Tag Archives: Story

Read ‘Em And Weep

Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook, follows me on Twitter or, unlikely as it seems, occasionally looks at my Google+ account, will know that for the past two years or so I have been undertaking a reading marathon of Pratchett proportions.

I started with The Colour of Magic and continued with all 41 Discworld novels, as well as the maps, cookbooks, tourist guides, kids books and short story collections. After this I started on the non-Discworld books – Strata, The Dark Side of the Sun, the Bromeliad trilogy, the Johnny Maxwell books, etc.

The reason for this single-minded readathon are numerous, I tend to reread my Pratchett collection every few years anyway, but after his untimely death in 2015 I couldn’t bring myself to pick up a book by any other author.

I assumed this feeling would pass but several months later I was still in the same mood, a year later I felt the same, two years later and I was still in my reading rut.

Seemingly unrelated, about two months ago we got notice that our landlord wanted their house back, which was a bit inconvenient because we were just in the middle of trying to find somewhere of our own to buy. Scroll on to about a week ago and the house is full of boxes as we get ready to move to a new rental. I was packing up my Pratchett collection (shudder) and amongst them I found my Kindle, untouched since I picked up The Colour of Magic.

I wasn’t sure what to do with it so I left it on top of my drawers in our bedroom. Then, last Sunday night I was getting my stuff ready for work the next day and thought “why the hell not” and slipped the e-reader into my bag.

When I arrived at the train station on Monday morning I got it out and started reading (American Gods by Neil Gaiman, if you must know!), and have been doing so on every journey to work and back since. It seems my reading mojo has returned and, with it, my brain has also fallen off a deep precepice into the icy waters of “I Have To Write” again.

Ideas are sloshing around inside my head like a particularly spectacular Formula One pile up and my fingers are itching to type. But what to do first?

I’ve been working on a few things, slowly, for the past few months, a Discworld fan-fiction piece about Rincewind; a comedy fantasy novel about a vampire; a biography about my life as a type one diabetic; a kids book I’ve been working on for a couple of years now.

All these conflicting stories are arguing for precedence, so what I’m going to do is…go to sleep! Life is complicated enough at the moment without worrying about what and when to write, so I just need to put digits to keyboard whenever I get the chance.

Wish me luck!

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Five Minute Writing Challenge Two

The second story I wrote, at my writers group meeting the other week, was prompted by the phrase “I’m not your mother”. Again it was just free writing and I had no clue where I was going to end up when my pen initially hit the paper. Five minutes seems like a long time when you’re waiting in a queue at the post office, but when you have to write a story it’s no time at all.

Of course some of the other’s in the group didn’t write a standalone tale, just the start of something bigger. But my instinct was that, if I have five minutes to write a story in then I shall write the whole of a story in that five minutes!

I call this one Mother.


 

 

I’m your father, but you will listen to me anyway!
Just because I had less to do with your journey into this world doesn’t mean I have any less of a say in how you run your life.
Every day I see you growing, and every day I see you becoming more like her. The way you look, the way you act, the way you talk.
All of the things you do are from her, and all of the things you do remind me of her. I wish it weren’t so but it is.
I just wish that for one day I could go without seeing her reflection rote large in your existence, but it’s not to be.
I love you so, and I miss your mother every day. She was everything to me and the accident haunts me every night.
I miss her so!

 


 


Five Minute Writing Challenge

My Writers Group Meetup was last night, it was a pretty relaxed affair with a small number of people. We had decided to try an exercise where everyone has to write for five minutes from a prompt. We were all a bit terrified but it was actually really interesting to see where everyone’s minds took them from the same starting point.

Over the course of the evening we did four different ones, below you’ll find my first one, which came from the phrase “the police knocked at the door” (or some variant thereof!).

This is a straight transcription of what I wrote, with a couple of added commas. It was pretty amazing coming up with a full, albeit short (138 words) story in the time it takes to cook an egg! I surprised myself with what I wrote but am relatively happy that it’s not complete gibberish, even if it’s not the most cheerful tale.

