Tag Archives: courage

Flash Fiction: Sparkle Wish

Yes, you read that right. After popular demand, I’ve written some flash fiction and would love to share it with you.

This story came about based on a writing prompt provided by a friend in a small writing group I belong to. We each had to pretend we only had 15 minutes to live,  set a timer for 15 minutes and write the story that had to be written. The inspiration for the story was to be the following quote:

We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

When I started writing, I had no idea what my story would be about. I just relaxed and let the words flow through me; writing the story that had to be written.

I was very pleased with the final result. A quick spit polish later, it was ready for human consumption. My friend Tonia Marie Harris asked if she could share it on her blog, and I happily agreed. So please, click on over there, have a read of Sparkle Wish, and leave me a comment letting me know what you think of my first foray into Flash Fiction in almost a year.

Here’s a little teaser for you.

Once upon a time, in a forest far, far away, there lived a fairy named Sparkle.

Sparkle was tall and willowy, with shiny hair and sharp eyes, and cute little nubs of wings peeking over her shoulders — a remnant of bygone days when fairies could fly. She lived in a cozy little treehouse, and dined on forest fruit and dewdrop wine. She had everything a fairy could want.

Except one thing.

What Sparkle did not have, was courage. …read more…

Picture by Scared-Princess, shared under CC licence.

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Writing Advice for a Younger Me

NotebookA member of an online writing group I’m involved in posed a question to the group yesterday. She’s 18 years old, and has spent the last 18 months studying at university, working in various industries, and volunteering in poor communities around the world. Now she’s got plenty of time up her sleeve and is ready to embark on her next adventure: WRITING. But it’s turning out to be harder than she expected.

“I open up a word document and nothing comes out. I kind of just stare, fingers ready, but with no real idea. I’m terrified of clichés, and every time I think of some remotely interesting story line, am blocked by fear or self-doubt. Has anyone felt this? Does it get easier?”

I read this question and was immediately transported back to various points in my own life.

…when I was 16, with five months off school, and the burning desire to write a novel.

…when I was 18, fresh out of high school, with the burning desire to write a novel.

…when I was 21, unemployed, with the burning desire to write a novel.

In each of those periods of my life, I found myself sitting in front of a blank screen feeling exactly the fear this young woman is feeling. In all three instances, I managed to overcome the fear enough to write something (although the quality of that ‘something’ was debatable). But I always felt I was alone, that I was the only wanna-be writer who experienced the knee-knocking, soul-freezing fear that comes with staring at a white screen and having no idea how to fill it with meaningful words.

So I answered the question. I have her the advice I wish I’d heard when I was young and enthusiastic and inexperienced. And then it occurred to me that it’s not advice that is best kept private, it’s advice that should be shared. Because everyone feels overwhelmed and out of their depth sometimes, regardless of age or experience.

So here goes. I hope you find it helpful.

  • Too much time is as much a motivation-killer as too-little time. Allocate a set amount of time each day to writing and then fill in the rest with LIFE. Life helps you write. It gives you things to write about. It lets you experience emotions and situations and setbacks that will make it into your writing in some way. Go outside your comfort zone and live.
  • What you’re feeling is normal. Normal for writers and artists and entertainers and just about every creative type out there. That doesn’t make it easier, but knowing you’re in good company helps.
  • Just because it’s normal doesn’t mean you have to like it. And it doesn’t mean you should just sit back and let the feelings overwhelm you. Those feelings of fear (terror!) never go away. Never. What does happen is we learn how to overcome the fear and do it anyway. (To use one of those dreaded clichés.)
  • A best-selling, multi-published author once said to me, “In my head, before I start, [a novel] is a perfect thing. It stays perfect until the moment I start typing.” Accept that’s the truth of things, and then write anyway. 
  • Like I said, you’re in good company when it comes to feeling this way. So let yourself BE in good company. Online writing groups are great, because you’re surrounded by writers. But, you know what else is great? Writing groups in the real world. See if you can find one in your local area. Talk to the librarians at your local library (you’d be amazed what and who they know), ask your friends on FB (you’d be amazed how many people are secretly writers but are too afraid to share it with anyone), or loiter outside creative writing classes. When you find like-minded souls, TALK TO THEM. Regularly. About writing. About your struggles and successes and fears and inspirations. You’ll find you have more in common than you expected.
  • Most of all, live the Nike slogan. When you sit down and look at that blank page, tell yourself it’s your job to fill it. Fill it with anything. Write about how terrified you are, write about what you want to write about, write about which actor you’d like to play your main character, write about anything that comes to mind. And when the page is no longer white and scary, start telling your story. Starting is always the hardest part.
  • Finally, celebrate every success. Eat chocolate! Drink wine! Buy books! Share your writing successes with like-minded individuals! Celebrate however is meaningful to you. Just celebrate, no matter how big or small your accomplishment.

Do you have any additional advice to offer?

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What the World Needs Now (Is a Shining Hero)

Have you noticed how many superhero movies there are at the moment?

