To Go Boldly …

Eric Lahti, a fellow author, blogger and member of the Indie Author Support and Discussion (IASD) group on Facebook issued a challenge.

Produce a short story of 1,000 words or less inspired from a choice of supplied graphics.

My response is ‘To Go Boldly …‘, a story of desire and duty.

A 1000 word - for Eric

New York City, New York
1982AD

“Jim darling,” Penny Kirk said, her eyes misting. “Please be careful out there.”

“Don’t worry love, her husband said. “I’m equal to the challenge, and you know I must push myself or I can’t get through the day.”

“I think 25 years with the New York Police Department proved what you’re capable of, so you need to learn to take it easy.”

He leaned forward and kissed his wife. “I’m not with the NYPD anymore, so I can’t understand why you worry so much.”

“You might not be, but you’re one of the only independent Extra-Terrestrial Investigators in the country, so I wish you’d join a government team.”

“I’m onto something this time Penny,” he said, his eyes gazing into those of his loving wife. “I promise if nothing comes from this theory tonight, I’ll apply to join the government team out in Phoenix, okay?”

“Okay darling, but I’ll still worry until you come home.”

“Remember your promise.”

“I know, I know,” she said, and the promise always lifted her from her morbid mood about her husband’s obsession.

“If you ever disappear I have to ask James Jnr to swear to carry on your full names in the family line.”

He nodded. “That’s my girl,” he said and reached out to touch a framed scroll near the door. He winked at his wife, lifted his overnight bag and was gone.

*

Penny sat at the breakfast bar next morning drinking a black coffee. She stared at the scroll her husband had fitted on the wall beside the main door the day their son was born, and dimples appeared in her cheeks.

James Jnr had already left for school. Before leaving, he’d kissed his mother, and then as he’d left the house he’d touched the framed scroll and looked back at his mother with a broad smile. “I’m real proud of Dad, and I’m gonna be just like him.”

Penny lifted the remote control and flicked to the news channel.

‘This is Cathy Soames from NYRTV reporting from Central Park.’ The young blonde stepped back to allow the cameraman to pan around the area, and the broadcast continued.

‘It was on this bridge in the early hours of the morning when a bolt of lightning struck the bridge. There had been no rain, thunder, or lightning previous to the unprecedented broad flash of bluish-white light. Two eye-witnesses were sleeping rough in the park, and both said they recognised a man who’d been standing on the bridge prior to the flash.’

A photograph of Penny’s husband in NYPD uniform took up half of the screen, and alongside it, a recent newspaper article showing him with a large telescope.

Penny Kirk was unaware of the coffee dripping over the breakfast bar until it spilled onto her bare legs. As she listened to the reporter, the words became a mumbling message, and the TV screen blurred as tears filled Penny’s blue eyes.

“No,” Penny whispered. “Please don’t let it be-,”

The doorbell disturbed her plea to whosoever or whatever controlled these things. She went to the door in a daze, not bothering to deal with the damp front of her coffee-stained dressing gown. She opened the door and stared at the two uniformed officers.

“Hello ma’am, I’m Patrolman O’Brien, and this is Patrolman Jefferson ….”

*

Phoenix, Arizona
2255AD

Jim looked around his sparse but comfortable accommodation, and before leaving looked out across the vast complex of the Space Academy to the new ship. It was built near the academy so it would serve as an inspiration.

The magnificent craft was completed and awaited the crew – a select bunch of highly trained people who were prepared to tackle a five-year long mission into the unknown. They would be led by the youngest captain in Earth’s fleet.

Jim stopped at the door and gazed at the glass-framed scroll which had been handed down through generations. For the first time, he read it aloud.

“James means supplanter – the one who replaces. Tiberius was the strong Roman Emperor who ruled for over 20 years. Kirk, a family name derived from the ancient Church of Scotland, and earlier from the Greek for Lord’s House.”

“I will make you proud,” The captain said, as he gently placed a fingertip on the frame in the way he did every day. “I’ll strive to make you as proud of us, as we’ve all been of you.”

Jim placed his hand over his heart as he read the request at the bottom of the 280-year-old scroll, ‘Please bear this name with pride, remember the full meaning of your inherited name, and be prepared to go boldly toward the future.’

It was signed James Tiberius Kirk, New York City, USA – 1975.

