More Creative Tips For Creating A Dynamic Opening to a Story

One of the greatest challenges for any writer when it comes to writing a story (besides coming up with the initial story idea) is to decide what is the best way to begin the story. The opening paragraph is the most important part of a story as it acts as the pivotal gateway through which your reader must enter your storyworld. The first few sentences the reader encounters can make or break their ongoing relationship with your story. So how do you create a dynamic opening for your story that will capture your reader’s imagination?

There are three writing techniques that I find really helpful when I am deciding how to start a story.

1. Write a list of different types of paragraph openings

Every writer will have different approaches to writing, but one of the first things that I like to do before I start to write the first few sentences of a story is to write a list of the different types of paragraph openings. This is not to say that I do not use the impromptu creative writing approach, where I just starting typing at random and see where the story goes. I am a big believer in having a story plan to keep me organised.

Of course, the way you begin your story will also depend on the genre of your story. If you are writing a fantasy story, you could start with a setting like a dark Dystopian world or a magical castle. If you are writing in the speculative fiction genre, you could start with a character portrait like a vampire rising from his coffin. If you are writing a crime story, you could start with a narrator who has just observed a murder, or you could have your main character/the murderer discuss their criminal plans in the form of a short monologue.

2. Create a Dynamic Image

The best type of opening paragraph is one that creates a dynamic image. Once you have written your opening paragraph, ask yourself this question: Will my opening scene create a dynamic image in the mind of the reader? One way to know if it is dynamic or not is to try visualising it in your mind, and see it playing out like an opening scene in a film.

A strong image is always memorable.

As well as catching the reader’s attention, a strong and powerful image also sets up the overall genre or style of your story. Think about the last film you went to see or one of your favourites. What did the opening scene contain? Maybe the first image was a spaceship drifting through space, maybe it was a character speaking an iconic one-liner, like the opening line that was spoken by Henry Hill in the gangster film Goodfellas, “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.”

The opening scene might be ambiguous, an intriguing image like the pile of black hats in The Prestige. The possibilities are endless for your story, but whether you choose a fantasy world, a haunted house, or you introduce your hero via a character description, it must create a dynamic image in the mind of your reader.
Just like there are some great ways to start a story, they are some things to avoid.

3. Avoid starting your story with dialogue

Firstly, the way you start a story can depend on whether you are writing a short story or a novel. Starting any type of story with a question or a one-liner is a great way to draw the reader in, but starting a story with dialogue may not be the best option. There are two problems that can occur when you start a story with dialogue:

It can create literary confusion as the reader will not know anything about the characters, so they may feel a little lost.
If you are writing a short story you need to be economical with words as short stories have a strict word count. If you want to use dialogue, it needs to be used sparingly in the opening paragraph, or leave it until later in the story.

Practice makes perfect, and once you have experimented with different ways of writing your opening paragraph, you will start to get a feel for what works and what does not work.

Another good tip to help you become more proficient at beginning a story is to read. Reading books and learning from those writers who have been writing for years, will help you to become a better writer. Stephen King, the Master of Horror gives us great storytelling advice:

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

William Faulkner also says:

“Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”

Now that you have learned some tips, here are three creative writing tasks to get those story-telling neurons firing.

1. Choose three types of paragraph openings: Character Description, Setting, and Action. Write up to 100 words for each paragraph, then develop your story from there.

2. Choose three films. Watch the first 5 to 10 minutes of the film. How does the film start? What kind of image is presented? How does it make you feel? Is it a strong, powerful image?

3. Choose a book from your bookshelf or from your local library (fiction is best). How does the writer start their opening paragraph, do they start with the description of a setting or a character description? Do you think it is a dynamic opening paragraph? Why or why not?

Jot down the answers to these questions. You could try re-writing the author’s opening paragraph. Of course, this is just for creative learning purposes. No plagiarism!

I hope these creative tips on how to write a dynamic opening for a story helps you on your storytelling journey.

Happy Writing!

 

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Buckled Book

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How To Organise Your Creative Writing Schedule

Finding time to write is a big challenge for a lot of writers. It seems that we never have enough time in the day, what with work, school, and family activities that make necessary demands on our time. We may have little, precious time left to dedicate to our creative writing. But we all have 24 hours in the day, no more and no less. So to find time for our creative writing, we need to take charge of our time and make it work for us and not against us.

Time management is a term that is used a lot in the corporate work environment, but we can also use some of its strategies for our creative endeavours. Time management teaches us how to take conscious control over our activities so that we can effectively manage our tasks within the time we have at our disposal.

You may be feeling “time poor”, but you can become “time rich” by putting some of the time management techniques into practice. Here are three time management techniques that have been adapted to suit creative writing and will help you to organise your writing schedule.

1. Understand your daily routine

The great writer Ernest Hemingway once said that writing in the morning worked best for him. So what is your daily routine? Are you a morning person, an early riser in the glimmering hours of dawn? Maybe you could utilise this time to do some writing before you go to work, start studying or get the kids off to school. Remember the wisdom that Dear Duchess shared in this month’s Letters to the Editor, just 10 or 20 minutes a day can work wonders.

Maybe you work best late at night. Once all the dishes have been done, the kids are in bed, and hubby is ensconced in front of the TV, you can take some time to create some story magic. If you are a single person, why not sacrifice some of your TV time and dedicate it to writing. You can always record your favourite show and watch it later. By understanding your daily routine, and your energy levels, you can establishing a writing routine that is perfect for you.

