Tag Archives: short story

Fear. What is yours?

31 Jul

Fear.

Fear is the emotion that stops us in our tracks, prevents us from being what we truly want to be, stops us from being great.

I know many writers out there that have fear. They can’t share their work, and as a result it sits there, hidden away, never to be read by another.

I don’t have that fear. I have another one that I believe to be more crippling, and I wonder if any of you suffer the same?

I have never worried about sharing my work. In fact, the first time I wrote anything under the guise of ‘learning to be a writer’, I shared it within the children’s writing lecture that took place two days later. This was within my first two weeks at university.

I am the creature that writes and shares before it has undergone the first edits. I believe in my writing that strongly, that I know if something has ‘legs’ as the words are typed. If it is a struggle, it is wrong.

Of course editing is required, but I just want to share with everyone my latest piece of work. I am proud of what I do, and for that, I have no shame.

I explore genres, techniques, nothing is out-of-bounds. There is no limits to what I can do (and you for that matter). Writing is not just the setting down of a story, it is an experiment, a journey. One which cannot be taken without risks.

I identify my strengths, my weaknesses and I use them equally. Quietly pushing myself for the next challenge.

It is when thinking about that next challenge that I experience the fear. It’s like stepping off the cliff face. What if, just consider this for one moment, what if this time my self belief has blinded me. What if, my safety net, the one that slows my process when it is not simply great, does not catch me?

As I have said before, I do not plan. I do not sit there etching it all out, character bibles, plotting, synopsis, sub plots and the rest before beginning. Oh I think, I think a lot, generally starting with one idea and stretching it across, exploring within my mind the possibilities before I start. It is rare I make notes during this process. I have always believed if the idea has ‘legs’ the story will carry itself. Finalising details, checking the  story arc is there, ensuring character consistency is there all comes later. I believe many call this first part of what i do ‘passion’. I write because I feel it inside, a story bursting, a want, a release of emotions.

When I sit down to write, I already know if this is a script, short story, or hopefully the latest bestselling novel. When I try to fight this (see the disaster that was the uncompleted No Way Out Challenge) it grates, it physically hurts, and I feel myself hiding from the crowds. The only situation I can liken this to was taking my son to school when he begged not to go (I pulled him out eventually but that’s another story).

Fear is where I stand now. I have three ideas. all workable. two are scripts, one a novel. The daredevil in me is shouting try the novel. Not only have i never completed a full novel, the idea formulating is romance based, chick lit if you prefer. I have never written chick lit. The scripts are comedy based again, so they feel safe. I am still driven by my confidence in my previous one. Yet that could have just been fluke. Either way, what if I have lost my ability? What if I am the one hit wonder?

So tell me, what is your fear? What is the part of you that makes your writing career stutter?

***Without sounding conceited I am not a one hit wonder. I know this from professional feedback. Likewise I have not as yet been successful. I have not previously completed a novel as each one I have started has been abandoned due to other commitments at that time. The fear I speak of prevents me returning as it is the same psychological thought process***

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I’m Not Being Lazy..

24 Feb

I get paranoid that I am not posting enough about No Way Out. I don’t want you to lose your enthusiasm for watching the project unfold, but likewise, I don’t want it to be all I post about. I also don’t want to have pressure to complete it.

I have pondered this thought for the past week, how do I approach this? Have I made a huge mistake? Is this why nobody has attempted this before? (Well maybe they have but I haven’t seen it).

The most basic of answers came to me. I started doing this to show how a project runs from start to finish. The only way I can show this is my way. And sometimes, my way, does involve long delays so how I blog will show this.

It’s not that I haven’t been working on it, it’s just that most of my working has happened in my head. working out, based on comments so far, how I will develop the story.

You see I sit down and post based on what I have thought should happen, and then you guys give me ideas that enhance this, and then I need my thinking time.

I am not the type to spend hours writing out streams of storylines. I keep it in my head. I tend to work on the basis that the best ideas develop further, without the need to record them. The best example is my script the lawns. That started as a dream (so cliché I know). I remember it well, July 2008.

That dream was developed into ten pages of script to be included in my first year creative writing portfolio. In January 2010, the script was fully completed in the form of a 90 minute one-off drama.

During that period I was obviously studying so was also adding other projects to my portfolios, as well as writing essays. I did not dedicate my all to that script, and I will not to No Way Out.

Thinking about how the Lawns developed provides some calm to my manic thoughts. It tells me that I am capable of managing various projects, deadlines, and most importantly thought processes.