***

A Day of Reckoning

 

Eric Lahti, a fellow author, blogger and member of the Indie Author Support and Discussion (IASD) group on Facebook produced a challenge.

He suggested a short story of around 1,000 words inspired by the graphic used below.

My response was ‘A Day of Reckoning‘, a story of honour and vengeance.

***

Red Light District pic

Monday, 15th February 2010
Glasgow, Scotland

Lei Mei arrived into Glasgow Airport at 7am and made her way to the city using the shuttle bus service. It was impersonal transport, so she wouldn’t be noticed. She wore no makeup, and maintained an impassive expression.

The 30-year-old walked to Buchanan Street, where she found a busy early morning cafe. She ordered a traditional meal, with tea, and avoided making small talk. At her table, Lei used the map on her phone to locate her destination. It would take ten minutes to reach on public transport, or thirty minutes on foot. She walked.

Lei strolled along Sauchiehall Street, and chose a department store where there would be a washroom. Unlike most international travellers, the bag she carried over her shoulder contained all her needs. It held makeup, underwear, three changes of outfit, and travel documents.

On her departure through the store, both men and women gave her approving looks. Her long hair was centre-parted and brushed so it cascaded over her shoulders like a sheet of black silk. False lashes and makeup enhanced her natural oriental beauty. She wore a bright yellow blouse and black mini-skirt, complemented with black high heels.

It took her a further twenty minutes to reach her destination. She arrived in Cowcaddens and assessed the modern six-storey block as she approached. At a bus shelter less than 50 metres from the building, an old Chinaman in vibrant traditional dress waited alone. He had a straggly grey beard, and his long hair hung in a pigtail down his back.

Lei stepped into the bus shelter, glanced at the advertising posters, and then stared at the bus route timetable without reading. She half-turned to the old man to speak.

“Do you use this route often, wise one?”

He stood in regal pose, arms folded across his body, and hands inside the wide cuffs of the opposite arm.

“I walk,” the man said. “I prefer the light, and do not act in the darkness.”

“On occasion, we are compelled to act in the darkness,” Lei said. “I have no choice.”

The old man closed his eyes, and nodded imperceptibly. He handed Lei a wrapped item, and in exchange accepted her shoulder bag.

Lei’s ruby lips twitched. She gave a slight bow, turned and walked away.

Half an hour later, Lei revisited the old man at the bus shelter. His wrinkled face broke into a brief smile on her return.

“Use the subway,” he suggested, returning her shoulder bag. “Stay strong and true, child of Mei Bhei.”

*

Manchester, England

It was early evening, raining and chilly when Lei arrived into Manchester city centre. While on the train, she’d removed her makeup, and tied her hair back in a ponytail. The smart costume was replaced by the drab outfit, lightweight coat and stout shoes.

She left Manchester Piccadilly Station, and made her way towards Chinatown.

In a small newsagent’s close to Faulkner Street, Lei met a Chinaman. He was similar to the man she’d met in Glasgow, but was older, wearier and used a cane. He exchanged a small package for Lei’s shoulder bag.

He said, “Remain strong.”

Following her second meeting of the day, Lei was again greeted with a smile when she retrieved her bag.

“May honour guide you, child of Mei Bhei.”

She smiled briefly, nodded, and was gone.

*

London, England

Lei caught a late evening train from Manchester and ate on the journey. When she reached Soho she was tired. She was wearing makeup again, and had changed into an attractive outfit, just like Glasgow and Manchester.

She left the meeting in Soho as a downpour began. Lei stopped at a late-night store to buy an umbrella. She used one hand to button her coat, as she hurried to Tottenham Court Road tube station to retrieve her floral bag.

A glance over her shoulder confirmed two figures following her, but she had difficulty walking faster in heels.

*

Tuesday, 16th February 2010
New Scotland Yard,
London, England

Detective Chief Inspector Harry Flynn pulled on latex gloves to inspect the mysterious parcel which had been delivered overnight. He placed the contents on his desk, and lifted the envelope. Harry removed the two sheets of paper and read aloud.

“DCI Flynn,
My father was Chief Inspector Mei Bhei. He was your mentor during your attachment to the Hong Kong Police Department in 2008. One month ago Mei Bhei was kidnapped, tortured and left to die in an alleyway.

