Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Basic Plots

There are many versions of how many basic plots are there - some say 7, whilst others say 6:

Character v. Character refers to a conflict between two or more people, such as classic Protagonist vs. Antagonist.

Character v. Nature is most often seen in natural disaster stories involving storms, earthquakes, being lost in the wilderness and the like.

Character v. Self is characterised by a conflict in which the main character is battling an internal struggle with his/herself.

Character v. Supernatural involves a conflict between a character and unexplained, supernatural or typically unbelievable phenomena, like vampires, little green men from Mars, ghosts and such.

Character v. Society is much what it sounds like – the protagonist is at odds or at war with the rest of society. People often include Character v. Machine, which is a conflict between a protagonist and a mechanical threat, into this same category.

Character v. Destiny is a theme in which a character struggles to change their destiny and not become a victim of their own predetermined fate.

For more watch the video

Which cateogory does your latest story fall into? Or have you discovered a new one? 


Wednesday, 25 January 2012.

Strange things happened this morning. There was advance notice that writing would be required of all combatants. That is, to write where you are with no hiding in your usual dark corner. Previously, whenever a ‘hot pen’ was mentioned some ladies dived into their voluminous handbags and a couple of ‘Alpha’ males hid under the table. This time the opposite happened for we had a large number of souls in attendance with everyone writing. Wow! What a result.

Improvisation was the key word with a blank page on which to perform. Ian encouraged us all with merely ‘pick up your pen and start writing’. Then ten minutes later came, ‘time up’.
Topics or slants on the theme ranged from serious to sad, hilarious to humorous, ranting to religious or bits that could be contained in a short story. Laughter followed some of the readings with other items encouraging personal thoughts. You can take from each what you will.
Ian, led by example, with a previously prepared article entitled ‘cheat’ which was very appropriate. He talked about handwriting, stumbling over illegibility and flitting minds. I wonder, what did he really mean?

I could be here most of the week if I included everything that people had read, so I decided that I would pick out some salient points. These would of course include Heinke’s performance that was delivered in her usual fun way. TJ went on about that ‘he could not find Willie’. After, these two, I was certainly discombobulated but I still remember bits and pieces (although ‘I was not glad all over’). I made a note of a lady in bookshop wearing second hand clothes, then somebody made a contribution which was ‘off the wall’ about internet connections and farting in the bath.

At least three had the audacity to write in rhyme. How dare they!  Bloody well done for I am not biased- am I? Some idiot ranted about large families living on the state and even had the cheek to question the parentage of civil servants. Please, no more of that I told myself.

We had some personal references with Jayne’s ‘life saver’ after a sad moment to Judy’s decision whether to sign on the dotted line or not. Whatever she decided, it would be life changing too. Well done for sharing something as sensitive as these two issues.

Then John Mac dived in with something very personal. The only notes I seem to have, relate to a fat, Spanish gay doctor and someone being prostrate for a prostate examination. There must have been a connection there-somewhere.

We had other comments such as ‘democracy, how can you vote when you have a choice’, items hidden in knickers and bras, (small items only), the need to shoot someone, philosophy, swimming against the tide, an unexpected twin arriving second and being brought up in ‘The Blitz’, a ‘gazunder’, retiring in to one’s shell and ‘hanging onto a triangle with almond blossom. Visualise, if you must.

Heather decided to read her Limericks and I have attached them. I think that they are always fun to do. Here they are.

My grandparents now live in Spain
They went there to escape from the rain
It's true what you hear
That for most of the year
There are blue skies again and again.

The houses are different but fun
They have shutters to keep out the sun
The ceiling fans spin
And make quite a din
And tiled floors are so hard on the bum.

It's incredibly warm in the sea
So clear you see down past your knee
Tiny fishes swim round
Your feet in the sand
And you know this is the place to be.

In summer it's too hot to think
Deep down in the pool you must sink
Or the sun on your head
Might send you to bed
And turn you hair parting to pink.

