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 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.

 

Q … is for Question

Q[1] is for question. No, this is not a single question we’re looking at here, but for me, it is the single most important aspect of our writing. We must question everything we do.

To put this into some sort of perspective, I will once again use my own experience. This does not mean I’m so vain that I believe my methods are the way forward, but I will give some background information as we go along.

Why do I believe I know anything about this?

For the benefit of any who have not read my bio, I’ll simply use my main figures here. Since 2008, I’ve written 700+ poems, 30+ short stories, and 2 novels. I’m presently working on my third novel. Those figures are modest, rather than astounding, but they will help to make my point.

What do we question?

Poetry: The topic, our knowledge of topic, our research, the form, the length, the title, the level of editing, the number of drafts.

Short Stories: The topic, our knowledge of topic, our research, the style, the length, the title, the level of editing, the number of drafts.

Novels: The topic, our knowledge of topic, our research, the style, the length, the title, the market, the level of editing, the number of drafts.

It wouldn’t take much to see that there is something of a pattern in those three very different disciplines. There is also a lot of repetition, and there is good reason. It doesn’t matter which type of writing we create; if it’s for public consumption, we must produce our best.

What do I question the most?

Title, title, title, title … . You may now be getting the impression that the title is quite important to me. Whether writing poetry, short stories, or a novel, I agonise over the title. It is the simplest, shortest component of a piece of writing, but it is such a key element; it must work. Instead of dealing with poetry or short stories I’ll use novels to demonstrate my point.

In the next 48 hours I will be commencing what I hope to be the final draft of ‘Amsterdam Calling’, my third novel. I’m happy with the title, and how I chose it. The selection process allowed me to concentrate on my writing and editing. It was a distraction with my first novel.

How do I deal with title?

I make a very short list of perhaps three working titles. One of these is chosen quickly to let me get on with the writing. In a notebook, and on my clipboard pad I keep a page, purely for title ideas for that piece of work. Immediately an idea comes to me; I add it to the list. That system works continually, but is not a distraction.

At the point where I have the story written, I have a better idea of the entire concept and it might then affect the title choice. I take time to relax with a coffee, and I think of the whole story, allowing the various scenes to play on my memory. As this goes on, I write down everything that could be an intriguing title.

Why must the title be intriguing?

I’ll respond to that with another question. Apart from the cover, what prompts your interest in a book? The cover and title are your first sales pitches, and their job is to draw your prospective reader to the jacket blurb (see ‘J’). The blurb captures the interest and is the big pitch.

Before arriving at ‘Ten Days in Panama’, I had a list of seven possible titles. When I reached the end of ‘Beyond The Law’, I had actually changed the working title twice. I had five hot contenders waiting in the wings to be the title of that one. For ‘Amsterdam Calling’, I had a list of seven which never grew as I wrote the early drafts. As soon as I considered ‘Amsterdam Calling’, I knew it was the one.

I know I’ve chosen title as my one aspect to ‘question’, but we do owe it to ourselves, and our readers; to question everything we write.

Thank you once again for sticking with me to the end of this piece. I hope that somewhere, somebody has had a moment of enlightenment. LOL.

Today, apart from doing my blog patrol, I’ll be working on my anthology of short stories. I’ll see you guys on Monday when I’ll be dealing with ‘R’.