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.

 

Image

Hourglass.

Stevepb

Pixabay.com

How to Write a Book Proposal for a Publisher

So you have finished your book? That’s great! Your literary baby has been carefully crafted and completed.  All that perspiration and imagination has finally paid off.  It was well worth it all, wasn’t it? Even though you had many sleepless nights and you had to cancel so many social engagements. But now that your work is all done and dusted, you would like to share it with the world, right? Absolutely! I hear you say.  Aside from writing a book, whether it be a collection of short stories, a non-fiction travel guide, or a fantasy novel, writing a book proposal is the next big challenge to be faced in your creative writing journey. So how do you write a winning book proposal?

Before I get into the specifics of writing a book proposal, there are a few things you need to know about the publishing industry. I am talking about the traditional publishing market, not the self-publishing DIY option.

The publishing industry is one of the biggest mass media juggernauts in the world, and traditional publishers have very specific guidelines for book submissions. Publishers can afford to be choosy as there are so many authors around the globe who are writing novels and vying for the public’s reading attention.

As well as being a commercial enterprise that looks out for the next best seller that will generate high revenue, traditional publishers are also culturally minded and have the book-reading public’s interest to consider.

The humble book is still regarded as the perfect vehicle for the transmission of complex ideas, information and characters, so publishers are always looking for a book that is well-written, engaging and even ground-breaking. But the challenge is to get your book in front of the publisher’s commissioning editor.

Preparing a Book Proposal: Author Checklist

A book proposal is a formal way of introducing your book to a potential publisher. It includes details like the title of the book, tagline, synopsis, marketability, etc.

  •  Research the publisher

Before you start writing your proposal, research the many different publishers from small independent publishers to large multinational houses. Look at their existing book titles. What kind of readers do they target? Penguin Random House has an extensive list of genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, non-fiction, health, and fitness. They cater for an extensive readership: Children and Teens, Young Adults, and General Readership.

  • Read the publisher’s manuscript submission guidelines

Publishers have very strict guidelines on manuscript submissions. Some publishers accept submissions on particular days, like ‘Manuscript Monday’ or during the first week of every month. They may require you to submit your manuscript as a hardcopy or as a digital copy. They may only be accepting particular genres. Whatever you do, do not just send the manuscript and hope they will read it. Start your publishing relationship the right way, which is the publisher’s way.

Two very important things to remember when submitting your manuscript

 1. Never send your first draft

This probably seems obvious, but I have heard a few stories about dodgy narratives being submitted. No pun intended. Write a few drafts of your manuscript, check your writing for spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes. Have someone else have a look at the manuscript. It is so easy to miss glitches in your own work, which may put your manuscript in the publisher’s shredder – a bit harsh I know.  But this point needs to be emphasised: you want to leave a good impression with your potential publisher. If they read your manuscript, they want to see that you take your craft seriously and you are dedicated to good writing.

Have a look at your plot, characters, etc. Are your characters compelling?  Is your plot fully fleshed out? Even though your book does not have to absolutely perfect, as the publisher will probably make some editing suggestions, it is still important that your story looks polished.

2. Never send the entire manuscript unless the publisher is asking for the entire manuscript

Publishers have a lot of manuscripts to read, so they may only require a sample of your work, and then if they think it has promise, they will ask to see the entire manuscript.  Once again, check their website to see what their requirements are.

Now that you have done your research and read the manuscript guidelines, it is time to start writing a book proposal. Here are some things to include.

1. Title of your Book

The title of your book is one of the most important aspects of your book. A good title can make or break a book. Choose a title that will catch the publisher/reader’s attention and imagination. Something short and catchy that sums up the theme of your book.

2. Tagline or Log Line 

A tagline is a one-line description that sums up the content of your book. It should mention the main character,  the character’s action or the main plot. The key to writing a good tagline is specific word choice and strong verbs and images that catch the reader’s interest.

3. Story Synopsis

The story synopsis is a concise description of the book that should be up to 300 words. The synopsis should include an overview of the main topic/themes/subjects, main characters, and narrative scope.

A good tip is to include the conclusion of the book as well so that the publisher can see the overall continuity of the plot, and that the book is actually finished.

