Interview with Keberly, winner of the May Challenge: Believe

Folklore can be many things, but it's usually a traditional piece of art, literature, song, dance, or knowledge, that has been passed down through oral and visual communication. Over time, many of the tales that inspired the modern versions we know have been softened, manipulated, or changed to suit various ends (Hi, Disney 👋🏼).

Yet, it is through the popularisation of these tales that many of our own interests in literature and storytelling evolved and, in many cases, formed the basis of the writers we are today. Say what you will about Disney; in reality many of the 'classic' tales we know were bastardised way before Walt had his wicked way with them. No doubt they'll be churned up, reformed and rewritten countless times, by countless authors, to suit various ends, for ever after - happy or not. 

For our May Challenge: Believe, we asked WEbook to delve in to the world of folklore and use this as their basis for composing a challenge entry. The criteria for 'folklore' was deliberately left wide open, allowing the judges to accept entries either in the form of an original retelling of a classic piece of folklore, or something original. The only criteria was that the folklore had to have a meaningful basis to it - whether this be a lesson, a moral or perhaps a revelation, was up to the author to decide.

The winner of the May Challenge: Believe was Keberly with her fantastic entry, 'All that Glitters'


Keberly was kind enough to take the time to have a chat with us and answer a few questions about her winning entry, her writing process and her involvement with WEbook. 

Read on for the full interview...

Photo Credit: Brian Froud

WEbook: Hi Keberly. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us, and congratulations of course on your winning entry! 

What was it that drew you towards the use of Irish folklore and fairies in particular when planning your story?

Keberly: Both Greek mythology and European folklore, Irish in particular, have always fascinated me. When I was about fourteen, I discovered a book of illustrations by Brian Froud and Alan Lee titled Faeries

Accompanying these amazing drawings were descriptions of the different types of fairies and their characteristics. I thumbed through those pages for hours, and when I got to the end I promptly began again. I couldn’t get enough. When I read the challenge for May involved folklore, that book and those drawings immediately came to mind. A girl in a tree house mistaking a shimmering green light for a firefly popped in there next, and the rest is All That Glitters.

WB: 'All that Glitters', relies on the reader not guessing the outcome of the story before the final reveal. Using fairies, this was a bit of a gamble as you’re hedging your bets that the average reader will rely on the mainstream depictions of fairies, rather than their traditional portrayal as sinister, mischievous, and/or manipulative beings. 

Did you actively try to mitigate this risk, or was it not something that concerned you when writing and how do you think this type of issue can be handled by authors?

Keberly: I knew there would be a chance that some readers would be familiar with fairy ring folklore, so I did actively try to keep readers from guessing the outcome. My first goal was to make them seem congenial rather than mischievous. I felt like the more Disney-like the fairies appeared, the less likely the reader would be to focus on their traditionally selfish nature.

My second goal was to purposely keep readers inside Kat’s head. I wanted to keep them engrossed in what she was experiencing rather than whether the fairies were real or not. I wanted readers to believe what was happening wasn’t possible because Kat didn’t believe it. I also banked on the more readers liking Kat, the more shocked they would be when things didn’t turn out so happily ever after. I wasn’t sure it would work, but it seems the luck of the Irish was on my side for this one.

Actively using common perception to sway readers away from guessing the outcome is a technique writers commonly use. Whether it works or not depends on several factors, the most important of which, in my opinion, are: Pointing them in the direction of the expected, clearing the path of least resistance for them to follow and surprising them with a twist they didn’t anticipate.


WB: You’ve utilised the ‘waking from a dream’ motif in your story, which has come to be a bit of a cliché. However, in your story, you’ve used this in a very non-cliché way, subverting the literary crutch of ‘It’ll all be alright in the end… it was only a dream’, for something much more grizzly! 

Did you actively attempt to use a subversion of the ‘waking from a dream’ motif like this to trick, and ultimately surprise your reader?