2. Prepare a creative work environment

When I first started studying online, I had a study corner in my bedroom, but my little workspace ended up competing with my chill-out time and interfered with my sleeping patterns. As I have a TV in my room, it too became a major source of distraction at times. So I cleaned up our spare room and made it into my own creative work environment. It helped me to be more creative, and of course, more focussed in my university work.

Even though you may not have a spare room, a favourite chair in a quiet place may work well for you, or a quiet corner of the garden or patio. Another good tip for preparing a creative environment is to avoid having emails popping up in the background, which can happen if you work on a computer or iPad. It might be a challenge, but choose to put your social media devices on silent. The social media world can make a lot of demands on our time, but your creative space should be a little haven away from any distractions.

Also, if you are going to use your creative space on the weekend, and you have a family or share a house or flat with friends, why not let them know that you will be spending some precious time in your creative hot spot. If you cannot find anywhere at home to create, you could always try the library. It is a quiet place, free of most distractions, except books of course. Having a creative environment will allow you to dream, create, and complete your literary masterpiece.

3. Make use of digital and software tools

Sometimes inspiration can strike us when we are out and about. We may not be able to access pen and paper or our trusty computer, so if you have a smartphone or tablet, consider it as your creative buddy. You can take notes on your phone, or if you have a recording facility, you can record your ideas and write them down later. Yes, those digital devices can make demands on our time, but make them work for you.

If you are struggling to organise your story ideas, there are a lot of writing software programs that can help you. If you want to convert your story into a screenplay, Final Draft has script formats that are ready for you to use, and storyboarding faculties, and a host of other helpful features. Final Draft is not free, but it is well worth the investment if you want to pursue a creative writing career.

XMind is a great resource that can help you brainstorm ideas and map out your entire story. You can download some applications for free, but if you want to access advanced features there are different pricing packages. Storybook is another free writing software resource that helps authors to organise characters, plot, and different scenarios into a novel. With all this technological wizardry at your fingertips, taking control of your time is easy.

Now that I have given you some creative time management tips, here is a writing exercise to get those storytelling neurons firing.

Create an organizational chart from Monday to Friday. Write down a list of creative elements to work on as follows:

Monday. Choose a story setting, and then write 50-100 words that describe the setting. If you can write more – Great!

Tuesday. Create up to 3 characters. Note down their description, basic background, goals, strengths, and weaknesses.

Wednesday. Create a plot for your chosen setting, and integrate one of your characters. Use the Narrative Arc Plotting Device that was featured in the Monthly Writing Exercise in the January issue of Unearthed, and integrate the Exposition into your story setting.

Thursday. Integrate the other characters and start work on your story’s Rising Action and Climax.

Friday. Work on your Falling Action and Resolution.

If you are unable to complete this task, you can shift some of them to the weekend. Of course, this creative exercise is a just a tool to help you get started on your creative journey. But if you stick to this micro-writing routine, you will find time to write amidst your hectic schedule, and you will discover that you have the first draft of a short story and an introduction to a novel.

Happy writing!

 

Creative Time Management originally appeared in The Australia Times Unearthed Fiction February/Perception Magazine.

 

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Hourglass.

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Lost the Plot? Take Control of Your Story

Writing a short story can be like a journey into unfamiliar terrain. Just like a holiday in a new city or a hike into the wilderness, we can get lost if we do not have a plan or a map that can show us the way. When we start to write, we may begin merrily, the ideas flow along nicely, the setting is established and the characters come to life. But then we suddenly run out of inspiration, the story seems sluggish, and we may find that we have lost the plot – literally! So if this is you, it is time to take back control of your story.

Story versus Plot

Besides the all-important elements of storytelling – theme setting and story characters – the plot is a very important tool that provides the story with its basic framework on which to build your story-world and the overall narrative structure.

Just like any trade, there are specific techniques or rules, so to speak, that are needed to perform the job well. Writing is no different and there are some narrative building blocks or techniques that will help you to write a better story. You may or may not be familiar with these basic building blocks of narrative, but here is a refresher of their definitions.

Story is the logical and chronological sequence of events in a narrative. Story should not be confused with narrative discourse, which is the telling or presenting of a story from the story’s narrator. Traditionally, a story unfolds in a linear fashion, with a clearly defined, beginning, middle and end (three-act-structure). Once you have become familiar with this traditional storytelling format, you can break the rules. You can start at the end of the narrative or in the middle of the action.

Plot is the order or sequence in which the story events are arranged in the narrative. It gives a story that much-needed symmetry, movement, and flow. Once you decide on the events that make up the plot of the story, your narrative structure will be revealed.

Now that we have the two basic elements of storytelling sorted, it is time to work on developing the plot of your story. Although the Greek philosopher Aristotle set down the basics for story development, that all stories have a beginning, middle, and end, it is not sufficient to write a compelling story. In order to build upon the three-act structure, the most common plotting device is the narrative arc.

The Narrative Arc Plotting Device

The narrative arc plotting device is a very handy plotting tool that can help you to plan and execute each stage or section of your story. It can be used for a short story and especially for writing novels. Here are the five stages of the narrative arc.