You might find that some publishers may accept a book if it is not fully completed, but they will still need to see that you have written a substantial amount of the narrative. But it is very rare for a publisher to accept a book that has not been completed.

4. Length and Format of the Book

What is the word count of your book?  Novels usually contain 70,000 words.

Children’s Picture Books or Graphic Novels

If your manuscript is a picture book for children or a graphic novel, you can include the details of the illustrations or images that you want to include in the narrative. Some publishers ask for the images to be included as an attachment, or if they want hard copies, they will ask for a DVD. Are the illustrations or images your own work or do they belong to someone else like a paid illustrator? Be aware that some publisher’s like to use their own illustrators.

5. Author Details

Include your title: the name that you want to appear on the cover of the book. Also, provide a short biographical note (up to 50 words) that includes your occupation, special interests, any university degrees or achievements, writing awards, and social media platforms that you are actively involved with. Even though the publisher will promote your work, you are now an authorpreneur and you should also be dedicated to promoting your own work. If there are any other contributors/co-writers or illustrators, include their details as well. If you have sent your manuscript to other publishing houses, you should include those details too.

6. Manuscript Marketability

This section is very important as it shows the publisher that you are interested in them as a high ranking socio-cultural entity in the marketplace, not just because you want to them to publish your book and give you a substantial advance.  Here are some details that you can include.

A. Book Comparison.

Once you have chosen your publisher, have a look on their website. Find two titles that are similar to your book. Include the title of the book, the author and the book’s theme, and how these two books compare to your book.

A book is a marketable product just like a box of corn flakes. And just like any business, the publishing industry looks for a book’s marketability. There may be certain genres that are ‘trending’ at the moment like historical romance, crime thrillers, or speculative fiction. So have a think about what age demographic would be a good target for your book. Would it appeal to young adult readers of fantasy or paranormal fiction? If so, why would it appeal to this particular age group, which is usually from 15 up to 25? Does it include supernatural themes, dark fantasy settings and characters like vampires, etc?

B. Book Competitiveness

How will your book compete with other titles, what advantages or features does it have over existing titles? What is unique about your book, what is its strengths? What can your book bring to the global reading table that readers have not read before?

Maybe your book is a crime thriller and the plot centres on a brilliant, yet socially awkward female detective who hunts serial killers, but hides her own shady past. Maybe you use genre fusion, and combine horror with romance, or maybe your book is a modern fairy tale.

7. Domestic or International Marketability

As you consider the global marketability for your book, ask yourself these three questions.

1. Does your book have the potential to attract a global market with a wide readership?

2. Is your narrative set in a particular country, or does it focus on a particular people group like indigenous people?

3. Will it appeal to some niche groups like university/intellectual readers or for those readers who are interested in social justice issues?

Even though the overall marketability of your book will be determined by the publisher, your own research shows that you have done your homework and that you are passionate about your craft and your book.

8. Contact Details

Include your contact details: email address, telephone number, and your postal address (for formal correspondence).

9. Manuscript

Some publishers will ask for the entire manuscript, while others may ask you to send in a certain amount of pages.

Finally, although there is no secret formula for getting a publisher to accept and publish your book, learning the tricks of the publishing trade, and writing a book proposal that adheres to a publisher’s guidelines, will give you a better chance at having your book shared with the world.

I hope you have found these tips on how to write a book proposal for a publisher helpful, and I wish you all the best for your writing career.

Happy Writing.

 

Image

Steel Lock/magazines

Agnail. Pixabay.com

 

 

An Exegesis for Second Chance: A Short Story with a Social Conscience

 

One of my short stories ‘Second Chance’, which is featured in the short story collection: Tales for the Sisterhood, is about a young girl who is struggling to cope with the devastating effects of bullying.

My prime motivation behind this story is firstly the subject of bullying, which is a serious social-cultural community issue.

Bullying has been placed centrestage under the media spotlight, and anti-bullying programs and initiatives have been introduced into schools in an effort to try to stop this destructive behaviour, which is endured by children and adolescents, and also in the workplace.

