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Paddster
September 27th, 2003, 04:11 PM
Hi!

My name's Paddy Littlewood, i'm 14 and I'm new to this forum, so forgive me if it seems like i'm talking "crazy talk".

Basically, I had to write a short story in year 8 (2 years ago now) for school, and I loved it so much that I try to write as many as possible. I've written 4 so far, (2 of which are on this site, under 'Patrick Littlewood', and 1 of which is currently going through the uploading system thingymebob) and want to write more. All is good so far.

But... The trouble is finding the motivation to write a short story. So far the only ones i've written have been for school, and i've loved writing them. Also, I need the inspiration. When i'm given a title or a subject, great, I can crack on and givve it a shot. But when I try to think of them myself, i end up writing nonesense, or find myself straying from the point.

Personally, I don't think my stories are very good, but I do feel proud of them and think that they are an achievement considering that I'm only 14.

I'd greatly appreciate it if you could give me any advice on how to get started on some serious writing for myself. I'd also appreciate it if you could have a glance at my short stories and give me some feedback on them and how to improve my writing skills, or even just rate them. You can find them at:
http://www.sffworld.com/authors/l/littlewood_patrick/fiction/abandonedhouse1.html

Thanks very much!

Paddy

Forrest
September 27th, 2003, 04:47 PM
hahaha, that was a great story. Very twisted and fun, without being too gore oriented. I enjoyed it.

You are good writer, especially for your age. Without a doubt, if you keep writing and enjoying what you are doing, you will turn out some great work.

I'm not a professional writer, so I can't give you any real great advice. I'll just give you the same advice that applies to every pursuit: Enjoy yourself, follow your goals, and never ever give up for any reason.:)

Paddster
September 27th, 2003, 04:50 PM
Thanks, I appreciate it :)

Jacquin
September 28th, 2003, 10:01 AM
Hi Paddy,

I haven't read your story yet, I will do my best to though and give you some honest feedback.

As to motivation, I know exactly what you mean, I was having a lot of trouble for quite a while, I love writing but had nothing to write about.

What solved the problem for me was a) sharing possible ideas with a friend who also writes (more successfully than me I may add) and b) whenever I say anything that may or may not be useful writing it down in a pad. There were entire ideas, there were snapshots of things I had seen, there were newspaper headlines. There were reminders to myself about why I write and so on...

Basically I honestly think that if you enjoy writing you will write. It isn't easy to think of something new and exciting in fact it's impossible so forget it. Just write. Doesn't matter what, all writing is... well it's writing. The more you write the easier it is to write more.

This probably doesn't help but hey at least I'm writing! ;)

Take Care

J

Jacquin
September 28th, 2003, 10:52 AM
As promised I had a read. Here are my thoughts.

I really enjoyed it, you are very good at building tension, for me personally the gore didn't detract from the story at all, if anything I think it kind of added to the feel you were trying to create. Though I can fully understand why some people may well not be as happy with it.

The opening three paragraphs seem completely redundant to me, the story is about what happened in the house, I don't care about the layout of the park. You could easily just start with the heavens opening and you running towards shelter. Also I wasn't too keen on the way you started at the end and then jumped back. It sometimes works well but in a story as short as yours I think it is unnecessary, again I feel it would work just as well if not better without it.

That being said however it is very good. You have a lot of talent and if you stick with it you'll go a long way I'm sure.

Hope this helps

J

Paddster
September 28th, 2003, 02:48 PM
Thanks! I'll have to try the thing with the notepad. I often think of crazy ideas, and immediatley forget them, so it'll probably come in really useful.

Personally, I absolutely hate the bit about the park, and snakes, but I figured I needed more description and metaphors/similes in the opening paragraphs. But I appreciate your feedback, and will have to try to fit the story more around the reader and not the writer.

My other story isn't as good plot-wise, but personally I think it's a better idea and could possibly be expanded on. It's at

http://www.sffworld.com/authors/l/littlewood_patrick/fiction/bunac1.html

Thankyou Jacquin and Forrest for your feedback, i'll try to incorporate your ideas into my next story (when I can think of one!)

Paddy

KATS
September 28th, 2003, 03:12 PM
I’ll tell you up front - this will be a long post.

First of all, I wanted to give you a bit of advice. There may be some people who tell you that writing is a phase and you will outgrow it. And they may be right. Only you can determine what will become a life long passion and what is a passing phase.

