- If at all possible, run. Run as fast and as far as you can. Just run.
- If 1 is not possible because you've already been turned into something nasty, grovel to the witch or annoyed fairy godmother concerned. Grovel for all you are worth. It is the only chance of getting them to restore you.
- If you work for the fairy government, you need to work out what did go wrong and strategies for avoiding it happening again.
- If you have the skills for it, repair the damage. There will be damage done to the environment. Nothing can stand having too much magic go through it.
- Go on an adventure. You are clearly fated to do so. This is particularly true if you are an ill-treated step daughter or the youngest of three.
When magic goes wrong, you should:-
Keeping it real for dialague means, funnily enough, NOT writing speech as it is spoken. Cut out the errs, the umms, the pauses, the "mind went blank" moments and so on.
What you write is dialogue that sounds real but has all these bits taken away. Edited speech if you like. The end result is being able to read speech that flows smoothly, which moves the story on and helps with pacing. You want your readers to be gripped by all that your characters have to say so anything that might interrupt that should not be written into the story.
"Where is it then?", he strode around the room, opening all the cupboards and slamming the doors shut.
"Don't know what you're on about",' she replied.
"Don't lie to me".
Notice I have one action, one tag line but it is clear who must be speaking for the rest of the dialogue. The speech itself makes it clear who must be speaking. So let your dialogue "earn its keep". Every word of it must help advance the story.
Further to my Postcards from the Magical World post, the following have just come in:-
From Puss in Boots
Am clearly smarter than my client. Why do I have to work with humans? Not that comfortable with the boots either. Not my style, frankly. Still if I can't turn this chump into something more promising, I'm losing my touch.
From Sleeping Beauty
I don't know what all the fuss was about. I've never slept so well!
From Six of the Seven Dwarves
Much as we're pleased for Snow White, we had got rather used to having our meals and housework done. None of us are prepared to let Dopey have a go, though he did offer. We rather like being able to return home from work to a home that is still actually standing.
The classic fairytales start with once upon a time, of course, but I must admit it is not my favourite opening. Yes, it sets you up to the idea the story you're about to read happened a long, long time ago (and many fairytales are based on fact - The Little Match Girl is almost certainly based on something Hans Christen Andersen observed). However, I think once upon a time doesn't really tell you enough and can come across as a bit twee. Fairytales are often gritty, no nonsense stories and so I feel deserve and should have a stronger opening.
The secret to a good opening is it must entice you into reading the rest of the story. It can do this by giving a fantastic sentence or two that means you must read on (George Orwell's 1984 - "It was a birght, cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen" is a wonderful example of this.). Another great way is to start with dialogue that again is strong enough to make you want to find out how the conversation ended and what the results were from it. Or a character is introduced or referred to but there is something intriguing about them shown right from the outset, again making you want to read on and find out more.
So I think there is definitely room for improvement on once upon a time!
My cyberlaunch is on Saturday 1st April between 10 am and 6 pm (UK time) for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I've started posting items on to the page and will continue to do so as lead up for the main event on Saturday. I've created a poll about how writers started writing and comments would be most welcome.
So I've set up a quiz and question type post for the book launch. What kind of quizzes and questions would your characters be expected to know? Are educational standards high in your fictional world so everyone would do well in a typical general knowledge quiz?
If there is a media, do quizzes and questions feature as part of the overall programming offered to people? Who would host such things? What would be the general educational/intelligence standards your world's quizzes and quesitons would aim for.
Anyone with Google here? Good. Time to explore what postcards could come to the magical world. More hopefully tomorrow.
From the Big Bad Wolf
Had good walk in the woods. Met nice kid on her way to Granny with a picnic basket. Have arranged to meet kid for lunch later.
Glass slippers, I ask you! Oh they were murder on the feet. What my fairy godmother was playing at here with this, I'll never know. I deliberately left one behind on the steps of the Palace. Couldn't wait to get rid of the things. Just hope he finds it. Now off to clean out the grate...