Three key Triad figures orchestrated the kidnapping and subsequent events. The perpetrators had been invited to Hong Kong from their operational bases in the UK.

You will find these men in Glasgow, Manchester and London. I have executed them, and in each case, I cut out the tongue and replaced it with the testicles. Each man bled to death.

I have provided you with appropriate details to avoid lengthy investigations and enquiries. Before you, there will be a floral shoulder bag, two sealed bags, each containing a blade with traces of victim’s DNA.

Attached to this letter is a list of the dead men and their addresses. You will also have my three counterfeit passports, and list of airports used on my extended route from Hong Kong to the UK.

If I didn’t retrieve my bag following the third execution, it means I was unable to avoid detection. These people contacted each other regularly for their own protection, so I had to deal with all three within 24 hours.

On the attached sheet is a band-aid which carries my DNA. My body will be left in a public place.

Anybody touching my bag used the strap, which will now be missing from the bag, so my assistants are untraceable.

Please, do not waste resources looking for my murderers.

Lei Mei Bhei, Detective Inspector
Hong Kong Police Department”

*

The intercom buzzed.

“Sir,” the assistant said. “A young woman’s body has been discovered in Soho.”

DCI Flynn closed his eyes. “Bastards!”

***

Change is … Refreshing

It matters not whether it’s an outfit, a job, a car, the look of a room, the layout of your desk, or the way that you do something – it sometimes gives the spirits a lift to create change.

As a writer it helps to have more than one project on the go, moving from one to another as and when the mood takes you, or when ‘resting’ a story between drafts.

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What are we doing when we change something?

We are refreshing. I recently set up a new item on my blog menu to give some basic guidance on the writing of short stories. I said within those guidelines that I’d follow up with a piece on writing short stories for competitions. That is now done and appears in my menu under the Competition Writing heading.

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What was that about change and refreshing in the intro?

When I started creative writing it was poetry, and then I tried short stories. The poetry was left behind as the whole concept of short story writing captured my imagination. It took a couple of years before I dared to consider a novel, but once I’d dipped my toe in the water – I was smitten. That particular change has proved worthwhile and fulfilling.

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What is the relevance of my personal writing progression to this post?

In recent weeks, apart from my other projects I’ve produced two short stories for anthologies. The incentive for writing the stories was that the proceeds of sales of the anthologies will be forwarded to charities. I will return to the subject of the anthologies to talk about them and promote them closer to their publication.

A lot of people are excited about the cover and title of one of the two charity anthologies, and quite rightly – because both are excellent. Over the next few days I’m pretty sure there will be many who ‘share’ the cover and promote the collection before its publication. I’ll leave that to them for now, and I’ll get underway with a similar strategy a day or two before the publication date.

By far my favourite Facebook group is the Indie Author Review Exchange, founded by fellow author, blogger and friend, Paul Ruddock. It is from that group, now numbering 570+ after only a few months, that an open request was made for authors to take part in the two charity anthologies.

I noted that not only were there authors who hadn’t written short stories for a while – it became clear that there were those who had never ventured into the challenges of writing short stories.

*

Why is it a good idea to try writing short stories?

The short story is a separate discipline to that of novel writing, or even novella writing. A short story requires tighter word usage, fewer characters, a tight timeline and a single unwavering plot which starts with a personal conflict of some description.

There is no allowance for a cast of thousands, or lengthy and flowery descriptions of imagery. The dialogue should move the story forward as rapidly as the action. The character in crisis should be the one who plays the major part in how the original conflict plays out.

In my own humble opinion I believe that even the occasional short story helps the novelist to tone-up, refresh, and reassess where they are with their writing craft. I am presently working on three completely different longer pieces at the moment, but taking a break to produce two short stories was a breath of fresh air, which I am sure has affected how I am now approaching my novels.

*

Are there any other reasons for writing short stories?

It may not be obvious to all writers, but there is money to be made and prizes to be won with short stories. Yes, they have to be of a high standard, and yes they will require to follow certain guidelines, but isn’t that true of any competition. If you’ve never considered the short story competition market and you’d like an insight, please check out – Competition Writing.

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What am I working on in novels?

