take a closer look

don't confuse the narrator

I’ve been looking at flowers this week.

In particular, I’ve been looking at white flowers. And even more specifically, I’ve been looking at small white flowers.

I haven’t identified them all but the photos here are examples of these small white flowers. Except for the duplicate of elder flowers that heads up the post, they are all different species.

Small white spring flowers on shrub

I know that I’ve seen elder blossom and guelder roses. And I think perhaps some of the small white flowers on shrubs are cotaneaster blossom.

But quite whether the wild umbellifers are cow parsley or hogweed, or something else entirely, I may never know.

Guelder rose flowers

I’ve also been looking back through old notebooks and found some notes I wrote when I did a writing and mindfulness workshop some years ago and we were told to

“Try to see something new in the familiar things.”

Elder flowers

More than that, we were encouraged to

“Think…

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Something About April

There’s just something about April, dontcha think? Is it gonna be warm? Is it gonna be cold? Is the sun gonna shine? When will it be summer? As I write, despite the horror news of the world burning to a crisp by Christmas it is quite actually properly April out there. You know the kind of thing here in the northern hemisphere, first bit of sun and we all rush outside like idiots getting sunburn while complaining it’s still chuffing cold, or migrating to the pub to quaff vast amounts of ale/cider/gin/something fizzy because it is SUMMER AND THAT’S WHAT WE DO only to discover that as soon as the sun goes down we return to winter and a halter-neck and flip flops just won’t cut it.

But why this nonsense about the weather? How about this is why we should include the weather in our writing:

Thanks NOAA at Unsplash for this great picture

‘On the fifth day, which was Sunday, it rained very hard. I like it when it rains hard. It sounds like white noise everywhere, which is like silence but not empty.’ – Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

or

‘It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.’ Charles Dickens, Great Expectations.

There was once a school of thought that suggested writing about weather in our work was dull. B Or Ing. Something we shouldn’t do if we wanted to keep our readers engaged. No one wants to read about the sunshine pouring in through the window or the rain battering the door we were told. Why ever not? I think one of the most important elements of a novel or short story or even flash, is, if applicable to the plot, the weather. It can set a mood, break a mood, and is as important a plot device as any of the others. Thrashing storms have to be thrashed out on the page to bring them to life. Simply saying there was a horrible storm at sea and the ship nearly sank doesn’t creative many waves, does it? So bring on the weather.

With climate change and the heating of the Earth many authors are turning their skills to writing cli-fi, much of it not fiction at all, so it looks like the weather in our writing is well and truly here to stay. But not in the way authors 50 years ago expected I guess.

Is cli-fi speculative? Can be. Dystopian? If you want. Utopian? Up to you. But all of it deals with the human fallout of a warming planet.

Climate Fiction: sounds like 21st century gothic horror to me.

Indie Authors at the Stratford Lit Fest

Over the last few years myself and many other self-published writers have been supported by the Stratford Literary Festival by way of a one-night Live Lit Event in one of Stratford town’s magnificent buildings. Obviously that didn’t happen last year, but I’m delighted to say that SLF are again hosting us this coming Wednesday (12th) at 6pm. Sadly we won’t be jiving our stuff in one of Stratford’s many glamorous locations, but will instead be going live by way of the internet. A change of course maybe, but it does mean that we’ll be open to global viewers – there’s a thought! We’ll have many local authors all strutting their stuff and if you have a spare three quid and a hour to fill, please do join us. Ticket link here – https://www.stratfordliteraryfestival.co.uk/events/local-writers-showcase (also at the bottom of the page.)

So as the days grow longer and allegedly warmer, if you haven’t booked your table at the pub we’d love to have you on-board to hear some great writing read especially for you!

https://www.stratfordliteraryfestival.co.uk/events/local-writers-showcase

What’s In a Name? Everything.

As TS Eliot correctly acknowledged, the naming of cats is a serious matter. As is your main character, or indeed a home, the place where all the action happens. Manderley for example. Serious action going on there. The House at Pooh Corner – not quite the same but still notable literary history, plus the added bonus of imparting a geographical location sans gps – just as long as you know where Pooh Corner actually is I guess.

Don’t bite the apple Snow White…

         On my Covid roamings my ever-observant eyes have paid more attention to local house names – apple anybody? – and the history-loving part of me mourns the death of Orchard Cottage (not an apple in sight), The Oaks (treeless), The Old Post Office, The Old School, Rose/Jasmine/Lavender/Yew Cottage. Scattered across the country are countless Blacksmith’s Cottages, Station Houses, and Old Mills, all a wonderful nod to the past and how lives were lived. But that was then and this of course is now. Where are the new names? Couldn’t we do with an I.T. Terrace perhaps, or a Broadband Bungalow? Or maybe Seeseeteevee Lodge, or simply just Renewables for a new housing estate on a windy site? As if someone had been thinking along the same lines as me, I did see one modern terraced house recently with a quaint 21stcentury millennial ring to it: it was named Tiny Box. True. The new owner was clearly being sardonic/humourous/notworriedaboutsellingit and it made me smile. Surely, as we stride ever forward, our achievements, as the industrious creative humans we are should be recognised in the naming of our homes? Holme Delivery? Still At Home With Mum & Dad House? (bit long for any on-line form, that one) or (and I promise this is the last one) Can’t Really Afford It Cottage. Where house names once reflected our jobs or the natural world perhaps in the future they’ll reflect the socio-politics of the time. Perhaps they should. Anyway, just a thought. A thought that brings me on to the importance of other names; our characters. Yes, like many a writer my path always returns to the plot, the people, and that pesky protagonist.

         A question for you dear reader. What do Harry Potter (pick an installment) Hamlet, Rebecca, Matilda (know where this is going?) have in common? Exactly. Each novel is the title of the main character. Yes yes I know that in the case of Rebecca ***SPOILER ALERT!!*** she’s not exactly there, being dead an’ all, but you know what I mean. It ensures that we’re not likely to forget them in a hurry doesn’t it? Leap forward some decades and ask yourself if you can remember the name of the protagonist in a book you read three months ago. Or the book before last. But seriously – what better way to get your work into the psyche of your readers? Nail the name and the rest should come, surely?

         Hunton Gurney. Top lawyer. Privately educated. 21stCentury Guy. London apartment, cottage in Cornwall (Fisherman’s, probs), expensive car, almost married to another high-flier. Or Hunton Gurney, 18thcentury labourer – no – let’s make him a blacksmith (and we all know where he lives), back already damaged from hard work, four living children, two others already dead from consumption, married to the exhausted but determined Rose. Or…Hunton Gurney, a small, mysterious village off the A436 somewhere between the Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire border. 

         You decide.

Research the Market

Excellent advice from author Sue Cook. And I’d advise you to follow it! Thanks for your words of wisdom Sue..

Sue Cook's Writing Blog

This post was triggered by a People’s Friend blog by Abbie, one of the editors. It states the obvious, really, that before you submit a story to a magazine such as The People’s Friend, check that it’s suitable for them.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen posts on social media along the lines of ‘I’ve written a short story, I might send it to People’s Friend as they take women’s stories, don’t they?”

Yes, they do. But if you are unfamiliar with the type of story they publish, I would bet good money that your story will be sent straight back with a ‘thanks but no thanks’.

Abbie suggests checking the market after you’ve written your story. I would go a step further and say you should do this before you put finger to keyboard. Write the sort of story the market wants, not vice versa, at least…

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