Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Monday, 26 August 2013

ON YOUR MARKS, GET SET ....

We all know what word comes next in the sequence - GO! Starting what they do is easy for runners and hurdlers - they have their mark, behind which their fingers have to stay until the starting gun goes off. Jockeys and their horses have the starting frame in which they are held before all are released at the same moment. Grand prix drivers wait for the drop of the flag - or they used to....it's a while since I've watched the start of a Grand prix - before they let their clutches out and are off from behind whichever mark it is on the grid they have been placed according to their practice times. Swimmers stand, toes gripping the edge of the pool, heads down, ears primed to hear the starting gun. But writers? What of they? Where do writers start? I'm often asked this question and I remember, once, saying - perhaps rather facetiously I now realise - 'Oh, there's a little shop in Serendipity Street in London - don't you know it? I always pop in for half a dozen ideas when I'm up in the city.' So I asked myself this question for this blog post - where do I start? And the answer is 'from all sorts of different points - even the end sometimes'. I have two stories in MY WEEKLY ANNUAL 2014, a short one and a much longer one. The longer story began when my husband and I were going through the thousands of photographs we own between us, trying to sort them, date them, name other people in them besides ourselves so that when the day comes and our children have to deal with them, they won't be standing there saying,'That's Mum and Dad but who the heck are these other peeople, and where was it?' And one particular photo caught my eye. It is of me, aged fivc or thereabouts (Mother, why didn't you put the dates on the backs of photos????)and I'm standing on the bars of a climbing frame in the children's play area of Pontin's Holiday Camp in Paignton. I wasn't on holiday because I was born in Paignton and I still live here, but my mother was a dressmaker and for pin money she used to do sewing jobs (curtains and bedlinens ripped from some wild party or other mostly) on a Saturday up at Pontins. And while she sewed, I got the run of the children's area. And in this particular photo I'm wearing a dress my mother made me from an off-cut of some material a customer bought to make a summer dress and bolero. And it was while I was looking at this photo that I remembered how, a few years later - when I was in my teens - I was forever questioning my parentage; surely I must have been adopted because I'm not like either of my parents? I wasn't adopted, but simply remembering that sewed the seeds (if you'll forgive the dressmaking analogy here)of this story, SHADOW OF DOUBT.
I've started short stories after seeing a certain dress, or a pair of shoes, or seeing a wedding party come out of a church while I've been looking out the window on the top deck of a bus. And then there was the one sparked off when a friend got herself in a right old state about turning 40......'Wait until it's your turn!' she snapped at me when I said that age was just a number, and I didn't have the heart to tell her I'd passed that milestone a few years or so back. And JUST A NUMBER became the title of my second story in MY WEEKLY ANNUAL 2014. When I started my trilogy for Choc Lit,the story hung on the thinnest of threads - what if you woke up one morning to find you had absolutely not a single family member left in the world, and what little money you had had gone too? And then, what if you made yourself a fortune....only to lose it all again, what then? Thinking that got me remembering when my father bought me a pair of pearl earrings for my birthday the year my mother was in Canada and wasn't here to buy me one. Such an unexpected gift from him - and goodness, how I'd hate to lose them, even though they aren't the real thing. So, loss of a different sort...or the fear of it. I've told you a few starting parts of my own and if you're stuck feel free to use them. You see, I'm just back from London, and while there is no Serendipity Street, the place is awash with ideas and I feel an idea or three coming on ....

12 comments:

  1. Ah, I think what you do so well though, Linda, is to take those story threads and spin them into gold - that's the clever trick! Your recent successes just illustrate that and are well-deserved.

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    1. Oh, Chris, what a lovely thing to say....thank you so much. I do appreciate you popping by to say so. x

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  2. Great post, Linda. It is amazing how ideas seem to seep into our subconscious and swim around there until one is ready to pop out and be used. I was given a prompt for a writing exercise: 'she always kept it in a box' and I had an immediate image of a beautful box with a secret compartment in which she kept an old wrinkled walnut, definitely a memento from a love affair. Why the image of the walnut? I brought a walnut back from Afghanistan - not given by a lover, I should say - and it seems to have disappeared. Now I know, though, it was not forgotten.

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    1. Goodness, Mary, your walnut has got my brain going into overdrive here..... how the leaves of the walnut tree smell so wonderful and distinctive - once smelled, never forgotten. So pleased you like my post, thank you.

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  3. Oh my goodness, where is this Serendipity Street? I must go there!

    I loved your post, Linda, thanks so much. It was great to get an insight into how your stories start. I have very little experience of short tory writing, though I can now reveal that my story THE EIGHTH PROMISE will appear the the RNA anthology next year...

    The starting point for that was simple. A girl reluctantly goes back to India to visit her parents after years in boarding school, and gets stuck there because war breaks out.

    Well done on your My Weekly stories Linda - two! Well done! Remember to tell us when it's out.

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    1. Thanks, Jenny.....this one seems to have struck a chord with you all. I mentioned short stories, but really the ideas can fit any sort of writing, I think. Congrats on the RNA anthology...well done!

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  4. Oh, I love the idea of Serendipity Street!

    In fact I find that most of my stories start from something - usually pretty mundane - in my life. A patchwork quilt my daughter made...a beautiful blue plate we bought in a pottery...a story my father told about an uncle he never knew.

    The eventual story usually bears very little resemblance to the origin, however!

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    1. Yes, Jennifer, it's just the little kick of a memory that sparks a story but said story wouldn't start without that spark, as fire won't without without a match to get it going. Little bits of ourselves spill out into the public domain via our work even though we don't realise it sometimes. Thanks for popping by.

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  5. It's amazing how what might seem like the tiniest thing to a non-writer can start off a whole stream of imaginings, isn't it? And brilliant. Love your examples - and the pic!

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    1. Thanks, Gill ....and what you say is soooooo true. Oak trees from acorns grow, and all that....:)

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  6. I enjoyed this post Linda. I am not a short story writer but I know at least one of your seeds has grown into a very good novel because I really enjoyed TURN FULL CIRCLE, and look forward to the sequel.
    I suspect those precious ear rings will be in a story too. It is not the value in money which means so much as the thought, and out of charcter action,to buy you a gift.
    Lovely.I can imagine you weaving the threads together already.

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    1. Thanks for popping by, Gwen. And the earrings? Well, when you see the cover of TTFC's sequel(EMMA) it won't be a surprise.....:)

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