Monthly Archives: March 2013

Friday Fictioneers – Suburban Sirens

ff270313They were a curious lot at No. 39. Mr Flannagan at No. 43 had always insisted so. They gave him the creeps.

All varieties of strangeness coming and going during the night. Candles on during the day. This wasn’t that sort of neighbourhood.

Mr Flannagan was watching. Just waiting to make his move.

No! Enough! That’s going too far.

A knock on the door. Without awaiting a reply Mr Flannagan barged in. The light was blinding, the sound hypnotising.

The door clicked shut behind him. All was quiet. All was dark.

…Mr Rogers at No. 43 didn’t like the look of those at No. 39.

This is my entry in this week’s 100 word writing challenge over at Friday Fictioneers.

Friday Fictioneers – A Shock To The System

ff200313The sun was beating down on his neck. It was another beyond hot day in the outback.The flies. Damn flies!

“When I die I’m going to come back as a thing which annoys a fly” thought Eddie.

His thirst was intense. That stream of water spilling out onto the baking desert was simply irresistible.

Very carefully Eddie reached through the fence and picked up the hose. Aah. A bit warm but he didn’t mind.

A few yards away the old fool groaned. He’d live.

Eddie hadn’t been so stupid. He knew the top rails were electrified.

All horses know that.

This is my entry in this week’s 100 word writing challenge over at Friday Fictioneers.

Creative Writing – A Forum For Discussion

fhtt_170313

One thing I am discovering early on in my attempts at creative writing is the importance of feedback. Good or bad there is nothing to beat another writer taking a look at what you’ve written and giving their honest opinion. Yes, at times you may not agree with them. We are all no doubt guilty of getting upset when something we have worked hard to create is criticised more than expected. However, I think you have to be prepared for that criticism and deal with it in as constructive a manner as possible. I really don’t feel that other writers are looking to squash your enthusiasm or creativity. They are there to help you make the best of whatever talents you have. I hope that is the case anyway. I’m sure it is.

Of course every time you post a blog on WordPress you are making your work available to be critiqued, whether that was your aim or not. For Creative writing pieces my plan is to find more specific arenas where like minded souls can see what I have produced and let me have it. So far thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields and her Friday Fictioneers 100 word challenge I have begun this process. Feedback so far has been excellent, informative and above all encouraging. Furthermore it has  triggered a desire to find other places where work and ideas can be shared. Something I have actually had in mind for a while is an on-line creative writing course such as the ones offered by these people:

http://www.writingclasses.co.uk/

I may think I know a bit about writing and am relatively experienced at it. However, I feel it’s important not to fool myself. I’m as green as Christmas sprouts when it comes to the creative writing process. I am aware of the adage about writing for yourself and not worrying too much, too early on what others may think. Danger with this approach for me at the moment is starting off on shaky foundations. Think it’s worth taking some time to learn from others about the basics of the creative process. Yes, you could and I have indeed bought a couple of books on the subject. These have been good to  a point. Where they fail is in the lack of interactive element i.e. a lack of feedback. One of these 10 week online courses should provide both feedback as well as the chance to see what others new to the world of creative writing are up to. Think it’s something I will definitely do later this year.

One other thing which would help me is one or two people to whom I can turn if I have a general query. Not looking to ask anyone to read a 6000 word story. Maybe a helpful suggestion when I get stuck on a sentence or am looking for the best way to construct a conversation. If anyone reading or following my blog would be up for this then I would be delighted to hear from you. I can be contacted via the comments below or direct by email at paulmclem@gmail.com

In closing this Sunday blog I want to thank again everybody who has taken time to read my posts and either liked them or left comments. You are making me believe I can do this. Just need to get the right building blocks in place.

Friday Fictioneers – The Last Curtain

ff130313It hadn’t been the career she had hoped for. There were good moments. Just not many. She deserved more.

A lifetime of bad reviews and grimy hotel rooms. At least this would be the last one of those. As the camera continued to record, her final monologue was complete. One farewell performance for her critics.

The stool fell to one side as the rope gripped tightly.

The show was over. Meanwhile the camera continued to film the plastic flowers and the raindrops on the window. Tragically even the last performance would play to an empty house.

She definitely deserved better.

This is my entry in this weeks 100 word writing challenge over at Friday Fictioneers.

