Writing Prompts: Using the News

Ever thought the news is all doom and gloom? Good. For me, at least, doom and gloom is easier to write about than rainbows and, since my last short story was partly inspired by a news article, I thought I’d collect some good ones here for people to peruse and get some ideas from. This is the first that caught my attention:

London’s Weird Fog

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This looks like something out of a horror movie and the commotion leaves lots of room for a murder to take place, shady political deals or an abandoned baby to be dropped off on a doorstep. Have a read and see what you come up with or scroll down for more ideas.

Soldier controls bionic arm with his brain

(That one is just pretty cool).

Cold tolerant cockroaches 

Because every alien invasion is brought to mind. Also, it reminds me I can change the living quarters of any animal and see how that would effect life and whether a story comes out of it. Black cats are said to be in Britain’s countryside, wolves once lived in Britain and wild boars. Even if I don’t supplant the geography of these creatures, I could turn back time to see more of them/alternate history it.

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The other thing you can do is search for news in any country which takes your fancy. I’m going to go for Portugal here because I find their culture interesting and they seem fairly liberal with their relaxed drug laws.

I found they have 280 new farmers setting up every month

This is interesting, as if the world has gone back a few generations or become more green.  Either way, it brings a different setting in Portugal in terms of villages, countryside and towns that could have characters injected into them. Those old countryside bickerings and family rows could be hosted here.

If you’ve been inspired by any news stories lately, let me know about them and how they helped. (Of course, sometimes news stories are more research after the idea than inspiration but it’s all useful).

Until next time!

Holly Ice

Story: accepted.

Stag Artwork Favim

This beautiful artwork is from this site: http://favim.com/image/15655/

 

Good news on my end to finish up November. One of my short stories has been graciously accepted by Ian Whates of Newcon Press for an anthology due out next year.

The story is a dark fantasy/magical realism piece which focuses on a girl who has unknowingly been tricked into a one night stand in a long line of girls. In this world, men have antlers and rut over women. She meets a beautiful specimen of malehood in a bar but when she finds out how much of a player her new bed partner is she decides to get more than even. He will never forget her and he will have a long period of time where girls don’t find him quite so attractive.

Hopefully the sound of this story appeals to you all. I will give more information about the anthology and its release as things progress.

Until then, Happy November and incoming holidays!

Holly Ice

A Year Online & “Professional” Authordom

According to the lovely cup reminder, it has been a year since I started this little blog in a corner of the internet I can call my own. Not too much has changed but there has been some subtle differences over the year.

I’m now a part of an anonymous review site and read books for free (yay!) in exchange for truthful reviews. This gives me a great source of inspiration and entertainment for those boring days.

I also finished the first draft of ‘While I Slept’ over the summer which is languishing on my external hard drive, safe but in need of love and attention. I’m hoping I can find a space in my university schedule big enough to fill with editing it. Then I’ll start thinking about agents and publishers and possible failure.

The biggest change to date (as novel writing and reading is a staple of almost any writer out there) is that I am, as of today, technically a professional writer. I’ve had stories published before but the most recent ‘My Oasis Tower’ has been bought and published in ‘Looking Landwards’. Since money has changed hands, I am now a professional. Great stuff! Though I think my family is still holding out for the massive success from future novels. I expect it won’t be a lot of money in future but who knows what and where another year will bring!

You can find Looking Landwards, written in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the institution of agricultural engineers (lots of anniversaries going around here) and edited by Ian Whates of Newcon Press here.

I attended the book launch today and haven’t had that much fun professionally since the London book fair! There was free wine and I got to sit on a stage with a panel for signings and speeches about our individual stories! My father had a proud moment and videoed my bit so I expect that will make an appearance soon, too, for the curious. 

Thanks for reading and I hope everyone’s year has gone at least as well as mine.

 

Holly Ice

A Peephole into the Eastern War – Stormtrooper on the Eastern Front by Mintauts Blosfelds

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Stormtrooper on the Eastern Front: Fighting with Hitler’s Latvian SS

History is the realm of the victors and the losers lose to the winner’s propaganda but I’m interested in the truth behind what really happened rather than the reassuring lies countries often tell themselves.

I have a personal connection to this history story. My grandfather was conscripted into the ranks of the German army and torn away from his 6 month child. So, I know this history well and I feel the book needs some background as it covers a very controversial part of the war.

Blosfelds does a brilliant thing by playing his part in countering the propaganda still surrounding the Baltic state SS units with this publication. They were not a part of the holocaust and were only fighting units. They fought to save their own countries from Russian and German rule and they stood very little chance but they fought on anyway. They were brave men.