Keberly: There’s definitely an undertone of the “it was only a dream” motif in All That Glitters, and I wonder if perhaps this particular bit of folklore lends some amount of credence to the dream trope. Ponderous thoughts aside, I think this story’s path to becoming cliché was subverted by the fact that, in the end, Kat discovers—in a very real and finite way—her dance with the fairies was not a dream. I also think staying true to the folklore, even if it meant an untimely (timely?) demise for Kat, helped me come out on the winning side of leaning on a literary crutch versus using it to create the desired response.


WB: Your use of colloquial speaking patterns in your entry is very effective. It really gives a great edge to the development of your character’s personality. 

Do you find it easy to write dialogue in this type of style, and, do you have any tips for others looking to try it out?

Keberly: I tend to gravitate toward informal dialogue to begin with, so I don’t find colloquial speaking patterns particularly difficult. One of my favorite parts of writing is character development, and the way characters speak is often a big part of their believability. Kat’s voice came through loud and clear from the get go, with her burgeoning use of cuss words clanging just as loudly behind. Luckily, I had the Internet at my disposal and was able to make the way she spoke as accurate to the time and place of the story as possible.

Writing natural sounding dialogue can be challenging. What we think people say and what people actually say doesn't always translate well from our heads to the page.

If your character has a certain speaking pattern or accent, try searching online for audio or video to ensure the most accurate pronunciations. Also, a few well-placed, phonetically spelled words are all it takes for reader to get the gist. They can do the rest in their head. In my experience, going overboard only tends to bog down the story and frustrate the reader.

WB: What are you reading at the moment?

Keberly: I’ve just finished Game of Thrones in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin and am now reading A Clash of Kings. I have my theories about who Azor Ahai is… Now I just have to go back through the intricately laid trail of breadcrumbs and massively intertwined branches of family trees to see if I can't prove some of them correct.

WB: What are your favourite projects on WEbook at the moment?

Keberly: I don't currently have a favorite project, but I am fond of the WEbook monthly challenges. My participation has been lacking as of late, but whenever I do enter a submission, I'm happy to say the feedback I receive is some of the most honest, insightful, thorough and helpful I've gotten anywhere online. WEbook is the truest definition of an online writing community I've found, with members who offer constructive criticism and objective advice because they genuinely want to help other writers hone their skills. Plus, the witty banter of the monthly challenge's "usual suspects" never disappoints.

WB: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Keberly and for giving us such brilliant and at times refreshing insights in to the way that you approach your writing. 

If you'd like to read through Keberly's winning entry, All that Glitters you can do so by checking out the challenge page for May's Challenge: Believe. If you like what you read, why not let us know by leaving a comment right here on the blog?

Fancy getting involved? There are always writing challenges going on on WEbook. Head over to the homepage to check out what challenges you could get involved with. No matter your experience level, the WEbook challenge is open to writers of all ages, talents and experience.

Happy writing and good luck :)

- Hannah from the WEbook Team

The WEbook Newsletter July / August 2016

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Write | Read | Critique | Compete |

Here are our favourite WEbook projects this month...

Check them out, and if you've got something to say don't forget to leave a comment! 


✏️
FICTION 


| Fiction | Fantasy Sci-Fi | YA |

Daughter of Praecentrix - Bloodline by RachelKay

'A journey of discovery, fear, hope and magic. Delving into the unknown while battling against life as life battles against you.'


| Fiction | Thriller | Suspense | YA |

Survival Instinct by ALGodina

'Would you dare to kill your friends to survive? A grand, bizarre, adventure...'


| Fiction | Thriller | Horror | Detective |

Nightstalker by RichT

'What do you do when someone you love is violently taken from you?  How far will you go to protect others from the same fate?'

✏️
POETRY


Poetry Darkness | Rhyme |

Poems of Midnight by LucyHart

'Late at night, the mind will wonder into darkness...'



Poetry | Experimental | Short |

#amwriting by Nandalia

'poetry told in 140 characters'

Think your dialogue is top-notch?
Or is convincing conversation a fixture of frustration in your fiction?

