Thanet Creative: Writers


Are your characters always you?

September 24, 2018 in over-to-you by Jason Latnar

Is your main character always an aspect of yourself – in other words, are your characters just youI’m not talking about Mary Sue characters – those are bad through and through. What about your characters that are well written – your decent characters – are they just you?

Basing your characters on real people can help to make interesting and well-rounded characters. Of course, you should use you as one of those people. I do that. I was reading back some old work and I noticed that all my characters were a little bit of me. Without meaning to I had written a series of main characters that were all white males with a similar background to me.

When Matt suggested I write a post for Thanet Creative, I was thinking about my writing. Is it just me that write me into every character?

  • Are all of your characters just you with different hats on?
  • If not how do you make your main characters not you?
  • Do you write about genders, races, and orientations other than your own?

Making each character different

That got me thinking about how I make my characters different to each other. (or is that from each other? I can never work that one out).

I like to give my characters a specific quirk, something that troubles them, and a shortcoming. But if I take them out of the setting and put them in another story they stop seeming so different.

  • Are your main characters unique?
  • How do you make your characters different and interesting?
  • What can writers do (especially us fan-fic writers) to make characters stand out?

Over to you, Thanet Creative: Readers…

Minimum Viable Story

August 28, 2018 in storytelling by Matthew Brown

I’d like to explore an idea with you – the idea of a minimum viable story. We often overcomplicate stories and run the risk of never finishing the story.

What is Minimum Viable Story?

In business one of the things we look for when creating a new product is what is the least we can produce to have a viable product. Minimum viable product is a watchword for getting to the end and the product out of the door.

What if we took that same idea and applied it to storytelling? What is the minimum viable story to tell the tale that you want to get out there?

The idea here is to simplify and ask yourself “what is the core story here?”

What does Minimum Viable story do?

  • Release your story to (beta) readers in the shortest time.
  • Reduce the time investment before you have something to share.
  • Test the demand for your story or setting – perhaps before planning a longer or more complicated series.
  • If a story is going to fail, let it fail quickly.
  • Gain valuable insight into what does and does not work.
  • Get feedback from readers that can play into a larger work.
  • Gather and enhance your reader base.

That’s not to say that you should release a crudely written story – it should be as polished as any other but it should be the least story possible that tell the tale. A minimum viable story is a tool for staying focused on the core o what matters in your writing.

Avoid story scope creep

There once was a person who lived in a setting and had a problem. They did some things and had some setbacks until they finally solved the problem. The end.

Everything that goes beyond that is decoration and flavour. If your flavour gets in the way of telling the core story, you have suffered too much story scope creep. Cut it back and find the minimum viable story – the core tale.

Scope creep is a mistake we writers can make where we expand the scope of the story over and over. Scope creep causes the whole thing to become a giant complicated thing that is no fun to write and less fun to read.

We can’t all be that writer that invents a realm like Middle Earth. Sometimes we just need to tell a story.

Minimum Viable Story can mean novel series

Just because you are shooting for a minimum viable story, doesn’t mean that every story must be a short one. Perhaps your minimum viable story is a series of novels. That is okay. If your story is big, tell a big story.

When it comes to writing short stories I try to pull back to as small a focus as possible. If that cannot be done, then you have a novella or bigger.

I have a “short story” that I have tried to write three times. It just does not work as a short. One day, I might rewrite it as a novella.

What is your take on using minimum viable story?

Over to you, get on in there with the comments and let me know what you think.

  • Is paring back to a minimum viable story the best approach for your storytelling?
  • Can staying strongly focused on your core story make for better storytelling?
  • Is this a technique or idea that is right for you?

Use the comments, give me your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.

end of story

Image credit: End Of Story by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

Questions: Surviving the apocalypse

August 16, 2018 in over-to-you by Matthew Brown

How would you go about surviving the apocalypse?

End of the world scenarios are a popular one for writers to explore. In the Thanet Creative: Writers (facebook group), we’ve been looking at the topic of how to go about surviving the apocalypse.

It all kicked off when I posted this request for ideas:

Any advice, writer to writer, for how you would go about surviving the apocalypse (or at least the complete collapse of civilisation following the death of most other people).

Questions for the end of the world

Food questions

One obvious question for long-term, post civilisation, survival is food. Getting it, keeping it, and eating it.

  • Where will you obtain food?
  • Can you grow your own?
  • How long will prepackaged foods last?
  • How and where would you store your food supplies?
  • What food technologies (drying, canning, preserving, etc.) do you need to salvage?

Security questions

Then comes the issue of security. If you survived then others probably will too. Without rule of law or any form of police or army, how do you stay safe?

  • Which buildings and locations would make for a good base of operations?
  • How would you power your home?
  • Heating – in the winter how will you heat your home?
  • What level of security would you need in this Mad Max world?
  • What size of location or building can a lone person or small group hope to defend?

Technology questions

Communication and asking for help could also be an issue.

