Some people write for pleasure, some people write to inform, some write for money, others for therapy. Whatever your reason, sometimes you might find yourself stuck for an idea. Don’t be; there’s loads of sites out there to get your creative juices flowing.
As a writer however, I would urge everyone to at least try to come up with your own ideas – take pictures, go for a walk, even in your own neighbourhood, take a bus ride and write down what other passengers say (old people are the best!), sit alone in silence for fifteen minutes, keep a dream diary, question yourself.
It’s a list day!
So you tried all that and today your brain went on holiday. Instead of trawling through your search engine, I have dragged together a list of 15 sites you might like to visit. I have included fiction, non-fiction, poetry and Y.A links.
1.Penguin Random House Writers Academy
Divided into categories – so you can find the genre you prefer. This is a shareable site, so you can add your own prompts if you like.
Primarily aimed at school students, but there is no reason why an adult could not find something of interest here. Can also be used to prompt essay writing as much as fiction. N.B: Star Wars fans might be interested to learn that this was set up by George Lucas as part of the George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF)
Ideas from tutors and poets, not just prompts but how to go about writing a poem on a theme. Contains links to poets and other helpful sites. You can download and print off a PDF of ideas so that you can get off the computer and let your poetic mind wander over paper!
Although this is a tumblr blog, and I already have included tumblr, I thought this was beautifully clean and simple in its presentation. Looks like a series of prompt cards with a single sentence or word.
Non-fiction writers don’t get much inspiration handed to them, so here’s a site for those of you who love writing creatively, but not fiction. He also has extra links at the bottom of the page – to push yourself!
I wrote a little about having new Filthy Friends on 9th September, and decided to carry on with the idea of me, middle aged woman, being introduced to ‘new stuff’ in regards to music.
Even more than drugs, I believe that shifts in perspective, challenging tastes and opinions are mind expanding. As humans age, we have a tremendous capacity to think our childhood was best, our music was not so ‘hard on the ears’, our opinions, politics, fashion etc, etc are/were better than ‘the young people of today’. We get stuck in our ways – well I don’t intend to age gracefully!
So, I have invited some ‘young people’ to challenge me, to suggest music; bands, solo artists, for me to listen to (shock, challenge, and make my music neurons wake up!) and I am starting off with Scott’s suggestion –
N.B: this is NOT a review – it’s simply an experiment in expanding my listening tastes.
What I listened to
1.Radioactive – now I had actually heard this song before. A slow burn verse towards a burst of a chorus. Some industrial effects; dripping water, what sounds like wind in a tunnel and then a squeaky toy!
What does it sound like to me? Pop/Rock
Did I like it? Yes
2. Thunder – kind of synth n drums thing going on. Lots of repetition of ‘Thunder’ and finger clicking.
What does it sound like to me? Pop. Like the 1980’s band Men At Work, if they updated their style.
Did I like it? Not really.
3.Believer – starts with a slow march beat, leading to some rap style lyrics before bursting into the chorus -You make me a believer .
What does it sound like to me? What I would call modern Rock.
Did I like it? Yes.
4. Whatever It Takes – kind of rap influenced verse? Synth drums? Chorus slows down the pace with a kind of choral background.
What does it sound like to me? Pop
Did I like it? No.
5.Demons– a slow stadium rock feel with no alteration in pace, tone or anything.
What does it sound like to me? Stadium Rock/Pop
Did I like it? Not really.
6.On Top of The World– opens with a cheery little clapping, whistling, keyboard overlaid by what sounds like something rolling. Solo voice in verse joined in chorus by multiple. Near the end is a set of recordings of President Nixon? And some industrial effects – then back to bouncy, Carribean tinged chorus.
What does it sound like to me? Like it can’t decide what it is.
Did I like it? Not much.
7. I Bet My Life – I could imagine a barn full of people doing line dancing to this one! Someone/something shrieking in the background is annoying! The chorus – I, I bet my life, I bet my life on you,I, I bet my life, I bet my life, I bet my life on you – is reminiscent of Ray Davis and the Kinks Days – Thank you for the days, Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me, I’m thinking of the days, I won’t forget a single day, believe me – has that same rhythm.(But not as good) What does it sound like to me? Pop, gets it’s Stetson and boots on.
