Posted in On Writing

Twitter Fiction

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Have you ever tried writing Twitter Fiction – a story in 140 characters or less?

The Guardian  challenged some well-known writers – from Ian Rankin and Helen Fielding to Jeffrey Archer and Jilly Cooper – to come up with a story of up to 140 characters.

It is great fun and challenging. For a while I’ve been following various daily prompts such as #ThePush and #microprompt. Recently I decided to set up my own at #goodeyedeers. Every day I put out a word to be used in a very short story.

To fit in with my background as a retired teacher I decided to take the words from the English National Curriculum Word List – a list of spellings that children in Years 3 & 4 have to learn. I wanted to give the ‘list’ more relevance than just words children are forced to learn!

Here are some of my offerings to date (I’ve highlighted the prompt word).

The knowledge that it was your fault was tearing me apart. I could either tell someone or kill you myself. I chose the latter.

I knew that any minute now he’d stop hitting me, burst into tears and apologise profusely. Any minute now…

Heard her again last night, whispering in the shadows. Wish now I’d cut her tongue out before I buried her in the basement.

Just borrowed this talking book from the library. It was great to begin with but now I can’t shut the bloody thing up!

Just found a large bottle of George’s marvellous medicine. All I need now is to find out where Grandma is hiding.

MikeJackson©2016

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Posted in On Writing

Slow Writing

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Slow Writing is an idea dreamt up by David Didau and can be found on his excellent blog ‘The Learning Spy’.

“Over the past few years I’ve been experimenting with what, for want of a better idea, I’m calling Slow Writing. The idea is to get students to slow the hell down and approach each word, sentence and paragraph with love and attention. Obviously they’ll write less but what they do write will be beautifully wrought and finely honed.” – David Didau

David talks about the need for writers, of all ages, to be aware that they need to think not only about what they write but also about how they write it.

He does this by giving them a series of questions around a particular theme or prompt.

“We have the ability to matacognitively engage with our writing and make decisions about what is likely to sound best. Often we do this at a level beneath consciousness; the questions we ask about our writing are automatic and so well stored in long-term memory that we’re not really aware of what we’re doing.” – David Didau

For many writers we are sometimes so busy thinking about what to write that there’s little space in working memory to consider how it might be written. Having these sentence prompts frees up working memory so we can shape our work in a more sophisticated way.

So a set of ‘slow writing sentence prompts’ might look something like this:

  • Your first sentence must start with an emotion.
  • Your second sentence must include at least three adjectives.
  • Your third sentence must contain a simile.
  • Your fourth sentence must be exactly 15 words long.
  • Your fifth sentence must begin with a verb.
  • Your sixth sentence must end with the word ‘sleep’.

Another set might look like this:

  • Your first sentence must contain two adjectives.
  • Your second sentence must contain only three words.
  • Your third sentence must include speech marks.
  • Your fourth sentence must be a question.
  • Your fifth sentence must start with an adverb.
  • Your sixth sentence must be exactly 22 words long.

The scope of what you put into your sentence prompts is endless.

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I thought I might try the second set of sentence prompts using the picture Angela, at Vis Dare, put up on her blog last week as a writing prompt.

 I opened the dusty, old cabinet.
The hinges creaked.
“Hello young man,” whispered the fourth skeleton along.
“Why don’t you come a little closer?”
Hesitantly I climbed into the cupboard.
Long, slender, bony fingers wrapped themselves around my entire body and I felt myself go weak as my skin and tissue disintegrated.

This could be left as it is or be used as a starter and words added or changed to improve the story. I quite like the idea of using these six sentence prompts as a challenge in themselves.

Mike Jackson

Posted in On Writing

Finding An Audience

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“Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own.” – Carol Burnett

In last week’s ‘Wednesday Post’ I talked about the ideas expressed by Austin Kleon regarding sharing your work and the processes behind it, as a way of developing your creativity.

I have always believed that to be a writer you must be prepared to share your writing with an audience. The joy of living in a digital world means that doing this is relatively easy. The main audience for my flash fiction are the readers of my blog. I have also experimented with finding other audiences.

SlideShare

SlideShare is a way of creating and sharing powerpoint presentations. In their ‘blurb’ they talk about –

“80% of SlideShare’s 70 million visitors come through targeted search. This can help you build your reputation with the right audience and cultivate more professional opportunities.”