A Question of Originality

fhtt_bookSomething which has been in my mind since entering the world of creative fiction is originality. More to the point is it truly possible to be wholly original when dreaming up works of fiction these days? Whether we like it or not we are all influenced by what we see in our daily lives. Books, magazines, TV programmes, films and indeed conversations with friends and family all stick in our mind. We may not consciously attempt to trawl our memory banks for ideas suggested by others but surely what is in there must impact the thought process. This leads me back to my opening question, namely is there really such a thing as pure originality or does every seemingly new idea have its basis in an idea someone else has already had?

The reason why this is in my head at the moment is simply because I am now beginning to have a succession of thoughts on stories to write. More significantly I have begun to put the foundations in place for an environment which I hope might provide a platform for a series of stories.Nothing too grand at this stage. A city to be precise. I like what I am coming up with but there is one nagging doubt in my head. Has someone thought of this before? I haven’t read every word of fiction that exists so I can’t possibly know for sure. How does anybody ever really know what they have come up with is original? Well my current thought process is not to worry about it. I have three reasons for doing this:

1. No matter if someone else has had the same basic idea before that person wasn’t me. Everyone of us leads different lives and sees the world from a truly unique viewpoint. An idea might not be new but it will be new to me. As such it will be approached from a new perspective. Anyway I might do it better than anyone else might have done so far. I can but try!

2. As most ideas have already been had my plan is to add a twist where possible. In other words take what to some may seem a standard fictional environment but add an element which makes it different. Not a twist for the sake of it but to add an extra layer of interest and intrigue.To hopefully make the story as unique as possible.

3. Even if a story you come up with does have parallels in other work why is this necessarily wrong? I would happily read another book similar to “A Song of Ice and Fire” or “Lord of The Rings”. As long as they are sufficiently different then the fact that they tread similar paths shouldn’t really matter.

In wrapping up I should answer my own question. I think it is possible to be original. Of course it is. Worrying what other authors may or may not have written is likely to be a thankless if not impossible task. If you think of an idea and you know within yourself that you’ve never read the same plot before then it is original. What will then make it truly original is the spin and writing style which is rarely going to be the same between two authors. Possibly similar but surely never exactly the same. This is what I’m telling myself for now. Time till tell whether I am being naive.

Friday Fictioneers – The Light

“It’s true what they say. There is a light. I didn’t believe them.”

“I can manage it. I can almost touch it. Keep going. Nearly there.”

With each step towards the brightness the pain continued to leave John’s body. The pain which had made living so hard.

All of a sudden he was bathed in that smothering light.  A light which offered salvation. A light of hope?

“I can hear voices. I can see people, shapes, things”

As quickly as it had come the light then faded.

“Am I gone? Where am I? ”

Silence. John felt no more pain.

The above is my entry into this week’s photo prompt 100 word challenge over at Friday Fictioneers.

First Small Steps in the World of Creative Writing

fhth_article-writerMost of you will know my story by now. I love writing. I love words. Therefore to try my hand at creative writing was the obvious next step. Without blowing my own trumpet. Scrub that. I am going to blow my own trumpet. I think the raw ingredients are in me to make a decent fist at this creative writing lark. However, I’m not naive. There is a long, long way to go. First it’s all about getting a good grounding in the basics. The majority of my writing experience is in sports journalism. The world of creative fiction where you are dealing with characters, plots, conversations and the like is new territory. The learning process has begun and the main input will come from three sources:

1. WordPress

Most people who write a blog do so because they like writing things down. As such it follows that there are a lot of budding creative writers on the network. This seems to be the case so far. Early dabbles into the world of flash fiction via the 100 Word Challenge and Friday Fictioneers has reassured me that help is at hand. The advice and guidance of the writing community on WordPress, and other places, is going to be an invaluable learning aid.

2. Reading

Two sorts of reading. First of all continuing to read plenty of fiction, whether it be short stories or novels. Important to see how the professionals do it. Some I will like, some I won’t. However, to study more closely how real authors structure their stories and handle all the elements that they contain will be intriguing. The second sort of reading is learning about the nuts and bolts of the craft. To this end I have purchased a couple of books which will hopefully give me an insight into some solid tips and techniques of creative writing. I will report back in a few weeks with a review of both books. Won’t name them for now!

