Comic Books

As a kid and a teenager I was never into comic books.

It wasn’t until I was at university that I bought my first comic book.

It wasn’t entirely on a whim because I’d looked at it in the bookshop about five times beforehand (As much as I love to look, I tend to consider what I’m buying very carefully because I have limited space on my bookshelves).

I was already a bit of a fan of Deadpool. I like anti-heroes because they’re complex characters and they’re motivations are interesting. Previously, I’d read things online and I was drawn to the Marvel Universe because of what I already knew, but I’d never read a complete storyline before.

For my first comic, it was probably about 3-4 years ago when I bought ‘Deadpool Volume 5: Wedding of Deadpool’ – I went back and bought the first four later – and I remember reading the whole story the day that I bought it. I liked the style of the artwork and the story was funny with an interesting plot. It wasn’t difficult to read at all (even though I was missing some plot details from the earlier editions) and I was 100% right about being interested in the character of Deadpool.

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Now, I can name a lot more of the characters on the cover than when I first bought it but that wasn’t intentional. I simply bought the comic because it was the most interesting book I’d seen at the time.

I ended up buying all of the Deadpool comics in that particular series. Buying them all was interesting because I’d caught up before the final edition of the series was released and I was genuinely excited to read the finale of the story arc. It was the same sort of feeling to waiting for a new novel to be released by a favourite author but I knew that I’d finish the comic quickly. Reading a comic for the first time is a fleeting experience but knowing that didn’t really change my excitement in waiting for ‘Deadpool Volume 8: All Good Things’. I just had to make the most of that first read-through.

The majority of comics that I now own feature Deadpool but ‘Hawkeye – Volume 1: My Life As A Weapon’ was a birthday present that I was thrilled with. I love how crazy things just seem to happen around Clint Barton and there was a lot of drama as well as action packed in. I liked the pace of the Hawkeye comic that kept me flipping the pages without pause.

Hawkeye Volume 1 My Life As A Weapon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After this, I felt lucky when I found the comic Hawkeye VS Deadpool because it was definitely a combination of two of my Marvel characters in a storyline that was just so very them. It was complete chaos, of course, but it was a brilliant collaboration at the same time.

Hawkeye VS Deadpool

Branching out after my first few Deadpool comics was varied and I really didn’t have a research process or anything when I was deciding what was going to come home with me.

When it came to the ‘Loki: Agent of Asgard’ trilogy I just knew I had to have it after picking up the first one as I was browsing the shelf. I wanted to know the story, how Loki had reached the point that he was at and why, from the very first page as I glanced in it while I was in the shop.

Any details I didn’t know from other series that impacted on Loki’s story I just had to pick up from what I was reading in that particular short comic series. Like Deadpool, I find Loki an interesting character. With his many incarnations and complicated story lines he’s a character with a lot of depth. I like the amount of conflict packed into the pages where he’s featured.

Loki Agent of Asgard

The last comic I bought was ‘The Unbelievable Gwenpool Volume 1: Believe It’ which was a bit different despite it’s definite Marvel vibe but, I suppose that’s to be expected when characters are crossing dimensional boundaries. This comic was quite the wild ride. I must admit that I liked the parts featuring Dr Stephen Strange who I’m used to popping in and out of stories that I’ve read, since that I’ve not read any comics strictly centred around him yet.

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I do admit that I’m partial to the Marvel Universe whereas my sister is more likely to buy D.C. Comics. She likes the Harley Quinn comics and temporary swapping between us isn’t out of the question because we’re not totally opposed to the other franchise but it doesn’t happen a lot. Really, we’re more likely to chat about them than read them separately.

I try to restrain myself when buying comics because I really, really do not have the space for a lot of them but there are still editions that I want. ‘Deadpool: Dracula’s gauntlet’ is definitely one of them because I’d love to get the full story of how he met Shiklah in the first place. ‘Star Wars: Poe Dameron Volume 1 Black Squadron is another which would be my first Star Wars comic.

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A small section of my bookshelf. Little Lego Deadpool was a gift from my best friend 🙂

 

 

Story Cubes

At Christmas in 2015 one of my presents was a set of Rory’s Story Cubes.

