Simon Wood

Posts Tagged: short stories

I have a new writer’s workshop starting in June. It came at the suggestion of one of my previous workshop students and I’ve been working on it for the last few months.  The new workshop is QUERY LETTERS, SYNOPSIS WRITING AND PITCHING.  The workshop would explore the following:

  • Crafting a query letter directed at agents and publishers and how to perform a coordinated agent/publisher search.
  • Writing synopses. Yes, I said “synopses.” Multiple synopses are needed for book title because you’ll need a 200-word synopsis, 1-page synopsis, 2-page synopsis and a 4-page synopsis. There’s no such thing as a standard synopsis length…sadly.
  • There are plenty of opportunities to pitch face-to-face with industry professionals—both formally and informally—so it pays to have your elevator pitch in your back pocket ready to pull out at a moment’s notice.

So if you want to learn how to interact with the industry and present your story concept effectively, you can sign up here:

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My ever-popular online workshop on KILLER SUSPENSE writing starts on May 2nd. This workshop blossomed out of a piece I wrote for Writers’ Digest and there’s now interest for me to develop into a book. So if you want to learn how to inject some drama and conflict into your fiction, here’s what to expect from the workshop and you can sign up here:

You’re reading. Your heart is slamming against your ribcage, your fingertips are moist and you turn another page. The protagonist’s back is up against the wall and the antagonist is setting up a trap. You wish you could do something to prevent the protagonist from walking into it, but you can’t. You are helpless, totally at the mercy of the writer. You turn another page.

If you’ve ever felt this way while reading a book, then the writer has done a great job at creating suspense—and if you continue to read all the way to the end, the writer has also done a great job of maintaining it. So how do you, the writer, go about creating the same for your readers? KILLER SUSPENSE reveals the tricks of the trade for creating top notch suspense in your writing, whether it be a cozy or a spy thriller. The intensity might be different but the techniques are the same.

Lesson Plan:

  • Lesson #1: Understanding Suspense—Thrillers vs. Mysteries
  • Lesson #2: Viewpoints
  • Lesson #3: Heroes and Villains
  • Lesson #4: Elements of Suspense #1—High Stakes, Pressure Points & Dilemmas
  • Lesson #5: Elements of Suspense #2—Time Constraints, Complications, Unpredictability
  • Lesson #6: Suspense Plan Review

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More conference news!

On May 14th, I’m going to be a presenter at the Killer Workshop presented by Capital Crimes & Palmetto Sisters in Crime chapters. This is a 1-day virtual & in-person conference. Yes, I will be there in person. After two years of being shut in from the world, I am emerging where I get to see real life people. I think I’ve forgotten what that feels like.

My workshop will be on short stories. If you’d like more details, go here.

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My online workshop on Point-of-View writing starts on April 4th. Oddly, 2022 has proved very popular for this topic. I’m slated to give a shortened version of this workshop to four different writing organization this year already. If you want to learn how to keep your POV straight in your books, here’s what to expect from the workshop and you can sign up here:

Can’t decide who’s the best character to tell your story? You don’t have to settle for just a single character’s point of view. I’ll discuss the techniques and the decisions that have to be made when writing in multiple points of view.

Weaving multiple viewpoint characters in and out of a story is like standing trial and knowing what the judge, the prosecuting attorney and all 12 members of the jury are thinking. Each person is witnessing the same information, but each individual interpretation is different. But it’s not like you can crack into everyone’s mind simultaneously. Even if you could, it’d be impossible to comprehend what 14 people are saying if they’re all talking at the same time.

Allowing multiple characters to tell your story can add depth and insight that a single point of view may not be able to convey. Most stories have plenty of characters with their own tales to tell. Multiple POV characters add depth to a novel. Suddenly the story is being told from the perspective of multiple witnesses, all putting their distinctive interpretations on events. But the inclusion of multiple voices can bring with it its own problems. Those multiple points of view can get out of control and turn the story into a mess. In a novel, just like in a conversation, not everyone can speak at once. There are plenty of ways to give each character a voice without having them talk over one another. Even if you’re only writing from a single point-of-view or utilizing an omniscient POV approach, going through these exercises will help ensure there’s a smooth transition between characters.

Lesson Plan:

  • Lesson #1: Creating a hierarchy of POV characters
  • Lesson #2: Limit the number of POV characters
  • Lesson #3: Pick the right character for the right job
  • Lesson #4: POV Toolbox Tricks #1— Use chapter and/or scene breaks & Changing Spaces
  • Lesson #5: POV Toolbox Tricks #2—Passing the baton, Mixing perspectives & Using distinctive voices
  • Lesson #6: POV Plan Review

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I’ve scheduled my writing workshops for the first half of 2022 and they are as follows:

  • PLOT THICKENERS (Starts March 7th)
  • SHIFTING POVs (Starts April 4th)
  • KILLER SUSPENSE (Starts May 2nd)
  • QUERY LETTERS & SYNOPSIS WRITING (Starts June 6thNEW!
  • SHORT STORIES (Starts July 11th)
  • AUTHOR PROFESSIONALISM (Starts August 8th)

As you can see, my new workshop on query letters and synopsis writing is set.  Thanks to everyone who contacted me after my last newsletter.