After a short break we had five minutes to write on ‘SILENCE’. There was no problem there.
Someone tried to put a preamble in before he read his piece and was ordered to be – Silent. Just do as you are told. The topics ranged from a third son having to go into the church (not just to visit either), inane chatter, snakes and throttling, monkeys in the mind, white noise and Rob did a piece with dialogue in it and something to do with a Juke Box. We ended up with a mention of ‘Armistice’ and someone had a fish like pen and said that the Gods were not to be blamed.

A final note includes more of these exercises. A reminder for the theme for next week and that asks you about what you have been reading and to write a book review. Please, remember another OPEN MIC night is looming and it is on Tuesday 7th February. Thank you.

John Edwards 25th January, 2012

Wednesday, 25 January 2012


Next weeks TWC theme is Book Reviews - unfortunately I cannot make the meeting as I would love to hear your reviews. I publish mine here

If you would also like to publish yours there are other sites where you can post them online or open a Shelfari account. It is straightforward and they never send out spam emails or bother you with unwanted stuff.

I also find it a great way of keeping track of what I have read and of course a great source of reviews before purchasing a book.


Wednesday, 18 January 2012

outings of one sort or another

18th January.
This weeks topic was The Outing, with several different takes on the theme. Alan started off with his thoughts on the TWC outing to Almansa.  It was a cold day and he had to buy a scarf. The rest of the day mostly involved brandy and coffee.  He didnt go to see the cave house because of the mountain that had to be climbed before you got there, which according to others who went was a small mound.  

Johns story was called the return.  The first words were ‘I was in a pub.’  I think I see a recurring feature here.  He saw the scruffiest bugger he had seen for a long time, who he realised was a man whose nickname when he was younger was Cretin.  The story involved a tonsillectomy performed by ramming tongues in the mouth (that is a medical procedure I have not come across before), a man and his wife who both turned out to be gay (that was the outing).  He gave good descriptions of the characters and received many comments.  You can always tell if we like a piece of writing because we give lots of comment.

Rosemary’s tale was about preparing for an outing.  It was a continuation of her crime novel.  Reg entered the story with his moustache and hair dyed auburn.  He ate a scone and cream oozed from his mouth into his moustache (not a good look) Very good characterization of Reg as a grotesque creature, but we don’t know what Caroline looks like.  

Avril’s piece took place in Australia 4 years ago.  A circus owner died and two of his workers took on some of the animals rather than see them die. Fred is taking the elephant to a children’s party and Laura has to meet him dressed only in a bikini (don’t ask!) The police arrived and Laura explained she was waiting for an elephant on a truck (as you do) They told her to take more water with it the next time.’ Their first outing with the elephant was a disaster.’  Comments were that it sounded a bit as if the elephant was wearing the bikini. I don’t think I would have admitted to being related to the bikini-clad woman Avril. Hilarious as usual.

Jenny’s story started ‘Stop pulling your knickers up.’  What on earth was to follow! George had won a painting competition and he was taken with his mates from the old folks home to receive his prize. Just before they left one of the motley crew he came with said ’you have missed 34, you are supposed to paint over all the numbers.’  Brilliant, very descriptive and effectively  read by Jenny in  different voices. 

Mery’s short poem was about romance in France. An arresting story.

Chris had a tale about the outing of a 13 year old boy who realised he was gay and was being bullied by the other boys at school about it.  If he picked a fight with Jack perhaps the boys would leave him alone, but the look they had exchanged would be lost forever.  Very sad and well written.  

John wrote about a holiday in Canada.  His wife had won a free trip with Avon and he joined her there.  He messed up because he thought he could book flights at the last minute back to the UK.  In the end he had to pay a lot of money for the tickets. He never told his wife and she remained impressed by him (believe me she would have found out about the cost, wives have ways of finding out these things)  The description of the scenery was excellent.  He came across a Red Indian with a nose so hooked he could have caught fish.  Very  entertaining as usual.  

Michael told us a sad story about a parting , ‘She is still in my heart, she is with another man now.  He has got my Peugeot 306, I changed it for a 307.’  Very funny. Typical of a man

Gerry told us his story about mistaken identity would be coming out in May in an anthology about National Service.
The piece he read out was part of a crime story.  A man going to work early in the morning saw a hobo on the road.  He called to him ‘hey feller, get yourself up, you could get killed.’  The hobo was dead with terrible injuries which we don’t know about yet.  He received useful comments about the hobo’s clothing and the way he was lying.  

