Category Archives: Conflict

Self Editing: Eveything you need to know

I had planned a post at some point similar to this, but when I read the talented Sharon Zink’s page I decided to share it.

Sharon is an amazing writer and I have had her on my blog. She also does the same job as me in that she offers manuscript appraisals; the same level of detail.

So I decided to share this link because it really is a masterclass in writing and everything on here is exactly the kind of thing I say to clients all the time when I assess their manuscripts…

Take heed fellow scribes!

I am now about to write the homecoming chapter on Pelicans… this is exciting, it’s the final chapter when we reveal the last of the missing pieces… and it’s raining so I am loving the sounds of rain on the roof as I write! The morning goes pitter patter… ❤

Have a wonderful day everyone!

http://sharonzink.com/writing-tips/all-first-drafts-are-sht-so-heres-a-masterclass-on-self-editing/

 

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Rochester LitFest Rocks!

Don't forget to book your tickets! October 1st in Kent!

 

I had a great night last night. It was my first appearance at a literary festival and I hope not my last!

The venue the Nucleus Cafe is a trendy arts cafe in Chatham. If I lived closer I have a feeling the kind of place I’d be meeting writer friends! My north Wales writer friends would love it! I think Jaye has done a great job with this new festival that only started last year. Check out the website here: www.rochesterlitfest.com

 

Nucleus Arts Cafe, Chatham

The Venue (sorry slightly blurry photo taken by me!)

I wrote to a few festivals when I knew I was moving back to the south east proposing a talk about ‘Blurring the Lines between fact and fiction’. Jaye Nolan who organises the festival said yes, it fit her other talks and the rest I guess is history (literally!). I want to thank her for all her tremendous efforts and again if I was closer I would certainly like to be involved and help out. I will try to do more next year, perhaps spend the week with my brother so I can offer my support to the writers etc.

Jaye is pictured here (centre) at the event last night

Photo by Bill Gooch -- official photographer for the event, thanks Bill!

Photo by Bill Gooch — official photographer for the event, thanks Bill!

 

I hadn’t given this particular talk before, although I have talked about the subject matter a lot and it was part of my MA dissertation, how fact and fiction are not opposite ends of a spectrum but intimately woven into the fabric of how we tell stories. ‘Factual account’ — uses wiggly in the air finger thing — are often biased, spun from yarns, filled with opinion and conjecture while fiction does what it says on the tin and is created from imagination but needs fact for authenticity, right?

The venue was intimate and being a great fan of the coffee-shop culture (not enough of that on Canvey Island) it worked well for the talk. The first half I felt was slightly less coherent as I did jump about a little in subject, although the audience were kind and receptive and I felt enjoyed it from the great reaction in the break. The second half was more focussed and more engaging. By then everyone had relaxed, we’d chatted and everyone wanted to interact so having thrown out the odd question it then became really interactive and I think it worked well. So I think I need more of that in the first half when I do this again. I am wondering about hosting an event on Canvey — ideas machine now flowing!

I loved meeting the people, some readers, some also writers and I already see friend requests and followers on Twitter, so I hope to have made some new friends!

Another photo thanks to Bill -- do check out his FB page here:  LINK

Another photo thanks to Bill — do check out his FB page here: LINK

 

I am still buzzing from the event and the engaging conversation and I can’t wait to do it all again!

It’s been a crazily busy few days since my move, so busy I can not wait for a couple of days just to relax. I have worked this week too although not written but my plan is to do a rare thing and take tomorrow off after my workout as I have a full day at the Southend Book and Art Fair this Saturday. And next week will be a normal working and writing week, which I need! I also seem to have a short story buzzing like a fly inside my head — perhaps one for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize I wonder …

So I will leave you with the last two photos from Bill Gooch, and will share some my brother took next week!

Thanks again to Jaye and the festival for having me!

Chatman 3 2014 Chatman 2 2014

Clearly making an important point!

 

Thanks Rochester LitFest!