TV shows such as A Current Affair and 60 Minutes have shown that bullying has become more insidious due to social media usage by young people, through platforms like Facebook and Twitter. This online form of bullying is more invasive and it is difficult for young people to switch off from its effects.

Days have gone by where bullying was confined to the school-yard, its presence can now invade into personal living spaces.

My second motivation for this story came from my own experiences with bullying at primary and high school, during which time I was also struggling to cope with a family unit breakdown. Due to my love of painting and writing, I found it therapeutic to express my thoughts and feelings in this creative way.

During my university journey, I conducted research into bullying and different forms of therapy, while creating Second Chance. Organisations like the Sydney Centre for Creative Change hold workshops and courses for youth workers, and offer creative therapy for young people who are dealing with trauma. These classes not only aim to build an artistic skill base, but to empower students to solve problems creatively.

Creative therapy provides a positive course of action that can be taken by the sufferer, giving them back some control.

A lot of my own teenage angst was responsible for creating the character Kara, minus her physical responses to bullying. Like Kara, my favourite subject was Art, and besides English, these subjects were the only ones I succeeded in. As this short story is aimed towards the Young Adult market, in particular, high school students, I wanted the narrative to be primarily from Kara’s perspective on her world, and I hoped to capture the pain of her struggles in such a short word count.

My own reading of young adult novels like John Marsden’s Winter and Amanda Hocking’s Switched, also inspired me to present Kara as the conflicted and misunderstood heroine, who begins her journey towards a psychological transformation, through a Creative Therapy Class.

My other literary challenge was how to begin the narrative. I wanted to highlight Kara’s home life as well as her school-related abuse and then briefly show the beginnings of her personal victory. I decided to include the ‘cutting’ that she considers earlier in the narrative. I have heard that young people can sometimes make the heartbreaking decision to resort to self-mutilation to try to control their emotional pain.

Kara’s choice to use the ‘fight not flight’ response is due to her repressed frustration; not that this is an excuse or an acceptable response to bullying. A young person should stand up to victimisation, but they should not have to do this ‘standing up’ on their own. A strong support system of friends, family members or counselors should stand with them.

The use of creative therapy is not a solution to bullying or other stressful events that can occur in childhood or adolescents, but it is one conduit through which young people can channel their thoughts and feelings, within a safe environment.

My hope is that the short story ‘Second Chance’ may inspire young people to share their stories and not stay silent about bullying. Help and support is available.

 

Here is a excerpt from Second Chance. 

 

The computer screen flickered, which meant that another post was being entered onto my Facebook feed. I turned toward the computer and stared at the words.
“Yur such an ugly useless fat bitch. It wuld b beta if U were ded!!!”

Even though they were just words on a screen, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Although I went to a small country school, I was not immune to the normal school-yard bullying, but now that it had
begun to invade my private and personal space, it seemed that there was nowhere to hide. In the past, I had tried to stand up for myself in an effort to stop the bullying, but it usually escalated into an ugly fight, and I
had been expelled more than once.

The only part of school that I did like was art class, especially when we would use watercolours. My teacher, Mrs Anders, had taught us to use a hair dryer to make the water mix with the paint. I found it fascinating to watch the colours swirl into a multitude of patterns like a kaleidoscope. She would always praise me for my work. “You have such a talent, Kara. Your work is so vibrant.” I would never reply, but in my heart I felt something stir.

 

The full story and other short stories in the Sisterhood Collection are available through Amazon or the Book Depository.

 

Anti-bullying campaigns and related websites. 

ChooseREAL Campaign

Make Bullying History Foundation

 

 

References.

Chloe’s Law, 60 Minutes 2013, television programme, Channel Nine, Sydney, 10 November. YouTube.

Hocking, Amanda 2012, Switched, St Martin’s Press, New York.

I would get death threats”: A Current Affair 2011, television programme, Channel Nine, Sydney, 21 September.

Marsden, John 2000, Winter, Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited.

Sydney Centre for Creative Change

Understanding Teen Cutting and Self-Injury Boystown.org.

