Category Archives: Creative Writing

Writing Workshop – Use an 18th Century Curiosity as a SpringBoard For Your Writing

Fancy a jaunt to an 18th century coffee shop with me to do the writing workshop?

coffee-house-blog-post

Sometimes folks really want to write but they feel blocked because the ideas are stuck – writing workshops are ideal for getting rid of creative constipation.  Today, I want to get really deep into the recesses of your mind and find what wonderful things are lurking there.  You never know, you may find yourself writing in a genre you have never thought of before.  At the very least, I hope that you will get some new ideas for a story.

Step 1

Take some deep breaths and close your eyes. Now imagine yourself walking down a street with buildings on either side.  Look smart and get under my brolly – folks like to empty their chamber pots out of the window around this time. Yes, I’m sorry the ground is covered in excrement – it will wash off and the pong that you are experiencing will get you ready for the whiff that envelopes you when you get inside.

emptying-chamber-pots

You come to a large building with a gargoyle door knocker on it. As you lift your hand to knock, the door swings open. I want you to imagine yourself taking your shoes off and leaving them outside the door. Your shoes symbolise all the mental footsteps that you have taken in the past. By leaving your shoes on the threshold, you are leaving any writing blocks that you may have behind. I want you to conjure up a picture of yourself waving away any negative thoughts that you may have about yourself as a writer.

We should pay a penny at the door but they can’t see us and we’d only freak them out if we threw our modern money at them. Just for this visit, we’ll go in for free.

Step 2

You have now entered The Coffee House for our writing workshop but as you will have gathered, it’s not the 21st century – it’s the late 17th century and we are in a very fortunate position because no-one is aware of our presence.  Let’s find out what is occurring and see how we can use it.

Curiosities were all the rage

While I offer you a little explanation about some of the things that you are going to experience, try not to breathe in the deep fug of smoke that pervades the air. Don’t worry if you have a coughing fit, they can’t hear us.  The mixture of tobacco fumes and the smoke from the open fires can be overwhelming. However, if we look on the positive side it does take away the stench of the unwashed bodies. It was considered unmanly to keep yourself scrubbed in those days so put this peg on your nose and breathe through your mouth.

In the late 17th century and 18th century, it was all the rage amongst upper class gentlemen to display curiosities. Many of them had their intriguing finds on show in their huge homes so that they would have a talking point about their travels to visitors.  This did not go unnoticed by the entrepreneurial coffee houses. They realised that is was a great way of attracting business.

cabinet-of-curiosities

For instance, James Salter opened a coffee house in 1695 in Chelsea which came to be known as Don Saltero’s. One of his customers was Sir Hans Sloane, the physician whose donation of 50,000 volumes and 3,560 manuscripts formed the nucleus of the British Museum. Sloane travelled vastly and because of this he gained a large collection of curiosities which he donated to Salter to display in his coffee house. Other patrons followed this trend and it attracted people from all over London.  So let’s investigate how these curiosities can springboard our creativity. Be warned – you have to be playful here.

Exhibit one

oliver-cromwells-sword

You come to Oliver Cromwell’s sword.  I want you to mentally pick it up and swipe it through the air. Don’t worry, our actions in the coffee shop can’t harm anyone. Now thrust with it. How does it feel? Has it made you feel empowered or do you quickly drop it because the veil of death has covered you? Make a note of your feelings.

Now we need a springboard to launch us into a writing piece. Don’t worry if you haven’t got one because you can use mine if you wish. Also, it doesn’t have to be Oliver Cromwell’s sword, it can be another historical person of your choice.

Springboard one

A children’s story – After a visit to the museum to see the sword, the ghost of Oliver Cromwell turns up in the main child character’s bedroom. He wants his sword back and won’t go away until the main character gets it for him out of the museum. We could see some real action for 8 – 12 year olds there.

A historical one – if you combined some research with creative licence here you could write a short story about someone that died by Oliver Cromwell’s sword.

A comic piece – you could run a spoof here with Old Ironside’s sword being like King Arthur’s ‘Sword in the Stone’. Let’s face it, the old warty faced puritan could definitely take some comedic stick.