 

 

 

 

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When truth is elusive

Lots of thoughts buzzing this weekend as I made preparations for my talk at the Rochester Literary Festival in ten days’ time. When I wrote While No One Was Watching I realised more than any other work, that truth is not something absolute and is defined by context. Yet we would tend to believe truth is a defined thing: a fact or belief  about something known to have happened. And the lie is considered a deliberate distortion of truth. But when truth is open to interpretation and is in fact really only in the mind of the believer, and a lie is only really a lie if a deliberate act, then is there such a thing as absolute truth?

When it comes to the Kennedy assassination, the quintessential conspiracy theory, truth is perhaps even more elusive. How do you know what  to believe when you have credible books by experts, equally convincing, but saying the exact opposite thing. Is what we believe weighted by how many books we read that say lone assassin versus how many say conspiracy — is that a known entity defined by how many books are actually out there and is that a figure biased by what people actually believe — or is what we think just how many books we happened to read? #random? I mean you can’t read them all? My science brain is kicking in, having worked in research so I know how many credible sources you need to say something might be probable and the errors through biased reading before you even examine the credibility of the source and author bias — I mean, even ‘factual’ books are little more than opinion a lot of the time, not absolute truth.

So I realise that there is truth in history, the known facts — Kennedy was assassinated at 12.30pm CST, on 22nd November 1963 in Dallas Texas as we rode in his motorcade, by gunshot wounds but even when I go to write from an assassin’s bullet I realise we are not moving away from absolute truth — how many assassins? The placement of the apostrophe suddenly becomes significant. So now we enter the realms of speculation and conjecture. Probability in fact!

I amassed huge amounts of information when I did my reading for While No One Was Watching. Huge. Far more than I needed, given the assassination is a catalyst for action and yes it is integral to plot but it is not an assassination novel per se. But the scientist in me has to have all the details. But truth remained elusive. The ‘factual’ books nothing more than conjecture. And while historical novelists receive critique from historians for their ‘bad version of history’; it’s a novel, by definition it’s ‘fantasy’ ; the author executing ‘creative license’ and since it means no one really knows which part is real and which is fantasy, I propose the novelist creates their own version of truth.

Stephen King claims that ‘Fiction is the truth inside the lie.’ I like that. I like that a lot. The novel is, in its purest form ‘made-up’. But, as in my novel and just about most novels you’ll read, it still needs some facets of reality to work. In my case, fact and fiction are woven together so tightly in places you can’t see the join! So the fiction writer is not so much the fantasist but the creator of a different type of truth. The truth of the story and the role of the fiction writer is to make the reader believe.

A recent psychological study said that the way we read fiction and non-fiction is different. We tend to be far more critical about non-fiction. And if we are emotionally engaged and immersed in a story — we are far more likely to believe it. And indeed the writer of the novel has failed if their reader does not believe it, right? The rules are the rules the reader has created; an un-truth in reality, look at the alternative history novels like Mark Lawson’s Idelwild, Kennedy didn’t die that day but the reader will believe that as the ‘truth’ inside the lie — right? Of course they know here he did die. But what if the fictional elements are more subtle than that, a possibility the reader hadn’t considered before that changes his view about the historical truth?

Lydia Collins in my novel is psychic and even friends who confess to initially having reservations about a ‘psychic’ narrator, said by a page or so in they found her beguiling as a narrator and believed every word. So I did what I was supposed to, right? Phew. But what about my suggestions about what really happened that day at the grassy knoll?

So there lies the crux of the question I pose at my talk, this being the case, where the factual elements and the fictional ones are so close together, will my readers also believe, if even for a fleeting moment, that there really was a little girl called Eleanor Boone who disappeared from the grassy knoll and it had to be a plot to kill Kennedy or why else is she still missing?

The question therefore is: Do fiction writers affect what we believe about history?

What do you think? What films/books/plays etc. used real  events and changed what you believed about the real event? (Even if it wasn’t actually true.) I would love to know … for my talk! Please email me or reply to this post! writer@debzhobbs-wyatt.co.uk

Have a great day everyone.