Brenda continued her story about Lottie who had been sent to an orphanage.  She was put to work in the sewing room.  We met Miss Parker who would prove to be a big problem for Lottie.  She received good comments as usual, which showed we like the tale and can’t wait to read it in print.  She was advised to change the story because the group didn’t think that Lottie would be given any choice where she worked or what kind of room she would have in the home.  

Douglas also wrote on the theme.  The staff of an office went for a day away.  It gave the directors a chance to mix with the staff.  There was a big row between Harvey and Beaumont and one of them ended up dead in the lake following a canoe race.  I think paintballing would have been safer. There wasn’t just one outing but three (sorry I didn’t get it)

Cynthia, that’s me, read a short poem about  the outing of a gay man.  And I thought I would be the only one to think of that kind of outing!

There were two new words introduced into the English language, acrobatting and redcarpetly
Next week there is a hot pen with a difference!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

11th January 2012

This grey morning saw a good turnout, who braved the chill in the air, aches, pains, coughs and sniffles. We heard some great stuff and what a mixture it was.

Ian returned to the chair after a short absence, and mentioned articles and competitions that he had found in Writers Magazine. He requested that the one and only copy be returned swiftly so that others can look at it. There is a special offer advertised to new subscribers for £9.99 for a three month trial. It is a thought!

Mary Norris read a piece left over from last week on the theme of ´wish I had said no´. No prizes for the way this one went, for a bit of good humour with a mention of sex always works. Some of us were too dignified to say anything of course but others were less shy. She then carried on with the theme for this week- after Christmas. Both reads were fun and an entertaining way to start the morning.

Cynthia gave us her take on the theme. It was really all about basics-booze, inebriation and positioning. She recounted how she had become ´trapped in a toilet´, in the dark. It was the gents of course and she did find a man with his hands full. What a surprise for both. She ended with that well known line of ´two old ladies locked in a lavatory´. It raised quire a laugh. 

Douglas changed the tone completely with how a very tired Santa returned to his year long grotto but his wonderful Elf helpers discovered two undelivered presents for children in New Zealand-it would have to be that far. Two elves solved it easily by flying the wrong way around the world and pushing back the clock for two kids in NZ who did get their pressies smack on time. (Has Dr Who ever done that?) What an enjoyable tale, unsullied by smut.

Michael came up trumps yet again with a poem entitled ´the house is quiet now´ that we all enjoyed and the praise, was accompanied with applause. Now, tell me again that you can´t write poetry. Once in the blood it may stay for some time. Keep at it.

Ro read from a piece from her crime novel which could have stood alone as a short story. She prefaced her beginning with ´Shall I give up or what?´ Meaning is it rubbish or shall I carry on with it. The answer was yes-keep bloody writing. Paraphrasing, it was about an intimate fading relationship with the two of them sitting in a restaurant having a too loud a conversation. Who listens to other peoples conversations anyway? Other tables did.
Comments included- dialogue very good-stimulated comment-generally there was supportive feedback but Ian said that some actions needed looking at in her description of events.

For the next 15 minutes we were entertained by John McGregor´s film script, based on his adventures in the RAF and you can read all about it in his book. He included a lot of direction as to what scene was being filmed and he was aided in the dialogue by Ro, Phil and Michael. It was amusing with loadsa references to booze and sex. Lots of showing as well as some telling. He ended by saying that ´he had never been to bed with an ugly woman but had woken up next to a few´ I´m all in favour of letting people smile and be happy.

SCI-FI came next with Brenda reading her story on amazing krill and how they were there to save the world after all the abuse us humans had dished out. She talked about deep sea divers, dreams, hallucinations and the power to do good. It stimulated much feedback and a general discussion took place. Some people thought that the ending was not clear but Phil felt that it was up to individuals to form their own. It was said that the moral of the story was ´no waste, no more wars´.  What are you going to do with this Brenda?