Course and signup details can be found here.

 

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This one is for the writers amongst you. Over the last few years, I’ve developed a number of online writing courses for Sisters In Crime. The workshops haven’t been available outside of their membership until now. I’m planning on having a different writing workshop every month, but I’m kicking off this first phase with five classes. Here’s what’s on the docket for the first half of 2021:

The start dates for the classes are as follows (just click the links for course details):
KILLER SUSPENSE: May 3rd
PLOT THICKENERS: March 8th
MANAGING POINTS OF VIEW (POV): Feb 8th
SHORT STORIES: April 5th
AUTHOR PROFESSIONALISM: June 7th

The nitty gritty:
The format of classes is a mix of videos and handouts as part of an online classroom.
The classes run for two weeks with 6 to 7 lessons in each workshop, except for the plotting workshop, which is three weeks.
With every lesson, there’s an assignment and feedback. You aren’t obliged to do the homework or send it to me for feedback. It’s entirely up to you.
The class is conducted via groups.io. People are expected to join in and comment on everybody’s work.
Lessons will be posted every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. That is subject to change. If people need more time then I will slow the lessons down.

Workshop cost: $50 each (exception for the Plot Thickeners – that’s $65)

If you’d like to sign up, just go to my WORKSHOP page.

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Like with all my books, the stories have origins in something from real life. WORKING STIFFS is no different and as a story collection, it has a bunch of inspirations. Here’s some of the stories behind the stories.

Old Flames Burn The Brightest
I’ve been in the US twenty plus years now and during that time, I’ve gained a bunch of friends, but this has been at the expense of my friends back home. I’ll be digging through some box of junk for something and come across something else that will make me all nostalgic, and I get to wondering about all the people I’ve lost touch with. What are they doing? Have they changed? Are they married or divorced or both? In my mind’s eye, they haven’t changed. They’ll always be the same people I knew back in England, forever frozen in 1998.

But these people can’t be the same. During my brief trips back to England, even my friends I still see have changed. Their lives have moved on and I haven’t been around to witness it. I don’t think I’ve changed, but I’m sure those people see differences in me too. It’s odd to think about, but true.

But with the writing, there’s a chance I may re-encounter lost friends. It’s happened already. Now and again, I’ll get an email along the lines of—aren’t you the Simon Wood I used to go to school/beat up once/stole my cat?

I still have hopes that I’ll bump into these lost friends and that was the inspiration of Old Flames Burn The Brightest. Colin Hill encounters a never-was girlfriend, Denise. He hopes to rekindle something that never existed, but Denise isn’t the same person Colin used to know and unfortunately for Denise, neither is Colin.

My Father’s Secret
This was an easy story to write because Raymond Chandler told me what to write. I have an old BBC recording which features Ian Fleming interviewing Raymond Chandler. Fleming and Chandler discuss the differences in their work and what inspires them to write what they do. During the interview, Chandler describes how mob hits were arranged in the U.S. I thought, wow, what a great idea for a story.

I used the mechanics of a mob hit for the skeleton of the story, but I added the complication of the relationship between father and son. Don’t go reading anything into the relationship between my own father and me. Rarely does anything from my own personal experiences make it directly to the pages of my stories. Rather, certain facets of life and people tug at my sensibilities.

So thanks, Ray. I owe you a gimlet.

Parental Guidance
Where do you get your ideas from?

It’s a familiar question I’m asked. Literally anything can inspire a story. With Parental Guidance, it was a TV advertisement. It just goes to show that TV advertising works—just not the way they hoped.

The ad was for credit consolidation. It was one of those cheesy, homemade adverts that do the product or service being pimped no favors. The ad was simple. A family, consisting of husband, wife, and two kids, sit in front of the camera while the father tells how his life was out of control because of credit debt until he turned it all around thanks to blah-blah credit counseling. The ad ends with the father saying, “I took control and my life has never been better.”

It was such a creepy line to end the advert on that it gave me the chills. There was just something about the actor’s delivery, like he was trying to let us in on his real secret. The story came to me before the ad break ended. I wanted a tale of keeping up with the Joneses with a difference. I wanted a tarnished tale about what it means to keep up with not only the Joneses but the world in general, but I wanted darken it with the uneasy sentinment I felt after hearing the father’s last sentence.

A Break In The Old Routine
I people watch and I have a nasty habit of giving the people I watch a whole history. A Break In the Old Routine began life that way. I was riding BART into San Francisco and there was this striking women sitting several rows over from me. Watching her, I came up with a character prfolie for her. Wasn’t that nice of me?

I got an attack of the guilts when I went to get off the train and she got off with me. For a frightening moment, I thought this woman was going to call me out for staring. She didn’t and she went on her way, but I thought about what if she had called me on it? What then?

