Monthly Archives: November 2016

Writing Workshop – 5 Great Ways To Place A Twist On Putting Your Character In A Coffee House

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When people ask what can I write about, it is often answered by ‘write what you know’. This is good advice but I would like to offer you a twist on that. Think about the things that you do in your own life and then let your character do them but in a different time. It means that you will have to do some research but this always helps with ideas and the flavour of the piece that you are writing.

One – Find an atmospheric setting

Let me give you an example. You probably go to a coffee house and could easily set a story there so how about doing that but setting it in the past? Wouldn’t this make your story stand out that bit more?

old-london-coffee-house

Let’s explore the situation. For a start, it is easy to imagine that coffee houses are something invented by us modern folks but that is not true. The reality is that if you pop down St Michael’s Alley which is a passage in London you will find a blue plaque on the wall of a wine house. The plaque states that the original London coffee house stood on that site and opened in 1652.  Just from that we have a place and a time that could send your mind buzzing with ideas.

Springboard 1 – A story set in 1652 in St Michael’s Passage, London when a new fangled coffee house is just opening. Imagine how the owner must feel.

Two – Find some larger than life characters

samuel-johnson

Many coffee houses sprang up in the 17th and 18th century and they were extremely important because it was where men met to do business and share ideas. We know from records that many men who were involved with the arts and scientific enquiry frequented coffee houses. Wren, Dryden, Reynolds, Johnson, Swift, Gainsborough, Garrick and Hogarth, to name but a few, were regularly seen discoursing over their passions in coffee houses. There we have a wonderful set of characters. It only takes a little bit of research and some poetic licence and you have a story about one of them.

Springboard 2 – A story about Wren, Dryden, Reynolds, Johnson, Swift, Gainsborough, Garrick or Hogarth getting into a troublesome situation in a coffee house.

Three – Create some domestic conflict

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In fact, it is believed that many insurance companies and other financial businesses started as a result of deep debates in coffee houses. It has been suggested that men spent so much time in coffee houses that they were often more associated with their regular haunt than where they actually lived.  If men were at the coffee house more than at home this could cause marital rifts – this is a good plot line.  If you want to use an idea following this line, I have actually written about this on the post ‘Trouble in the Coffee House – Get Writing.’

Springboard 3 – A man would rather spend more time at the coffee house than at a home with his wife.

Four – Have a coffee house trail

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It wasn’t just the capital that boasted coffee houses either. Oxford and Cambridge both had coffee houses and Bristol is recorded as having 4 by 1666. There was at least one in York by 1669 and others in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin. Exeter, Bath, Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Chester, Preston and Warwick also had coffee houses. This means that you don’t have to set your story in the capital, you have a wealth of settings to choose from. In fact, you could use coffee houses as a trail.

Springboard 4 – A man is on a secret mission that leads him around various coffee houses until he ends up in a coffee house in York about 1700. Who is he meeting there?

Five – Use details from your research to cannon ball your plot

coffee-house-sign

However, it was London, because of the business which was carried out in them, which had the most coffee houses and it is said that by 1714, there were at least 1,000 coffee houses there then. The houses were usually identified by a hanging sign; however, in 1762 all such signs, except at public houses, were banned.  It seems their creaking at night stopped folks from sleeping. Furthermore, if you were trotting along on a horse on a windy day, you could be knocked right off your mount by one of those blasted signs. This actually happened. Basically, the signs had become a menace to society and that is why they had to go. We can use details like this both to add authenticity to our story and to amuse our readers.

Springboard 5 – A man is knocked off his horse by a coffee house sign and a comely woman helps him – is she as kind and good as she seems to be or does she have ulterior motives?

Inspiration is everywhere – I hope that I have offered you some today. Happy writing.

 

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Cheer Yourself Up With The Plague

In these days of Brexit and Trump, I have decided that it is my duty to hand out stirring advice. In fact, I’ve nominated myself as the cheerer upper of the people. It’s a role that I relish and in these coming days, I hope to erase your feelings of discontent once and for all. So without any further waffle let’s get stuck into cheering ourselves up.

