Category Archives: 2014
For the past 8 weeks I have undertaken an online course, Start Writing Fiction hosted on FutureLearn web site. I had already taken one course from FutureLearn which was very good. It was a criminology course, another short 8 weeks introduction very much a taster. These online courses give thousands the chance to see how education has changed or just explore a little further something that grabs their interest.
CSI, NCIS and shows of this nature have piqued many people’s interest into just what is the science behind these stories. These short courses give a glimpse behind the real scenes. It was an opener indeed.
So when I saw the creative writing, I knew that was for me. Signing up was simple, no requirements other than a wish to learn. The course was run over 8 weeks like many other and had a good structure. Each week was aimed towards the last short story by looking at characters, plot, editing and reading. Many might think if you read the types of books you wish to write, that it is wrong. It is the reverse. We also had to submit short 300 word pieces for others to comment on and help understand what like-minded people thought.
That could have been difficult, however Futurelearn did this rather well by keeping it to three questions. This helped teach how to read others work and comment without being negative. There is nothing worse than feeling dejected when you have crafted a piece of work, thought it was well written only to find the metaphorical rug pulled from underneath your feet. It can be difficult to take well constructed criticism sometimes and this course has helped in explaining it.
It is hard to put your work out into the open for others to read, but that’s what you have to do if you wish to be published. The course finished with a final short 1000 word story. Not easy to do. However, I did complete the task and got very good comments which pleased me. My story was a twist on an old sci-fi theme and I will rewrite it later for myself.
I enjoyed the course a lot, the structure made sense and it gave me a new insight into where I need to build. Over the weeks, I created a couple of characters which it turns out have given me ideas for stories. I also am close to finishing my first novel, which will then need a few edits.
Would I recommend this to others? Yes indeed I would for a number of reasons. if your interested in discovering more this free taster helps, it makes you think about progressing to maybe a degree or a weekend retreat. Don’t forget that it does cost to get a degree these days and many people can’t afford to waste hard-earned money.
So what next for me? Well more blogs, short stories and developing the two characters into longer stories. Self-publishing is my next goal, which in itself is not easy.
FutureLearn has taken off in a big way. It is easy to do, you work at your pace at home, no messing around and understandable. There are people available to offer advice as well as many other students all wishing to learn. Is this the way to draw people into further education? Could well be in my view, but at the end of the day it is the cost of doing a degree which I would say puts off many mature students.
Tagline; “998 words for my last short story, which two words to add? The End”
The Imitation Game.
Film Released 2014.
Cast Includes: Benedict Cumberbatch (Alan Turing ), Keira Knightley (Joan Clarke), Matthew Goode (Hugh Alexander), Mark Strong (Stewart Menzies), Charles Dance (Commander Denniston), Rory Kinnear (Detective Nock)
There are many films that come with the title ‘must see’, of which very few live up to that media generated excitement. Once in a while, a true gem of film hits the screen and really does earn the right to be a ‘really must see’. The Imitation Game is one of those films.
Many of my prior reviews concentrate on big budget, big action, big blockbuster which is fine. Here in this film, is an example of pure balance. From the beautiful tranquil scenes in the countryside to the bleak cold waters of the Atlantic, this film captures many life stories. Some of them are never shown, yet by the virtue of one man and his drive, they are there.
The Imitation Game tells the story of Alan Turing and his fellow mathematicians as they attempt to break the torturous enigma code during World War II. The film has a time-travel feel to it, as it shows how Turing became interested in codes from an early age. The film is based on the book by Andrew Hodges – ‘Alan Turing:The Enigma’. I have not read the book myself, however after watching the film I may well have to read it.
The story is well constructed, showing just how easy a good film can be made. The pace is perfect, the ‘time-travelling’ does not distract from the story telling. Despite some reviews, I could not find fault with anyone’s performance. Cumberbatch throws off the Holmes character and makes you belive in the torture of the genius. The rest of the main cast can’t be considered as anything other than equal in how they portrayed their respective characters. I am aware there are some short cuts in the movie, but then to tell anything of length you might as well make it a television soap. At that point you would lose the grandeur of the film.
It did have me griped from the start. The movie told a difficult story of spying and code breaking wonderfully without the need to be abrasive. It also gave the background to the major character Alan Turing. What makes a film work for me, is believable people. There was the hint of more that just kept you watching. Building of the code breaker itself was unique, it was in effect one of the first computers. Others will tell you that the Poles did have some success cracking some of the code. However, as with many break through’s there is that element of luck. That luck was very simple but it made the difference.