Don't forget to book your tickets! October 1st in Kent!

Don’t forget to book your tickets! October 1st in Kent! BOOK 

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The Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2015

Some of you may remember my blog post last year when I had the great honour of being invited to the opening of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, having made the short list in 2013. So I was indeed honoured to be invited once again this year to the opening of the prize. What made it extra special was I asked to bring a friend and they said with pleasure — so I invited the talented Paula Readman. Not only that, I also made  contact with Tracy Fells who was on the short list for the UK/Canada region this year and we all met first, note the selfie below, affectionately titled The Bridge House Anthologists — Tracy and Paula having made it into the next Bridge House collection!

We met at Green Park and partook in a Costa Coffee snack (as you do) — it was the first time I’d met Tracy, but our writing paths have crossed in a virtual sense a few times, so was great to find another kindred spirit. We got to know one another and I was interested to find she had a similar background in science to myself. Tracy is a very successful published short story writer and aspiring novelist so I may ask her to be on my blog soon.

We then walked to the grand and very regal Marlborough House and met with lots of dignitaries — Commonwealth people, agents, publishers, writers, journalists and diplomats. After a short drinks reception, this year we were treated to an interesting discussion by a panel of talented writers including this year’s short story prize winner: Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. The other panelists were:

Romesh Gunesekera, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature,originally from Trinidad, author of eight fiction books, novel Reef, short listed in the 1994 Booker Prize and Chair of the  2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Leila Aboulela, Sudanese novelist awarded the Caine Prize for African writing for The Museum included in her short story collection Coloured Lights.

Kei Miller, Jamaican poet, novelist and essayist, his collection of short stories Fear of Stones, shortlised in the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize. He also won the 2014 Bocas Prize for Caribbean literature.

The winner of the 2014 short story prize, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is a Ugandan novelist, short story writer and poet with a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and her doctoral novel The Kingu Saga won the Kwani Manuscript project in 2014. Jennifer teaches creative writing at Lancaster.

The panel hosted a discussion called: No Laughing Matter: Conflict and Humour — is there a line?

I will blog more about this at some point and open the discussion to all of you as I think, having read a lot of short stories in my work, there is a tendency in short stories for the deep, the tragic and the sad  and I know with Bridge House, when stories are able to use humour, pathos, it’s a great device. So the discussion looked at the role of humour in even the darkest tales. How does humour translate across the countries of the Commonwealth? While not covered per se, what aspects of humour do cross borders? Is there a universal humour? Are there lines we can’t cross — perhaps as Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi suggested it’s okay to laugh at ourselves and our own culture, but what about other people and other cultures? What about conflict and how do many of these countries where conflict is part of life, create a need for humour, a way of coping?

I know the stories of mine that seem to have the greatest success are those where I use humour and sadness alongside — pathos. You only have to look at the story that won the Bath Short Story Award Learning to Fly to see how I took a family’s grief and used humour to show how even in the darkest moments there can be light.

Tracy and I talked about our short Commonwealth stories after the event, noting that not only did both reveal something about life in Britain, both had elements of humour woven into the fabric, as did the winning story. That does not mean jokes, but use of voice and events even when the essence of the story has sadness. I do this all the time and not necessarily by conscious choice. I happen to think creating believable well drawn authentic characters calls for humour and the ability to laugh at situations, even ourselves. Tracy tells me her story also had elements of magical realism as well as humour and she didn’t expect it to do so well. Same with my story Chutney, never thought it stood a chance! It’s about unlikely friendships formed on an allotment in East London. There is a sadness there, one being a Holocaust survivor, but there is a lot of humour between the characters.

So if you’re thinking of entering this year — I would bear that in mind! Here’s the link and it’s FREE!

LINK

Also some great news that I hope happens, as I had a lovely long chat with Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, asking the pertinent question of whether she ‘did the dance’ when she found out she’d won, what did she say? Of course she did! I asked if she would be a guest on my blog and she said yes! So watch this space!

