Sunday, 11 March 2012

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The End Of An Era

I finished my final assignment for the OCA yesterday and will be submitting it tomorrow.

Wow! 11 months has gone really quickly.

The original plan was to take the course and hopefully achieve a degree in Creative Writing....but, I've decided that life's too short and I'd like to concentrate on my short story writing and I can't do that if I'm studying and having to do assignments.

I have learnt so much doing this course, I don't regret taking it one little bit :)

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Final OCA Reflective Comentary

With this final reflective commentary, I’m not quite sure where to start. The last eleven
months have been one hell of a ride. Mentally exhausting is the expression that springs to
mind, but, in a good way. I’ve been challenged, that’s for sure.

When I first started the course I had had little experience of writing, apart from an attempt
at Nanowrimo in October 2010. I hadn’t studied English (grammar and punctuation)
for many years and didn’t know the different between an adverb and a noun.

This course has taught me so much it’s incredible. I’ve learnt about so many things I
would never have been able to tackle in my writing and I feel that my writing has greatly improved due to the course. I am now more confident in what I write. Although I still
have my bad habits and faults, I can see a future in my writing, I can see that I can
improve those things and will strive to do so in the future.

I’ve enjoyed doing a Learning Log; I just wish I had decided to use my Blog for it earlier.
It’s a great resource, being able to look back on things and see where your strengths and
weaknesses are, how you felt about particular aspects of the course.
I now know where my strengths (characterisation) and weaknesses (poetry) are and
my notebook collection is expanding, I have 10 full up ones now, full of ideas, short
stories and characterisations.

I have been using writing prompts every day which has been brilliant. It makes me write
every day, and I have now built up a large body of work (all of which needs editing,
expanding and possibly rewriting) which I can use in the future.

I have decided not to continue my studies with the OCA, not because I haven’t enjoyed
the course, but because I think I have learnt enough to give me a good grounding in
basic writing skills. I feel that it would be more beneficial to me to put my
energies into concentrating on my short stories, which is where my interest lies.

Friday, 17 February 2012

OCA Part 5 Project 6 Exercise

This exercise was about theme and symbolism.

I chose to work on a short story I wrote back in January from a prompt "A Twilight Memory".

The "theme" of the story is "LOST LOVE"

It is the eve of Kim's wedding and at 36 she is finally getting married, to a guy called Alan, who she met a couple of years ago. Alan is a widower, kind, gentle, thoughtful, the kind of man you can depend on.

Sitting alone in her old bedroom at her mothers house she finds herself dreaming of the lost love of her 20's, Stephen. He was exciting, passionate and dangerous. They were engaged, but Stephen got a job offer in the States, too good to refuse. Kim couldn't go, as her father was dying of cancer and she felt she couldn't leave her mother to deal with it alone. Their long distance relationship made things impossible and they decided to split.

She wears a small heart shaped gold locket that Stephen bought her just before he left for America, she never takes it off. She's told Alan that a dear friend bought it.

Part of her is still in love with Stephen, always has been, but now, she's faced with the choice of spending the rest of her life waiting for Stephen or trying to be happy with a good man who loves her......

I'm really struggling fitting "symbolism" into this story. Hearts symbolise love so I guess the gold locket could play a large part in the story. I'm not sure that I would naturally use symbolism in my work.

OCA Part 5 Project 5 Ex 2 part 2

So let's see what nasty things I can subject poor Vince to ;)

1. His son could go missing?
Journey - Quest - Monsters - Tragedy (depending on the outcome) - Rags to Riches (or rather Riches to Rags) depending on what it takes to get his son back.

