23 May 2013


The deadline for our fictional worlds map making competition has now passed (we might accept more maps if you send them before the end of Friday 24th though no guarantees). We've had submissions from cartographers, writers and artists from across the world, the quality far outstripping our expectations and our own ability.

While we begin the judging phase I'd like to share some cool mappy things with you.

New Cartography anthology from the excellent magazine The New Wolf.

Juli Marti Casals' geofiction project 1/10000 https://www.facebook.com/undixmillieme.

An interesting article in the Guardian about hand drawn maps being cutting edge http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2013/may/15/hand-drawn-map-cartography-new-york.

Gloves map from Mapping Manhattan

the cartographers guild http://www.cartographersguild.com an excellent forum/ community of cartographers who specialise in making maps of fictional places. Authors take note: members of the guild can make you a map of your fictional world - seeing as many of us are too busy writing to have time to map our worlds, it's good to know there's professional map makers out there willing to come to our aid. http://www.cartographersguild.com/mapmaking-requests/.

13 May 2013

Show and Tell

It's fast becoming a universal truth, that just about anyone of a literary bent is only too keen to trot out: the importance of 'showing' rather than 'telling' in fiction. In other words, don't say 'he was an angry old man', instead describe how 'he leapt out of his mobility scooter and shouted at the children dropping sweet wrappers'.

Showing not telling is an easy rule to remember and once you get the hang of it it's simple enough to apply to any fiction you read. But I have my suspicions about it. Should something as complex as literature really be judged by so simple a rule? More importantly, are we not in danger of imposing an arbitrary constraint on our writing, and therefore putting a limit on our powers of expression - the one thing that should have no limits?

As it happens, my natural inclination is indeed to show rather than tell. This stems in part, I think, from my having previously worked as a journalist which, unless you're employed by the Daily Mail, is (or should be) about specifics - who, what, where and when - and a semblance of objectivity. It also comes from my admiration of works by authors such as Cormac McCarthy and JM Coetzee, where exposition is either completely absent or kept to an absolute minimum.

But over the past year as I've written more short fiction I've allowed myself the luxury of a bit of telling here and there, as I strive to pack as much as possible into a limited word count. Is this at all a positive development in my style, or simply a bad habit I'm getting myself into?

Ultimately that's for others to judge, but I can't help thinking that the show-and-tell rule is as much associative as causal. Just as watching lots of TV may be associated with obesity and ill health, that does not mean the former is the thing that always causes the latter.

Likewise, you are likely to find that writing which includes a lot of telling isn't going to be terribly good. But the use of telling need not itself be the principle reason it's no good.

I recently found support for this idea by reading Paul Auster's novel, Sunset Park. Right from the start this book is nearly all tell, with the showing saved for the most crucial moments in the story. And the big surprise is that it works - the prose is alluring and quickly draws the reader into an absorbing story - with the novel's weaknesses relating to overall narrative arc and a slightly unsatisfying ending, rather than Auster's writing style.

I don't doubt there's a strong basis for the show/tell rule, and for most people most of the time it probably is the best way to ensure effective prose. But even so, perhaps we should keep minds as open as possible in the quest to produce writing that works.

8 May 2013

Storyslingers Fictional Worlds Event & networking party 1st June

Storyslingers Fictional Worlds Event & networking party 1st June 3-5pm (with after party from about 5pm).

with thanks to Maxime Plasse, cartographer, for supplying the map/ image for this poster http://www.cartographersguild.com/members/-+max+--albums-max%27s+maps.html

Storyslingers is putting on a series of mini events on June 1st, culminating in a networking party for creative people. We will be celebrating fictional place and the art of cartography. There will be an informal exhibition of fictional maps created by cartographers from across the world who specialise in the art form known as geofiction: making maps of fictional places. Don’t miss this chance to see some of the best fictional maps in the world, right here in Dorset.

There are three informal events that are open to the public to drop in on any time throughout the afternoon:

3-4pm Fictional Worlds writing workshop. Creating fictional worlds, thinking about their rules and limitations. Open to all levels. 

4-5pm Open Mic reading event. Share your work with other writers and whoever happens to drop by. All stories must be set in a fictional world/ some new spin on reality. Take us somewhere we’ve never been before. Stories should not exceed 7 minutes or 1000 words. Stories of 3-5 minutes are best (600-800 words). We have short attention spans. Extracts from longer works are welcome. In the case of extracts the focus should be on the fictional world - delight us with a new place we wish we could go to if only it really existed.

5-6pm:  Networking party and drop in session. Writers, artists, musicians, filmmakers, cartographers and readers are invited to come along and talk shop. Working on a piece of fiction? Just read the best book ever? Want to talk about it? Come along.  Let’s chat creativity over cakes and wine. 
Also, book swap and stall. If you've ever been handed a world book night book and it's got stuck on your shelves, now is the time to pass it onto someone new. Same goes for any book you have idling that you're happy to pass on. We'll be displaying some of our handmade books too, which will be on sale.  Published writers/ artists are welcome to add their publications/ cards to the stall. 

The announcement of the results of the 2nd Map Making competition will happen sometime during the day - most likely at 5pm (Results will be published online later in the following week.) The maps will be on display throughout the event.

Tickets are on the door and it'll work by a system of paying what you think it's worth in relation to your bank balance, from £1 upwards. All profits will go towards funding a future Storyslingers event: specifically a (roving?) exhibition of the winning and shortlisted maps entered in the map making competition

Come to all or some of the events, pick and choose, drop in and out. Invite your mates along too.

Join the facebook event page:

1st June 2013 3pm-6ish
The Rutter Room
Bell Street

6 May 2013

On inspiration

“Inspiration comes to us slowly and quietly… prime it with a little solitude and idleness.” – Brenda Ueland

The irony doesn’t escape me. I have attempted to write a little something on the topic of inspiration now quite a few times, and each time I find myself struggling to find the very thing I’m trying to blog about. My first attempt was on a plane, some thirty thousand or so feet up in the sky. I felt that six hours in a confined space, while my fellow passengers lost themselves in a variety of interactive entertainment, would be the perfect opportunity to at least get the bare bones of the subject on paper to be later fleshed out when I was back on more solid ground. These thoughts evaporated quickly, like the small beverage the stewardess had handed to me just prior to the opening of my notebook, and I found myself instead jotting down observations of that day so far. Why do I always go looking for inspiration? Inspiration is the one who slowly creeps up on me, jumping out and grabbing hold when I am alone, isolated and not expecting it.
So it’s caught me, and more often than not it’s caught me with my pants down both metaphorically and physically. An idea has sparked and it has to circulate and brew in my head to stay alive until I’ve been able to make note of it. The response to a question of “what if?” or my mind working through an annoyance or situation I’ve experienced.  Guilt even. If I’m luckily it’s playing out in my head like the scene from a movie, which just leaves me the task of getting those images translated into words and onto paper.
And it’s not that I couldn’t find it on the plane because I was in among other people, nor is it true to say that all my ideas have come during moments of isolation. Like almost every other aspect of pure creativity there is no one answer as everyone is different. Whether alone or in a crowd, busy in thoughtful or physical activity, there is no predicting exactly when inspiration will strike. Just be sure to have a way of recording it when it does.
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” – Pablo Picasso