- Write what you want.
- Write what you would love to read.
- Be bold.
- Be authentic.
- Be ruthless.
- Embrace creating – not the creation.
- Spend equal time reading as you do writing.
- Challenge yourself.
- Challenge society.
- Write like a punk.
This is well worth a read especially if you are a planner-writer. Shame that I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer. Or maybe not ?
Six Tried and Tested Methods for Writing a Novel
Japan confronts disability stigma after silence over murder victims’ names
A disturbing view of disability in Japan and how it is shrouded in silence. However, because of this silence it is unclear why these murders were committed. There is a danger that the media will sensationalise this before the facts emerge. Nevertheless it’s certainly a case that will generate much debate.
With many things I am quite late to the game and far from being an early adopter. Interactive Fiction (or IF) is no different.
If you don’t know what IF is then here’s a good guide.
I have started to play with a popular IF (and even better is that it’s open-source) tool called Twine. My first ever story (The Mirror) was incredibly short and not very interactive but it got me thinking about how Twine is a great tool for writers in understanding their plots.
You may not want to write IF but if you want to make your writing more interesting or to understand how your scenes relate then you really should map out a story in Twine.
Before you get worried I must stress that you don’t need to be techie or a programmer to do this.
Even with my very short story I quickly understood how Twine makes you look at every element of your writing. Could the story branch off here? Should this character do this or would another character be better for that? What if instead of throwing a ball, the character threw a rock? Or a grenade?
Do you see where I’m going here? Twine opens your eyes to possibilities that you might not have imagined before. Instead of writing and plotting in a boring linear style your one story idea becomes 100 different story ideas.
Even if you already have the end in sight, like I did with The Mirror, taking the reader on a winding road but to the same destination can’t be a bad thing.
Are you stuck for ideas and unable to move your plot forward?
Here are five random ‘What If?’ scenarios to get you thinking and take your story somewhere new.
What if… the main character’s teacher elopes with – who?
What if… the main character’s neighbour stabs – who?
What if… the doctor discovers – who or what?
What if… the main character elopes with – who?
What if… the fisherman converts to Islam.
Are these 5 not inspiring enough? Just refresh your browser and get 5 more.
I am still developing the What If randomizer so please let me have your feedback.
What works and what doesn’t?
What scenarios and characters would you like added?
Social media is awash with advice and opinion on how to be a great writer as if there is some kind of magic bullet.
There are some rather obvious traits that seem universal –
- Read widely
- Write as much as you can
- Be passionate and believe in yourself
Is this enough?
No, the first thing you should do is stop trying to be a great writer, don’t even think in those terms. It is limiting and self-defeating. You should instead be the best writer you can.
This, of course, is easier said than done. The first trick is to be passionate and believe in yourself. Think of yourself not as a writer but as an artist.
What makes a great artist?
Think on any great work of art. What made the artist so great?
They were passionate and they had vision. Vision of what their art could be and vision of what they could be.
They may have sketched it first. And again. And again. Maybe twenty or a hundred times. Writers call these drafts.
There may be dozens of those finished paintings in existence. Why? Because the artist wasn’t happy with them. They weren’t finished and they didn’t match the vision. They then may have tried painting it with different materials, different canvases and in different light.
But isn’t this just about perfecting the technique?
Yes and no. Because while you’re growing technically you’re allowing the art and the artist emerge. You’re finding yourself and allowing greatness to find you.
Am I a great writer?
No. I don’t read enough and I don’t write enough. But I am passionate and I know I will be a great writer. For now I’m enjoying the journey and all the practice. My technique is improving and I have a clear vision.
Greatness will have to wait until I’m ready for it.
Last night I was sitting trying to watch some TV but was getting distracted by my daughter’s antics in my peripheral vision. She was holding up her mobile phone, contorting her face and body to meet the desired pose and sending snapchats. But she was doing it and re-doing and re-doing it until she got one that achieved the desired effect.
In exasperation I labelled her as Generation N (Narcissus) to which she shrugged her shoulders and carried on regardless.
On reflection I was perhaps a little unfair. Admittedly, she is of the Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/etc (pick your preferred vanity platform) Generation where everything must be examined and manipulated for the perfect image before it is all laid bare. Unless you happen to be drunk or angry in which case everything is laid bare regardless of the consequences.
But aren’t we all? And haven’t writers always been?
“I write for pleasure”
“I’m an artist”
Oh really, I thought you just wanted fame and immortality?
We all do, regardless of pretence otherwise. So writers and other artists have always been of Generation N but modern writers have so much more narcissism at their fingertips – e-publishing, social media, blogging, youtube etc.
There’s nothing wrong with a little self-publicity, in fact, the market demands it, but maybe, just maybe, we should be letting our work speak for itself rather than knocking on every single door and insisting complete strangers buy into it.
It was my first time in the barrow and his was the first single voice I heard there. He spoke only one word, his name, “Crow-Horn” and this is his story.
My parents gave me another name, a family name, my father’s name. And his father’s name. And his father’s and on and on. I only ever remember my mother calling me that name. Everybody else called me Crow-Horn.
I guess it was a name given in cruelty and mockery. I have a big voice and not a beautiful one. They say that as a baby my cry was half that of an angry crow and half the bellow of a flailed bear. I guess I might have been called Crow-Bear, maybe I was at first.
I wasn’t just loud. My voice carried. It carried far and fearsome. I could shout and all the birds for miles around would leave their trees. Everyone in the valley and up in the mountains would hear me. And that was when I was seven years old. As I grew so did my voice.
I learned to control it, to direct it. And change it. I could make it a terrifying wail like a thousand banshees rising from the moors or make it a low rumble that shook the ground and chased all the low creatures from their holes.
