Subtext. The #StoryCraft Podcast Episode 2: On Subtext.


Some thoughts from Storycraft on writing, and on writing subtext. Worth a listen if getting weary of staring at the screen and wondering where the words are going to come from!

Originally posted on #StoryCraft Chat:

Subtext Logo

Hello Storycrafters!
In this month’s podcast, Kim and I chat about this month’s  #storycraft topic: Subtext. What is subtext? How can we use this tool in our fiction writing? What’s the key to good subtext (hint: it’s about the reader!) And, of course, they announce the topic for next month’s #storycraft twitter chat and podcast. We hope you enjoy it and that you will continue the discussion in the comments, below.

Happy listening! (Psst: We’re now  on iTunes, now, too.)

~ Darcy

appstore redListen to Stitcher

A few References and Resources: 

Online Communities:

Write Track  (Follow Darcy’s Profile. Follow Kim’s Profile.)

A Round of Words in 80 Days  (You can also check out Kim’s post on joining this round.)

Blog Posts:

Gotham Writers’ “Ask the Writer” Post on Subtext in Dialogue

How to Use Subtext in your Writing, by Marianne Vest 

Subtext – Revelation of the Hidden,  by editor Beth Hill…

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Christine Cochrane, like me, is using ‘Write-Track’, a new goal setting web-based community of writers. It’s a definite support at the lonely desk.

Originally posted on Harping On :

Summer’s over and I’m back at the computer most mornings getting into writing gear again. With my Open University Creative Writing modules behind me, it’s been more challenging as I have to set my own goals and targets and decide my future directions.

My last project in July was to work with Gabriele Haefs and Karin Braun of Edition Narrenflug on a translation into German of my Mslexia prizewinning story Shifting Sands. I’m pleased to say the bulk of the work has been done. It was enjoyable to debate the translation of some tricky words (blackhouse, machair and shinty took the prizes) and see how the story began to take shape in its German version.  ‘Treibsand’ will appear in an anthology ‘Weibsbilder’ compiled by Gabriele and published by Karin at Edition Narrenflug in April 2015.

After that there was a bit of a lull. And then Write-Track came along…

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October story: ‘The Best of All Possible Worlds’


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The Telegraph Creative Writing Group October Competition sets a theme of ‘Life Change’. I’ve had a story about Voltaire knocking around in my computer for a while, although it’s mostly concerned with the writing of his first drama ‘Oedipe’, interwoven with that of the relationship between the Duc d’Orleans and his daughter, the Duchesse de Berri.

Den Haag 2014I’ve just visited a good friend in the Hague, and as we were walking around the older parts of the city I started to think about Voltaire meeting his first love there, about 300 years ago. His late teens and early twenties make a great coming-of-age story. I hope I’ve done justice to it in ‘The Best of All Possible Worlds’.Voltaire Bastille2

Write-Track and the October Short Story


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I’m using the newly launched website, Write-Track, to set and track writing goals. I haven’t encountered anything quite like it before and I’m uncertain how it’s going to work (but hopeful). Having recently finished my Open University Creative Writing modules, I felt the need for an online mechanism to set deadlines and share progress. I’m going to track the development of a short story I’m writing for the October Telegraph Writing Group Competition. The month’s topic is ‘Life Change’.

The early life of Voltaire is a long standing interest of mine (i.e. novel idea that was shelved), and his imprisonment in the Bastille at the age of 22 years was, for him, a life-changing event. He went in as Arouet, a frivolous, immature dilettante, and came out as Voltaire, a philosophe, a literary poet, and a playwright.

I’m going to start with his arrest and imprisonment, integrate flashbacks to his earlier life and end as he commits to his career in the belles-lettres.

Today I’ve translated, roughly, from the French the account in ‘Archives de la Bastille’ of his arrest and initial interrogation, as well as a love letter he had in his pocket when he was arrested, and which wound up in the Bastille’s records. I’ve made a blob diagram of some of the elements of the story on my whiteboard (a present from my husband). I’ve also drafted the first scene, Arouet’s initial arrest.Whiteboard

Wine time (again).