After a short break and casual verbal interactions we resumed with Phil on his miserable view of Christmas. You named it, he slagged it off, put his verbal boot into adverts, fast food and anything that he could think of. I won´t mention any names but he articulated a few. I agree with him. We don´t need rubbish fast food for we can cook. We await the invite!
Clever with words, as always and he got a deserving round of applause.
He ended by talking about crapulent and he then threw in discombobulation, for good measure. I was already confused, anyway.

We then heard from the female end of the room who all wrote on the theme. Chris claimed that she could not be that erudite but however had a good stab at it with her version of the misery of the season. She exclaimed ´bugger it all´ and Úp yours to the all of December´.
Ann followed that and talked about dropping dresses, rolls of fat and big bums-all in rhyme.
Mary stayed with the plot and the female take on it and brought more laughter into the room
Mery, not to be outdone gave a rhyming verse or two with ´Happy New Year´
The depression was lifted by Jenny who gave us a glimpse of delicate love and affection with an ´adonis-esque´ type. This built up to her punch line of ´so, what did you say your name was’. Great timing and hoots of laughter.

Ann stayed on that bloody festive theme with bah humbug and Jane really cheered us up with insults from a guest that she has entertained for years on Christmas Day. Unnecessary and extremely upsetting for her and there was empathy in abundance. There are so many nasty people around. However, I think that she was amply rewarded afterwards!
Comment:- Phil liked it and the ending left us with something to guess about. Michael encouraged her to expand it. Anyway, I liked it.

Heather carried on from last week about a seasonal party with national differences being thrown into the mix. Great humour and it sounded good. Clearly things did not go to plan and she gave us a couple of lines from ´I will survive´ Then another caller came  about the noise where Heather Wished her a Happy New Year which was followed by that endearing phrase ánd sod off´. Clearly good fun loving neighbours are hard to come by!
Rob followed that with short piece of Happy New Year and I followed that with Elizabeth Bishop´s poem Ínsomnia´. A touch of class is always special.

Next week it is ´The Outing´to write to with a workshop the following week. It was all inspirational. Keep at it. Don´t forget The Open Mic on 7th February.

John Edwards

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

4th January 2012

 We were twenty one this week.  John McGregor took the chair.

Two things from last week’s blog.  Blogger apologises for not identifying the two Jerry’s, Please let me have your surnames and I will try and remember in future.  The website about wordcount was not, but – thank you Rob.

John introduced Eunice a new member who has lived in Spain since 2004.  Welcome Eunice.

John Edwards kicked us off. He circulated copies of his poem entitled ‘Eleven’ a war poem.

 Comments – some ‘the’.  words could be eliminated.  Lots of comments about line length and punctuation creating some discussion about the way poetry can be presented and meaning changed.  It was agreed that it was a personal choice when writing poetry.   The use of the word ‘stroll’ again raised the issue of personal views.  What the reader brings to the poem.  John ended the discussion by referring to an article in this month’s “Writers” Magazine which had an article on line length and urged the group to read it.

Alan read a piece about a holiday spent in Gambia in 1988. Airport official welcome was basic.  The people were friendly.  Lots of excursions on the river and overland.  Alan described the cultural shocks of circumcision and living conditions.  His favourite part was escaping from the headmasters lecture and visiting the children to distribute the little learning gifts he had taken for them.  It wasn’t all travel and visiting.  The New Year celebrations brought a Scottish theme and the New Year was piped in and ended with a brandy nightcap

 Comments – More details about the locals and the living conditions would have added interest and when Alan’s feelings about the events and local life were included, these enhanced the piece.

Rosemary Told us that she writes a monthly blog of events and activities that have taken place in her life then sends this to family and friends.  She uses it as a writing exercise and asked the group if it could be improved.  It sounded all singing and dancing to me, except when she overstayed her welcome to watch her favourite T.V. programme.  Rosemary moulded the piece to fit the theme this week ‘I wish I had said’.

Comments – were varied, some thought that if it was a retelling of events then it was OK, but that personal information and making out that life is wonderful may not be received well by those being sent the information.  There seemed to be optimists and pessimists amongst us who had different views.  After all we don’t write much to people these days and it’s good to keep communicating, it may be emailed instead of being posted, but how good is it to receive a letter from someone.  No crowing and not too long though!   

