A New Short Story – but not by me

I was going to beg your indulgence, for some parental skiting.  But I changed my mind, because what I am sharing is so good that it needs no apology.

My girl recently completed an assignment for her English class at school.  They have been reading a book called Chinese Cinderella, by Adeline Yen Mah.  The assignment was to write a story inspired by something in or about the book.  This is what my girl came up with:


My Name Is Feng San-San; The Story of the Girl by the Roadside ©

My name is Feng San-San. I live in the streets of Hong Kong. Every day I scrounge for food, beg and look in garbage bins. It is very seldom that I get so much as a watermelon rind. People say I smell, but how can I wash when I live in the filth of the streets? They say I should not be idle, but who will let me work?

My name is Feng San-San. The winters are so cold, and all I have to wear are rags. I shiver so much, but I have no food to bring back my energy. Mother started coughing today.

My name is Feng San-San. I am so scared. Mother’s cough is getting worse, my nose is running and we have no medicine to get better. I am so scared that we are all going to die.

My name is Feng San-San. My mother died today; I will miss her forever, her loss is so painful. Now all I have is my dad, and he becomes more depressed every day.

My name is Feng San-San. We get less and less food, as there are so many beggars these days. My father is getting desperate, and blames me for everything. He beats me almost every day now. I am so scared, will we survive?

My name is Feng San-San. I really don’t think that we can survive. Our situation has never been more desperate, and I wonder what we will do. My dad mutters incessantly that he will get money, we will have food. I think he is too hopeful.

My name is Feng San-San. My father has gone mad. He says we will be rich. That I will make him rich. I am more frightened than ever.

My name is Feng San-San. I am for Sale.


This story is copyright 2013.  No reproduction without written permission.

For those who are interested, the last line of the story above appears in the book.  That was the inspiration she used to create this story.

I think it’s great.  If you do too, please tell her so in the comments.  I know she’d appreciate it.



Technology fail and an important subject

So, last time I posted I said I was off to look at furniture.  And I did.  I even found some and got it home and everything, but have a managed to take photos to share with you?  I have not.

Or, rather, I have, but then the batteries ran out on the camera and I don’t have any more, so I can’t put them onto the computer.

Oh, okay, it isn’t just that.  I mean, I could go to the shop and get some more, except that would require walking, because my car blew up the other day and what with all the furniture moving and whatnot around here lately, I am BROKEN and tired and coordinating my fingers to type is about as much as I can manage at the moment.


In the absence of pictures of furniture (which I’m SURE will be as fascinating to you as they are to me), I want to share a post I came across recently which got me thinking.

It’s about the depiction of rape and rape victims in romance stories and it’s here.

This is a subject dear to me.  I have not (yet) depicted rape victims in any stories I have written, but my girly thriller (one of my current works in progress) does include a victim of domestic abuse.  I did an enormous amount of research on the subject before even starting to write that story and it has been a constant concern to try to get the character ‘right’.  I feel a responsibility to real people in the situation to present her in a way that they will recognise.  That’s partly because I don’t want to trivialise the subject to non-victims and partly because I think one of the purposes of stories is to tell us that we are not alone and that we can overcome the demons that beset us.

G.K. Chesterton apparently once said, about children and scary stories, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

I think the same is true of modern stories of the dragons that exist in grown-up lives.

I’m not saying that every story needs to deal with the darkness in the world.  But if they do, I think they need to do it well and realistically.

What do you think?  Do you like stories that deal with dark subjects?  Are they appropriate in romances?  I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts.

The Lucky Seven Strikes Wine Women and Wordplay

The lovely Juliet Madison, writing buddy and fellow member of RWA, has tagged me to take part in “The Lucky Seven.”

The challenge: Post seven lines from an unpublished work of fiction.

The Golden Rules:

  • Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript
  • Go to line 7
  • Post on your blog or Facebook page the next 7 lines, or sentences, as they are – no cheating
  • Tag 7 other authors to do the same

Since I am congenitally incapable of refusing a challenge – and it sounded amusingly random – I am in.

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Show don’t tell: breaking it down, Part III

So, we’ve looked at how to tell and what to tell, now we are going to tackle WHEN to tell – and like all of these questions, it’s a multi-faceted one.

To make a world rich and real to the reader and, more prosaically, so the reader knows what is going on, writers need to include details.  We don’t have the movie-maker’s luxury of the camera (and designers, set dressers and prop people) to put our readers ‘in the picture’.  We need to tell ’em some stuff.

Now, sometimes, just sometimes, the writer gets carried away with the stuff; this is why advice like ‘show, don’t tell’ exists.

The temptation to tell ALL we know, whether because we made it up and it is our baby (I’m looking at you, fantasy writers) or because we have researched our eyes clean out of our head (historical and political writers take note) or just because our characters are soooo interesting and soooo damaged and the reader will never understand them if we don’t tell them RIGHT NOW about all the bad things that happened when they were three… (Who are you looking at? Me? What? Really? Oh. Hmmm.  Contemporary writers don’t get a free pass here?  Dang.)… is strong.

