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Showing results for tags 'writing style'.
I never actually met Hamish (*), but God did I hate him, and that wasn’t from a personal prejudice. Martin (my husband) was working for a previous employer but still as a clinical nurse specialist. I know that I am biased, but Martin is very experienced at his job and he knows his subject. Hamish started working at the same trust. He had no clinical experience or qualifications and was working as a manager for a non-clinical service; he managed the trust’s buildings. But this didn’t stop Hamish. He very quickly began telling Martin how to do his job and what he “really” should be doing. Hamish’s suggestions were deeply wrong but this didn’t deter him. He was pushing himself into Martin’s role, trying to override Martin, constantly trying to bully him and generally making his working life hell by making doing his job so difficult. So many evenings, after he got home, I would hear Martin’s complaints about how again Hamish had made his working life so taxing and how Hamish just refused to listen to complaints about his own behaviour and wouldn’t agree to any suggestions that weren’t his own. He was making Martin’s working life unbearable and there was nothing I could do about it. I felt so useless because I couldn’t help Martin, except by listening to how Hamish screwed-up his working day. Then the idea came to me, I could use my writing to get some revenge on Hamish for Martin. I was writing a story was about a man who was being homophobically bullied by a work colleague, and I decided to call the work colleague Hamish. The man breaks one evening and ends up killing Hamish in a very bloody attack. From there the plot twists as the man reacts to his crime. My interest in the story was writing about perceptions and how easily we believe anyone can be keeping a secret, even if it goes completely against what we know about a person. When Martin read the story, he took gleeful pleasure in Hamish’s murder. It was so nice to see his stress eased, if only for a short time, by something I had rewritten. (Hamish left for a “better” job soon after, though he had no idea what I had written. The story remains unpublished but it is on my list to be revised for a planned collection.) To want revenge, especially when we have received unjust or prejudicial treatment, is a very natural human response, but it is never satisfying. Whatever that other person has done to us, we can never make them suffer the way they made us suffer, most of the time they are not even aware of how much suffering they caused; often it us who are hurt as we are eaten up with the injustice done us and the desire for revenge. I spent so much time, too much time, plotting how I could get my own back on those who had hurt me when I was a teenager, the homophobes who hurt and rejected me. All it did was eat me up with anger and bitterness, I wasn’t even able to put into context what had happened to me. Then I wrote a story based on a very traumatic event from when I was a teenager. Writing it I found I was able to take a step backwards and look at what really happened, how I came to put myself in such a position, that it wasn’t my fault, and to begin to understand why those people had behaved so appallingly. Rereading that story now, I see that it is overwritten, with far too much unnecessary backstory, too long and too slowly paced. It will never see the light of day. I was just learning how to write then, but it did show me the power of writing, how writing could open my eyes to why something happened. That short story also had another big flaw, it was easy to identify who the characters were based on. I’ve since learnt there is no need for anyone else to be able to identify who a character is based on; I actually do not want readers to stand any chance to. So now I take all steps to prevent this (see my blog about writing about real people). Writing fiction about things that make me angry or events that have caused me pain has become very liberating. Doing so, I have to look at a situation, what caused it, what led to it, the effects it caused; I have to analyse the entire situation. This can give me insight and understanding, it is amazing how the negativity of a situation is diminished by understanding it. I do the same thing with attitudes and beliefs that I don’t agree with and that make me angry. Understanding an attitude doesn’t mean that I will agree with it, but it does mean I can understand where it comes from and the harm it does. Writing against it I can explore the human effects of it. I have a relative who has very conversative and Evangelical Christian views. Her views are very black and white, no shades of grey, and very simplistic. She bluntly doesn’t engage with any challenges to her views. She is also someone I have known most of my life and, as such, I have been able to study why and who she is. She has given me so much opportunity and understanding of why someone would hold her views. Her attitudes have appeared so often in my writing, giving me the opportunity to explore them and the harm they cause. Saying all that, this approach isn’t easy and I do not always get it right. Years ago, and several jobs ago, I was subjected to a rant by an Evangelical Christian colleague. She objected to the Equality Bill, claiming wrongly that it would give LGBT people more protection than Christians and that Christians would be persecuted under it. She claimed that Christians were the most persecuted minority in the country (not true). When I tried to reply to her, she bluntly refused to let me speak, refusing to listen to any view that didn’t match her own. I was so angry at her. Through my anger I began to wonder why someone would take such a blinkered and untrue view and the harm such views were doing. The result of this, after much thought, was the short story “Easter Witness”, which was published in my collection Case Studies in Modern Life. I am very happy with this story because I was able to show the negative effects of those views as well as punching