Top Five Authors Who Can Inspire New Creative Writers

I have been inspired by many authors throughout my creative writing journey, and as it helps to learn from the best, I have compiled a list of the top five authors who can inspire new creative writers

No. 1.  James Patterson

James Patterson is a highly successful American Crime Writer who is famous for his fast paced, heart stopping and gripping thrillers. As a long time fan of James Patterson, I have never been disappointed. I have just finished Alex Cross, Run, and I was intrigued by the dual plot-lines, with Alex Cross hunting down two psychopathic killers, while also being hunted by a revengeful nemesis who will stop at nothing in destroying Cross’s reputation and family.

The Alex Cross series is a favourite as Patterson’s hero is a classic example of a four dimensional character. We see Cross in dual social spaces, his work and home life, we have access to his intimate thoughts, and more importantly we have access to the perspective of the nemesis or villain on Cross. Alex has victories and temporary defeats and exhibits many character flaws, which are highlighted  in this novel. These characters flaws help us to identity with his struggles as we cheer him on as he fights against evil.

Patterson also knows how to draw his readers into the short bursts of action contained in his novels.  He also provides us with a detailed outline of the psychology of his villains.

His dialogue is straight to the point, and every word is strategically placed and is used to good effect. Also his book chapters are short and there is plenty of white space, which provides for a pleasant reading experience. 

No 2. Patricia Cornwell. 

Patricia Cornwell is one of my favourite forensic crime thriller authors. Her heroine, Dr Kay Scarpetta, is a dedicated medical examiner who not tracks down serial killers but she has also been on the receiving end of crime. Scarpetta has had her share of complicated romantic and family relationships and she expresses empathy for the victims of crime.  

Cornwall’s writing style is engaging, and she keeps the reader guessing up until the finale. She also rates quite high on my list for the creation of a strong and sassy female character, who is not afraid to get her hands dirty, and she can hold her own in a male dominated world.

No. 3. Sophie Kinsella

Among many of her books, Confessions of a Shopaholic (2001) is a bestseller that has secured a global readership and ongoing commercial success. Whether you love or hate chick-lit, Kinsella’s narratives are easy to read and her characters are humorous.

Shopaholic has gained in popularity with its predominately youthful demographic of readers, due to its references to recognisable fashion brands, magazines, and department stores. It also features ‘chick-lit style’ characters, like the famous Bridget Jones, who tend to be urban women, employed in the media industry, are relatively successful, and continually struggle with romantic foibles or consumerist angst, with sobering, but hilarious results.

Kinsella’s book has undergone scathing reviews as many media commentators have tried to understand the book’s success, and many feminist writers have lashed out at the depiction of women in her books, but regardless of the socio-political uproar, the book’s key selling element is its lovable leading lady, Becky Bloomwood, who has catapulted Kinsella to literary notoriety.

Bloomwood is the bumbling and ditzy heroine who gives out financial advice in her day job, whilst being chronically in debt due to her out of control shopping addiction. While Bloomwood and her crazy antics provide for a good laugh, there is clear message about the effects of mass consumerism and crippling financial debt without being too preachy.

From a storytelling perspective, Kinsella’s characters are hilarious, the plot is faced paced, similar to that of a crime thriller, and her writing style keeps the reader riveted to the narrative up to the last page.

No. 4. Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is another highly successful book that continues to dominate the literary field of mass market adolescent books.

I had never heard of The Hunger Games before the films premiered, and in hearing the arguments for and against their controversial content, I saw some of the films and then decided to read the first novel in the series.

Collin’s storytelling adequately draws the reader into a Dystopian world that lives in fear of an annual sadistic reality television show that involves a gladiatorial style of combat with a twist – the opponents are ordinary teenagers as opposed to skilled soldiers.

The Hunger Games is also an interesting example of an intriguing generic mix. It draws upon a mix of science fiction, adventure, drama, and action. Its key selling point is the unique combination of a popular 21st century television phenomenon – ‘Reality TV’ – and the Romanesque style of entertainment.

I chose The Hunger Games for this list of top five authors, not because of his mass appeal, but due to the main character, Katniss Everdeen, the young heroine whose bravery and sacrifice is the driving force behind the plot as she volunteers to take her younger sister’s (Prim) place in the games.