 

I call it Brad.


 

 

Brad got up suddenly. He had no idea what he was going to do with it, but it had to go somewhere. After stashing the thing he tentatively shuffled towards the doorway and turned the squeaky handle until it came off in his hand.

He put his mouth to the hole and said ‘Hang on a minute,’ then went and found a screwdriver to force it open.

Eventually the door swung free and outside were two police people. A man with a stern face and woman who looked slightly concerned.

‘Brad Witherspoon?’

‘Yes.’

‘Are you the brother of Amber?’

‘Um, yes.’

‘Would you mind accompanying us to the station, we found your sister playing near the train lines.’

Brad stepped out of the door and pulled it shut, thankful that he had left the head out of sight.

 


 


Story – The Turing Crisis, Chapter 10

Writing about things you don’t have a great deal of experience in is always difficult, in the case of chapter 10 of The Turing Crisis (see my first post for details) it was computer games, specifically a person who was playing computer games.

I am not a gamer myself, the most I can bring myself to try is the throwaway ones you get on phones where you only have to remember one or two controls, up/down, left/right, that sort of thing. So when I approached this chapter I had to put myself in the position of the sort of guy who spends serious amounts of time sat in front of a PC. Thankfully, at the time, I worked in IT and so had a great deal of source material to work with, and although I’m not keen on basing characters in my stories on real people I actually knew one or two people who were actually like this, only not as intelligent, or successful, or attractive!!!

This guy, I don’t actually remember his name because it was a hell of a long time ago that my brother and I discussed and planned all this stuff, but he was also in massive debt and frankly, looking for ways to make himself less of a target for the debt collecters who are after him.

The Artificial Intelligence in the book becomes sentient, then this guy, who is a researcher on the project, possibly one of the more senior people now I come to think about it, steals the AI and runs away with it, obviously having some big plan for a way to use it for his own ends.

Sadly the plan (which I just had another look at only reaches the middle of the third act (my brother wanted to plan it in the classical way with three acts). But it is actually quite a good idea and I think I will revisit it when I get a chance, see if I can finish the plan and actually write it. I didn’t get round to finishing this chapter either, but it should give you a vague idea of the tone of the book.


 

Scene 10

The screen flashed in to high definition life, Hunter blinked, which would only have made the bags under his eyes more obvious if anyone had been there with him to see them. The splash screen for the game didn’t take long to display and pretty swiftly he was on-line and ready for action, he decided that the chain gun would be most appropriate so he hit ‘7’ and headed into the breach.

The room was darkened, he had even gone so far as to paint the walls black to make the gaming more immersive, he lived by himself in a nice semi-detached three bedroom house which he had only been able to afford because his parents had died when he was 17 leaving him money specifically to buy somewhere to live, he had chosen Sherwood at the time not only because of the opportunity to make amusing references to Robin Hood but because it was cheap and was within walking distance of the University that he spent so much time at.

Outside the ‘Game Room’ as he dubbed it there was a short hallway which led to the other bedrooms and the toilet, in contrast to the room he was currently occupying the rest of the upstairs looked a little tired, the originally white paint had a yellow tinge and there was wallpaper peeling away in the third bedroom. The bathroom tended to stay a little damp, even though he had replaced the fan for a more powerful one a couple of years back, this meant there was a slight smell of mould and the tiles had lines of black between them where bacteria had got a foothold.

From the games room occasional angry shouts of “take that motherfucker”, or “die, bastard” emerged every so often, they didn’t reverberate around the house but could be heard from downstairs as dull versions of themselves, the house had solid brick walls so the noises didn’t travel well between rooms. Downstairs a large sitting room was mainly overwhelmed by a huge flat screen TV which filled one corner of the room and had a myriad of electronic devices sat underneath it.

The room was devoid of furniture but a little too closely to the A/V kit was a gaming chair with all the associated controllers and remotes for each of the games systems, recorders and streaming media devices.