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Books for little kids: Catch ’em early and hook ’em for life!

Recently, Chuck Wendig*, writer and blogger about writing, asked for suggestions for books for his little one, who has recently had his first birthday.

I responded over at his blog, but since then, my brain has teemed with further suggestions and I thought it might make a good topic for a post.

(Especially since I have already told him that I have had a dream about reading books to his baby and if I keep going back and adding comments he may start thinking about the logistics of international restraining orders. ;))

I imagine that the readers of this blog are already fully aware of the benefits of reading to young children, but in case there are any who aren’t, let me just say that they are almost impossible to overstate.

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Show don’t tell: breaking it down, Part II

Last Monday, I started exploring the concept of ‘show don’t tell’.

Starting from a base of Chekov’s ‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass,’ I broke down HOW to talk about the elements of a scene, tapping into your inner poet to make the details interesting. (The post is here, if you want to read it.)

The comments (and by the way, thank you everyone who commented!) showed just how tricky this subject can be by throwing up excellent points about narrative style (not everyone is poetic, at least to the naked eye) and the advisability of mixing telling with showing to move the story along.  You can read them here, but in response, and to further the breakdown, I would like to talk this week about WHAT to tell.

I said that a scene is never really about the ‘things’ in the scene, but about the EMOTION experienced by the characters.  I will stick by this, but if you aren’t careful, thinking this way can cause two problems.

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Show don’t tell: breaking it down

Show don’t tell.

Has this piece of advice every driven you mental?  It has me.

On the surface, it sounds so simple, so clean, so self-evident.  Yet, in practice, it can be complicated.

We are, after all, story-tellers.  If we never ‘told’ anything our stories would never get through to the reader.  So the question is not so much whether to tell, but what to tell, when to tell and how to tell.  Each question provides a different slant on that ‘simple’ advice.

In the interests of clarity and brevity, I’m going to tackle these one at a time, starting with ‘how’ to tell.

Anton Chekov famously said (at least, according to the mug I am drinking my coffee from):

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

In this example, ‘show don’t tell’ is about not being pedestrian or clichéd in your writing and engaging the reader by tapping into the poetry in your soul.  But ‘how’ do you do that?

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Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

Imagine, if you will, a young girl, growing up poor.

Imagine that she has a chronic, undiagnosed anxiety disorder, a taxidermist father with a yen for roadkill and some very curious ideas about what makes a good puppet (and the time of night at which is appropriate to share said puppet).

Imagine she has a series of pets which… well, let’s just say that the pet experience is not entirely usual.

And all she wants is to fit in.

In the hands of Steven King, it would be a towering, terrifying horror story.  (At least, I imagine it would.  Growing up has not made me any more able to read Steven King’s novels than I was when I first encountered them as a squealy 11-year-old.  Loved ‘On Writing‘ though.)

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Monday’s Writing Links: Or why I have a love/hate relationship with the internet

A month ago, I started to blog and get more involved with the whole social media/online writing community thing.

I love it.  I do.  I love talking about my interests, I love seeing what other people are doing, I love learning from their blog posts (so many people offering so much good stuff!) I love ‘meeting’ new friends on FB and Twitter and getting to know old ones better.

But… it can chew into the real writing time, which I really have to watch.

And there’s another issue I hadn’t expected.  A couple of times recently, I have left the house to go the shops or something equally mundane and felt like a mole or other underground thing, blinking my way into the light.  As though the physical world was a novelty.  This is a little scary.  I love my online community, but I need to nourish my real-life one too.  Maybe it’s time for a face-to-face writing group?

How do you handle the siren draw of the online world?  Please tell me, I really want to know!  But while you’re here, here are some cool writing links!

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Sunday Salon Honours its Origins

This is a reblog from the Storytelling Australia (Victoria) blog, because

1. Stories are awesome
2. Storytellers are even more awesome
3. It is advertising a SALON about FAIRY TALES and that is so awesome that I think my head might explode.

Apparently, the whole concept of a Salon started with 17th Century women in France who gathered in their ‘salons’ to write, read, perform and discuss, Fairy Tales.  We never hear about these women, but we apparently owe them the term ‘Fairy Tale’ and they played a hugely important role in the spread and popularisation of folk tales among the upper classes.  They also wrote new tales. (For a fascinating article about the period, see this site – and if you are in Melbourne, go to the Salon!)

I can’t believe I didn’t know this already, but now that I do, it seems like fate.  This blog is all about fabulous, active, subversive women, writers, stories and storytellers and the sharing of all of those things (not least in Sunday Salon).  When I found out about this, so soon after starting this blog, well, let me tell you, it felt like a SIGN.

The repost from the Storytelling Australia (Victoria) site is after the cut.  Please have a look!

ALSO, please note that the Salon itself is in June, in Melbourne, but they are calling for papers and they want the submissions by 26 APRIL 2012.

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