That’s like asking how long is a piece of string. There are endless articles written on this genre – most provide very useful hints in your quest to write the genre, and most as useful as a ball of string. Imagine the uses for a ball of string! … Continue reading What makes a winning short story?
Category: b. WRITING TIPS
Why I’m addicted … to Flash Fiction
Scratch the writing skin of most Flash Fiction aficionados and you’ll find an addict. Yes, we can’t help ourselves … we adore the genre, we drool over brilliant Flash Fiction … on a continual quest to write great stories. I write novels, chapter books and plays for children, but Flash … Continue reading Why I’m addicted … to Flash Fiction
My Essentials for Being an Author
When I run writing classes, people often ask for hints on how to become better writers (and so do children – thankfully, for a future of great stories still to come!) These are the essentials I pass on….. Have an active imagination. Always ask, WHAT … Continue reading My Essentials for Being an Author
To ADVERB or NOT? That is the question.
Have you ever succumbed to the temptation of not trusting verbs to do their job? Like if your hero ‘walked slowly down the road‘ when he could’ve trudged, ambled, plodded, tramped, staggered, crawled … you get the picture?
Maybe you’ve become a bit of a writer-ly ‘adverb-Nazi’? Scouring your manuscripts of those haughty, naughty adverbs? Sniffing them out in a Search and Destroy mission with the touch of a key? Noticing when other writers do ‘it‘?
There’s no doubt being choosy about if and when to use adverbs improves your writing – if you find the right, potent verb for the occasion.
In his book, Writing Tools – 50 Essential Strategies For Every Writer, Roy Peter Clark pins it down..
‘At their best, adverbs spice up a verb or adjective, at their worst, they express a meaning already contained in it …
The accident totally severed the boy’s arm.
The blast completely destroyed the church office….’
Now see how much better the sentence is without the offending adverb. As Clark notes, ‘the deletion shortens the sentence, sharpens the point, and creates elbow room for the verb’.
But the war on ADVERBS doesn’t necessarily mean not using them at all. There are GOOD ADVERBS and BAD ADVERBS as Clark suggests…
‘She smiled sadly’ is more potent than ‘She smiled happily’. And the best one of his examples … remember Roberta Flack singing ‘Killing Me Softly‘? It would never have worked with ‘Killing Me Fiercely’.
i.e. if your adverb contains the same meaning as the verb, it appears weak. If it changes the meaning, it’s strong. In other words, there are adverbs that intensify the verb rather than modify it.’
But this blog isn’t about killing off adverbs – I would suggest be sparing in their use though.
Some in the writing world champion the cause of poor old ADVERB. For example, British author, David Hewson (the Nick Costa series) says:
‘Adverb-hate is one of those automatic ‘never do this’ rules you meet in writing schools and at book conventions from time to time.
I hate ‘never do’ rules in creative fiction. We’re trying to produce works of the imagination here, not business plans.
Furthermore adverb-hate is very localised, an American habit, one some people lay at the door of Hemingway (though whether that’s true or not I’ve no idea).
I’d never heard of this ‘rule’ before I started going to talk at writing schools in the States. And I have to be honest… no reader and certainly no editor anywhere has ever voiced the opinion that adverbs are so, like, nineteenth century, dude.’
Hewson once wrote a blog article ‘I like adverbs: there I’ve said it boldly’, but I can’t find the link now. David Hewson makes other interesting and relevant points in his blog. ‘If you like reading and thinking about the English language and the craft of writing, these two authors and commentators are worth searching out,’ she says, enthusiastically and eagerly.
“Adverbs exist because, used properly, they bring something to writing and have done since we learned to communicate beyond grunts.”
What are your thoughts on the use of adverbs in our fiction writing?
ANATOMY OF A SHORT STORY… blog hopping
Would you like to know how the inside of a writer’s head works? A good way to show you is to cut open my 480-word short story, AND YET, IT MOVES.
I’m posting as part of a blog-chain hop (a small link, I am) of how authors think and work. Passed on by wonderful performance poet, Zenobia Frost to my lovely friend, author, Michael Gerard Bauer and then on to me. (Yes, I am breaking the rules of procedure a bit here by not answering the set questions!)
Where do the ideas for my short stories come from? It still surprises me, even after 15 weeks in my 52-Week Flash Fiction Challenge, but I’ve learned to trust in the creative process that it will happen. And week in, week out, it does. Here’s how AND YET, IT MOVES came to be.
THE SPARK OF AN IDEA
The stimulus word/s that week were CELESTIAL BODY. I usually start with a visual mind-map, scribbling down many thoughts about the topic, but this time I didn’t have to. For me, Celestial body = astronomy = Galileo, the father of modern astronomy, and my life-long hero. I knew lots about his life so didn’t have to research too much. But a short story couldn’t look at his whole life. It had to focus on one small incident – significant enough, or interesting enough to make the story sing. This is where being a keen observer of human behaviour helps.
Conflict is part of every story, especially for the main character. And so it was for AND YET, IT MOVES. I knew the history, I knew what happened when Galileo made a telescope and became the first human to see the pockmarked face of the moon – to work out that no, the sun and the moon didn’t circle our Earth. Therefore, Earth and its ‘made in the image of God’ humans were not the centre of God’s Universe. Galileo couldn’t help himself – he was a man who had to share his beliefs, widely. The Vatican’s black-robed priests of the Inquisition placed him under house-arrest. Would he recant his heresy or die?
Flash Fiction has no room for a cast of characters. There’s Galileo, of course, but who else. That’s when the magic happened … into my head popped the image of a young boy bringing a meal to this dangerous, white-haired prisoner … and my story was born. Young Guido had been warned not to listen to him, not to talk to him. So what sort of boy is Guido? And what impact will he have on the life of Galileo. I scribbled a quick outline, and let it bubble away in my imagination for a couple of days.
They’re all essential things to get right – without using too many words. It’s set in Firenze, in the 16th Century, at night. I had to use enough sensory images to set the scene, but keep the story flowing.
Flash Fiction needs to end with a twist – ending with a POW! An ah-ha moment. I knew as I wrote the first draft where this story would lead … it wasn’t really a conscious decision, more instinctive story-telling. A gut-feeling of wanting to right a wrong. To see human intelligence and valour work for this great man and young Guido.
Perfect titles are essential in Flash Fiction. They must say everything, without giving too much away. ‘And yet, it moves‘ are the words that Galileo is rumoured to have muttered when he recanted his teachings in front of the Inquisition and the Pope – he was not put to death, but remained under house arrest the rest of his life, continuing his studies and exploring the heavens. He discovered the moons of Jupiter and many more truths we know today.
The thought of this brilliant man holding his beliefs against ignorance, cruelty and superstition will stay with me forever.
I hope you enjoy reading my story…. AND YET, IT MOVES.
THE BLOG CHAIN CONTINUES…
Check out these two blogs next week for two more shiny chain links …
- my very good friend, Lynn Priestley, author and illustrator https://mystorystartshere.wordpress.com