  • How much of the Internet would survive?
  • Where can you find long-range radio transmitters?
  • What power sources are there?
  • Are there any low-tech solutions you could use?
  • What things that we rely on would we suddenly be without?

Health questions

Now that civilisation has fallen, how do you deal with health issues? Could simple things become deadly (like a bout of diarrhoea, for example).

  • How long do medicines last and what do you do when they run out?
  • What happens if you or a member of your group breaks a bone?
  • Will the sudden presence of a lot of bodies pose health risks?
  • How do you avoid disease?
  • Where can you learn medical and first aid skills after the end?

Other questions

  • Can you rebuild society?
  • What new dangers can you expect?
  • How can survivors develop trust with each other?
  • Will how the end came impact your choices for survival?
  • Is simply surviving the apocalypse enough?

Over to you

As writers, what advice would you share? Which questions do you feel you could answer and which questions should I have asked (but didn’t)?

In the comments (or with your own blog post if you like) please tell us how you would do surviving the apocalypse.

Thanet Creative’s first virtual meet-up

August 15, 2018 in events by Matthew Brown

Today, Thanet Creative held a virtual meet-up as a test for running critique and training sessions online. This is an after action report of our first virtual meet-up on jitsi.org.

How the virtual meet-up went

We used a platform called Jitsi which we chose due to the fact that all anyone needed to do was access a webpage. Jitsi is a set of open-source projects that allows you to easily build and deploy secure video conferencing solutions. It is a low latency peer-to-peer conferencing solution. Also, it is free.

After we took care of a few technical issues – making sure webcams were active and mics were all responding, things went pretty smoothly. Even when we added additional laptops to the conference, the platform never faltered.

We were able to share youtube videos, collaborate with a shared document, and share browser tabs.

Uses for Jitsi

Over the course of about an hour of playing about with the settings, we identified a number of potential use cases for future virtual meet-ups.

  • WordPress training
  • Livestream events
  • Virtual critique events
  • Writer chats
  • Collaborative writing

WordPress training

The screen sharing capabilities suggest that a virtual meet-up with Jitsi would be great for training.

This would be a training session presented by Matt (me) and Danny. While the session would have an overall theme – starting a blog, writing a post, posts vs pages, tagging, and embedding media – each session could be tailored to demonstrate answers to questions.

That is truly the power of the screen sharing feature. Not only can the session’s teachers talk you through what you are doing (if you share your screen) but they can show you how they do it too (if they share their screen).

Livestream events

Assuming that we can locate sufficiently interesting guests, it would be possible to use the platform to run a live streamed conference to our YouTube channel.

There are a few potential guests that suggest themselves. If you would like to be a guest, please get in touch.

Virtual critique events

One of the topics we explored (briefly) was adapting critique events for online use. Our “famous” model for critique events which we know other writer’s groups now use would have to change a little but it could be a good alternative for writers that cannot get out or who live a little too far away.

The most obvious way would be to pre-share written work in the days just prior to the feedback event. This would allow all participants a chance to read the work and form an opinion. Then, during the virtual meet-up, we could focus on offering feedback and discussing matters of technique that arise from the feedback.

Collaborative writing

I am not sure how or why exactly we would want to do this, but we could have a live shared writing session. That would certainly be a novel way to write a “writers explore” article for this blog.

This might be good for a brainstorming session. Who knows. The option is there…

What Jitsi cannot do

There are a few things Jitsi cannot do, none of which are a huge hurdle. Mostly because it would be unreasonable to expect Jitsi to do most of these things.

  • It can’t fix your PC.
  • Jitsi does not put the kettle on.
  • It will probably never make you look younger and more attractive than you actually are.
  • Becoming self-aware and take over the world – this is not likely to happen

What’s next?

After a very successful dry run, the next step is to hear from you to find out which event types appeal the most. We will be talking about Jitsi in our Facebook group. We will also be talking about which online events members of the group want to take part in.

I invite you to use these virtual event ideas for your own group. Please let us know how you get on with them.

For now, that is all there is to report. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or chat to us on Facebook.

Thanet Creative: Summer Barbeque

August 7, 2018 in events by Matthew Brown

Last year, Thanet Creative held a summer barbeque and invited all the other writing local writing groups to come and join us. This year, we’re doing it again.

The Thanet Creative summer barbeque is open to all members, anyone who has ever come to one of our events and anyone who has so much as thought about coming along. It is also open to all the members of all the other writing groups in the area. We would love to see you; you would all be very welcome.

The Thanet Creative: Summer Barbeque BBQ takes place on Bank Holiday Monday, this year. Full disclosure, the venue has two (very cute) puppies.

The event is a great opportunity to enjoy good food and fresh air while you mingle with other creatives and writers from in and around Thanet. There’s no charge for the event, we just want to show you a good time.

Come and join the writers from Thanet Creative for an afternoon (and evening) of great company with good friends.

More information is available on Facebook.

BBQ

 

 

 

 

 

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