Did I like it? Not sure. Pretty much anything ‘country’ flavoured makes me baulk.
8.It’s Time– clapping, synth drums, tapping, something opening, banjo?! Slides into a short, smooth full-bodied chorus.
What does it sound like to me? A heavier early 90’s dance/pop tune.
Did I like it? Was okay.
9. Gold – slices of drums, whistling, speech before the singing begins. This is has a rougher, grimier feel than any of the others songs so far. Each bridge between verse and chorus slows to a slow stomp/march feel. Some ‘rock guitar’ solo at the end.
What does it sound like to me? Rock/Pop
Did I like it? I did actually.
10. Monster – a willowy guitar and synth intro suddenly turns to solid drum base. This sounded like another one – – just my imagination or did they run out of melodies? A nice strong chorus.
What does it sound like to me? By this point, it sounds like Imagine Dragons! Pop with a rock influence.
Did I like it? I did.
To round-up – I think I quite liked listening to Imagine Dragons, though I wouldn’t go out of my way to do it; I wouldn’t for instance, buy an album, although I might listen online amongst other stuff.
Was I challenged? No. Were my middle-aged-lady sensibilities offended? Not at all.
For my money, Imagine Dragons could be a whole lot better, if they quit trying to make songs that sell, i.e. Pop songs. They have potential to be great; if they used more of the experimental sounds, they have a variety of textures in their music which is overlaid by mainstream pop sounds.
I prefer the rougher, rockier, grimier pieces (later listened to I’m So Sorry, live recording – really liked it), to me, those pieces feel real. I’m not keen on their use of synthetic instrumentals; which is what some of it sounds like to me, I may be wrong, but I’d like to hear the rawness of actual drums, bass etc.
I love Film Noir. As a child, I spent many a summer’s day ensconced in a darkened room watching old movies in the middle of the day – a time when very few watched TV in those days – and the ‘unpopular’ stuff was shown; old black and white films, public information films, or in some instances, a potters wheel! (Yes kids, British TV had a black and white film of a lump of clay, and we watched it!)
Film Noir is an extension of the Gangster film; Gangster films had been seen less on the screen and returned as this genre; re-categorised by critics. However, most of their appeal came after they were made, not the time they were made. The main influence came from France around pre- WWII. French critics coined the phrase ‘Film Noir’, Black Film; seen as crime, mystery’s, melodramas. Beginning with a small group of films such as : “The Killers”, 1946 and “Double Indemnity”, 1944.
As time progressed more films fell under the heading Film Noir; it is a flexible category.
From the late 1970s onwards saw a Neo Noir revival, with Noirish elements: “Body Heat”, 1981 and “Basic Instinct”, 1992 and the animated “Sin City”, 2005.
But for this essay, I’m focusing only on the older style.
In 1940s America everything was in short supply; film, batteries, even writers, so the film makers looked to pulp fiction for new ideas.
Many of the films were made by European émigrés; escaping from Nazi German oppression. In a time of darkness created by Hitler, film makers, technicians and writers on the run from Europe, brought their style with them. There wouldn’t have been Film Noir without WWII. There was an influx of immigrants to America and they brought ‘German Expressionism’ a style with skewed angles and dark style. The Nazi figures were transformed into gangsters in the films. In the 60s and 70s – people started to see them as Art films, not just popular money makers. “Big Heat”, 1953, by Fritz Lange is now regarded as an Artistic Film Noir.
What makes a Gangster film a Noir film?
There are strong psychological themes present, women of character, complicated plot lines. It is a world mostly devoid of children. Unhappy worlds, dark, urban more so than gangster films, the characters are trapped by their environment. Described by one critic as a “Dark American place with a fancy name”. Noir films were not the property of one studio, it had it’s own rules. Though the films are black and white, the characters are often groping around in a fog, things are not black and white in decision making, European music add to the tension; threat, danger. For an American audience in this period, this was all pretty dark stuff.
Who populates these films?
