IT’S THE WAY I TELL ‘EM

The detail is often irrelevant.

Now I recognise that you’ve got to have detail when telling a story but when you really get down to it, so often, it’s the broad strokes which stick with us and can make or break what we’re reading. Merely loading anything you write with a huge dump of information has more potential to just become a droning monotone for the person on the receiving end so there’s a great deal more to the process of storytelling than just stringing the events together.

Now with that in mind, we all know someone who’s terrible at telling stories or jokes and we all know someone who is just great at it. Both of them could tell the same story, use the same words, yet one would weave the most engaging tale while the other would just recite the words and suck all the life from them.

Think about the following.

Daddy, somebody’s at the door. He’s collecting for the district’s new indoor swimming pool.
Ok, give him a bucket of water then.

Not the most ground-breaking piece of comedy the world has ever seen but in the hands of a person who can cast a spell with the words, it can become more nuanced, more weighty. In the hands of the other person it could become a block of concrete, and a bland one at that.

Before the advent of the written languages which are spread over the world, the histories and tales of the human race were passed down thanks to the spoken word. Oral histories were reliant on the stories being memorable. If they were dry and soulless it’s fair to say that they could have been quickly lost to the sands of time but for the powers of those who recounted the tales. It was up to them to always draw the audience into whatever story they were telling, to grasp the minds of everyone within earshot so the story would live out in the realms of so very many others. The added element of the storyteller became vital.

There are comedians and raconteurs the world over and they make sure that everyone around them hangs on their every word. So often the most successful politicians are the ones who can make the words they speak dance and whirl rather than just relying on the message. I’ve included an example which I feel shows perfectly exactly how immersive a well told story can be. If you don’t watch all of this clip, you really are missing out on a wonderful example.

Taken from YouTube channel ‘Cheeky Chap’

So today I raise a glass to the storytellers, who have always been able to make everything that much more interesting.

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NORTH OR SOUTH?

It does seem that in the world at the moment that there is a growth of ideas and personalities which are polarising to the extreme. It’s not that this as an idea is totally new, think of the way Marmite is advertised and you can see that looking at things as an either or is nothing new but day by day I see the dichotomy being the growing way to go.

I see so many more examples of there being an either or choice rather than there be any kind of nuance. On TV, in the press and in conversations in the real world, there seems to be an increase of ‘with me or against me’. It seems that we’re seeing worldwide, the polarising of opinion to either end of the spectrums and this seems to be very clearly shown thanks to the hurricane of with or against that is Donald Trump.

Now rather than just make comment of the clear issues that exist in the way he’s going about things, instead I’m highlighting the need for the shades of grey in the choices we make and our ability to have independent thoughts on every topic.

The whole world has been looking on over the last few weeks as Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un have been having something of  spat over the size and power of their various, well, everythings, but both exist in worlds where they expect everyone around them to agree with everything they say. The world has been treated to the show of two men who expect, indeed, demand that their opinion is correct and should anyone disagree, well, don’t even bother. Now imagine we all watch on as these two rattle their sabres and shout about their ideas being correct and then all of a sudden, Kim Jong-un , out of nowhere, makes a well reasoned and thoughtfully responsible point about the wider political situation throughout all of Asia. He may be seen in a negative light but what happens if all those people who had been berating him suddenly found themselves having to admit they agree. What very often happens is an attempt to belittle everything around him, highlighting any and all mistakes and make everyone focus on the negative. The positive idea gets buried because he can’t really mean it. Arguing facts is one thing but people so often equate their opinions with facts.

But it’s not just the highest national leaders who indulge. Very often I’ve seen that if there’s any disagreement at all, it can quickly descend into the ‘with or against’. Any talk of differing opinions are seen as a personal attack and therefore must be squashed. Think about the world you inhabit and think if there has been an example which comes to mind. There may not be a massive one but they’ll be more common than you may expect.

Now disagreements are a good thing when they’re managed correctly. Wars have a habit of starting following disagreements but only because there wasn’t a coming together and shared compromise. At no point am I trying to extol the virtues of either of the two political leaders or their ideas, rather it’s an attempt to examine just how we all look at ideas and how we deal with disagreements.

For all of us, that ability to move our opinions and react to different ideas in a positive way is what can make sure that we all grow in a positive way. Life is so very much more than just black and white.

I’ve recently been working on a collection of short stories, ready for another collection book to be released some time next year, and I’ve been continuing my attempts to always look at things in as many new ways as I can. I’m doing my best to always add some white to my black and black to white when creating characters as it’s that grey that can make us all more interesting.

Just sticking to the dichotomy of one end of the scale or the other will mean that we miss out on so many great ideas just because we didn’t want to move towards the centre.

HOW MANY?

