Mar 19th

Is the story everything?

By John Alty

Stephen King tells us, in his book On Writing, the story is everything. I’m not going to argue with a master storyteller, but does the story transcend the manner in which a book is written? If the story is really, really good can it be told badly? Does the story forgive bad grammar, misused punctuation, too much narrative, too many adverbs, an abundance of cliché?

King doesn’t imply this, of course, he’d be horrified at the thought, I’m sure. But it came to mind recently when I was browsing for a book on Amazon and found, distressingly quickly, an offering that prompted this thought. It seemed to me it might be a very interesting story so I dived in and read the sample few pages. Well, by the third page I realised I was so enthralled by the bizarre punctuation I had no idea what the story was about. I went back and started again. This time it was the undisciplined nature of the writing that distracted me. I abandoned the book then, grateful I’d been able to sample it before wasting time and money.

I’ve decided no matter how engaging the story might be I couldn’t read a badly written book.

Mar 19th

The Worm Turns

By AlanP

You will probably notice an increase in extra polite marketing emails, texts etc. Even phone calls, although as I have moved recently no-one has the landline number here so I don’t know. There is a reason for this.

On 25 May this year a new Data Protection Act (the GDPR) comes into being. This is new EU wide legislation. One of the biggest things it does is that the marketing consents you may have unknowingly given over the years, enabling companies to pester you whenever they want based on you ticking, or not ticking, a box years ago time out. They can’t legally bother you without renewing them. Under the new rules these consents time out, unlike the old ones that lasted forever. Eventually this should result in a great reduction in nuisance calls, cold calls and pest calls. The increase in communication is all of these outfits, good and bad, attempting to renew your permission to be marketed at, because after 25 May they won’t even be allowed to do that.

It isn’t going to stop scammers from distant lands, but it will make it harder for them to get up to date lists to abuse. All in all, I see this as a good thing – a kind of parting gift from the EU. I hope we keep it when we take back control.

Mar 18th

entertainment for kids - a bit of a ramble, I am afraid

By mike

      Someone blogged about elves and gnomes and I inadvertently gave the wrong impression of entertainment for kids in London.   ( London is a bit different to other towns in that London shows have to cater for an international audience)

     Many West End shows are similar to the books children might have on their own bookshelves.   Pinocchio, Aladdin and The Lion King are major productions based on the Walt Disney films.  Harry Potter, Matilda and School of Rock are also showing.  I would include 42 Street among these.  I don’t have a family, but if I had young girls, I would take them to see this show just for the dance routines. Other music shows, Thriller, Dream Girls, are based on American popular culture and are suitable for a teenage audience,

      Elves and other manifestations of the unconscious feature in adult productions and are taken very seriously, especially garden gnomes which are England’s contribution to the genre.

     Most kids will see dramas and music during school visits to arts venues.  These can  be continuous during the day. Often special productions are put on for families.  The Globe is particularly good at this and are putting on an edited version of ‘Much Ado for Nothing’  There are other venues just for children.

    Yesterday I went to a rock opera, the day before to a Verdi opera*, on the Thursday I went to a live concert of Sondheim songs with a concert orchestra, and the day before that, to a piano recital at a concert hall.

     I saw a class visit at a Shakespeare production and at the opera.  

     The pianist played in a large concert hall. The orchestral platform had seating of portable chairs.  These were for music students who paid a small amount for their prime view.   

    The only production which had an audience of a certain age was the Sondheim concert and this is the only concert I  found rather tedious and dull.   I had a seat right at the top of the concert venue, but I had binoculars and borrowed the hall’s headphones. 

      All the productions, apart from the rock opera, were full house,

     The previous month I went to my first Macdonalds. (I don’t usually eat out)

I thought Macdonalds very expensive. I paid £10 for the Sondheim seat and Macdonalds was not far short of this.  It seemed a lot for a burger whose only taste came from a sliver of lettuce above pulp of some sort in an overcooked bap,  I suppose my priorities are different  Macdonalds might be good value in that you pay about £2.50 for a tea bag in a coffee shop and Macdonalds does not charge as much as this,

       *In the first act of this opera, the chorus sang and wandered around in their underpants.  In the second act, a huge, round double bed on castors whizzes around the stage.  The stage now comprises  a grass lawn.  

