fostering, developing and promoting writers and writing

Archive for the category “Genre”

On Writing 52 Tuesdays

52 Tuesdays is a locally produced feature-film by Adelaide-based collective Closer Productions. It explores the relationship between a mother and daughter over a year, a year in which the mother decides to transition to become a man. 52 Tuesdays was filmed once a week, every Tuesday, for a year – with the scripts for each week constantly evolving, metered out to the performers week by week. Screenwriter Matthew Cormack speaks about the process of writing such a unique film:52Tuesdays_still_cast_promo_-Tilda with moustache biscuit-_TildaCobham-Hervey_CreditbyNatRogers.JPG

The genesis of this project was a simple pitch I wrote at the bottom of a page of many other ideas. It was something like: “Every Tuesday, every week for a year, a man and a woman meet. Shot over a year, every weekon Tuesday, with two actors, it is an exploration of how time and circumstance affects our relationships.” Like a lot of initial script ideas this is different from the final product. However, it’s wonderful to look back to this as it does remind me that the reason I was drawn to making a film this way, as a writer, was how time and circumstance might affect storytelling. I was interested in how chance and disruption might change the experience of telling a story and simultaneously the experience of being told a story.

What initially seemed like an arbitrary set of filmmaking rules became an interesting production model, a meditation on time and compartmentalisation, and eventually became integral to the story itself.

It seemed to me how we made the film, confining our narrative and shoot time to fifty-two consecutive Tuesdays, could inform the very ideas of what the characters were grappling with, especially around the pursuit of authenticity and the promise of change. Is it possible to live an authentic life? As creators, is it possible to create an “authentic” fiction?

I will say little about the actual process of making the film as it’s there to see on screen now. What I will say about it is that from the very start there was an overall story document that was worked and reworked throughout the year, and there was always the plan to script before we shot – in the end, for production logistics, the week’s script always had to be “ready” at least a few Tuesdays ahead of time. So while there was never a lack of intention, vision, and careful planning, due to the nature of the production, there was also never a lack of wonderful disruptions, accidents, and circumstance that significantly affected what I was writing. That was exciting. Ultimately, however, as a writer, it was not about relinquishing control to some kind of chance and circumstance but about the opportunity to embrace the chaos of the unknown in a way that would hopefully show me (and consequently an audience) something about the challenge of constructing a life, a story, an identity, a gender, a sexuality, only with the materials we’re given in our short, limited lives.

52 Tuesdays is screening at the Palace Nova Cinemas now.

Advertisements

Writing Prompts and Inspiration

Here are some great writing prompt sites to help you bust through any moments of writer’s block (or just keep you in an internet spiral all day long):

 Writing Prompts on Tumblr

Creative Writing Prompts

 Awesome Writing Prompts

Daily prompts sent to your inbox

 200 Fantasy Writing Prompts

 Spec Fic writing prompts  (don’t forget to come to our Members Monthly on Spec Fic this week).

Random Lists of Things

1000 Awesome Things

List of Fictional Things

Pinterest board of pictures to inspire writing

Share yours below!

‘Metric’ Fiction Isn’t, Really

By Jennie Cumming

Thanks to the proliferation of specialised websites and zines, short fiction has become more popular in recent years. Because of the time involved in providing feedback on each other’s work, the writing group I belong to restricts the monthly submission from each member to about 1500 words. We critique no more than 2000 words per person at our monthly meetings, and only stretch to that length if we know fewer people than usual will be attending a particular meeting. We find 1500 words to be a good length for both basic copy-editing and structural editing. We’re not sure, however, if some of our stories are short stories, flash fiction, microfiction or one of the other ‘metric’ fiction lengths.

We do know that the shorter it becomes, the greater the need to provide an energetic, engaging and pithy story. Readers who gravitate to short fiction sites are looking for condensed ideas, fewer words and tighter writing. They seek flash fiction, microfiction, nanofiction and even picofiction.

The prefixes ‘micro’, ‘nano’ and ‘pico’ were borrowed from the metric system, so I had assumed there was similar order in this word count system. Soon after I started exploring, however, it became clear that although the names assigned to each of these categories give some indication of the required length, there isn’t a standard definition for any of the forms. 