At that point I had looked at them before in the shop as a tool for creative writing but I’d never used them or bought them myself.

You can check out the full story of the cubes and how else they can be used on their very colourful website if you wish, https://www.storycubes.com/

My pack of nine cubes show 54 pictures that relate to ‘voyages’ which was a pretty good choice for me. I must admit that I love the small, and portable, box that the cubes come in.

What is slightly less positive for me to admit is that I haven’t actually used them until today. I wanted to use them but they got put on the shelf and I just didn’t pick them up again. So, I figured that my blog was a great opportunity for me to give them a go and start a story from scratch using them. The idea is that you roll all nine dice and the picture you see first is what you should start to write about.

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The part that took the longest might’ve been coming up with a character name before I’d even started rolling the dice. It’s been longer than I thought since I started with a name for a character rather than a personality trait or an opening line.

I’m going to use nine of the dice to write part of a new story because you get nine in the set so I thought that it was a good starting number. Once I’d settled on the details of Morgan Swift who is female I turned to the dice and told a story.

_____ _____ _____ _____

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There were great ships, but none were more feared than the October.

There were also ships that didn’t quite reached these lofty heights and Morgan belonged to a crew of unknown repute.

The Kipper (an unfortunate spelling mistake as it was supposed to be The Ripper and it was not noticed until it had been seen by many. The name stuck) was no small ship but as a fairly new crew they were scrambling for recognition.

That afternoon, Morgan would’ve settled for a decent meal and the repair of the flag before they set sail once again as an unfortunate tear made it look as if their skeleton had lost it’s head.

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The rest of the crew weren’t really in higher spirits but as the captain stepped out onto the deck they scurried to their stations and their duties without a murmur when they saw her scowl.

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The engine had been fixed but being stuck in any Sky Port in the North was no one’s idea of a good time. Certain parts of land and sea could provide a fruitful payday if you knew where to look and you could withstand the frigid weather but the Sky Ports were always filled with people who wanted to be somewhere else.

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Fitting the telescoped to her eye, Morgan watched from a distance as the Authorities swarmed the ports. As usual they’d left just in time to avoid trouble.

Regardless of whether the trouble was their fault or not, the captain’s mood would not be improved. No one who was voted a pirate captain could avoid attention for very long but their captain seemed to be particularly put out that she’s not yet found her way into the spotlight.

She turned away from the port and the captain caught her eye. Time for a word with the boss.

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After an eventful conversation with the captain, Morgan made her way below deck. The engine room was only occupied by one crew member which was pretty typical for the Kipper. Tori was inspecting every little corner in another check to make sure that the engineers of the Sky Port hadn’t touched anything she’d not wanted them to.

The engine room had been Tori’s domain for five long years and she was still unhappy that she’d not been able to do the repairs herself.

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Nobody would’ve previously guessed that a snake could’ve some so much damage.

They’d never seen Tori so violent before.

The captain hadn’t yet told Kit what had happened to his pet.

They were all hoping for a distractions before that conversation became necessary and Morgan was sure that any future pets wouldn’t be given the full run of the ship again.

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Now that they’d set sail once again most of the crew were, obviously, hoping to go after treasure. Shiny trinkets were a classic commodity but Morgan (and Tori) were just happy to be sailing again.

Plus, the lengthy stopover in a port where everyone was eager to finish their business as soon as possible meant that the merchants were happy to sell everything and anything that they could get their hands on. Decent meals were definitely in their near future for a while.

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Once Tori noticed that Morgan was watching her she held up a slightly tattered magazine excitedly, “Have you seen this? They’re building ships which can sail underwater.”

“Why would you want to sail underwater?”

“Because we can! Imagine all of the shipwrecks from centuries ago which were full of gold.”

The thought of buried treasure wasn’t totally unappealing.

“How would you get the treasure to the surface?”

“They’ll figure something out and then…”

“We’ll steal it?”

Tori glared but she didn’t exactly disagree. She’d managed to persuade an old friend to let her borrow a couple of pieces of ship that were supposedly designed to last underwater and if her own experiments didn’t work then she knew that stealing it was an option.

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Tori gestured to the map pinned against the wall, “So, where are we going?”