I have attempted to write synopsis’ (I don’t know the plural for this, well I do,  just don’t know how you write it and I will admit to feeling particularly lazy right now and not having the inclination to google it). Following your lead, I wanted to complete several from different view points, gain a greater understanding of the characters, and thier motives. I know Steve’s, I haven;t written a synopsis for his viewpoint as I see the original short story as a sufficient starting place. therefore I have concentrated my efforts on Poppy. Well, to say it is hard is a understatement.

I don’t write chick lit. Sorry, correction. I have never written chick lit. This is proving to be a stumbling point, mostly because I have this thought gnawing at me that I am entering new territory and maybe I am not ready for that at this time. Or maybe, the truth is, that is not what I wanted this piece to be. But no matter what I do, the emotions, the understanding, the identity of the piece written with poppy as the focus just screams chick lit. The result? I just don’t know how to

So this was the Chick Lit display in Lacey Timberland Library in 2011. Perhaps it is not Chcik Lit that i am afraid of - just its perception.

end it.

My gut reaction is to end it with the police on the doorstop telling Poppy that Steve is dead. It just doesn’t feel final enough. I wanted closure for Steve, for the reader/viewer to know steve was not bad, to understand it was circumstance not madness that led him into that bank.

I will continue to play with this in my head and I shall get back to you. In the meantime, I just want you to know I haven’t abandoned, I am just plotting in my style.

Key Questions to Plot Development

9 Feb

No Way Out – the Challenge is taking a short story and developing it into a one-off drama for TV (however as the project develops this may change). Having posted the short story here, questions have been raised as to the direction the story will take. Today I answer those questions, whilst raising more of my own. Please feel free to jump into the discussion and get involved in this challenge.

Skyler asked:

1.Becky’s backstory. Why is such a young, sweet girl working in a place that is so ‘businessy’? 2.Who is the man that Poppy is having an affair with. How did they meet and what led her to do such an awful thing?

Firstly, who said Becky is a sweet girl. Looks are deceiving you know. Perhaps Steve was up. We don’t know why he has such a personality change, how many people seriously go through from a normal hard-working dad to a bank robber?

Poppys’ affair, this is something that needs to be answered, but I have no idea. I am thinking maybe Steves’ brother. Steve has been sunk to the darkest place, so would the guy that poppy has an affair with bear an impact, or does it not matter, the result is just the same?

Gethin asked:

What country is it in?  The bank scene suggests America i.e. guns etc, but the CSA from the last scene suggests UK. The reverse plot is a bit weird, am I to understand that it may well go anywhere?

It is set in the UK. Reading back through I have pondered if it is a bit Americanised but I don’t think so, pretty certain if there was an armed bank robbery here they would send in the tactical units which would have guns.

The reverse plot was initially used to make the short more interesting. I felt if the story was told in a linear fashion it would be quite dull, namely because we wouldn’t care his wife cheated on him, because we didn’t care about him. The backwards timeline gives that sense og oh my, how what is now a common occurrence can drive someone so low. So yes, it could go anywhere, the question is, do we just expand on whats there, of find another story within it?

Jessica asked:

So, where do you think you’re going to focus on the timeline?  On the back-story of what led to Steve’s criminal activity or on the present (now that he’s been apparently shot)?

Ha, I just said that in response to Gethin, work with what we have or search for an alternative? I am still thinking this one out so your suggestions are welcome….

2.  You already gave the little boy quite the reader appeal, so are you going to continue to work him in as a character?

Michael will feature, but I am reluctant to place too much focus on him. I guess it depends what we decide the definitive timeline will be. I would like Michael to be the calming influence, the rational. However, he could well be the flip side of that, the part that makes you slightly manic in your desperation.

3.  In the back-story, you made Steve seem like a very sympathetic character.  Yet, we see through his thoughts with Becky that he has two emotional extremes:  desire for companionship and severe hate/vengeance.  Will we get to see how his psyche has undergone such a change from a caring, loving father to whiskey-drinking, vengeful criminal?

To answer this, I know I must remain grounded in my thoughts. His psyche has changed because of the ‘fall’ his life has taken. The question is, how hard has he fallen? Now I say I must stay grounded because it would be easy to get carried away and say we should introduce drugs etc to enhance his despair. I am thinking simpler than that, we could just say he took out a bad loan to keep buying michael the stuff steve feels he deserve, and maintaining a pretence. Bad loans in the Uk are big news at the moment so not actually at all far-fetched. Steve potentially could have robbed that bank because they were going to destroy him if he didn’t pay back the money.  Can we say that the desperation has led to the  vengeful bitterness whilst constant looking at what others have, what he once had, that makes him who he is today? Is that strong enough?