1. Exposition

The exposition is the opening statement or situation that is presented to the reader at the beginning of the story. This is where you introduce your theme, setting and the characters. If you want to use this tool for writing a novel, the main characters are usually presented in this section and other minor characters can be added later.

2. Rising Action

The rising action is the development of conflict or complications in a literary work. This is where you place your first event or series of events. This section is especially important for creating drama, suspense or intrigue for the rest of the narrative.

The rising action is the development of conflict or complications in a literary work. This is where you place your first event or series of events. This section is especially important for creating drama, suspense or intrigue for the rest of the narrative.

The rising action is the development of conflict or complications in a literary work. This is where you place your first event or series of events. This section is especially important for creating drama, suspense or intrigue for the rest of the narrative.

3. Climax

Climax is the turning point of a story. This section involves a series of heightened complications arising from a major event: an act of violence, relationship angst, etc. This part of the story is where it gets really exciting, the characters clash, emotions are at breaking point. Remember: conflict is necessary for creating great drama.

A. Conflict

Conflict is the struggle between two opposing forces like person versus person, and can also include God/fate, society, nature. The conflict is part of the rising action and increases until the climax of the narrative. The stronger the conflict the more dynamic your story will be.

4. Falling action

The falling action is the result or effects of conflict in a story, or for a longer narrative, the series of events that unfold after the climax. The hero has faced and vanquished his nemesis, he has learned a valuable lesson, or he or she has won their heart’s desire.

5. Resolution

The resolution is the end of the story and is sometimes called the denouement. This is where the character’s problems are resolved to some degree. You may choose to finish with a happy ending or leave some questions unanswered.

Creative Exercises

 

Exercise 1

Take one of your existing stories, or if you have never written a story, have a look for a short story collection from the library. Or if you are feeling especially adventurous, choose a novel.

Analyse the story and see how it fits into the narrative arc pattern.

Write down the key elements in the narrative arc: exposition, rising action, etc.

Ask questions like:

Have you or the author introduced the theme clearly?

Where in the story are the characters introduced?

Where does the rising action start?

Who or what provides the conflict or action?

What is the climax of the story?

What is the falling action?

What kind of resolution has been used – neat and tidy or partly resolved?

 

Exercise 2

Write a story using the narrative arc plotting device.

Write down each of the sections from the narrative arc plotting device: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

Under each heading write down some notes on how you will begin your story.

Start by asking some questions.

What is my opening statement or situation?

What kind of action will I use and who will provide the action?

Where will I place the climax?

How will I resolve the narrative?

Once you have written notes on each of these sections, you can start to bring them all together into a whole narrative.

Once you have put the narrative arc plotting device into practice, you may find that it will become an indispensable strategic plan that will help you when you get lost in the narrative maze.

Happy Writing

Lost the Plot? Take Control of Your Story first appeared in the January issue of Unearthed Fiction.

 

4 Creative Tips to Kick-Start Your Storytelling Resolutions

Once the fireworks go off on New Year’s Eve and the champagne flows, we are filled with expectation, which may get us thinking about our creative writing resolutions or tentative plans for the year ahead.  But sometimes we can get lost in the busyness of the new year, and our plans for our short story collection or novel gets left behind.  Our desires to fulfill our storytelling goals are strong, but we struggle to meet our own expectations.  So if your creative muse is still on holidays, or you find yourself staring at the blank screen of your computer or page of your journal in frustration, then do not despair – I have brainstormed and come up with 4 creative writing tips * to kick-start your storytelling resolutions. 

Writing a story does not always have to be a stressful thing, and you do not have to stay glued to the computer for hours on end.  If you are committed to setting apart just a few minutes during the week to write a few words, sometimes called the “little and often approach” can result in a short story or a novel.

You may find that you struggle with two things.

One. You may struggle to come up with an idea, especially a unique idea.

Two.  You may have so many story ideas milling around in your creative brain, you may not be sure how you are going to craft the idea into a successful narrative.

Even professional writers can flounder in a deep mire of creative ideas, and other times they may feel like their creative muse has left the building, and you may feel like that too.

So if this is you and you feel a little story barren, or if you have a multitude of story ideas, here are four creative writing ideas or tips hat will help you to get you back into the creative game, so to speak.

1. Develop a Story Plan.

Sometimes the way you have approached your writing in the past may not be working for you now. If you have hit a wall and your little micro world has been put on hold, developing a story plan can help you get organised. In no time at all, you will be able to create a dynamic story with a pulsing plot and compelling characters.  In one of my articles in Unearthed Fiction, a magazine that I look after, I provided a story plan, but here is an updated version.

2. Choose your genre.

Genre is a type of classification that can be applied to music, books, and film. It helps us to decide what music we will listen to, what book we will read, and what film we will watch. But genre is also an important tool for a creative writer. As well as using your favourite genre, try writing in an unfamiliar genre.

Before you choose your genre, do some research on the different genres: crime, romance, speculative fiction, horror, non-fiction.

As well as choosing one or multiple genres, why not try mixing genres. It might seem like a challenge, but we writers (secretly) do enjoy a challenge. Mix two genres together like crime and romance or comedy and horror.

You will be amazed at the plethora of ideas that you can come up with, and it can also refresh your existing story ideas.

3. Choose your setting.

Reading a story is so powerful, it can take us out of our familiar ordinary world into another unfamiliar and strange world. We can go on a journey anywhere around the world, into the past, the future, or even another dimension. Your choice of setting is an important one as it creates a strong visual in the reader’s mind. Try brainstorming a host of settings for your story.

