Thursday, 31 March 2011

More Microfiction

It's a creepy doll this time.

As promised here's my entry from yesterday.


It was dark. Stuart limped along the rough track to the lake, hounded by his father’s ragged breath, the strap of the hold-all rubbing painfully against his bruised shoulder.

The water was placid. He took the jar from his bag and released the Fireflies with a defiant smile. They swarmed, iridescent, above his head, a small part of his childhood in each of them.

‘Where d’ya think you’re going?’ his father slurred.

‘Nowhere,’ Stuart said calmly. ‘I’m not a child anymore. And it’s time I stood up to you.’

He didn’t flinch as his father took off his belt.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Wednesday's Image

I've entered again today.  Have you?  If you have, let me know how you get on.  I'm happy to publish your entries here if you're willing!

Microfiction Competition

As promised, here's my entry from Monday.  I didn't win, but I'm sure i was well placed!!

Emily and the Rose

It was too hot for studying; too hot for anything but lying in the long grass and waiting for Richard.  Emily clung to the rose he had gifted her; brought it to her nose; inhaled its subtle perfume.

She heard him approach and closed her eyes.

‘Emily, come with me please.’

It was the head master.  She followed him, trembling, to his office.  Richard was there already, his tweed jacket open at the front, his face pale, flanked by two Policemen.

She gasped suddenly, their secret confirmed in that breath.  The policemen nodded and led Richard out.

Writing an interesting story with complex characters and plot twists in one hundred words is not easy (state the obvious: 1). is a really good exercise in telling a story through subtext, and it helped me better understand they way subtext enhances a story and why it is so crucial.  With a tight word limit, you have to choose your words carefully, and craft sentences so that they tell more than they seem to tell at face value.

For example, instead of stating that Emily is a school girl, i make reference to it being too hot to study.  I then reinforce that later by using the word headmaster.

What drives the story though is the knowledge gaps.  In this case Emily knows more than the reader.  She knows that Richard is her teacher, and that what they are doing could land them both in serious trouble.  We assume at first that she's waiting for her boyfriend, but when the head master arrives and she follows him trembling to his office, we start to realise something is wrong.  Then the description of Richard with his tweed jacket and pale face suggests that he is not another pupil, but someone of senior years.  The presence of the policemen reinforces that.  Finally, Emily's reaction, that gasp, confirms the suspicion that this is an affair between teacher and pupil and can only end one way.

I didn't have a go at Tuesday's competition, but here is the inspirational image anyway.   Good luck to anyone entering today's competition.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Did you enter?

I did!  I just made the 7pm deadline too.  It's quite a good exercise to come in from work, go to the computer and put out a story in 100 words (apologies, i put 1000 words in my last post!)  My entry is called Emily and the Rose.  I'll post it here after the results are announced tomorrow.

Remember, this competition runs all week.  37 people posted an entry today, so why not have a go?  The odds are good!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Short Story Competition

Cambridge Wordfest highlights a Short Story competition running from March 28th to April 1st.  Each day of that week the website will display an inspirational picture, such as the one above.  Entrants are asked to write a microfiction piece of no more than 100 words that has some link with the picture.

Full details of the competition are available from the website

Definitely worth a pop!

Progress Report

I'm approaching the half-way mark.  I'm just drafting an outline for chapter twelve, the end of which marks half-way in terms of word count.

Some of the chapters have been a hard slog; others have only required a little tweak - a bit of tidying up, better, more convincing dialogue, clearer descriptions.

The story is following two main threads; Amy's attempts to lead a more interesting life, and her History teacher, Mr Roberts' desperate struggle to find a cure for his son.  Mr Roberts' story is progressing well.  I like the direction his character is taking, there is some dark stuff here, and he's about to be introduced to the 'Big Bad' of the story.  Amy on the other hand is making me work hard.  Her character is complex.  I'm trying to take a girl who has spent most of her childhood in the shadows, avoiding conflict, holding back her potential, and shape her into a bold character who is ready to question everything and grab life by the horns.  She should just explode out of the page - all that pent up frustration, all that trapped energy, all that lost time to make up for should be spilling out.  But it's not quite happening yet.  Perhaps I'm still holding her back.  Perhaps i don't quite understand her yet.  Perhaps I'm making her a slave to the plot.  Well stuff that.  It's time for Amy to rise and break free from my mind.  It's time for her to breath on her own, to write the story that she wants to tell.  It's time to make me her slave!