Avril Read an account of her experience of returning to hospital after a gall bladder operation.  It was an hilarious account of a real situation when she overheard a conversation between a doctor and patient.  We must remember when asked any questions at the hospital to say ‘I was unconscious’ and refuse to give your name – Why?  Because they already have it written down.

 Comments – very funny indeed.

Darren was expanding on his previous reading of the novel he has started writing.  He was attempting conversation in this piece and asked for us to comment.  The conversation was taking place in a pub and one character evolved who will be a very interesting revolutionary perhaps. 

Comments - Everyone enjoyed the section read, but suggested there might be a break between the conversation in some way as there was a lot of material to take in.

Brenda – Brenda read a futuristic piece set in 2079.  Earth’s death and destruction by man until Marine biologists discover krill developing a survival mechanism, perhaps,
Comments – Look carefully at whose point of view is being put forward, timeframe and how realistically life is depicted when the earth is being destroyed.  We’re looking forward to next week’s instalment Brenda.

Phil – read a piece called ‘The Oriental Rope Trick’ An  evocative account of looking at the items in a father’s shed and the memories recalled by the ‘wood handled awl’  and other items. 

 Comments – agreed it was beautiful crafted prose described in such detail that we could all visualise it.  It was suggested that smells could also be included.  Phil informed the group that it was a 500 words that had been selected as the first runner up in a short story competition.

Heather – wrote on the theme ‘I wish I had said’ about socially circulating at a Christmas party.  Some very practical observations and good descriptions of character and events.
Comments – Thoroughly enjoyable and a hint of Victoria Wood.

Douglas – wrote on the theme, but the physical ability to write and what it means to people. He suggests at the end that when he’s unable to write ‘shoot me’.  I don’t think so Douglas, what a loss to the group of writers.

Next week the theme is ‘After Xmas’

Margaret Rowland    

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Stuff about grammar

Descriptive grammar (definition #1) refers to the structure of a language as it is actually used by speakers and writers. Prescriptive grammar (definition #2) refers to the structure of a language as certain people think it should be used.
Both kinds of grammar are concerned with rules--but in different ways. Specialists in descriptive grammar (called linguists) study the rules or patterns that underlie our use of words, phrases, clauses, and sentences. On the other hand, prescriptive grammarians (such as most editors and teachers) lay out rules about what they believe to be the “correct” or “incorrect” use of language.
The above is on's page on grammar, summing up what  I was talking about in our discussion. I used to be very much the latter, but have lightened up a bit now! Maureen

Sunday, 1 January 2012

December 28th 2011

 We were 17 - it was a very good year.  (sorry that was another story or song even!)

 John McGregor kindly took the chair very competently may I add.

 I must thank Cynthia for her wise words last week regarding the content of the blog.  It appears that we go downhill in December.   No offence intended by the blogger, just doing a job.
Rosemary started us off with her article for the village news sheet. She writes for the Richford local parish news, as though she is still a resident of that village, even though she spends most of her time in Spain.  This month, village life revolves around the local church and pub with reference to the local flora and fauna, mainly calendula a healing herb that can be eaten which led Rosemary on to dieting for the village.  Dieting, only if absolutely necessary. 

 Comments - Everyone hoped that her article was read. John suggested that she put a clause at the end of the piece suggesting that the first person to read the article and comment back would receive £10. More practical advice was; some unnecessary words and identifying the person dieting.
Gerry commented on the use of the word ‘kids’ instead of children.  Many apologies for not remembering where this idea came from.  Gerry was going to read us a poem.  Instead   we all raced headlong into an analysis of the use of the English language.  I can’t believe it was anything to do with this week’s theme being “Hot Pen”. However, let’s not detract from the deep and meaningful discussion we had about the use of the English language, the bastardisation of meaning, understanding and pronunciation by children, adults, ethnic groups and geographical areas. 

We covered the whole spectrum and as always we all had our opinions on this.  Maureen brought the conversation to a conclusion by mentioning prescriptive and descriptive elements of the language.  That which is written in a grammatically correct format and that which describes events characters situations to arouse some interest and possible entertainment. An overall agreement of the point of language is to communicate was finally raised by Chris and agreed by all.  If you want details you should have attended!  I was far too riveted and eager to participate in the excellent discussion rather than take copious notes so there!

