The story so far … If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry!

The story so far

Have you written anything during the last month? I haven’t. My brain has been exclusively involved in seeking, assimilating and processing the information flooding in over the media. My story so far has stayed outwardly calm, though inwardly anxious. So far so good. But this has got to stop!

Our 300 word challenge to you

Please join us in this challenge. Write a piece of comedy. Our usual guide is around 300 words but that matters not, under the circumstances. Just have some fun.

Instead of our normal meeting on Monday 27th April, we can share our writing through our site over the next week or so. Are you up for it? Email your piece to me and we’ll post it. Don’t forget a non-de-plume as agreed at our last meeting.

Don’t mention the …

I constantly whinge that I don’t have time but now, it seems that I do. Anguishing through the wee small hours I decide to put pen to paper. Or rather, in the interests of not wishing to wake my partner, index finger to iPhone. But what to write about? The subject that is on everybody’s lips, must surely have become “It That Must Not Be Named.”

She’s aff her heid… how it happened

Earlier, I had sought advice from a writer pal. A big mistake last thing before sleep because she advised “comedy”. What? My normally reliable, sage friend must be a maniac. At this time of crisis and turmoil, comedy must surely be impossible. This, my fuddled brain had not been expecting.

…or is she?

And so to a sleepless night. Where, in all this, can I find humour? More challenging still, how do I find the will and the wit to write it?

After several hours of tossing and turning, I think of a hilarious video doing the circuit on social media. And so I have my prompt for the story so far. What’s more, I think it will do my mental health a power of good to try it. So, she’s right.

And now to sleep…

Thank you to my pal for a sleepless night but also for dragging me from my literary torpor.

Join us. We look forward to hearing from you!

Enjoy and take care!

Jenny

February 2020 Meeting Report

Posh new Mac
Jenny’s (aspirational) workspace – she loves her wee Mac and it’s not me!

Our monthly get together 24 February

Here we are on the last Monday of the month, 7pm in Colinsburgh Library, for our regular get together. It has taken a while but that date and time slot is now so easy to remember that it is embedded in my internal calendar. No longer do I need to ask, “What date is our next meeting?” More like, “We’re halfway through the month – time to think about getting that piece of writing ready.” Crunch time; I always work better to a deadline. Does that work for you?

We are growing

Well, hopefully not in kilograms but another new member. This evening we were delighted to welcome a lady who moved to the area last Autumn. As often happens, she and her family have been visiting the East Neuk for many years and upon retiring, she decided to relocate here permanently. Luckily she has found her way to our local group and happily she has brought her writing interest and skills with her. A warm welcome!

Catching up

After apologies from members who could not make it this evening, we had a catch up on news, helped along with hot cuppas and biscuits. We do like our home comforts and a relaxed ambience!

Tonight’s agenda

  1. Developing the website
  2. Preparing a theme bank
  3. Writing a blog
  4. Sharing our work

Our website

Our website has been up and running for over a year now and we are looking to develop it further. It is visited by people from near and far, which is the great thing about the internet. Our writing group does not have physical boundaries and we can reach out to like-minded people who can’t always attend but still want to share our interest in the written word.

Next steps

Mac outlined the points laid out in last month’s blog and a discussion ensued.

Main points:

  1. All shared writing should be published under a nom-de-plume. Rationale is that protecting ID assists genre change, practise and the invitation of feedback and critique (accepting some of it might not always be ego massaging). Also, people well established in a field can avoid exposure before they want it (if ever).
  2. Provide an image to link with the NDP.
  3. Agree a way so a visitor to our site will readily find a chosen writer’s work
  4. Writers can invite critiques.
  5. We agree *not* to reveal anyone else’s ID.

Yes but…

Agreement was reached in principle but an important point was raised.

This was, that it might be advisable for critiques to be given directly to the author concerned, privately, rather than publicly, online. Apart from fledgeling egos being irreparably damaged, once criticisms are made in print, they cannot be taken back. Point taken!

Preparing a theme bank

We started brainstorming themes that the group might consider for future meetings. Whilst we did compile an initial list, we would like to open this up to to other members, to add to, before confirming. The aim is to have a bank, so that themes can be confirmed well in advance, in readiness for future meetings.

Blog training

This is ongoing but we hope gradually to be able to have more members who feel confident to add blogs to the website and also to start having different interest categories.

Sharing our work

There was an “anything goes” theme for tonight.

Firstly we had “The Farewell” – a poignant piece telling the story behind a photo. It was set in Germany in the late 1930’s and showed a father kissing his young child goodbye before dropping him off at kindergarten. On this day he would not be picking him up in the afternoon, as he was on his way to the front.

New Member Reads

Next we encouraged our new member to read an extract from her novel, a very daunting prospect, on your first visit. We were delighted that she felt able to share her work. It is a central part of our group’s ethos to provide support and encouragement for anyone starting out. In fact she has a a full first draft and is looking for a fairly rigorous edit. We were happy to be part of that journey.

Next we heard a poem called “Heartfelt”. This is a work in progress, which often happens when you air a poem. At the end of the day, you can listen to suggestions and you whether or not to take them on board. Whose poem is it after all?

Reading Rhythm 

To finish off we heard a performance poem called “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” What a fabulous way to end our evening. It was fun, quirky and the kind of presentation that stays in your memory. I hope we can hear it again sometime soon and perhaps open it up to a wider audience.