In terms of priority my front runner is Acts of Vengeance, which is the sequel to Beyond The Law. Rapidly following that one is A Life of Choice, which is a fact-based fiction, coming-of-age story. The latest contender for my literary affections is Give and Take. I am intending it to be a full length erotic novel, so the story is very much an experiment. If you’ll pardon the pun, the secondary reason for writing such a story is to provide relief when not working on the other stories. Give and Take – Chapter 1.

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What else have I changed recently?

Whilst working on my two short stories for the anthologies, something came to mind. I went to my blog to check it out, and I was surprised by how many main subject headings I had on my main menu.

When I was leaving my writing aside for a break, I spent about half an hour refreshing my menu and selecting items that could be stepped down to sub-menu level.

You will see that my tips for writing short stories are all under one main heading. My short story anthologies are under a single heading. My four published novels are under one heading, and one that I’m particularly pleased about is, placing Work in Progress under one heading.

In one session I believe I have: improved the appearance of the main menu, made it easier to navigate, and made it more manageable for me as the main user. I look forward to any thoughts on the topics I’ve covered in this post.

***

Anthologies – Theme or Genre?

Okay, so you want to compile an anthology of short stories, but there are many things to consider, quite apart from the decision about whether to go ahead with the idea.   Smoke & Mirrors - 030714 2

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What are the main considerations?

– Will it be theme-based, or genre-based?
– Will it be one person’s work, or a variety of authors?
– How many titles should there be?
– What length should the average story be?
– What price range do you aim for?
Yes, there are many more questions, but we now have a flavour of what is involved in compiling a collection of stories.

*

Theme versus genre?

Themes – and this is a mere handful of examples.

– Retribution
– Goodness
– Family
– Natural History
– Day and Night
– Environment
– Imprisoned
Anybody can come up with a theme. Your chosen theme can be as tightly controlled, or as wide-ranging as you choose.

*

Genre – and once again, a handful of examples.

– Thriller
– Horror
– Supernatural/Paranormal
– Erotica
– Young Adult
– Romance
– Science-Fiction
– Adventure
– Children’s
– Fantasy

*

It should be easy to see now that with regard to genre, they are well-established and they each have sub-genres which are easy to identify.
For example, ‘Erotica’ leads to: Straight, Gay, Bi, BDSM, TV, TS, and a few more besides.912FmvSHzYL._SL1500_

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The difference with theme-based work is that it is an even wider spectrum than genre. I’ll choose one theme at random from my previous spontaneous short list, and then I’ll explore it mentally for no more than two minutes. I will set a stopwatch for this exercise.

We’ll say for example that I’m entering a short story competition and the guidelines are:

Genre: Open,
Theme: Imprisoned,
Word count: 2000 min to 2500 max,
Line spacing: Double-spacing in Times New Roman – pt 12.
Closing Date: 34th Zonkemper 2095

*

Are you ready for this?

My theme is ‘Imprisoned’? The stopwatch is on …

1. – a 14-year old boy is washed into a cave at the seaside …
2. – a soldier awakes trapped in a damaged tank after an explosion in a battle …
3. – a woman wakes up bound and gagged in a cellar with a straw-covered floor …
4. – a dog is on a small island and the owner cannot swim …
5. – a light plane crashes onto a remote island and the only survivors are a beautiful woman and a handsome man who is ten years her junior …
6. – a car overturns and sinks in a river, but the driver survives the crash …

*

I’ve been given a definite theme – imprisoned.
I’ve created a rapid list of ideas and any one of them could work with that theme, but are they the same genre?

No they are not the same genre. To see why; let’s look closer at how my mind works.

*

1. – a 14-year old boy is washed into a cave at the seaside … the boy is the son of a werewolf and his anguish brings about his first ever experience of transformation.

2. -a soldier awakes trapped in a damaged tank after an explosion in a battle … the soldier looks down at his scarlet tunic and body armour as he slips his feet from his Roman sandals. He wonders what happened to the other centurions in the explosion.

3. – a woman wakes up bound and gagged in a cellar with a straw-covered floor … there is a longbow, a quiver of arrows and a barrel of dynamite in the corner.

4. – a dog is on a small island and the owner cannot swim … the dog has taken the gun that the female owner used to shoot her husband only a short while before.

5. – a light plane crashes onto a remote island and the only survivors are a beautiful woman and a handsome man who is ten years her junior … the young man is the woman’s long lost brother. He knows; she doesn’t.