Keep in mind that honest criticism is one of the hardest things to take, especially when you are young. But if you want to improve your writing, you will learn to separate yourself a bit so you can look at your work with objective eyes. I’ve known writers who gave up because they couldn’t take well meant criticism. We all, professionals included, continually seek to improve our craft. So, take our comments. Mull them over. Then with an objective mind reread your story applying our comments and see if you agree or disagree.

General Observations
Considering your age, these stories are very well written. However, you have a lot of room to improve. Now, don’t take that the wrong way. Like everything else, there are techniques that will improve your writing.

Showing instead of Telling: The first thing that jumped out at me was that you “tell” the story instead of “showing” what happened. It is the difference between reading a text book and a novel. This is also something that you will hear over and over again. Not because you will need to hear it again and again, but because in writing this is maybe the first rule of thumb.

Basically whenever you see a form of the verb “to be” it is a sign of telling instead of showing. Try to rephrase the sentence to use action verbs, ie verbs that show an action, ran, squinted, died, etc. As an example from Bunac: “They were heading towards him at a brisk, steady pace.” This could easily be rewritten without “were” - They headed towards him at a brisk, steady pace. This actually will make the threat in the sentence seem more imminent.

Character Depth: Another thing I notice was a lack of character depth. All the characters, even the main characters, are rather flat. Try printing your stories, then as you read the stories make notes in the margins about what is revealed about the characters. Not what you, the writer, knows, but just what is actually in the stories. I think you’ll see my point.

You need to give the reader a reason to care what happens to these characters. What makes them tick? Why are they doing the things they do? What are they feeling? Not that all this information will end up in the story. Knowing everything about the character will simply help you write about them, even if only a fraction of the information actually ends up in the story.

Also, this may be the answer to why you end up writing nonsense, or straying from the point. I’ve found that this will often happen when the characters are not defined well enough.

Fixing this is not a simple matter. There are many methods and a balance to achieve. You can be obvious ie in The Abandoned House you come straight out and state: “He may have been the most liked kid in school, but this was unfair.” The reader now knows that Mark is popular and perhaps Peter isn’t. There are certain connotation that go along with popularity and the reader may automatically apply those aspects to Mark, ie good looking, athletic, talented, etc.

However you can’t use this method often, instead you have to convey information to the reader without them being aware that is what you are doing. This can be through dialogue, setting (description of the world), or the characters’ behavior.

An example of using dialogue comes from a cop at the beginning of Bunac: “I’ll bring it in." That he refers to Nicholas as an “it” implies a lot, this one phrase dehumanizes Nicholas and allows the cop to treat him as an object instead of a person.

Consider what information you want the reader to have, what about the character does the reader “need” to know? Then find a way to subtly convey that information. Alternate methods so you don’t use the same method throughout the story. Pay attention to people. What they do, what they say, how they say it, how they react to the things that happen to them. Consider what makes a person seem shallow, cruel, happy, etc. and apply those observations to your writing.

Plot (conflict): The heart of any story is the plot. Plot is created when conflict occurs. The conflict in both stories is not immediately clear. In The Abandoned House, “. . . with him grinning like a madman.” The term “him” is a bit impersonal. Who is "him"? Why do we care? Individualizing it can add volumes. Try . . . with Mark grinning like a madman. Or better yet, . . . with my best friend grinning like a madman. Although you do a great job of creating tension in this story, it seems to be tension for tension’s sake, instead of true tension. Might throw in the fact that a girl from school went missing a week ago. Maybe she was last seen in that park over the hill. I don’t know that I’d focus on the old murders, unless the murder is still unknown - ie possibly still a threat. As far as Bunac goes, the plot & conflict is much clearer, though I’d still rev the conflict up a bit. Give Nick a reason to want to go home, maybe money, CEO of a powerful business. The conditions he’s forced to live in, though humane, are way below his standards. Also as a side note, I’m not sure Yup Bunac has enough motive to take his helmet off at the end. I thought for sure the reason he was doing it was because he was Nick’s doppelganger.

Repetitiveness & Questions: Using repetitiveness is a risky business and should only be done to emphasize something, ie as foreshadowing. For instance in Bunac you greatly emphasize the cell’s white color. I can’t really see a need to emphasize it as much as you did. It is good to give details for the setting, but too much irrelevant information can distract from the story.

The same is true of asking the reader questions. There are many places where you seem to have the character and/or narrator asking questions, many of which are rhetorical in nature. In Bunac you give us this phrase: “What had happened? That was one of many questions that flashed through his head. Where was he? What was Bunac? What was going to happen now?” Asking these questions basically stops the story mid-flow. Unless there is a powerful reason to ask questions, don’t. If the character needs to contemplate questions, fine, but make sure the questions are thoughts and not to be confused with the narrator.

