Thursday, 25 February 2016

Bea-ing Yellow

It’s such a beautiful colour, isn’t it? It’s reminiscent of spring: daffodils, crocus, primroses.

I find it strange therefore that the colour has negative connotations. A yellow-belly is a cowardly person. A hospital in quarantine would fly a yellow flag. For many years there was a xenophobic fear of eastern races labelled the yellow peril. Someone with a yellow streak has a tendency to dastardly behaviour.

An older meaning, and not one I recognised, was that yellow can mean sensational. A yellow-back was a cheap, sensational novel common in the 19th century.

Yellow press meant newspapers abounding in exaggerated and sensational articles. I can think of many magazines today which fit that description, albeit not many of them use the colour yellow as part of their branding. I’ve recently taken out a subscription with Readly which provides access online to hundreds of different publications. Some are highly sensationalised, others not so.

They may not all be magazines I would choose to read but a little research reveals many will pay for readers’ letters, photographs and helpful hints. So on the days when I find it difficult to focus on longer pieces of writing, I intend to send in my contributions. I may even win some prizes for doing so. Now wouldn’t that be sensational!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Bea-ing Xenial

Xenial means being hospitable, especially to strangers. Which is exactly how I find the writing fraternity to be.

It is often observed that writing is a lonely occupation. It is not a group experience. Even if we choose to write surrounded by other people, such as in a coffee bar, we nevertheless must exclude from our consciousness the world around us and focus only on the words we are writing.

In a normal office environment people pass by one’s desk, and there is a staff room or canteen to share coffee and chat. As writers in our metaphorical lonely garrets we do not have the benefit of that interaction.

Which is what is so great about social media. On both Twitter and Facebook I meet fellow writers who form a welcoming, supportive, informative and fun group. Facebook is my lunch hour chat; Twitter is my coffee break; #writingchat 8-9pm each Wednesday night is my weekly after-work social.

So today, I wanted to say hello to my writing buddies in the virtual staff room. Even though we’ve never met, thanks for being xenial.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Bea-ing Wicked

Most of what I write is intended for the women’s magazine market. Generally those stories are warm and uplifting. They are ‘nice’ stories, intended to make the reader feel better for having read them. Even the murder stories they publish are classified as ‘cosy crime’.

In contrast, I have recently written two short stories as competition entries. In each case I have chosen a wicked main character: one is a thief, the other a murderer. They both get their come-uppance in the end.

Getting the balance

Of course, people are not wholly good or entirely evil. We all have shades of good and bad. So as writers our challenge is to create characters who display that real life balance, whether the story be a wholesome tale or a crime thriller.  

The baddies should show some good traits - the gang boss who loves his mother. And even the sweetest character in the womag should demonstrate a failing or weakness - the loving grandmother who has no patience with other people’s children.

Any thoughts on writing realistic characters?

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Bea-ing Vain

We writers are insecure creatures, aren’t we? It’s partly because an inevitable part of our working life is rejection. When we submit a piece of work we have to wait and see if anyone else likes it enough to buy it for publication or to shortlist it in a competition.

Perhaps it’s those rejections which make the successes when they come so sweet. Today is one of those golden days for me. I have two short stories on the newsagents’ shelves, one in The People’s Friend and the other in Yours. I’m really chuffed about this week’s double success.


But before I get too big headed, I would do well to remember my adult daughter’s opinion of one of these two stories. ‘It’s a bit boring.’ (I shan't tell you which one, of course.)

Oh well, that will help keep my feet firmly on the ground!