What is lovely for me is being part of the Commonwealth family like this and I feel highly honoured. It was great to see some familiar faces from last year, including the intern Joe who now has a full-time job with the Commonwealth Foundation AND is a great writer as I looked at some of his work for him last year. The new intern, Jake was lovely too. I also got to meet some of the writers I met last year and friend, also an agent and publisher, Unthank Books’s Robin Jones.

It was a great evening and I say a HUGE thank you for the invite.

While last year I posted some photos of Marlborough House from a website, grandeur in abundance, this year — the selfie!

Have a great day everyone and remember my talk at the Rochester Lit festival in 2 weeks’ time! Got your copy of my novel yet? Bought your tickets for this event? Go on, treat yourself!

Don't forget to book your tickets! October 1st in Kent!

Don’t forget to book your tickets! October 1st in Kent!  BUY

Got yours yet?

Got yours yet? BUY ME

The Bridge House Anthologist and so much more…

The BHP Anthologists

 

Tracy Fells (UK/Canada shortlistee 2014), Paula Readman (winner Harrogate Crime Short Story 2012) and of course Debz  (UK/Canada shortlistee 2013)

Don’t mess with these guys! Look at those plotting faces… pause for evil laugh

MWAR MWAR MWAR…

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Lost In Sharonville

Don’t you just love the kinds of books that take you somewhere and leave you there. Like being dumped in the desert but you don’t just see miles and miles of sand but a whole other world — one that plays out inside your head. The fiction writers who do this deserve a medal. No matter how hard life gets, there will always be books.

The trick is for the images to play out like a film projected on your visual cortex. The language and the story unfold so seamlessly you forget you’re just reading words on a page. You’re seeing it, losing yourself inside the language, the place, the story.

The developing writers, me included, strive for this. You know it when you see it but you can’t always define it.

You can only look at the less accomplished fiction, perhaps works in progress at your writing group, to see the difference. When writers are overwordy, use too much TELLING, too much exposition, characters are stereotyped, you do not get that connection, nor do you get lost in that space. I guess you could say it’s like tripping up on the words. When author uses lots of clunky phrases, adverbs or  inventive words for said because they feel the need to remind us he’s speaking — conspiratorially (my most hated adverb!) or retorting angrily.

The skilled writer doesn’t have to remind you this is a book and here are my clever words, the words just flow like rich wine, effortless and wonderful.

SHOWING is FILMING; and done well you see a character speak, you observe the subtleties of the body language and you become part of it. No need for telling us how something’s said, we see it in the subtext and the construction. No tripping on clichés or awkward overwrites, odd sentences which say look how clever I am — no. We just become one with the work and lost in that space. And that is the mark of great writing — no matter the genre.

Right now To Kill A Mockingbird is doing that very thing to me, but another book that took me to that place recently was Sharon Zink’s powerful Welcome to Sharonville. Another writer with a small press, the wonderful Unthank Books who have also published one of my shorts and another one will be published next May in Unthology 6. The problem with the small presses is getting your work known, getting it seen by the world and it would be a travesty if this one slips through because it’s not got the power of the BIG marketing machine behind it or it costs a little more than a mass market paperback. But worth it. And there is always Kindle too.

Do yourself a favour and treat yourself. This is the kind of novel where the characters feel so real and the language so beautiful (but not overwritten) you get lost inside it. It is a literary novel, and I find the danger with some literary writing is writers feel the need to show off and make the language cumbersome. Not so here, this is divine.

Here’s the review I posted on Amazon and Goodreads and a photo from the launch. Sharon is such an interesting person and I remember sitting in the little room at New Writing South, Brighton, American flags draped on the wall (another Brit who has written an American novel hey?), goodie bag of US candies balanced on my knee, Mum at my side, and thinking this writer is so eloquent, so funny and so talented! Yes I know Sharon, but only because we were both published in the same book but I would not review the book so highly if I didn’t think it. I read many many books, a lot by friends or clients but I only review the ones I really love! I think Sharon has a career ahead that you need to watch with interest! She is humble too because she knows how tough the journey is to get to that point.

