On Time & Writing

28 11 2018

                                                                                                    PHOTO; centrum.org

Harnessing The Power Of TimeIn Your Storytelling

About a month ago, riding the train home from work, I looked up and through the window, the sky was low and turning to a dirty purple twilight.

Just before the train and all her tired and distracted passengers started the final narrow stretch to our station, past the smoke stacks of the coal power station and the factory that makes disposable baby nappies, for a few moments I watched thousands of tiny lights that were already on across the suburb below us, forming a shiny cheap-jewellery crust over an area of town houses, the malls, office parks.

It is still winter and where the lights stop, the grass starts and ripples towards the train window: dry, stripped of colour, patches burned black by veld fires.

What does time mean to you?

In those moments, just minutes really, shaken gently from side to side in my seat, between dusk and the lights, as the train rushed breathlessly through the last of the day, I was conscious of time—not as anything artificial and clear as the white digits on the face of an iPhone, but as something moving us all along, me along. Something moving within me, inside of me, even as it moved outside of me.

Time on its own tracks.

That night, coming home from work, time didn’t hold its usual terror for me.  I was content to just be carried along, too exhausted to fight. In many ways, those moments on the train helped me grasp the ‘ungraspable’ nature of time itself: that time is ‘now’, that it is behind us, in front of us, everywhere.  It’s just you moving, being moved, threaded invisibly through time.

It is hard to get your head around ‘time with a capital T’, from the fact that vast millennia existed before us to the idea that it will exist for millennia after us.

Read further @ Writers Write

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Struggle with Fictional Characters

28 11 2018

                                                                     Illustration: Academic Life

How to develop engaging fictional characters

Creating fictional characters is a struggle for even the most experienced writer. Here, author and PWA and Faber Academy course director Tom Bromley offers tips and advice on creating engaging characters with unique voices and discusses questions such as whether they should be likeable and how many your story needs.

Wrestling with your fictional characters is a familiar pastime for experienced as well as new writers. It’s an ongoing struggle to create realistic characters who fulfill all the functions of story and resonate with the reader as real, engaging people.

Here, experienced author, ghost-writer and tutor on both Faber Academy and PWA courses Tom Bromley looks at the basics of writing characters, and suggests ways to form and maintain realistic, entertaining individuals to inhabit your a stories.

Read further @ Professional Writing Academy





Writing Advice of a SciFi Author

28 11 2018

                                                                                                   PHOTO: Tavistock Books

RAY BRADBURY’S GREATEST

WRITING ADVICE

“I’VE HAD A SIGN OVER MY TYPEWRITER FOR OVER 25 YEARS NOW: DON’T THINK!

Ray Bradbury, the greatest sci-fi writer in history, who (by no small coincidence) also happened to know a thing or two about writing. Like many American children, I grew up on Bradbury—”The Veldt” remains my favorite of his stories—but as I became a writer myself I began to cherish not just the great author’s work, but his attitude towards it. Bradbury loved writing. He took intense pleasure in it, and it shows on every page. This is, of course, not possible for everyone, but still, I find it to be a lovely antidote to all the hand-wringing and hair-tearing and sit-at-the-typewriter-and-bleeding contemporary writers seem to do (or claim to do, online or otherwise) these days. If that’s what happens when you write, Bradbury taught, find some other way to spend your time. Which is a pretty good tip. So now, without further ado, I present below an incomplete but illuminating collection of some more of Ray Bradbury’s very best writing advice.

Read further @ Literay Hub





Drink tea and get into the flow of writing

1 11 2018

                                                                                                      Photo: Stocksy

Put the kettle on: does a cuppa

beat writer’s block?

Research suggestions that drinking tea might help creativity have received endorsement from a number of successful novelists.

Being British, we have all seized on a report about how drinking tea improves creativity. The researchers – led by Yan Huang, from the Psychological and Cognitive Sciences Department of Peking University – recruited 50 students, who were assigned to two groups and given either tea or water to drink. The students were then given tests, the first being to build an “attractive” design with toy blocks, the second to come up with a “cool and attractive” name for a new ramen noodle restaurant. (“An example of a name that received a low innovativeness score is Ramen Family, and an example of a name that received a high score is No Ramen Here.”)

Those who drank tea performed better in both – and so the humble beverage has been hailed as a means to combat writers’ block by the Telegraph. The researchers don’t go that far – and indeed, the creativity of the participants is called somewhat into question by the detail that the academics had to delete more than 200 suggested restaurant names for containing only the word Ramen, or for including location names. Perhaps it was down to the kind of tea they gave them: it was black, and Lipton (the horror).

Read further @ The Guardian





Learn to Write a Short Story

1 11 2018

How to Write a Short Story from Start to Finish

To some extent, the process for writing a story is different each time. In the introduction to American Gods, Neil Gaiman quotes Gene Wolfe, who told him, “You never learn how to write a novel. You only learn to write the novel you’re on.”

This is true for short stories as well.

