Writing advice for the short fiction competitions.

A little writing guide here. It’s not a definitive guide on- How To Write A Short Story. Although, it will give you a few pointers as to what our judges look for when they’re reading entries.

The beginning. Make sure you grab the reader’s attention immediately. You don’t have many words, so use them wisely. Make sure you establish the tone, setting and character as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Character. Yes, this is a bit of an obvious one, but make sure your characters are believable and well-rounded. This seeps into the dialogue they speak, the actions they take (or don’t take), the motivations they have. It doesn’t matter if your protagonist is a down-and-out Santa, a middle-aged man looking back over his life, or a flip-flop, make sure their character is consistent throughout.

Plot and conflict. Another obvious one, but you’d be amazed how many stories we receive that don’t even get anywhere near the longlist because, quite frankly, nothing happens. Give your main character a problem to face – and make it one that the reader will care about. Use your 1500 or 500 words to work towards a satisfying ending. Even pantsers can benefit from a bit of planning, and even the shortest of stories can benefit from having the three-act structure applied to them.

The title. Our rules state that your maximum word count doesn’t include the title – so use that to your advantage. Now, we’re not saying that your title can be 200 words long! But a carefully chosen title that really complements  the story and adds a deeper degree of resonance will undoubtedly catch our judges eyes.

The mechanics. Check your spelling. Your grammar, your punctuation. Make sure you manuscript is professionally presented and properly formatted. Yes, it’s the story being told that is ultimately the most important thing, but if there’s only one slot left on the shortlist and two equally enjoyable stories, it’s the sloppy looking document, littered with spelling and punctuation mistakes, that will end up on the reject pile.

The rules. Read the rules… READ THE RULES… READ. THE. RULES.
And then, before you finally submit, go back and read them one last time to make sure you’ve stuck to them. Make a checklist if you have to, and go through it to make sure your story doesn’t fall at the first hurdle.

Romancing the Gibbet (4) The Morrismen Murder

Image result for romancing the gibbet the morrismen murder, broadway tower, 23 november"

‘Romancing the Gibbet’ is a collaboration between poet, Ralph Hoyte and historian, Steve Poole, exploring ‘dark tourism’ at sites of extraordinary public execution in Georgian Britain. Poole explains the historical background of a single public hanging. A case from 1772, when William Keeley was found guilty of murdering Joseph Dyer after spotting him flashing his money at the old Fish Inn on Broadway Hill. Evidence old and new was shown, and the site discussed. Amazingly despite the cost, Keeley was hung at the site of the murder and put on display. Having a hanging gibbet was both fascinating and appalling to folks at the time, and oddly the act of displaying the dead as a deterrent to crime has not proven to lower nor raise the area’s crime rate. The Oxford Journal at the time commented: “It seems that Keeley is a famous Morrice dancer, and on Sunday morning before the fact was committed, he was teaching a set of fellows to dance. Warner used to play on the tabor and pipe to the dancers. It is to be hoped the Justices will suppress such nurseries of idleness and drunkenness as morrice-dancings have generally proved!”, in other words, they considered Morris Dancing especially on a Sunday to be a waste of a good mans time. Hoyte then performs extracts from his poetic responses. Together Poole and Hoyte play some spoken-word imaginative responses too, Influenced by the works of the romantics Coldridge and Wordsworth; their study of nature and human nature combined and compared in verse. We listen to the Ballard and mixed voice performance with a sense of the subline. The project has four free audio trails. At this event, a sample audio-trail was relocated in and around Broadway Tower for us to try out. Adding the performance elements and music to the location even if you are listening through your phone was something extraordinary and very atmospheric. With the day we attended filled with cold mists and temperature in the low 2 degrees, it was easy to imagine being on a ghost trail of long ago folklore.

Remembering to download the app to your phone or GPS-enabled tablet beforehand would have helped me keep up. However, this event has inspired me much on my search for local history stories and folk tales to find and preserve for the next generation of creatives to use.

The Well = an Artist Date

As any working or struggling creative person knows some days we are all out of inspiration. Maybe it’s writers block or as my best friend calls it “brain paralysis moments” but you just look at your work and think I’ve done this before. I have no original ideas left?
Well then you must be well overdue for an Artist Date. 

Julia Cameron author of the Well says we have “simply overfished our inner reservoir without having taken the time and care to consciously restock our storehouse of images” so what should we do Julia?

You need to take time to romance your subconscious artist. You need to go on a date!

“Put simply an artist date is a once-weekly solitary expedition to something festive that interests us… This is something that requires you and your inner artist to spend time alone… One of the mysteries of the creative life is the fact that an investment of interest in column A – let’s say listening to a great piece of music or a trip to the aquarium. Will pay off obliquely in column B – setting pen to paper ” or in our case life behind a lens or at the drawing board.

Julia goes on to tell us more about the wonderful effects and avoiding the resistance we might feel, because at not time will we feel less like taking a break in production than when all is going well and we have a great flow of work.

So here is the task I’m taking on : for the next year I will take one day a week for a minimum of four hours on an Artist Date. Like a dedicated marital artist I will limber up my brain and see if the payoff is in the creative fight.

Lens at dawn Cowboys!

  

Journal entry of a mature student

Oak Tree and Stars by BlueFalcon1983

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32 years old and I have made it to university at last.

Worcester University’s team have been so supportive and welcomed me to the crew with open arms (and plenty of paperwork)

So, I will keep you as upto date on my progress during Creative Writing and Illustration. I pray that you will enjoy my artwork as much as I do. Thank you to all my followers for the messages of support and encouragement.

Here we go excited and fearful

“Geronimo!”

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