If you’ve written a very short story and are looking for a publisher, you’ll have to search for someone who wants that exact length. It can be quite confusing, especially if you like to have things precisely quantified. If that’s what you’re looking for, picofiction could be your niche because the length is clearly prescribed, whereas the boundaries between the other forms are quite fuzzy. 

My first source said microfiction is under 300 words; the next said under 50. They both agreed it was more implication than explication, more emptiness than extended narrative and texture, and one referred to it as ‘Zen, poetry and prose’. This paragraph is 50 words. Pretty short for a story.  

‘Nano’ is smaller than ‘micro’ so the metric system prefix implies nanofiction would have to be under 300 words, and possibly quite a long way under 50 words for some publishers. Sadly, it isn’t that easy. Some nanofiction sites want about 40 words but others want precisely 55 words, which strays into microfiction territory. 

If you like to visualise things in a more symbolic, mathematical way, so far we have very small microfiction <50 words, not so small microfiction <300 words, and nanofiction possibly <50 or maybe exactly 55 words. Happily, the next category is precise – tightly prescribed, in fact. Including spaces and symbols you have only 140 characters to play with in this form. I admire those who can create engaging picofiction; as you can see by the next two sentences, it’s hard enough to fit pertinent facts into so few characters. 

Picofiction is a story 140 characters long. Some people refer to it as ‘tweetfiction’, but other people would see it as plain ‘nanofiction’. 

As I mentioned at the beginning, members of the writing group I belong to generally play at the other end of the short fiction scale, and we write stories ranging between 300 and 2000 words. We usually think of 300 words as flash fiction, whereas a 2000 word tale is considered to be a short story. At these lengths the writer can use more of the classic story elements than is possible in the ‘metric fiction’ lengths. It allows scope to establish settings, provide descriptions and develop characters, and there may be time to engage the reader by evoking sensory responses. There is also more opportunity in a longer story to develop conflict, present obstacles and deliver a satisfying resolution, but the reader still has to fill in the gaps. Because different readers bring different experiences to each story, they engage with the text in different ways and the range of interpretations can be surprising. A common practice in both flash fiction and short stories is to reveal the theme in a twist at the end. 

I hope you want to try your hand at creating a story to fit the requirements of the shorter forms, because they are challenging, exciting and fun to read. If you’re a member of the SA Writers Centre and you have had a story published email malcolm@sawriters.org.au so it can be listed on the ‘Member Achievements’ on the website.

PS As far as I know femtofiction has not yet been attempted. I guess it would have to be pixel size.

Jennie Cumming is president of Marion Writers Inc., and as a volunteer at the SA Writers Centre produces their fortnightly e-bulletins and assists in the production of Southern Write.

One Woman’s Two and a Half Men (part one)

By Lia Weston

As writers, one of the few statements we can probably all agree on is that art is subjective.  There’s wriggle room within that definition, too; you can appreciate (or learn to appreciate in some cases) the work that goes into a particular piece even if you can’t stand the end result. I, for one, will never enjoy clown portraits, regardless of how lovingly they’re airbrushed onto velvet or rendered in cross-stitch so minute the artist went blind doing the red nose.

Comedy, though, is a different beast. There is no slow burn in comedy: it is governed purely by instinct.  A pratfall, a double take, a whiplash comeback – if these things make us laugh, they do so instantly. What makes assessing it tricky is the fact that what appeals instinctively to one person doesn’t necessarily appeal to the next: one man’s Black Books is another man’s Two and a Half Men, just as one person’s The Catcher In the Rye is another person’s Twilight. (I can already hear people shrieking at the comparisons. Forgive me.)
You can imagine, then, my mixed emotions at being asked to write a piece on comic fiction. Flattered? Absolutely. Beset with terror? That too. After all, no one can claim authority on what-makes-things-funny – at least, no one who has taken their medication. With that in mind, I offer:  Lia Weston’s ‘Totally Authoritative Guide on What Makes Things Funny.’

Comedic writing works best when the language is precise. Flabby prose only distils the joke. I’m a huge fan of dry humour, and it’s the combination of polite, crisp language and the needle sting violence of the punchline that make it work so well. The shock heightens the humour. Bill Bryson, by all appearances a mild-mannered gentleman who enjoys countryside rambling and campaigning against littering, is so good at this. To wit (ho ho!)