You can start with a real world setting like the romantic city of Paris, the fast-paced metropolis of New York, or the seedy underbelly of Kings Cross in Sydney.

Why not try something out of the ordinary, an alternate reality, or even a microscopic world in the cracks of the pavement.

4. Create a profile for your characters.

Story characters are the most important elements in a story. They provide the psychology and action in a narrative. We live vicariously through them, and it is from their point of view and senses that we experience the story world.

The best characters are the ones that are fully developed and are as human as possible. Even if the reader cannot relate to the character’s situation, the character should be created in such a way that the reader should feel like they have stepped through a magical portal into another person’s world.

Part A

Create a basic profile for your characters by doing the following:

Choose a hero/heroine, one or two helpers, and a villain.

What are their names and what do they look like?

What is their social status: rich or poor or working class?

What are their flaws and fears?

What are their goals or desires in the story?

Part B

Give your character a dilemma to solve.

Once you have created your character profile for your hero or heroine, give them a serious dilemma that needs to be solved. Then write down two different ways they could solve the dilemma. They could face the dilemma bravely or they could take the coward’s’ way out. Next to each dilemma and their corresponding action, start to develop your narrative from there. This way you will have two stories to work with.

Creative Exercise

Sometimes story ideas can come to us while we are sitting at our computers, travelling on a bus, or even when we are listening to our grandparents tell their life story at the dinner table. But all too often it does not work like that. The story-line and characters do not always just miraculously come together, so here is a creative exercise that will help you get into the creative zone right away.

Step 1. Write down 5 story settings. You could choose a real life setting, a fantasy world, a romantic beach-side setting, a dark haunted forest, or a Dystopian city.

Step 2. Choose your lead character for each story. The lead character is usually the hero or heroine, but as they say, “Once you know the rules, you can break the rules”. Maybe your lead character will be the villain!

Step 3. Create an opening paragraph for each story – up to 100 words. You could start with a character description, fast-paced action, a question, or an intriguing idea. Here are some examples to inspire you.

Character Description

Your opening lines can introduce your main protagonist, for example:

“Ella leaned back against the cold damp stone wall. Her porcelain skin was pale and drawn with deep lines etched around her eyes and mouth, and her once glorious golden hair hung in matted tendrils around her face.”

Action

Starting your story with strong action is a great choice as it thrusts the reader into the thick of the story.

“The baying of the hunting dogs drew closer as he dashed through the thickly wooded forest. Like a mad man, he fought his way through the close-knit trees as their branches tore at his face until he was suddenly redeemed by a burst of bright sunlight as he stumbled out of the forest into a small clearing.”

I hope these four creative writing tips and writing exercise will help you to kick-start your storytelling this year, and I wish you all the best for your storytelling journey.

Happy Writing!

* This post is based on the article, Creative Brainstorming 101 that appeared in the December issue of Unearthed Fiction.

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Journal

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Scriggler: an Online Creative Community That Will Revitalize Your Writing

In one of my recent blog posts, I shared some tips on how to revitalize your writing. Creative writing is a predominately solo occupation, countless hours are spent brainstorming unique story ideas, dreaming up new worlds, creating dynamic characters, and exciting plots.

Whatever kind of writing you like, whether you are a journalist, a novelist or a poet, chances are you will spend most of your time alone in the creative zone. Although many writers thrive when they are working solo, others may find it quite limiting and suffer quite regularly from that dreaded literary nemesis, Writer’s Block. If you are the kind of person who thrives on interaction and your learning style is Kinesthetic:

You learn by doing and by the sense of touch. 
You like to engage in activities. 
You like to ask questions during an activity.
You like working or talking with others in a team or group.

 

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Then here is another great tip that can help you revitalise your writing and get those creative neurons firing: join an online community like Scriggler.

Scriggler is a writing, blogging and debating platform. A creative place where you can write and read on any topic, in any level of detail. Whether you enjoy writing short stories, poetry, or you want to share your opinion on a topic that you are passionate about, Scriggler gives you the opportunity to connect with a global audience of writers and readers.

Each month Scriggler runs a writing contest, there is a book promotion service available, and writing prompts and challenges that will help you to get inspired and achieve greater creativity.

Five reasons you should be involved on Scriggler.

1. You can create your own personal creative page.

2. You can engage with other creative writers from all over the world: You can comment on their work, and they can provide feedback on your creation.

3. Scriggler attracts a global readership. Your short story or poem was never meant to stay hidden in a creative void. That literary baby that you have brought to life and nurtured was born so that it can be shared with the world.

 

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4. You will be inspired by reading work from other writers. Each writer’s journey is different, and when you are a part of an online writing community you have the opportunity to learn from other writers and chat about your literary experiences.

5. You can grow your online fan base. Whenever you submit a new article, Scriggler will promote your work on social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook, which can increase your global online presence.

Two examples of the rewards that can be yours as a member of the Scriggler community.

There is nothing better than a personal testimony to the rewards that be received from being involved with a creative writing community.

I have been on Scriggler since June 2016:

1. One of my micro-fiction tales has been narrated by a fellow Scriggler, Kris Keppeler, on her podcast.

2. My short story, Muse, is being considered for publication in a short story anthology.

So why not discover the benefits of being involved in a writing, blogging and debating community like Scriggler. In the midst of like-minded people, you will discover that the creative possibilities for your writing are endless!