Everyone is bent, men women, and coppers: the heroine is a predator even when the victim, often a blonde, a femme fatale, desirable, sexy, untrustworthy, and slutty. The hero is her lunch and usually knows it. Women get their power through sexuality. Robert Mitchum in “Out of The Past”, 1947, is a typical Noir hero. The hero often has been to war, has some psychosis, they are hapless. Bogart’s characters often cannot connect, even when they are in love. Men and women in Noir never reach the daylight in their lives. Real men get to show their softer side with these women, without appearing weak. Men were manipulated, women were dodgy and manipulative. Many well known actors and actresses emerged in this period, Robert Mitchum, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, to name a few. Women emerge in their own right post war, reflecting the social changes. Men were damaged by wartime experiences; Post traumatic Stress Disorder; in the film “Blue Dahlia”, 1946, the ‘hero’ is a harmless guy, returned from war, everyone likes him, but he’s a serial killer. There is often a simmering tension between the hero and female, we watch a verbal tennis match going on between them, sometimes they might never even get that first kiss. The best example of this witty, sultry banter can be most often seen between Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart (who became a couple off screen too); full of euphemism and innuendo.
What does it look like?
Dark! Mostly urban. Cigarettes, rainy streets, shadows, lipstick, guns. There is little or no sunlight in these films; lighting carves up the scene and the faces with chiaroscuro. Shadows are tall and menacing to enhance the atmosphere. Many cinematographers had been filming in the war effort and brought back with them elements of that, in the mid 1950s they began to make the films more realistic.
Why do we like them?
The audience appeal lies in that the films mostly take place in an ordinary environment; previous films such as Westerns took themselves off to deserts and canyons; not places the audience regularly inhabited so had less to relate to. But in Noir, the people have adventures; we see their unhappiness so we feel better; one could reflect that, at least my life isn’t that bad. Male viewers see quiet men, strong men who can take care of themselves, when required, who yet fall for the charms of the femme fatale. Female viewers were suddenly exposed to female characters who could often stand up for themselves; not the helpless little wifey this one. There was a kind of glamour portrayed in the dialogue, the male/female relationships and clothing.
What should I watch if I have never seen Film Noir?
Out of the Past 1947/ Sweet Smell of Success 1957/ Double Indemnity 1944/ The Big Sleep 1946/The Maltese Falcon 1941/ Sunset Boulevard 1950/ Murder my Sweet 1944/Gun Crazy 1950/ T-Men 1948/ Touch of Evil 1958/ Stranger on the Third Floor 1940/ Sweet Smell of Success 1957/ Gilda 1946/ Kiss Me deadly 1955.
Noir is also famous for its dialogue and snappy lines. Much dialogue, especially in Philip Marlowe films (Raymond Chandler author) is really funny – but ain’t nobody laughing. Here’s a few you might like to use!
“Keep on riding me and they’re going to be picking iron out of your liver.” Wilmer Cook in The Maltese Falcon.
“Okay Marlowe,” I said to myself, ‘You’re a tough guy. You’ve been sapped twice, choked, beaten silly with a gun, shot in the arm until you’re crazy as a couple of waltzing mice. Now let’s see you do something really tough—like putting your pants on.” Philip Marlowe in Murder My Sweet.
“You know what he’ll do when he comes back? Beat my teeth out, then kick me in the stomach for mumbling.” Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep.
Johnny: “Doesn’t it bother you at all that you’re married?” Gilda: “What I want to know is, does it bother you?” Johnny and Gilda in Gilda.
“With my brains and your looks, we could go places.” Frank Chambers in The Postman Always Rings Twice.
“I wouldn’t give you the skin off a grape.” Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death.
“Well, you’re about as romantic as a pair of handcuffs.” Debby Marsh in The Big Heat.
“All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.
“She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up.” Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep
And now…. We have Nordic Noir – the name given to the new literature, TV and film we see more and more now with programmes like “The Killing”, from Denmark and Sweden.
You might also like “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid”, the Film Noir parody starring Steve Martin, which you could class as Comedy Noir, I suppose, if such a thing exists!
So today I am at my local library having to write this blog – and work on my current story. So when I say ‘Comfort Zone’, I literally mean geographic location rather than mental state (well that too; but that was always in doubt!)
I have been without my own laptop for nigh on 3 weeks; many issues with not loading, running slowly, closing down of it’s own volition, not being able to install updates – I think I may have had a previous rant about my technology – especially on Twitter. (Have been using hubby’s little mini-laptop, but he needs it today).
Well I have just managed to check my e-mail and I apparently only have 15 minutes left!! What is this?