“Captain wants us to turn south. She’s not keen on the weather here. She told me to point out the open invitation to…”

Tori pulled a knife from her belt and tossed it at the southern hemisphere, “We’re going that way. The captain’s reunion can wait.”

Morgan sighed, “Fine, but you can tell her. I’m more involved than I want to be as it is.”

Smirking, Tori turned back to her instruments, “Shouldn’t have saved her life then.”

_____ _____ _____ _____

That was kind of fun. My mind immediately jumped to airships when I saw the cogs so the jump to a high fantasy genre was slightly unexpected but it was an interesting challenge.

It wasn’t necessarily easy to write using the dice. I had to stop and really think a couple of times as to what I was going to write next, but overall I liked the exercise.

 

 

A little while ago Cara, who wrote a great guest blog post for me: Patronus VS Spirit Animal invited me to return the favour by taking part in one of her video blogs. We chatted for quite a while about the Harry Potter movies and she posted the video yesterday on YouTube Pottercast: What The Films Did Better Than The Books.

For my first experience in video blogging I thought that it was great. We had a great topic and it was a lot of fun. I’m glad that Cara asked me to be a guest.

More than one way to tell a story.

There are a lot of different ways to tell a story.

If you’re lucky to have a talent then your creativity needn’t be limited to just one format. Personally, I might love the written word but I’ve spent more time lately crafting cards (a hobby shared by my mother and my sister so it’s nice for us to craft together), I’ve got a box frame just waiting to be painted and I like to cross-stitch.

A lot of the people I know have several creative pursuits other than writing – one friend began to learn how to knit which is a skill I haven’t managed to get the hang of, another friend crochets and I have a friend who does some beautiful glass engraving (You can see some of her work on her own blog here kateelizabethfrenchblog.wordpress.com).

I like to throw myself into projects and there are a lot of creative ways to channel that impulse but, sometimes, I don’t set out with the idea of ‘I’m going to create this’. Sometimes, like last Friday, I can be sat in front of the television and I will just start doodling in the margins of a page with my pen. Then, a story might emerge and I might do something with it or I might share it or I leave the idea to stew for a bit (It’s the ideas that have been stewing for years where I need to turn up the heat).

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Kieran, Jeff, Bob and Hattie are drawn at the side. Kieran is also watching Bob’s kite fly away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love stories and it doesn’t take a lengthy novel for a narrative to be worth telling.

I think that art is a great medium for storytelling, particularly because it is so incredibly varied.

Shortly after I started university my sister recommended a particular webcomic to me. It was more her sort of thing than mine but I started reading it and I found it funny, then interesting and I suppose that it didn’t really take me to long to get a little bit hooked. For a weekly four-panel piece of art and short speech the story that began to unfold was, though I didn’t realise it at first, exactly what I needed and wanted to be reading at the time.

I like the overall story but I also have my favourite sections. One of these is Chapter 12. It’s almost a side-story, a tale which one of the main character’s Lillian tells to her roommates, Roomie, Richard and Ramona.

Lillian tells the story of the ‘Knight in Furs’ and the artwork alone is completely gorgeous. The story begins at the start of Chapter 12 and if you’d like to merely read through from there then I think that is great. The characters have a little break during the story so, if you’d just like to read the ‘Knight in Furs’ story then you should read from the first link to the page titled The Voice Echoed  before picking up the story again here at Light The Way and finishing with The Beginning. I promise that the story is worth reading and it’s such a beautiful format.

The character Lillian states that it’s a story she read with a few twists of her own and that comic led me to reading the original story myself.

The original story The Knight in Rusty Armour by Robert Fisher can be read, totally for free and it’s a light-hearted story that contains some pretty deep-meaning truths. The tale itself is rather charming for a short story and I love it for its honesty.

I’m making this recommendation today for a few reasons.

Firstly, this month is #pridemonth and GGAR is the first inclusive, LGBT+ webcomic that I personally fell in love with.

Secondly, I was going through my documents on the computer and found the PDF for The Knight in Rusty Armour which, I believe, I have saved to most of my electronic devices.

I hope, if you’re compelled to read Chloé C’s artistic version or Robert Fisher’s story that you enjoy them or that you at least find them interesting.

