Friday Fictioneers – Chess

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PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

The town square was placid. Bread was bought, coffee drunk, chess played.

I was never placid. Orderly routine filled me with divine rage. As a child, crossing the square, I would imagine a detonator in my pocket. Click, and Mme Albert vanished; click, and M Leroy became a puff of smoke. As I grew older, I dreamed of knives and bombs.

You probably think I’m a psychopath and came to a sticky end. Think again. I made my fortune and bought this town. Deploying the citizens on the board is much more fun than killing them.

 

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Fancy sharpening your skill with writing exercises? The Scrivener’s Forge offers a new exercise every month to hone one aspect of your craft. Take a look at this month’s exercise on character and world-building

The Scrivener’s Forge 5 – Character and World-building

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Medoc

A new writing exercise every month. When you focus on one aspect of writing at a time, you can concentrate on making it the best you can possibly create. That way you can reach a professional level that may be harder with longer works. We’ll explore one aspect of the craft each month.

If you comment on other writers’ efforts, they’ll usually comment on yours. So you get lots of critiques, advice, and encouragement.

Please don’t post your entry in comments here. Create your entry on your own blog, and then click the little blue frog to join the link-up and read other people’s work.

Character and world-building

Building a character is building a world. This may be a world of fantasy, of wizards and dragons. But it doesn’t have to be. When the physical world and the emotional world are overlaid, everyday things become new and vibrant if seen through the eyes of a character in a particular situation. How every character sees and understands the world creates their world. This is what gives a character a distinctive voice. Vivid description is a portrait of a mind thinking and feeling its way through the world. A character’s mentality is created both from the big things (someone who is fearful is surrounded by a world of threat, for example) but also from the small things (someone who is fastidious may be troubled by a neighbour’s messy garden).

Exercise

An exercise from John Gardener. Write a scene which places a character in a specific location. Use the interaction between character and description to show us a unique world we’ve never seen before and that will never exist again.  A man whose son has died in the war is looking at a building. Describe the building without mentioning the war, the son, or his death.

Hint: if you’re finding this hard to approach, consider why a character in this situation might even notice a building.

Friday Fictioneers – the Yagnobi

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PHOTO PROMPT © Liz Young

My name is Rahmathon. You look hungry after your trek – I can sell you a sheep if you like. Yes, you’ve reached the Yagnobi. My people have lived here in this high valley for more than a thousand years. We tend our cattle and cultivate our wheat. Yields are poor, but without bread people are not people.

We have forgotten who we were – Sogdians. From Samarkand we once traded glass all the way east to imperial China and silk all the way west to Byzantium.

I can make you a good price for this tender little lamb.

 

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields  to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.

Fancy sharpening your skill with writing exercises? The Scrivener’s Forge offers a new exercise every month to hone one aspect of your craft. Take a look at this month’s exercise on character and likeability

 

86. Rejection is your friend

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Rejection can be hurtful. But all writers have to learn to accept it. It seems like someone is telling you that your writing is no good. But there’s a huge amount of subjectivity in the decision-making process, which a writer doesn’t normally glimpse.

I just had a story rejected by Every Day Fiction with enough feedback to illuminate the process of decision-making. There are several reasons why a story might get turned down:

  • The writing is no good
  • The writing is good, but the story doesn’t work
  • The writing is good and the story works, but it’s not what the editors are looking for

The first two reasons are objective, the third is subjective. But, of course, the first and second reasons also involve judgements by people and can also be subjective. You rarely discover what has led to a rejection.

In this case, the magazine sent me the reports by the four readers. They had to score the submission between 1 and 5, and their scores varied between 1 and 4: a 4, a 3, a 2 and 1. If scoring were purely objective, this would not be possible.

The reader who scored me 1 said “This is an interesting beginning to a story but not a complete short tale as yet”. So that was a rejection reason two.

The reader who scored me 4 said “I love it when a story takes me by surprise, as yours did. Usually I find the ‘it was a dream’ motif a pretty hard sell. But here, the dream (or initiation) was an integral part of the narrative. Also, you capture quite a story in very few words. Nice. Your prose is gorgeous, too. I was taken in by its imagery and sound quality”. So that was an acceptance.

The remaining two readers also offered variants of rejection reason two. “The ending was a let-down” said one, who also commented “very strong writing”. They offered me the opportunity to rewrite and resubmit. Confident that the writing was good, I looked again at the structure.

I know enough about reactions to my endings to understand I have a problem here. I like open-endings. Readers, by and large, don’t.  I’m working on beefing up the ending now.

Rejection, as Sylvia Plath once wrote, shows that you’re trying. Make rejection your friend. It can help you try better. And editors who tell you the reasons for the rejection are priceless.

Friday Fictioneers – The Atelier

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PHOTO PROMPT © Magaly Guerrero

Sophia already had everything. The only possible gift was sensation.

“How about saudade?” The little man peered over half-moon glasses. “A Portuguese emotion – the pleasure of feeling sad. Very popular. There’s even a music that goes with it: Fado

“No,” I said. “Too much like wistfulness. Besides, I want something nobody has ever experienced before.”

The wrinkled rapturesmith retired to the dark back-shop. “I think this might suit, Sir.”

He proffered a small leather box.