Collins has created a dynamic heroine who is an active female character who not only becomes a symbol for bravery for her hometown of Seam in District 12, but she has also been tagged as a positive symbol of courage for modern day teenage girls.

Although the book has raised controversial debates over its high levels of violence that is perpetrated by children, it is Katniss who heroically displays empathy and inner strength in the face of such violence.

The controversial debates have not affected the book’s popularity as it has reached almost mythic proportions in its readership popularity.

No. 5. Daphne Du Maurier

Daphne Du Maurier is an English author, who bases the majority of her narratives in Cornwell, Southern England.

Her novels were inspired by the mysterious, yet breathtaking landscape of the Cornish countryside, the idyllic, yet secretive villages, and especially the shifting moods of the beautiful, but sometimes treacherous, Bodmin moor.

Daphne is an all-round storyteller who has not limited herself to one genre. She displays a talent for being able to create novels that cross many genres/sub-genres such as: a short story collection that centres on the macabre, a speculative fiction novel, The House on the Strand, that combines the supernatural and science fiction, and also historical romances.

Many of Du Maurier’s historical romances contain an element of mystery, and the narratives foreground strong active female heroines.  Novels like Jamaica Inn and Rebecca centre on heroines who endure hardship either due to abusive or conflicted men, and these women are often left to fend for themselves in isolated and gloomy houses that carry dark secrets. Although it seems at times that these women are doomed to fight a losing battle, they are victorious, and their abusers or antagonists are brought to justice.

Although there are many great storytellers to choose from these days, I have chosen just a few of my favourite top five authors who have inspired me in my creative writing journey.  I hope that they inspire you as well. 

 

Image:

Library 

Mysticsartdesign.

Pixabay.com

 

How to Create Dynamic Secondary Characters: The Princess

Welcome Creative Destinationers!

This week’s blog will be a continuation of the series: How to create dynamic secondary characters. Last week we directed the narrative spotlight onto the False Hero. This week we will be exploring the creative possibilities for the Princess (the sought after character).

Just to give you a bit of fairy tale history. The princess in fairy tale storytelling has traditionally been represented as a passive female character who finds herself either trapped in a tower, poisoned by an evil witch or a victim of a deadly curse. Of course there are some exceptions to this fairy tale rule – We will explore this a little later.

Out of all the archetypal characters that exist in meta-narratives, it is the princess who has undergone somewhat of a dramatic transformation or reversal in modern-day narratives (predominately filmic narratives).

The ‘princess’ is of great significance to me as during my university journey I submitted a thesis/creative project that analyzed the true purpose behind many fairy tales, in particular, the Brothers Grimm tales. My discovery was that well-known fairy tales were originally designed as literary commentaries on social-political issues at the time of their creation.

My project also explored transgressive tales by authors like Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood, whose work challenged archetypal fairy tale gender roles and traditional story telling techniques. If you wish to view the essay, click here: Creative project essay for Creative Destination

As part of the Creative Project, I submitted a short story called ‘Sisters’, which is now a short screenplay, Trafficked. This short story was designed to be a provocative social commentary on the ‘Human Trafficking‘ trade.

The characterization in ‘Sisters’ was also designed to challenge archetypal representations of female roles in literature. The main character, Rose, is transformed from a passive recipient of the action into an active princess who sets out to rescue her sister, Lily.  ‘Sisters’ will also be available in the Tales for the Sisterhood short story collection – so stay tuned!!

In modern-day narratives, we see that many female characters, especially in film, are designed to defy traditional audience expectations of gender roles.  In books, films and video games, we are encountering female characters who are not always reliant on being rescued by a prince, and many times, they dominate much of the action on screen. Think Charlie’s Angels or Kill Bill or Tomb Raider.

 

Character profiles of the princess in traditional fairy tales.

The damsel in distress.

In this representation, the hero sets out on his quest, and encounters a damsel/princess in distress.  He rescues her from an evil witch who has either kept her captive in a tower or has cast a spell that causes the hapless princess to sleep for a hundred years.

The sought after princess.

In many fairy tale representations a conflicted princess is also the instigator of the hero’s quest.

