The Future

What to write and what not to write? Now that the coursework is in and the lectures are finished I am writing the dissertation and nothing else. That means I have gone from writing a huge amount of words to planning and few words. So I want to take on another project at the same time. But what?

I could just do my dissertation, but I’m not sure that would work. To write for the next nine months on nothing but one subject… I’m not sure that would be a good idea.

Up until now I have been using my coursework and weekly stories to enter a number of competitions, but with that stopping I need to write solely for the competitions. I have started but the dread I am feeling when it says “open” is amazing.

It’s not that I don’t have ideas; it’s just choosing the right one. I do the right things though, I go and look at what won and try to match it to my style, but my best stories are those that just flow. I think I am just going to have to write as much as I can and hope that I can meet what I think the competition or publication is asking for.

I was given one piece of advice. Decide on a genre and write it for three to four years. Get known for that type of writing. I have been playing around with a child’s story, but I think I will keep to this advice and shelve it till later. Until then I am going to write predominately in the murder, horror, thriller genre. It’s the area I love to work in.

Inspiration 5

It has got to be the ghost story… At the moment a lot of people are asking for ghost stories so I’ve got to write a couple very soon. It is difficult though if you have nothing more than ‘ghost story’ as a starting point.

In this case I have used ‘ghost’ loosely to involve horror. I’m not talking gore and horror but scares and horror.

So what scares me? Well it has to be different from the norm; a scary sound or movement in the corner of your eye. This time I thought absence, the feeling of nothingness. Imagine you live a normal life but one day a friend says, come and spend a holiday with us. It doesn’t matter what holiday, but if I make it a cheery holiday then the absence will be more notable. So the character goes to the house, I’m making it remote, but on arrival there is no one there…

I could go on and explain what happens but that would be giving the game away. But there is no blood, no gore, and no pursuit, yet I hope it is creepy if not scary.

Memoir or story?

I had to write one of our weekly stories, but as I started down my normal ideas route I found that I was getting closer and closer to personal issues. I found that I was basing it almost entirely on my own experience. Now I don’t normally talk about the area it took me to and I had to abandon the story. It was too painful, too personal. I understand that writing can be therapeutic but I felt that I was dredging up bad memories rather than working through them.

But I do realise that I ought to write about them. That it ought to be something that I do because it was so distressing. But do I write them into a story as I was doing or do I write a memoir?

I’m not big on reading memoirs, unless it is a survival story and mine would be an exploration. Instead I find myself wanting to write something that I know I may never get published. I’m not sure I would want it published. I feel that I am at a stepping stone. If I do start this story or memoir then I could find myself looking at parts of mine and my family’s life I don’t normally explore; the part of me I keep locked behind a very thick door in my mind.

I have to write it but at the moment I am too scared. So the story will sit in the bottom drawer of the desk and wait until I have built up enough gumption to put pen to paper.

Dissertation 1

I can’t believe that it has come around so fast but here I am working on ideas for my big piece of work. I have decided on a novel. I won’t let on too much but let’s just say the main character is a serial killer.

I had two choices for writing this. Firstly to just write and see where it took me. Secondly to plan.

I sat down and looked at the amount of words needed. An average novel is about 100, 000 words which means if a chapter is about 5000 words I have to write twenty chapters. That’s like twenty short stories. Okay, that isn’t impossible and, as a short story writer, I find it much easier to cope with.

Except I have to link all these chapters together and they must have plots and subplots. I sat there and found myself swamped by the task. It is just so huge!

So I printed out a timeline. Essentially 20 boxes, about 3 to a page. Honestly, it is a huge piece of paper – I stuck all the boxes together so I ended up with a loo roll type affair. Then I started with the first. Where does my book open? And immediately went to the last – where is my book going to close? Then I filled in the gaps.

Three hours later I am sitting looking at my book – the initial plan. I didn’t stop there though. I then printed off a page per chapter with the general outline and the rest of the page blank for notes. I even made a cover. Then I stapled the lot together. So I now have a book of chapters which I can change and alter as I write but the general outline is there. I am back to twenty stories that are linked together. And I am not so scared.