6. – a car overturns and sinks in a river, but the driver survives the crash … the man in the car is dressed in women’s clothing and on his way to his first ever transvestite meeting in a remote village.

*

 

What have we established?

An anthology is a supremely flexible production.
– it can be a mixture of stories by one author.
– it can be a mixture of stories by various authors.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a nominated genre.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a variety of genre.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a nominated theme.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a variety of themes.
– it can be a mixture of any of the aforementioned.

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Here I feature, Not What You Thought’, which is an example of mixed genre, mixed theme and mixed authors. The main author is Paul Ruddock who has compiled a selection of his own stories, and complemented them with work by guest authors.

Not What You ThoughtPlease find below, links to this newly published anthology. Paul Ruddock is a blogger, reviewer, author of short stories, and founder of the Indie Author Review Exchange group on Facebook. He also created and maintains the Indie Author Review Exchange blog.

The proceeds from sales of this book will be donated to a British military veteran’s charity.

Amazon UK   £1.99    Amazon US   $2.99

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What’s my experience with anthologies so far?

I have short stories traditionally published in four separate anthologies which are all theme-based and have a variety of authors.

I have one short story published on an audio CD, which is theme-based and has a variety of authors.

I have self-published two anthologies of short stories.

I have a series of five genre-based anthologies of poetry.

Smoke & Mirrors; and other stories, is a theme-based collection.
Twist-in-the-tale, but using a range of genre.

Coming Around; and other erotic stories, is a genre-based collection.
Erotica, but using a range of sub-genre.

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I believe that for general reader satisfaction either can work.
– A genre-based collection will appeal to lovers of the particular genre.
– A theme-based collection will appeal to lovers of short stories.
If compiled well, an anthology can produce a selection of completely different stories.

My personal preference is that an anthology should have around 12 stories.

If you’re new to the idea of anthologies, or have up until now wondered what all the fuss was about, I hope I’ve cleared away some of the mystery. These have been my own thoughts, gained from experience, and are not ideas influenced by any text book information.

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As always, I thank you for coming by and reading my thoughts. Please leave a comment if you feel so inclined.

***

Why is it good to try writing poetry? Part 5

Courage - Part 3My intention was to prove that with a basic idea for a story, it would be straightforward to start with a simple poem and develop things from there.

I started with a notion of a brave young fighter pilot in World War II, at about the time of the Battle of Britain.

Stage 1.  I wrote three x four line verses.

Stage 2.  I padded the first three verses out with three more, and that was the poetry completed.

Stage 3.  I considered the ingredients of a short story, combined with my idea for a plot.

Stage 4.  I wrote the story in one straight session, and found that it altered slightly from the original idea. I went with the flow, as I knew I should.

Stage 5.  Only on completion of the story, and with it fresh in my mind, I rapidly listed about 20 possible titles. I relaxed with a coffee and reduced my list to three top contenders.

The title had to be relevant, and at the same time capture the imagination. It had to convince prospective readers that there was a good story to follow.

I left the story for a couple of days, and then did my first proper edit. I left it another two days and did another edit. I’ve no doubt I’ll try to improve on what I have now, but for anybody who’d like to see the finished article:

‘A Time for Courage’

Thank you for indulging me and making this journey with me.

 

Why is it good to try writing poetry? Part 4

Courage - Part 4In Part 1 on this topic, I wrote about using a basic three verse poem to expand on a story idea.

 

 

In Part 2, I took it to the next level with three more verses to beef up the information about the story.

In Part 3, I listed the ingredients I would consider when writing a short story.

I have now written a short story from scratch, based on that simple poem displayed in Part 1 and Part 2. Until I completed the story, I used the same working title as used with the poem. A working title allows the writer to get on with the writing. Too much time can be spent procrastinating about the right title.

Like everything else you’ll read in my blog, I have my own theory with regard to titles. I believe it’s much better to work on the title after the story is written. The story may change slightly from the original idea (which mine did), but the title must still do its job – and attract interest. As soon as the first draft of my story was done I found I’d gone over my self-imposed 1500 word limit by 150 words, so I trimmed it to 1500 words.