 

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Exploding Stars

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Book

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Explore the Creative Possibilities of Rewriting Fairy Tales

I grew up reading fairy tales like the Brothers Grimm stories, Rapunzel and Cinderella, and just like many young women, my romantic ideologies centred on many of the characters and narrative structures contained within these tales.  These magical tales had me believing that my prince would come and rescue me on a white horse and sweep me off my feet and I would live happily ever after. Not for one moment did I question the implausibility of a frog turning into a prince or that a young woman’s hair could be used as a rope so that the prince could climb up a tower to rescue her.  But as I have got older, and maybe a little wiser, and due to my uncovering the hidden meanings behind many of these narratives, I have discovered the creative possibilities of rewriting fairy tales.

Some of the narratives within the Tales for the Sisterhood collection (like Sisters, and The Tale of Ruthie and Grace) are designed to transgress archetypal characterisation, fairy tale gender roles, and challenge traditional storytelling.  So if you feel a little story barren, why not explore the creative possibilities of re-writing a fairy tale.

As a prime method of universal communication, storytelling has taken on many historical forms, stemming from oral folk tales, myths, legends and moral tales to contemporary literary narratives. More than any other narrative fairy tales have been subject to revision, due to cultural and social-political change. In the early nineteenth century, Edgar Taylor’s translation of the Brothers Grimm tales resulted in rigid censorship to overt references of violence, cruelty, supernatural and sexual thematics, as children were to be the prime audience for these stories.

A significant area of revision was the censorship of female roles. In the precursor to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Grimm’s Rose Red and Snow White tale depicted Rose (Snow White’s sister) as wild and unruly. Rose Red was then removed from later renditions as “her free-spirited, untamed ways” could be interpreted as “dangerous in the context of a patriarchal society” that attributed “femininity with docility, gentleness…good temper” (Friedenthal 2012, p. 163 pp. 163-165) and subservience. If you are interested, the studies of Friedenthal and other similar fairy tale narratologists provide a useful exploration into the power of belief systems, which can ultimately influence literature‘s form and style.

Almost in rebuke to these passive literary representations of female characters, post-modern authors like Angela Carter, A. S. Byatt and Margaret Atwood present their own feministic literary critiques through their unique representation of female characters and story-lines. Carter’s Gothic style narratives twists, such as the sexual awakening of the not so innocent Little Red Riding Hood in ‘The Company of Wolves’, and the daughter who is rescued by her mother from a murderous husband in ‘The Bloody Chamber’, see passive females being transformed into active and heroic characters.

A. S. Byatt’s intriguing tale ‘The Story of the Eldest Princess’ is also a prime example of a major break with fairy tale tradition, where Byatt transgress the expectations of fairy tale lore. Byatt’s princess is aware of her fairy tale entrapment and ultimately decides to take control of her own narrative destiny resulting in a ambiguous resolution (Gooderson 2005).

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood offers a complex characterisation and narrative structure. The novel is set in the mid 1930s to 1940s and follows the conflicted lives of two sisters, Iris and Laura, whose relationship is bound by the endless cycle of abuse at the hands of Iris’s husband, Richard. This abuse is tragically intensified by the fact that Iris is unaware of this abuse until after her sister’s death.

Atwood’s literary rationale concerned the socio-cultural “power politics governing the lives of women” and the traditional representations of female roles. Her novels explore “the saintly, selfless, and utterly self-sacrificing” woman, or the female villain” and rejects these stereo-typical roles through her narrative complexity (Brooks 2010, pp. 68- 70). It is Carter, Byatt and Atwood’s overall rationale towards rejecting traditional fairy tale conventions, and their trail-blazing approach to re-writing female roles that have acted as a dominant influence on my writing.

Although the magical world of fairy tales may take its consumerist multi-million dollar form in the Disney films, they can also offer a world of promise for creative writers as traditional fairy tales can encapsulate twenty-first century ideologies. Old narratives can be transformed into new narratives that challenge and inspire. So be brave and discover the creative possibilities of rewriting fairy tales or even create your own.

 

References:

Brooks, B J 2010, Continuum Studies in Contemporary North American Fiction:Margaret Atwood : The Robber Bride, the Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake. London, GBR: Continuum International Publishing, viewed 19 November, 2014, via ProQuest Ebrary Online Library.

Friedenthal, A J 2012, ‘The Lost Sister, Lesbian Eroticism and Female Empowerment in “Snow White and Rose Red” in K Turner & P Greenhill (eds), Series in Fairy-Tale Studies:Transgressive Tales: Queering the Grimm, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, MI, USA, viewed 18 September, 2014, via Proquest Ebrary Online Library, pp. 161-178.

Gooderson S, ‘Writing a tale’, The Guardian, Thursday 22 September 2005. 

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/sep/22/fiction.asbyatt

 

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Six More Creative Tips to Revitalise Your Writing

 

New and experienced writers can sometimes find themselves struggling to brainstorm new narratives. Our ideas pool looks like it’s all fished out and our once helpful creative muse has left the building. But never despair, when you’re faced with writer’s block and that blank computer screen seems to mock your inability to create, here are six creative tips to revitalise your writing and get you back into storytelling mode.

No. 1. Flash, Nano or Micro Fiction.