I feel better already.  Chapter twelve is Amy's chapter and will see some real development of her character as she faces a series of challenges.  She'll grow, she'll learn, she'll see the world in a completely different light.

Blogging can be so therapeutic.

On a separate note, I'd like to thank everyone who has chosen to follow my blog, and for your comments and feedback.  I'm looking forward to the time when i will be ready to submit my manuscript to Agents, so that i can feedback to you my experiences - good or bad!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Groups of Three (and an Orange Tree)

I spent the week in Italy,
With scenery like this orange tree,
To stir some deep emotion in me.

It almost made up for the fact,
That my luggage had been left back,
On an Amsterdam airport baggge rack!

But then on the morn of my return,
My stomach began to squirm and churn,
Leaving me clinging to the cistern. 

Okay, so maybe not the greatest poem ever penned - loosely based on the terza rima* format, though really each line should have 10 or 11 syllables - but i didn't want to spend three heavy paragraphs explaining the details of my trip last week.  It boiled down to three key elements; my lugggage arrived a day later than i did, Italy was beautiful, and on the morning i flew home i was struck down with a stomach bug.

The power of three!  Three is a magic number!  Bad luck comes in threes!  Groups of three are seen a lot in writing; the three act play, for example.  For the poem above i had three main points to make, hence three tercets; a beginning, middle and end.

Groups of three are a really useful tool for the writer.  They are a fast and punchy way of describing a character or location...

 She was pale-skinned, plump and ever so timid.

His bedroom was typical of any teenage boy; clothes strewn about the floor, air thick with the smell of bad feet, and a half eaten sandwich peeking out from under the bed.

Groups of three allow the reader to build a quick picture of what is being described.  Any less than three and the picture may be incomplete; any more and it could become cluttered and confused.  Groups of three come in really handy when editing your work.  You can use the principle to de-clutter your manuscript, or to beef up any limp descriptions.

Remember though that this is not a hard and fast rule.  There will be times when a group of three simply won't fit.  The best way to tell is to read your work out loud and listen to the rhythm.  If it feels clunky then change it. 

*To put some sense to the seemingly random threads of a trip to Italy and groups of three, it is the Italian poet Dante who is credited with inventing terza rima, though it has also been used by English poets including Chaucer, Milton, Shelley and Auden.

Sunday, 6 March 2011


People always ask 'what's your book about?'  I hate that question.  I do my best to avoid answering it.  My trick is to look to the floor, shuffle my feet and mumble something about it being 'not quite ready' or 'hard to explain in a couple of sentences.'

Wrong, wrong, wrong!!  Because if i can't explain it in a couple of sentences then how am i ever going to be able to pitch it to a potential Agent or Publisher.  And who's going to want to read something that 'hard.'

What it comes down to here is confidence in my story.  I sometimes worry that if i explain the premise to someone they will laugh, or pull a face, or worse still say 'hmm, have you thought of doing it like this instead?'  None of which is good for the writer's fractured ego. 

If you are in a position where you are not sure exactly what your story is about then don't panic just yet.  You may have finished your first draft and have a narrative with beginning, middle and end, but the true heart of your story has yet to reveal itself.  Go back to your central characters; examine them, question them, challenge everything they do because the real story comes from them.  What are their goals and can they achieve them all over the course of the story?  What relationships do they form and how do they develop and change?  What do they learn about themselves and those closest to them?

Now I'm going to attempt to answer the dreaded question.  This is a taster of the Book of Whispers...

Amy often wonders what life would be like if she had been bolder in her decisions.  Her father runs a small provincial museum on the verge of closure, unless he can find an attraction that will pull the crowds in.  Her History teacher, Mr Roberts, is desperate to find a cure for his son's rare illness. 

There is a Book, a mythical tome, old as time itself, which could hold the answers to their prayers.  But that is not all that it holds as Amy and Mr Roberts soon discover.  At its heart is an evil waiting to be released... 

Saturday, 5 March 2011


April 2011
 Blogofwhispers is featured in this month's edition of Writing Magazine, in the Writer's News section.  Centre page!

Hello to anybody visiting as a result of the article.  I hope you enjoy the content.

I've been a bit bogged down at work recently, but don't worry, there's plenty to come.

I pressed on with chapter 8, deciding it would not be productive at this point to go back over the first seven chapters.  The story needs to move forward at all times, and so do I!