holes in that argument. But I don’t always get it right, especially if I write too quickly about it. During the Marriage Equality debate here in Britain, there were a lot of untruths and downright lies told about what would happen if same-sex couples could legally marry (all of which have not come to pass). I was so angry that I wrote the short story “To the Heart of Marriage”. Unfortunately, I wrote it too quickly and I was too angry when I wrote it. Its arguments are simplistic and it tells the reader what’s wrong, not showing the effects of these negative untruths. It failed. Revenge does need to be written with a cool mind. But also there shouldn’t be a wish fulfilment element to this, we shouldn’t be using fiction to rewrite history so that we win, so we come out on top, to enact the revenge we were never able to do in real life, because that is so hollow and untrue, and what service are we doing to our readers? Many years ago, I was a member of a gay men’s writing group. One of the members was writing a novel in which he rewrote his unhappy and repressed childhood. His novel made him, as a young teenager, the winner and always coming out on top of his family’s fights and wars. He had created a thirteen-year-old boy who had the debating and arguing skills of a thirty or forty-year-old man; this child was impossibly wise for his years. That novel made me feel uncomfortable because it was so untrue but he, the writer, couldn’t see that. He was actually taking deep pleasure from it. I realised the discomfort I felt was the discomfort a reader would feel and that it would make a reader stop reading. My fiction has to be honest about human emotions and reactions, otherwise how can I ever hope to hold a reader’s interest? After all, they are the ones giving me their time to read my writing. Art is the best revenge but only if it’s done honestly, not to settle old scores but to explore the events. Happy reading Drew (*) Not his real name.
“I gave you good script,” Ma to Alan Cocktail Sticks, a play by Alan Bennett The writer Alan Bennett has been very open about how much he is inspired by real-life events. He has written plays and film scripts all inspired by real-life events; he has written several volumes of autobiographical essays, and every year or so he publishes extracts from his diary. I’ve seen and read all of them and enjoyed them so much. In his autobiographical play Cocktail Sticks, about his relationship with his parents, the character of Ma (based on his mother) says, “I gave you good script,” meaning he has used so many of the actual things she said in his writing. I cannot class myself in the same writing league as Alan Bennett, but I take so much inspiration from real-life events. That inspiration seems to fall into three different types. The first is when I want to write about events or attitudes that have made me angry or upset. This is when I use fiction to explore how I feel about a subject or when I want to write about attitudes in order to expose the negative/destructive nature of them. My short story I Always Knew is an example of this. It was the height of the Jimmy Savile scandal and I heard an elderly journalist on the radio saying that he’d always known about Savile’s crimes. My anger led me to explore that attitude, those people who are always “wise” after a tragedy, in this story. Secondly, I can find inspiration in news headlines and real events. Sometimes it a headline and a short news item that inspires my imagination. I don’t do anymore research, instead I let my imagination dwell on those sparse descriptions or even single event and then I fill out the events and with characters I’ve created. Without researching the events any further I can make sure I am not using the people and their tragedy for my own fiction, that my story is a complete work of fiction. A Family Christmas is an example of me using this type of inspiration. There was a mass shooting in America, on Christmas Eve, the year before I wrote this story. I learnt no more about that tragedy but my imagination filled in the blanks and I created a story that explored a theme that leapt out at me from this tragedy. I don’t always search out stories of death and tragedy, all kinds of things in the media can set my imagination off running. I read an interview with the actor Russell Tovey where he said a throwaway comment, but that comment set my imagination off. The result was the story That One Big Role. I have also been researching historical events for a series of stories. These take a lot more research and less of my imagination filling in the blanks, though some of that is still needed. With these stories I want to examine a historical event from a fictional character’s point of view, find the human story inside the facts. These stories do take a lot of work, but I don’t want to stop writing them, the research is fascinating. The Trial of the Century is the first one in this style I wrote. Thirdly, I find inspiration from my own life. It can either be just one small factor that I then spin off into a whole story, or else it can form a larger part of a story, or else I fictionalise something that happened to me as a way to explore what and why that thing happened. Boxing Day 1975 is a short story of mine that was inspired by one event from my life. When I was a young child, on Boxing Day, together with my family I watched the big film on television that evening, One Million Years BC. That was the only part I took into the story, it is certainly not based on my own family but I do vividly remember how my family all sat down together to watch the same television film. I met my first boyfriend in 1987 but our relationship did not last. Our break-up was different, difficult and not that conventional. I used that break-up scene, almost word-for-word from real life, as the opening scene of my story Out of the Valley. I used this story to explore obsessive love and not being able to let go of an ex-lover, none of which was my reaction to the end of that relationship, though this story did go through many rewrites over the