    Instead of going to sleep in the bed, the heroine crosses to the front of the stage, unrolled the turf, and goes to sleep under a coverlet of grass.  I am not so sure about the set in the third act but the heroine spent most of the act digging a hole in the ground.  I rather put three and four together and presumed that the heroine  is digging her own grave.  I enjoyed the whole production hugely and think the class   could have enlightened me over the staging.    I found the rock opera rather tame in comparison


   At the moment, I have old films on as a background.  In an English crime thriller of 1954, a very polite,  English police officer speaks to his American counterpart with the lines: “Guns are frowned upon in England, Sir”    The only actor in a TV cop show that I can think of, who could get away with this line,  is Roger Allam in Endeavor.  He will star in a london production next month and I will certainly try to see it.

Mar 15th

Psychology "Trust" Survey (a favour)

By Philippa


Hello Fellow Cloudies,


As some of you may know, in my therapy work as a clinical psychologist, I sometimes conduct informal surveys to gather 'normative information' on how people think, feel and act, to help clients assess and change their own beliefs and behaviours. 


Such surveys are a common technique in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and are a form of behavioural experiment. (For more info see here)


For one of my current clients, we are exploring the issue of how and when we might decide to trust others. If you'd like to help us collect some data on typical responses, we'd love it if you could fill in our quick survey via the link below.


The questions should take no more than 5 minutes to answer, and everything is fully anonymised. Your answers will really help my client establish more balanced patterns for themselves. You may also find it an interesting exericise for yourself!


Thank you so much in advance for your help. 


All the best



Mar 13th

Does your character have a lie?

By Scarlett

I haven't made a blog for ages so just thought I would. Was having some problems in the past with creating a soild character and finally found out some things I wasn't adding. Here's one of them.

This is probably stuff you all ready know, but if this helps one person to add something extra to make their novel that much better then I’m happy. I’m one of those people who firmly believes conflict should drive any story. Getting your characters internal and external goals to clash adds extra conflict. I read a YA book recently where the character’s internal goal was to be loved by her community, her external goal became leading that community. It can be hard to be a leader and be loved. Not the best example maybe but I found it interesting.

You all know about giving your characters goals, motivations, flaws and of course the ‘fatal flaw’ but I really underestimated how much the character’s lie can impact the story. Something they believe that shapes their actions, it’s that lie that causes your character to refuse their call to action. And it works for any genre.

A powerful Lie informs your character's back-story, defines their worldview, actions and personality, leads to their failures throughout the external conflict, creates tension in their relationships, lifts your story's stakes and adds to the character arc. In a Christmas carol Scrooge beliefs a man’s worth can be measured simply by what money he has earned. But by the end of the story he discovers this belief to be false. The lie they believe can keep them rooted to the spot so they don’t make any steps to try achieving that goal, and then something happens in the novel that either forces them to act or makes them question what they believe. The lie works even better if other characters reinforce this belief, along with the symptoms that lie creates. This lie is useful when thinking about your characters breaking point, we all have our limitations. What’s your characters? Figure it out and take them to that point.

When it comes to crafting their lie your options are really endless but most lies do tend to fall into four categories:


·         Doubt – they doubt something about their capabilities, the world or a person. This doubt becomes an obstacle for them achieving satisfaction; their goal.

·         Fear – fear is a strong emotion, some argue the most powerful emotion that is designed to keep the living safe, even the most basic insect can feel fear. They fear someone, something or some part of their psyche and this blocks them from taking the leap. (it’s always a good idea to give them a fear and put that fear directly in front of them achieving their goal)

·         Flaw – your character struggles with a negative character trait Regret/remorse – a past failure or bad deed makes them feel unworthy of their ambition or their goal

I never used to include this into my book and always struggled to get my characters development arc across to the reader. After research I realized not providing a solid lie was where I was going wrong. Not making my characters motivations internal enough and focusing on the outside conflict, which is always good to have but there needs to be conflict going on inside the character as well.