Trying to put my thoughts into some sort of order I have created the mind map below.

Not the greatest picture, sorry. Hopefully though you can see the process I am following.

No Way Out – The Challenge

6 Feb

 

Below I have posted a short story. It is one some of you may have seen in the past. The plan, is to take that story, and turn it into a one hour drama for TV, with your help. A collaborative project, where I am looking for ideas as to how the plot shall develop, whilst posting the stages I am completing.

If something came of it then that would be great, but primarily, it is a step by step process for us all to enjoy, share ideas, and see a full piece of work be completed. A challenge to show that writing does not have to be a solitary pursuit, and that we all have skills in different areas. Plus it may help combat this dont trust other writers attitudes that can sometimes appera through blog world.

I  came up with the idea because I see those in the know share how you get through a project, without actually showing a complete example. that is not to say they aren’t doing an excellent job, I have often popped in to different sites to grab hints, but just sometimes I want more, and I can see others want more also.

This will be a real challenge for me. I am expecting criticisms for my steps, and possibly some arguments about how the plot develops. namely because I am somewhat of a control freak, so this will be an exercise of letting go, learning to accept that just because it is my idea, others are able to give useful insights and advice as to how looking at parts from another perspective can make something truly amazing.

So this weeks task is to read through the story, and identify the parts that make you want to ask questions. And if you wish to share them, which questions come to mind.

NO WAY OUT

Dressed in black jeans and a navy hooded sweatshirt, Steve walked towards the bank. The smell of fried onions and hot dogs filled the air mingling with the smell of his sweat. He really didn’t want to do this but his hands were being forced.  Like a bomb ticking, he could hear the town clock, pushing him forward.  The once cold loaded gun was now warm and clammy tucked down the back of his trousers. Steve could feel his pace slowing. Conscious that he couldn’t afford to lose time; he forced himself forward, pushing the door to the bank open.

As Steve stepped in, he pulled the hood up and over his head. The scent of polish and perfumed air freshener, familiar to Steve from previous visits to the bank, was trapped inside the fabric of his hood; the smell so overpowering his head began to spin. The clock said 16:09. Steve approached the counter.

She was young, maybe 19. Her skin was creamy, and Steve was instantly drawn to her. Her hair was mahogany and framed her face. It emphasised the deep brown of her eyes that pulled Steve in. Smiling, she asked,

‘Can I help you sir?’ She seemed genuine, shame really, they could do with more people like that in banks. Normally they were so stand offish.

Almost in a whisper, Steve lent forward and pushed his blue bag towards the cashier. ‘Fill it up’ Looking confused, the cashier smiled again, ‘Sorry sir, can you repeat that?’

She really wasn’t getting this. ‘I said fill it up, NOW’

Hands shaking she began to fill up the bag, none of the other cashiers appeared to be paying attention, which was lucky as he really shouldn’t have raised his voice. Steve noticed her name badge, Becky. It suited her, another day, another time he may have thought to ask her out for a drink. Grabbing the bag, he turned to run. The bank was now empty. He could hear sirens in the distance. Running to the door he realised she had fooled him, they all had, but that Becky, she was going to get it. The doors were locked. Reaching for his gun he turned back towards the cashiers. Becky was just staring at him, noting every detail (he thought). Holding his aim he pointed the gun at her, just one pull of the trigger is all it would take. From the corner of his eye he could see movement, he was trapped, and there was no way out. He saw the policeman’s gun, he saw the trigger pulled, he heard no sound, he just saw darkness.

***

Looking at his watch, Steve climbed into his blue Audi estate. They had bought the car just last year when Poppy, his wife, had fallen pregnant again. What was he going to do, it was only 2.30pm, if he turned up at home now, Poppy would guess there was something wrong, and she had suffered enough stress recently, she, well both of them, could really do without this.

Driving away from the office, Steve headed towards the town centre. He could park there and work out what he was going to do. The last thing he had considered was that he would get made redundant. There was no escaping it, of course. Every time you turned the news on, or read a newspaper, the figures for unemployment were on the rise. But this was Steve, winner of top salesman last year.  Although they didn’t actually say it, Steve knew he was out because of the amount of time he had taken off recently; consequently, his sales had suffered. Sure they understood at the time, Poppy had miscarried, and then suffered with severe depression. She couldn’t look after Michael, their three year old son, so it had only been right for Steve to take compassionate leave. Strange how quickly things change when financial times get hard.

