 21: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Infographics

Posted on : 23-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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This blog has been challenged to make some infographics so I decided to have a go. The infographics package that was recommended was not suitable for me as I don’t have Java, so I have taken a look round to see what other possibilities there are.

I found Daniel Soper who offers a small infographics generator. You just copy and paste some text into the box and click the button to generate the infographic – couldn’t be simpler! I have had fun playing with it and this has been the results.

Here is the infographic for my ‘About’ page:

Free Infographic from http://www.danielsoper.com/wordcloud/

Free Infographic from http://www.danielsoper.com/wordcloud/

I had so much fun that I decided to try another one! Buy one, get one free!

A few years ago, I wrote a post on Crazy Business Ideas so I put that through the word cloud generator too:

http://www.danielsoper.com/wordcloud/

http://www.danielsoper.com/wordcloud/

I think I’m hooked!

If you have enjoyed this post, then please share to social media.

If you have made some great infographics, then let me know about them in the comments below.

 

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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 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 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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