Words fascinate me. Our language fascinates me. It always has. More, I love the cleverness some people are able to deploy into combining words. Writers who can weave words into a tapestry of tales have always held a deep fascination for me. To me, good writers are like magicians and here’s little old me, aspiring like mad to be one of them, working my backside off to emulate wordsmith greatness. Hmmm…
I have always admired songwriters for the same reason. For their ability to not only work their magic with words but to be able to match it to music. I mean for me this is ultimate greatness. It’s why I like the type of music I do. Depth of lyrics is as important to me as the tune or the instruments chosen to play that tune. If you can put great lyrics and great music together then you to my mind are god like. And it is my love of words, for I do LOVE words, which is also the reason I am a huge fan of Friday Phrases.
Now, if you follow me on Twitter then you’ll know I have been partaking in a little game each Friday, since around November time, called Friday Phrases or, for brevity’s sake, FP. (Though this is one new acronym I’ve welcomed with open arms and if you read my last post, you’ll understand I have a gripe with acronyms.) I am by no means the first to blog about FP and I am sure I won’t be the last but, as I love it and it’s become an integral part of my writing, I thought it deserved its own honorary post.
FP is a fantastic phenomenon which I have mentioned in passing on this blog before whereby Tweeps write short fiction, poems or phrases in 140 characters or less. An idea originating from the lovely Amy Good, @amicgood (http://www.amicgood.com/blogs.php?id=103&cid=189) the idea behind FP was to give writers a unique way to fight through the deluge of FF (Friday Follows), I somehow happened upon it on my Twitter feed at the back-end of last year and I have been addicted ever since. I will tell you now, I have not got a particulaly addictive personality (or at least I didn’t think I did until FP happened along) but every Friday I find myself permanently attached to my phone or laptop and it’s now spilling over into Saturday. Because of time zones, FP really is like a 48 hour party.
So why do we do it? What is the point of FP you may well wonder? Well allow me to summarise the reasons I think people have for taking part:
1) To find like-minded writer Tweeps to follow and interact with.
2) To stretch and hone the writing muscle on a weekly basis. A lesson in less is more is what FP is good for (at least for me – Miss Verbosity).
3) To gawp in awe and wonder at the amazing working minds of other writers and to share their awesomeness with others by retweeting the FPs you like. (Though there is a health warning with this: utter abject green-eyed monster syndrome may attack you at certain times.)
4) To have appreciation shown for your own work (because we all need a little affirmation from time to time).
5) Just to make Fridays fun and look forward to them even more than we already do so.
So where and why did it start for me? Well FP is different for everyone but it started for me as a form of therapy. It was a way I could start to articulate some very difficult feelings without actually saying them out loud or incriminating anyone openly. I think I only did one the first week and wasn’t really sure if I was doing it right. But it got a few retweets and stars so it couldn’t have been too shabby.
Through the FP hashtag I then started to find a wondrous world of writers tweeting these mini-micro phrases, stories and poems. The exciting thing is, each week it grows and evolves and has even now reached a point where the fabulous Willow Becker @willowbecker has created our very own site for us whereby she archives the tweets each week. Check it out here at www.fridayphrases.com if you’re looking for writing inspiration, great writers to follow on Twitter or just to be entertained and amazed at what can come out in 140 characters.
However, it’s not just the idea itself which is evolving. A weird thing has started to happen to my own FPs in that they have started to take on quite a dark, sinister turn lately. This is completely new and news to me because I have never been a fan of blood and gore. I’ve never written a word of horror or even read or watched much except for in the curious phase of my late teens. For goodness sake, I could never even watch Casualty in case I saw something which turned my stomach! Now I find myself writing about people pulling hatchets out of heads and the such like.
But then I guess it’s all just words on a page. Nothing more. As someone once said to me a very long time ago.
Now, everyone seems to play the FP ‘game’ differently. Some wait until inspiration hits them on a Friday and then tweet their FPs there and then. Some, very well organised Tweeps, manage to plan whole stories which then get tweeted in a series and it was Amy who tried this out herself first a few months back, setting the bar and a template for others to follow.
Others pick a theme and base their FPs for that day around it. (I tried this once but my brain went off in too many other directions! Scatterbrain. )
As for me, I write my FP’s in the same way as everything else I write, that is to say ‘The Scatterbrained Method.’ Ideas wander through my brain narrating in my head as I go about my daily life. Observations, thoughts and feelings. If you are a writer you will understand this constant internal monologue of narration as though you are living your life through a movie script. If you’re not, well now you know for sure why we write – because storing all this stuff is hard work not to mention brain clogging. For example. I just drove back from the shops. It took 15 minutes. In that time I was singing along to some music and around five separate ideas/ narrations and phrases started floating around in my head. Then I saw something on the road side which sparked some other narrative. I thought my brain would explode. I didn’t even get out of the car when I got home, just sat on the drive, scribbling away the ideas I’d had. Anyway the random thoughts and ideas fester throughout the week and get roughly recorded on the note pad on my phone. Some ideas are good for short stories, some for novels and some for these short 140 character FP micro fiction.Then on a Friday I take the small ideas for FP and I tweak and edit them down to 140 characters. (As you all know by now, being brief is not in my nature and so I ALWAYS have to reduce the word count.) Quite often I have short poems to add in to the mix and I sometimes tweet my FFs through it. Jason Zwiker @jazstory did this brilliantly one week, including Tweeps in our very own tweeted serialisation story across the day. I’m not that clever, but this is what I love about FP. There is inspiration at every turn and I love doing it. I love the process of having a random thought and then somehow moulding it and shaping into a coherent mini story and amazingly I often regularly manage to write five or six different ones each week.