Here’s my review on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/980382552

 

The launch!

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Sharon has worked long and hard for this day, like so many. It was many years in the crafting and the success all the sweeter! Well done 🙂

Highly recommended read!

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‘Trying to write a story without structure is like trying to invent an airplane without wings’

Yeah it’s a long title and one I plucked out of a book on writing, to be precise Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing by Larry Brookes. *recommended*

He says that no matter how you get there — be it with lot of plotting or through what arises organically through drafting, and whether you know it and think about it as you write or have  natural instinct for what works, structure is essential. Without it the house falls down or the plane doesn’t fly. And even if the architecture is lavish, akin to great writing, beautiful narrative, without structure you have no story. Right? I’ve said that before.

Like a natural law of the universe.

So let’s see writers if he has something new to say …

If the structure isn’t right, he claims, then you fill find it impossible to sell your work — yeah that’s what he says. He says that while experimental structures are interesting, keep the for the lit class not the novel or screenplay you’re trying to sell!

What he talks about is the adaptation of the three-act structure we see in plays — but it’s what we call the 4-part model, and for those who have worked with me professionally you’re recognise this more like the story arc I provide for those struggling with the plot.

Brookes talks about how every story in the world needs to adhere to this structure or it is doomed to fail and this is what I say about the story arc. It’s the same thing essentially but he visualises it as four boxes — these contain the scenes and what happens  to the hero in each box is the result of evolution in a sense, growing — anticipation — foreplay — sex — climax :to use his more crude analogy.

But what he says that I think is important is that what happens in box 1 in the set-up when we meet the character is developed in box 2 and box 2 needs box 1 and box 3 needs box 2 etc. So it is like a child growing. But what does this mean in real terms?

Box 1: Set-up — establishes everything that will follow. It introduces the protagonist and its single mission is to lay the premise, to foreground the key conflict of the story. And only hint at the antagonism in the plot (what do I keep saying? Don’t burden the set-up with too much back story! Lay the foundations!)

The function of Box 1 is: to set-up the plot by creating stakes, back-story and character empathy, while foreshadowing the oncoming conflict.

While you will most likely have the first inciting incident, this is what will foreground the big major plot point. Brookes warns that establishing the conflict too early does not allow time to establish the back-story. I see this when I critique and while I love it when we start right in the action and this is a device that’s fine, you still need to back-track in places as you will see to explain it and sometimes this device, unless handled with skill does not work as well as it should.

The more we understand and empathise with the hero the more we root and invest our time wanting to go with them on the journey, so you need to set-up, but you also don’t need to overdo the back-story so it’s a balance.

Box 1 ends with the reader now engaged and understanding the hero and takes us to the edge of the threshold, the stakes are now raised to the point of no return. So now we have the first major plot point (not to be confused with the first inciting incident which may coincide or may be part of the set-up) — now the story truly begins.

Got all this?

Have I hooked you? This is what Box 1 does (akin to the first 25% of the story) — have a look at how this can be applied to your own writing or the books you’re reading.

And I will resume with the next part tomorrow!

I will get it next week! Second edition!

I will get it next week! Second edition!

 

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Glowing in the Limelight

A little later than usual this morning as got up and got on — lots done early, mainly house cleaning!

But here I am. I’ve had a crazy few busy days since I came back but three big crits successfully delivered and can now just write today and look forward to my visit from Lee’s parents and my trip back to Essex tomorrow. I have other work lined up too so will get to that before Christmas but nice to relax a little and do what I love the most — WRITE!

I will keep this post short and sweet and leave you with the link from my interview in Glow Magazine!

GLOW

Enjoy!

Keep on LIVING THE DREAM GUYS!

Keep on LIVING THE DREAM GUYS!

 

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