3. Writing

Last but not least is of course actually doing it. My plan is to enter the flash fiction challenges on WordPress as well as seeking out other challenges elsewhere. For now the 100 word efforts are going to be a great tool to ensure every word counts. A missing comma or quotation mark, an unnecessary word, even a silly spelling mistake stands out a lot more in such a short piece. An excellent exercise to sharpen up your prose. Quite soon I would like to move onto longer stories but one step at a time. In addition to entering challenges I have started to document any time I have an idea. Sometimes I will work on the idea straight away, on other occasions I will leave it as just an idea to revisit.

Well that’s the plan. I will of course keep my blog updated with progress.

Not wasting time I was doing some scribbling last night. I decided to play around with a very simple situation, a man in the street who wants to know the time.  Can’t get much more simple than that. An hour or so later I ended up with this little piece. It has been slotted into my A-Z of ideas under the letter “T” for “Time”:

It was a wet day. Rain was getting everywhere. Rain doesn’t need to get everywhere. Why does it always seem to with me? He should have been here by now. What time is it? Damn. Bloody watch. Do I never put the thing on? She would have made sure I had it on. Quiet! No time for those thoughts now. Concentrate.

I needed to know the time. I wanted to know the time. The person I’m meant to be meeting is a stickler for punctuality. That’s what I was told. One minute late and they’ll be gone. One minute early and they’ll think I’m too keen. I am but they can’t see that. We need to arrive at the same time. I’ll work out how to do that later. For now I need to know the time. What I do know is it’s not time yet otherwise he would have been here by now.

The newspaper shop on the corner looked open. It was early but these places are always open. Could try in there. A quick glance around first. Nope. No town clocks to look at. Nobody around to ask. Suppose that’s why we’re meeting here. No witnesses. Damn, shut up. This isn’t the OK Corral. No gunslingers around. It’s just a meeting. Calm down.

The shop door opened without as much as a squeak. Certainly no bell. Do shops have bells any more? I think too much. Just find out what the damned time is. As I walked in the man behind the counter stopped doing what he was doing.

What was he doing back there? Why do I care? Got to stop wondering about things that aren’t important. Focus. Focus!

“Hello there, I’m meant to be meeting someone and I’ve come out without my watch.So typical. Just when you want to know the time there isn’t a clock to be seen anywhere”. The shopkeeper turned to look at me and just grinned. The face wasn’t familiar but those eyes left me in no doubt. It was him and it seemed I had arrived exactly on time.

Think this is the start of something. Perhaps it’s even the end. Not sure yet. Just thought I’d share. Looking forward to this week’s 100 word challenges on WordPress. The standard is very high and I need all the practice I can get if I’m going to keep up!

The Elgin Marbles

fmth_safcI can hear you, “Oh no, he’s about to talk about sport”. Well, that’s just hard cheese. I am indeed going to talk about sport. Even worse for some I’m going to talk about football. Bit of background. For my sins I have followed the fortunes of Stirling Albion FC since early 1981. It all began one Saturday morning I was bored so I asked my mother if I could go and watch Stirling play. They were at home to somebody. They won by a long forgotten scoreline. I was hooked. Unfortunately that first game was the last time Stirling scored a goal that season. Bearing in mind this was January and the season doesn’t finish until May lets you know how long that was. Just to clarify. The week after I started supporting Stirling Albion they set off on an all time British record of not scoring for 14 games. However, as a 13 year old kid I wouldn’t have been any where else on a Saturday. Terrible football but great memories.

Oh yes, we also won a Scottish Cup game 20-0 once. I was there. 5-0 at half-time, 15 more in the second half. We lost in the next round. That’s football. To be more precise that’s Stirling Albion. Over the 32 years since that fateful afternoon in 1981 there have been highs and lows. More of the latter but there comes a point where it all merges into the same thing. You go and support your team. Some you win. Some you lose. Some you draw. You come home and repeat the following week. It’s just something you do because it’s in the blood. Well, these days the passion doesn’t run quite as strong as it once did. For the last 15 years I’ve run this. However, after the current season ends I will be stopping. Time for others to carry the torch. I want to do other things including writing on here. I want to see what else I can do other than write about football.

Well, that’s a bit of background. Quite a lot of background. Even those who like sport may have drifted off by now. As for those who don’t like sport then I think we probably parted the ways several sentences ago. I would like to introduce those still here to the point of this article. Namely that Stirling Albion won a game today. What made that so special was the fact that it was our first away win in our division all season. The season started in August. It’s now March. That’s a long time. The fall guys were Elgin City. Elgin have been in terrible form and some even expected us to win today. That creates it’s own pressure but it’s a pressure we dealt with successfully and headed on the long journey home with the win.