From the Ugly Duckling
Whoever said beauty is in the eye of the beholder needs shooting (I'd happily pour orange sauce over them I tell you!). I've been picked on morning, noon and night because I look different to everyone else. Have got to get right out here, right out of town.
What you don't want to hear...
My post yesterday was all about the way forward so naturally a follow-up post to that has to go in the opposite direction!
Generally, characters do need to be moving forwards in their lives. It is the whole point of the story after all. Incident X happens to Character Y, they do Z because of it and then A happens etc etc. However, not all characters learn from what happen to them. Others take longer than perhaps they should to learn (because that is how the writer has portrayed them). Still others go backwards...
Not everyone responds well to pressures. As in life, characters can retreat into themselves, almost inevitably in an attempt to protect themselves from (a) having to face up to a situation and (b) dealing with it!
The story here then is do those characters stay at this point (in which case there is no resolution to the problem) or do they go "backwards" into a retreat position to give themselves time to get their act together, before re-emerging and dealing with the problem the way they feel it needs to be tackled. Do they find the retreating like this really does help them or does it just delay resolving the issue and they end up wishing they had NOT done this? There could be some cracking stories here...
Whichever direction your characters are heading, there do have to be good reasons and resolutions (of some sort).
Often in writing, the way forward is not clear cut. Sometimes there can be too many choices as we write (just what do we do with Character X? What we decide will affect their fate and the whole story!). Equally when trying to market a book, there are so many options to go for.
Your characters, however, should have some idea as to what they think is the way forward for them. (They don't have to be right incidentally!). They should also be striving to moving forward all the time towards whatever their goal happens to be. Of course the clashes come when other characters want to thwart that objective (for good reasons according to them). But your characters should still always be trying to find another way to move forward and overcome the obstacles suddenly in their way.
One of the things I like about fairytales is the humble hero/heroine usually discovers they have more resourcefulness, courage and intelligence than they (or their enemies) thought they had. The Little Mermaid shows determination and works out ways in which she could achieve her objective (though according to Andersen's original the ways were very unpleasant. No wonder Disney toned it down for the big screen). And I love The Ugly Duckling for not giving up too.
It nearly always takes a crisis event to bring out the best in someone (sometimes the worst but usually the best. Most people "rise" to the event and are determined not to let it beat or cow them). This will be true for your characters too. The crises you set up for them are what will test them to their limits and you will really know what they are made of because of the way they react.
Do your characters ever surprise you with what they come out with? What do you think your characters' cracking points would be and what would they do if they did crack? How much courage can your characters discover?
Birthdays in fairy tales can often be the event around which a story turns. For example, Sleeping Beauty's parents are warned about what will happen to their daughter on her 16th birthday. Do as they will to try to avoid it, only the fairy godmother's blunting of the original curse stops disaster. And in Cinderella the Prince's birthday is the catalyst for having the Palace ball and a reason for those invites to go out and for Cinders' own fairy godmother to turn up to ensure the girl did get to go to the ball.
How are birthdays commemorated by your characters or are they not considered important? Are the birthdays of, say, the ruling monarch celebrated (whether the people want to or not!)? Is your character's birthday the starting point for their adventure?
When push does come to shove for your characters, what makes them act the way they do? Cowardice? Heroism? Is there a deep seated need to prove themselves or to show some kind of redemption for things they may have done in the past?
What is the main characteristic that comes out from your characters when under real pressure? Do your characters show signs of changing behaviour as their stress levels rise? Do your characters show signs of learning from their experiences and developing greater maturity as a result?
Sometimes when push comes to shove can apply to writers too. What will we do to get our work out there? Are we prepared for rewrite after rewrite until we get the story right?
When in doubt:-
What counts as being news worthy in (a) the eyes of your character and (b) the world you've put them on? I don't like the idea of fake news. For me, something is news or it isn't. Likewise, I have no time for alternative facts. Facts are facts or they're not.