Thanks for sharing, everyone!

Next meeting… will be remote thanks to COVID-19

 

24 February Meeting

24th February 7 pm or a little earlier

Writersneuk.com be creative

Here we are again. Jenny is only just back in business (with a new laptop to boot) and I hope she keeps well.

As for me, after a hectic weekend with grandkids (Mr Bounci-Castle) … I realised The Writers’ Neuk was on tonight … oh dear.

Please consider this a panic attack. I won’t make excuses, but have plenty of ’em just in case; most involve writing and looking after energetic grandchildren.

Business of the day

The writing topic for today is: ANYTHING – that means you can share anything in your store-cupboard.

Meeting plan:

  1. Enjoy a few minutes buzz as we catch up
  2. Plan to introduce our writers’ words:
    1. All shared writing should be published under a nom-de-plume. Rationale is that protecting ID assists genre change, practise and the invitation of feedback and critique (accepting some of it might not always be ego massaging). Also, people well established in a field can avoid exposure before they want it (if ever).
    2. Provide an image to link with the NDP.
    3. Agree a way so a visitor to our site will readily find a chosen writer’s work
    4. Writers can invite critiques.
    5. We agree *not* to reveal anyone else’s ID.
  3. Create a monthly schedule for routine posts
  4. Develop a blog post rota for people willing to provide them. THis could also include editing practise for those interested.

On top of all this, we’ve had a notification about a local workshop. Does anyone know Victoria Mackenzie? https://victoriamackenzie.net/

Storyboard Ideas

February meeting raises Storyboard

After an hour of general discussion about our individual on-going projects the group asked me to share mine with them. This led to my sharing the use of the Storyboard.

What I do is take a single simple idea and built a framework around it. In scriptwriting, this is called a storyboard and is the basis for a variety of writing styles, particularly fact-based fiction, my preferred genre, where the story needs to follow a set path.

E.G. – developing a movie idea

In this case, my task was to take a song lyric, deconstruct it into its characters and then imaginatively shape a life around each one of them.

My chosen song, ‘The Piano Man’, by Billy Joel, is about people visiting a late night bar to drown their sorrows and contains the formidable line, ‘they are sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it’s better than drinking alone!’

the Cork-Board

Basically a storyboard is just a scratch pad or, to use Scrivener’s process, a cork-board where you pin up post-it notes and can shuffle them into some sort of order. So on each ‘post-it’ I head it with each character’s name and pin them all in one section.

cork-board

I am fortunate in my recent writing life to have researched a massive history book which involved me interviewing nearly 100 interesting people, some of whom were in the final years of life. In almost every case the questions were tailored around what little information I had about them.

questions of characters

Likewise, in this situation, we apply a little intelligence to the questions we ask each player. Of course, there are the obvious ones: how old are you, colour, sex, creed etc? But then we go deeper. Why are you lonely in a bar? What has life done to you to get you here?

real-estate novelist

In one line we are fed: ‘Paul is a real-estate novelist, who never had time for a wife.’ What on earth is a real-estate novelist? So Paul, tell me about your life as an estate agent, wasn’t much fun, eh? Sold a few houses, market crashed, and you wrote what? Maybe you saw how the sub-prime market worked and discovered the smokescreen and corruption that lay behind the banking system that eventually brought the global economy to its knees? That would put me in a late night bar, for sure!

practising politician

Then there’s the waitress, who is ‘practising politics’? We’ve all met her. Doing a night job to pay her way through college? Where better than in a downtown bar? Bound to be a few washed up senators lurking around here?

… and the rest

Each one gets given a history based around what little info we have on them and then, for me, in this exercise, the fun really starts, with the shifting of the pieces. Out of these eight or so sad people, who knows who? Which one has had their life touched by another? Where have all their paths crossed?

select a protagonist

As with all good stories, we need a protagonist, and I chose the old man who is asking the piano-man to play a tune he used to know ‘when he wore younger man’s clothes!’

This guy has been around, right? Bound to have bumped into some of the other players in his 3 score years and ten? So I stick him in the middle, and weave the others around him.

it’s a learning exercise …

As this is only an exercise, I want to keep it tight, maybe a script for a 15-minute movie, or a short story. So I make only three to four scenes involving each player, each on its own post-it. I am a great believer that scenes and characters are only borrowed and there is rarely anything original left to invent, in the same way that there are only so many notes in a music scale. So, in the majority our scenes we use everyday situations that readers can relate to.

pull it together

The timing works out that the old man could have been a veteran from the Vietnam war, so there is his first scene, in the jungle in 1969. But we don’t want a chronological history of each person; that’s no fun, far too conventional! So let’s mix them up. Paul sold houses – maybe he sold one to the old fella just before the market fell?

That waitress seems like a nice girl; perhaps she helped the old man across the road or woke him up when the train reached his stop? Venn diagram centre! So finally, when we walk into that bar at 9 o’clock on a Saturday, a quick look around and we have everyone pegged down.

neat line, neat idea

Eventually, after some enjoyable head-scratching, this exercise will end up with maybe 15-20 scenes, all in a neat line, so the author, and subsequent director, can colour them in as he or she perceives them. As with musical notes, it is the combinations and order in which they are played that make a tune.

That, to me, is what a storyboard is, a simple melody.

© Andy Frazier