Writing prompts

When it comes to kick starting the writing process I know plenty of people who like to use writing prompts.

There are a lot of different ways to find prompts – short ideas designed to give you a starting point. There are accounts on Tumblr that frequently post short or long writing prompts and I’ve done group exercises before when one person makes a suggestion on each turn so that we can all write our own version of a story using the prompt. Obviously this is only a couple of examples of how you can get started with finding your own writing prompts.

Beginning a piece of writing isn’t the same for everyone of course. In our own online writing group there are people who love writing prompts and other writers who don’t like that method of writing.

If a writing prompt catches my eye then I’m usually happy to write at least a little bit on the subject. Sometimes it’s about keeping in practice and at other times it is just because an idea was too good to resist. For example, I was scrolling through Tumblr the other day when I saw this as a writing prompt, ‘Do you want to live forever?’ and I started writing a short piece immediately:

Do you want to live forever?

It was idle curiosity that made me pick up the leaflet. You know what its like. Sitting in the waiting room of the local doctors surgery is hardly the most interesting thing that you’re ever going to do. There’s reading material everywhere. Even if most of it’s not particularly interesting your eyes still tend to wander.

It honestly didn’t look like much but, I was bored enough to pick up the purple and yellow leaflet. Sickly yellow and purple, by the way, is not a colour scheme I would recommend. All that was written on the front was ‘Do you want to live forever?’

I don’t know what I expected. Whatever it was, it wasn’t what I got.

If I ever find out who it was that actually left that leaflet in that waiting room – we’re going to have words. Strong ones.

 

It might not be much but, I like the intrigue. If I wanted to write more, using what I’ve got then I figure that expanding on what I already have would make an interesting piece. Writing prompts can be pretty subjective but they can also lead to great flash fiction pieces or they can lead you on to a much bigger idea if you’re lucky.

A fellow writer posted this prompt to our writing group the other day and I think that it’s an interesting one to write for if you’re looking for a prompt at the moment.

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Writing prompts don’t completely take away my desire to have a really good session of brainstorming with like-minded people. I love the process of throwing out ideas and seeing if anything sticks but, writing a short piece just because I liked what I read is good for passing the time and for testing my own writing limits because there’s not really any boundaries once you’ve jumped from the initial idea.

…Worth a thousand words

We were pretty lucky with the weather today. It was dry, bright and warm.

So, I borrowed a camera and went outside.

I’m no professional photographer by any means but I think that spring is a great time to take photographs.

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First rose in the garden. 24/05/2017

There’s a small green space in front of the house with two big trees and I liked the way that the light was coming through the branches.

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As soon as you step outside of the door you can smell the clematis that grows along the fences of our neighbours’ gardens. It’s almost a sweet, honey-like smell.

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My next-door neighbour has some lovely potted plants including aquilegia, also known as ‘grannies bonnet’.

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We also have aquilegia in our garden but in different colours.

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As well as the two big trees that have been in front of our house since before I was born, there is another younger horse chestnut tree and I love the pattern on the leaves.

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There are a lot of daises.

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After spending some time outside in the front garden I had a look in the back and managed to photograph what I think is a young great tit bird who wasn’t co-operative enough to let me capture much more than it’s head or tail.

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It was really nice to do something a little bit different today and to spend some time outside.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Niche Market Publishing

On Friday night I submitted a story to Spectral Visions Press for one of their new publications. As some of you will already know, I’ve been both a writer and a volunteer employee for the Press before.

That didn’t exactly mean that writing and submitting this story was any easier. I have about ten different versions of the same story saved in various places, and a couple written down on paper, because having a good idea doesn’t always mean that the story itself is easy to write. Initially, I started with a vague idea about the style – something a little bit different to how I usually write my short stories – and an opening line. The opening line, for once, was actually the easiest part of this process. Both of these things I kept but the details of the overall story changed, as I’m sure you can tell from the ‘ten different versions’.

Spectral Visions Press is a niche market publisher based in the North East of England, specifically Sunderland, Tyne and Wear. It’s affiliated with Sunderland University, particularly the English department who have the closest relationship with the press, and that’s how I learned about it and came to work for them.

