jump to navigation

Ideas are not Stories February 13, 2011

Posted by mattfarmer in books and reading, writing.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
add a comment

I am thinking about creative writing a lot lately. I did say I wanted to write a short story every month, so I am thinking on things, about what I can write, scrambling for ideas, going to the note files, seeing what is there. And I see that I have a lot of ideas there. I got a great idea this week, and wrote it in my new note-book. But, while it is a great idea, it isn’t a story.

I am beginning to believe that the feedback for the stories I have submitted may be due to this. I have been told they were great ideas, but nothing happened. And that describes an idea. Great idea, but nothing happens.

Various sites which I Google tell me that the elements of a story are Setting, Plot, Conflict, Character, Point of View and Theme. And I look at some of my stories and, to be harsh but fair, I don’t think that they have all those elements. I think I do pretty well with Setting, character, POV and theme, maybe sometimes thin on the theme side of things. Sometimes I just like to write without thinking of an overall theme.

Plot and Conflict seem to be my two weakest areas. Give me a novel and I can give you all of those points in spades. I can set up conflict, many conflicts in the same story if I need to. But it takes me a novel to get everything in there.

I am grabbing some coloured post its, and sticking them to the side of my monitor which list all of these elements. That way I can have a checklist, if you will, to make sure I put all of these elements into each short story I write.

Now, this may seem that I’ve written short stories without these for years and I have just had an epiphany.  This is not entirely the case, honest. Its just the last few I have had seem to be great ideas for a bigger picture, and if that bigger picture was to be painted, would include all these elements. But, I am consciously trying to write shorts, and I NEED these elements to make a STORY.

So, I had a new idea during the week, about a girl who was incredibly psychic, and some scientists who are discussing her, and how much she knew, and the diary she kept. A good idea, with a couple of twists at the end, but looking at that list, there is no plot, not really. There is some conflict in that she is kept a prisoner by scientists to be studied. Setting is in the scientist’s facility, characters being the scientists, and the girl of course. POV would be from the scientists, and theme… well it’s not nice to keep a powerful young girl prisoner, that’s just mean.

But the big missing thing? Plot. What happens? Why does it happen? What resolution is there? I don’t know. It is an idea, jotted down in the notebook, waiting. Waiting for something to strike me and go AH HA!

On another note, in a recent blog post, which included a reference to zombies, I had a late start during the week. So, an hour before work I found a cafe, which sells AWESOME cakes I must say, and sat and wrote. I wrote for a good hour. And I don’t just say that. It was a GOOD hour. While I enjoy the word count from the train, half hour lunch and bits here and there. A good solid hour felt good. I wrote a scene, I finally got all the fiddly procrastination done with. Now I can throw my characters at the End Of Game boss and see who gets killed and who comes out alive. I have turned my savior into a selfish man with a severe disconnect from real people. I have finished the chapter. It was good.

Not this week, but next week I have 2 late days in a row, so again, I am going to find that cafe, and try a cake, a different cake each day, and write some more. I haven’t written much this week. Been busy each night. And reading a good book. Have decided to read on the train which leads to reading at lunch. Good book, what can I say?

Ah, the dilemma. Should I read this great book, or write? Gosh! I don’t know…


Home printing, short stories and a new school year February 6, 2011

Posted by mattfarmer in writing, Writing Group.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

I would like to know. How important is a printer at home? As a writer, do you print what you write, a lot? Read it on paper? I own an Epsom combination scanner/colour printer/fax machine, but it seems so old now that the colour isn’t colourful, the print quality is awful, with lines and so forth. I clean the nozzles each print, but…

So how important is owning a printer, if you are a writer? I can hear myself answering that question by saying- by gum it is VERY important. But I don’t use it that often, to be honest. I read and edit on the screen. When I submitted my manuscript for review last year, I went to Office Works and paid a small sum for printing and binding, which turned out nicely, I must say. I must also say that the manuscript never made it back to me. It is now on a big adventure sitting on an author’s shelf somewhere. One day, this author will take the manuscript down from the shelf and think- yes! It is time to publish this book! Heh.. sure, that is going to happen… really!

So, is a printer at home a good thing for a writer? How much should you pay for a ‘good printer’?

Short stories. I have written one, not really a story, more like me wanting to get a feel for the new world I am creating. It was a short piece about one of my characters getting out of bed, walking along the deck of the ship she knows so well, sneaking up to the prow of the ship and watching the sunrise. There really is no beginning middle and end, no character development or progress. Or is there?

I am resisting throwing myself into this world until the final book in my sci fi is at least written. I know I will get far to caught up with steam punk magic fantasy, to devote myself to finishing something else. But I find writing small things like this good for me so I can add colour to my ‘verse, or work ideas.

The 800 words I wrote for this gave me the character’s name, the names of her crew, possibly the name of her ship, and a secret side of her which doesn’t show through in the book. The character is a female, her name is Tempest, which I think suits her to well. She is a sniper on board a sky ship.  She is a tough woman who has lived with the shame and stigma of her unique racial heritage growing up. But this story showed me that there can still be a part of her that has room for joy. A sunrise makes her so happy.

I think I will write more of these little tid bits. It took not much time at all, and fitted in with what I mentioned in my last post regarding anti-procrastination, where you write something else, to give your brain a break from what it is writing now. A morning ride into work on the train? Shoot out a 500-800 quick little fiction piece about a character. Certainly a lot more engaging than those 5 page character sheets I used to do.

It is also a new school year. I could tell from all the school bags littering the aisles of my train. I don’t mind school kids on public transport. We were all young and rambunctious at one time in life. We’ve moved on from there, now it is their turn to be wild and free. Gosh knows when you hit the real world, opportunities for such shenanigans diminish rapidly.

What this also means is my writing group will soon get back together. I decided to base it on the school year, including time off for school holidays, so it didn’t feel like we had to meet every single week. Also, it gives you 2 weeks off to write something bigger if you like.

Last year was not very productive for me through the group. Not everyone turned up each week, and often while writing was discussed, not many pieces were produced.

I have decided this year that, no matter what is being discussed or what the topic of conversation, that everyone should turn up with 3 things- a person, a place and a thing. These will be kept on a tumblr account, so when you need just something to get you going, there can be 3 elements to a story starter.

I raised this idea with the group. One other person liked it. Someone else did tell me that I am quite capable of finding these images online, and if I need that kind of kick, I should really do it myself. A fair point. I do admit to lacking in some motivation, and one thing I do wish to improve, or strengthen, is my own resolve to get things done. But on the other hand, sometimes it is nice to see what someone else brings to the table, and how their tastes in imagery would affect what you could write.

I remember last year doing this exercise, someone produced a picture of a snow-covered and frozen graveyard, a puppy dog and a flower. These are images I wouldn’t have thought of, and sparked something very moody and dark from me, and a little sad. I liked it. Where normally I would try to lend a speculative fiction vibe to something I wrote, I deliberately steered clear of this for that piece.

Now, it is Sunday afternoon. Some novelling before I go off to play some mixed basketball.