Exhibit two

maids-hat

If you weren’t inspired there, we can move on.  Here we come to ‘Pontius Pilate’s Wife’s Chambermaid’s Sister’s Hat.’ Close your mouth, you will breath in too much smoke. Yes, you’ve guessed it, a lot of the curiosities on display in the 18th century coffee house were fakes. However, the fact that someone from that period took the time to make something like that up means that it is indeed inspired. For a start, I don’t believe that female servants or slaves in the Roman period had hats, if they had head gear at all it would have been a piece of cloth. In fact, hats such as this one on display had not even been invented. Therefore, I think that we have to use a fake 18th century hat as our springboard.

Springboard two

A comedy piece – an 18th century pseudo nobleman is trying to relieve a fop of his fortune by trying to convince him that the hat belonged to Pontius Pilate and has magical powers. We’ll drop the chambermaid’s sister bit, it sounds less impressive to our fop and it adds to the comedy that Pilate would wear such a hat.

 

Exhibit three

cross

As we move onto the next item, we come to realise that this also has got a bit of a dodgy provenance. It’s a piece of wood that is supposed to be from the true cross that crucified Jesus. They seem to like their biblical pieces. I can see the attraction and it was also harder to prove in those days that the piece was fake.

Try to ignore all the noise. Coffee houses in those days just got louder and louder as all the men tried to out shout each other. Think of politicians and you get the picture.

Springboard three

A crime story  – If we pretend that this is the real thing then we could have a crime story – some people would probably kill to get their hands on an item like that.

Exhibit four

pin-cushion

I don’t know if this is my 21st century mind but I would also question the next item unless I saw its provenance.  It’s Mary, Queen of Scot’s pincushion.  We think that the world is full of cons now but it was rife back in the 18th century too.

Springboard four

A historical thriller with romance thrown in – Mary, Queen of Scots is truly a larger than life character. You could write a murder, thriller or love story around her supposed pincushion. If you fancy this as a springboard, you can let Mary cut the pincushion open, hide something very important and small in it and then get her trusted lady of the chamber sew it back up. It would be a good idea to set the story through her lady of the chamber’s eyes. If she has to deliver the pin cushion to one of Mary’s trusted allies, you would have a historical thriller but could weave romance into it as a sub plot. Obviously, if it was a short story you would have to choose one or the other.

Exhibit five

old-key

We now come to our last piece and although it was a difficult choice, the prize truly has to go to the key which was once used by Adam to lock and unlock the Garden of Eden. Yes, these people had true chutzpah. However, I have to say that for creative writing purposes it does actually have mileage.

Springboard 5

A fantasy piece – There is great room here to write a fantasy piece that is a metaphor for the modern day. How about, instead of there only being Adam and Eve on earth, only Adam and Eve can get into the Garden of Eden and there are lots of people in a barren land outside that want to get into the fruitful garden.  Will Adam and Eve let others in or will they keep the biblical arcadia for themselves? If you fancy this, go for it.

Step three

It’s time to leave. Swoop up your ideas, whatever you do, don’t leave them in the coffee shop. Let’s take a final look around – they are all too busy competing to be the best and nosiest to notice that they have had ghosts of the future looking at their curiosities.

coffee-house-again

Out through the front door, find your shoes, put them on but leave your past negative thoughts about your writing in the filth strewn street. Now go and take your thoughts and don’t judge them simply write down everything that comes into your head.

Congratulations – you have made a start on a new piece. Happy writing.  

 

 

8 Comments

Filed under Creative Writing, Writing Workshop

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

charles-dickens-for-writing-blog-post

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

mary-w-the-rights-if-woman

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

outside-a-coffee-house

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.

 

7 Comments

Filed under Creative Writing, History, Inspiration and Us, Writing Workshop

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.

coffe-house-1

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.

coffee-house-2

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.

coffee-house-3

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.

 

19 Comments

Filed under Creative Writing, Inspiration and Us, The Peculiar Past

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.

woman-imagining-cake

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.

woman-imaginig-fairy-drawings

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.

 

8 Comments

Filed under Creative Writing, love your body

Freddie Frog and The Superhero Scoop – an audio to encourage writing in kids

Can Freddie save the day?

Can Freddie save the day?

Coming soonFreddie Frog and The Superhero Scoop audio

For a few years now, we at Loony Literature have been exploring ideas to get kids writing. Quite often there is a dread of getting ideas down and developing them in kids. Unfortunately, this can last through into adulthood and it can prevent folks enjoying their own creativity. We want to do something about this and turn it into something that is done for fun.