* The rebellious and sacrificial princess.

The magical world of Walt Disney has presented us with some ground-breaking examples of rebellious princesses – the love-struck mermaid, Arial, who disobeys her father, King Triton, in ‘The Little Mermaid’ by Hans Christian Andersen.

The Bold and the Brave Princess.

In the French fairy tale, ‘The Beauty and the Beast’, the pure-in-heart Beauty or Belle in the Disney animated creation, sets out to rescue her father from a terrifying Beast who lives in a cursed castle. And of course we know the end of the story – Beauty’s magical tears transform the Beast back into his true self – the prince. A great example of an active fairy tale princess!

 

The character profile of the princess in modern day narratives:

The princess in a romantic comedy.

The Princess is the love interest who is pursued by her admirer or love-struck hero. There are challenges to their love, or the princess continually rejects the hero until he finally wins her over. Ultimately they receive their happy ending.

The Princess/Heroine.

The princess is a passive recipient of tragedy or some type of injustice, but she rises to the challenge, either by herself, or she joins with the hero – like a crime fighting team. Here we can see Propp’s archetypal switch happening – the princess becomes the heroine. Think: Cinderella/Drew Barrymore in Ever After or Batgirl/Alicia Silverstone in Batman and Robin.

For us girls, the Princess/Heroine is a major draw-card in mass media representations, as it can inspire us to take up the challenge of being the heroine of our own story.

Radical shifts in female characterization provide the princess with an opportunity to take control of the narrative and embark on a quest to free herself and others from cultural and socio-political dis-empowerment.

Of course that does not mean that the prince/hero is dis-empowered, but both the prince/hero and the princess/heroine play an important role in fictional storytelling, and also in real life.

More examples of modern day princesses.

Ripley in the Alien film franchise, especially the first two films. Ripley was the last woman standing among all the well trained gun-toting marines, and she was transformed into an almost indestructible fighting machine. She is considered to be a ground-breaking character for women in film.

The Hunger Games heroine, Katniss Everdeen, has become an iconic symbol of bravery and courage for young women. She is a prime example of how one person can stand up against injustice and inspire others to do the same.

Just like the hero, the princess can provide a fictional conduit through which we can see evil defeated and justice prevail. Of course, fictional characters pale in comparison to real life heroes who display courage in the face of hardship and disaster.

These story character profiles show the shift from traditional representations of the archetypal entrapped princess to a dynamic active character in the story world.

Next week: We will be exploring the rest of the secondary characters: the donor, the dispatcher and the helper.

 

Also stay cybered for future posts:

1 – Creating four dimensional characters.

2 – ‘Writers’ Block’ – What is it and can it be cured?

3 – Writing the screenplay.

 

Happy Writing!

 

READING LIST

Fiske John 2002, Television culture, 2nd edition, Routledge, New York, London.

Carter, Angela 2006, The Bloody Chamber And Other Stories, Vintage, London.

Zipes, J D 2002, Breaking the Magic Spell : Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales, 2nd Edn, University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA

 

IMAGE

‘Just a bit of fun with the princesses’
by becky.
Flickr.com

How to Write a Dynamic Short Story

One of my favourite narrative formats is the short story.  This fondness had grown out of my continual battle to complete a story.  I had no trouble starting the story, but once I had written about a hundred words or so, I would lose the plot – literally!  But after writing a few stories, I think I have finally vanquished my nemesis.  So if you like to read short stories and would like to write your own, then read on and discover how you can write an engaging and dynamic short story in four easy steps.

The short story is an artistic product that contains a fixed sequence of words and is known for its particular format: length of words, structure, viewpoint, or tone of voice, etc.  It provides a small literary window onto an observed dramatic event or a personal experience. 

The short story has a long history, starting off in oral tradition long before writing and the arrival of the printing press.  Some well-known forms are Homer’s Iliad, folk tales, fairy tales etc.  Many of these short story forms were used for didactic or teaching purposes– such as Aesop’s Fables, or in a biblical context – the parables of Jesus. 