2. His daughter could be kidnapped?
Exactly the same as No 1 above

3. His wife has an affair?
Journey - Quest (to get her back) - Monster (the other man) - Tragedy (depending on the outcome)

4. Something happens with the business and he ends up bankrupt?
Riches to Rags - Journey - Quest - Rebirth - Tragedy (depending on the outcome)

5. He's falsely accused of murder?
The Siege - Monsters - Quest - Journey

6. He does actually commit murder?
Strangely enough exactly the same as No 5 above.... It doesn't really matter if he did it or not lol

7. He has an affair?
Tragedy - Riches to Rags

8. His secretary accuses him of rape?
The Siege - Monsters - Quest - Tragedy (depending on the outcome)

9. He's blackmailed?
Riches to Rags - Monsters - Quest - Tragedy (depending on the outcome)

10. A long lost child (he fathered on a one night stand) turns up out of the blue.
Journey - Rebirth - Monster (possibly, depending on how he sees it) - Tragedy (depending on the outcome)

Ok.....now which one do I write? ;)

OCA Part 5 Project 5 Ex 2 part 1

Choose an Archetypal Structure - a character from my notebook - a setting - makes notes on my ideas - a plot line to this piece.

Vince Moorcroft is 53 years old. He lives with his wife Patti and their 20 year old daughter Rose. They live in a large barn conversion nestled deep in the heart of the Kent countryside. Their 22 year old son Lee lives and works in New York.

Vince runs a successful construction company which he built up from scratch having left school with no qualifications. He started out as a labourer at 16 on a building site.

5 foot 8 with a stocky frame he is suffering from middle aged spread, but swims everyday in the heated outside pool he built himself a couple of years ago.

Born and bred in East London to working class parents he has a cockney accent and a cheeky attitude to go with it. Never afraid to stand up for what is right, as a teen he was always involved in fights, usually to stop bullies.

His father was an alcoholic, his mother took in people's washing to make ends meet. The small terraced house the family rented was full to bursting point5 boys all told, Vince is the youngest. He decided very early on that he didn't want to end up like his father who died in his early 50's from a heart attack. Vince is paranoid the same will happen to him so he doesn't touch alcohol (not a drop for 15 years), doesn't smoke and tries to eat healthily.

His mum is now in a nursing home, he visits her every week. Although, most of the time she doesn't even know who he is. He finds it upsetting.

In his spare time he plays golf and likes to take his 2 chocolate Labradors, Smor and Effie for long walks in the woods. He calls it his thinking time.

Quick tempered, he can be brash and moody. A bit of a sulker his wife says. His workforce consider him to be firm, but fair. A good sense for business and commanding presence, no one dares to rip him off.

He has a large nose, sparkling blue eyes and close cropped grey hair. He needs glasses for reading and wears trousers and shirts. He thinks he's too old for jeans now. He is charming and likeable.

He drives a Range Rover but has a motorbike sitting in the garage. A result of his midlife crisis in his mid 40's. Now, it gets little use.

Away from home at least 1 night a week he likes to check on the workers, prides himself on the reputation he has built up over the last 20 years.

He is a huge Elvis fan.

OCA Part 5 Project 4 Ex 4

Endings:

It's very hard to just write the ending of a story as its not in context. I can't write the whole stories here as I won't be able to enter them in competitions or submit to magazines. Well, anyway, here are some endings from my short stories....let's just see how they sound lol

Taking a long drag on his cigarette, Detective Christie got into his car and made the short journey back to the station.

Polly bit her lip and held back the tears. She couldn't decide if she just felt sadness or pure terror.

Gulping for air she sat up in bed and looked at Adam, sleeping peacefully beside her.

She gagged, her mouth filling with a sticky thick liquid that seemed to come from nowhere. As she felt herself falling the words "I'm happy hope you're happy too." rang in her ears.

Nick sat down on a chair next to the bed and stared down at his paint spattered jeans. He scoffed as he noticed that the colour matched the walls of the room perfectly. As the tears began to stream down his face he remembered what colour it had said on the paint can...teardrop.

Jen watched from afar as her sister sunk slowly, deeper and deeper into an abyss.

As Ruby stood at the top of the concrete stairs Amelia reached out and shoved the younger girls shoulder. Ruby screamed as she fell, somersaulting down the cold hard steps as Amelia watched, smiling.