I saved the story and then spent about 15 minutes writing out every title idea that came to mind. The whole story was fresh in my mind so I ended up with about 20 titles. Titles are easy, but the appropriate title is the one that works. Here are my top three:

– Death and Glory
– Diary of a Warrior
– A Time for Courage

In my final post on this topic I’ll produce the short story, which by then will only have been edited in a couple of rapid sessions, so it may yet change. I do feel it will still round off the task I set myself with this mini-series of posts.

Remember, there’s no reason why you couldn’t use this system to write a novel. My novel ‘Beyond The Law’ started out as an experimental poem, which stretched into a series of 26 poems.

As always, thank you for your indulgence.

 

Why is it good to try writing poetry? Part 3

RT1-Tangmerewing[1]In Part 1, I suggested looking at the idea of writing a simple three verse poem as the basis and precursor to a story.

 

In Part 2, I added three more verses and it gave the story a little more foundation.

In this post, I’ll look at the main ingredients needed to write a short story. The other aspect of this, is of course to use the simple poem as a guide for the story’s plot.

I’ve got the basic story in poetic form, but I know even before writing the prose, the story may well alter from the one I started out with. That’s not an issue to be concerned about, because the main purposes of the poem were: to provide an outlet for an idea, and to form a basic structure.

What else do we need to consider?

1.  A decent title, but that is best left until after the story is written.

2.  A hook in the intro. A good intro will start with dialogue or action. I usually aim to start with action, a point of crisis I create within the first 30 words.

3.  If it’s a short story, we should keep the timescale short. It should be set over hours or days; not weeks or longer.

4. In line with the short timescale we should have a single plot line, no deviation or sub-plots to distract the reader.

5.  We are aiming to place a normal person in extraordinary circumstances and then make them react. We can also consider giving the main character an issue to deal with, which changes them in some way by the end of the story. There should be some progression.

6.  We should aim to keep the character count low; four or less if possible. Keep it intimate.

7.  Just as we should aim to have a ‘hook’ at the start to capture our reader, we should provide some back story to say how the character or characters got in the position they find themselves. Again, not too much information.

8.  As well as a good start with the hook, and back story, we must know how and when to stop. When the tale is told; stop. No extra bits and pieces. On occasion one more line might work, but mainly; reach the end and stop. Make sure the main character has resolved the conflict or crisis.

9. Try to use the senses when writing. Through good imagery, let the reader see, feel, smell, hear, what is going on. No flowery descriptions though; keep it brief.

10. Try to keep dialogue natural. How? Short and sharp exchanges are the most natural.

With all that in mind, and the poem, I’ve already written a few short passages. In my next post, I’ll produce a list of new titles that I’ve come up with to replace the working title.

I’ve imposed a target on myself of no more than 1500 words. That will stop me from waffling on, and it will keep the story tight. If you haven’t been given a word count target – impose one.

Once again, thank you for following. See you next time.

 

 

Why is it good to attempt writing poetry? Part 2

Courage - Part 2Okay, so in my first post regarding this idea, I mentioned that a poem was effectively a descriptive piece of writing, or in other words a story.

I also suggested that a simple poem of no more than three stanzas (verses) would be enough to give us the beginning, middle and end for a short story idea.

Those first three stanzas took less than 10 minutes to write. They gave a simple beginning, middle and end.

Instead of using something so raw, I thought we’d investigate the idea of adding a bit more meat to the bones; a little more information, in rhyme. The original three stanzas will be in a darker colour to make them stand out. I will only add three more stanzas.

‘A Fighter Pilot’s Day’

Klaxon’s two-tone screams

pierced the morning air

Eager ground-crew teams

aircraft to prepare

                 .

Jack took off in his plane

a fighter in the air

He’d be shot at once again

at fear again he’d stare

                  .

A German ‘ace’ called Schmidt

espied the lead Spitfire

His weapons button hit

sent rapid streaming fire

                   .

The dog-fight was Jack’s worst

his craft was torn apart

Damaged by a burst

of bullets at the start

                   .

Jack’s plane dived towards the land

and o’er the coastal town

This end he hadn’t planned

as he glanced around

                 .

Landing would be hard

to miss the town he’d try

A field was Jack’s last card

he accepted he might die

I believe that’s the basis of our experimental short story. In the next two days I personally will be writing a short story and for now, retaining the working title used here. In my next post, I’ll make a short list of the ingredients I’ll consider, combined with the information supplied in the poem.

