Plays, Ingesting Stories, and Writing Games

Now there’s an eclectic mix just in the title alone!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is a review of the latest production from The Chameleon Theatre Group – Spring Trio of Plays.

One of the reasons I love going along to their performances is that the shows give me a chance to enjoy stories in a different format – i.e. plays.

Reading widely will always be important for a writer to help feed and nuture their own imagination BUT taking stories in via different media is also very useful. Particularly with plays, you get to “see” how dialogue works, how pauses are used to good effect and so on. This is obviously directly useful if you plan to write plays yourself, but even if you’re not, listening to dialogue and how it comes across can be a useful aid for how YOU write it when it comes to your stories and books.

So support your local theatre company. As well as being a good night out, it can and should benefit your own writing.

Image Credit:  Many thanks as ever to Stuart Wineberg, Lionel Elliott and the Chameleons for kind permission to use their excellent photos.  Captions on my CFT post!

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Fiction books of the alphabet:-

A = Anne of Green Gables
B = Black Beauty
C = Carpe Jugulum (Discworld’s approach to vampires!)
D = Death on the Nile
E = Emma
F = From Light to Dark and Back Again (I kind of had to!)
G = Great Expectations
H = Hogfather (Discworld’s approach to Christmas)
I = Interesting Times (Discworld again and to my mind the best of the Rincewind books)
J = Jane Eyre
K = King Solomon’s Mines
L = Lord of the Rings (I usually DO drop The!).
M = Murder on the Orient Express
N = Nemesis
O = Of Mice and Men
P = Pride and Prejudice
Q = Queen’s Nose
R = Rebecca
S = Sourcery (Discworld again)
T = Thud (and again!)
U = Uncle Tom’s Cabin
V = Very Hungry Caterpillar
W = Wind in the Willows
X = Xena – Warrior Princess
Y = You Only Live Twice
Z = Zorro

I can’t claim to have read all of these (though I have read most). It is a quite a reading list though! What would be on yours?

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When do you find writing the toughest thing to do? For me, it’s after a day of niggling admin tasks (you can guess what kind of day I’ve had now, can’t you!) and I feel tired and just want to stop (yes, you guessed right). The kind of day where you don’t want to think any more so writing creatively seems to be a VERY big effort…

However, I’ve also found it pays to make myself write. Why? Because I inevitably feel better once I’ve got going on a piece and that’s usually within a minute or two. I can also escape into the lives of my characters and the horrible problems I’ve set them (fiendish laugh can be inserted here!).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I wonder if sketches (such as for radio comedy shows) could count as “flash plays”! Just a thought…!

There are certain things flash fiction has in common with plays. I’ve been “gallivanting” this week, having had a wonderful time at a local theatre company’s latest production.

One common aspect is having to select the most powerful points to get across to an audience and inevitably you will select those that will have the most impact on the story you’re trying to tell and those watching/reading it.

Another is when you do use dialogue, it can only resemble speech not be an accurate copy of it. So no ahs and ums (the odd one or two would be okay in a play, there’s no room at all in flash for them as they would literally be wasted words).

There should be some sort of emotional impact from the flash story or play. Doesn’t have to be a happy one but it should be a logical impact given the nature of the story you’re telling.

Twists, of course, feature in both.

There should be a satisfactory outcome, though again it doesn’t have to be a happy one (as Shakespeare proved time and again).

Flash by day, flash by night
Flash is such fun to write.
Outline your special ideas
Work out your character’s fears.
Put them through hell, time and again.
We’ve really got to feel their pain.
Who said a writer must be nice?
We just write and edit and splice
To get the tale that must be told.
We dig to get that story gold.

Allison Symes – 2nd May 2019

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One thing I must try and do is enter more flash fiction writing competitions. I do enter a few throughout the year and I’m pleased to see that places such as The Bridport Prize now have flash as a specific category. It’s nice to see the form recognised more widely and, of course, it gives more opportunities for flash fiction writers.

The rules I set myself on entering writing competitions are:-

1. They mustn’t cost too much. (The exception to this are novel competitions but ALWAYS check the terms and conditions carefully, which you should do for ANY competition, but that is even more important, the higher the entry fee is).

2. The background of the competition can be checked out and verified. I enter competitions which have been established for some time. I’m wary of new ones and wait for them to be established after 3 years or so. You do hear horror stories from time to time of a new writing competition and then it folds, taking all the entry monies with it. So be careful.

3. You know what you are getting for your entry fee. Some places will give critiques. I sometimes go for these but only after I’ve asked myself the following questions and got answers to them. Does the competition give you an idea of how detailed this critique will be? If the fee for it is low, it won’t be much but will that be enough to be useful to you?

4. The competition does NOT ask for all rights for ever and ever, amen.

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Fairytales with Bite – Ingesting Stories!

My CFT post is a review of The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production, Spring Trio of Plays.  This included Effie’s Burning, Ghost of a Chance, and In For the Half.  The performances and the impact of the plays were fabulous.

I like going to productions like these as they are another way for me to take in story.  Reading will always be phenomenally important to any writer but that doesn’t mean you can’t take in stories in other media.  With plays particularly, you get to “see” the impact of well written dialogue and that can help inspire you with your own writing, whether you write scripts or not.  You get to hear what works.  Memorable lines stay with you for a reason!  The goal of course is to be able to create your own memorable lines in whatever format you choose to write.

Another favourite form of storytelling for me is audio books.  Being told a story by someone else is one of the great joys of human existence for me. Again you get to hear what works.  If you listen to an abridged version, and you have the unabridged book version, find out what they cut and see if you can work out why.  Does this have an impact on what you put into your story or leave out of it?

I don’t watch a lot of film but it’s a very valid way of exploring stories.  Learn to spot where the Three Act Structure is in the movie you’re watching!

This World and Others – Useful Writing Games

Following on from my post last week about writing exercises to help with world building, I thought I would share some writing games I find useful for generating story ideas.

  1. Word Association.  Used to love this when I was a kid as you could get some funny outcomes but it is worth playing this game on paper to see what links you can create here.  If you need a helping hand to get started, pick a word at random from the dictionary and off you go!  Set yourself a time of two to three minutes and jot down whatever comes into your head.  You can select the links you like the most later.
  2. Random Word Generators. Use one of these and pick five words to work with.  On some generators, you can set the first and last letter, how many letters you want in the words and so on.  Then try putting what you come up with into a story.  It works really well for flash fiction but there is no reason why you can’t put these words into a longer tale.
  3. Opposites.  Write down an object and then write down separately what could be said to be opposite to it.  For example – hot water tap.  Its opposite is the cold water one.  Now what role could these play in a story?
  4. The Hat Game.  Write down a variety of nouns, verbs, adjectives etc on separate slips of paper.  Draw out a few at random and again put into a story.  This is the traditional version of the random word generator but there is no reason why you can’t still play this in this way.  What I think you need to aim for here is a nice mixture of the ordinary and the extraordinary for things to put on the slips of paper.  That is where you can “control” things unlike a random generator BUT limit yourself to how many slips of paper you pick out and write what you come up with into a story, no matter how bizarre your selections are.  Have fun with this.

Hope you find these help generate story ideas.  I’m particularly fond of the first two!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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