I have only been here 15 minutes and there have been three mobile phones ringing and four phone conversations and a whinging toddler – at what point do I say something before I explode and cause immense offense?!
I hate being out of my own environment to work. I have had to pack a bag with my notebooks, pens, hi-lighters and so forth. A new environment seriously alters the way we feel as we write, sure, I have my earbuds in and I am listening to my Novel Soundtrack on YouTube, but the chair is weird, the screen not at the right height; THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE AROUND ME!
I hate it.
Forgive me if I don’t sound like I am having a good time – I’m not.
OMG! There is a woman diagonally opposite me chatting on her mobile – I thought libraries were meant to be places of quiet! Aaarrggh!
I will bid you adieu for today, have some ranting to do….
I bought a music magazine today for the first time in about 25 years. I don’t even pretend to be knowledgeable about this creative industry, (I’m a visual artist by training), I sing along to the chorus of songs and forget the lyrics of the verses of even the most famous songs in the world.
As you get older, it is easy to settle in your ways; however, I fight this, and am aided by the young people I work with. I like to think I am open-minded, I will give most things a try; last year I began listening to Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails; makes me want to be eighteen again. I love Manson’s version of Tainted Love (and the video!!!)
UNCUT magazine was giving away a free CD; that’s why I bought it. I wanted to listen to something I had never heard before and see if the new kids could challenge me and my musical limitations.
The Clientele – Everyone You Meet
Like stepping back in time, to the 60’s. Not terribly exciting or original. Maclean’s whispery vocals do little for me.
Chris Hillman – Here She Comes Again
Another retro style. A kind of sixties-country-rock mix. Hardly surprising given it is made by former Byrd members and Tom Petty. Not a fan.
Wand – Plum
With it’s thumping piano opening reminiscent of a Beatles song, whose title I cannot recall, this is another retro feel. Then we go a bit Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Some intermittent discord and hint at industrialisation adds some interest – I like musicians that experiment, but it returns to the melody – and ends with some odd whistling! Not sure, but might find other tracks to listen to of this group.
Antibalas – Gold Rush(edit)
Well “Hello 70’s”; African influenced rock-psychedelic-brass horns mix. Even this edited version is longer than the previous songs. Great beat that keeps things moving along. Though I would have preferred something more funk it’s quite good fun.
Lee Ranaldo – Purloined
Synth-guitar-drum led tune. Could be the opening of a TV show. Okay.
Hiss Golden Messenger – Jenny of the Roses
Country induced coma – no –
Mark Olsen – Seminole Valley Tea Sipper Society
So reminded me of another 60’s piece. A kind of hippy-trippy-folksy outing. Either the the singing is deliberately out of tune or….
The most interesting thing about this is the title.
Willie Watson – Samson and Delilah
Country meets Gospel – no –
Filthy Friends – The Arrival
Ah, now this is more like my kind of thing. Punk influence is clear here and Corin Tuckers vocals are strong with hints of Poly Styrene.. Love the thrashy quality of the guitars and drums. Will certainly be seeking out more of this lot.
DAF – Kebabträume
Sorry, but Kraftwerk got here first! And did it better!
Moses Sumney – Quarrel
Sumney has a gorgeous voice, his vocal range is impressive and the alterations between fragility and power reminded me of Kate Bush. I wanted to like this, but I got bored half way through. It feels like there’s something missing.
Acetone – Shaker
Acetone is, the dictionary says, a volatile, flammable liquid’. Unfortunately, there was nothing volatile about this piece at all. Whispery vocals, again; leave me cringing.
Deer Tick – Sea of Clouds
No! Next! That voice!
Mogwai – Coolverine
This is the only artist I have previously heard of in this compilation. This is the first time I have heard their work, and unless it accompanies a TV drama, it will be the last time.
The Dream Syndicate – How Did I Find Myself Here?
Interesting opening with the instruments sounding like they are tripping over each other. Unfortunately, this is another that sounds like a pastiche of 60’s/70’s sounds. Not very original.
So, no challenge there then, how very disappointing. It seems like the people who compiled this CD were either, a)my age and wanted something reminiscent – in which case – make way for new creativity guys! Or, b)youngsters in their twenties who think its retro and cool – in which case – make way for something new and creative guys!