I have to give credit to Working Stiffs’ editor, David LaBounty for the success of this story. He took what I thought was a decent enough story and turned into something special. He read my draft and said that he felt the story should end differently. And he was right. I hope you agree.

The Real Deal
The Real Deal, like Parental Guidance, was inspired by television. And no, I don’t spend all day in front of the TV, just most of it. I watched an episode of Night Gallery which featured an old gangster trying to preserve his legacy. It was an interesting story with a lame ending. But the crux of the story, trying to preserve one’s own mark on history, stuck with me. A couple of years later, I watched an episode of Lonely Planet and travel icon, Ian Wright, traveled to Peru and went through a bizarre witchdoctor ceremony to cure him of all his ills. These two things clashed to create a story about an ailing businessman trying to save his equally ailing business empire.

Officer Down
This was one of those story ideas that once it came to me, I couldn’t dislodge it. This image popped into my head of a police officer getting shot in the line of duty, but surviving because of his kevlar vest. The key thing that stuck with me was that tiny moment before being shot where you believe you’re going to die, only to survive.

I was fascinated by how someone would cope with that juxtoposition of living when you believed you were going to die. Could a person continue under those circumstances? For the character in Officer Down, I decided he couldn’t.

To pile on the pain, the police officer is shot with his own gun after he loses it in a tussle with a thief. The cop can’t move on with his life until he gets his gun back and in doing so, he breaks the rules he was sworn to uphold.

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This one is for the writers amongst you. Over the last few years, I’ve developed a number of online writing courses for Sisters In Crime. The workshops haven’t been available outside of their membership until now. I’m planning on having a different writing workshop every month, but I’m kicking off this first phase with five classes. Here’s what’s on the docket:

The start dates for the classes are as follows (just click the links for course details):
KILLER SUSPENSE: October 5th
PLOT THICKENERS: June 8th
MANAGING POINTS OF VIEW (POV): July 6th
SHORT STORIES: August 3rd
AUTHOR PROFESSIONALISM: September 7th

The nitty gritty:
The format of classes is a mix of videos and handouts as part of an online classroom.
The classes run for two weeks with 6 to 7 lessons in each workshop, except for the plotting workshop, which is three weeks.
With every lesson, there’s an assignment and feedback. You aren’t obliged to do the homework or send it to me for feedback. It’s entirely up to you.
The class is conducted via groups.io. People are expected to join in and comment on everybody’s work.
Lessons will be posted every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. That is subject to change. If people need more time then I will slow the lessons down.

Workshop cost: $50 each (exception for the Plot Thickeners – that’s $65)

If you’d like to sign up, please send me an email.  Let me know if you have any questions.

UPDATE: The WORKSHOP page is now linked to the website store for easier online signup.

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As I’ve done with my last few books, I’ve created a playlist for my Cockney Rhyming Slang inspired book TROUBLE & STRIFE. Each title relates to one of the stories in the book (although I’ve taken liberties with a couple of songs):

Steve Brewer’s BABBLING BROOK (slang for crook).
Song “The fun lovin’ criminal” – Fun Lovin’ Criminals.

Angel Luis Colón’s BUNSEN BURNER (slang for earner, as in making money).
Song “Earned it” – The Weeknd.

Johnny Shaw’s DICKY DIRT (slang for shirt).
Song “T-shirt weather” – Circa Waves.

Paul Finch’s MR. KIPPER (slang for Jack the Ripper).
Song “Jack the Ripper” – Screaming Lord Sutch.

Jay Stringer’s HALF INCH (slang for pinch as in to steal).
Song “Pinch me” – Bare-naked Ladies.

Catriona McPherson’s BARNET FAIR (slang for hair).
Song “Hair” – The Cowsills.

Susanna Calkins’ TEA LEAF (slang for thief).
Song “Nothing but thieves” – Amsterdam.

Travis Richardson’s LEE MARVIN (slang for starving).
Song “Wand’rin star” – Lee Marvin.

Colin Campbell’s TROUBLE & STRIFE (slang for wife).
Song “Trouble and strife” – Béla Fleck and the Flecktones.

Sam Wiebe’s A LADY FROM BRISTOL (slang for pistol).
Song “Who’s that lady” – Isley Brothers.

Robert Dugoni’s PLEASURE & PAIN (slang for rain).
Song “Love reign o’er me” – The Who.

As I curated this criminal enterprise, I chose “Trouble” by Ray LaMontagne and “Strife” by Trivium.

If you’ve read the book, these songs will make a lot of sense and if you haven’t, it should give you an inkling as to what to expect.

Learn more about the book here and listen to all the song below

 

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TROUBLE & STRIFE picked up a great review from Mystery Scene magazine (which is on the right of the screen).  It came with the quotable line:

TROUBLE & STRIFE, edited by Simon Wood, is a clever (and very good) themed anthology.”

I wasn’t sure how the anthology was going to be received because the book is very thematic, so I was very pleased to see such a positive assessment.  It was so nice to so many of the authors singled out for praise.

If the review image is a little hard on the eyes, you can read the complete review here.

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