OCA Part 5 Project 4 Ex 3 Part 2

The Middle

"Where is it where is it?" Diana's voice rose as she began to panic.
"What's wrong dear?" her mother asked as she peered around the half open door.
"I can't find my key mum, have you seen it?" Diana rummaged frantically in the shoe box.
"What key dear? I don't go anywhere near your things." As her mother left the room Diana emptied the contents of the box onto the floor. The trinkets and small prices of paper landed on the old fraying carpet. She sifted through the scattered items, her fingers searching desperately for the key.

Holding back the tears now welling in her eyes it began to dawn on her that she couldn't remember when she had last seen it. As she lent against the side of the bed the tears began to flow down her cheeks.

"Ive brought you a cup of tea dear, oh..." Her mother put the cup down on the bedside cabinet and sat down on the side of the bed. Diana lay her head on her mothers leg and sobbed.
"It's gone mum, I can't find it."
"Shhh....we'll find it, it must be here somewhere." Her mother stroked her hair.

The familiar feelings of panic began to rise in her chest as she gasped for air. Her mother, sensing the onset of an attack ran from the room and returned with a small paper bag. Diana breathed into the bag while her mother rubbed her back.
"Oh Di, come on dear, that's it, slowly."

When Diana had finally calmed down she surveyed the mess around her.
"I'm so sorry mum, it's just, it's all I have left."
"I know dear. You don't think Gareth took it do you?"
Until that point, Diana hadn't even considered that her son would have taken it.
"No....surely not....I don't think I ever told him about it, well, perhaps when he was little..."
Diana stopped mid sentence. "No, he wouldn't."
"Wouldn't what dear?"
Diana turned to her mother, a look of horror on her face.
"Go to Italy?"

OCA Part 5 Project 4 Ex 3 Part 1

The Character:

Diana Rogers is 41 years old. She works as a housekeeper for a City Banker who owns a large house in Hampstead. Divorced, she has 1 son (Gareth) who is at Uni studying English Lit. When he comes home he stays at his grandmothers, Diana's mums. Diana's employer is a Mr Windsor who lives alone, is also divorced and in his late 50's. She has her own room in the house but most of her possessions are stored at her mothers.

Her ex husband isn't the father of her son, their relationship broke down when she had an affair and became pregnant. She's had a few relationships since, but nothing serious.

Her son was conceived in Italy, where she and her husband were working at a hotel. She had an affair with an Italian man who also worked at the hotel.

She enjoys reading and gardening but gets little spare time. On her days off she takes her mum out shopping, they are very close.

Petite, she has mousy brown hair and blue eyes but wears little makeup. She wears a small pair of gold stud earrings and is most at home in jeans and trainers. She hates getting dressed up.

She has a best friend called Leah who she has known since school. They speak regularly on the phone but only get chance to meet up every few months as Leah has 5 children.

Diana is an only child, very quiet and private. She suffers from OCD when it comes to cleaning, something that suits Mr Windsor very well.

She likes classical music and as a child was very talented at playing the piano. She drives a Fiesta (that comes with the job) and loves her job....it gives her a sense of purpose.


The Item:

I was given a list of items, talismans, things that could be important to a character. For Diana, I chose the "key".

Why is this item do important to the character?

It's all she has as a reminder of the man she loved in Italy, her sons father.

What is the history of this item in relationship to the character?

It was given to her by the man she loved in Italy, at the time he said it was the key to his heart. She's had it for 19 years. She was so in love with him, and to a certain extent, still is......

Why is this item such a strong need?

It reminds her of her youth. Happy sunny days in Italy. It reminds her of the love she felt for Gino (might change that....but I can't keep calling him the Italian lol) and the love he showed her. She'd only been married to her ex for 18 months and the marriage was doomed from the start (he was a womaniser). They would of parted anyway, the affair with Gino and pregnancy just speeded things up.


Soooo....now I have to create a scene which is kind of in the middle of the story, where she's lost the key.......