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However bad you may feel, be glad that you were not alive in Tudor England when there were three main illnesses which could easily kill you. In those days, influenza was a serious killer. In fact, it travelled through the army so quickly that the generals had to call off an attempt to recapture Calais in 1557 – 1558. No flu vaccinations there then.

Carried on a flea

Another option was the plague and to be fair, with the plague there was a choice: Bubonic or pneumonic. This was caused by a type of bacteria which was carried on a flea on a rat. There was no cure for it during the Tudor reign and outbreaks occurred from time to time. In 1603, 38,000 people died in London and the plague doctors were little more than useless. Henry VIII had the best way of dealing with the plague – he got out of London as quickly as he could. It also broke out again in 1665.

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If the plague or the flu didn’t get you, you still couldn’t relax because the sweating sickness might not be far behind. This broke out in England in 1485, 1517 and 1551. Talk about living for the moment, you really needed to when this illness was about. You could be singing a ditty, having a tumble in the hay and knocking back the mead at lunchtime but be dead before you got your supper; that was how quickly it struck folks down. Although saying that, it did not always kill. It is now believed that it was a type of flu and was named Sudor Anglicus because for some strange reason only the English caught it.

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If you did get ill, you had a choice of who to turn to. You could go to the apothecary who handled drugs and herbs. Much of what they handed out was experimental so it was a bit of a risk seeing them. However, if you visited a barber-surgeon you would get an amputation. Perhaps, a physician might be a better choice because they would just stick leeches on you to suck your blood.

Well, that concludes my cheering up session for today. I hope it stirred you.

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Filed under About Loony Literature, Being Buoyant, The Cheerer Upper, The Peculiar Past

When You Love Your Body You Stop Trying To Be Perfect

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I had a friend that was a tall, slim, beautiful looking blonde. You would think that she would be thankful for that but no, all she wanted was to get enough money together so that she could have a boob job done. Hers were small and pert and she wanted bigger ones.

This was back in the days when it was mainly television stars that had the operation and that was obviously where she got the idea from. She would joke that if she had her boobs done, she would start jogging. The point here is that if she’d loved her body, she would have stopped trying to be what the advertising and television industry told her she should be and maybe spent more time thinking about how lucky she was to have such a healthy body.

Time has passed and it is more important than ever that you should love your body. The reason for this is that we are force fed a diet of idealism about the perfect female from the media.  This can make us dislike our body because it doesn’t fit into the mould. The reason that it doesn’t is because you are a beautiful individual. Once you start to truly believe that, you will begin to care for your body more and get healthier and fitter because you know that it is what your body deserves.

When you truly love your body, you work to get it to the best that it can be so that it can serve you well. This means that you stop trying to get to the media’s idealised state of perfection because you are comfortable with what you have got. Furthermore, when you love your body you begin to realise that it needs a reasonable amount of good quality food. This means that you are no longer willing to starve it or put it through fad diets. Neither will you go bonkers and over exert it on exercise regimes that are far too rigorous and therefore tend to get thrown by the wayside after a couple of weeks.

Have a good long think about all that your body does for you and give it the respect and love that it deserves. Once you do this and truly feel it, you will laugh at the idea of a perfect body because you will be confident enough to know that it is a load of old fiddlesticks.     

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Trouble in the Coffee House? Get Writing.

Writing is good for your spirit and you don’t have to stay in to do it. It’s really good fun to go to a coffee house armed with your writing paraphernalia and to set your short story in there. If you really want to chance your arm you can create characters for your story from the other folks that are supping coffee around you. Whatever you do, don’t let them see. Coffee gets some people excited and you don’t want a black eye when all you are doing is creating a story.

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Take down the details of the room you are sitting in and you have a setting readymade. Of course, if you wish to add or take away from that, you can do. This is the beauty of writing fiction; you can build the world to suit yourself.

Sneakily look at the people sitting nearest to you. Are they story fodder? If not, why not? If it’s an elderly couple that are talking about the cost of drinking chocolate, don’t forget that everyone has a past. She could have been a spy during World War II. He could be a retired private detective. Basically, they can be whatever you want them to be – run with your fantasy.

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For those that love historical fiction, you will find that coffee houses have been around for a while and so if you wish to write a historical piece and set it in the coffee house then that is no problem. In fact, if you read on, you will find a true and hilarious situation that you can use as a basis for your story, if you so wish.

