Ever increasing circles … or numbers.

So, yesterday I posted a six word story, after proclaiming my love for flash fiction of all varieties … so, after further thought (ok, didn’t take much thinking, to be honest!) I have come up with a wonderful plan:

… I am going to write stories, in ever increasing numbers, roughly doubling the word count each time!

So, I’ve done the 6 word story so next will be 12, then 25, then 50, then 100, then 250, then 500, then 1000 and then … well, we’ll see where we are.

Tomorrow’s entry, then, will be around the 12 word mark … so I have 24 hours to come up with something! :)

Six word fiction

Last time I mentioned my admiration for ‘baby shoes’ and promised to try hint fiction (sub 25 word stories that, while complete as they are, hint at so much more). I’ve decided to go all in and, rather than using up to 25 words I’m going straight with 6:

“He had dreamt of dancing, once.”

What’s the opposite of verbosity?

In the past – and, being honest, not too long ago – I got accused of being verbose. I won’t deny it as I do love words and language and, sometimes, don’t really know when to stop.

In fact, during a short story writing contest last year, I wrote 23,000 words as my entry – hey, there’s nothing in the rules that says a novella isn’t also a short story, you know! ;)

Anyway, in order to try to train myself to write less, while writing ‘more’, I have been focussing on shorter fiction: flash fiction (1000 words or less), micro fiction (500 words or less) and even a foray into fiction specifically designed for Twitter and text messages (so sub 140 characters).

I’ve even been lucky enough to have work in each of those ‘genres’ published – yes, including the novella ;)

Somewhere along the line I fell in love with shorter fiction, so much so that I set-up With Painted Words that only allows fiction up to 1000 words but, quite often actually, has published work of much smaller size.

Like a lot of people I came across Ernest Hemingway’s alleged piece:

For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn

It’s evocative and powerful – a complete story in six words.

Six. Words.

Obviously that is under 1000 words so, technically, is flash fiction. However I recently stumbled upon something called ‘hint fiction’ (n) : a story of 25 words or fewer that suggests a larger, more complex story … and if you want to find out more about that, or read some great stuff, I would suggest visiting http://www.robertswartwood.com/ … and, for me, Hemingway’s piece definitely tells a complex story.

At least it does in my head. As soon as I read it I thought of a poor couple who had lost a very young baby – I thought that it was very obvious that that is what he was saying but a friend of mine read it and thought of a couple who couldn’t have children at all.

Six words but, for two people, two stories.

I love the idea that, at its most basic level, hint fiction gives you a full story but it is up to you just what that story actually is.

So, if Hemingway could do that in six words – and I am allowed a full twenty five – I really have to give this hint fiction lark a go, don’t I?

Yes – yes I do.

Tomorrow – just to leave you all in (to quote Doctor Frankenfurter) antici ……… pation! :)

… oh, and if anyone is wondering what the answer to the original question is, I would personally go with succinct.

Dream Catcher

Last night, or more properly early this morning, my eldest son, Mackenzie, had his first real nightmare. Now when I say ‘eldest’ I should point out that he is only three years old – well, closer to four than three but still a baby, really. And when I say first ‘real’ nightmare he has had a few other nights where he has woken up and we (me and Carole – my wife, his mother :) ) have thought that it was most likely to be a nightmare as there was no other explanation … last night, however, was completely different: he woke with a scream, was sobbing, couldn’t be consoled and actually spoke about the bad people scaring him.

This may sound harsh, or make us sound like bad parents, but we have always tried to be pretty firm with the fact that both boys (we have another one, Nathaniel, who is 21 months old) stay in bed at night unless they are sick … so we told Mackenzie that things would be ok and that he would have to go back to bed. He completely and utterly broke down – tears streaming, breathing so hard that he couldn’t speak until finally he said that he wanted to stay with us, or us sleep with him, where he was safe.

He broke both of our hearts.

But we couldn’t change the rules.

I had an epiphany and jumped out of bed, telling Carole to carry Mackenzie into his bedroom. On the way in I grabbed one of my dream catchers (I have many of them, all around the house – even have a tattoo of one), a small leather necklace one, and sat on Mackenzie’s bed, him on my lap, and told him a story about a dream catcher and how it had a very important job to do: to catch the bad dreams, keeping them locked away, and only allow the good dreams pass through. I tied the dream catcher around his bed, right above the centre, where he sleeps, and told him that everything would be ok.

He asked me if I was sure.

I told him of course I was.

He smiled, he kissed me, and he lay down – touching the dream catcher before telling me that he loved me.

He broke our hearts again – but in the good way that every parent knows.

This morning (later on, nearly at the time regular folks get up anyway ;) ), after sleepin through the night, he came bounding into our room, face blazing with a huge smile, and told us that it had worked; he had only dreamt good dreams – pirates who could take their bottoms off and kept losing them, for some reason.

Words have power, I have always known this or I wouldn’t have such a love of reading (let alone a desire to write) but last night – when I saw how my words could change my son’s life, could turn his fear into excitement – I rediscovered it all over again.

Words are my dream and I am always trying to catch them.

Somehow

She said she loved me? She lied.

Her halo breaks and pedestal crumbles; my rose-tinted view shatters.

But the world still turns. Life goes on.

Somehow.

Making them count.