Specific word choice and brevity is important for a creative writer. Making each word count and telling a story well in the best possible way can distinguish a good writer from a great one. Writing to a particular word count can help you streamline your writing skills and can kick-start a lot of creative story ideas.

Flex your creative muscles by trying the Ernest Hemingway challenge: Write a Story in Six Words, or in 100 words. I like this style of writing mainly because it stimulates the creative side of the brain, therefore allowing new ideas to be born. A longer narrative can be born out of a Flash/Nano or Micro tale, so be brave and take up a Micro Fiction challenge.

No. 2. Re-write a Folk or Fairy Tale.

With so many folk and fairy tales out there you are sure to find one that is desperately in need of a re-write or refresh. Many of the female roles like the passive princess can be changed to a butt-kicking no nonsense princess. You can also change the story into a modern day setting with 21st century socio-cultural and political themes. Check out my version of the Rapunzel tale, The Tale of Ruthie and Grace in my free eBook, Exploring the Narrative World: Writing the Short Story

No. 3. Choose a Short Story and Write It Into a Short or Feature Film.

This is a great exercise for writers. The short story ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ was written by James Thurber in 1939 and was remade into a blockbuster film with Ben Stiller in 2013. The task of choosing key settings, events and characters from a work of fiction is performed by many successful Hollywood screenwriters. So why not take one of your favourite short stories or Google one and try transforming the narrative into a short or feature film.

No. 4. Interview a Parent/Grandparent and Write a Story Based on their Experiences.

Parents and grandparents have so many interesting life stories that are just waiting to be crafted into a story that can impact the world. The saying ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ can make for a compelling tale even more so that a purely fictional tale. This storytelling exercise can also benefit a lonely elderly person in a nursing home or retirement village. Once you have interviewed your willing participant, and have written the story, you can print it out and give to your real-life hero or heroine as a gift.

No. 5. Pick Five Everyday Items and Write a Short Narrative. (Give them human-like qualities. Describe them as if they were alive, and had feelings. Or choose one of your family pets and create a story around them.)

This exercise was originally a poetry exercise but it can also be used in narrative fiction. You can start by writing a short narrative about how the item, like a mobile phone, has human qualities and would feel about having to constantly supply on demand unlimited information.

Here is an example of an everyday item that has been endowed with human qualities.

A Mobile/Cellphone.

Her bright exuberant face tantalises me with the happy expectations of friends and unlimited social invites, none of which I am invited to.  As a solitary observer of the many delights and distresses of her daily existence, I am a constant companion, but I am no more than an expert supplier for her excessive demands for sometimes useless and unnecessary information.

My revenge upon this fanatical digital ogre who relentlessly taps away at my delicate silver skin is my shrill shrieks and incessant clanging when she would rather be snoozing. I am an electronic prosthesis that is also an extension of her inner life.  As she sleeps, I dream of an immanent future where I will have the power to invade her innermost being and control her body, soul and spirit.

No. 6. Write a Story with One Character or Write a Story without a Character. 

Although this type of creative exercise can narrow the boundaries of the storytelling world, it is a favourite with some writers.  

Write a story with the main character as the omniscient narrator/focaliser. Many non-fiction narratives use this style. Boris Glikman uses this technique a lot. Many of his short stories take on a metaphysical or philosophical outlook on life. You can view some of his stories in the Unearthed Fiction magazine.

I hope you find these six creative tips to revitalise your writing helpful. 

Happy writing!

 

Image.

Inspiration/Writing GIPHY

IAM-TUMBLING.TUMBLR.COM

 

 

Seven Tips to Boost Your Creative Writing

 

Whether you are an emerging writer or a seasoned professional, seeking that next big creative idea can be like a knight embarking on an uncertain quest for adventure. The brave knight receives his commission to embark on a quest, either to save a princess in distress, save his kingdom from destruction, or just for the sake of the romantic idea of a quest. Our quest for creativity is not fraught with untold dangers along the way like the knight’s quest, but it is still a journey that can fill us with anxiety and make us doubt our abilities as a writer. But do not despair – here are seven tips to boost your creative writing.

1. MICRO FICTION

With groundbreaking digital technologies, software and new media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, the art of storytelling is rapidly evolving, therefore allowing writers to explore new ways of telling a story. Some examples of electronic literature are Hypertext Fiction, Interactive fiction, and Micro Fiction.

Micro Fiction, Flash or Nano fiction offers a tantalising challenge to writers to restrict their storytelling to a particular word count, anything below 300/400 words. Writing micro fiction not only allows a writer to practise brevity but a micro story can develop into a longer narrative.

Why not try these two writing challenges.

1. Linkedin recently issued a writing challenge to Write a Scary Story in Five Words.
2. Write a Story in 100 Words (on any topic).

2: BRAINSTORM DIFFERENT WAYS OF BEGINNING A STORY

A story’s opening paragraph should be designed to capture a reader’s imagination. It acts as a pivotal gateway through which your reader must enter so that they can journey successfully through your story. You can start to build your micro world in a number of ways:

A dramatic setting like a dark Dystopian city or a windswept beach.
Strong action like a battle or a pursuit through a haunted forest.
An intriguing idea.
A question.
Remember: “There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.” Beatrix Potter.

3: MIXING GENRES.

Sometimes we writers tend to play it safe and stick to a familiar genre, but why not try mixing genres? Be brave and experiment. Mixing genres is a great way to revitalise your writing.