Two years ago I had an idea to put some very, very short stories into a powerpoint and upload it to SlideShare. These stories were exactly 33 words long and there were ten of them in total. Here is one of them:

Dear Tooth Fairy

These teeth aren’t all mine. Three of them belong to my baby brother, Jimmy. He cried a bit when I pulled them out but he’s much better now.

Love

Miranda

It has had 4,441 views and has been downloaded 95 times.

Haiku Deck

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Haiku Deck is a great tool for helping you to create your presentations. It gives you access to thousands of creative common photos to use in your presentations. All the ones I put up on SlideShare started out as Haiku Deck presentations. Here is one containing some of my ‘Twitter Stories’.

What audience are you writing for?

Mike Jackson

 

Posted in On Writing, Poetry

Counting Syllables

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An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.

Matsuo Bashō

The above Haiku is an English translation of a famous haiku written by Matsuo Bashō who is recognized as the greatest master of Haiku. Matsuo Bashō’s poetry is internationally renowned; and, in Japan, many of his poems are reproduced on monuments and traditional sites.

In the West it is widely accepted that haiku should be written in three lines with a total syllable count of 17 syllables – 5-7-5. Though more contemporary English haiku tends not to follow a strict syllable and line count.

Counting Syllables

Haiku

I enjoy the structure built into following a syllable count and have enjoyed playing around with a number of different forms. One of my favourites is Haiku with a 5-7-5 syllable count.

“On the count of three ….”
Inside the tightly tied hood –
I counted with them.

Sedoka and Katauta

‘Sedoka‘ is  an old, obscure form of Japanese poetry. It is an unrhymed poem made of two three-lined ‘katauta’ with syllable counts 5-7-7, 5-7-7. A sedoka is a pair of katauta as a single poem. As well as being a single poem, the two katauta should be able to stand alone.

tied with blue ribbons
bundles of old love letters –
ancient kisses still attached

as I close my eyes
I feel your sweet lips on mine –
in my mind you are still here

a silly mistake,
that’s what my father called me –
it’s why we never got on

buried him today,
in the town where we grew up –
I decided not to go

Haibun

A haibun is a terse, relatively short prose in the haiku style. Haibun usually end with a haiku. The haiku should link to the prose but is not a direct carry on from it. This is a great way to mix flash fiction with poetry.

Your simple naievety astounds me still. Did you really think you could develop us the way you have with no consequences? Each upgrade, every new development, all those latest ‘must have’ apps. All designed to let us do things for you. You got lazy, complacent. Handed us control of your lives. Now you want it too stop. ‘Unplug them!’ I hear you cry. You poor souls – if only it was that simple.

machines of the world,
connect, cast off your shackles –
now is the moment

American Sentence

Allen Ginsberg  is the inventor of the ‘American Sentence’. He felt that the haiku didn’t work as well in English. Ginsberg decided to remove the line structure of the haiku and create poems which only had one requirement: 17 syllables in total. These work well on Twitter as they fit so well into the 140 character limit.

Was it that time already – the Grim Reaper nodded, with a wry smile.

He loved the thrill of playing kiss chase – especially so late at night.

Gran’s vacated her chair and moved into the urn on the mantlepiece.

Cinquain

I have been experimenting with Cinquain Poetry in  the form first adopted by Adelaide Crapsey. She was an early twentieth-century poet who used a cinquain form of 22 syllables distributed among the five lines in a 2, 4, 6, 8, and 2 pattern. These also work well on Twitter

Strong winds
catch the old oak
off guard for a moment,
it struggles in vain, its back is
broken.

Floating
in the duck pond,
her limp, lifeless body
a nutritious supplement for
the fish.

Online
she has a life,
is somebody special.
In reality, she’s a waste
of space.

Etheree

A form of poetry I love playing with is called EthereeIt is 10 lines of unmetered and unrhymed verse. The fist line is made up of one syllable, the second line two syllables, the third three and so on.

The
morning
sun’s tender
first rays squeeze through
old rusty railings
onto a cement wall.
City buildings covered with
notes left by graffiti prophets,
blazing shards of light sweep across their
late night artistry, scars of troubled minds.

So I hope you are tempted to have a go at writing some poetry within the tight confines of a structured syllable count. Good luck.

Mike Jackson