Many of this blog's readers will know Lynne Hackle's name from the womags or her many articles in the writing magazines, or via her books. Her latest book, Handy Hints for Writers is currently on offer at only 99p for the ebook version! Here's a lovely guest post from her, explaining how her short stories all hold a little bit of her, sometimes literally...
I was on stage in a small theatre giving a workshop on short story writing. I’d taken a mixing bowl with me and was dropping story ‘ingredients’ into it as I explained them – a clock to show you need a time-scale, a picture of a riverboat to represent setting, a string of paper dollies to show how many characters work (I’d rip the heads off the superfluous ones). When it came to what I consider my special ingredient – a bit of myself – I’d planned to rip off my bracelet and toss it into the pot. I’d chosen an elasticated bracelet especially. It would be easy to remove. Too easy as it happens, or perhaps I was too exuberant. The bracelet shot off my arm, flew across the room and hit a lady in the front row right between the eyes.
I bet she remembers my secret ingredient.
There’s a bit of me in all my stories. It’s the grain of truth that makes a story seem real. I used my fear of getting too close to a child when my son dated a girl with a ready-ade family. The story was nothing like the real experience but I was able to use my real feelings. The Monster Upstairs, one of my favourites, was written after I’d told my little grandson’s dad how to get rid of an imaginary monster. I used the method in the story - get a big box and a stick, catch the monster in the box and take it to the tip - but the mum in it
was single and wondering if her son would take to the new boyfriend. He was the hero who caught the monster.
When, for the first time in many years, the LSO and I visited a fairground I gave my experience of that visit to a character whose husband was in a rut and she took him back to the days when they met and had been to the fair.
Before I became a full-time writer I had over fifty different jobs. Most of them have been used in my stories as settings or minor parts of a plot – a building society, fish and chip shop, being a nanny... There is one yet to appear. It’s a tricky one. I watched dirty videos and typed reports about them when I was working for a company who put cameras down sewers.
For me, adding that bit of personal experience is the key to getting acceptances. It’s the sparkle in a story. My book Writing From Life came about because of this. The subtitle is ‘how to turn your personal experience into profitable prose’ (How To Books). When the editor read my proposal she said she couldn’t believe that I’d used my husband’s heart attack to sell stories/articles to half a dozen different markets.
Now I’ve put all my writing experience into a book. Handy Hints for Writers (Compass Books) holds everything I’ve learned about writing. It’s been described as informative, helpful and amusing. It’s only been out for a couple of weeks and is being sold as an ebook for 99p during the last two weeks of this month. Why not treat yourself? What I’ve learned over thirty years you can gain access to in a few hours.
And my final bit of advice –not in the book – Beware of elasticated bracelets.
Thanks Lynne! Great guest post, and your book is a bargain, now installed on my Kindle. I can also recommend Lynne's other book Writing from Life, which is available in print as well as ebook.