If you love popping out to the coffee house to have a good laugh and titillating gossip with your mates, you may be interested to know that this type of behaviour has been going on since the 17th century. However, back then it was purely the male that frequented the coffee house. Men would spend hours making business contacts and talking about politics in the coffee house. This did not go unnoticed by their female counterparts and trouble started to brew. (Do forgive the pun.)

Sterile and impotent

Women who were fed up of being coffee widows got together and published a hard hitting pamphlet. “The Women’s Petition Against Coffee” (1674) suggested that when men drank coffee daily it made then sterile and impotent. Obviously, this was a cause for concern in society because it would mean a reduction in the birth rate.

Women tearfully told how their husbands were turning their backs on them to enjoy the company of their peers in the coffee houses. They spoke of how this action threatened the social and economic future of the country because men were becoming incapable of fulfilling their marital duties. One woman even declared that all that coffee drinking ‘made men as unfruitful as the sandy deserts where the unhappy berry is said to be brought’.

For a moment, the men were truly speechless but only for a moment. They rallied back with “The Men’s Answer to the Women’s Petition.” They were having none of it and were rather blunt in their reply. The men suggested that drinking coffee made the erection more vigorous and then went into detail about how it actually made the sperm more potent. In other words, they fought back saying that coffee would actually make the birth rate rise.

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Well that is certainly something to write about. You could write a television sitcom or a short play. It doesn’t have to be a short story. The whole idea of the exercise is to get you into the coffee shop setting and then to let your mind run wild. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised at how much you enjoy doing this. Just remember not to put pressure on yourself to produce War and Peace, this is meant to be fun.  Anything that has been written can always be improved upon at a later date if you so wish. For the time being, just have a giggle.

 

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Feed Your Inner Child and Love Your Body By Writing Children’s Stories

My uncle always had a weight problem. When his doctor told him that he needed to go on a healthy diet he asked me what was the point of living if you can’t eat what you want to eat. I told him that there is an amazing range of foodstuffs that are both delicious and nutritious. I reminded him that we eat to live not live to eat and that there are many things that we can do to feed our souls instead. The world is full of ways to gain pleasure without eating. Sadly, he wasn’t convinced and died prematurely.

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One of the behavioural patterns I have noticed with human beings is that if they don’t feed their souls and imaginations enough the hunger goes elsewhere. This happened with my uncle, he focussed too much on cream cakes and not enough on feeding his soul. How many times have you had a piece of cake with a cup of coffee both for something to do and also to bring comfort?

Have you noticed how when you are bored the chocolate in your fridge keeping zooming in mega sized pictures in your mind? This is why I want you to start thinking about how you can feed your soul. It doesn’t have to be spiritual. In fact, I will be coming up with ideas on this so even if you don’t like what I’m suggesting in this post there will be something that fills you up somewhere so that the hunger from your soul doesn’t transform into boredom or comfort eating.

I have gathered a backlog of children’s writing that I haven’t done anything with. It’s sitting there waiting to be unleashed onto the world and will be in due course, the reason I am telling you this is that I wanted to share with you that I write children’s stories initially for soul feeding.  Later on, I use it professionally but I started writing it in the first place because it makes me feel so good.

Let me explain. I think I should start with what adulthood can be these days. Sometimes, it seems like a series of frustrations and disappointments. Just getting a doctor’s appointment can seem like a fight and trying to speak to someone on the end of a phone can mean waiting for an hour listening to dreadful music before being passed from department to department. We have more television channels than ever to watch but there seems to be less to enjoy. You get where I am coming from? It’s no wonder a hell of a lot of comfort eating goes on.

Can you remember when you were a kid and splashing in the rain was funny? When seeing a wild rabbit in the woods filled you with joy and discovering your favourite adventure book completely transported you into the world of the characters? If you unleash that inner child, you can have that again and it’s amazing how the lift it gives you takes away the need to turn to cake and coffee.

Well, let me tell you, a great way to get that childish feeling of euphoria is to completely immerse yourself in writing a children’s story. If at this point, you are rolling your eyes and thinking that it takes you all your time to write a shopping list, stop there right now. Writing a shopping list is necessary to live a comfortable life, writing a children’s story can feed your soul by releasing your inner child.