Chocfulness,” he said. “The pleasure of finishing something you really enjoyed but probably shouldn’t have done, like eating a whole box of chocolates.”

 

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Fancy sharpening your skill with writing exercises? The Scrivener’s Forge offers a new exercise every month to hone one aspect of your craft. Take a look at this month’s exercise on character and likeability

 

Friday Fictioneers – Still Life

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PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

“This is me?” I asked.

He smiled and nodded.

“Two-thirds of a pizza, a half-drunk glass of wine, my watch and some condiments?”

Again, that smile.

Tom told me once he picked through the rubble of the bombed village for an hour, arranging the detritus to compose his photograph. A frayed teddy bear from one house and, from another, a tin plate with a bullet hole.

“Wasn’t that lying?” I’d asked.

He replied it was revealing the truth.

“And the truth about me is?”

Tom hugged me and whispered “Maybe that you’re alone. Or maybe you changed plans.”

 

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.

Fancy sharpening your skill with writing exercises? The Scrivener’s Forge offers a new exercise every month to hone one aspect of your craft. Take a look at this month’s exercise on character and likeability

Friday Fictioneers – Writing on the Wall

 

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PHOTO PROMPT © Jellico’s Stationhouse

When I wake, there is writing on the wall – “my thoughts abandon me with every word”. Had I written that? The script is elegant and flowing, unlike my scrawl.

Writing should be confined to notebooks – on walls it’s a transgression. At the age of eight I was punished for writing on the lounge wall, sent to bed without supper. Even after two coats of paint, the message still seeped through.

I envy those who can write on walls without guilt, but the infestation of words troubles me. I wonder how it would feel to write on human skin.

 

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields  to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.

Fancy sharpening your skill with writing exercises? The Scrivener’s Forge offers a new exercise every month to hone one aspect of your craft. Take a look at this month’s exercise on character and likeability

 

Noble Lies – Scrivener’s Forge 4 exercise

This is my response to the third Scrivener’s Forge exercise on Character and Likeability. Click on the link to see the exercise details

 

It would be a delightfully simple world if telling the truth was always right and lying was always wrong. But it is not so. I work undercover, and I’ve had to become a practitioner of the Noble Lie. Such lies are told for reasons of the greater good, often to maintain law, order and safety. Though they may told with love, they corrupt other loves.

I spent a year and a half getting close to Ayesha’s brothers, but never did discover what they were up to. I went out with them on marches and protests, handed out leaflets, buttonholed worshippers after Friday prayers about sharia and the true meaning of Islam. But they never took me with them on their frequent weekends away. I was denied entry to the inner circle. The locations of their trips were revealing though – Hampshire, Surrey and Kent. I knew for certain they visited Aldershot, Deepcut. Chatham, Sandhurst and Worthy Down. All of those places have military bases. It looked, as they say, suspicious.

Then Ayesha said she had something to tell me. Her sloe eyes were bright, her breathing was fast and shallow. ‘I’m pregnant,’ she said.

I said the usual silly things men say – What? How? Why? Are you sure?

‘It will be all right, won’t it?’ she asked. ‘You must marry me.’

‘Your brothers will never allow it,’ I temporised.

‘My brothers and father will kill me if I have a baby and I am unmarried.’

The moment of betrayal is always agonising. You recite for yourself all the reasons that make it right. There’s duty. There’s the uncomfortable truth that you already have a wife and two vaguely C of E kids. And those are good justifications. But you can only betray what you first love.

I walked away, looked back once, and shed a tear.

The Scrivener’s Forge 4 – Character and Likeability

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Medoc

A new writing exercise every month. When you focus on one aspect of writing at a time, you can concentrate on making it the best you can possibly create. That way you can reach a professional level that may be harder with longer works. We’ll explore one aspect of the craft each month.

If you comment on other writers’ efforts, they’ll usually comment on yours. So you get lots of critiques, advice, and encouragement.

Please don’t post your entry in comments here. Create your entry on your own blog, and then click the little blue frog to join the link-up and read other people’s work.

Character and Likeability

A main character doesn’t have to be likeable, but they do have to be interesting. Any believable hero or heroine must have flaws (just as every satisfying villain must have good qualities). They may even be overwhelmed by their flaws. Flawed heroines are given a much harder time by readers than flawed heroes.

Exercise:

Write a scene with an unlikeable main character that you think will engage the reader’s interest. You might want to try changing their gender and writing it again. If you do this, consider what you learned from the comparison.

Friday Fictioneers – Waterfront

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PHOTO PROMPT © Fatima Fakier Deria

The cloud ruffled the top of Table Mountain, tendrils fraying down towards the city.

“They call that effect the tablecloth,” Thandie said.

Sitting under the shade umbrella, I sipped my mojito and gazed across the harbour. We were in her country, her city, but I felt a disconcerting familiarity. Africa should be more alien.

She seemed to read my mind. “You expected mud huts, didn’t you? Lions? Tribal dances?”

All I could do was laugh and reach across the café table to squeeze her hand.  “You’re dark and exotic enough for me. And there’s still your father’s kraal to come.”

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.

Fancy sharpening your skill with writing exercises? The Scrivener’s Forge offers a new exercise every month to hone one aspect of your craft. Take a look at this month’s exercise on character, desire, and suspense here