Once upon a time I recall agreeing that, no matter what, a writer should attempt to write a set amount of words each and every day – at one stage that was 1000 words, then it went down to 500, finally 100 and then, at a very specific point in my life, it changed completely.

After the birth of my second child I realised that my priorities were changed and that, as much as I loved writing and wanted to write, other things would always take priority for me.   I didn’t even bother pretending that I would attempt to write a set amount, each and every day, any longer but instead vowed that when I had the time I would write to the best of my ability.  It didn’t matter if there was a gap of a few days, or even a few weeks – it didn’t matter if, after that gap, all I managed was a handful of words. 

As long as I made them count.

This is the second time that I have been able to write anything today.  I have had an excruciating headache and stiff neck all day and so I decided to do nothing other than enjoy the company of my family and try to ride the pain.  A wonderfully long, almost painfully hot, bath (combined with some lovely pain killers) have worked their magic and, while I am still aching, I am no longer in pain.  So I am writing this.

The other thing that I managed to write – the first thing?  Well that was a handful of words – more than five but less than fifty – that I typed into my phone notepad while soaking in the bath.  It is the germ of an idea that will hopefully turn into a short story, possibly something longer, that I am already excited about.  It is a few good words that will be turned into something more, something better.

And that is a good thing; that is why I no longer care about how much I write, or when, but simply that when I do I make them count.

Reverie on PTC

Earlier today, while I was checking my email for something or other, I absent-mindedly clicked on the second most used link (first most being email) in my favourites … then felt a combination of emotions run through me as I read (for the umpteenth time) the simple vBulletin message that now serves as a placeholder for a place that has been a central point of my online ‘life’ for longer than anything, or anywhere, else: PTC (PrimeTime Central). 

PTC was a community for e-fedders which, basically, is a hobby that combines writing with roleplaying, specifically centred around the life/career of a professional wrestler (if that isn’t enough information for you then simply Google it as, I am sure, you will find plenty of information).  If you don’t take into account the work I did for education, specifically GCSE and A level English, then the writing that I did in the e-fedding world was my first (and most prolific) foray into ‘creative writing’.  I shudder to think how many words I have written in the course of my ‘career’ in that hobby but, considering I started in 1997 – and regularly wrote thousands of words a week during that period – I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t enough words, floating around, to fill a novel or three. 

Now, as those words COULD have been used towards the actual writing of a novel (or three) some of you may be thinking that I must surely regret the time ‘wasted’ in the pursuit of said hobby.  PFAW, I say, and balderdash to boot – you see NO words are ever wasted and each and every one of them that was written went towards developing me as a writer.  That hobby taught me how to take a concept or plot and turn it into a story; that hobby taught me that even if you are competing with others (as every writer who hopes to be published is) the only real competition is yourself … I have ‘lost’ enough battles where the lure of TV or cinema (or just a lie-in or early night) has won out over a few more words, for example; and by following, and reading, other people who have more talent in their little fingers than I have in my whole body I pushed myself to improve.

Somewhere along the line of roleplaying a character I realised that what I was actually doing was telling the story of a person’s life, a person’s hopes, dreams, fears and aspirations – and the complexities that go along with them.  I realised that I was writing what would be, anywhere else, simply called stories.

… and when I realised that I was doing it I realised that I COULD do it.  So now I am writing the stories that fill my head and – sometimes, just sometimes – other people are paying me to read them.  How bizarre is that?!

So, PTC and all you brave souls who sailed in her, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being there for me and help shape me into what I am today. 

365 days of words.

Why am I doing this?

That would make quite an interesting opening line for a multitude of stories, covering all genres, wouldn’t it? Even now, as I am typing something else, as a preamble to typing what this post is actually meant to be about, I have quite a few ideas for where that first line could go; there is one place I know, immediately, that it won’t go: next.

You see this post – in fact this whole category of posts yet to come – is simply being done because I am foolish enough have decided to take up the challenge of a few of my friends and attempt to write something, here, every single day of 2011.

I actually do write every day, where possible (there are occasions, normally relating to my personal health or my family, where words come second) though I don’t always ‘publish’ it for other people’s consumption. I also don’t make it a goal to sit down and write every day, either. Those are the two things that are going to be different for this challenge, I suppose.

If you want to blame someone (or someones) – and you won’t be alone as I am already planning on blaming him or her myself when I regret doing this! – feel free to do so by checking out the following ‘every day’ blogs:

Pete – http://oneyearinwords.wordpress.com

Nate – http://everydayraby.wordpress.com

Dan – http://writing.sackettsolutions.com

Andrew – http://everingoodstead.wordpress.com

Anyway, I don’t know what I am going to write in this thing. At the start I thought that it may simply be fiction but, to be honest, I am not planning on writing fiction every day this year but, rather, working on larger pieces or refining existing ones. As I don’t want this to become a chore I have decided to simply write whatever I am thinking at the moment. Stream of consciousness, perhaps, or maybe just a journal style review of the previous day. To be honest it may degenerate into pure dribbling jibberish, but that isn’t really all that different from the usual and you may not even notice.

So, that is the what of this thing, and the why I am doing it. There where should be pretty simple as you are reading this (it was alsmot going to be at www.everydayjay.com … don’t click it, it doesn’t exist … as Josh tempted me into nearly buying it but I asked myself ‘do I really need another domain name?’ My answer was YES! but my wife’s was somewhat different ;) ).

As for how it goes … well that is yet to be seen.