So what makes the news? I would anticipate, on a magical world, there being some kind of dragon and other monsters alert so people would know when to take cover. The travel bulletins would have to cover those walking, running, using wheeled transport and flying (directly or by broomstick etc). This could take some time!
Headlines would be for successful restaging of the classic tales and would warn of alien visitations to that world. What does your main character think is the main news item and why? Do they prefer the lighthearted stories or is their interest in the news professional and they watch the more serious programmes? How much control do news editors have over their material? Is there a government checking "service" so that everything that goes out live on air is deemed fit to broadcast by officials?
Does your fictional world find out about what is going on in neighbouring worlds? How does it do so? Or does it totally ignore anything but its own news?
I'm thinking about heroes and heroines tonight as it fits in with my latest Chandler's Ford Today post, which is a review of Blood and Valour. This is the first in a series of graphic novels about the stories of Sir Bevis of Hampton, whose stories were once as well known as Chaucer, and whom the city of Southampton in the UK adopted as its mascot. (Many upcoming towns and cities in medieval times adopted mascots showing virtues they wanted to emulate or believed they had! Southampton obviously wanted to be identified with courage, loyalty and adventure!). Highly recommend.
What do we want our heroes and heroines to be in our stories? Reflections of those characteristics we would like to have ourselves or the better parts of our personalities perhaps? I can't see how any writer can avoid bringing some of themselves into the characters they write, but what really does matter is your characters must be their own people. They must be true to themselves.
I use character traits as the foundation of my character building. For example, if a character is stubborn, just where could that lead them? It would also have a major effect on their relationships with others (and probably do a lot of damage, unfortunately, but that could make a very good story, possibly of novel length). I worry less about how a character looks though I end up working this out later. I have got to know how my characters would act in any given situation and why. Whether they have brown hair or blue eyes strikes me as much less important to know though I do fill these details in later for longer stories. (Often in flash fiction you don't need to know at all).
So how do you go about creating your heroes and heroines? Don't forget to put in the flaws. I like the development of flawed heroes. None of us are perfect after all so the vast majority of our characters shouldn't be either. If you are writing about a perfect being,this is going to be difficult as all stories revolve about conflict. Any conflict arising from a perfect being will inevitably be on others' reactions to that being so the story should probably be from their viewpoint anyway.
What do your characters do when in a tight corner? Is the automatic response to be to find whatever practical things they can do and hope that's enough to escape the impasse? Or do your characters just wish for their fairy godmother to turn up?!
I prefer those characters who try to do something to help themselves even if what they do turns out to be wrong or not enough. I like my characters to be proactive. I find them far more interesting to read about (I think this is partly because they inevitably learn something from what they do).
Wishing then really is for the character who can't do anything else - they've already done whatever they can do to help themselves. This is the time you really do want your fairy godmother to turn up promptly!
Proverbs can be a great source of story ideas as they literally give you motivation or theme in one line. For example, the love of money is the source of all evil is a great theme (and I would say Wall Street is based on that premise). So what proverbs could be found in the fairytale world? My suggestions could include:-
Tonight's blog post is a strong contender for the Longest Title I've Written Award! But I was thinking about when things are going well (which is always nice), then it is time to be on the lookout for what P.G. Wodehouse called "the stuffed eelskin" (which is always ready to bash the unsuspecting!).
How do your characters react to when things go well for them and then suddenly they're not any more? What is your world's equivalent to Murphy's Law ("anything that can go wrong probably will")? When the thorns of life do show up, how do your characters handle them?
How do your characters cope with adversity? Are they generous to others in the face of it or do they withdraw into themselves? In particular, when others are still doing well, how do your characters react to their change of circumstances which mean they're not?
We all need down time in which to unwind. How do your characters do this? What hobbies would they have? What kind of creative arts exist in the fictional setting you've created? What sports are there? Do characters follow teams and so on?
All of these things can create a much more vivid picture of the world you've set up even if your story is not directly connected to them. Usually a lot of description is not needed. A few lines here and there to conjure up images of say what creative arts exist and which your characters enjoy would be enough.