Top Ten Writing Mistakes Editors See Every Day

Originally posted on Blot the Skrip and Jar It:

Goya -The sleep of reason produces monsters (c1799) recut

In addition to writing and teaching, one of the things I do for a living is to evaluate manuscripts for their suitability for publication. I read fiction (and non-fiction) across several genres, and write comprehensive reports on the books. I try always to guide the author towards knocking his or her project into a shape that could be credibly presented to literary agents, publishers and general readers. You know how Newman and Mittelmark introduce How Not to Write a Novel by saying, ‘We are merely telling you the things that editors are too busy rejecting your novel to tell you themselves, pointing out the mistakes they recognize instantly because they see them again and again in novels they do not buy,’ well they’re right; I am one of those editors.

However good the idea behind a novel, when the author is still learning the craft of writing – like any…

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Rothko’s 7 core qualities for art – and for storytelling?


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From the Rothko exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague.

It can be hard to connect with abstract art. Rothko’s blurry oblongs seem at first to be mute and meaningless. But following the progression of his work from the figurative, one sees how images of people, of subway and street scenes, are replaced by rectangles of colour.
The artist speaks to us mood to mood, short-cutting the middleman, leaving out the figures in a landscape, the still life. Black speaks of grief, red of passion, sombre browns and greens of quietude.
Rothko, who would withdraw from exhibitions if his works were not displayed in the right environment, would have approved of the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. It’s a wonderful Modernist building from the 1930s, tiled and calm and democratic. Their audio tour was on an electronic device around my neck. I was struck by one section: Rothko’s seven core qualities for art.
Seven core
I wondered if these could also be core qualities for storytelling.
Always unable to remember lists, I typed them in to my phone:
1. Death
2. Sexuality
3. Tension
4. Irony
5. Humour
6. Transitoriness and random chance
7. Hope

A Receiver of Stolen Words

A Receiver of Stolen Words is an anthology of fifteen short stories in settings as far apart as Paris in 1716, Mesopotamia in 1916, and modern day West London. A common theme linking them is time and memory, time shifts, the passage of time, how we remember, how we forget, how we see the future, and sometimes just being set in another historical period.

To write these stories, I feel as if I’ve woven together ideas and words stolen from across centuries. That gave me my title. Characters are formed from ghosts, from research, from tiny snippets of people I’ve met, from strings of words that occur randomly at dead of night, or in the shower. The stories are all my own work, (not plagiarised by any means!), but someone else, somewhere else, maybe used words like these, once. I hope.


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US, iBooks,, (print and ebook).

The cover image was taken (stolen?) in Spitalfields, London, in March 2014.

Setting up home in 1840

After reading the advertisements in the Yearly Journal of Trade, 1837-8, I have been fortunate enough to obtain a fine cast-iron range, with a patent self-acting oven, for the house in Newhall Street. It was ordered especially from London.
Self Acting Range

I also discovered a quality outfitters, offering clothing suitable for well-dressed gentlemen.
49 Lombard St

Sadly, though, apart from Hygeiana, Mr. Goss’s excellent publications, the Medical Admonitors, suitable for general perusal, but offering the most important moral precepts to both the aged voluptuary and the youthful prodigal, appear to be out of print.Admonitors-p1

If I get to 30,000 words will everything be OK?


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It’s all organised in a complex hierarchy on my computer; the parts, the chapters, the sections. It’s like a house I’ve moved into, a few rooms adequately furnished, my scanty belongings still in cardboard boxes in the spare bedrooms. The Novel. It started as a couple of scenes in a screenplay, a radio play; the equivalent of a student bedsit with a few possessions carefully arranged.
Then I graduated to this partly occupied house. Chapters echoingly empty, although I have vague ideas of how they should be furnished. Characters I had not envisaged are coming to stay. The findings of each day are jotted down here and there; 200 words, 300 words, like lampshades, occasional tables, saucepan sets. Each room is furnished slowly and piecemeal. History becomes an IKEA catalogue: that might go well there.
Will it all end up like my friends houses? Manicured, perfect, spacious, elegant? Or become an unmanageable mess of clutter?
As John Braine once wrote, ‘The novel, once put aside, is never taken up again’ (or something like that). But, then, why would I move out of my house?


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