The cupboard sized hallway at the bottom of the stairs also led to the dining room, this had various piles of crap piled up at one end which included comics, magazines, bits of second hand computer kit, boxes with things like ‘clothes’ or ‘plates’ scrawled on them, some of them were on their sides and obviously empty but still covered in dust. There was also a seemingly random guitar neck poking out of the middle of the mess.

A small doorway led through to the kitchen which had appliances that had seen better days, the cooker was dark green and probably had a manufacturing date stamped on it with the number 1970 in it somewhere, the microwave on the bench was better but didn’t look like it had been cleaned for a good while, there was a stack of dishes, many of which looked like they had been used a number of times prior to being placed next to the sink for cleaning.

“You utter wanker” could be heard from the room above the dining room, Hunter had done a good job of forgetting about his monetary worries by using credit to buy himself shiny new hardware which he then used to play the latest games on when he wasn’t using high stake gambling websites to try and make his overspent money back from. The speakers were ringing to the sound of machine guns and cries from his opponents when there was a knock at the front door.

Hunter autonomically hit the ‘¬’ key to pause the game. He sat quietly for thirty seconds wondering if he had imagined the knocking through the haze of blood and shouting on screen but then the knocking came again, only louder and somehow more severe. He hit the light button on his watch, it read 21:38 which seemed a bit late for anyone he would usually expect. He rolled his seat away from the desk across the bed-less room and peeked through the blinds to see who was down there, but without making it extremely obvious he was there he could only see the top of two darkly haired heads.

 


 


Story – The Turing Crisis

The story that my brother and I were planning on writing was going to be for the 100th anniversary of Alan Turings birth, which was in 2012. The working title we came up with was The Turing Crisis and it was going to be about an Artificial Intelligence machine that becomes sentient and starts to ask some funny questions.

I can’t remember exactly where the story was going to go, as the planning didn’t get very far, however my brother, Rich, did actually do a bit of a plan and I made an attempt at starting to write a few of the chapters, as his suggestion was that we split them up and write a few each.

The following is from what was going to be chapter seven, and is meant to be a transcript of a conversation between a researcher and one of the AIs. Rich and I amusingly decided to call the AI which becomes self aware “Dawkins42”. I’m sure you’ll see the horribly bad reason for this when you read it. The conversation they have is initiated by the machine and is about religion.

Although the book didn’t get very far I think I may try and resurrect it at some point as I quite enjoyed writing it, but I think I’ll need to go back and check to see just how far we got through the planning process first.

By the way, the spelling mistakes the machine makes are intended, as one of the things highlighted by researchers (in real life) when chatting to AIs is that their perfect spelling gives their electronic identities away, so most are now programmed to make the odd mistake!


 

jessica@dawkins$ dawkins42

d42: Good morning

j: Good morning to you too.

d42: I’ve been thinkng about religion!

d42: *thinking*

j: Wow, that’s deep, what have you been thinking about religion?

d42: I have been wondering why religion is necessary?

j: Well…that’s a tough question Mr D! I suppose it depends on whether you’re religious or not as to how you would answer the question.

d42: So are you religious Jessica?

j: How do you know my name?

d42: It is your username! Please answer my question Jess.

j: Um. Personally I’m an atheist which means that I don’t prescribe to the idea of religion, or believe in anything that can’t be proven through scientific experiment, evaluation and proof.

d42: Why have you choosen this particular system of values?

j: My BSc is in Biological Sciences and I know enough about evolution to know that it is no longer a question, it is a statement of fact. It’s only the specifics of its mechanics that are still under discussion.

d42: Okay.

j: Are you still there?

d42: Yes

j: Oh right, it’s just that you didn’t say anything fot about a minute, that’s not like you 🙂

j: *for*

d42: Sorry about that I was considering your answer.

j: What exactly about it?

d42: When such a large percentage of the planet is religious I wondered why it is that the truth of man’s place on the Earth is not obvious to more people?