Monday, 13 February 2012

OCA Part 5 Project 4 Ex 2

Beginnings: Dialogue

"I can't do this anymore Ross." She stuttered as the tears ran down her face. I felt ashamed, guilty. I tried to hold her.
"Don't touch me you bastard. You promised me. I won't do it again you said." She pulled the suitcase from under the bed and unzipped it ferociously.
"Woah, hold on Sally, please don't leave." I begged.

"I don't like it Mark. Can we go home now?"
"Oh for gods sake Beth, this was your idea, let's go camping you said."
"I know, I know." Beth whined as she wriggled in her sleeping bag.

"Please don't slurp your soup, people are looking." James ignored his mothers scornful look as the waiter poured them each a glass of Chardonnay.

OCA Part 5 Project 4 Ex 1

Beginnings: A Sense of Place

Two am on New Years day. The odd drunken part goer making their way home through the deserted streets. The fireworks, all finished, just their smoke hangs in the air. The New Year has finally arrived bringing with it new beginnings, a time for change. The old year hurries out the back door as she sits quietly in the dark, watching the Christmas tree lights twinkle.

"Ashes to ashes,funk to funky." Bianca sings as she hurtles down the motorway. Her hair blowing behind her like a jet stream. The car windows wound down fully to take advantage of this close August day.

The tube was packed as usual and Val had to stand. Her feet ached, her husband had told her this morning that she'd regret wearing those heels to work.

The man lay on the bed, half way between life, and death. His mother sat on the hard wooden chair next to him and sobbed quietly. The room was stark. A bed, small bedside cupboard, and the chair, now occupied by the plump blubbering woman. The smell of disinfectant was overpowering, masking the sweet scent of the tulips she was holding.

The rain splashed onto the road, rebounding onto my stockined legs as I walked the short distance from the crematorium to the large hole that had been dug for you .

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

OCA Part 5 Project 3 Exercise

I chose to use a story board for this exercise. I've never used the technique before and it was far from being a success lol. I don't think it really works for short stories. I probably could have gone into more detail, but, I dunno, I just didn't gel with it :o(

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

OCA Part 5 Project 2 Ex 1 Part 2

Poor old Stephen......

He discovers that his wife Emma is having an affair with a single dad she met on the school runs. He discovers this when he comes home late (as usual) one night and there is a note from Emma on the kitchen table. She says how tired and worn out she feels. That she feels neglected and sought attention from somewhere else. She apologises and says she's going away for a while, to get her head straight and decide what she wants to do. She'll be staying with HIS parents in Spain. Stephen is more angry than heartbroken and when the au pair quits the following morning, he suddenly realises that he'll be doing the school run. Perhaps that's not so bad, he can try to find out which one of the dads has been sleeping with his wife and punch him!

So, poor Stephen has now found himself in the position of being carer for 5 children he doesn't even know. How will he cope? How quickly can he find another au pair? What about the business? And of course, will Emma come back, if he changes his way? ;o)

Really enjoyed doing this one, and it just goes to show, if you create a character, then apply a 'What if?' you can end up with a whole story :o)

OCA Part 5 Project 2 Ex 1 Part 1

This exercise was to use a character I've created and apply a 'What if?'

The character I have chosen is one I created recently:

Stephen Saunders:
Owns a cider making business in Kent. It's been a family business since the early 1800's and he's very proud of it. Married to Emma, they have 5 children aged from 18 months up to 10 years. Stephen spends as little time as possible at home, preferring the company of his apples. He has a very hands on approach to business and can often be found in the orchards. Emma complained that he was no help around the house so he got her an au pair. Standing 6 foot 4 in bare feet, he is heavily built (overweight Emma says) with a receding hair line. He looks his age, 43, and his hair is greeting at the sides. Large brown bushy eyebrows that he plucks, over deep set hazel eyes, he is not the most attractive of men, but seems to get a lot of attention from the ladies. Always dressed smartly, he is Mr Charm personified, and even old Gertie the tea lady blushes when she hands him his morning tea and biscuits. He has 2 sisters, who take no interest in the business and 5 years ago his parents moved to Spain to enjoy their retirement, leaving him in charge. In his spare time he plays golf and once a month takes his BMW for a spin round the track at Brands Hatch. He has a fiery temper, and is very strict with his children. He likes to get his own way and must always be right, especially at home. Often spending time in London, repping, he has been known to use lap dancing clubs and prostitutes. He always pays with cash so that nothing shows up on the company credit card bill. He justifies this as being ok because it's just sex.