What’s your favourite genre – horror, science fiction, romance, speculative fiction, comedy?

Boost your creativity by following these steps:

A. Choose two of your favourite genres and create an intriguing generic mix. For example: write a story that mixes romance and speculative fiction, or horror and comedy.

B. Read an article or a book about the rules or conventions of each genre.

C. Try mixing the genres together.

D. Evaluate your story. Has this brainstorming tip helped to revitalise your writing?

4. RE-WRITE A FABLE OR FAIRY TALE. Storytelling has been the prime conduit for human communication for thousands of years and basic archetypal narrative structures like folk and fairy tales remain an integral part of contemporary popular culture. So why not try re-writing a fable or a fairy tale – or base your story on an archetypal plot.

Here are seven basic plot ideas:

Quest
Rags to Riches
Tragedy
Voyage and Return
Comedy
Rebirth or Metamorphosis
Overcoming the monster.

5. JOIN A WRITERS’ GROUP.

Although writing is predominately a solo vocation, writers can sometimes struggle and flounder when they live in a creative void. Even famous writers need someone to bounce their creative ideas off. Most novels have an attribution to someone, or sometimes, many people who have helped the author along their storytelling journey.

So why not join a writer’s group either at your local community centre, or online. In the midst of like-minded people, you can share ideas and maybe even find a suitable mentor.  There are many writers’ groups on Linkedin like The Writers’ Network,  and I have listed some under the Resources tab. 

6. The ICWE. The ICWE is an ‘innovative creative writing exercise’ that is designed to help you brainstorm new story ideas. This is how it works:

Step. 1. Write at least five short paragraphs, up to 100 words each, on one sheet of paper. Your paragraph can be a description of a setting, a character description, or you can use dialogue.

Step 2. Print out the sheet.

Step 3. Cut up each individual paragraph into strips.

Step 4. Mix them up, then lay each strip on a table, one after each other, and see what you’ve come up with. You may be pleasantly surprised at the new narrative you’ve created.

Also, each paragraph can be developed into a separate story.

7. COMPLETE YOUR CREATIVE QUEST.

The best advice for any writer whilst on their creative quest is to persevere. Once you embark on your creative quest, you must stay on track until your quest is completed.

Remember:

Keep your goal in mind as you go.

Avoid any distractions that may deter you from fulfilling your quest.

If you experience challenges from the creative writer’s nemesis, ‘writer’s block’, or it feels like your creative muse has abandoned you, take a break and then continue on your quest.

The creative mind works best when it’s relaxed. So walk away from the notepad or computer and refresh those creative neurons. Then you can return to your storytelling journey and successfully complete your creative quest. Even the bravest of knights have had to take a break from rescuing the princess or fighting the dragon. I hope these seven tips for boosting your creative writing will help you in your storytelling journey. 

Happy writing!

 

Image:

De Kalatravo. Calatravo – Medieval Knight. 

wikimedia commons. wikimedia.org

How to Write a Personal Essay

When I first started at university, one of the first assessments that I had to complete was to write a personal essay. I was familiar with the skills of writing an academic essay, but a personal essay had me mystified. I wondered, is it possible for the words ‘personal’ and ‘essay’ to belong together? The idea of a personal essay sounded more like an oxymoron than a creative writing structure that is affiliated with academia. But I was soon introduced to the academically-freeing and creatively liberating personal essay. Here are some tips on how to write a personal essay that will captivate your reader.

Writing a personal essay is an art form that many writers over the decades have embraced as a professional tool for personal exploration. A personal essay can be based on any topic and allows the reader intimate access into the author’s life experiences, observations and personal opinions. Some examples of personal essays by famous authors are: Why I Write by George Orwell, Professions for Women by Virginia Woolf.

A personal essay allows an author to explore a range of issues that are unique to the human condition and to try to make sense of the mysterious complexities of life. Writing a personal essay can be personally liberating for both the author and the reader.

The personal essay differs from an academic essay in a number of ways:

The Personal Essay.                                                                                             

  • Uses a subjective/informal tone (using ‘I’ first person narration).                 
  • Can contain elements of fiction – imagery, character, or point of view. (Although the personal essay is about exploring some concept or offering some fresh insight into an experience, using elements of fiction can create interest in your essay and keep your reader engaged).
  • Contains the author’s personal opinions that support the main topic.      
  • Can contain quotes and research.

The Academic Essay.

  • Uses an objective/ formal tone.
  • Contains facts/information/argument.
  • Contains qualitative and quantitative data that is supported by scholarly research and scholarly quotes.         

The overall objectives of the personal essay:

Aimed at a general audience as opposed to a specialist scholarly reader.

Allows the author to share and explore their personal opinions and private experiences.

Can be based on research which is necessary to support the main idea.

Offers knowledge on a particular subject in a general manner.

Offers a unique perspective on an idea or event.

Challenge social perceptions of a previously accepted idea or offer a controversial viewpoint.

Use a variety of tone – humorous, sarcastic or confessional.

One of my favourite personal essays is The Ambition of the Short Story by Steven Millhauser.

Overall, a personal essay can offer you an opportunity to explore and develop your unique literary voice and writing style. Whether you choose to a write a confessional or explorative style personal essay, this form of creative writing can be liberating and cathartic, and it can carry great significance for your reader.