On to the book.

The diary entries show the life of a soldier in his unit. This provides an insight into what went on behind the lines as well as the culture of the German army. It is a personal account and, as such, feels more dramatic than a documentary or dry history dates. The boring acts are often brushed over in favour of the more dramatic.

However, the individual it follows did not see much front line action. He was injured a lot and spent a lot of time on trains through Latvia as well as training camps. This has some historical interest as well as the front lines as it shows where training took place and names areas “behind the lines” which are often not mentioned in mainstream history.

As a whole, there is very little documentation of the Latvian SS units from within/personal accounts so this book is very valuable in its existence.

This doesn’t mean I can’t be disappointed. The narrator had a very youthful and naive view of the war. He was easily influenced and seemed to be in it more for the fun and alcohol which jars with post war feeling. He did not fight for his country and looked down upon the older men who were conscripted and didn’t want to fight. Their reasons feel more honourable.

This blights his character for me and makes the read less enjoyable. It is not a fault of the narrator. He was only young and easily influenced but an older narrative could show so much more of the war from so many different viewpoints. It would allow more than the one narrator’s viewpoint to be explored as an older man would be able to see from another’s shoes.

But would I read this again or recommend it to people searching for family in Latvia or looking to find out more about the Eastern front? Despite its cost, yes.

This is a book which details the personal side of the Eastern War. It lives through procedures which can be lost or become boring in pages and pages of dry historical record. It highlights a regiment swept under the carpet or railed against after the war in a neutral, in the moment, light. I only wish there were more accounts like this, and expanding upon this, out there.

But more than anything else, this book gives me a vague idea of what my grandfather went through and why he never spoke about the war.

My rating? 4/5.

Writing Prompt / Exercise – Character – Writer’s Block #2

driving writing prompt writer's block

We all hate being stuck so here’s another idea for a writing prompt.

I will assume you already have a character in mind here. If you don’t, that’s fine. Think of someone you know or a character who played a very small role in an old or current piece. This is aimed at giving you new inspiration you can either use with that character or rename them and use in a separate story.

To begin with, especially if you’ve not paid much thought to this character, much of their back story is one gaping big hole. Well, I’m going to attempt to get behind their eyes and into their driving seat with this exercise.

What does this character drive? No need for specificity here if, like me, you have little idea of makes, models etc.

Here’s the big questions in my head:

Expensive?
Colour?
Curvy or square?
Good nick or falling apart?
Rusty or smooth paint work?
Dirty or clean on outside?
Dirty or clean on inside?
How is it so dirty/clean?
What is personal about the objects inside the car?
What do the keys and keychain (if there is one) look like?
Is it their car or shared?
Is there a radio or CD player?
What sort of music is played?
Is it modified? Why &how? (where did money come from etc)
Anything broken/stolen?

These questions (and their answers) will tell you a lot about any character and a lot about what their house might look like, too. If none of these give you any ideas, maybe push to see what their room looks like or how their character traits (like OCD or slob) may bring about a crisis worthy of a story.

I’ll try this out with one of the more minor characters in my WIP: Melissa.
It should get me closer to her motives and shine a light into her character. Maybe, if I’m lucky, it will give me an idea for a new story, too.

Now, her car is…

Expensive?
Yes. She is a top reporter in her field. She makes a lot of money and believes she should show it, put herself above other people not just to look good but to get more answers.

Colour?
A grey silver. She’s girly but likes understated class in accessories and this way it goes with any outfit. (Clearer sense of her character is coming through here).

Curvy or square?
Curvy. Thinking two seater, too. No children in her family. Possibly single. Too career orientated.

Good nick or falling apart?
Great nick, not far off new. Maybe 1-2 years old. New car – recent promotion or bonus/bribe for job well done?

Rusty or smooth paint work?
Smooth.

Dirty or clean on outside?
Too clean. As if gone through a car wash just before it’s seen, only every day. A little suspicious.

Dirty or clean on inside?
Her bag on passenger seat when she’s in the car. Glove box has glasses, contact lenses and an emergency phone. Also has road service numbers taped to inside of door. Why does she have an extra phone?

How is it so dirty/clean?
She doesn’t do it herself. Pays to get it cleaned and regularly. Hates muck. Doesn’t get on with mother who is an alcoholic. The mess, clutter and anger got to her.

What is personal about the objects inside the car?
List of road services – can’t fix own car. No mechanical bent. Extra phone – undercover work business or dodgy connection to somewhere else?  Picture of a smiling man hung around the mirror. At least 3 years old. He’s cute, would be around her age.