 There was another element of this debate; the use of slang and base words, mainly the ‘f’ word and the ‘c’ word.  It was agreed that they are particularly strong words.   Gerry pointed out that he had never heard the phrase “‘fuck off’ he hinted.”  We all questioned why we found some words so offensive, when did they become offensive?  Are they used in the right context?  Some writers use them literally, D.H. Lawrence and Ken Follett for example.  Some words can become a term of endearment was another comment, whilst the majority thought that, mainly four letter words had become the norm with a lot of young people  and had become boring as well as offensive.

 John gave us an example of an author he had read and thoroughly enjoyed, but when he eagerly opened the author’s second book, he found two ‘arsehole’s’ and a ‘bollocks’ on the first page, and this completely put him off reading it.  Maureen did point out that he had his anatomy wrong, as normally it is two bollocks and one arsehole. I think I’ll rest my case there.
Gerry saved the day by reading us his poem.  He did try delaying tactics, but we were having none of it and just told him to get on with it.  Fortunately he did and it was well worth the wait. It was about Guernica and how the Basques helped repatriate the UK military.  A soldier’s remembrance of his experience and his return to the land where he first felt safe.  It was agreed that it was a very moving poem.

 Comments – to make clear, where the real event takes place, and the divide between wartime and the soldier’s thoughts on his return during peacetime.

 Michael – read us a poem, not the usual vehicle for his creativity.  ‘I hear you call my name.’  Another war poem and again very moving. The group asked for it to be read a second time.  The use of different names in each stanza and the increasing intensity of the cry of the person in each stanza was very poignant and thought provoking.

Michael also  read a piece of prose that he hopes to expand into a fantasy story for kids (oops sorry Children) called “The Shed”  The short piece involved a bum burning lavatory seat, a self driving car and eventually a Special Hut for Experimental Design or SHED to you and me.  The main character, inventor/designer is able to have conversations with the ‘Shed’ we were all intrigued.

Comments – develop a younger character who would appeal to children.  He or she could have all sorts of adventures. All agreed it could be really appealing to young people.  We look forward to hearing more.

Margaret – read a section from one of the crime stories she’s involved in writing with other co-writers from Wordplay. The New York policeman and his sidekick work together to solve the murder.  She asked for comments about the story, as she has to develop the characters over three stories and this was the second murder to be solved.  A woman has been strangled and the policeman and his sidekick arrive at the scene.

Comments – repetition of words.  Time of day and time of year needs to be established.  Consider if the first section needs to be there.  Make sure there’s something to hook the reader in.  Your comments were very well received. Thank you. 

John Edwards mentioned a website  which will pick up repetitive words and other minor errors in a manuscript.  Thanks John.

Chris – read an elevated verse ‘Ode to the Spud’ delivered beautifully and appreciated by the Greek Chorus.

Avril – read another short section of her tour around London articles.

 Comments – give the reader the direction being taken by the author and the position of the landmarks mentioned. Possibly make the river tour a separate circuit.

 John McGregor – gave a short review of ‘Bad Blood’ by Lorna Sage.  An account of a child growing up in the 40’s and 50’s. Her account of the relationship between her grandparents and parents.  She ‘dabbles with boys’. Despite setbacks she experiences academic success.  John urged us to read it.

Because Michael has attempted to write poetry for the first time and it turned out so well.  I have included it on the blog.  I have heard three poems about war read at TWC meeting, Michael’s, Gerry Wright and John Edwards. Perhaps they would agree to put their war poems on the blog too.

 Happy New Year to you all

Margaret Rowland

I hear you call my name


Michael White

Tommy, Tommy; I hear you call my name

Play up, play up you yell

Play up and play the game

And how I tried my love

As I heard you call my name

Harry, Harry; I hear you shout my name

One more push, just one more

And we will win the fame

And how I tried my love

As I heard you shout my name


Billy, Billy; I hear you cry my name

This one we have to win

We must not lose for shame

And how I tried my love

As I heard you cry my name


Johnny, Johnny; I hear you scream my name

For I am everyman who went to war

On whom death staked a claim

And as I died my love

Did you hear me scream your name?