It has often been said that us men are incapable of multitasking. Everyone knows that us lads just focus on one thing at a time and the fairer sex are the ones who can juggle all of the various different balls that can get thrown at them during the every day life we all experience.

Now aside from any scientific question marks which are raised from the idea, when I write, I find myself actually enjoying the challenge of doing many things at once.

Now it’s not a question of me having a different computer under each hand and a pen grasped in my toes, rather it’s me having lots of projects going at once.

I’m working on the third book in the Circle series but also on a second collection of short stories so I’ve found myself working on four different short stories and the novel all at the same time.

On any given day I could be writing about almost anything and I bounce around between the topics and just go where the various stories take me. Now it could be easy to say that I should be focusing on a single project at a time and not spreading my creative juices about but for me, being able to move where my imagination takes me, where I have the ‘oomph’ on any given day gives me a great deal more flexibility to be able to aim my creativity at the topic that I feel most drawn to means that I can keep the wheels of writing turning regularly even if I don’t ‘feel’ a particular story on any given day.

Oddly, I find it helps that I put a particular set of characters and situations away to allow me to work on another, by giving me the chance to relax about them. If I’d only ever worked on a single topic at a time, and I have in the past, when you have a dip in creativity, you’re stuck with nowhere to go and aside from the lack of words, the feelings of frustration just make things worse. You can try to force the point but that just pushes you further away from where you want to be. With just the one topic, a bad day can turn into a bad week and a bad month and all of a sudden there’s been an age where you’ve done nothing at all.

By keeping lots of irons in the fire I’m able to change the focus as and when I need to so not only will there be something that I can work on on whatever day, but by removing the risk of getting stuck in the barren wasteland of no inspiration, I’m able to stay away from frustration. I can maintain a pace in my writing even when a particular idea needs to be left fallow for a while.

We all need to have focus on the important things in life but it’s important to make sure that don’t become too cycloptic and risk getting stuck in the creative mud.

WARM AND FUZZY

It’s a description of the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you’re in an environment or surrounded by people, that give you the ultimate sensation of welcome and comfort.

It’s that all embracing hug that just means that everything in the world for that moment, is absolutely perfect. We know that all things are good. There’s nothing at all that could go on to pull down that comfy feeling and how beautifully enveloped you feel at that very instant is surely what we’re all striving for on any given day.

I was at London Film and Comic Con recently and was lucky enough to have that warm and fuzzy feeling all weekend. I was at the table chatting to anyone and everyone about my books but also about everything and anything else. Aside from the practicalities of the trader life and then having a flat tyre on the journey home, being able to just immerse yourself into the world you enjoy, and with people who share the same topics is awesome.

This weekend just gone I attended a good friend’s wedding and got to see a few people that I haven’t seen in years, back in the town that I grew up in. I reached out and wrapped myself up in the same warm fuzzy feeling and just wallowed. It wasn’t that I was pining for a return to where I grew up or that I want to leave behind where I live now, it’s rather that I was able to reminisce in a fully immersive way. All of the great times that I had previously experienced flavoured my times and I just sat back and let all of the best times run through me.

We all live lives where it can become really overwhelming at times and all too often we can see nothing but all of the horrors that smash us along the way. But it’s not always the darkness that surrounds us and recognising that and making the most of it may be tough but believe me, it’s well worth it.

Look at the pictures!

 

 

THE TRAIN

You ever notice that humans are always trying to understand the nature of time and how we interact with it?

So far, the consensus is that time is a river that flows and moves along in a single direction, dragging everything along with it and no matter what we do we all just travel along from the moment we’re born until we sink below the waves at the time of our death.

Now over the weekend I was lucky enough to have a table at London Film and Comic Con in Olympia and I had a great time but I had a little thought about the nature of how we can view the nature of our lives and what they then mean to the rest of us.

We all exist on the carriages of a train as it heads along it’s particular line. We board the train at our given station as we’re born, the train having already been rumbling along happily before you even appeared. There may be people you see leaving the train as you join but that will be all of the experience you have of them. They disembark the train of life and as in the real world, vanish from our experience. In the real world they may be off to work, to a party, to almost anything, but every stop of the train of life just means people are leaving life behind.

As the train pulls off, we begin our journey and head into life.

We’re surrounded by other people all heading in the same direction, going about their own lives. Occasionally you may talk to people as you carry on your travels but the vast majority just remain faces in the crowd.

Stops come and go and people board and leave at every station, the train of life just going onwards to its ultimate destination until we make it to our stop.

We know when we’re approaching the stop and as on the trains in the real world, we have a choice of waiting for the train to stop before we get ourselves together and make our way to the platform or we could already be waiting at the door for the train to finally come to rest so we could hop off quickly. Either way, when our feet hit the platform and we start to move away, anyone boarding is just a blur. Our time on the train is done and we’re off to what’s next but for everyone still on the train, we’re just a memory. So very many wouldn’t have even recognised that we’d even been on the train at all but off it goes and we’re just a memory.