At 5pm, Steve headed for home. He’d be there just in time to make Michael’s tea. Earlier than usual, but not so early to be obvious. That afternoon, he had visited the job centre, and signed up to the recruitment agencies, but the signs were not looking good, not at all. He had been told in the job centre, he wouldn’t be able to sign on, too much in savings, what they didn’t understand though, was those savings wouldn’t be there in a couple of months without any income.

Approaching the house, all was quiet. Normally he could hear Poppy shouting at Michael for something or another, poor kid, it wasn’t his fault.

Pushing the door open, Michael ran out into the hall, dressed in blue jeans and a red t shirt, he looked more like thirteen than three. His brown curly hair bounced up and down, just like Poppy’s did when she wore her hair loose. ‘Daddy’ he shouted as he ran at Steve to be picked up.

‘Where’s Mummy?’ Steve said, almost to himself.

Putting Michael down, Steve started to look around the house, his heart beating frantically. Last time he had got home and Poppy wasn’t waiting, she had overdosed in the bath, leaving Michael to watch the television downstairs. If Steve had been just five minutes later, the chances are she wouldn’t be with them now. Heading up the stairs, he could hear moaning; not again thought Steve, after all they had been through, he thought they were passed this. Pushing open the bedroom doors, Steve’s legs froze. Ice cold, but clammy, Steve felt like his insides were going to explode. There on the bed was Poppy, with another man.

***

Clambering out of his bed to the sound of the post, Steve felt rotten, the culprit, the empty bottle of whisky by the bed. Looking around the room, Steve felt the contents of his stomach rise to his throat. The yellowing wallpaper, from the previous tenant who was a heavy smoker, was now peeling away from the walls. The ceiling was speckled with damp which left a heavy dank smell in the room no matter if the windows had been opened. All of this was made worse by the sparseness of the furnishings, a bed, a hob, and a single cupboard. Other than his clothes strewn across the floor, that was all there was. Touching his head, in the hope it would stop it spinning, Steve wandered across his bedsit to the door, where a single letter lay. Turning the envelope over, Steve was dismayed, of all the things; it was from the CSA, demanding more money.

That day he hadn’t just lost his job, but his wife, his home, and in a sense his son too. Steve got to see Michael every other weekend now. Each of those visits was like torture, as Steve could not buy for Michael the things he needed, let alone wanted. Steve wouldn’t even consider bringing Michael to the bedsit, as a result, if the weather was bad, Steve would end up dropping Michael home early. It just didn’t seem fair, he had been everything a good husband and father should be, and yet he was being hounded like the guilty party.

The worst part though was the shame that now filled Steve’s every waking moment. Prepared to forgive Poppy for her lapse in judgement, Steve had worked hard to reconcile their differences, and tried to take responsibility for Poppy’s action. What he hadn’t known at the time was Poppy had been having an affair for the past two years, and it was quite possible that the child she had miscarried hadn’t been Steve’s at all. As a result of her own guilt, she had tried to take her own life; for fear that the truth would come out. The truth was she just didn’t love Steve any more.

Steve had moved from the family home when Poppy had finally told the full story. What with the mortgage still to pay, not to mention all the bills, Steve found himself with limited funds. Unable to keep up the repayments on the car, it had been taken away by the debt collectors, and it wasn’t just that. Practically anything he had had been able to claim as his own had been taken. Now, Steve was working in a fast food restaurant, barely making ends meet. With this latest letter from the CSA, Steve now had no choice, find money somewhere, or find himself in prison.

A Cuppa Book Launch is happening now!

8 Dec

The book launch is on now http://www.facebook.com/ACuppaandAnArmchair/posts/207771662637092#!/events/256764657711969/

Come and show your support – tell us what biscuits you like to dunk in your cuppa!

You guys are amazing!

6 Oct

A quick reminder to you all that the submission deadline for A Cuppa and An Armchair is Monday. Pop by here for more details.

Shout outs

Janece – Follow the link to the post that brought tears to my eyes.

Scribbla – The shout out with such an inspirational picture

Fifalde – A non-blogger who took the time to spread the word on the Ravelry sites.

Thank you for taking the time to share the word about A Cuppa and An Armchair. Your support amazes me.

Thank you also to those of you who are busy writing or working on illustrations. There is no book without you, you are the soul of the project. I cannot express how much this means.

 

SUBMISSION ANNOUNCEMENT

2 Oct

This is just a quick note to announce the first submission deadline for A Cuppa and An Armchair.

****Monday 10th October 2011 11.59PM.****

All submissions should be sent to chat@elenaransley.com

Entries cannot be longer than 2,000 words, there is not a minimum word count.

We require stories for both children and adults but they cannot contain offensive language or graphic images.

This is an open genre project.

If you have further questions please ask.