It is that time of year when I must commit to further learning or postpone. I now have three jobs: quite enough to keep my fully occupied and even learning - at someone else's expense. As content writer for a massively followed global medical website I research and post content based on the stream of academic papers being published (around three articles a day); as the digital editor of a First World War website I write and edit, and in both cases post content online - between two and five articles a day - manage the websites and feed/moderate social media. For pleasure, and 'work' I read and review books too - I reckon on a thorough review of two books a month. And when I'm not doing that, to escape from the computer screen, I both teach and coach swimming: typically 7-12 year olds being taught and developed through our club and then typically 13-15 year olds being coached. It works. And when the swimming stops or reduces I sail - again with a club, as often as not out in a safety boat bouncing along the south coast. Busy enough? Not much in the way of e-learning other than a little consultancy for a financial trainer. Have I used my MA in Open & Distance Education? Only on the latter, though maybe further in due course. Picking up an MA in British Military History is on the cards. 50% there, but got enough on my plate and I am more immersed in the subject than any student any way.
Years of writing, learning and working online and I reduce it to this to explain to others
|From E-Learning X|
Whilst 'content' is arguably still 'king' - without something to say, said well no amount of design or 'e' will fix it - the smart side of things: how content interacts, connects, behaves and reports all adds to the experience.
My interest in learning online is spinning me around it some rather different directions: the First World War, finance for the investment industry, swim teaching and sailing instruction ...
What has the OU prepared me for?
Researching how finance is taught takes me into my MA ODE and year at the Business School. The First World War has been a pet subject for decades now more qualified as I complete an MA in Military History. As for swimming, I swam for decade and have been teaching for nearly 15 years. I'm poolside four times a week and learn something new every time. As for sailing? I'm off across the Atlantic at the end of the year so am crewing on largish yachts, getting in some dinghy sailing and regularly taking to the water in various sizes of safety boat.
I came across this on classroom clichés of the First World War and wondered what people thought. Teaching the First World War.
How do you introduce the First World War to students?
- Blackadder - shown in all classrooms in Secondary Schools.
- The movie 'Gallipoli' - the last five minutes shown in nearly all Secondary Schools.
- Mud - taught in most classrooms under the assumption that the rain began on 4 August 1914 and did not stop until 11 November 1918.
- Tommy - having lied about his age is trying to come to terms with not only the weight of his equipment but also the weight of having been duped into becoming a ‘victim’. And he was then shot at dawn because he got shell shock.
- Machine Guns - which only the Germans had, perfect instruments for skittling ‘Tommies’ who walked very slowly towards the enemy, most machine guns being used, of course, on 1 July 1916.
- Officers - all public school, and all stupid!
And to add to the controversy I'd add these 'howlers':
- It wasn't Germany's fault. This is disingenuous as a nation should not be blamed, though the rank militarism of Germany for decades didn't help. Though not an absolute monarch like the Tsar, Wilhelm II still had significant power that he controlled in a tight group. He, and a handful of like-mined Prussians can and should be blamed for chasing after a war that they believed they could win, and should get finished and won sooner rather than later.
- It all started with Princip murdering Archduke Ferdinand. A better way to think of the first months of the 'Great War' is to call it the 'Third Balkan War.' Fighting amongst peoples seeking nationhood against the domination of empires was common place and had been brewing for many decades.
- The Somme Battle took place in one day, and was over before breakfast with hundreds of thousands dead. 1916 and the entire war can be summed up this event/moment, from the British perspective only, under Haig's command, on 1st July 1916. Far from being futile, and far from being a British operation, it was under direction from the French Army and both before, during and afterwards tough lessons were being learnt on how to win the 'impossible' war to get Germany off French and Belgian soil.
- Haig was a donkey, all the 'poor bloody infantry' lions and all commanding officers useless. (Far from it, the COs were experienced and well educated in military thinking of the age while amongst the infantry the 'volunteers' considered the conscripts to be useless.
- Only the ANZACS fought at Gallipoli (The French, and British were there ... oh, and the Turks and a German officer advising them).
- Gallipoli was all Churchill's fault (the War Cabinet were behind it).
- The Christmas Truce. A no man's land version of the world cup: England vs. Germany. (The iconic photographs were taken in Salonika, not on the Western Front).
Online courses have a role to compliment other ways of sharing artefacts and communicating ideas and views. Would a book or TV programme replace a visit to the museum? They are places to visit, to walk around, in company or alone. And to return to over and over again. Apps and MOOCs are no panacea, nor replacement technology. What is more I believe they will require refreshing far more often than the typical museum to hold people's interest.
