I developed Notes Story Board (originally Story Lite, Turbo) as a tool for my own story boarding. One idea I had was to put stories into the app, along with images, extra information etc, to expand a normal story into an epistolary fiction. Or multimedia, illustrated, graphic novel.
I tried some experiments but it is like making a large poster on the zooming canvas, so is not too practical a way to read. Perhaps it would work better with flash or short fiction, keeping a strong narrative flow.
Wattpad have created an app for Apple and Android called Tap that allows each line of a story to be ‘tapped’ onto the screen of your phone or tablet.
This is quite interesting! See the screenshots.
Of course, it depends on the quality of the content.
If any of you out there have any story uses for Notes Story Board, please let me know!
It is a finished and agent-edited thrilling novel about crime in Chicago and Macau, near Hong Kong China. You make a pledge (pre-purchase) and get your name in the credits inside the book. If the pre-sales don’t get to the target figure, the crowdfund stops, and you get all your money back, so there is no risk.
It is set in an anxious time, when Ronald Reagan became President of the United States, who was seen as very inexperienced. There were problems with Russia, which was still Communist at the time (and was the USSR – how long ago that sounds!). Of course, now we have Trump, Russian problems, etc. Perhaps there are historical parallels? You’ll have to read it to find out.
The way the crowdfunding works is that the publisher remove their risk by making the author raise the full cost of the first print run, before they publish it. The figures are high – £4000 for Ivy Ngeow’s novel, and can be much higher for non-fiction books or very long illustrated novels. This is a lot of pre-sales. Once it has succeeded, the publisher will take it on as a ‘normal’ book and market it via their channels. Unbound (Penguin) had a big hit last year with The Good Immigrant (essays) and have many successful books out. So support our own writer here: Crowdfund novel Heart of Glass by Ivy Ngeow here >
I am just reading the new Hamilton Void book, Abyss Beyond Dreams, the Void trilogy fourth volume. These new SF books are so colossal even trilogies expand. The actual books are huge (in size and scope). I can’t take it on holiday, or put in pocket of bag for travel.
I also have loads of the old ‘pulp’ SF books, which are all of a much smaller size, typically 100 pages on thin paper, in a small format. These are very portable and I sometimes take one to read on the tube. They all have lurid images in bright colours so some things don’t change!
I was published in several collections of new writers alongside various people. Some of these are quite famous now – Ben Okri, Iain Sinclair, Hanif Kureishi etc. I also checked out Tom McCarthy. I knew he had set up a sort of one-man art movement called the Necronautical Society, which reminded me of Stewart Home’s various made-up organisations with grand names. I think all that starts from Throbbing Gristle and their manifestos and cut-up art, rather than the Surrealists et al. Most things like this originate in mass culture not high arts. These organisations are a bit dated now as they are too ponderous, claiming irony in their bogus corporate stance. There is nothing more ironic than an out-of-date joke.
Anyway, I bought a copy of Tom McCarthy’s ‘Remainder’ for 1p on Ebay, which came complete with a free tea ring on the cover. I had just seen it in Waterstones, on the front table in a two book deal, which is a great promotion to be in. Remainder is a film, see link below.
This is all about the USP, since a film script starts with a unique pitch line – and Remainder is one of those strange stories that is unusual enough to film. It has made the journey from a small press publication in Paris, all the way to Waterstones deals, and a film.
The USP, the great concept? Someone with brain damage and lots of money decides to recreate moments from his memory (‘re-enactments’) that produce sensations (affect) in his largely blank emotive state. He recreates a whole building he lived in, and then walks around reliving states of emotion or sensation, listening to a pianist, or smelling cooking. This is a kind of reverse of normal, where the real world impinges, in this, he impinges on a created world. Actually his ambitions are quite small, he does not build entirely new places, just uses existing places and adapts them.
This reminded me of the film ‘Synecdoche, New York’ with the recreation of worlds in 1:1 scale, but separate from the world. This sort of thing is always written about as if a requirement is madness. In the real world (as opposed to literary fantasy) people force reality into all sorts of shapes, as a matter of course.
I was also reminded of people who obsessively model railways in various scales, for the pleasure of observing the final result (since they are not playing trains). These people (usually quite old, or retired) are known as ‘rivet counters’ as they model steam engines or trackside buildings, along with tiny people. This could be a senile effect, a longing for an ordered world, located in an ossified childhood memory. I suppose collecting anything old is similar, such as vinyl records once owned when young. The object is not the point, it is the emotional state when observing.
“What do you consider the largest map that would be really useful?”
“About six inches to the mile.”
“Only six inches!” exclaimed Mein Herr. “We very soon got six yards to the mile. Then we tried a hundred yards to the mile. And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!”
“Have you used it much?” I enquired.
“It has never been spread out, yet,” said Mein Herr: “The farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight! So now we use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.” Lewis Carroll (ref. 1)
There is some resonance in the idea of maps and scales, the mind observing and testing itself against a life size reproduction. Even the idea of actual biological reproduction might be played out in these scenarios, although this is missed in McCarthy’s addition of a traditional narrative climax to his story (once a gun appears, it has to be used).