When I had this feeling I was on the tube and it made me consider the multitude of  possibilities for the lives of everyone around me and how all that experience is all around us all of the time but also that, even after we’ve left the train of life, it’ll continue on it’s way oblivious to the fact that we were there.

These thoughts made me feel connected to everyone in the world as we all do exactly the same thing on the train of life. Every single one of us on the planet will board the same train and travel towards their destination. They see the world as the train travels along and know that at some point they’ll reach their final destination. We’re all doing the same thing so we all have the same foundations to who we are.

The human race is a great thing and there are so many stories that can be shared. Maybe we just need to try and enjoy the journey a little more before we finally get to our stop.

FROM THE ASHES

I’m not going to talk about cricket.

Rather, I’m reflecting on the fact that even when everything in life falls to pieces, it doesn’t mean that everything is lost, never to be seen again.

I’ve been dealing with stuff this year which has been a kick in the balls to say the very least and you know what, it’s had an effect on what I’ve been able to achieve. I’ve tried to keep my mind going, to keep coming up with ideas that I can use in the latest novel or for a short story and to keep writing, but for at least the past four months, I’ve had nothing.

Every time I considered the idea of working on the latest book, every time I tried to work out some ideas for another short story collection, I just couldn’t.

Now I’ve spoken about the feeling of writers block before but this time it was so much worse. It wasn’t the sensation of not being able to come up with anything, that I could have dealt with. This time, I was struck by a mental fog which didn’t just shackle my creative process, it wrapped itself around every inch of my motivation and leeched out all of the colours. That fog was less putting up a wall around the ideas, imprisoning them behind stone to keep them from the page, as it was just stripping them apart in a demented dance of brutality that tortured and ultimately unmade them.

All I’ve been left with has been the hollow of nothingness where the ideas and the desire to write once were. That greyness. That void.

But yesterday, something shifted.

Rather than the brute force I’d tried throwing at the problem, all of a sudden, the way cleared itself, at least partially. Rather than there just being a blank space in my head where I usually kept all of my mental prompts for writing, the prompts were coming back. I’ve had a few ideas for stories which I’ve been working on and I’m almost finished with my first short story in a while. Roughly speaking, I’ve started a small counter offensive against the nothingness and the first skirmish has almost been won.

The Phoenix as a metaphor is there to show that no matter the destruction around us, we can all climb back out of the depths of despair. It’s a good story but when you’re in the void it can be tough to keep hold of the thought of escape. It was certainly tough for me.

But my stories have begun to come back. I spent the evening celebrating my mum’s birthday and collectively as a family, we’re trying to clamber out of the pit. Tonight was a good night despite the empty chair at the table but from the ashes ……………

Watch this space.

IF

Powerful little word, if.

You don’t have to add much to it to find yourself staring at the sheer rock face of possibilities. You see, with a little effort, that lonely little word can become, ‘What if?’ but also, ‘If only’ and without even having to really do anything, deep thought awaits.

In both of these examples, the little word ‘if’ teases us with the thoughts of that which didn’t come to pass. How often do we hear people saying ‘If only’ they’d done, or indeed not done, something which had brought them to a particular unhappy position. They lament having turned left rather than right, they shouldn’t have gone to bed angry or not had that last drink.

These and so many other examples all appear when we regret. We look at the world that we’re in and can identify that a single event was the one that made this specific timeline switch tracks. We regret and, thanks to the horrifying perfection of hindsight, can see exactly where we went wrong and long for the chance to just take that one thing back.

I’ve had an element of this in mind for some bits and pieces I’ve been working on but I’m able to cast a new view as my own life experiences grow.

The other example I gave of the power of ‘if’ was ‘What if?’ and it’s very similar in terms of the view of what could have been but this time, rather than just focusing on the event, now we’re trying to extrapolate from an event, what would have happened following the right rather than left turn. The easiest and possibly largest ‘What if’ is ‘What if the Nazi’s had won WWII?’ Stories have been told starting from this very ‘What if?’ and minds can wander in any and all directions playing with the ideas of the ‘What if’.

Now it’s the ‘What if’ that grabbed me recently.

I’ve been working on some short story ideas with a view to eventually putting together another collection of stories but I realised that the ‘What if’ would be the perfect place to start from. What if humans had evolved from lizards rather than mammals? What if the meteor impact that made the dinosaurs extinct carried a form of alien life which became humans? What if we are alone in the universe?

Now I appreciate that these ideas listed here float around a similar point but the possibilities are almost endless. I’m plonking away on a collection of ideas but I’m also reaching out to the world for other ideas.

Is there a ‘What if’ you’d like to see examined in a short story? Please comment if you have something you’d like to have me work with.

It could be amazing.

If Only!