Over the last couple of years we’ve had The Green Hornet, Thor, X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Captain America, Ghost Rider, The Avengers, The Amazing Spiderman, and The Dark Knight Rises. Over the coming year we have more to look forward to: Dredd 3D, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Fantastic Four, Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, and Thor: The Dark World. Plus probably more that my cursory web search didn’t turn up.

Almost all these movies are eagerly anticipated, not just by the comic-loving geek crowd, but by the world at large. Have you ever wondered why? What makes superhero movies “so hot” right now?

Certainly, superheroes aren’t new.  Comic book heroes have been around for almost 100 years now. And look at any culture’s history and mythology and you’ll find examples of non-spandex-wearing superheroes. Robin Hood may not have been able to fly, but he had a costume, a secret base, and a mandate to help the common folk against the unjust, corrupt ruling class. Compare the story of Robin Hood to that of any modern superhero and you’ll likely find more similarities than differences.

I wonder whether the current fascination with superheroes is based on our feelings about the world we live in. Are we, as common people, looking for a hero? Do we feel helpless, voiceless, and in need of protection from an unjust, corrupt society? Are we drawn to stories of heroism because we need that type of story in our lives right now; because we need to feel that there is a powerful force for good hiding amongst the news stories of lying, corruption, and injustice?

Thinking about superhero movies always reminds me of my first superhero movie. Back in 1986, when I was ten years old, I was introduced to a superhero movie that (I have to admit) is still my favourite: The Return of Captain Invincible.

You’ve probably never heard of it.

Apparently camp, B-grade, musical comedies about superheroes weren’t all that popular in 1983. Especially when they were made in Australia. So if you’re not one of the 25 people in the world who’ve seen this movie, let me give you a brief summary:

Captain Invincible (Alan Arkin) was a hero to the American people in WWII, but at the end of the war he found himself the subject of a congressional investigation and accused of being a closet communist (because he wore a red cape). Rather than face charges of flying without a licence, impersonating a military officer, and wearing underwear in public, he disappeared from the public eye.

Thirty years later (when the movie begins), Captain Invincible is an alcoholic living on the streets of Sydney, Australia. When his arch-nemesis, Evil Mr Midnight (Christopher Lee) re-emerges, steals a hypno-ray, and unleashes his evil plan, the US government hunts down Captain Invincible and asks him to return.

One of the great (and cheesy) aspects of this movie are the songs. Early in the movie, the President of the United States calls together his Chiefs of Staff and demands they come up with a means of beating Mr Midnight. All the suggestions hinge on some large-scale military action. This is the President’s response:

(Warning: The first 60 seconds are NSFW. Skip to 1:01 if you’re concerned about bad language.)

You know what the current spate of superhero films tells me? What the world needs now is a shining hero.

But where do we find one? Who stands for truth and justice and courage in the world today?

Our politicians are regularly exposed as liars, our sports stars are accused of using drugs, our music stars are arrested for drunk driving or theft, and Reality TV stars are pregnant at 17, yell abuse at family and friends, and glorify antisocial behaviour. We hear stories about doctors committing murder, police officers committing crimes, and church officials committing sins of the flesh.

But no matter how jaded and cynical we feel, there are still heroes in the world. In fact, they may be closer than you think.

Have you seen this picture? It turned up on my Facebook news feed a few days ago, but it’s at least a year old.

This boy last his father in the crowd, and was scared and freaked out until he saw The Flash and Wonder Woman. He went up to The Flash and asked for help, because he recognised him.

I don’t know the full story behind the picture, and all my internet searching failed to turn up anything more than the information above. But in my imagination it went something like this:

Joe Average isn’t a hero. He curses and drinks on occasions. He tells the odd lie, and maybe he even downloads movies or music illegally or take stationery home from work. Occasionally he dresses up as his favourite heroes for conventions, not because he thinks he is a hero, but because he wants to pay tribute to a character he loves.

On a normal day, Joe Average may not have even noticed a little boy, lost and crying for his Dad. And if he did, he would have “done the right thing” and taken the child to a nearby cop or the registration desk. But on this day… Well, on this day he wasn’t just Joe Average. On this day he was dressed as The Flash. And, more importantly, in the child’s eyes he was The Flash.

And The Flash would never let a child down. The Flash would be a hero. Even if it was difficult. Even it was time-consuming. Even if it was inconvenient. So Joe Average did what any hero would do: he helped the little boy find his father.

Joe Average may not have saved any lives or defeated any arch villains, but in the eyes of that child and that father, he’s a hero. All because he was wearing a fancy red suit.

What would you do if you saw someone who needed help? Would it be different if you were dressed like a hero?

Imagine what the world would be like if everyone behaved as though they were dressed in shiny red spandex, ready to leap into action and save the day. Imagine what would happen if we stopped looking for other people to step up and be a hero and instead we looked to ourselves. Imagine if we acted as though underneath our clothes there was a superhero costume just waiting to be revealed.

What the world needs now is a shining hero.

Imagine if it was you.

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