So imagine my horror this week when I was asked on Thursday evening by one of my fellow Tweeps if I had any FPs in mind for the following day… and… I had nothing. Nothing at all. Zilch. My muse had abandoned me all week and I felt that this week I’d not be able to participate but simply be a spectator. Not that there is anything wrong with this as FP is as fun for the reading and sharing of other’s genius as the writing element. But I still felt sad because a writer with no ideas makes for a frustrating time. Part of my frustration came from the fact that the FPs I’d written the week before had been, in my own opinion, my best yet and this became a crisis of confidence problem. Because my fear was there was now nowhere else to go. Also I felt my ideas had become ‘samey’ and I was feeling nothing new or different to put out there. I feared I wouldn’t live up to expectation. I feared I’d disappoint. I figured isn’t it better to play under par and have somewhere higher to go than play at your best and have to keep at that level? It sounded too exhausting for me and so the block last week won out. However, although frustrated, I wasn’t unduly worried because I know and accept that this is part of writing. Ideas, the muse, do come back and furthermore I know if I try to force stuff it’s never very good. Anyhow, after a good writerly chat with the inspirational Roger Jackson @jabe842 (check out his FPs if you really want something amazing to read) and a good night’s sleep…
I rose on Friday morning, went as usual for my daily shower and lo and behold, as it does when I’m not thinking consciously about it, phrases and ideas started to pop into my head. Now the only problem with this is that I have to get them down in rough form on my phone’s notebook pretty sharpish and as I have exactly one hour from shower time to get myself and the little one tumbling out on to the street for school, I often find myself hurrying around at the last-minute because I’ve been jotting ideas down before they disappear. But thankfully I got there and I wrote some.
But then late on Friday I had to admit, although my muse had returned to a point, I was not entirely satisfied with it by the close of the day after I saw some of the great stuff others had written and which left me in awe. (This goes back to the health warning I referred to earlier.) And me been me will do two things from this:
First I will admonish myself, tell myself I’m not good enough and want to give up because mine aren’t as good and why play if you’re not up to par with the players? Sulk sulk, throw dummy out of pram etc… etc…
But then, secondly( and this is why I take part in FP ) I will put the pressure on myself to raise my game. You must understand that FP is in no way a competition between writers but I do compete with myself. No, FP is the most fun, supportive group on Twitter and everyone is genuinely there to have a good time and hone their writing skills and encourage others. I will challenge myself to move away from the tried and tested and do something new. I will attempt to evolve. (Emphasis on attempt there!) And so yes, I can put my head down for a while and pout about how wonderfully talented others are and how substandard I am, but ultimately the other players provide me with inspiration and a silent kick up the arse. The ‘I wish I’d thought of that’ syndrome is there, of course it is, because the genius minds of others is not to be ignored but there’s no point wishing. You have to get out and do it and do it better than you did it the last time.
So, as I’m blogging about FP I’ll include a few of my ‘words on a page’ (or a screen as it were) in 140 characters or less which I’ve posted on Twitter for @fridayphrases over the past few months so you are able to see here a little of what it’s about.
Part of my FP archive from @fredamoya
“Trust me” he said
She closed her eyes.
She did trust.
She let herself fall as he dropped his arms to the side
and stepped away.
The tin man held his heart aloft to the wizard. “If I’d have known how easily it could be broken I’d never have wished for it at all.”
The once sweet perfume now reeked of poison. It dripped down her neck, curdling with blood drawn from her jugular by the broken bottle.
He knew she’d died – he’d read the obituary. But it was a shock when he opened a parcel from the hospital to find her donated heart there.
New love served only to mask the scars left by another. Holding the razor to her wrist, she knew to truly heal she must cut him out whole.
Snarled up in Friday night traffic, her blood boiled. But she took heart; she knew her midnight visitor enjoyed it more that way.
Put on a pedestal to be knocked down
Left in silent tears to drown
The scars turn to a forever frown
No longer will she wear his crown.
Amateur at Autopsy
Slice up a soul
Scrub up the mess
Sew up the hole.
Amateur at autopsy
Hack at a heart
Loser in love
Tear it apart.
Rob* wished he could rid himself of the chip on his shoulder. But he figured maybe he should just be grateful the axe had missed his head.
Tilting her head, he took a moment to regard her. If he had taken but more than a moment perhaps he’d have truly seen her. And the gun.
Rob* knew the club was a notorious cattle market. Later that night, as Fay reached for the cleaver, he deeply regretted his choice of meat.
“There, he said, staring down at her severed head, a maniacal glint dancing in his eyes. “that should cure your writers’ block.”
*There is no other reason for using the names Rob and Fay other than for their brevity. And neither were done consciously (Dad!)
These are a few of my prouder FP moments. I have some awful ones which I am glad are not archived and the immediate and transitory nature of Twitter means they are lost to the past now. Phew. With any luck I’ll be looking back on these ones here and saying exactly the same thing about them in a few months time. After all FP, for me is all about improving the skill of writing.
So, if you like what you’ve read here why not come and join the FP party on Twitter every Friday?
There’s stuff way better than mine for you to goggle and gawk at in awe and it’s the one party where everyone is welcome and to which there is no dress code (although I’m sure there’s been talk of us all coming in costume one week)! In the meantime, why not check out more archived work from all the players on the FP site: www.fridayphrases.com
Thanks for reading as always and perhaps catch you over on Twitter on Friday. 🙂
(Also my most grateful thanks to Jessica West @West1Jess who armed me with the know how of putting links on the blog 🙂 Another fantastic FP great for you to look up.)