This is why we’ve begun the Freddie audios. Freddie lives on the planet Fusion where animals and humans have evolved into a race called humalls. Freddie is a part frog, part human boy that sees himself as an ace reporter and has his own magazine ‘Freddie Finds’. The audios are going to be a springboard for online courses and a club that encourages kids to be ace reporters too.  The stories have been created with this in mind but the narrative is never compromised because of this.

In the first audio Freddie and the Superhero Scoop, Freddie is waiting to find out when Superhero Stan is visiting Papa Frog’s newsagents to sign Superhero annuals.  This is the scoop that Freddie has been waiting for. However, when Stan sets the date, Freddie can’t get his scoop because he has to do his ‘Importance of Swimming’ badge.  To make matters worse, Freddie’s arch enemy, Tarquin Toad has set up a rival magazine and Freddie knows that he will grab the scoop.

Find out how our ace reporter saves the younger ones in the swimming class from a vicious hound; rescues PC Wilbert from the death defying stench of Derek the skunk while up a chimney; stops a drowning and gets his scoop.  We hope that your children will love Freddie as much as we do.

Leave a comment

Filed under Children's audios, Creative Writing, Education

How To Get Kids Writing Using Frogspawn

No - nothing's coming.

No – nothing’s coming.

Time and time again, I see young kids not wanting to write and teenagers having to write but struggling to get the words down. It’s not just the kids that suffer, staff in schools and colleges have trouble too as they try to get children to produce pieces of writing. This is because of the way the curriculum has gone, it’s all to do with ticking boxes instead of making writing the enjoyable pastime that it is. It is important then to give kids the desire to write while they are young.

If, at this point, you imagine that I’m going to suggest sitting down at a table and getting a workbook out, you can think again. Get some notebooks, pencils and a camera or phone that has a built in camera and get yourself outside.  You’ve heard of a bear hunt – well you are going on a frogspawn hunt.

Gotcha.

Gotcha.

Quick note – it depends what time of the year it is and where you are. The best way to decide what you are looking for is to have a quick look for nature sites on the internet and see what your children are likely to be interested in and if you might find them.  As an example, I will use frogspawn.

So how can finding frogspawn get your children writing?

They can take photos or draw sketches of the places that you looked to find the frogspawn. Underneath the visuals they can write where they went that did not produce any samples and where they found some. I visit a pond daily to get photographs.

Look what I found.

Look what I found.

After giving them a safety talk about being near water, you can photograph or sketch the frogspawn that you find. You can then either tell your children about the life cycle of the frog or let them research it themselves. They can put all their evidence in their notebooks alongside what they have actually seen.

The next step is for them to imagine the frogspawn going from tadpole to frog. What is he or she called? Once a name has been decided upon and written in the notebook, your child could think about five things that this frog really likes and five things that their frog hates. All this can go down in the notebook as well as a drawing of the fictional frog. I will be doing more posts about story writing at a later date.

I'm called George.

I’m called George.

All of this can be done out in the fresh air and your children can run about and get exercise while getting their notebook together. It is a good idea to encourage your children to take the notebooks on further outings so that they can keep a record of their adventures.

It is important never to criticise the handwriting, grammar or spelling in your children’s notebooks. The reason for this is that the notebook is there for them to express themselves. Handwriting, spelling and grammar will all fall into place if your children learn to love writing.  This will happen if you make writing a natural part of their pleasurable activities.

This website cannot take responsibility for any suggestions that may be followed. It is up to you to keep your children safe.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Creative Writing, Exciting Excursions, For children, Help Your Child To Be Sucessful, Parenting

Writing a story – Make Sure That Your Characters Are Dirty Enough

Be whatever you want to be

Writing historical fiction is the closest encounter that you may get with time travel. Therefore, I would urge you to give it a go whether you see yourself as a writer or not.  Why? You may ask. The reason is simple – writing a story  is good for you. When you totally lose yourself in another world you forget outrageous bills; folks that you want to send to Mars and even the state of politics worldwide. It’s your world, you can control it and if you wish to be a gothic temptress or a swash buckling pirate you can be.  in other words, be whatever you want to be.

Fancy yourself as a gothic temptress? -Yes, you too could look like this.

Fancy yourself as a gothic temptress? -Yes, you too could look like this.