What made this film have an added touch, was with the discovery of the code, the responsibility that came with it. I won’t give that part away. This secret was kept for over 50 years and that had its own destructive consequences. There was a sad element to the film, yet it never saddened the film until the end. For those of you who did not know, this was a film based on true events and true people. Thos people were kept hidden from many and this is a part of their story. As a rating, I would give this 5/5.
Tagline ‘next time you do that special crossword, just be ready for advantage.’
The Christmas Gift
Imagine the scene, Christmas Eve, 5.15pm, in a small book shop on a busy university campus. A man is looking at the books, surrounded by people feeling the same strain of choice. He wishes he had more time, so he can please his friends.
“I can’t do this; too many people, too little time, too many books. They have to be right. If only, I could have the shop to myself.What I would give for that. ”
A desperate plea in the sea of people, but only one other hears. He nervously shuffles on the spot, looking around.
“Who is that man in the red coat? Concentrate. Books, that’s what I am here for. I have a ten pound note and three books to find. Look at this offer, two books for ten pounds and I need three books in fifteen minutes. I hate Christmas.”
The first bead of perspiration runs down his brow as he searches for inspiration.
“Let me think, what about the classics, how about Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. What’s wrong with that one? Too obvious? Too classic? It’s on TV every Christmas in one form or another. Not the best pick. Wait! The prefect one, The Hobbit. It’s classic, yet modern and there is a new film for Christmas. That’s one, two more to find.”
He clutches his first prize as if his life depends on it. He is irritated by the carefree attitude of the other shoppers.
“What about one of Ernest Hemingway’s great novels. No, that would just cause problems. Put that one back and that one. Why not buy three copies of the Hobbit who would know? Three copies under the ten pounds, it’s so tempting. No, keep looking; something will turn up.”
He needs more time, it’s a wish all of us make at some point, but at what cost? Sometimes the greatest wish is for the wrong gift. He has other worries now; the man in the red coat is looking at him.
“He is talking to the shop assistant now. Who’s he pointing at? Me? Why me? Is he a security guard?”
The pressure of time can make someone imagine details that are never there. Is the man following him?
“Forget him, concentrate on the books, the shop will close soon and that will be that. There is local garage. They might sell something tacky. Look at this, 50 Sheds of Grey. Wait is that a proper book. I thought it was something else? Another colour maybe? No. That’s no good either. Back to the classics. Oh joy five minutes left. I could just close my eyes, grab two and hope. I wish I had more time.”
For everyone, there is a fateful wish, that one last moment with a loved one, the need to find the greener grass and this man is about to experience his fateful wish. A flash of red catches his eye, is he being watched?
“Excuse me, I believe that you need this.”
Startled by the softly spoken words, the man in the red coat appears before him, in his right hand is the offer of a lifeline.
“Who are you? What do you want? ”
He is flustered by the image, the closeness of this stranger.
“I only wish to make your life a little less complicated. You appear to be struggling to find what you desire. Let me help. Take this voucher, it will ease your pain and last a lifetime.”
There is the offer. There is his wish all wrapped up in a beautifully coloured ticket. Would you accept such an offer?
“What do I need to do?”
“Why nothing, just accept the modest voucher, it has a few terms and conditions, nothing a man like you would fail to understand. Consider it my Christmas gift.”
The man in the red coat is smiling; he knows the gift will be accepted.
“Thank you, thank you. You have no idea how this will help me.”
The words glow a little as he takes the voucher, accepting the contract in good faith.
“It is my pleasure. Now you have all the time you need to find those last gifts. I am sure I will see you again and again.”
There is a puzzled look on the man’s face. He should have known better. It is too late now.
“What do you mean… Hello?”
In the turning of a page, the shop has emptied. Everyone has gone. The odd whisper of a ghostly figure drifts past the man or so it seems. He frantically tries to escape pulling at the door, but it won’t open, why? He examines the voucher again looking at the back.
“My God, what have I done!”
One line glows, deep blood red, ‘Thank you for your soul. You can browse all these books forever. L’
In a small bookshop, on a busy university campus, if you look closely sometimes you can see the ghostly outline of a man. He is trapped.
Dear Readers and maybe poets,
This morning I managed to write a short poem in 140 characters (actually less). Now I know that many haiku’s can be written in 140 characters but this was a quick 4 line poem. So I decided to post it here as a challenge. It’s just a bit of fun to try. Why did I write this? Well the washing machine we have makes a darn tune when it finishes and it does remind me of what the late great Douglas Adams might be thinking. Remember Marvin? This washing machine is just to cheerful to make sure you know it’s done. Hence the poem. So here it is enjoy and see;
Is this the shape of things to come
A washing machine that sings and hums
Douglas would be laughing now
As we are tortured by this row