Beginning with a conference in 2011 at Sunderland University that explored the influence of Gothic and using the momentum to eventually launch a new publishing house in 2014, Spectral Visions Press primarily employs volunteers made up of university students at various levels of study. Their first anthology was called Spectral Visions: The Collection and was released in the first year that the Press was launched. They have a WordPress blog at this link: spectralvisions.wordpress.com

 

Me? I was in a genre fiction class, near the beginning of my third and last year of undergraduate study in English and Creative Writing, when one of the professor’s and a founder of Spectral Visions Press, Dr Alison Younger, mentioned that they were going to be doing a project based on the tarot. I definitely perked up when she said that judging by the quick way that she asked me if I was interested. Initially, I assumed that I’d just be submitting to such a publication but my contribution didn’t end there. I already knew I liked project work but this was beyond the experience I’d expected to gain in the beginning.

Previously, after hearing about Spectral Visions Press from my first year studying there, I’d edited a couple of pieces for the Press but I’d not been heavily involved. My third year at university, well, I figured that I shouldn’t waste a moment and I had a great year. The extra responsibility of the tarot project was welcome.

Niche market publishing means that you’re publishing for a specific audience. Generally, most of your target audience will have already heard of you and they will have an interest in the product that you’re offering. Despite an expected smaller audience than a mainstream publisher I find niche marketing a lot of fun but I did have a pretty rounded experience during the course of my project so maybe that’s just me.

Spectral Visions Press has a specialised interest in Gothic literature through publishing original stories as well as academic texts, but they welcome submissions from more than just Sunderland University students. The Spectral Visions Press Tarot Collection showcases works from published authors around the world, university staff and students as well as members of the public with an interest in writing and the project.

So, for the story I submitted this year the brief was that it was for a new collection with the description, Bestiary of Monsters. I really do not remember being given any other guidelines. Basically it’s a big book of monsters, or as Wikipedia puts it: A bestiary, or bestiarum vocabulum, is a compendium of beasts. It was fun to write something along the lines of a specific theme.

I knew that they were looking for short stories, at least, about legendary/mythological creatures and I will tell you that I changed my mind several times about what monster I was going to write about. I find mythology interesting. It was fun trying out my idea in different ways but, in the end I did make a choice (although it’s tempting to write follow on stories from what I submitted featuring other monsters) and I emailed my story to the Press on the day of the deadline. That’s something that I wouldn’t always recommend doing – sometimes earlier is better – but sometimes I get trapped in the thought of ‘I have to get this right’. On the other hand, I am much happier with the version I sent in rather than any of the previous ones.

Mental Health Awareness Week

Quiet Minds

Good days are hours, minutes, seconds
of smiles which can be fleeting like the
bubbles in a glass that never pop twice.
If a smile should last longer then it is to
be seen, treasured for it’s honesty and
loved for it’s existence. Is a rare smile
more sincere than it’s frequent cousin?

Moments can only be moments when
time is assigned meaning and our hearts
are mapped only in chronological order.
A path is only the right road if you are
aiming for the end of a journey so why
should the wanderers, the path makers
and finders, be afraid of being lost?

Bad days are like weeks, months, years
while you kick and push to keep your
head above the water which is made up
of inky black shadows that are opposed
to you and what you do not understand.
Can you be alone when the shadows
are clouding your eyes and calling?

Waiting, always, is change for the good
or the bad as we try to find our feet. To
step on or off the road as we will. The
sound of an endless ocean, swept along
with the breeze and the salt-slick water
nibbling at bare toes below lush grass
that tickles, and seeks a rare smile.

This week is #mentalhealthawarenessweek
Whatever you feel and whatever you’re doing, please try to stay safe.

Why I read

When I was deciding what to write for today’s blog post I saw that an author who I follow on Facebook, Katie MacAlister, posted to say that it is HarperCollins Publishers 200th anniversary which is impressive to say the least. They asked a whole lot of authors about why they read and here’s the link cause the answers are great: http://200.hc.com/why-i-read/

They’re also asking the public to join in on the hashtags #whyiread and #hc200 @HarperCollins so I thought that I’d give it a go and try to put into words why I read.