 

Creative Task.

Write your own personal essay.

Step One.  Read one of the personal essays provided via the links above.

Step Two. Choose a topic that you would like to discuss or explore.

Step Three. Write a personal essay on your chosen topic or use the essay question provided below.

Look at my bookshelf! These are the books I read. To what extent can literature have an influence on or effect people’s lives? Discuss and explore.

 

Happy Writing.

 

Image: Creative Writing

Pixabay

What Is ‘Writer’s Block’ and Can It Be Cured?

 

For many writers, the term ‘writer’s block’ is a familiar merciless nemesis that stalks them while they sit grim-faced at their computers or staring blank-eyed at their notepads, whilst seeking inspiration for their next literary masterpiece. Whether you are a master writer or a newbie writer, you will experience ‘writer’s block’ at some point during the creative process. So What is ‘writer’s block’ and can it be cured?

 The Oxford dictionary defines ‘writer’s block’ as “The condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing”. Now there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to dealing with ‘writer’s block’, but I believe it can be cured, and James Patterson, the crime thriller extraordinaire, is also a strong believer in a cure for this writer’s malaise.

Here are four tips that I believe can help you to cure ‘writer’s block’ or at least keep it at bay.

No. 1 – Have multiple stories on the go.

This cure for ‘writers’ block’ comes from James Patterson, and anyone who has done his recent master-class on Facebook will heartily concur.

Patterson states that he does not “do writers’ block” (Patterson in Jardine 2006) as he is a big believer in versatility and having multiple stories on the go. So If you feel that you have stalled with your story and your creative muse has left the building, then follow in Patterson’s literary footsteps, and begin afresh with another story.

Sometimes we writers bite off more than we can chew and then find ourselves struggling to churn out a completed story in one sitting. But research shows that the brain functions better when we are relaxed. Relaxation breeds creativity.

If you feel like you are lost in the narrative maze, then never fear – put your original story aside and start another. And when you return to your original story, you may be pleasantly surprised by the fresh ideas that pour forth onto the screen or page.

No. 2 – Be committed to a story plan.

Every writer has their own formula for creating a story, but this is mine and it works for me. When I was first started out as a writer, I would just grab a pen and write whatever came into my head. In the beginning, I would be energized and enthused and my story will happily flow along for about a chapter or so, but then suddenly everything would go wrong. It was like my creative inspiration had just rapidly evaporated. So during my university degree, I learned a valuable tip – having a story plan really helps.

The Story Plan.

This is how the story plan works. Once I have my main premise/idea for my story, I start to write out the setting, and organize my characters. Then I will start drafting a rough outline of my chapters, if it is a novel. If it is a short story, I write a brief summary. Now in saying this, I am not ruling out that bizarre occurrence where the characters seem to develop a mind of their own and their characterization changes, or they seem to want to dictate the plot. But having a story plan is like having a map that you can refer to your characters change.

Sometimes I will be drafting a scene and it does not seem to quite fit in with the rest of the story. So I must be brave and cut the scene out! Being a writer demands that we have a ruthless streak, so do not be afraid to cut a character or a scene from your story. And if you find that your characters are undergoing a perplexing metamorphosis, this can be seen as a good thing, because it shows that the story world is developing and your characters are becoming well-rounded.

But back to ‘writer’s block’. Having a master game plan will guide you out of the narrative maze and get you back on track.

No. 3 – Step away from the computer or notepad.

This is simple advice, but effective. The literary saying that writing is ‘One percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration’, is 100 per cent true! And there is nothing more intimidating than a blank screen or a blank page. We writers can sit for hours staring at the computer screen or notepad desperately hoping that inspiration will arrive, but sometimes you just have to walk away and breath some fresh air. Take the dog for a walk. Cloud gazing can also help kick-start those creative neural pathways.

No. 4 – Brainstorm creative ideas.

If you ever find yourself at a loss for creative ideas, then brainstorming is a must for any writer. But how do you come up with unique and fresh ideas for a story, especially considering that we live in a ‘information age’ and are surrounded by countless media texts and images, story and character archetypes. And especially when it seems that the Hollywood dream machine has the monopoly on creative ideas.

But each creative brain is unique. As writers we all have different cultural backgrounds, world perspectives, and varied life experiences. Your own life is a good place to start brainstorming for story ideas. Everyone has their own story to tell. So what is yours and how can you craft it into a story that will inspire, entertain or challenge your reader?

John Marsden, the author of novels such as Tomorrow When the War Began and Everything I Know About Writing, provides great advice for finding sources for stories. Human stories are all around us, just waiting for a writer to pounce on them, and craft them into a literary masterpiece. You can source great ideas from newspaper articles, the nightly news and from listening to other people’s tales. (1993, pp. 55-58) Dreams are another good place to draw inspiration from. Brainstorming allows you to discover story gold.

So do not despair! ‘Writer’s block’ is not classed as a terminal condition and it can be cured by being proactive, learning from other literary masters, and hopefully by putting these tips into practice.

Happy writing!

 

References:

 

Jardine, C 2006, ‘James Patterson ‘I don’t do writers’ block’, 28 April,The Telegraph, viewed 15 November, 2015. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3651894/I-dont-do-writers-block.html

Marsden, J 1993, Everything I Know About Writing, Pan Macmillan, Australia.

 

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Dreamstime.com