It didn’t take long for rumour of my voice to travel further than my voice itself. And then came the kings and would-be kings hungry to take me as their weapon. The first was the twisted MacFinn, he burned the fields to make the villagers give me up. I don’t blame them but they hauled my mother and me in front of him and his laughing curs. He held a knife to her throat and ordered me to show him what my voice could do.
I still see it now. I was just nine years old, a terrified boy, yet even then the tallest amongst them. He licked his thin, cracked lips, his hungry eyes darting from mine to the knife.
“Show me, boy, ” he grinned and very slowly continued, “or your mother dies.”
Just that. Nothing else. I could see it was simple to him, while he had my mother he could order me to do what he wanted. This would be our life.
“Let her go and I’ll show you. Please.”
He looked at me, his tight mouth grinning with yellow teeth and black holes. His mouth as rotten as his heart.
“I’ll kill her now.”
I had no choice, she nodded to me and I started with a very gentle hum. Slowly at first there was a slight tremor along the ground from the trees. Even that was too much for MacFinn’s horses and they bolted before his men had a chance to stop them. A few of them ran after them and MacFinn let go of Mother and held his hand up.
“Leave them, he’s worth so much more.”
He started to walk to me. Just one more step and Mother would be out of his reach. He came towards me laughing with his arms outstretched. I growled, deep from my stomach. The ground shook and rumbled back. I was left standing whilst all arranged around were thrown to the ground.
MacFinn looked at me, his smile gone and replaced with terror. The rumbling increased right where he lay and he could do nothing but open his mouth as the ground broke beneath him and pulled him down into the unforgiving clay.
I looked at his men and they just ran. Mother came to me, held me close as I let the tears come. The tears that I’d always held back out of fear. Tears for the father that I never knew, tears for the grief I could never before voice, tears for killing a man. Then came the tears for what was to come.
I cried myself into a man that day. As I cried I barely noticed the ground that erupted around us, the chaos that grief had wrought. When it was over and I gently peeled my mother away and wiped my eyes I could see that we stood alone. The villagers had fled for what safety they could find whilst my cries crushed the village and buried it in raining clay and flying trees.
As we walked silently away I stared at the ground and slowly and carefully trod, trying as I could to ignore the wasteland that I had fashioned and that we were travelling through. If I caught a glimpse of a prone body I closed my eyes and carried on with no care of tripping and falling. There was no sound around us and I had no desire to check for signs of life. I just needed to get away from the horror that I had brought.
Over the coming years we moved on, away from the wars and the fear and hatred. There are dark patches in my memory where men like MacFinn came to take me and make me hurt others. Most failed but some succeeded for a while. The end was always the same – homes wrecked, people dying in agony and kingdoms laid low – until we escaped again.
We travelled far to the most inhospitable places, far from men, trying to find peace but still we could not find a place that we could call home.
Then the day came that my mother sat me down and told me the things that made me the happiest and the saddest I had ever been.
“Bran, I cannot go much longer. I am dying and we need to go home, to your father’s home. Carry me there and lay me with his bones. You can build a home there, no people will come, no-one will bother you.”
So as we walked the length of the land from the farthest north to the southernmost tip I carried my poor, old mother and she told me what she never could before.
How she had been given to my father, Bran, the last true giant. How she had grown to love him and had six times failed to give him his dearest desire, a giant-child. She told of their joy when I was born, not a giant-child but a human child.
She told tales of the many wonders he could raise from the rocks with his voice. No matter how many times I asked her she wouldn’t tell me how he died.
After many days of travelling we reached the outcrop where his castle lay and all my hopes were crushed. We could see it, a magnificent castle atop a lush, mountain island but we could not reach it. It was easily twenty miles out at sea and surrounded by jagged rocks. No boat could possibly reach it safely. I felt as drained and defeated as Mother looked.
As I slumped down she simply kissed my face, “Don’t worry, wait awhile and you’ll see.”
I just had to trust her and allowed sleep to take me. I woke with her shaking me.
“Bran, it’s time. Look.”
As I looked out across the water, I could see that the ebbing tide and the lowering sun revealed a rocky path leading out to the island, shining all golden in the dusk. I almost ran along carrying Mother, I had covered about half the distance before I noticed that the tide didn’t reach any further out.
I couldn’t understand it, Mother must have known. How could she have let us come this far only to be robbed of our haven?
“I can’t swim that, it’s too far and I’m so tired.”
“Tshk, Bran. Think. Hum, Shout. Just do whatever it takes.”
I hummed and shouted and willed the rocks up to lead us home but nothing worked. All the while the waves crashed around us getting nearer and nearer.
“Your father could sing so beautifully,” she smiled all faraway. I wondered if she even knew where we were anymore. For the first time in my life I sang. No big growly voice came but a sweet, high singing voice that I never knew I possessed. It was as if music took life and soothed the angry sea itself. The waves dropped low and I could see the rocks below.
A mere six feet around me cleared and I stepped on the rocks expecting waves to rise and knock me down. The water was up to my knees but calm as a pool. So I sang my way home, the calm like a magic circle surrounding me, a magic carpet that took me home.
We reached my father’s castle and I sang warmth into the castle’s cold rocks and slept the most wonderful sleep. My mother didn’t die as she expected, we had a good seven more years in our home. Free from strife, free from war and war-makers.
When her time came I sang the earth clear of my father’s bones and gently laid her next to him. I laid next to her, cradling her as she had so many times cradled me. I felt her last breath leave her body and I kissed her and left them to their embrace.
I stood looking at them both, my father’s huge bones and my mother’s tiny, frail body. I sang once more gently covering them with earth.
“Goodbye Mother, Goodbye Father.”
As I walked away I realised that I never did ask her how he had died.