Whatever category you think you fall in to, this month's challenge is the perfect place to practise your written oration skills, and get feedback from the WEbook community.

You've got three sentences to choose from and 1,000 words to work with this month - i.e. plenty of room for literary manoeuvre. Make sure to get your subs in early so that you can benefit from as much feedback as possible before entries close at the end of the month.

Up for grabs is a USD$25 Amazon gift voucher, or a hardback WEbook from the WEBook Store.

Good luck and happy writing!
Enter the Challenge
Congratulations to everyone who entered the July Challenge: #6706428!


The judges were really impressed with the overall standard of submissions, especially entries from authors who thought outside the box and didn't necessarily go down the prisoner route.

We're really pleased to announce that the winner of the July Challenge: #6706428 is....

BDassing with Restorations

***

The following five are this month's runners up:

Uprising by DexterBateman | Unto the Breach... by FinneanNilsen | Take Twenty Seven by LilyFramboise | The Painter by KenWebb | Cryptonomicon by Sprayoncrayon |

Thanks for taking the time to write and submit your entries in July, we look forwards to reading and judging more of your brilliant stories in the August Challenge: Talk to Me
Read Last Month's Subs.
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An Interview with the Winner of the February Challenge: Split Personalities

For our February Challenge, we set a slightly different task for the community to sweat over. 

While we have previously tested your abilities to write based on a picture prompt, this time we used the pictures to provide you with a set of characters and some individual personality traits for use in your stories. 


This was the second character challenge of the year, nipping at the heels of January's in which we asked you to characterise an inanimate object. From the comments section, it seemed as though this challenge was the trickier of the two for many entrants. 

The provision of a character does give a writer a bit less room for manoeuvre in their stories, but it does have the added benefit of providing an opportunity to practice your character building abilities. 

If you feel that character building is particularly tricky, or you just want a little more practice, we've collated a couple of interesting articles from around the web that highlight some tools you can utilise to strengthen your characters.

33 Ways to Write Stronger Characters: A great round up of the things you need to remember to do with your character as you build them. It follows the standard formula of 'give', 'make', 'find', that we touched on in our January Blog Post, too.

How to Create Characters that Your Readers Care About: Because it's equally important for your reader to have an emotional attachment to your characters as it is for them to be believable. There's some great points here that you may not have thought of yet...

Get to Know Your Characters: Seems pretty obvious, but this article questions how well you really know your characters personalities and explains why it's so important to get to know them in every respect.





The winner of our February Challenge: Split Personalities was CamdenAyan with their brilliant entry, Blue Connections

CamdenAyan was kind enough to have a chat with us about their winning entry and their own writing journey. 




WEbook: Congratulations on winning the WEbook competition back in February. For this challenge, you were given characters to work with. Did you find this style of challenge hard to work with, or was it useful to be able to focus on other aspects of the story, such as the setting or background?

CamdenAyan: Thanks, I really enjoyed this challenge. I found working with a pre-defined set of characters and associated traits both interesting and challenging. It was difficult but lots of fun at the same time. It pushed me to imagine how these characters would interact with each other given what I knew, and this, in fact, was the focus for me. I thought long and hard about how such different characters could possibly come together and interact in a story, and the setting and background seemed to fall into place.

WB: As your character is hiding from someone and using different identities, it gives fluidity to your character building and development. What do you think are the most important aspects to consider when developing a character, especially a protagonist that is, like yours, an unreliable narrator?

CA: I think it is important to make characters genuine in your story so they are compelling to the reader, especially when the narrator is unreliable. This is particularly important to me as I don't normally like to trick the reader. 

In Blue Connections, I meant for Sarah to come across as vulnerable and quirky yet strong and independent. I wanted readers to empathize with her past and enjoy her victory. It was thus important to develop Sarah in the beginning as somewhat lost in a big city and getting a fresh start with her new job. She is confident in the advice and direction she gives, yet nervous that her past has caught up with her. It was also important to have Sarah surprise the reader at the end of the story by proving herself to also be extremely smart and successful at pulling off the plan she hatched without a hitch, and we see this as she listens white knuckled to her plan unfolding over the phone. 