years with the wish-fulfilment ending being quickly dropped. Then there are those real-life encounters that play on my mind and imagination and form the bases of some of my stories. Jonathan Roven Is Lost (a story in my collection Case Studies in Modern Life) is a story that started off in that way. Through my job, I saw the effect dementia has on the partners of those people with it. My blog here gives a much fuller picture of how that story was created. For me, there isn’t just one way that I find inspiration, but I guess that is the same for so for many writers, but using inspiration and facts from real life is very important to me, I want my stories to have that taste of authenticity. I don’t use overheard dialog in my writing, like many writers do, because the few times I’ve heard anything decent I’ve forgotten the actual words by the time I get home. But I do use real people in my writing or people’s attitudes and beliefs. I don’t use direct copies of people; I don’t feel comfortable if readers can easily identify the person who was the inspiration for a character. So often I combine different things from different people—the attitude from one person, the clothes style from another and the physical appearance from another. But what really fascinates me are people’s attitudes and beliefs and how they affect their lives and how people’s personalities react in different situations. For me, I find inspiration in so many different ways, so many different things can spark and inspire my imagination, but in the end it is my imagination that forms the story from whatever the inspiration is, though I always work to create authenticity in my fiction. I hope my stories bear that out. I do remember one of the classic things my mother said, though I have never found the right story to use it in. I was in my early teens and had just come home from school one afternoon and my mother was unpacking her shopping. “I won’t buy anymore lemonade, all you lot ever do is drink it,” my mother said. “What should we do with it, wash in it?” I said. “You know what I mean,” she told me. And I did. Happy reading Drew
I was going to do a long thing about how I have changed my writing process in the 7 years that I was gone from the website. I even had that post started and named, but then I decided to change it up. I'm still going to talk about my writing process but now I'm going to just do it in a concise and point by point way. At least I hope it turns out concise. Getting that idea This is where the whole thing starts. Before this was the only step before I started writing on the story. But now, this is not the case. After I get the idea and write it down, I... Research/Plot the Idea I take my time to research and plot the idea. I usually start a story after I have the major plot points that I need to hit for the story continuation. As long as I have those major plot points, I'm pretty good in filling in the smaller details to support those plot points. Outline if I have enough to do so Yep. I outline. Or at least I outline up to the first 10 to 30 chapters of the story. It helps me keep on track. I tend not to outline beyond that point, just noting down the points I need to hit. this is so that I can fiddle with it a lot easier if I need to change something or add in some information. Start the story Yep. Once I have those first few chapters planned out, I start to write. I take my time, really get into the meat of the story. I start where I think it will work best to build up to the story itself. Once Upon a Time I would just start right in the action but some of my plots aren't meant for that. There has to be some kind of build up to the action and now I just tend to start it where I need to. Rewrite the story Most often then not, I actually wait until I finish writing the story to let it sit for a while (anywhere from a week to a month depending on how long it took me to write the story the first time). This actually comes in parts: Read the story. Take notes on what to add. Add the parts that need to be added if they're chapter sized. Actually crack down and rewrite the story start to finish. As you can see I do it three parts. A normal 100K story (which yes my stories can take up to that) can take me up to a month of working on if I focus just on it. Longer if I don't focus solely on it. Edit the story Now comes the fun part. Editing. I'll let it sit for another month, play with other worlds. Then I edit and fix little things. Send the edited story to the Beta's and Alpha readers. This is indeed the time that I send the story to my alpha readers (if I have them), and the Beta readers. Usually by this time I've seen what I have needed to fix and have fixed it. If they see something majorly glaring, I will fix it, do the usual to that part and send it off again to the beta readers. Most often then not i don't have to do this. Post the story after a good hard edit post-beta After I get the story back from the beta, I edit. Again. I usually run through it twice with a week between the two edits. It works for me. So thank you for coming to read on how I write my stories now. Does it take me time? Yes. Is it worth it though? So. Very. Much.
I've decided to henceforth ignore the rule not to end sentences in a preposition. The person who thought that one up definitely had too much time on their hands. I don't care if it follows an old Latin mandate. My writing, my rules. Anyone else has a grammar pet peeve? Maybe I'll learn about something else to ignore.
Most stories I've read here on GA, and in books in general, are written in the Third Person format. A detached narrator who guides the reader through the story. I'm currently trying my hand at writing one in the First Person and must say it's daunting. Finding out that I use the word "I" a lot in starting sentences while trying to keep the story in a past tense. Though, I am reworking that, to make it less often. So, what is your favorite writing style? Why do you choose that one? Have you tried the other? What shortcomings have you experienced, and how have you tried to overcome them?