Tuesday 23 November 2010

National Short Story Week

I, perhaps, should have written about this last week in preparation - after all, you don't tell people it's Christmas at half past two on 25th December!

National Short Story Week celebrates this underrated form of fiction - underrated purely because people still see it as less good, less literary, less important than a novel. I, of course, don't think short stories are any of those less things - I think they are wonderful. I love to be immersed in the bizarre, extraordinary snippets of life that short fiction allows. I love the fact they fit so snugly into a bus/tube commute, and the fact that you can be thrown into different worlds with the turn of a page.

I am a reasonably busy person, in as much as I am a mother, have a job, try to keep on top of the hoovering and like to write a bit... but when I read a novel, I cannot put it down until either my eyes are shutting of their own accord, or the book is finished. Short stories, therefore, fit so much more conveniently into my life.

And I also love to write short stories. They are my thing. I have never mastered the art of taking a theme/plot/idea and making it last 90,000 words. I'm only just starting to experiment with 20,000 word fiction, which is impossible to publish. When I write short stories, I don't have to explain anything; I can have a woman wake up in a deserted town without wondering why, I can have a man simply walking through a revolving door, and I can get inside the head of a nuisance phone caller. Longer fiction, to me, seems to require an explanation, and when I attempt that my words become mundane and dull.

People - by which I mean people who have the power - are starting to recognise the importance of short stories. The BBC National Short Story Award has a prize of £15,000; other more accessible awards have prizes of £5000 or so. This is good; this puts the short story higher up in the general consciousness and will hopefully mean that one day it'll be easier for short story writers to publish collections without feeling obliged/required to publish a novel first.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

A general chat

I haven't written here for a while - a) because I wanted as many people as possible to see the last post :-) and b) because I have nothing to say. I haven't even written any fiction recently either...

Although, that's not quite true. Actually, I'm in the middle of the thinking part of the writing process, which is where as I'm doing the washing up or hoovering a thought pops into my head and I write it down. I think some more, and the original thought mutates and gathers momentum until it becomes a fully functional idea. Currently, I have the setting (a modern building with a large garden), a first line and a feeling.

The feeling is not to be dismissed lightly, however - I had the same experience last year. Every time I heard a certain song - False Alarm by Cherry Ghost - I had the image of a woman floating in water, drowning. I don't think the song is about drowning people, in fact I'm not even sure I know the words. It was all about the haunting tune and the singer's voice. But - actually, that should be BUT - it unleashed a ghost story that I'm quite proud of. So I am happy with my feeling, and I am happy that I've completed another post. I will endeavour to have something to actually say next time!

Wednesday 10 November 2010

A small request

I have currently suspended my Facebook account, for a multitude of reasons, but I have discovered a problem... Traffic from my facebook page accounted for quite a lot of people looking at my blog... and now there's none!!!!

My small, rather cheeky, request is: please would you share this blog, using the Share It thingy on the right-hand side of this page, over there look ----->?

I am curious to see how my blog would be received by people who are not my friends. My original aim in starting this blog was to get my name out into the ether, to push my writing into a more professional place. It may or may not work, but I'd like - with your help - to give it a go!!!

And finally, for today, a big thank you to everyone who is continuing to read, and for saying such nice things about my ramblings and musings. And another big thank you to everyone who shares!

Saturday 6 November 2010

My book report

It is with some embarrassment that I confess that, at the age of 30-something, I have read my first foreign book - a translation (obviously, as I can't read or speak Japanese!) of After Dark by Haruki Murakami. And I enjoyed it very much - in fact, it makes an appearance on my list of Books I Wish I'd Written. It is very surreal, with a wonderfully rich language that just makes you want to keep on reading.

It takes place during a single night, starting at midnight and ending at dawn. The central character meets several people that she would not have otherwise met, sharing her story and hearing theirs in return. The language, the lush description, the sheer strangeness of the overall narrative meant I compulsively read through until the end... which is not so much an ending - the way an English teacher would advise an ending to be - more that, as dawn arrives, the spell is broken. Which is the kind of ending that I understand and respect - you close the book and really need to think about what you have just read.

The author isn't someone who's registered in my consciousness, although a glance at his list of novels reveals a couple that I recognise and am now interested to read - notably Kafka on the Shore, which I think I must have read a review of at some point.

I don't know how I've got to this point in my life without reading foreign authors. I feel as though I am lacking something fundamental, and I have the need to rectify this lapse immediately... Well, not immediately... it's half past nine on a Saturday evening...

Wednesday 3 November 2010

TV Adaptations

One of the books that I have always enjoyed is The Little House by Philippa Gregory, written before she went off on her historical bent. It's a psychological drama about a new mum and the relationship she has with her mother-in-law. Some of the scenes have stayed with me - hauntingly so - even though I haven't read it for a few years.

So, it was with some reservation that I discovered that ITV were dramatising it, and I have just watched the first part.

I have mixed views on adaptations. The BBC version of Pride and Prejudice is wonderful, mostly because they took the trouble to create it over five hours and the casting director did the most amazing job on each and every character. The Keira Knightly version is rubbish, misses out half the story and has appalling casting (including Keira Knightly as Lizzie - what were they thinking, apart from she'll sell??)

Mostly, I think there's a reason why a story is told in novel form - the author has chosen it as the best way to deliver their story, otherwise it would have been a screenplay, or stage play, from the start - each of these formats is a wildly different device. Adapting a book for TV or film means removing from the original idea. Although, I do admit that it means many people will become aware of a story they might otherwise never known about; not everyone enjoys reading.

Back to The Little House: it was not as bad as I imagined, although because it was written for ITV with advert breaks, there was an obvious need to have a mini cliff-hanger every 15 minutes or so; and it was difficult to get into the head of the main character Ruth, the poor new mum. Her husband was just as wimpy as in the book, however, so that was perfect. And Francesca Annis was very subtle and menacing as the mother-in-law. The book, as it has more time to tell the story, is much slower and has more layers; the build up is much more tense because of that.

I am looking forward to the second part, simply because I know how it ends, and I am curious to see if they will keep to the book or go off on some bizarre tangent the way some adaptations have done in the past.