A word of warning however, don’t go overboard on cleanliness. To give you an idea of how dirty you need to get when you write your stories, we at Loony Literature, have given you some true examples that we have unearthed.

During the seventeenth century, folks did not favour a good wash all over.  In fact, baths were mostly public places and visited for health purposes as opposed to getting one’s body clean.  For some strange reason, if you did go to the baths to cleanse yourself there was superstition attached to it and it should only be done when the moon was in Libra or Pisces.

Although Samuel Pepys wrote his diary on a regular basis, he did not apply the same amount of drive to washing himself.  He boasted that he sometimes gave himself a vigorous rub down with a cloth which he believed made him clean.  Elizabeth, his wife, however, did visit a public bath house at least once because Samuel sniggered about that too in his diary.

Stay out of my bed, you filthy oaf

Although Elizabeth probably visited the public bath house for health purposes, it would surely have made her smell sweeter than Samuel.  This was what might have put her in a morally advantageous position when she banned him from their shared bed until he had at least ‘cleaned himself with warm water’.  Samuel also had an aversion to washing his feet but he did do it occasionally.  The reason for such behaviour was that flinging off one’s socks and wetting one’s feet could lead to all sorts of health disasters like getting a cold.

Would YOU kick him out of bed?

Would YOU kick him out of bed?

If you’d lived in 1909, you may have been tempted by a newspaper advertisement which suggested that you wash the ‘Witch’ way.  Housewives who had probably been tackling the household wash for years were staunchly advised that they should never rub clothes as that would make the dirt worse.  The secret behind proper clothes washing was simply to let clothes soak in Witch and all the dirt would be loosened out.  This promise was backed up by the boast that that was what clothes manufacturers did and, of course, they all used Witch.  No names were mentioned to back up this testimonial.

“Let your clothes soak overnight in the morning they’ll be white” was the sales slogan.  If you still were not convinced of Witches’ magical washing powers the manufacturers added that it was a hard soap dried by a secret scientific process and then powdered.  As an added gesture of selling to everyone who read the advertisement, whether scientifically minded or superstitious, there was a huge caricature of a ghastly looking witch on a broomstick on it.  It is really surprising that we are not still using that product today.

Washing clothes is obviously a lot more complicated than can be imagined.  In 1916, a meeting took place of the Camelford Board of Directors for the workhouse to determine if the number of staff could be reduced.  A Mr Boney suggested that they should do their own clothes washing during the war and this would save them the cost of paying a char lady to do it for them.

Me! Wash clothes! Are you insane?

Me! Wash clothes! Are you insane?

Mr Uglow, the Master, stated that he would not wash his own collars; neither would he go without wearing a collar.  When questioned why he would not consider washing his own clothes he wiped his brow and shuddered.  He informed the gathered party that it was out of the question as he had never undergone an apprenticeship to wash clothes.

For folks who lived during World War II, food rationing began in 1940 with clothes rationing closely followed in 1941.  Within just eight months, soap rationing meant that having a good soak became something to daydream about.  Even hair washing became a luxury.  Magazines at that time advised their readers to wash greasy hair every ten days but dry hair could go for three weeks before needing a shampoo.  No wonder Marlene Dietrich took three months’ supply of dry shampoo with her when entertaining the troops in Europe.

When you can't get your hands on a shampoo - wear a top hat.

When you can’t get your hands on a shampoo – wear a top hat.

No excuse now – writing a story will help you to get rid of stress and feeling glum because you will be in control. You don’t have to let anyone else read it either – so do yourself a favour, pick up a pen, open a new file or simply record yourself. Happy writing.

18 Comments

Filed under Creative Writing, The Peculiar Past

Writing – Make your romance specific

Fancy writing a romance but all you keep coming up with is boy works in office and meets girl? You could try the following exercise to make your romance specific. Take a famous couple from history and write about them. The best way to do this is to research them first so that you know who they are, how they met and what happened to them.

punch-and-judy

You have to fill in the details

If at this point, you think that you would just be writing a piece of history, what you have to remember is that with most peoples’ relationships we only have the bare bones of it no matter how famous they were. This means that when important things happened between them, you have to imagine what went on and fill in the details.