I’ve talked a little bit about this before. When I was a kid my parents were always reading to me and the stories ranged from the Famous Five series by Enid Blyton to The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. (I wonder where my love of fantasy and adventure stories came from? 😉 :p ) If there was a specific book that really made me fall in love with reading, well, I don’t remember it but, I was always surrounded by people who liked to read. When I was small I had this big book which was full of fairytales like Rapunzel and poetry such as The Owl And The Pussycat by Edward Lear and I remember being read to from that a lot. That might’ve actually been one of the first books I started to read by myself.

At school it was pretty cool to be at a high reading level – the books always got more interesting at a higher level. Even my mum tells me that I just always seemed to be surrounded by books. I remember going to the local library a lot during the summer holidays and it was always nice when they did reading challenges because you got stickers as prizes.

At some point when I was a teenager, reading became a way for me to ignore reality for a while. It was practically a form of mediation or maybe it was escapism as I could sit for hours without being disturbed. There are worse things than being the girl who always has her nose in a book.

Now, it’s changed a little again. I still have little situational awareness when I’m really focusing on reading as I’ll happily lose myself in a story but, I don’t use it as a retreat so much anymore. Now, I read because I like to be reminded of all of the stories that haven’t been told yet.

Each story has the potential to show you something new and that constant feeling of discovery is a great reason to keep coming back to the bookshelf.

 

 

Speaking of publishers, today I was also reminded that a year ago I was talking about my project for Spectral Visions Press with my team at the Teaching and Learning Conference being held at Sunderland University. We were still working on the book at the time but the ‘Spectral Visions Press Tarot Collection’ was nearing its final stages. It was definitely a positive experience in public speaking and it was nice to be reminded today that I did that. Volunteering for Spectral Visions Press was such a positive experience overall.

As for my writing, April CampNaNoWriMo finished on Sunday and unfortunately I didn’t reach my target word count but I did write 8,000 words and I was pretty pleased with what I wrote so I’m okay with that. Sometimes it’s more about the quality than the quantity and April was a bit of an odd month.

Being Original

It is not unusual for me to worry about the originality of my ideas.

It’s kind of a strange worry because publishing houses actually like it when a story can be marketed as “if you liked this you’ll love…” but every writer wants to be offering something new. If all author’s merely copied what had come before then there wouldn’t be much of a publishing industry in the first place.

When I was at university we learned about various famous definitions throughout history of what made up a story, everything from Aristotle to Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots, but thinking about stories and writing which fit into ‘models’ can be a little disheartening when you are attempting to write something that is yours. It does, however, come in handy when you’re writing about the structure of fiction in an academic essay.

I also did an entire semester learning about genre fiction: recognising stories by the ‘type’ of fiction that they are. Again, a method used heavily in marketing. (Don’t get me wrong, that class was SO much fun and interesting – I loved the creativity involved in our assignments. I’m still happy about my steampunk short story.)

Every writer that I know has the same kind of worries that I do about originality. Nobody wants to put hours and hours of work into something, only to be told in the end that it wasn’t as innovative as they hoped.

Getting caught up in this worry stops me from writing sometimes. It’s a flaw I’m trying hard to work on because I love to write and I don’t want to let my anxiety get in the way.

Coming up with new ideas for a story is a big part of the fun for me because I adore the start of the process. Discussing new ideas was one of the best parts of my university classes, especially because my classmates were just as interested as I was. I had some of my best experiences with this type of brainstorming during my classes on The Playwright’s Craft.

Getting the balance between comfortingly familiar and excitingly new is a talent all in itself but it’s not the most important part of writing to me (even if my worries make this factor stand out sometimes). A lot of people/sites say that writing is the important part of writing but, I don’t think it’s that either. Personally, I believe that the ideas are the important part of writing. It’s the beginning. If you have an idea that you want to put into words then you’ve already started to think like a writer.

Refinement can come next or later.

Yet, if you’re worried about the originality of your story, it’s not just the idea that you should be focusing on. Everything from the narrator’s voice to unique chapter titles can identify your story as something original. So, if you try to remember that your story is inventive then I’ll try to do the same.

 

Following on from last week’s post, if you are starting out and you want to write about the basics of heroes and villains there is this great TED talk on YouTube about the pattern of the heroes’ journey: What Makes A Hero?

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