I’m not sure how anyone else does this but I feel much happier now I know where I am going and the intricacies of the subplots. Wish me luck though – I think I will need it.

Visiting Lecturer – Lucy Gough

Lucy Gough came into the uni for our last lecture of the course. I can’t believe it’s all over. There are some ‘unofficial’ workshops but as far as organised lectures go, well, that was it. Now I just have to worry about the dissertation… Gulp!

Anyway, Lucy arrived and she is really nice. She gave us a lecture on the dos and don’ts of writing for radio. It was an eye opener and I realise that it is much harder than it looks. I know I probably won’t ever do it unless I have a huge amount of time available. Oddly though a lot of what she said also relates to screenwriting, first being that you need to give the listener a sense of place, but it is really difficult. What do you say? “Oh, I am in a dark haunted mansion and I feel like I am being watched”? Or do you overlay a creaking door with oppressive and menacing music? Lucy said to use an audience’s sense of curiosity. You don’t have to ‘set the scene’ with actual words, you can imply it with sound; the audience will then create the background themselves. You just have to prod them into the right direction. Then jump straight into the action.

She said that radio writing is a combination of intimacy, individuality and invisibility; after all the audience can’t see anything. One of the easiest ways to build a world is to give a reference of something that occurs every day, like traffic, and then change the situation, make something unexpected happen. Radio is not always about dialogue but also sound and rhythm.

Lucy also told us not to be scared of making things happen within a script that requires a sound that is gruesome. She said that she had written a play where someone is decapitated but when she went to the recording studio the sound specialist cut a cabbage in half. The odd thing was that she and her colleagues all found the sound disturbing because of the context.

Just how far can you go with sound? Don’t forget that you can use sound effects, music, and dialogue, and, importantly, silence. Only use sounds that mean something. Just like words every little sound has to further the story or create context. Sound can locate the audience, it gives them a starting point before the imagination takes over and they create the story in their heads. One bit of advice was to keep it simple, you want the audience to understand and not become confused.

I found it very difficult, especially as you have to almost write with sounds, to tell a story without being able to describe something, just to infer it. Incredible, yet I am a huge fan of listening to both radio plays and dramatizations, so I know that it can work. I’m just not sure it is for me.

Ghost Stories

‘Tis the season of the ghost story!

There must be a huge number of ghostly anthologies coming out this year, and I am thoroughly enjoying it… My last story was a built on true story. Or rather an urban myth. I think every street has a ghost and it was one of these ghosts I wrote about. But did I have to be that obvious?

A ghost story, according to Wikipedia, must be

any piece of fiction, or drama, or an account of an experience, that includes a ghost, or simply takes as a premise the possibility of ghosts or characters’ belief in them. Colloquially, the term can refer to any kind of scary story.

from  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_story

Not only that but it is always a short story. The ghost story novel is a horror. So I could have written about a number of ghostly going on – or not. I watched a movie once and in it a young woman walked across an underground car park. It was wonderfully creepy and there were puddles throughout. As she walked she kept looking behind her. You could hear breathing. And then something walked through the puddle – except there was no one there!

In another film wet footprints appeared on the ceiling as someone walked above them.

These are essentially short stories set within a horror film. This is the fear that I hope I captured. I’ll let you know how mine go with submissions. But I am definitely going to write more, and make them more obscure. It seems that with a ghost story the important part is what you don’t write. What you leave out but suggest is what can make or break a ghost story. The ones I love are not obvious at all. I love the obscure!

The up and coming short story ebook

Yes, I’ve decided to take the plunge and self-publish the short stories on the blog. Don’t worry it will be free and they will all be going for an edit before they get published.

So an update! Well I have found my cover artist!

Okay, maybe that wasn’t hard as my sister is a digital artist but I thought I’d show you some of her work. She has given me permission to put this piece on the blog. It is called ‘Beautiful Machine’.

beautiful machine

The artist is – MisScribbler and you can see her work at misscribbler.deviantart.com

Go have a look and like her facebook page!

I’m not sure what the cover will look like but it will be fantastic! Thanks Sarah. 🙂