Not impressed, undewhelmed; meh!
But I did say at the beginning I’m not good with music – that’s my excuse – and at 52 years of age I feel like all this was just a rehash of stuff I have heard previously in my life.
It is quite disappointing when creatives churn out the same old, same old. I want to be challenged, I want to go, “Hmm, not sure, will have to listen again or come back to that.”
A lovely voice does not make for an interesting song, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen do not have lovely voices, but they have interesting voices, with character and feeling, plus they both write fantastic music and poetical lyrics.
Is it just me, or are the arts and culture becoming more homogenized? Less interesting? Less creative?
Maybe I’ll buy another music mag in 25 years time, lets see if they can impress and challenge a 77 year old!!!!
I am one of those individuals who come up with lots of ideas and follow few of them through. I’m a ‘Scanner’, a dilettante, a jack-of-all-trades, but more on that another time.
A couple of ideas I came up with about 12 – 15 years ago were to do with sharing one’s own reading selection. I worked at a well-known book shop at the time and ran a Book Swap. So easy and free – everyone brings a book wrapped in paper, place it in a box, take another out. That’s it, but you often get something you may never have thought of purchasing, you may get exposed to a genre that previously you had avoided. The other idea never came to anything – it was to do with leaving books in public spaces; one’s own publications or some other author you really had enjoyed.
When I read it, I thought, well finally someone’s doing it, because I sure as hell am too lazy!!!
The basic gist is this, You leave out one of your own books or share a favourite book from another author. It’s a way of sharing literature, and what can be better than that.
There are a couple of things you need to take part; two stickers for each book, you can get them from The Book Fairies.
Next; you hide the book in a semi-obvious spot for someone to find. But as Goodreads states, watch the weather forecast as you don’t want your book to get soggy.
Then; take a picture and share it with your fellow Goodreads members and Book Fairies on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtags #goodreadsturns10 #hideabookday, #ibelieveinbookfairies.
I love this idea (not only because I thought of it , privately, yonks ago!), it incorporates two positive aspects of human behaviour – reading and sharing.
I know I will be keeping a lookout, though I cannot imagine anyone in my town will get involved.
I do have one quibble with the ‘event’. It is happening on a Monday, working people such as myself will possibly not have time to hide or look for books. I would have preferred it to be run on a weekend, but that’s just me.
Which book will you hide for other readers to find on September 18?
Well, writing per se is not hard. However, writing well is!
It is quite easy to put pen to paper, finger tips to keys, or quill to parchment; whatever takes your fancy, I do it all the time. It does not make what I write worthy of reading, or even particularly good.
As an adult who is fairly new to the world of writing, I realise how very little I was taught at school, and probably because teachers work to a curriculum which itself is about passing exams. I am not alone in this lack of education regarding how to write. I was not, for example, taught the difference between an essay and a story, an assignment, a dissertation, or a thesis. I have had to pick these up in the later years of my life – a huge indictment on the English Education system.
Writing is not hard because I am dull-witted; I am not.
Writing is a creative activity, it demands a skill with words that, sadly, many so-called authors do not have. Word-smiths work hard at compiling and re-arranging 26 letters (in English) into a plethora of ideas, and use the same 26 letters over again for completely different themes.
Writing well is demanding.
It requires practise. It requires persistence. It requires commitment. It requires creativity. It requires honesty. Anyone can produce word vomit – it’s recognising the good bits that makes the difference.
Recently, I have been asking myself – who cares? Or, So what?
Who cares if you wrote a tragedy about a lovelorn grass snake? So what if you ‘have a story inside’, do you really have to share it? What make you think anyone wants to read it? I have been guilty of producing some trite nonsense, I need to stop. And so do a lot of people.
Self criticism seems to be sorely lacking in many individuals. I blame the school system; everyone can be creative, everyone is a winner – no they can’t and no they are not. This lack of competition has created a society with a watery attitude to the arts; vapid outpourings of equally vapid individuals.
And this criticism is not only levelled at ‘young up and coming’ authors – there are many brilliant new writers – no, I have read some tosh from long established writers who seem to pump out vast quantities of barely edited text, in the infuriating belief that more is better. It is not.
Many authors have only ever produced one or two novels – would that the others had!!!!