Think about it, you don’t have to let anyone see it. Actually, you may surprise yourself and want to show it to others when you have worked on it. However, for the time being, the whole idea of you writing children’s story is to transport you into your very own fantasy world. It is truly a form of escape from the tensions of everyday life and a way to feed your soul.

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You can create a setting that is all of your making. For instance, if you’ve ever wondered what would have happened if the Gunpowder Plot hadn’t been discovered, you could create a whole scenario there. If you love fairies or dinosaurs, you can close your eyes and imagine yourself as a dinosaur princess or a fairy dragon slayer. Let your imagination run wild and enter the world inside your head.

You don’t even have to write anything down, if you don’t wish to. Just let the film play through your mind. However, I think you will find that once you have the story set out in your head that it won’t go away until you get it down.  If you do decide to write it up, don’t let your nagging inner critic spoil it for you. The whole point of this exercise is to transport yourself to another world, to reawaken your inner child and to fill you up so that you don’t need the false feeling of comfort that snacking gives you.

I hope you will give it a go. Until next time – happy creating.

 

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Why You May Carry Weight That You Don’t Need

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If you are carrying excess pounds, you could be holding onto them for a reason. Once you recognise what you are doing and why you are doing it, it is more than likely that you will have the will to get rid of the baggage that you don’t want. You also have more chance of doing this if you learn to love your body.

Let me give you an example of why someone carries excess weight. The other week, as I marched through the shopping centre of a nearby town, I noticed a teenage girl that I’ve labelled ‘Warrior Woman’. As she owned the steps at the side of Barclays Bank, my eyes snapshot the image that she flung at the world. It was indeed that of an aggressive machine.

Although she was probably only about eighteen years of age she had a vast bulk and even though it was a cold day, her thick arms were bare to demonstrate that they were covered in tattoos. Her hair was scraped back in a ponytail on top of her head like a sumo wrestler and she sat as if she was ready to spring at any moment.

I saw behind the image she was portraying to the world, this was a kid that had been dragged up in the school of hard knocks and probably worse. She carried her bulk to say to the world ‘don’t mess with me.’ This could either be to ward off unwanted sexual attention that she may have suffered from as a child or it could simply be that she wanted to look ‘hard’. Whichever it was, it was definitely a form of protection in her mind.

The problem with carrying such excess weight is that it has a catastrophic effect on people’s health. However, that is not the point of this offering of mine.  I want you to take a moment to consider this –  if you are carrying more weight than you would wish to, have you any idea why you are doing so? I’m not talking about treating your symptoms here so don’t say that it’s because you eat too much and exercise too little. I want you to get to the root of the cause so you may need to delve very deeply into your sub conscious.

There are many reasons why folks sub consciously choose to carry excess weight. A major one is to fend off sexual attention. This can either be someone that was abused as a child and sees it as a way to keep predators at bay or it can someone that has had bad experiences as an adult. Whatever the situation, as a grown up you can tell yourself that you are not willing to sacrifice your health because of people that can’t keep their hands or any other part of their person to themselves. You need to learn to love your body so much that shedding the pounds and getting healthy is your priority. When you get that positive about your body then you will have no problem telling folks that shove their unwanted advances upon you to butt out.

Another reason that people sub consciously carry excess pounds is so that they can become part of the back ground and be accepted.  At this point, anyone that suffers from excess weight will be exclaiming that they get all sorts of nasty digs about their weight and it stops them from being accepted. Again that is surface behaviour.

If we dig deeply, being overweight, often means that you are not considered competition in the work place or in the dating stakes so others let down their drawbridge because they don’t consider you as a contender.  In other words, they overlook you but accept you and may even befriend you because they don’t see you as a threat. Subconsciously, you may have realised this and found it a comfortable place to be.

However, if you learn to love your body, it will be more important to you to have a healthy one than to blend into the background. You will also find that true friends love you whatever size you are.

There are other reasons why people hold onto excess weight but I can’t cover it all here. The reason I wrote this post is to get you to think about why you might do this and also to consider if you learn to love your body, would you then stop hoarding weight.

 

 

 

 

 

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