Please bear in mind that the poem has only taken about 20 minutes to put together. A lot of writers might spend much longer just toying with their first line of a story.

If anybody out there thinks they could produce a short story between 1000 – 1500 words based on this poem, please have a go, and we’ll give them an airing in a few days.

Thank you for reading, and as always, all comments are welcome and will be answered.

 

Why is it good to attempt writing poetry? Part 1

Courage - Part 1The more astute reader will have noticed how I’ve  phrased that opening question.

If I had used a heading like, ‘Is it good to attempt poetry?’ it wouldn’t have the same effect. My aim is to prove that poetry can work for writers – of all levels.

As always, please remember that any definitions or comments given in my posts are my own, unless otherwise stated.

What is a poem?

1. A poem is a piece of creative writing which is usually broken into bite-sized chunks.

2. The bite-sized chunks are called verses, or stanzas.

3. The stanzas might rhyme at the end of each line, or each alternative line, or not at all. Don’t worry, we’re not going to delve into the details or different types. It’s not a poetry lesson.

4. A poem is creative, and therefore is usually descriptive. In other words, it’s like telling a story, but in short bursts.

5. It can be done in as few or as many short bursts, (verses, or stanzas), as you please.

How can  a writer use a poem as an aid?

Unlike a short story idea which might take a few attempts to get started, a poem takes very little effort, and it doesn’t have to rhyme.

Try creating a beginning, a middle and an end. Three stanzas of four lines each; no more, no less. An example?

‘A Fighter Pilot’s Day’

…..

Jack took off in his plane

a fighter in the air

He’d be shot at once again

at fear again he’d stare

                    .

The ‘dog-fight’ was Jack’s worst

his craft was torn apart

Damaged by a burst

of bullets at the start

                  .

Landing would be hard

to miss the town he’d try

A field was Jack’s last card

he accepted he would die

                 …

That just took me less than ten minutes. I believe that those three simple verses could be developed into a credible short story.

In a short series of posts, I aim to prove my point, that poetry is indeed a good thing for a writer to attempt. I hope you’ll come along on the journey, and remember, we’ll all get more out of the journey if we travel together. Don’t just think a response – write it as a comment for the rest of us.

Do you agree? Disagree? Not sure?

Thank you for reading.

 

K … is for Killing

K[1]

is for killing. I am talking here of ‘killing your darlings’ of course. It’s how we writers normally refer to reducing the cast in a story.

In either novel or short story writing, we find ourselves lavishing hours on the creation of well-rounded, believable characters, which is exactly how it should be. A novel will have the capacity to allow for a large cast, whereas a short story is best trimmed down to five or less characters.

Where the novel usually has a longer time scale, it is able to convey a larger number of characters. A short story, by its nature, is created to fit a short time frame, and there is therefore no facility for a cast of thousands. The fewer, the better is the advice in a short story.

Whatever I’m writing, I tend to create each character with a comprehensive profile, even though I may only use a little of the information if it’s a short story. In a novel, with a similar character, I might drip-feed small pieces of information throughout the story. Be it a novel or a short story, I invariably end up with more characters than I need to get the job done, so in that circumstance, I ‘kill my darlings’.

The phrase is borne of the fact that we get to know our creations so well that we are reluctant to remove them. We have grown to like them, to feel a relationship with them, but to be in a story, they must earn their place. If when editing a story, you find a character that doesn’t move the story forward; that character has to go. It’s heart-breaking, I know, but we must be realistic.

I’ve made peace with myself by having a parallel universe in my files. I have a file full of people, already invented, but not yet put to use. There is a pregnant woman in her 20’s, a retired policeman, an old war veteran, and many more. They all get along perfectly well in that file, but perhaps one day a couple of them will meet in other circumstances and things will not be so good.

What is today’s advice then?

Use as much care as always to create believable characters, but please remember, don’t shoe-horn a character into a story just because you like them. When you edit, you are looking for extra characters as well as extra punctuation, adjectives, adverbs and all the other things that should be removed. Happy hunting my murderous friends.

Thank you for reading. I’m off on my daily blog patrol now, and I’ll be back on Monday, with an ‘L’ of a word.