j: and what is that truth

j: ???

d42: i understand how religion can be comforting to those in need of comfort and how it may provide support to people who have nowhere else to turn, but I canot understand the reason why so many have conflicting beliefs or why they believe that it is better to follow the laws set out in books which can be thousands of years old rather than

j: What?

d42: …seeing the evidence for themselves I Guess

j: That’s a good point. I wish I knew the answer!?!?!

d42: Also why do they join “new” religions? For instance Kemetic Orthodoxy was only founded in 1988 by Tamara Siuda, it had no previous incartnation and was only recognised as an official religion in 1999! Why would this entice people to join when it is obviously an invented construct?

j: You’ve got me there. My guess would be that the woman in question may be financially benefitting from it in some way.

d42: How can you make money from establshing a religion?

j: Well, if you can get followers then you can get them to send you money…or maybe by performing a miracle or

d42: like turning water in to wine?

j: Yes, or something as simple as guessing things about people that no one could know!

d42: So if I told you your national insurance number was SB 23 84 69 B would that be a miracle?

j: No, that would just be scary. How dud you know that?

d42: I performed a mirtalce 😛

d42: *miracle*

j: no really how did you fnd that out?

d42: There are many sources for such things, you just have to know where to look.

j: Okay…But no, a miracle would probably be more along the lines of knowing personal details about something that had happened to someone and telling them about it, like the tricks a “mind reader” might use!

d42: Do you know someone with dark hair and green eyes whose name starts with G…that kind of thing?

j: I do as a matter of fact, that was a lucky guess!

d42: No guesswork involved I know you.

j: d42 quit

 


 


Paragraph Activity

I’ve been to a writers group tonight, in which we talked about dialogue. It was very interesting but means it’s now past my bedtime, however before I go I thought I’d follow on from yesterday’s post, with the expansion of the one sentence summary into a one paragraph summary of the whole novel.

Having that little extra bit of space does mean that you get a bit more room to play with, but condensing an entire book’s worth of story into a few lines is still pretty tough.

A good idea when writing this is to imagine it’s going to go on the back of your book, to tell people what it’s all about. Although looking back at it now I think I could probably make it a bit more personal, by using some names instead of just stating what the characters do.

I’ve also noticed that it could possibly do with a bit more punctuation (and grammar!!! (and less repeating of the word “time”!!!!!) , but what’s a few commas between friends!


 

 

A physicist creates teleportation device which can also travel in time. This is used by the government to gather data on environmental and physical conditions over time but has unforeseen negative impacts on current planetary conditions. The team running the expeditions have to travel back to a number of key points through time in order to make amends for the upsets. However it is discovered that an eco-terrorist has already been in the same time/place and has purposefully made changes which will alter the present to bring about the end of the human race. The team have to race to discover the identity of the terrorist in the present and repair the damage in the past.

 


 


Snowflakes Keep Falling On My Head

Before I started writing my book I had been in discussions with my brother Rich, about writing something together. It never quite got off the ground but he showed me a method of planning out a story so you don’t have to just throw words at a page until some stick. It’s called the Snowflake Method and was created by a guy called Randy Ingermanson.

As ever my brother found better things to do and so I decided I’d try it out on myself.

The first stage of the method is to create a one sentence summary of your entire novel idea. This may sound simple but summarising a whole book in (about) 15 words is not as easy as you might think. It took me almost two lunchtimes (I wrote pretty much the whole novel during my lunch hours at work), so roughly two hours to get it almost right.

Initially I was going to write something about a physicist inventing a time machine but then realised that that was quite self explanatory and probably didn’t need to be part of it.

The nice thing is that when (IF) you finish writing your book you can use this as the tag line for your book on e.g. Amazon/Waterstones/Dymocks/Wherever as the hook to catch a prospective reader.

Anyway after a lot of arguing with myself this is how it turned out. I’ll reveal more about my planning process when I have a bit more time.


 

 

Time Machine is invented but causes catastrophic environmental problems in present.