The fog had gone. The air was now still and clear, and the sky was bright with stars … It was all most fetching, but I was far too cold to appreciate it. I dug shiveringly through my backpack and extracted every potentially warming item I could find: a flannel shirt, two sweaters, an extra pair of jeans. I used some woollen socks as mittens and put a pair of flannel boxer shorts on my head as a kind of desperate headwarmer, then sank heavily back onto the bench and waited patiently for death’s sweet kiss.

Though the imagery of Bryson transforming himself into a human laundry basket may make you smile, it’s the last six words that deliver the gasp and blow. (He’s also an expert at knowing exactly when to curse, and why it’s an excellent idea to use such language very, very sparingly. This is probably why Christos Tsiolkas doesn’t write comedy – intentionally, anyway.)

Regardless of style, comedy needs a kernel of truth at the heart of it – it’s the anchor that lets us appreciate the joke. Even in absurdist comedy, which some people would consider to be defined purely as having no relationship to real life, there’s a core of genuineness we need to be able to relate to in order to make it work.  Arthur Dent is the human anchor for the Hitchhiker’s Guide series – the straight man in the dead parrot sketch, if you will. Without his Everyman link, there’s little for the reader to relate to and the writing would be in danger of collapsing under the weight of its abstraction. Absurdity itself is tricky to get right: too much of it and the work becomes bloated and weak; too little and people will wonder what the hell you’re on about. There’s a very fine line between free-form comedy and incoherent rambling, and truth is the lifeline that connects them. (A priest, a donkey, and an Irishman walk into a bar. ‘What’ll you have?’ said the bartender. ‘Don’t ask me,’ said the donkey, ‘I don’t even know what I’m doing here.’ See? Very easy to get wrong.)

Similarly, use ‘quirk’ with caution. So often, How-to-Write advice says, ‘Make your characters quirky!  They need to be compelling! Wacky! Or else no-one will like your book and you’ll never get published and you’ll be working at the department of health and social services forever and even your go at editing the departmental newsletter will pass by unappreciated and unnoticed and it’s all because your characters aren’t quirky enough.’ I repeat: quirk with caution. Your reader can spot a fake instantly. Characters who have moments of genuine oddness can be compelling, but someone who likes to lick batteries at lunchtime and only wears cerulean blue purely for the sake of it comes off as a complete prat on the page. Who is this wanker? the reader thinks, vowing to kick him in the shins if they ever meet him. This is not, ideally, the reaction you want as a writer. Unless you’re writing a novel about a complete prat.

It’s hard to write truthfully about people without being a serious observer of the way they behave and, more importantly, the way they think they behave. Hypocrisy is a goldmine. The sharpest observations, the ones that make us wince even as we’re laughing, are those that skewer not only our failings but our sad attempts at covering them up. To use a TV reference, BBC’s The Office was a perfect character study of one man’s struggle with self-perception versus reality. We love self-deluded characters. We practically salivate when observing puffed-up buffoonery, waiting for the moment that they’re taken down, preferably with force. To sharpen your pen, cultivate intense curiosity. Once you’ve figured out why people do the things they do, you can start to make fun of it. Austen was a master of this and I’m always surprised that she’s not listed as one of the great comic writers more often… but that’s another essay.           (To be continued…)

LWeston

Lia Weston broke the three rules of getting published when her un-agented first- ever novel, The Fortunes of Ruby White, was pulled out of the slush pile and published by Simon & Schuster in 2010. She won the Australian Literature Review’s 2011 Epistolary partnership competition and has had her short stories featured in several anthologies. She also writes a monthly blog for the website Writing Novels in Australia. Currently working on her second novel, Lia runs a bicycle shop by day and works as a freelance editor by night. Lia will be presenting as part of the Fiction Bootcamp in December.

This article was originally published in Southern Write in June 2011 and reposted with the author’s permission.

A Poet’s Epiphany

By Donna Ward

A poem is an epiphany in words, a journal note in the soul’s high adventure, a gem cut brillante so all life’s glory gleams through. In days filled with lists, and jobs, and deadlines we forget we are part of something intriguing and mysterious. Epiphanies remind us.