If the re-enactment itself gave birth to a new, real, place, that might have been more interesting. Since this interest in McCarthy’s books came about through his accidental proximity to my own writing in an old short story collection, I might as well mention the idea of ‘copy cities’ I used in my last novel Nnn Goes Mobile. This had some action in a place called Prague II. Virtual and augmented reality will eventually give rise to real-life analogues, where entire cities are reproduced in cheaper locations as low cost alternatives. The map and the territory interrelate.
I will reveal parts of the story here so do not read if avoiding spoilers.
Back to the book. It is written by someone who gets hit on the head by ‘something from the sky’. He gets rehabilitated, gets a large compensation, and then proceeds to recreate as life theatre pieces (‘re-enactments’ in buildings or on the street) memories of places and people so he can basically stare at them and get mental sensations. This is all about mental malfunctioning after brain damage, since his previous life seems normal (his pre-accident best friend, soon forgotten, is a typical noisy youth). There is a bit of philosophy thrown in, but the basic story is quite lean and concentrates on describing the process of setting up the re-enactments. There is a bit of a thriller ending, just to liven it up a bit. These sort of ‘mental state’ stories can go on forever. Some sort of climax is needed, hence the thriller ending.
There is hardly any back story or prolonged characterisation, which is quite refreshing. A few old friends loiter around the start of the book but soon disappear. The project manager who arranges all the re-enactments is minimally described, and acts as a cipher. Overall, an interesting book, and a success. This is a tremendous relief.
There is a good interview in The Irish Examiner with the great and celebrated writer Hanif Kureishi (link at bottom).
He discusses the value of writing courses, which is not always immediately apparent. He compares fiction with rock and roll this might be wishful thinking as he always liked that side of culture. Kuresihi wrote The Buddha of Suburbia which was later filmed for TV with David Bowie providing the music. He also weighs into the Brexit debate. People forget that large-scale immigration did not start with the EU. Britain is a reasonably peaceful place, which largely ignores new groups and lets them get on with it. Whether that changes now is to be seen.
Brain Mill Press present Ab Terra International SF.
Brain Mill Press are open for new SF manuscript submissions. These are be any novel length (40,000 words or more) story. This is organised by the Malaysian Chinese writer Yen Ooi. Closing date is 1st December 2016 (please check on application).
Did you know National Flash-Fiction Day is 25th June 2016? Get writing!
I wrote my first Flash Fiction in my head while in the dentist’s chair, and wrote it up on my phone the next day. With the costs of dentists and phones, I suppose that is the expensive way to do it.
These are the competitions coming up in the Spring. I will do more later in the year. Some are for ‘chap-books’ which are not for chaps only, and the lengths vary from 100 to 500 words. So check out what suits for you.
There are lots, which is great news for writers. They even have cash prizes!
4 entries per year – 31st March, 30th June, 30th September and 31st December.
Winners notified by email within six weeks of closing dates.
This is ‘open-themed’ but winners last year were crime, crash disaster, child abuse – so Crime related.
This is not the usual ‘conflict’ (seen as too long-winded) but ‘after effects’ I suppose. I think 500 words is huge, why focus only on ‘magic moments’?
Newfoundland Prize (US)
Deadline: 15 April 2016 – EXTENDED, 15 March 2016
The Newfoundland Prose Prize for a chapbook-length (chapter-sized only) work of fiction or creative non-fiction.
Long story or essay, collection of short pieces to 60 pages maximum. 15 pages is lowest allowed.
Some aspect of the work must “inform or explore how place shapes identity, imagination, and understanding”.
A writer friend suggested I try flash fiction – very short stories, usually under one page. So around 300 words.
Next day I had to have a root canal on a molar, and to think about something else, I thought about a story. I had a rough idea – actually just a concept – and expanded this into a story. I had in mind 300 characters since I had been doing software descriptions for my new writing app Notes Story Board.
Anyway, once I had got it down to 300 characters – about 50 words – I remembered I was aiming for 300 words (at this point the tooth and one root was out).
Perhaps that is a good discipline – create a summary, a short elevator pitch, as recommended by books like Save The Cat (about script-writing, not cats).
So I expanded this story idea a day later in a café, writing using note software on my phone. Got the story down in around 200 words. Well, any more was just padding. I ended up with an interesting little piece, so I entered it into a competition.
It was great to start and finish a whole story so quickly, as I find long-form writing hard… too easy to lose the motivation and then forget the atmosphere, the germ of the idea in the first place, the feeling of a story that is not written or even known yet. (It seemed to be easier in the past when I would write a novel almost as an end in itself).
But that still leaves the basic question.
Is flash fiction just an internet fad? A short form for a low attention span.
So why bother with it?
The root of all
I have also got kind of stuck with a novel. This has been in the plotting and note-taking stage for years.
A few months ago I changed it (not much, only a few thousand words at the start) to an ‘epic poem’ to speed things up a bit – converting it to short broken up texts, with a ragged right margin, like a ‘proper poem’. This was quite an interesting process, but again was a delaying tactic, substituting craft for creativity.
Now my plan is to rewrite all the plot scenes as flash fiction – each small scene has a beginning, middle and twist, to quote R. L. Stine, as spoken by Jack Black in the film Goosebumps. This might not be suitable for most of the scenes but you get the general idea.
So try that – take a long boring text, and condense it down to a page. If nothing else, it can improve your style.