Folk or fairy tales were originally designed as subtle social commentaries on exploitation against the lower/middle classes throughout history.  Of course, these social commentaries had to be cleverly disguised so as to protect their authors.  Feudal lords, kings, and queens were transformed into the fantasy characters we know so well today – giants, evil step-mothers/witches.  And the passive captive princess – just an example of their fateful prey.  There is more I could say about the dubious representation of gender roles in many of these tales, but for our purposes, we will stick to storytelling.

As folk and fairy tales have been passed down through history, they have been subject to revision, due to socio-political change.  Many of The Brothers Grimm tales in the late eighteenth century were censored and re-packaged towards children.  I apologize for demystifying or removing the magical aura that surrounds the fairy tale.  But seriously, would a prince really climb up a tower with a girl’s long blonde hair???  Don’t get me wrong – I am a fan of fairy tales too, but sometimes it is important to know the ‘why behind the what’. 

I believe short stories are great narratives for the 21st century as they do not require so much reading time as novels do.  They may not provide as much content as the novel, but a short story can exist for the sole purpose of just presenting an idea or a question to the reader.

A story tip to remember.  When it comes to the short story: form and content are important!

When you start to craft your story ask yourself these four questions:

No. 1

What structure will I use?  A traditional linear structure with the events unfolding chronologically, (including flashbacks) – or experiment and adopt a more innovative style.

No. 2

Where will I start my story?  From the beginning?  In the middle of the action?

No. 3

Where will I place my story conflict or rising action?

No. 4

How will I end my story?  Will it close with a satisfying conclusion – with all the loose ends tied up or will I defy traditional storytelling techniques and leave the reader wanting more? 

You are the creator of this infant literary world – it is up to you!

Personally – I like to challenge traditional storytelling methods.

Overall, form and content are important because a short story is determined by a specific word count.  When I was at university most of my creative writing assessments were 1000 words.  That may sound like a lot, but considering a novel is 70,000 words plus, 1000 words can be challenging for an author to create an intriguing storyline and a dynamic characterization.  But it can be a lot of fun seeing what you can do in 1000 words. Of course, some short story competitions accept stories up to 5000 words.

Remember!  A story was never meant to exist in a literary vacuum – it was meant to be read by others. When you start writing your short story, consider your audience and their overall reading experience.

DISCUSSION ZONE: 

Your task, if you choose to accept it, is to come up with a theme or an idea for your story.  Brainstorm your narrative structure.  Choose your setting.  Pick one character. Yes – only one character!

 

NEXT BLOG:  ‘Digital storytelling’ – Creative Storytelling for the 21st century.

 

If you would like to read my version of the fairy tale ‘Rapunzel’, head on over to the BOOKS tab, and in my free eBook, Exploring the Narrative World: Writing the Short Story, you will find the short story, ‘The Tale of Ruthie and Grace‘.  Let me know what you think?

 

READING LIST:

Grimm, J 1982, Fairy Tales from Grimm, retold by Peter Carter, Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York. Available from Google Books. *

Zipes, J D 2002, Breaking the Magic Spell:Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales, 2nd ed,
University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA. Available from Amazon Books

 

* You can find a book of fairy tales at your local library or an eBook through Apple iBooks.

 

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The Building Blocks of Creative Writing Continued

Here are some more building blocks for creative writing.

Climax – the turning point of a story

Conflict – a struggle between two opposing forces: person vs person, God/fate, society, nature.

Dialogue – Direct speech between characters in a literary work.

Falling action – the results or the effects of conflict in a story.

Flashback (or analepsis) – The introduction of material into the narrative that has happened earlier in the story. E.g. a character remembering an event or conversation from their past. (This technique can be used to include information that is outside the known storyworld in order to save narrative space).

Genre – a type or category that a literary work belongs to: romance/horror/science fiction.

Interior Monologue (Streams of consciousness) – a technique used to convey the thoughts and feelings of a character directly to the reader.

Rising action – the development of conflict and complications in a literary work.

Suspense (withholding information) – a technique that keeps the reader guessing what will happen next.

Theme – the underlying main idea behind a literary creative work.

 

Reference:

Porter Abbott 2008, ‘Glossary and topical index’, The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, Second Edition, Cambridge University Press, New York.

 

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