Going back to the questions, let’s take a closer look. What had happened? The reader knows, they just read it. Where was he? What was Bunac? What was going to happen now? The reader is already asking themselves these questions, no need to emphasize them. It may frustrate the reader.

Typos: Several typos, ie “. . . before, when we were stood outside the house.” I assume you meant when we stood outside the house. Also realised should be spelled realized and organisation should be organization (and this one really stood out as you used it often).

Be mindful of misspelled words and grammar errors. For one, your grade may be lower than necessary and if you intend to submit your work for publication, nothing screams amateur more than these simple errors. Keep a dictionary and thesaurus handing while you work.

Now, in answer to your direct questions:

The trouble is finding the motivation to write a short story.

There are many methods for revving up your motivation. For me, talking about my stories always gets me going. Feel free to PM me if you like. I’ve found that just having a sounding board works great. Also, like I said earlier, giving the characters depth can help. You can set a daily writing schedule, x number of words per day. There is a saying - writers write. It’s true. The act of writing often prompts more writing. The same is true of reading. Read the greats and see how they handle scenes.

Also, I need the inspiration.

Other than what I’ve said already, don’t know that I can help with inspiration. I think most writers get their motivation from asking one great question, “What if . . .” Jordan did this for his wheel of time series. What if an average boy woke up one morning and he is the savior of the world.

But when I try to think of them myself, i end up writing nonesense, or find myself straying from the point.

I’ve mentioned one possible solution earlier. You can also try writing a working outline before tackling the meat of the story. Take Bunac for example: Nick falls into other dimension. Nick gets thrown into detention center. Nick confronts head of Bunac. Nick takes Bunac’s place. Then when you go back to flesh the story out, you expand on each scene as needed and add new scenes if necessary. Me, I have everything fairly well planned out before writing chapter one. Others prefer to let the story unfold as they write. They like when the story strays from the original idea. Use what works for you.

I guess I’ve rambled on long enough. Hope this helps and if you have any additional questions, feel free to PM me or in the thread.

Kimberly

Paddster
September 28th, 2003, 03:43 PM
I've read through your post, and I'd like to say that I disagree with some of your points. But I can't. After re-reading my story, I 100% agree with everything you've said. THANKYOU!!!!!!!!!!!!! I've saved your post, and will use it next time I write a story. My characters are too shallow, and i'm not nearly subtle enough. I think the next thing i'll do is to rewrite a story I did in year 8 using the pointers you have given me.

The only thing I disagree with is the spellings of "organisation" and "realised". In America they are spelt with a "z", but here in England they are spelt with an "s".

Thanks again, I look forward to using your post!

:D

Paddy

Rocket Sheep
September 29th, 2003, 02:17 AM
Poor Americans... just wait till you try explaining the way the rest of the world uses double Ls (tunnel -> tunnelling) and different punctuation in abbreviations... that really confuses them, sometimes it is easier just to let them think they are doing it the right way. ;)

You take criticism well for a 14 year old. Ego is one of the biggest things to get in the way of writing. You can't improve if you can't take advice... but you also have to draw the line somewhere and go with your gut. Don't forget to read a lot of what you love. That teaches you the mechanics of writing and is inspirational and fun at the same time.

Good luck.

Ickle Lulu
September 29th, 2003, 04:01 AM
Hey Paddy. I got into writing short stories because of school projects too. I know the feeling when you want to write a story with a decent plot and you just can't find the inspiration or right subject for it.
Personally i start by writing an opening paragraph, not worrying about what the plot will be but simply describing the atmosphere and scene where a character is. For example; firstly, what time of year is it? I find myself writing loads on the feel of the air, the smells, the temperature. Then i move onto what the character sees around them, maybe they're travelling through a mountain range and you can describe the soaring peaks and lack of vegetation, maybe they're by the sea and you can describe the taste of salt, the everchanging colours of the water depending on what the sky is like, describe the watery sun penetrating the clouds. I dunno. The scene is your choice, that's the beauty of creative writing. After I've got that atmosphere and the place created in my mind i can start to think of a story line which would suit the environment i've created. Maybe leave it at the first paragraph stage for a few days and keep re-reading it, changing it and playing around with ideas which spring into your head, never dismiss an idea immediately, make a note of it and you never know it might lead onto another idea and another until you've got a stock of possibilities to work from.
Hope this helps.
Good Luck!
Ickle Lulu