My What If? Choices:
1. What if my character was forced in a different direction?
2. What if their circumstances suddenly changed?
3. What if someone - their boss, their spouse - was cheating on them?
4. What if they lost something - job, handbag, child?

Well, the one that's crying out to me is that his wife could be cheating on him with a single dad she met on the school runs ;o)

*goes off to make some notes*

Sunday, 22 January 2012

OCA Part 5 Project 1 Ex 1

This exercise is all about inspiration, taking 2 ideas from my notebook, and combining the 2 to form a short story.

I chose the notes I'd made from watching a woman interviewed on This Morning, talking about being stalked and applied the 'what if' question. I combined that with a writing prompt 'saying goodbye' and came up with a short story about a woman who is stalking another woman. She ends up causing the death of the woman she's stalking and then at the funeral, commits suicide at the grave.

A dark little tale written in first person, that I thoroughly enjoyed writing ;o)

Thursday, 19 January 2012

OCA Assignment 4

I submitted my 4th Assignment this morning. Not really that happy with it to be honest.

This is my Reflective Commentary that went with it:

I’ve found this assignment quite difficult. I prefer to write in 3rd person
(as opposed to 1st) and I’m finding it hard to develop my voice in this POV. I
have tried to write in 1st person, but I struggle. I used a prompt
for this story, having the year and a locked room suggested to me. I now wish I
hadn’t continued with the story, not gone along the lines of the prompt. I
don’t like it and I didn’t connect with it. I think that comes across and I
learnt a very valuable lesson. Don’t write about something you’re not really
interested in. It’s good to experiment and be challenged, but, sometimes it doesn’t
work and the piece you produce is rubbish.

The exercises in this section have been difficult too. I don’t naturally use
metaphors and similes, which I know I should bedoing on a regular basis,
but I just don’t seem to be able to think of onesthat aren’t clich├ęs. I also have a huge
problem with constantly starting my sentences/paragraphs with he or she. I’m
not too sure how to get out of that, using past tense (apart from using a
character’s name). I’ve been thinking that perhaps, I should use present tense instead.

I’ve been doing my blog daily, which has helped me keep track of what I’m
doing with my writing, the things I’m learning and research. I’ve also joined a Writing Class/Group which I attend once a week. That has been brilliant, and I’ve had to read my
work out, which was very scary, but I’m glad I did it and got good feedback. I’ve
also been doing daily prompts using Judy Reeves A Writers Book Of Days, which
has been challenging, but great fun.

I’m a bit down on my writing at the moment, but determined to finish this course.

The short story i wrote was about a girl of 25 living with her husband and his mother in a house in 1914. There is a room with a locked door. Her husband isnt bothered about the locked room but she is...and one day, she finds out whats in it.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

OCA Part 4 Project 5 Ex 2

Cliches *groan*

I am the queen of Cliche lol..... I really need to come up with alternatives to the sad, old, tired description I tend to use lol. For example:

Pitch Black would be much better if written as Bible Black (Dylan Thomas)

I chose to use an extract from my Nano novel, where the MC Christine is describing the meal her husband Tim took her out for. Food is a very powerful image to describe.

OCA Part 4 Project 5 Ex 1

Practicing Imagery:

Ok, metaphors and similes I should definitely be using more of. I went through some pieces of my work and drew comparisons (and distinctions) between things.

An interesting exercise that has made me more aware of my weaknesses.

OCA Part 4 Project 4 Ex 5

Searching for authorial comments in my work. Hmmmmm, I tend to do this quite a lot, and is very 'tell' not showing. I think I'm learning to be more aware of it now, well.....I hope I am lol