I listen to a lot of music (especially classical) and find it very soothing. What do your characters find helps them "chill out" after a stressful day? And down time also, for me, means going back to the basics. Your characters are not "on" all the time - they have to eat, drink, sleep and so on. How do these things happen? What happens when your characters feel overwhelmed because they have had little chance to relax?
And now on to more of my down time as I write my next blog post...!
I've spent a lot of the day on the train today going to and from a wonderful Association of Christian Writers' Day about podcasting and radio interviews amongst other topics. I love train travel (despite the fact so often the operators could do with putting more coaches on) and it led me to wonder about transport in a magical environment.
I love interviewing other authors and frequently do so for Chandler's Ford Today. I always learn a lot from how other writers work. But it was lovely having the tables turned when fellow scribe, Jacci Gooding, interviewed me. I met Jacci at the Winchester Writers' Festival a few years back and we are email writing pals. Both of us love the short story format. And her questions really made me think about my writing journey. I think the best interviews are the ones which draw the interviewee out and Jacci has real talent here!
Sorry for having to do the link like this but there seem to be technical issues with Weebly tonight and this seems to be a good work around for the moment.
Now I've talked before about interviewing your characters, which I find a really helpful way of getting to know them in depth before writing about them. But in your fictional world, who would do the interviewing of others? Who runs the media? What is the media in your setting? Are there certain people would never be interviewed (or it would be too dangerous to even try)? How do your people get their news? Does anyone ask questions on behalf of the layman? All things to think about which can add depth to your portrayal of your setting.
Making the most of things is something that is not a bad thing to practice. It doesn't mean putting up in injustices but does mean appreciating what you have and trying to make the most of your talents etc. So how do your characters do this? Are they making the most of the skills you've endowed them with? Why did you give them these particular skills?
What prevents your characters from making the most of what they have? How do they react to those who may try to take away whatever they have (be it a lot or a little)? In the fictional world you've created, does the government/peoples as a whole make the most of the resources of that world (and what are these)?
If your world is in a stable time, does it ever look back to when it wasn't in that position and try to avoid the things that caused instability before? Has it learned from its mistakes? Have your characters learned from theirs? (I believe one sure way to make the most of what you have is to learn from errors because hopefully that will mean you keep on developing and I think that should apply to your characters too).
Seeing is believing or so they say. It is true to a certain extent for fiction. We see characters behaving the way that they are and so we form judgements. Okay, only reading the story through will tell us whether we were right to form those judgements.
So ensure readers can see what your characters are like. Show reasons for the characters being the way they are (a good villain will elicit sympathy). Take us into the thoughts of your characters so we can see why they think the way they do. In seeing things from their perspective, we can see what drives them (and the great thing with this is we don't have to agree with that perspective either. We just need to see the character really believes in what they are saying and doing).
In seeing what the characters do, we don't necessarily see everything. After all in any story a character will only see so much - there will be things they don't know. But we will go on the journey of the story with them and will understand their reactions so much better if we know where they are coming from.
Signs of a good character (whether they are actually good or a villain!), include:-
Even in a magical setting, most of the time wishing isn't enough for your characters. They have to have strong motives for being the way they are/acting as they are. The important thing is those motives have to be strong enough in the characters' own eyes. A character can justify all manner of things, but as long as the reader can see why the character is thinking the way they are, that is enough.
Even "crazy" characters have to have at least one reason for being like that, a reason your readers can follow. So you have to know what drives your characters and that knowledge will affect how you write them but you will write much more convincingly. If the reader is convinced you know what you are doing, then they will stay with you, your story and your characters.
I'm Allison Symes and I write novels, short stories as well as some scripts and poems. I love setting my work in my magical world, the Fairy Kingdom, and my favourite character is Eileen, who believes hypocrisy is something that happens to other people without caring that statement is hypocritical in itself! Eileen is huge fun to write for and about.