Monday, July 29, 2013

Why Do You Write?

by Natacha Dudley

“A writer without interest or sympathy for the foibles of his fellow man is not conceivable as a writer.” Joseph Conrad

When I write I find my story often veers off on an unexpected path. This can cause problems when I find myself heading towards a dead end. Frustration sets in and I start wondering what on earth I’m going to do. What is the point of going with the flow if you get stuck? Why write at all?

In his 1946 essay ‘Why I write’ George Orwell suggests that there are four great motives for writing hidden inside every writer.  Firstly sheer egoism. The desire for recognition and fame is, according to him, a characteristic that writers share with the top crust of humanity. The second motive is aesthetic enthusiasm. Orwell believes that the pleasure of creating a great story or an interesting phrase should guide us all.  However he also mentions that this motive is very feeble in a lot of writers. The third motive he puts forward is historical impulse: the need to record facts for posterity.

The fourth motive for writing is political purpose. Orwell stresses that this is a broad definition. He defines it as the desire to push the world in a certain direction.  He went on to describe his own creative process as follows:

‘When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art’.  I write it because there is some lie I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.’

My own writing has no political purpose whatsoever but he made me stop and think.  Is there anyone out there hoping to change the world, or are we all just a bunch of egoists?

Thursday, July 25, 2013


by Gary Tinnams

Many, many years ago I studied English at University, which seemed a good idea at the time. I liked books, I liked reading, I had opinions and I knew how to express them. I didn’t actually have a career in mind except that it had to have something to do with books, and so I finished my degree, spent lots of time unemployed until ending up in a not too unsuccessful career in Information Technology. Yep, that last part makes no sense. Since then I was thinking of taking up something like Psychology, just as a hobby, because I had all this insight into character motivations, author messages, so why not people personalities? What I found was a course that was just another load of opinions. Well thought out and constructed opinions but opinions nonetheless, they were not facts.

This made me realise that my entire English degree and the A-Level and GCSE before it were just reams and reams of opinions, my opinions, my tutor’s opinions, the opinions of old dead men in dusty books, but opinions all the same.  The whole process is essentially flawed. If I wrote an essay about Shakespeare and then travelled back in time and asked him if that essay represented his train of thought he would probably have laughed at me.

How can my opinions based on my particular narrow viewpoint of life latch on to the mind of some guy who lived in a totally different time and culture? The simple answer is that they can’t. Anyone can structure an argument in an essay to mean anything if they are clever enough and witty enough and can source just the right quote. For all its grandiose wording, it’s a viewpoint, a clever construction, but that is all. It does not uncover some new fundamental secret about the content it is examining. It is saying more about the person who writes the essay than it can ever say about the subject.

Writing a book or a story is a very personal thing, but it also a very fine distillation of the author’s personality and intentions. It is not direct, it is fiction, not a list of instructions on how to put a shelf together. Other people can read that book, and they can take something away from it, some message, some feeling, but that won’t be the author’s message or feeling, it solely belongs to the reader, using that story or book to create a reflection of their own mind.  I’m not even sure the author has a message, maybe some general theme, or some half baked idea of what a commercial book should look like in order to be successful. But the author, any author, has words put into their mouths by the critics, and the English students, and finally by the readers. We see what we want to see, and we have no choice in that. The stories we read allow us to discover more about ourselves, and the stories we write help us to express that knowledge.

At the end of the day I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I think it’s a marvellous amazing process, but I will never make the mistake of thinking I know what the author meant when they wrote their latest masterpiece. I don’t even know what I meant when I wrote my own.

Disclaimer: This article does not claim to contain fact; rather it contains personal opinions held by the author and subject to change.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Picture Inspires a Thousand Words

by Carlie Cullen

All the advice about writing states you should write something every day, and it’s something I try to do as much as possible. But there are days when you don’t have a W.I.P. to work on; maybe you’ve just finished a draft and it’s with your editor, maybe you’re just lacking a little inspiration, or maybe you want to have a break from the norm and do something a little different. Whatever the reason behind it, you may find yourself needing a little prompt.

Enter pictures.

As I love fantasy, I’m going to use fantasy pictures as an example. All I’ve done is type ‘fantasy pictures’ into the Google images search bar and found some real beauties. Let’s take this one as a first example:

Just think about what you can write using this picture for inspiration. I could probably write close on a thousand words just on the girl alone! When you add in all the background detail and work it all into a story to explain who the people and creatures are and what’s happening in the scene, you have the makings of a great story or flash fiction.

Here’s another example:

Who is this woman? Are those spikes on a headdress or protruding from her skin? What do the tattoos mean? What sort of land does she inhabit? Is she good or evil? Does she possess magic or a paranormal talent? The more questions you can ask about the picture, the more you have to write about.

A third example:

Where are these two? What magic does the woman possess? Is the warrior beside her man or creature? Why does she need a warrior – is it for protection or is she his prisoner? Are they about to undertake a journey on the water or have they just arrived? Where are they going to/coming from? What is the purpose of their journey? Who/what is the woman? Do the spikes on the warrior’s armour signify anything specific?

Final example:

This city looks dark and grim, but is it really? Is it the fact it’s nestled between mountains which gives that appearance? Is it really a happy and bright place? What is this world like? What is their ecosystem? What creatures inhabit the surrounding land? What type of people live in this city? Who rules them? Why was it constructed in a valley? What are the structures built from? Who is the lone person standing on the rocks – is he a sentry or a spy? Who are the enemies of the citizens and why?

I could go on for ages listing questions for each of these pictures, but I think you get my point. There’s an old saying, ‘a picture paints a thousand words’; well for me it’s more like, ‘a picture inspires a thousand words’. So the next time you need a little inspiration or are looking to write something different, find a picture that sparks your interest, make a list of questions and get to work.