And yet, there are certain patterns to writing a short story, patterns I think everyone follows in their own haphazard way. I’ll call them steps, but they’re more like general paths that may or may not apply to your story. Still, it’s these patterns that I want to present to you in hopes it will make your own short story writing easier.

Read further @ The Writer Practice





Fiction & Your Loved Ones

30 09 2018

                                                                                                        Photo: Literary Hub

WHEN WRITING FICTION HURTS THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE

I was sitting in the Science Center Library, reading Paradise Lost. This was in the late 1970s, when I was an English major at Harvard. There are famously gorgeous libraries at Harvard, but I preferred to sit in one of the uglier spaces, beneath buzzing fluorescent lights, with calculators clicking all around me. I was unlikely to run into anyone I knew in the Science Center, though there was no reason for me to be so furtive. It’s just the way I am, habitually keeping to myself. Private and solitary.

I came to the end of the poem. Adam and Eve, our guilty parents, cast out of the garden. But then: “The world was all before them, where to choose / Their place of rest. . . They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow, / Through Eden took their solitary way.” The lines hit a nerve and I burst into tears. Loud, gulpy, snot-filled sobs. In the middle of the Science Center, for everyone to hear. I could not stop. I sat in that cubicle and wept and wept.

Guilt has always moved me. I imagine the pain someone must have been in to do whatever awful thing he did and want him to have another chance. Such possibly kind, possibly stupid empathy is useful for a writer, but it’s not the whole story. My mother was a war survivor and I inherited her unspoken guilt at having made it out alive, but that doesn’t fully explain it, either. I feel guilty for being a fiction writer. I’m not referring to the self-doubt many of us feel about making up stories while the world burns. I’m talking about the suffering we cause by writing.

The beauty of fiction lies in the way a story—regardless of plot or setting—communicates to a reader, I am with you. I felt as if Milton had known me hundreds of years before I was born, had known and understood everything I was going to do and was letting me know, the world is still before you. That compassionate recognition, acceptance, love, from an author is why we keep reading, even when we have Netflix to entertain us.

Read further @ Literary Hub





The Fiction Writer as Ethnographer

5 09 2018

                                                                PHOTO: bized.aacsb.edu

THE STORY COLLECTOR, OR,
HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL
AYSEGÜL SAVAS ON THE FICTION WRITER AS ETHNOGRAPHER

On Friday evenings, Sergei Sergeevich rounded us up from campus in his pickup truck and drove us to the white, wooden house at the edge of a lake. It had scalloped eaves, a porch with rocking chairs; it was straight out of a Russian tale.

Inside, the furnace would be lit. Fugi and Ella, his black Labradors, rambled around in a frenzy. We heard the sound of Sergei Sergeevich’s wife, Dieuwke, playing the cello in the study.

Sergei Sergeevich filled our glasses and put us to work—rolling out dough, folding pelmeni, catching fish from the lake. Once everything was in order, he went to the porch to smoke. If one of us followed him out, he quizzed us: Who did we like best in the group? Who did we have a crush on?

After dinner, we put the plates on the kitchen floor for the dogs to lick and went to the wood cabin behind the house. This was the banya, built by Sergei Sergeevich. If he was in a good mood, he played the accordion or guitar, passing around Russian folk songbooks. We put on the felt hats hanging on the walls, went in and out of the sauna, fell asleep on the wooden benches of the resting room, or went out to the garden to roll in the snow.

Sergei Sergeevich was my Russian professor in Middlebury, Vermont. He had a big mustache and small spectacles, a permanently stained wardrobe of thick shirts and fleece vests. He spoke languages as if he were playing with dough—stretching and folding, breaking words apart and putting them together in new combinations. He would take our class outside, right in the middle of verb conjugations, and roll himself a cigarette. Sometimes, he sent one of us to the dining hall to fetch him a glass of Mountain Dew.

He disliked most things socialist and all things insincere, and he could smell either in an instant. He knew at once whether he liked a person, a song, a poem, or a painting, and he knew even faster whether he disliked them. I wished for his discernment, to know at once what made something real, and worthy. I never took a literature class with him because I didn’t trust my judgment. I was afraid of saying something stupid and lose my standing in the banya group.

The group was made up of Bulgarian, Czech, Kazakh, and other Turkish students. Later, there were Iranians, a Hungarian, an Uzbek, Palestinian, and Latvian. It was a mythical time. In the white house, time unfolded like a story and was itself contained in stories. And with each gathering, our repertoire fattened and grew. There was the story of Fugi, the older, skinnier Lab, who was afraid of the banya because she’d been left inside one night by accident, and shrunk to half her size by the morning. There was the story of how Dieuwke and Sergei met on a flight from Europe to the U.S.; Sergei Sergeevich had performed a magic trick, involving a Queen of Spades. There were stories about all the students who’d come before us, each one with an epithet assigned by Sergei Sergeevich.

Read further @ Literary Hub