Tick tock. Playing with time and tense

Creative writing

If you’ve been watching HBO’s phenomenal Watchmen, you’ll know the series transcends locations, timelines and even planets. What started off as relatively ‘okay, that’s interesting’ has turned into one of the best and most jawdropping pieces of television we have seen for years. Laurie’s reveal in episode three; Wade’s PTSD by giant squid in episode five; the incredible Nostalgia journey of Angela’s family tree in episode six; THAT reveal in episode seven; Doctor Manhattan’s ability to be everywhere at once in episode eight. It’s outstanding stuff.

The reason this works, leaving viewers sated but still hungry for more, is the quality of the storytelling. The writers and team behind it have put something very special together indeed. We feel satisfied when we watch it as another piece of the jigsaw comes together. Those squid falling out of the sky in episode one? We get the answer, going back to the 80s. What did happen in Vietnam? We find out in episodes seven and eight. Will we get any nods to the original source material by Alan Moore? Oh yes, we do, in abundance. It takes writers on the top of their game to give us this journey, this complete story, without resulting in at least some disappointment by viewers.

The show also takes risks. Many episodes are short stories within themselves, for example episode six of the Nostalgia trip, but fit into the wider Watchmen picture and overall season journey. They are perfection alone, and each one worthy of awards. Doctor Manhattan is a big gamble, but one which pays off. Jeremy Irons’ farting in a manor house full of clones and scooping babies out of a lake may not be to all tastes, but oh boy does it work. He’s having an absolute riot as an actor, and it fits perfectly into Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias journey as demonstrated as to why he’s stuck on a ‘country estate’ in episode eight.

In creative writing, we are taught that multiple timelines can be problematic. They can confuse the reader and be too ambitious if not executed properly. Structurally, you can’t embark on them lightly and they need care. This is why I’m tipping my hat to the talent, the tour de force, of what the Watchmen writers have pulled off. It’s a joy to behold for any storyteller.

Creator Damon Lindelof will not be bringing us a second season. That’s sad. However, if this is the end, Watchmen goes out on an absolute high. It couldn’t get any better. Who watches the Watchmen? We all should, as you’ll be missing out on a cracker – the finest – of storytelling.

Dystopian creative compost

Creative writing, Dystopia, Ideas, MA, Sounds, Strange

I’ve been away for a while. I wish I could say that I’ve spent the summer writing, but, alas, no. Life, innit. My MA Creative Writing course is now in full swing, so I really have to give myself a good kick up the bum. I’ve had lots of ideas, lots of thoughts, lots of story concepts flowing out of my exhausted brain onto my giant Trello board and I’m ready to go.

I’m moving away from short horror stories to ‘dystopian and strange’ short stories. I mean, there’s certainly no shortage of inspiration in our current climate. Many of you may be feeling, like me, anxious. The world seems to be going to pot, and we’ve got the unknowns of Brexit coming soon (maybe). My MA will be my cathartic outlet, my therapy, for addressing the state of the world. I’m not sure what will come out of me yet, and it may take me to some dark places, but I can’t wait to get there.

I’m also listening to ‘Ghosteen’ – a lot. WOW. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds will get us through this. What a beautiful piece of art; devastating, haunting and inspirational. I am sure it will be the soundtrack to my MA.

Playing the Game


So, now our Watch ‘is ended’. The Game has been played. And many fans are annoyed. REALLY annoyed.

Without spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it – and that’s probably my cat, and Tony my neighbour – the final episode of Game of Thrones did seem a little mehhhhhh. From a writing perspective, we’ve obviously come away from George R.R. Martin’s books. I am unsure as to what input he had on this season, and whether he gave ‘his’ ending away to the writers – anyone know? The problem I have with this series is that we’ve had characters built up for nothing and also behaving in really bizarre ways.

Surprises and shocks are, of course, natural in writing otherwise we’d be in a very dull space indeed. But what happened to many of the key characters in the final season of Game of Thrones really didn’t give them, or their stories, the ‘pay off’ that they deserved. Arya and Brienne did not need to lose their respective virginities, they’re dang strong, kick-ass women. Jaime was woefully used, floating around from here to there with multiple, confusing quests. Bran – WTF was he all about? And Daenerys, poor Daenerys, you deserved so much better. We know your fate was sealed from the beginning but you were dealt a cruel blow.

There was pay-off to cheer; Sansa; Tyrion; Arya; Davos, but our final season just wasn’t satisfying. We were promised so much, and the story arc was taken far, far away.

There was a glimpse of hope for me; Tyrion stating ‘Ask me again in 10 years’. Is that a tantalising Twin Peaks/Laura Palmer 25 years’ moment? We shall see…

Also, we need that Arya sequel. PLEASE.

The Sound of Silence (well, birds)

Authors, Birds, Books, Creative writing, Music, Nature, Sounds, Voice

What music or sounds do you write to? Twilight’s Stephenie Meyer credits Muse as a huge inspiration to her whilst she was writing her four-book saga, and Fiona Apple, The Clash, Sia and Queens of the Stone Age all feature on this list.

