In week two of the course, we are now looking at two stories, one written by the brothers Grimm, The Blue Light, and one by Andersen, The Tinderbox. Both are based upon the same traditional folk tale, and the examination of these two stories in parallel is a means for introducing two fairy tale frameworks: the actantial model and the home-away-home model.
It’s been a busy and tiring couple of weeks for me. I started a new job a week ago, a part time job in a shop which involves hours of being on my feet. Going from an office job, where the most exercise I did within the work day was the walk from the car park to the office, this has been a challenge for me. But my first week is over and I’ve recovered from it, and now it’s time to get the rest of my activities back on track.
The second part of week 3‘s lessons involved writing a short piece, the start of a story, and posting it for review, then reviewing other writers’ work. The piece we wrote was meant to be new, but I ended up restarting a short story I’ve been working on for a few days but wasn’t happy with.
Week 3 of the Start Writing Fiction course looks at editing work we’ve written, reviewing others’ work, and getting reviews for our work. It began with an exercise in which we were given a paragraph of text and instructed to edit it down to two lines. Here’s the paragraph:
The heavy black and blue winter sky groaned awfully with rain clouds that at any moment were really about to fall crashing heavily down upon the street where, because it was rush hour, so many people, wearing all manner of different clothes, hats, shoes, boots, some of them carrying bags, suitcases, briefcases, scampered and strolled about the place as though oblivious to what was just about to happen over their very heads. One of these people was called Hilary and concealed inside her voluminous coat she carried the loaded, snub-nosed gun, and she also seemed to be the only one looking upwards into the tempestuous thundery heavens.
And this is what I edited it down to:
The bruised winter sky groaned heavy with clouds waiting to burst open upon the streets. Amongst the rush-hour bustle, Hilary held her coat tight over the loaded gun, and looked up.
Some weeks ago I expressed difficulty at completing the final task set as part of Week 2 of the Start Writing Fiction course on FutureLearn. It’s taken this long to get back to it but I have finally completed the difficult task and I am ready to move on to week 3, which I aim to work on tomorrow evening. It is now week 6 so I have some catching up to do (and that’s not even taking into account the three new courses that started this week, one last week and one the week before that I’ve barely looked at).
Towards the end of last week I was working on an article for my Magical Creatures for Magical Worlds series for Mythic Scribes. Spoilers, it’s the Hydra. Defeating it was one of the tasks of Heracles (I focused on Greece at university, I refuse to use the Romanised version of his name; it even pained me to use it in the title of this blog post, and that’s not even his name, it’s a phrase based on his name). This inspired me to read a bit more about Heracles, and led me to consider the possibility of rewriting his Labours as an exercise.
Since Monday I’ve been working my way through the second week of the Open University’s Start Writing Fiction course on FutureLearn. The initial exercises proved to be reasonably easy. The first was to consider the best and worst place to write, in my opinion, and then put a character into each one. I think I got the idea of place reasonably well, but failed to put into practice the concepts of showing character explored in week 1. The second was about using fluff phrases to start a sentence, before rewriting the paragraph to remove the fluff phrase. Again, I think I managed okay with the exercise itself, but didn’t put character into either one.
The third and final exercise troubles me. The prompt was to turn on the radio and use the first thing I heard as the basis for a short story, but the exercise also had specific instructions to include week 1’s concepts. Using physical description, actions, backstory and so on to reveal personality.
I’ve recently started a free online course with FutureLearn called Start Writing Fiction, run by the Open University. The course focuses on characters; after all, a story is nothing without them. I certainly think it’s important to have characters who feel like real people and who are distinct and interesting. Since I don’t know everything and am some way away from having some published novels out there, I thought I’d give this course a go and see what I could learn.