What do the keys and keychain (if there is one) look like?
Simple keychain with the car’s brand on it. Likely received on its purchase. No adornments.

Is it their car or shared?
Their own. Would not let anyone else drive it unless under duress.

Is there a radio or CD player?
Both. She likes audio books.

What sort of music is played?
Very little. She turns the radio off when the music comes on. Only listens for talk shows and news.

Is it modified? Why &how? (where did money come from etc)
No.

Anything broken/stolen?
The right mirror is a little wobbly at the joint – hit something and never got it fixed.

Hopefully this can help a few of you. It’s made me see another side to Melissa. Possibly a few reasons for why she’s such an uptight prude and so irritating to my protagonist. If nothing else, I guess this method allows me to see the human side to my villain-like character!

It has also given me a few clues to her past and the option of a romance story gone wrong (and maybe later gone right). This could be entirely separate or joined to my main novel WIP series.

Give this a go if you have the time and let me know what you come up with! 🙂

I’m thinking on a few more exercises.

Holly Ice

Creative Juice

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Growing up, I read a lot but I also drew a lot from around year 4 (8 years old). I studied, copied, coloured, erased. Art was more my life than words and now that has reversed.

I made the big decision during A Level (16-18 years old) that I was better at writing than I ever was at art. Writing began to take over from when I was 13 and continued. Sure, I drew constantly during my A level years and I have sketchbooks worth of art but the image in my head never matched up to what I could draw and that frustrated me too much.

The last few days I’ve had dreams about artwork and dreams about poetry and writing. Maybe this means I can do both or maybe it just means I need to do something creative. Either way, it’s difficult. Without practicing art, my hand is not as skilled as it was before. The lines are sketchier, less well shaped or defined.

The same thing can happen with writing if I take a break, short or long. I’ve been told that there’s only so much creative juice to be had and this is true. Any artist or writer can tell you that after that creative feeling has gone, if you press on and try to draw or write something else, it will usually not be of the same level as the first piece.

I never thought 3 and a half years would have so much impact upon my drawing but I’ve seen friends who’ve continued along that path surpass my talent. Now, I don’t often get ideas in a format which translates well to art and I wonder where I got all these old ideas from.

I’m wondering if it’d be best to try to keep my art up, alongside my writing. After all, the more ways ideas can come to me and form in my head, the better, surely? All artists need to keep an open mind to inspiration, at least.

Does anyone else have any experience of this? I’d love to hear your words of wisdom or despair.

Holly Ice

Simple Photographs – Inspiration & Character

When you see a photograph online on tumblr or deviantart or flickr etc what is your reaction to it? You may scroll up, view it again, but then what? I’ve found if I can’t look away from it more than once, the best thing to do is save it to my computer. Why? Because it interests me. Something in it has a spark I like looking at, that intrigues me, and that’s what I need in my writing, too.

It’s not just portraits that have this reaction for me but landscapes, too. I’ve done a similar post to this before but I’m going to really focus on character here and an exercise for getting stories off the ground from nowhere.

Here’s 3 portraits from my collection:

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3_kerryport1

3_hannah-port1

My character exercise would be to look closely at each of these portraits. What drew me to them? Why did it? What personality traits are here? Where can I imagine them being and not being? Who might be their love interest, their age, they occupation?

Ex: Portrait one I see a young girl – twenties – who is acting shy but smiling, happy, probably a bubbly type who occasionally backs into herself. She has tattoos so perhaps has a good sense of self or an adventurous side. I could see her in a coffee shop, a bar, a skate park. Her smile holds sweetness, like she may be in love. What does this give me? Either a character or a love story.

Portrait two I see an older women – late twenties, early thirties – clothing style more vintage, perhaps eastern. Appears cultured but perhaps snobby. Is posed to paint but not really into it, or passionate with her work. Perfectly groomed, everything placed just so. Either married or chronically single. Perhaps an older time or a sophisticated elite. Seems european – Berlin, Paris, Moscow etc.

Portrait three is in a different century. Twenties or thirties. There is longing here and perhaps fear. A need to be connected with, to get help. A loneliness or a plight is implied. She is like a wilted flower – pale, innocent and yet with make up she seems to have seen some of the world and be worse for it. There is a sad story here.

These may not give me a whole story but, as you can see, they can give me a place to start or a character to begin brainstorming around. Sometimes I might never use any of these portraits for a story but they are there on my computer just in case their character comes back to me and works in a story or in case they speak to me with a story that must be written.

Hope this helps!

Holly Ice

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