Enough for now. Didn’t mean to write this much but sometimes things just have to be said. I promise to those following my blog that I won’t talk about football or indeed sport too much. When I do I’ll try to make it as interesting as possible for those who wouldn’t think it could possibly be interesting. However, I reserve the right to wander from time to time and you’ll just need to trust and follow or wait till I get back. We don’t need to go everywhere together although you’re always welcome. Last word(s) for today. We won!

Friday Fictioneers – Debut Story Redux

fmth_catwritingI have been been writing for many years. Mainly journalistic, fact based prose. At times some may argue it was bordering on creative fiction but all writers surely reserve the right to embellish the truth from time to time! Having recently decided to end one long running web project I turned my attention to another, namely this blog. Wasn’t long before I stumbled into the writing community and this week I posted my first two official attempts at creative fiction. One in the 100 Word Challenge and the other over at Friday Fictioneers.

Reaction to both pieces, especially the second has been extremely encouraging. I’m not in this to be the new Martin or Rowling. Only in it to explore my love for writing. Just intrigued to see what I am capable of. If along the way I can gain the respect of some serious writers and perhaps even make it into print at some point then I will put my pen away happy I’ve done my best.

Anyway, down to business. What I want to discuss here is the piece I wrote for Friday Fictioneers. Inspired by a photographic prompt of a classic old car falling into disrepair I came up with the following in a matter of minutes:

His car had been his pride and joy. It had all happened in that car. His son had happened in that car.

He had been eyeing it for as long as boys eye things like that. He didn’t let him touch it. He didn’t trust him.

You’ll get the car when I’m dead and not before he insisted. He would be there waiting. He was forever waiting. He wasn’t in a hurry.

Didn’t think you really wanted it. Just thought you wanted me gone.

I love you son. Take care of the old girl.

I will dad. I will…

I liked it. I therefore hurriedly, and I admit even a tad excitedly, rushed over and posted in this week’s Friday Fictioneers challenge. The feedback then flooded in. Well to me it has seemed like a flood. But a good flood. A flood of fascinating comments, kind words and above all helpful tips and pointers. Bearing these in mind I have had a second attempt at my story:

That car had been his father’s pride and joy. It had all happened in that car. On one embarrassing occasion his mother even told him that he had happened in that car.

He had been eyeing it for as long as sons eye things like that. Dad didn’t let him touch it. Dad didn’t trust him.

“You’ll get the car when I’m dead and not before” the old man would insist.

“Didn’t think you really wanted it, just thought you wanted me gone. I love you son. Take care of the old girl.”

“I will dad. I will….”

The point of the story remains in tact i.e. that passed down family heirlooms can often not be cherished as much as they once were. Not through malice or a lack of care but the love or feel for the item is rarely the same. Thus sometimes something which was once a family pride and joy ends up gathering dust in a barn. Despite the changes to the structure I think this central point remains undiminished. The changes I made were for two reasons.

1. Use of the word “He”

Several people commented that it wasn’t entirely clear who “He” was referring to, the son or the father. When I wrote the story and then read it back to myself I was probably guilty of adding emphasis to some of the instances of “He” to distinguish from others i.e. it sounds correct when I read it out loud but on paper it’s hard to disagree it may confuse some.

2. Lack of Quotations

There were no quotes at all. Could argue some stylistic point but I’d be lying. I just didn’t put in any in. Again when I read it aloud to myself I sort of assumed quotes were in place. Of course they aren’t.

Bearing the above in mind the story was adjusted accordingly:

  • Use of father, and mother in the first paragraph. Makes it clear who his/he is i.e. the son.
  • Use of son in the second paragraph. Makes it clear He in this context is the son. Added Dad to second two sentences. Makes it explicitly clear who we are talking about.
  • In the third paragraph I have completely removed a section which I felt was in hindsight unnecessary and perhaps simply added to the “who is he” confusion.
  • End of piece is now all quoted. First section is the father. Second is the son. This should be evident. Hopefully!

Just thought I would post this blog to see what some of my fellow writers think. I personally feel the second draft is a big improvement as it retains the charm and purpose but loses the confusion as well as shedding some words that didn’t add anything to the tale.

Looking forward to next week’s challenge!