I personally prefer the sound of silence, with added chirp. I live in a village in Staffordshire, so bird song is my usual, natural soundtrack. I sometimes even get a tawny owl at night which is a rather lovely sound. I have to absorb myself in my story, the structure, the voices of my characters so to me, anything else is a distraction. And when it comes back to editing my work, it REALLY has to be quiet. As much as I’d love to catch up on my favourite artistes and new albums, I’d probably just block it out anyway. And I have a three year old…I write when she has gone to bed so I always have one ear out for her too.

Once again, it’s all about whatever works best for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. You may find you write best listening to Iron Maiden. Jazz. Classical. If you’re in a particular genre, plot or theme, your soundtrack may be your research; I’m sure Taylor Jenkins Reid’s recent triumph of Daisy Jones & The Six meant she was listening to some awesome Fleetwood Mac. Crank it up to eleven, or dial it down to a wood pigeon like me.

Learning to share

Creative writing, Critique, Friends, Voice

I used to be scared of sharing my creative writing. Why? There’s probably four reasons here; lack of confidence, fear of failure (criticism and people hating my writing), inexperience and a little arrogance.

On my MA course, I have rapidly learnt not to be scared of criticism and to go outside of my comfort zone by sharing my work. Our module group is extremely supportive and provides positive criticism on where my work is and isn’t working. For the ‘isn’t’ side, you can of course choose to take it onboard or to say ‘thanks very much’ but stick to your guns. It is after all your story, and you may feel passionately that your work should follow a particular direction. However, if a lot of people are picking up on the same things, it’s usually worth investigating and amending.

On a recent assignment, I decided to write a short story on an internet troll getting his comeuppance. It was a tricky and challenging piece of work where I had to undertake a lot of research into online trolling. I also had to get into the ‘head’ of 19-year-old male troll which, I’ll be honest, took a lot out of me. I had to explore areas that I found repulsive and very upsetting online. And then the New Zealand Mosque attacks happened and I didn’t want to continue. But I had an assignment due in and encouragement from my fellow students, and also a big hole in the ending where many of them were commenting on it ‘just didn’t work’ for them.

In my original drafts, the protagonist narrated his own story but died at the end. Many students didn’t like this aspect and felt it was a little bit of a cop out. I felt strongly that the main character should get his comeuppance as his behaviour and trolling was so heinous, so I decided to instead commit him to an online ‘purgatory’; he became part of the internet, buzzing, static, overwhelmed by cat videos, shouting and pornography, unable to escape, completely powerless. This was a much stronger end, rather than just killing him. My inspiration here was the latest season of American Gods with the digital new Gods. Except this character isn’t a God, he just gets sucked in and stuck there forever.

I no longer fear criticism. It has grown me as a writer. I actively encourage feedback, and often send my work to my friends now to read. I ask them first! I am lucky to have two – three close friends who I know will be honest critics. One friend simply said to me the other day ‘Keep going’ and that means the world to me.

About Me

Authors, Books, Cooking, Creative writing, Family, Films, Horror, Ideas, MA, Open University, Parents, Pets, Staffordshire, Travel, Voice, Yoga

I’m currently studying a MA in Creative Writing at the Open University, a course I am finding very challenging but it is motivating me to progress with my passion. It has taken me to surprising places and has also made me delve into some uncomfortable territory, writing in different voices I have never encountered before. I have started this blog as I want to share my writing, but also to use this as a forum to discuss the art of creative writing, what books we’re all currently reading and author inspirations.

I’m a Mum of one human and many animals, I’m always rescuing stray pets! I live in the countryside in Staffordshire and it is my peace and calm. I also enjoy yoga, cooking, travelling, films (I lean towards horror and independents) and family time of course.

Where do your story ideas come from?

Creative writing, Family, Ideas, MA, Open University, Parents, Syd Field, Three Act Structure

Where do your story ideas come from?

The more I write, the more ideas come to me. I find them everywhere, from news I hear, from magazine articles, from conversations I earwig on, through to just those things that strike me at 3am in the morning.

Inspiration is all around us, we just have to take note and listen to ourselves.

I lost my writing mojo for a long time, probably around eight years. This is also the time I met my future husband and our first child came into our lives. I always felt ‘guilty’ for leaving the writing behind. But it never left me. It was always there and I picked it back up when I was on maternity leave, enrolling in the MA Creative Writing course with the Open University. I’m now back into the thick of it and finding ideas are coming at me thick and fast.

I usually get a spark. I have a physical ideas book that I usually scribble one or two lines into. Some examples of recent entries:

  • Naturism
  • Chef – you’re on the menu
  • Room service – ghost? killer? maid? They have seen things
  • Lifetime supply of something.
  • Run – how do you know when to run?
  • Pregnant overnight
  • The clinic – flu vac clinic but it’s actually killing people
  • Telephone calls from the dead

Revisiting these ideas, where did they come from? Naturism, I have no recollection. A chef who serves people up on the menu is an idea I’ve had for years. Room service ghost etc… – perhaps American Horror Story. Lifetime supply of something – magazine article. Running – I had an idea about when to run away from something, but again I don’t know what sparked it. Pregnant overnight – this is the subject of my second tutor marked assignment. The clinic – a visit to the flu vac clinic. Telephone calls from the dead – my friend is a parapsychologist who is a researcher on this subject.

So, it’s all around us. Write down your ideas. Look back at them. I work in Syd Field’s three act structure so I always look for three ‘Acts’, or beginning, middle and conclusion. Can my idea be developed into something like this? The potential is usually there. It’s up to me to shape it.