Epiphanies occur when we are not really doing anything, or thinking anything in particular—moments when the mind is quiet, free of lists and jobs and deadlines, though those lists and jobs and deadlines remain. They come when we’re driving to pick up the children after school, when we’re hanging out the washing, or polishing the car. And they almost always come when we are in our own little bubble, though the world might be surging on around us. An epiphany always happens when we are alone, when our god has the chance to appear. An epiphany is a showing of the divine.

And when epiphanies come, they wrap themselves around us and we are opened to something we never knew before. When they go the mundane world closes over as if nothing every happened, as if we were not privy to the workings of the universe, as if we never witnessed the divine. But we never forget what happened, it is held in the cells of our memory and told around mahogany tables sipping wine in firelight, or twenty-first birthday parties to the rapture of streamers and whistles, or at christenings and naming ceremonies and wakes. Epiphanies gift us our own unique wisdom, wisdom we share with those we love.

I must admit that since I’ve been hanging around poets I’ve discovered they have more epiphanies than most, and when a poet has an epiphany very soon after they have to stop everything and write a poem. As one who is merely witness to such creative events, it seems to me the epiphany has lodged within them like a grain of sand and irritates until it is pearlescent with image and must out.

One such epiphany occurred to Australian Love Poet, Gregory Day when he went to a wedding in a town on the coast of southern Victoria. Perhaps it was the weather, or the love between the bride and groom, or the love the poet had for the betrothed that parted the veil for Gregory that day. Whatever it was, he stood, just for a moment, in the fullness of life, death and everything and on the way to the reception Gregory’s pearl was ready. He had to stop the car by the edge of that great road, with the wet mountain rock on one side and the great blue ocean on the other and write that poem before going to the celebration where he read it. The poem,

ALP

‘Epithalamion’ (a lyric or ode in honour of a bride and bridegroom) now appears within the pages of Australian Love Poems 2013, edited by Mark Tredinnick.

Stay tuned to the blog to hear more about poetry from Mark Tredinnick in the lead up to his special workshop, Throwing Soft Bombs.
Donna Ward is a publisher with Inkerman & Blunt who have just published Australian Love Poems 2013, edited by Mark Tredinnick, which will be launched at SAWC next week.

Write with Spice – a workshop wrap up

By Libby Parker

I’m a huge fan of Astrid’s work and her workshops so it was an easy decision to make to book her Write with Spice workshop on Sunday 18 August at SA Writers’ Centre.

Astrid has an aura about her. She is warm, disarming, engaging and a wealth of knowledge! She gives practical advice to writers of all stages of their career and, well that’s what we’re all after isn’t it?

bellyfire

Having attended one of Astrid’s workshops on writing erotica a few years ago, and being a reader of her work, I know how spicy her writing can get so I was excited to sink my teeth into whatever she had planned!

However, I was startled when she walked around to each participant, named them and said, ‘You are forbidden to ever write again.’

Shocked as we were, we pretty quickly realised Astrid was lighting the fire in our bellies; you know, the one that makes us write into the wee hours of the morning because we need to purge the story swimming around inside us.

We were to be a passionate pen, not just hold it and let the letters dance out of it. Astrid took us through a series of exercises and strategies to allow our writing, characters and inspiration come alive.

I was inspired from start to finish and I didn’t even win the door prize – an adorable Astrid touch at each workshop!

She asked us what our secret fear is. Could we describe it if we had to? Can we say the same about our characters’ fears?

‘Characters sell your book,’ she told us. ‘And action and pace.’

My fire is burning in my belly after Write With Spice and I’ve since picked up my passionate pen and am using the five senses to evoke emotion in my writing and breathe life into my characters as I rewrite a work that I know was falling flat.

Other participants agreed that having an opportunity to write freely in the workshop (in a genre we have never written in, no less) and not be forced to read it aloud was liberating and a helpful strategy to get us out of our comfort zones.

I’m looking forward to seeing Astrid again at Clare Writers’ Festival in November and also drinking a lot of wine which I’ve heard is mandatory in the region!

This post was reposted with permission from Libby’s blog.  Libby Parker is a Journalist, Writer, Teacher and Theatre Director. Formally of Canberra, she lives in Adelaide and runs acting and writing workshops for young people; spending all of her spare time caring for a high maintenance cat/diva.

 

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: