Crystal's StorySite


Chat log from first Writer's Workshop with Jenny Jane Pope   -  Jan. 20th, 2001

Recorded by Prudence Walker        

The chat lasted for about two hours. Minor editing was performed on the log to correct some spelling errors, and remove some extraneous data.


[JennyJ..]Writers Workshop is now starting.

[JennyJ..] Right .... everyone sitting comfortably?

[JennyJ..] Good.

[Cathy_t_] yepers

[virg.] Believe it or not, this is my first chat!

[geoff1940] Cathy, are you the 'real' Cathy T?

[virg.] first

[Cathy_t_] I think so, Geoff

[JennyJ..] Well, the main thing to do is just relax, same as Cathy just said.

[JennyJ..] Try to imagine we're all just sitting around and having a chat about our writings, each others writings, story ideas and so on.

[JennyJ..] The idea of a group like this, in a perfect world, is that it's not competitive ...

[JennyJ..] quite the opposite really.

Prue.> destiny i really liked your stories

[geoff1940] What sort of stories does everyone prefer?

[JennyJ..] Each of us has something to offer everyone else in the group.

[Cathy_t_] right

[Destiny009] really, I thought I needed more work on them

[JennyJ..] Well, if we can come to preferences in a bit that would be a good place to start, actually.

Prue.> lol thats what we all say

[Cathy_t_] well, I like the gentler kinder sort of tales

[Cathy_t_] I'm not much on revenge

[JennyJ..] I hope everyone can also give honest, constructive opinions and also take any criticisms in the future in the spirit I hope they'll be intended.

[virg.] That leave me out.

[Cathy_t_] or being forced into things

[Cathy_t_] no problems here, Jen

Prue.> i ike stories with a story not just sex

[Cathy_t_] right

[Sara....] Me to

[Destiny009] I like the old magic/scifi over the str8 cd/tv stuff

[geoff1940] I must say I like stories with a bit of 'bite', but not really nasty

[JennyJ..] So, looks like most of us would be quite happy with stories that didn't have any sex in at all then?

[Cathy_t_] well, for me, yes

[Destiny009] and I try to avoid anything with gratuitous sex

Prue.> well i dont mind it but some go overboard

[geoff1940] Like Destiny I love the magic, especially Medallion ones

[Cathy_t_] true

[Cathy_t_] 25 paragraphs of descriptions of sex acts and organs

Prue.> lol

[Cathy_t_] booooooooooooooooooooooring

[Cathy_t_] lolol

[Destiny009] lol cathy

[geoff1940] I don't mind sex. Quite like it really!

[JennyJ..] OK - so, when you sit down to write a new story, what do you think should be the ideal starting point - idea-wise, I mean?

[Cathy_t_] well, the real thing

[Cathy_t_] yes

[Destiny009] v true

[Cathy_t_] ummmm

Prue.> the hook

[JennyJ..] Presumably, most of us write mainly TG based stories at the moment?

[geoff1940] A relaxed setting of the scene

[Cathy_t_] I think one should have a definite purpose in writing it in the first place

[JennyJ..] Good word that, Cath. Purpose.

[Cathy_t_] in other words, a plan of SOME sort

[JennyJ..] Ye-es ... but a plan for what?

[JennyJ..] The story line itself, or for a particular message you're trying to get across?

[Cathy_t_] well, one can simply state a bunch of facts

[Cathy_t_] state

[Destiny009] the trouble I have is that the plan I start with is not the one I finish with

[geoff1940] Certainly a plan, perhaps the plot should be, at least, in the background

[virg.] I try to put a moral into the plot of my stories, eveni if i use a lot of XXX.

[Cathy_t_] but it wouldn't be very entertaining

[Cathy_t_] so I think

[Cathy_t_] one must consider making it interesting

[Cathy_t_] and

[JennyJ..] Right, so ... so far we have a moral perhaps, a plan, a hook and a background setting.

Prue.> well i try to think of something that’s not been done before

[Destiny009] I think that a bit of mystery helps

[JennyJ..] Good point, Prue.

[Cathy_t_] difficult to do

[geoff1940] jenny, what do you mean by hook?

[JennyJ..] Yep, mystery too.

[Cathy_t_] a hook

[JennyJ..] Ah, does anyone mind if I explain the term "Hook" in case not everyone's familiar with it.

[Cathy_t_] if I may, Jen

[virg.] Anyone ever hear of the four steps to writing?

[Cathy_t_] go ahead

[JennyJ..] Go ahead, Cath, be my guest hon.

[Cathy_t_] well, a Hook

Prue.> i use a no5

[Cathy_t_] is something that grabs the reader's attention and interest, right off

Prue.> lol

[Cathy_t_] like the first line in my LBAL

[JennyJ..] In a short story the hook is THE most important thing to get right at the start.

[JennyJ..] There are various ways of tackling that, of course.

[Destiny009] the star wars approach, start in the middle of things?

[Cathy_t_] that's a good example

[JennyJ..] One famous hook line went something like: "I woke up suddenly and then, through the open window, I heard the church clock strike thirteen."

[JennyJ..] yep

[Destiny009] which book was that?

[JennyJ..] Smack the reader straight between the eyes with something - ANYthing - that will grab their attention.

[Cathy_t_] if you don't grab a reader's interest right off the bat, they'll go elsewhere

[JennyJ..] Can't remember now, destiny - but I think the hook maybe has worked again, lol.

[Cathy_t_] hehehe

[Destiny009] lol grabbed me

[JennyJ..] The thing is, as Cath just said, you usually only get a few lines at most in which to make sure you've hooked your reader.

[virg.] Cliff hangers work well as good hooks.

[JennyJ..] Once you've got 'em, you can sort of relax and let the story unfold itself.

[JennyJ..] Virg, you just asked about the four steps to writing. Fancy expanding on that?

[virg.] In science we learned the four steps of research. it applies to writing as well.

[JennyJ..] (If you say step one is sharpen your pencil, I'll ....!!!

[Destiny009] lol jenny

[virg.] 1)Facts, 2) Hypothesis, 3)Conclusion & 4) antithesis (proof)

[virg.] The formula works.

[JennyJ..] OK - shall we take those steps in order then?

[virg.] Sounds good.

[Cathy_t_] works for me

[JennyJ..] Facts?

[JennyJ..] Anyone got any ideas on facts?

[virg.] Set the scene with facts that encourage to reader to explore further.

JennyJ..] and?

[virg.] Use the TTT principle when exposing the facts.

[JennyJ..] If I said that there were at least two kinds of facts, anyone like to take the ball and try running with it?

[JennyJ..] Go on, Virg.

[virg.] Tell them what you will tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.

Prue.> facts and fax lol

[JennyJ..] Geoff, just type a couple of dots and click to send every now and then.

[Geoff_1940] Sorry about that - had to use a different name!

[JennyJ..] It'll save you getting booted most times.

[Destiny009] lol prue/Cathy_t_] sounds good virg

[JennyJ..] Yes, exactly.

[virg.] As authors we often assume our readers are as well versed in text as we are.

[JennyJ..] Hmmm ... that's not always a safe assumption, Virg.

[JennyJ..] But as long as we don't "talk down" ...

[Cathy_t_] exactly

[JennyJ..] Never lecture in fiction.

Geoff_1940] If i understand what virg is saying it sounds like when I used to give talks at work

[virg.] True, but we must assume they are not all authors that understand how a story will weave.

[JennyJ..] Can I bring us all back to my statement that there can be (say) two kinds of facts?

[Cathy_t_] I try to write a story as if I were telling it to a friend

[JennyJ..] Yes, that's a good point, Cath.

[JennyJ..] Talk to your reader, not at him/her.

virg.] Mea culpa.

[JennyJ..] Two kinds of facts? Anybody?

[Geoff_1940] Jenny, do you mean real facts and the ones the characters believe are facts

[virg.] Truth and reality.

[Destiny009] sorry no clue here

[JennyJ..] You're both right.

[Cathy_t_] roven facts

[Cathy_t_] provemn

[Cathy_t_] damn nails

Cathy_t_] Proven facts

[JennyJ..] Real facts ... ie facts that can be proved by anyone with an encyclopaedia, etc

[JennyJ..] Yep, proven facts.

[Cathy_t_] and POSTULATED facts

[JennyJ..] Like the earth is approx 93 million miles from the sun.

[Geoff_1940] big words, cathy

[JennyJ..] I thought she was sneezing there, lol.

[Cathy_t_] yeah now if I just knew what that meant

[virg.] In a story, I refer to them as "conditions"

[Cathy_t_] lolol

[JennyJ..] But how far is the planet Krypton from Earth?

[JennyJ..] Answer: as far as Superman's creator told us it was.

[Cathy_t_] ok

[Geoff_1940] If I were writing a medallion story, the way the medallion works would be a 'fact' for the purposes of a story

[Cathy_t_] so fictional facts

[JennyJ..] In other words, we have provable, known facts and we have the sort of facts the author makes up.

[JennyJ..] Yeah .... fictional facts.

Cathy_t_] facts that work in the context of a story

[JennyJ..] The thing is, we have to be careful with both kinds.

[virg.] Facts are irrefutable, truths are conditional.

[Geoff_1940] Do we need to distinguish between them?

[Destiny009] like Terry Pratchett can have a world on the back of a turtle so long as the story is consistent with the statement?

[JennyJ..] Truth is like beauty, it often lies in the eye of the beholder.

[Cathy_t_] I think we do

[JennyJ..] Yep, that's exactly it.

[Cathy_t_] in that if we use fictional facts

[JennyJ..] And Trolls start to lose their intelligence as the temperature rises, etc.

[Cathy_t_] we MUST remain faithful to then throughout the story]

[Destiny009] right with you now

[Geoff_1940] Terry pratchet's pretty good at the 'funny' facts!

[JennyJ..] The thing is, if we can make up a "fact" that can't be disproved and is believable in context, then we can use it.

[Cathy_t_] yes

[virg.] However, readers like surprises woven in, like "stings".

[JennyJ..] Provided we keep that fact constant throughout the rest of the story.

JennyJ..] Yep, course they like surprises, and they can be given using either kind of facts.

[Destiny009] internal consistency?

[virg.] Ture.

[Geoff_1940] Do we need to handle the different facts differently?

[JennyJ..] Yep ... consistency.

[Cathy_t_] as long as one is consistent with the others

[JennyJ..] Well, no I don't think we do, Geoff. The trick is to treat a fact as a fact as a fact.

Prue.> ?

[JennyJ..] Whether we've made it up or not.

[Cathy_t_] for example?

[JennyJ..] Good liars pass detector tests because they convince a part of their mind that the lie they are telling is the truth.

[Cathy_t_] BAron Munchausen

[Geoff_1940] I've done that myself - as a child of course LOL

[JennyJ..] Ah sweet mysteries of youth ... or whatever, lol.

[Destiny009] lol we believe you geoff

[JennyJ..] Let me ask another question ...

[virg.] I took a lie detector test once.

JennyJ..] Regardless of the mixture of factual or fictional facts, what's the one thing you shouldn't do with them in a story?

[virg.] Confuse a reader.

[JennyJ..] yep, that's a start

[Geoff_1940] change them?

[JennyJ..] yep, that also.

[Cathy_t_] right

[Cathy_t_] once you have stated a fact

[JennyJ..] One other thing ...

[Cathy_t_] stick with it

[virg.] No, you can alter them, but never change them.

[JennyJ..] Never real 'em out like a lecture.

[Destiny009] treat it seriously?

[virg.] Good point, Jen.

[JennyJ..] Yes, but there's seriously and seriously.

[Geoff_1940] Agatha Christie used to. So did Conan Doyle

[JennyJ..] Someone can state a serious fact and get it across in a funny line, even.

Prue.> not sure what you mean jenny

[Geoff_1940] You can Jenny

[JennyJ..] Well, let me try to explain ...

[JennyJ..] Geoff just said Agatha Christie used to deliver facts lecture style, yes Geoff?

[Geoff_1940] yes

[JennyJ..] Oh no she didn't!

[JennyJ..] Poirot did, but not Aggie herself.

[Geoff_1940] isn't that the same thing?

[JennyJ..] And she got away with it by making that part of his character.

[virg.] Ahah!

[JennyJ..] Nope.

[JennyJ..] Poirot is a fussy little prig of a man, if you think about it.

[JennyJ..] He likes everything to be neat, tidy, ordered, etc.

[Geoff_1940] certainly

[virg.] wears a hairnet!

[Destiny009] smug git I always thought

[JennyJ..] He shuffles his leetle grey cells about all the time.

[Cathy_t_] and then there's Clouseau

[Cathy_t_] the opposite

[Geoff_1940] He didn't have any grey cells!

[JennyJ..] And Poirot uses Hastings as his sounding board, supposedly, but what he's really doing is underlining facts to the reader.

[Cathy_t_] much like Sherlock and Watson

[JennyJ..] Well, the beauty of Clousseau was that he missed all the facts, but the viewer saw them all going on behind and around him.

[Geoff_1940] But not half as good imo

[JennyJ..] So Clousseau actually distracts from the unveiling of facts.

[Destiny009] like in doctor who, the doctor needed a companion to explain everything to

[Cathy_t_] right

[JennyJ..] Yep, exactly. [Sara..] .

[JennyJ..] A stooge.

[virg.] My mind is drawing to Inspector Columbo.

[JennyJ..] Straight guy.

[Cathy_t_] it's merely a vehicle to get the reader to think along the lines the author wants him to

[JennyJ..] Yep, perzackerly.

[virg.] he was a mess and always came up with the unexpected.

[JennyJ..] Yes, but Columbo only looked a mess.

[Geoff_1940] I've read a lot of tg stories where the first para is a list of facts - not impressed

[JennyJ..] He used to order facts by bouncing them off witnesses.

[Cathy_t_] I agree, Geoff

[JennyJ..] Yep - date of birth, height, hair colour, etc.

[virg.] He always solved the case with irrefutable facts, like Poirot.

[JennyJ..] Reads like a passport.

[Destiny009] morse was a rotten detective, he missed all the clues until he got drunk in the pub

[Cathy_t_] I started my first one, SS&D that way

[JennyJ..] What's rotten about that?

[Geoff_1940] Do we need to write down all our invented facts before we start writing?

[Destiny009] then lewis would say "but sir..

[Cathy_t_] but I learned quickly

[Cathy_t_] Hi MM

[virg.] Outlines help.

[JennyJ..] Hiya, Michelle.

[virg.] Outlines.

[MichelleA.] Huggles all

[JennyJ..] Outlines are useful.

[virg.] Hi, Michelle.

[Cathy_t_] back atcha

[Destiny009] hi michelle

[Geoff_1940] Hi Michelle

[JennyJ..] But the invented facts, like the height, age, etc of a new character, it helps to right those down as you create them.

Prue.> huggle mm

Cathy_t_] yes, Jen

[Destiny009] and Dangermouse always explained everything to penfold

[Cathy_t_] but those can be introduced

[Cathy_t_] as the story unfolds

[JennyJ..] Some writers like to draw their verbal pictures of all their characters before they start ... others do it as they go along.

virg.] We want to create mental images about our characters?

[JennyJ..] Hmmm, now there's a thought .... Poirot explaining everything to Penfold, lol.

[Cathy_t_] I think we should, virg

[JennyJ..] If that helps, yes.

[Cathy_t_] it makes it easier for the readers to do the same

[Geoff_1940] I like stories where the author assumes you know everything and it all gradually becomes clear - like Prachett

[Destiny009] lol jenn, sorry my grey cells were wandering

[virg.] After we lock them in with a good opening para?

[Cathy_t_] right

[JennyJ..] One good trick to try out is to introduce a character with a minimum of physical description

Prue.> wish i had some grey cells

[Geoff_1940] the 1st para is the most important?

[Cathy_t_] well, Geoff

[JennyJ..] In a short story, the first para is crucial.

[virg.] Only if you want to be read.

[Cathy_t_] if you don't hook the reader with the first few lines

[Cathy_t_] they won't go any further

[JennyJ..] The pacing is important, too.

[virg.] Often, the description of a story does that, or an intro.

[JennyJ..] Don't rush too quickly after the first para, but don't let things drag.

[Geoff_1940] I like a good synopsis for a story, is this a good idea?

[Destiny009] I always have trouble with the pacing

[JennyJ..] If you can paint a picture of your character in the reader's mind with the minimum of physical description, not only does it save you a lot of words ...

[Destiny009] always seem to rush it

[virg.] Not a synop., only a teaser.

[JennyJ..] you allow the reader to have some input, too.

[Cathy_t_] yes

[JennyJ..] aha ... that's started a few cogs whirring...

[virg.] Like: lead not drag?

[JennyJ..] And "Show, not tell."

[Geoff_1940] there's a fine line between excessive detail and a rush

[Cathy_t_] again, treat the reader as a friend you are telling a story to

[JennyJ..] The way a character speaks can be as important as the way they look.

[virg.] Great point, Cathy.

[JennyJ..] Try this for size ....

[JennyJ..] Not many of us actually know what the others here look like, right?

[Cathy_t_] you want to make it as entertaining as you can

[Cathy_t_] right

[Geoff_1940] true

[Destiny009] no idea

[JennyJ..] But don't we all have mental images of what we THINK each other OUGHT to look like?

[Geoff_1940] I'm a sexy blonde with a grey beard hehehehe

[Cathy_t_] yes

[JennyJ..] I mean, I know I'm svelte, sexy, red headed, long legs, etc .....

[JennyJ..] lol

[Cathy_t_] well _I_ can't hide. Prue has my pics! lol

[JennyJ..] me too, hon.

Prue.> lol

[Destiny009] I just realised how much baywatch I watch

[virg.] I have a perfect body, except I'm ten inches short for my weight. Teee-Heee.

[JennyJ..] And that's quite a good illustration (no pun intended)

JennyJ..] heh-heh

[JennyJ..] The thing is, Cath, you didn't look so very much different from the pic I had in my head from the chats we had and yet we seldom ever talked about appearances in any detail.

Prue.> umm i dont have your pic jenny

[Geoff_1940] Jenny you always claim to be blonde

JennyJ..] No, that's just the way I think, Geoff.

[JennyJ..] Or when can afford the dye, lol.

[Cathy_t_] I don't know if that's a GOOD thing, Jen! lol

[virg.] Back to the facts.....

[JennyJ..] yep.

[Cathy_t_] yes

[JennyJ..] We can all put mental images together from a surprisingly few actual facts, yes.

[virg.] Imagery, not reality.

[Cathy_t_] everyone remember to click in occassionally to avoid getting booted

[JennyJ..] Whether that image is correct or not, as long as it works, that's the crucial thing.

[Geoff_1940] Why did you introduce the looks topic , Jenny?

jennyJ..] Because a lot of writers use up too much time on describing things in minute detail, geoff.

[JennyJ..] And we were talking about ways to avoid long lists of facts.

[JennyJ..] This is one way.

Geoff_1940] But in some stories that is sometimes regarded as crucial

[JennyJ..] Yes, in SOME stories it is.

[virg.] Good point, jen. It's often hard to decide what to leave up to readers.

[JennyJ..] And that's when you need to be more descriptive.

[Destiny009] If you say something along the lines of

[Cathy_t_] well, virg use yourself as a gauge

[JennyJ..] Virg - excellent point.

Destiny009] She looked like an extra from Baywatch

[Cathy_t_] stopped

[Geoff_1940] Everbody has their own idea of what someone looks like. eg I’m an archers fan

[Destiny009] then everyone gets a certain mental image?

[Destiny009] sorry stopping

JennyJ..] Yep, that's the sort of thing, Destiny. Always assuming we can assume the reader does know about Baywatch, of course.

[JennyJ..] Right, back to what Virg said.

[JennyJ..] Part of the value of this liddle group will be just that - to act as a sounding board.

[JennyJ..] So if someone circulates something and too many of us think well, maybe he/she hasn't quite given us that bit as clearly as it ought to be ....

[JennyJ..] That's the sort of feedback we need to look for, as well as help with grammar and Punctuation stuff.

[virg.] Let's pause. I think Jenny needs to pee. (Giggle.)

Prue.> groans

[JennyJ..] Anyone read that review in SP that Jonathan Doe did of Teena?

[Cathy_t_] SP?

[Destiny009] no sorry

[JennyJ..] I learned a lot from that - like I need to clarify and modify a few things.

[virg.] StoryPortal

[Cathy_t_] ah

[JennyJ..] Exactly ... ah!

[Geoff_1940] yes, better than mine LOL

[JennyJ..] I clattered along quite merrily and missed a few things I shouldn't have missed.

[JennyJ..] The thing is geoff, different readers perceive differently.

[virg.] My imperssion was that you rambled.

[JennyJ..] You clicked the wavelength better, but we can't ignore other readers who may miss a vital point early on.

Prue.> i got bored a little lol

[Geoff_1940] who me? or Jenny?

[JennyJ..] Yep, there was some of that Virg.

[virg.] Jenny.

[virg.] Like I always do.

[JennyJ..] But that apart, the thing I'm saying is that the feedback is important, otherwise we'll never know.

[Geoff_1940] So long as it's constructive

[JennyJ..] So in here we try to guide each other past pitfalls.

[Cathy_t_] ok

[Cathy_t_] then, for example

[virg.] That leads us to the second point in the scientific theory.

[Cathy_t_] in your tales, Jen

[JennyJ..] Hopefully, we're all the sort of people who would always strive to be constructive.

[Cathy_t_] you use a lot of British colloquialisms

Prue.> trouble is certain people ignore constructive advice

[JennyJ..] Yep, I do. Mainly because of where I live, lol.

[Cathy_t_] as I am sure I use american ones

[virg.] Mmm, I love flavoring!

[JennyJ..] Yep.

[Cathy_t_] but

[Geoff_1940] It helps me - most stories are very US biassed. I've learnt a lot about the US schooling system

[JennyJ..] Eventually, familiarity breeds knowledge rather than contempt, I hope.

[Cathy_t_] if someone doesn't know what "twigged" for examlple means

[JennyJ..] twigged = suddenly caught on to what's going on

[Geoff_1940] or fanny!

[Cathy_t_] right. I know that but if someone doesn't

[JennyJ..] Aha ... the evergreen fanny question ... and no gangrene jokes, ple-ease.

[Cathy_t_] they can lose the thread

[JennyJ..] Well, with something like twigged, hopefully the way it's used in context should give the reader the clue.

[virg.] We're digressing.

JennyJ..] Trouble is, we all write for fairly world wide audiences on the net, as well as in books.

[Cathy_t_] true

[Cathy_t_] I was merely pointing something out

[JennyJ..] If we cut out colloquialisms completely, we'd lose a lot of colour.

JennyJ..] Yep, so we've sort of done facts ... for the moment, at least.

[Cathy_t_] that we need to watch those things so we don't alienate too many readers

[JennyJ..] What was the second point again, Virg?

[virg.] On to Hypothesis....

[JennyJ..] all yours, I failed geometry at school first time.

[virg.] The story has to have a purpose.

[JennyJ..] yep.

JennyJ..] But what sort of purpose?

[virg.] i must lead to reason for telling the tale.

[virg.] It.

Prue.> bottle nosed porpoise?

[Geoff_1940] to entertain and inform, perhaps

[JennyJ..] So, what sort of purposes could there be for telling a tale?

[JennyJ..] Yep - both of those are excellent purposes.

[virg.] Yes, but also to use as a "bag" to hold the words together.

[Cathy_t_] oooh, good one virg

[JennyJ..] I'm going to smoke a fag while you explain that one, Virg.

[Geoff_1940] the plot as' bag' eh?

[virg.] There should be an underlying central theme that you wish to convey to the reader.

[JennyJ..] Yep.

[virg.] Often, I try to have a reader make his own conclusions for the story's existence.

[JennyJ..] Good versus Evil?

[Geoff_1940] example, virg

virg.] Self-acceptance.

[virg.] Justification.

[JennyJ..] ye-es ...

[JennyJ..] yes, again.

[virg.] Being content with marching to a different drum.

[Destiny009] redemption?

[JennyJ..] yes

[JennyJ..] anyone else?

[virg.] Exposure to new philosophies.

[Geoff_1940] retribution?

[virg.] Creating a direction for the story to take.

[JennyJ..] How about wanting to make the reader laugh or cry?

[Geoff_1940] Do you plan this 1st virg?

[MichelleA.] I personally like the reader in total confusion

Prue.> i try to write a story that people will enjoy

[Geoff_1940] that's easy in my case

[virg.] No, it's what I use to make a mental outline.

[Cathy_t_] don't you all think that it depends on your reason for writing a story in the first place?

Prue.> get them involved

[Cathy_t_] whether you write it for yourself or for others

[virg.] Bingo, Prue.

Prue.> with the characters

[JennyJ..] EMPATHY

[virg.] or,,,,sympathy.

[virg.] and sometimes,,,,,ecstasy.

[Destiny009] being in tune with the feelings of the character

[JennyJ..] Yep ... but to achieve sympathy, you must establish some sort of empathy between the reader and SOMETHING in your story.

virg.] Put them into the characters shoes?

[JennyJ..] Yes, but ...

[Destiny009] As a nursing student we are taught to try to achieve empathy but avoid sympathy

[JennyJ..] you can't manage to put them into all your characters shoes.

[virg.] Good advise for authors, as well, Des.

[JennyJ..] Hopefully, you can put them in the main character's shoes, of course.

[Geoff_1940] We are interested in a peculiar sort of story. A good test of empathy would be if the general public read and enjoyed

Prue.> you have to establish a main character

[Cathy_t_] true Geoff

[JennyJ..] Yes, establish a main character or characters.

[virg.] Ah, the scientific analysis begins.......

[JennyJ..] Not too many if it's plural, though.

[Cathy_t_] but the principles are the same

[Destiny009] have a character that we can have an attachment too?

[JennyJ..] Yes, that's right .... the principles of good writing should hold the same for TG stories, Sci-Fi, detective, war, anything.

[Cathy_t_] in one way or another, yes, Des

[Geoff_1940] Some stories have too many main characters. I have difficulty following some. (eg Dr ZhigavO!)

[virg.] I often like to leave some characters "dangle" or "lurk".

JennyJ..] War and Peace, lol.

[JennyJ..] Yes, the lurking characters can be very important in pushing the main characters into sharper focus.

[Cathy_t_] right

[Geoff_1940] Aren't we talking about longer tales here?

[JennyJ..] The bit part players are also the ones you can describe with some very minimal techniques.

Cathy_t_] I argee with Geoff

[JennyJ..] No, the characters in a short story are often even more important.

[Cathy_t_] short tales require less players

[JennyJ..] True ...

[JennyJ..] so we have to ration them out with greater care. ng some. (eg Dr- ZhigavO!)

[virg.] I often like to leave some characters "dangle" or "lurk".

[JennyJ..] War and Peace, lol.

[JennyJ..] Yes, the lurking characters can be very important in pushing the main characters into sharper focus.

[Cathy_t_] right

[Geoff_1940] Aren't we talking about longer tales here?

[JennyJ..] The bit part players are also the ones you can describe with some very minimal technique

[Cathy_t_] I agree with Geoff

[JennyJ..] No, the characters in a short story are often even more important.

[Cathy_t_] short tales require less players

[JennyJ..] True ...

[JennyJ..] so we have to ration them out with greater care.

[Cathy_t_] right

[Destiny009] how many players is an ideal amount for a short story?

[Cathy_t_] 2-4

[JennyJ..] How long is a piece of string?

[Cathy_t_] I would think

Prue.> at least one lolol

[Geoff_1940] I've read short stories with only one

[Cathy_t_] lol Prue and Jen

[JennyJ..] Nail on head, Prue!

Destiny009] lol ty prue

[Virg.] So n a hypothesis, we can set the pace, context, volume of characters, any other things?

[JennyJ..] I once read a 600 word short story with tens of thousands of characters, but only two spoke and were focussed upon.

[Geoff_1940] conclusion?

[JennyJ..] It's all in the writing.

[Virg.] That's step three, Geoff.

[Geoff_1940] oh

[Virg.] In the scientific method.

[JennyJ..] Two American policemen in their squad car, watching the town's population file their way to the cliff top and jump off it.

[Geoff_1940] relationships between chars

JennyJ..] Yes, whether they can "spark off" one another.

[Geoff_1940] Lemmings, Jenny?

[Virg.] "The Bible" had a cast of thousands.

[JennyJ..] Yep, you've read it too, Geoff.

[JennyJ..] Won every SF prize going, that one.

[JennyJ..] Lemmings, that is, not the Bible, lol.

Geoff_1940] IMO the bible also qualifies

[Virg.] well, if you follow the Koran, so does the bible.

[JennyJ..] The Bible did have a cast of thousands, but it was also broken down into a series of short stories, featuring a few individuals in each one.

[Geoff_1940] especially in the beginning!

[Virg.] The main thingy I left out in step two was:

[Virg.] Anyone care to guess?

[JennyJ..] Well, you didn't pay for that last round of drinks, Virg.

[Geoff_1940] No, wish I were taking notes

[Virg.] Perspective.

[Geoff_1940] which is?

[Virg.] Point of view.

[Virg.] Point.

[Geoff_1940] of the main char?

[JennyJ..] As in whose point of view is it being told from, or whose point of view is the author trying to make you most sympathetic with?

[Geoff_1940] so presumably it can change

[Destiny009] is that like first person narration?

[Virg.] I get criticized a lot for changing the context of my stories as to the case used, tenses, person, gender, etc.

Prue.> you mean like you start off a story in third person but get so involved it turns into first person lolol

[JennyJ..] No reason why not, if the transition is handled skilfully.

[JennyJ..] Ah, Prue ...

[Geoff_1940] that is one of my betes noir, I'm afraid

[JennyJ..] that's a common error.

[Virg.] That's the key: transitional perspective assimilation.

[Geoff_1940] this is harder than engineering!

[JennyJ..] Jesus H Virg, let me take my teeth out before you say something like that again!

[Virg.] It's not always easy.

Prue.> that happened to me once

[Geoff_1940] Virg, do you teach writing? You seem to have a good grasp

[JennyJ..] Everybody having a think here?

[Cathy_t_] I'm sure it's happened to ALL of us, Prue

[Virg.] I discovered using a change of spacing of paragraphs helps to ease a reader into a change of perspective.

[JennyJ..] Change of font works.

[Geoff_1940] do you mean 'white space'?

Prue.> so it can be possible to change from third to first??

[Virg.] I'm an accountant, contributing author on a few texts, wrote instructions for tax forms, etc.. Get a lot of practice reading tax code written by lawyers, ha ha.

[Geoff_1940] that's what the criticism of Teena was by Jon. I didn't find it a problem

[Virg.] Translating legalese is a bitch!

[JennyJ..] I can see why some people did, though, Geoff.

[JennyJ..] Piper's programming didn't transfer the italicised chunks for the flashbacks.

[Virg.] god point, Prue. Authors are at the mercy of editors.

[Geoff_1940] yep, computers do what you tell 'em, not what you want

[Virg.] Good pont.

[Cathy_t_] nails, virg?

[JennyJ..] The best advice on third person versus first person is generally that one isn't better than the other, but beware of mixing them.

[Virg.] Lack of grey matter.

Destiny009] there is an author called Brian Lumley who mixes first and third person throughout his novels

[Geoff_1940] grey's a good word to determine the nationality of the participants, isn't it?

[Virg.] Needs a caution advice from author to work, Jen.

[Destiny009] and does it pretty well

[JennyJ..] Has anyone ever worked out what percentage of stories in Storysite are written in the first person?

[JennyJ..] Or in FM or SP for that matter?

[Geoff_1940] most I guess

Cathy_t_] not that I know of

[Cathy_t_] I think it's easier to write that way

[JennyJ..] I'll stick five quid on at least 75%

[Cathy_t_] as if it were happening to me

[JennyJ..] Maybe 80%

[Virg.] Which way, Michelle?

[MichelleA.] ?

[Destiny009] speaking for myself, I find first person stories hard to read

Destiny009] I find that it distances me from the main character

[JennyJ..] Is that because they're written in the first person, or

[Geoff_1940] I used to hate them when I was a kid. Never finished Treasure Island

[MichelleA.] Which way what Virg

[Cathy_t_] interesting

[JennyJ..] because the fact that they're written in the first person has dictated the way they're- written?

[Destiny009] I find it harder to get involved

Destiny009] because of the first person

[Cathy_t_] too personal then?

[Virg.] Hold on, Michelle. On line with SO.

[JennyJ..] That's because the character hasn't created empathy, let alone sympathy.

[Destiny009] all those 'I's

[JennyJ..] I hated Jim Hawkins, lol.

[Geoff_1940] I used to call them 'I' books

[MichelleA.] The Muppet version was better

[JennyJ..] Some can be too personal, yes.

[JennyJ..] heh-heh

[JennyJ..] Treasure Island is one of the few traditional stories Terry Pratchett hasn't had a crack at

- yet.

[Cathy_t_] he'll get there

[JennyJ..] Yeah, you can bet on it.

[Geoff_1940] All the Tuck saga is 1st person. Can be a disadvantage at times

[JennyJ..] Yes, but it can work both ways.

[Destiny009] is it sacrilege to admit I dont like tuck?

[Cathy_t_] nope

[Geoff_1940] yes

[Cathy_t_] I LIKED Tuck

[Geoff_1940] past tense?

[Destiny009] ok wont mention it then

[Cathy_t_] but it seems to have become fragmented, to me

[JennyJ..] I enjoyed the couple I've read so far.

Cathy_t_] and very difficult to follow

[JennyJ..] But we should be looking forward here ...

[JennyJ..] to what we can all do.

[Cathy_t_] right

[Destiny009] I found all that jumping around with the time frames was impossible to follow the action

[Geoff_1940] Ot's an interesting style exercise though isn't it?

[JennyJ..] Yes, the more we read, the better we should be able to write.

[JennyJ..] Never be afraid to pinch techniques from any other writer.

[JennyJ..] Odds are they nicked 'em themselves in the first place.

[Virg.] Michelle, i was asking which person you prefer using?

[MichelleA.] first person after all it is the way we all view the world

Prue.> my new story has bits from oh about 6 writers so far lolol

Cathy_t_] it's a group effort

[Cathy_t_] lol

[Geoff_1940] Do you prefer to write long or short stories?

[Virg.] lol, Prue. if you write in the first person, you can't explore the minds of other characters.

[MichelleA.] then too I've written only 2 stories

[JennyJ..] From the bit I've read of it so far, Prue, I'd say you've learned an awful lot in a very short time.

Prue.> well i need all the help i can get

[Cathy_t_] I agree with Jen, Prue

Prue.> this latest one is in third person

[Geoff_1940] Do you prefer to write long or short stories?

[Virg.] lol, Prue. if you write in the first person, you can't explore the minds of other characters.

[MichelleA.] then too I've written only 2 stories

[Virg.] Who were you addressing about story length, Geoff?

[JennyJ..] The thing about exploring the minds of other characters when writing in the first person is the way you portray them and your reaction to them gives the reader the clues and then they can start exploring for themselves.

[JennyJ..] Anyone here ever read any Dick Francis novels?

[Virg.] Many longer of my stories involve scenarios that don't include the principal char.

[Destiny009] who?

[JennyJ..] All based around horse racing and all told in the first person.

[Geoff_1940] everybody, really

JennyJ..] Very pacy, but also very good at character painting with a minimum of words.

[Virg.] TY

[Cathy_t_] I prefer the longer ones, myself although my shorter ones seem to be more popular

Prue.> well I’ve had great instructors

[Virg.] Ouch! Were any about trotters, or gaiter?

[Cathy_t_] popular

[Geoff_1940] His stories were possibly written by his wife weren't they?

JennyJ..] No, she helped him with the planning stages.

[JennyJ..] Dick Francis uses a very methodical way of approaching a novel.

[Geoff_1940] Cathy, I love your longer stories.

[JennyJ..] Little file cards stuck up all over the wall, with coloured ribbons pinned between them to show links, etc.

Cathy_t_] ty Geoff

[JennyJ..] Works brilliantly for him, but not for everybody.

[JennyJ..] Tried it myself once - ended up sticking drawing pins in my fingers.

[Cathy_t_] hehehe

[Virg.] I only had to use cue cards on one lengthy story.

[Geoff_1940] that was , perhaps the link, Jenny

[JennyJ..] The moral is, what works for one of us won't necessarily work for all of us.

[JennyJ..] Put it this way, Geoff, I can think of a lot more interesting uses for thirty metres of brightly coloured ribbon!

[JennyJ..] And I bet you can, too, lol.

[Destiny009] lol jenny

[Geoff_1940] wow

[JennyJ..] yeah, that's got you going, lol.

[JennyJ..] But back to the serious stuff ...

[Geoff_1940] Is that what virg means by Hypothesis?

[JennyJ..] Could be ... but I don't somehow think so ...?

[JennyJ..] How's about a small exercise for the next couple of weeks?

[Virg.] Pretty much, Geoff... There's a lot more to it, that isn't universal.

Cathy_t_] ok Jen

[Cathy_t_] shot

[Cathy_t_] shoot]

[Destiny009] go for it jen

[Geoff_1940] lets have it

[JennyJ..] How about everyone writes a hook ...

[MichelleA.] homework already in the first class?

[JennyJ..] Maximum two paragraphs to set a scene and grab attention, but ...

[JennyJ..] You don't need to have an actual story worked out in your head.

[Geoff_1940] would you like this apple, miss?

[Destiny009] teachers pet

[JennyJ..] Just a hundred words or so, nice and free to just grab and mood set.

[Destiny009] <g>

[Virg.] I'm done. Read opening of "Rude Awakening" at StoryPortal, once Piper posts it.

[Cathy_t_] APPLE???

[JennyJ..] I notice no one offered me a banana yet, lol.

[MichelleA.] I presume something not already written Jen?

[Cathy_t_] gift cert to Victoria's secret, Jen?

[Destiny009] bottle of Jonnie Walkers miss

[JennyJ..] Yep, Michelle. Something totally new.

[MichelleA.] shucks

[JennyJ..] That's more like it, Destiny.

[Geoff_1940] should be a single malt, Des

[JennyJ..] It shouldn't really take too long, not if you don't need to have a story ready to lead into it.

[MichelleA.] and I already had 4 hooks already

[Cathy_t_] <looks for her tackle box>

[JennyJ..] Well, okay, those would count, I reckon, if they're not part of a story as such.

[MichelleA.] but they are

[JennyJ..] ah ...

[Geoff_1940] send it to you?

Prue.> then what do we do with it

[JennyJ..] Yes, send them all to me and I'll put them all up in the workshop in (say) ten days time.

[Cathy_t_] ookay

Prue.> I’ll put your address up jenny

Jennifer Jane Pope          E-mail Address:


[Destiny009] there is an idea I have been rumbling round in my mind for a while. So this might help me get it started

[MichelleA.] are you going to post this assignment on the workshop floor?

[JennyJ..] Then we might try a shuffle round. Everyone pick someone else's hook and write the next bit.

[Virg.] Ew, kool!

[JennyJ..] Yep, I'll put the details on the Floor as soon as I finish the MS tomorrow morning (I hope).

[Destiny009] sounds interesting, sounds like fun

[Cathy_t_] yes it does

[JennyJ..] Once we have a few hooks with lines attached, we can all have a go at editing one each as far as it's got.

[Destiny009] any restrictions on what we should write?

[Cathy_t_] great!

[Geoff_1940] |Thanks for your time, Jenny. I feel a fraud with all these experts. I'll have a go.

Prue.> jenny can you put your address up here so any readers can send it in

[JennyJ..] Then we post the edited versions, too.

[Virg.] let's touch on step four, for the benefit of those who coudn't attend today and will read it on the site.

JennyJ..] OK to both.

[Virg.] We are saving this chat, are we not?

[JennyJ..] Is there anyone here doesn't have my e-mail addy?

[JennyJ..] Um .... I don't think we are Virg.

Prue.> yes i'm logging it

[Cathy_t_] ty Prue

[Destiny009] ty prue

[JennyJ..] It was all meant to be very loose and informal, so we got to know each other.

[Geoff_1940] Where can we read it? Crystal's?

[JennyJ..] Well done that Prudence!

[Virg.] Oh.ty, Prue.

[JennyJ..] Well, if Crys wants to post it, why not. I'll put it in the site, too.

[MichelleA.] why not post at Jenny's

Prue.> well i thought there’s a few others interested that are not here

[JennyJ..] Good thinking, Prue.

[Geoff_1940] ty prue

[MichelleA.] Prue maybe Piper or Kim will post it at Sp too

[JennyJ..] I can post each log in the Workshop site, but I have to be aware of bandwidth as this whole thing grows.

[Cathy_t_] egad! Muse, author, chat logger, there nothing that this girl CAN'T do?

[JennyJ..] If it all starts working as I think it will, I don't mind paying the crooks at demon to double the space.

[JennyJ..] Or else I'll look for some free deals and link across from the main Workshop site.

[Geoff_1940] You're an angel, Jenny

Prue.> lololol

[Virg.] BTW, the steps don't appear in sequence in a story (necessarily)

[JennyJ..] I've actually got a geocities site, if I can remember how to get into it, etc.

[Destiny009] big thanx jenny

[JennyJ..] No, of course not, Virg.

[JennyJ..] In the planning stages.

[Virg.] Yes.

[JennyJ..] and then transferred as and when and where, etc.

[Cathy_t_] yes, Jenny. thank you VERY much for taking the time to try to help us newcomers

[JennyJ..] Hey, I enjoy it, OK?

[JennyJ..] And has anyone noticed we've been going all but two hours and we're still going strong?

Prue.> umm how much longer will we be

[Virg.] As do I, it's being helpful already.

Prue.> its nearly my lunch time

[Virg.] one minute on step four?

[JennyJ..] Well, we can wind up (or down) whenever anyone feels they've had enough, or got enough out of it.

[JennyJ..] Fire away, Virg.

[Destiny009] wow time has really flown tonite

[Virg.] Step four is the proof.

[JennyJ..] Yeah, I only just noticed it, too.

[Geoff_1940] which means?

[Virg.] That's where we get to let the story evolve and see that is stays on track.

[JennyJ..] Virg?

[Virg.] A story grows like a flower, from seedling to blossom.

[JennyJ..] Hmmmm .... step four could be a topic for another three chat sessions all on its own, I reckon.

[Geoff_1940] ..and is then plucked?

[JennyJ..] In fact, I reckon step four will be the mainspring of this entire project.

[Destiny009] maybe we should quit while we're ahead tonite. we can only learn so much in one go

Prue.> yes

[JennyJ..] Well, I'm happy if everyone else is?

[Destiny009] and we have done a lot

[Virg.] Rain, sun. bugs and wind, maybe some cross-breeding, maybe some, well you get the idea. I'm an accountant. I have to put closure on things, once I begin

Prue.> leave the rest for our next session

[JennyJ..] And I can hear Prue's tummy rumbling from here.

[Geoff_1940] I agree des. Both Virg and Jenny have really helped tonight

[Destiny009] but its been fun

[Cathy_t_] well, I have to leave now anyway.

[Cathy_t_] yes it has been

[JennyJ..] I'd like to say that the only thing I can fault about tonight is ...

[Destiny009] cya cathy have fun then

[Virg.] It's been a wonderful experience.

[JennyJ..] that we aren't all doing this face to face in a nice cosy liddle bar somewhere.

[Virg.] See ya, Cathy

[JennyJ..] Thanks for coming and glad everyone seems to have enjoyed themselves.