I hope this blog was helpful to someone and if not at least interesting to read.

Scarlett x

Mar 12th

Unknown, Alternative Historical Facts

By Dolly


                                   Lord Horatio Nelson

There has long been disagreement between various historians and academics, as to what Nelson actually said as he lay dying on the deck of HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. There are a number of conflicting theories. Some say he said, ‘Kiss me Hardy!’

There is doubt on this claim, as there is no record that Nelson or Hardy were that way inclined, borne out in Nelson's case by his passionate affair with Lady Hamilton.

Others say he said, ‘Kismet Hardy!’ There is a lot of support for this, as the word Kismet means fate, and in this instance would be appropriate, as Nelson was dying.

There is also another school of thought, that he might have said, ‘Kick me Hardy!’ This has been largely dismissed, as no one could come up with a reason, why anyone would want to be slippered while they were dying. Of course, there is also a possibility that he might not have said any of these things at all.

Nevertheless, the general consensus of opinion seems to be on the side of the Kismet argument, as it's considered that it’s highly unlikely that he would want to be kissed or given a good kicking, while breathing his last. The controversy rages on.

Recently however, another theory has come to light by way of a young couple, who bought a small cottage near Portsmouth. It seems that the cottage was reputed to have belonged to Lord Nelson at some time or other, though there was never any proof of this. However, during renovations, some oak panelling had to be replaced, which led to the discovery of a small cupboard, that contained a bundle of papers, reputed to be in Nelson’s handwriting, and written just before his death. There was a fear that these papers could be fake, but after an intensive investigation, they were found to be genuine. This, as you can imagine, caused great excitement amongst scholars and historians, who poured over them for months, and only recently published their findings.

Among the documents they found was a pamphlet entitled: ‘Ironing in the Royal Navy’ by Horatio Nelson. It seems that Nelson was a bit of a trend setting fashion icon of his day, with a large expensive collection of fancy shirts. According to documentary evidence in the bundle of papers, he would quite often change his shirt two and sometimes three times a day, as he liked to cut a bit of a dash when he went poncing about on the poop deck, important social occasions, or anywhere else for that matter.

Further research revealed that he was so fussy about them, that he wouldn’t let anyone else near them, and even with one eye, one arm and a stump, he washed and ironed them all himself. He became so good at this he gave washing and ironing lessons to other officers, and wrote the pamphlet, hoping it might be published and become part of King’s Regulations. Alas, he died, and his dream was never realised.

With this new piece of evidence regarding Nelson's life, some historians have put forward the theory, that his fastidiousness concerning his shirts could well have been his downfall, as during the battle his shirt would have become grubby, and it is quite likely that he would have nipped down to his cabin, put another one on, and rejoined the battle. Of course, poncing about on the poop deck, wearing a freshly cleaned and ironed fancy shirt, would have made him very conspicuous.

It is thought that because of this he would have been spotted by a French sniper up in the rigging of an enemy ship, who, in a fit of jealous rage, because Nelson had such a smart shirt, and with a cry of ‘English pig!’ (In French of course.) would have shot him.

The discovery of theses documents has done nothing to answer the question as to what he said as he was dying. If anything, it has only added to the confusion, as there is now another school of thought. Bearing in mind his obsession with his shirts, it is thought that he could have beckoned Hardy towards him, so that his ear would have been within an inch of his mouth and whispered: ‘Look at the state of this shirt!’

Mar 8th

writing themes

By Nibs

I haven't been here in a while, it's nice to see that some things are the same and some have changed. 


I've been told by a few people that my writing is too polite. Even when I'm trying to write more harshly, it comes out on the paper - nice. 

So I sat and looked at my work and let my mind wander and wonder.