Overall, I thought it was important to make the small reveals in the story genuine and consistent with her character. 

WB: How did you come up with the idea for your story? Were the pictures inspiring, or uninspiring?

CA: I tried not to focus on the pictures too much as I thought combining both character traits and physical attributes would prove too much. However, I was stuck on Jake as a character and the picture helped me visualize him as a younger adult who dressed flashy and thought he was smart enough to fool and shock anyone he wanted. I thought of what could connect such a motley crew of characters and soon realized that despite people's differences, everyone has a need. I decided that need was the common glue that would pull the characters together and I since I worked in the area of social services, I knew a help line was something that could bring together so many characters that were different on so many other levels. 

WB: You use quite a lot of dialogue in your story. This is a very effective style of writing, but notoriously hard to get right, how do you plan the dialogue you use in your story? Does it go through any testing?

CA: Dialogue always proves tricky but in the end it has to come off as natural. That means writing dialogue not as I wish I spoke, but how I actually speak. I'm a very simple person and I try to have my characters speak that way. This adds a layer of authenticity to the conversations because it's the reader who thinks about how things should or could have been said, and not the writer. In reality, this is what I do after I think about my own conversations - I always wonder if I communicated things appropriately or could have used better words, and this, I believe, is natural. All of that being said, I do put my stories through testing. For Blue Connections, my wife and son weren't crazy about how I had Sarah answering the help line. At first she said "Hello, help line, how may I?" and this irked them. It also didn't go over well with some of the WeBook members who provided me with feedback, so I changed it. Thanks WeBook members!


WB: You include a convincing twist in your story, with a brilliant piece of foreshadowing that creates a satisfying ‘ah-ha!’ moment for the reader at the reveal. This multi-layered approach to your story gives it some real depth and believability. How do you approach structuring your stories?

CA: I structure my stories by starting with a basic concept or plot, and then mulling over the characters (this often leads to me giving my wife a lot of blank stares while she is talking to me, but so far our marriage has survived). Usually I contemplate what it is that makes a character unique and multi-dimensional, and then try and use that to turn a story on its head. For example, in Blue Connections I already knew the setting I was going to use in order to introduce all the characters (i.e., concept). I also knew I wanted Sarah to be driven by her past and use her intelligence to outwit others and resolve her conflict. So, the setting then became her tool, and her manipulation of it added layers to the plot. The fact that Sarah is vulnerable makes the reveal at the end believable, and hopefully readers enjoyed her victory.

WB: What are you working on right now? Where can we read more of your work?!

CA: My short stories can be found here. Recently I've been focusing on flash fiction and have posted ten stories for free here, and there are more coming.

WB: Who are your favourite writers and authors, and how have they influenced your writing?

CA: I've been reading lots of indie writers lately and there are too many favourites to list. I find that indie writers effectively express their passion for writing, and this keeps me motivated to write a good story. My other favourite authors are William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy and Haruki Murakami. The thing I enjoy most about these authors is that they tell a good story. They mix elements into their writing that cut across multiple genres. They've made me think about story first, and now when I write I consider the tale I want to tell and how I want to affect readers, and then I situate it in a genre (or two) that I think will make it exciting.

WB: Any tips for prospective challenge winners?

CA: My tips for prospective challenge winners are as follows: Keep thinking big even though it is challenging to write within the word limit. Then, take your epic story and write the climax of your creation while giving hints to the plot you would have developed in countless chapters. Finally, try your best to develop your main characters in a way that will engage your readers, because characters make a good story great.

WB: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! Congratulations again on your win, and we look forwards to reading more of your entries over the coming months! 



To find out more about WEbook's Monthly Challenge and how you can enter head on over there now... 

We're currently accepting entries in to the June Challenge: Little Vines 

Good luck and happy writing!

- Hannah from the WEbook Team

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