Monday, 23 January 2017

Finding your voice as a writer

I admit, this old chestnut has flummoxed me since I began writing fiction nine years ago. 

I was told by my super Open University tutor, that I would need to find my voice in writing, but, even now, I don’t think I have.

Maybe it’s partly because I write short stories for magazines, and like to vary my style, depending on the magazine I’m writing for.  I’ve certainly developed a few voices for my short stories, four at last count. No, that doesn’t mean I have multiple personalities. Well I don’t think it does.

My problem with voice has extended to novels. The suspense thriller I’m editing now has a very different voice to Phototime, and in turn earlier novels I attempted had a different voice again.

Maybe with novels, it’s because I haven’t been published. I’m still trying to find a voice that captures the interest of the reader.

So it seems I’m still on a voice-discovering journey – even after all this time. It’s as though ‘the voice’ (no not the TV programme) is a bit like buried treasure I can’t find. And even if I did find it, would I recognise it?

I know I need to find a voice that makes my work unique and stand out. It needs to make the reader sit up, mute the TV, and say ‘Hang on, this is a jolly good voice, by jove.’ And not only that; they’ll recognise it next time. I need the voice to speak to the reader. I need a voice that’s individual.

No pressure there then.

Oh, and HERE’s a blog post with five steps to finding your writing voice.  

And another HERE about knowing your voice. 

Right, I'm off to have a look in the bottom of the wardrobe. I mean that’s got to be where C. S. Lewis found his voice, yes?

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Short story inspiration

Happy 2017 everyone.

So, it’s another brand new year.  And, like many of you, I always feel it’s a time for new beginnings. So here I am, AGAIN, attempting to be a good blogger, but this time I feel more determined than ever. 

Oh yes, I do!

Sadly, I haven’t written much since then end of October. The well of inspiration dried up on me, as the ill-health of loved ones took over all my thoughts. 

But I’m determined to get those creative juices flowing again.

But how do you do that?  How do you become inspired?  What triggers a story? How, when our heads are empty of ideas, do we create a short story?

Answers on a postcard please.

In the past, I’ve found inspiration from stories based on real-life. Like a story I have coming up in The People’s Friend that was based on an incident that happened to my father when he was an evacuee in World War II.  I took that incident, and created a fictional world around it, but all the time imagined my dad as a cheeky little boy of nine, as the main character. 

Other times, I’ve heard someone, often a child, say something very funny, and used that to kick-start a story.

Pictures are great triggers. 
This smashing illustration by Ruth Blair was sent to me by The People’s Friend, and I was asked to write a story to fit it.  The story didn’t come instantly, but I kept looking at the picture, and eventually it started to fall into place. It appeared in a December 2016 issue of The Friend.

So, the thing is, I should be able to do it again. But I’ve been struggling.

But then, as I was sorting through some old postcards to scan for my local history blog, one postcard, dated June  29th 1929, caught my attention.

It was of a local river, and I turned it over to see a message addressed to a Miss Parrot.

Dear Poll,
I am having a grand time here, hope you are the same...
This place is very pretty.  I went here the other day. The weather is nice, but very windy. I am writing postcards with no hat on. Simply lovely.
With love,
Bill Brightman.

My mind started whizzing.  Was Poll her real name, or a nickname because of her surname?  Was Bill a friend?  Did he love her?  Did she love him?  Why wasn’t she with him?  Had he got dark hair? Twinkly blue eyes?  Why had he sat by the river? Was he an artist? A successful one? Who else was he sending postcards to?  Did Polly Parrot wonder that too?  Did they end up together, and live happily ever after, or was Bill a bit of a cad?

So I now have my inspiration, and a story itching to be written. I just hope I can get it down.

And I think I just need to try to remember that when that well dries up, inspiration is everywhere.