So last 2 years I've been hooked on these garden miniatures. 1 pot village turned into 2 pots, then turned into 5 pots and a long strip of garden as I became addicted to purchasing these gorgeous homes, swing,gnomes, elves, fairies, animals, and ( I seriously could not resist) a dragon in a cave.

Now what does this have to do with writing you may well ask. And I have an answer.

During those lovey warm summer evenings sat out the back admiring my pots of tiny plants and my little designed gardens I began to tell myself a story. So I wrote it down. and then another one, and a 3rd, and a bit of a 4th. Elves and gnomes and fairies have names as I use them, (silly to say pehaps but I feel the names are right when they I'm working with them.

So now, I have a name of my village as well. 

So now I have started a collection of children stories in a village in my garden. 

so my question and request for help is

Where on earth to I go from here - getting them written up, have photos to carry the story along.

 I like my stories but do you suppose others will like them too?

Where I do go from here folks please.

Mar 7th

Who buys most books and which age range has the most disposable income?

By mike

      Yesterday I watched a second world war film.  It was made in the last years of the war in England and concerned the activities of a village WI institute. The film nearly bankrupted RKO who financed the production. It was not a commercial success.  The film was shown at a film institute and, after the screening, there was a question and answer session with a film historian.  The audience was very literate and there was no popcorn.

    This film is called ‘Great Day’ and  was released in 1944.   I think it was shown as part of  womans’ day celebrations.  The film’s theatrical origin is rather obvious and this was noted by the audience. Questions were raised! It transpires that it had been based on a play written by a woman, Lesley Storm, who was also involved in the production.  The film has a stellar cast of mainly female actors.  One of these is Irene Handl who was, apparently, of a rather aristocratic German and Austrian descent. 

    There is an interest in this sort of material, but those interested  must comprise a minute percentage of the population.  However this age range could well include many book readers who might not be so engrossed by social media,  Some of the audience could have been of my parent’s generation others might have recalled their childhood.  The queries about the film were detailed and, at times, personal.

      My interest is in the immediate post war period as I have a grandfather who composed a piece of music that was well known at the time.    Though people do not know the composer or could name the music., the theme is remembered as it was played  on the radio every day for close on sixty years, including a final period on the World Service.   I heard it played recently at rather disparate events.  It was played in the background of a radio program about George Orwell’s wartime broadcasts to India; a tv program  about  about the use of cranes in London and it was broadcast in its entirety in a 1953 film about boxing.  How bizarre as there is nothing to connect the three events!


Mar 4th

Unknown Notes

By Dolly

Its surprising what you find if you look. I came across this in an old notebook, just some notes on an idea I had, and still have. Perhaps one day I'll develop it further. The point is, because it was only a few lines, I had forgotten about it. So, if you have some old note books you haven't looked at lately, open them up, you never know what you might find!

If I remember, the character had been released from hospital, and returns to an empty house.

He lay half awake, his mind drifting in a mishmash of jumbled thoughts. Push and drive. Childhood disappears into a crowd. The past has no present, the present no future. Age creeps, and snaps at the down at heel veins. Lines on faces map out the silence. Youth is cold ash, and love burns out of reach. Feelings wage war, rattle the spine, and leave their scars on the skin of the soul. Summer raids the fields, dust floats over the corn. Evening rides in on the heat, and the young throw it away and succumb to nature. Sex in graveyards and a headlong rush to nowhere. Later, when they’re older, they’re taken back by the speed of how something that was so easy becomes elusive, difficult, and falls into reverse. Time chips away, removing small pieces of life without notice.

Mar 4th

March 2018’s best writing opportunities

By Loretta Milan

Hi. I was so pleased to hear that the list of top writing competitions and opportunities open in February was helpful so I've published a new one for March on my blog here

The list includes prestigious writing prizes for novels, short stories, flash fiction and poetry as well as a substantial screenwriting scholarship. Also, if you're longing for some warmer weather, there's the chance to win a place at the 70th Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

Best wishes.



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