Mary Shelley

For instance, you could write about Mary Shelley and her husband, Percy. Mary is the mother of science fiction because she wrote ‘Frankenstein’ and Shelley is one of our most loved poets. He was also a member of the aristocracy. When we read about their courtship and their life together, it is far more interesting than many novels. Even though we have lots of information on them and their travels we have to fill in what happened when they were alone together and that is where the fiction writer’s imagination comes to life. We have to become Mary when she met Percy and ran away with him. In other words, you can take your own personal feelings and fuse it with historical fact to reach authenticity with your writing.

Happy Writing.

2 Comments

Filed under Creative Writing, Inspiration and Us

Writing – What to do when you’re sick to death of your manuscript

One of the many things that writers have in common is that when they have been working on a manuscript for a while, they get to the stage that just looking at it sends them checking their emails, reading the daily horoscope or making yet another cup of coffee. Sounds familiar? If it doesn’t, this is not for you and what is more, I don’t like you either. (Only joking.)

Girl with typewriter

I really don’t think anything can truly relieve the weary author of manuscriptitis and what is more doctors are truly useless if you approach them with it – I know, I have tried. However, I have three tips that might take a little of the pain away.

Visiting doctor

Put a miserly timer on how long you will work on it. This truly does help. If you think that you will spend all Saturday afternoon editing away, you may find that a huge amount of that time is spent staring at it, looking on Amazon or sending very long emails to your friends. However, if you give yourself one hour a day and when your time is up, you are not allowed to do any more – you will work for an hour. It is amazing how much you can get done in one hour that does not have self-imposed interruptions.

An old clock

Work out exactly what you are going to do before your hour starts. If you are really sick of your manuscript, you can waste an hour wondering what your next step should be. Making a checklist at this stage is vital. So for instance, instead of reading your manuscript yet again and generally just looking over it, you will be looking for something specific. This means that you have one hour only to check that you have enough conflict in each scene or whatever you wish to grind away at. You won’t get through the whole manuscript in one hour but what you do get through will be purely focussed and you can continue with that task in your hourly allotment until you have completed it. Continue in this way working through your checklist.

old manuscript

Work from a printed up copy. There are two reasons why this works. One is that your mind sees it as a change from peering at the computer screen and so welcomes it. It also flings mistakes at you that, for some reason, do not seem so apparent on the screen. This are not just clumsy typos either, you will probably be able to see where you have been telling instead of showing and also how you can elaborate on the senses of your character.

Hope this helps. Happy writing.

8 Comments

Filed under Creative Writing, Inspiration and Us

Writing – Making sure That Your Pongs Stand Out

When we write narrative, it is important that we embrace all the senses. Smell often gets overlooked because it is easy to forget that as our characters go about their adventures that certain whiffs will travel up their snitches whether they like it or not. To get you started, I want you to think about how when we go into public lavatories, we sometimes wrinkle our noses up because someone has been in before us and left a pungent smell or has not flushed properly. Yes, even modern tales have smells in them.

Public Urinals

If you are writing a historical piece, you have won the Lottery because in the Middle Ages virtually everywhere carried an unpleasant odour. Think about it, it must have been totally pongy because most rubbish ended up in the streets. If we drop something down the sides of a bin and it is not noticed, it smells dreadfully within days, multiply that reek by about fifty and you may be near the mark.

Also, if a butcher killed an animal and sold the meat, he would not discreetly and hygienically get rid of the guts, he would fling it out in the street. Over weeks and months of that practise, the smell must have been putrid.

As for the lavatories, well we know that the town council in London passed a law to try to clean up the streets. This was to have public conveniences built over the river Fleet. This meant that people travelling under the bridge, for instance the boatman, had a constant eyeful of bare buttocks and if they were unlucky much more.

Jester

Cor Blimey! I bet there was a whiff under that lot.

Back in the 14th century folks built loos in strange places and it often landed them in court. In 1321, Thomas Wytte and William Hockele were up before the bench for building a toilet in Ebbgate Lane which was supposed to be a public right of way. Apparently, the lavatories projected from the walls of houses so that human waste fell onto the heads of the people who were innocently walking along that stretch of public highway. Mind you, the fact that they were using loos meant that they were the sophisticates of the day, not everyone bothered with them. In fact, many shared rooms with animals and behaved like them.

So get sniffing up while you write, it may produce some results that make you proud.

Happy writing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Creative Writing, History, Inspiration and Us