Last night I did an evening of music and stories with Henry C Fuller at the Tea House, Liverpool. Henry was referred to as “the musician” and I was “the storyteller”; which made me feel like a Medieval minstrel who’d forgotten their lute. Sadly I can’t play the lute; then again I can’t pull off one of those silk caps either.
Henry didn’t have a lute either, but played his acoustic guitar in an unusual fingerpicking style that reminded me of listening to flamenco players in sunny Spain. This was a nice distraction from the icy blast of snow that was returning to Liverpool.
I read five of my flash fiction stories, from the very tiny to the slightly longer. I got a few laughs and a couple of tears and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Afterwards someone told me that all of my stories have a hook. This is a wonderful compliment and means that somehow I’ve solved the greatest problems that befall all writers. Phew!
I was also asked how someone might get started in writing, especially if they don’t have any specific story ideas. Firstly all writers need to read. I’ve been told by some writers that they don’t have time to read and they’d rather be writing. I’ve also heard some writers say that there are no books at all that they want to read.
On the surface the time thing makes sense. Writing does take up a lot of time and you need to be dedicated to it. But claiming that there isn’t a single book out of the millions that exist that you want to read doesn’t make sense at all.
Either way, reading is the most fundamentally important thing you can do if you want to write. If you are going to make words the thing you work with, you need to love, understand and study language in order to make it work for you. Think about what you enjoy about books and how the author has used language. Also, if you don’t enjoy a book, look at the way the author has used language and if that is reason for your dislike.
The most interesting plot in the world will fall flat if the language is failing it.
If you are already reading and need some help with inspiration, freewriting can be a really good way to uncover the ideas hiding in your subconscious. There are hundreds of freewriting prompts on the internet which are unusually in the form of a question or opening sentence. Set a timer for five minutes and either answer the question or write out the opening sentence. The idea is that you empty your mind and just write whatever comes out. When the time is up you can either continue if you want to or read through what you have and take ideas from it. It’s a technique I use a lot and many of my stories, including Tunnel Vision, have come out of freewriting.
Thanks very much again to the Tea House for having me and to everyone who came.
Please let me know if you were there and if you enjoyed the evening as much as I did.