Facts and Fiction

Post up a night early as at a retreat this weekend.  I look at facts and fiction and how one strengthens the other.

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My CFT post is a night early this week but I take the chance to look at how non-fiction can and does inspire some wonderful fiction. I also look at how a working knowledge of history, of how things work etc, can inspire you as you create your own fictional world, and why looking into historical records can also trigger ideas.

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What is the nicest aspect of writing? Well, one obvious answer would be good reviews of your book(s) or positive feedback to a blog post etc. I treasure those, as most writers do!, but I also love the feeling that a story has been completed, I can’t add more to it, it is now ready to go out into the big bad world. It’s an even better feeling when you realise you have enough stories for another collection!

 

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What is it about a character that draws you to them? For me, it is always the heroic underdog that fights against the odds to win through. Think Bilbo and Frodo Baggins!

I like unexpected heroes, the ones that come from the “wrong” background yet still prevail. I guess there’s a certain amount of having something to prove that drives a character on and really shows what they’re made of when push comes to shove.

If I’m in any doubt about any of my characters, I draft a quick scene (which may or may not make it into the final story) where I drop said characters right in the mire and find out what they do to get out of it again. By the time I’ve drafted this, any doubts about the characters have long gone as by then they’ll have proved themselves (to me at least). (And the great thing with draft scenes like that is they may be strong enough to work into a piece of flash fiction!).

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One flash challenge I must have a go at when I remember (!) is the 140 character kind of story. Now there is a restricted word count!

But the biggest thing I’ve gained from writing flash fiction, and what I think I love most about it, is that it has taught me to write “tight”, to cut out wasted words and to never be afraid of a darned good edit! Those are good things to have regardless of what you write!

 

Good books should bring illumination to a situation, make you see things as you haven't before - image via Pixabay

Aiming for more “magic” from my stories this year! Image via Pixabay.

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Side view of my book stand. Image by Allison Symes

Feature Image - Flash Fiction - Books are Gateway - image via Pixabay

Says it all really and applies to non-fiction equally as fiction. Image via Pixabay.

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I suppose what I love most about flash fiction is knowing that opening line is going to take me, and hopefully readers (!), on a short, sharp journey to an appropriate ending. Sometimes that’s happy, sometimes not, sometimes it’s a twist ending, sometimes it’s a poignant full stop. (Usually for the character too!).

But unlike a novel where it will take you several chapters to get to a resolution (though in fairness that IS the charm of a novel!), with flash, it is an almost instant conclusion. And sometimes stories are genuinely not long enough to be anything other than flash fiction. So rather than waste them, I am so glad of flash as a format as it gives me a home for those mega short tales.

 

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The point of a story is to show a pivotal moment of change in a character’s life. That is where the story is. What is that change? Does the character resist the need to change? What happens if they succeed in this resistance? (I would expect their life/future happiness to be held back in some way because of the unwillingness to accept change). So the point of flash fiction is to illuminate an even briefer change. It really is the lightbulb moment for the character and no longer than that.

Flash fiction does help you focus on what is really important for your character and why. As every word has to “earn” its way into the story, motivations must be powerful enough for a reader to believe in them. What drives your character must be understood (if not necessarily agreed with) by your reader.

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Fairytales With Bite – When is Enough Information Enough?

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week, Facts and Fiction, looks at how a good knowledge of non-fiction can and does inspire ideas for stories.

The big danger, of course, is having such a fantastic time looking up all the details, working them into your story and so on, that you lose focus on what you are meant to be writing in the first place!  What I’ve found useful here is to write down a list focussing on the main things only.  Naturally I then get my first draft down and then begins the lovely editing process!  There is always something to be cut out!

So feed your imagination by reading widely and then be selective what you draw on to create your characters and fictional worlds.

This World and Others – Shouldn’t All Fiction Just Be Made Up?

Well, yes it should, of course but the best fiction is stronger when it is backed by non-fiction.  I talk about this more in my Chandler’s Ford Today post for this week called Facts and Fiction.  I look at, for example, how a working knowledge of history can and has inspired some wonderful works of fiction.

So yes you make things up when story telling but you also draw on what you know about how people act and behave to create credible characters.  Sometimes historical or scientific facts can be the pivot around which a short story or novel is based.  To be able to use your imagination to make things up for stories, you need to feed that imagination and, by far, the best way is to read and read widely, in and out of your own genre.

Think about what draws you to create the characters you have.  Who are your favourites?  Those for whom upholding justice is vital? Why is that so?  Does it reflect your own love of justice and fair play or a wish that more of these things were seen in our world and, since you can’t fix that, you can put it into your fiction?!

When you create your worlds, what knowledge are you using of this one to help you work out what your fictional one should be like?  So yes, fiction should be made up but there is all sorts of unconscious thoughts influencing what you write.  And this is based on what you know and what you find out.

The really great thing about all this?  There is no limit to how much you read, how much you feed your imagination and so on so, go on, have a “feast” here!  Your future characters will reflect what you know and what you experience both directly and what you read about so the more widely  you read, the bigger the area you can fish from for ideas for your characters and stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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