Family associations, variety and interactive. People clearly have an affinity to a particular space based on reasons of culture and personality. I like to be surprised, so the quirky matters, or evidence of a curator's choices. There might be a gem of world renown or a curiosity crested by a local artisan. Ancient and contemporary might sit side by side. Visiting the De La Warr for an exhibition of a designer's life story the end of the gallery had a vast open table strewn with magazines. There were pieces of card, scissors and glue. While listening to and watching a video documentary we were invited to create our own works. I went back five times with different family members.
The most memorable, earliest and favourite museum visits as a child was to the Science Museum, as was in the 1960s I guess, in the Exhibition Park, Newcastle. Many of the exhibits operated with the turn of a handle or the push of a crank: it worked. You saw something happening. Was it self explanatory? Keep it simple. Museums go wrong when they make it too whizzy.
The museum experience with a child, or as a child, reveals so much more - to play off their curiosty, mystery and mischevousness. You see everything with fresh eyes. (edited)
Fascinating as a visitor to museums, someone with an interest in e-learning and learning and with an editorial role in a 'museum like' website ... that perhaps needs a base in the real world. A case of giving the virtual bricks and mortar.
So what next? The virtual museum? How about converting a cruise ship into a museum any twking it around the world 'The Museum of the World.' It's a radio comedy but I love the chat show 'The Museum of Curiosities' because in a kind of way between the comedians and the academic guests a serious pint is made about treasuring ideas, the quirky and the personally chosen oddities.
I found the Museum of London like this - multiple ways of interaction, a few discretely placed computer screens tucked away at the end of one gallery, but also a selection of tough information boards that you pick up and carry around. So you find your way to interact, to pick through the information ... being of universal appeal though is tricky. Curators have to let go of their egos and put the visitor first.
I like the concept of architectural design and the building it produces as a 'conversation.' It makes me think of a heart too, of values with doors that open and close, with the flow of people through, around and out ... and back again. It matters, in my experience of museums, to become a friend of a place: to return to museums you visited as a child with your own children, to go their with friends to hang out for coffee and to eat, even to meet business colleagues to walk and talk around and with the exhibits. It flushes out the mind.
'Community Art' adds vitality, shows respect to the immediate community and gives that artist and others like them a necessary boost. I cannot help but reflect on the number of times over the last few years where the thing that has left the most lasting memory from a visit to the museum has been a piece of community or contemporary art produced on a theme from the host museum - it brings the thinking and imagination into the current moment.
I've studied mobile learning and the web for a decade so this is music to my ears. It recognises too how contemporary forces have to be part of the dynamic that influences the design of a museum. As I thought, coming to this course, thinking about the modern museum will inform my views on what is required in the design of an effective learning website. It makes me wonder if something like Wikipedia, for example, is too fixed in its presentation that is book-like, catalogued and even linear. Like a modern museum information needs to be freed and offered in more of a carousel or kaleidoscope. In other words reflecting or mirroring the way the imagination functions in the human brain.
Besides the invaluable process and community contribution, when, where even how else do curators, designers and trustees otherwise set aside so much time to think through what they plan to do first? This alone is of huge value. Thinking it through over an extended period of time with an emphasis on the lifeblood of the museum: its visitors.
I can think of two occasions where different museums have very clearly set out to 'choreograph' the emotions: the IWM, London and the 'In Flanders Fields' Museum, Ypres. In the former visitors had to stoop down to look into a partially hidden cabinet that contained children's shoes, all in a heap, from Aushwitz. The act of getting down felt like getting on one knee to speak to a child. In the latter, entering a tall, vertical space masked from the rest of the 'gallery' you intially find blank walls, then you turn up to the roof and find a dozen, maybe 16 photographs of soldiers horribly disfigured by the war. Once again, the physical act of twisting to look up played a part in setting you up to feel 'off kilter'.
'Empathy,' opportunity to reflection, clearly signposted options ... the Holocaust exhibition at the IWM was closed to anyone under the age of 14 without an adult to supervise. The 'In Flanders Museum' piece was also making the point that the mutilated veterans were 'hidden' and kept themselves hidden. This relates also to the way artists respond to events, in these examples, to world war and violent conflict. I enjoy galleries as 'fringe events' alongside curated museum objects as it takes the museum artefacts in a direction where a curator dares not go. At the 'In Flanders Museum', even in the wee 'Talbot House' museum in Poperinge 'contemporary art' was shown to good and intriguing effect. It is after all our take on the past that 'populates' the public space that is the museum.
The world and how we behave in it keeps being shocking: nor is it confined to the safety and 'sanitised' past. Who would create a display showing an IS fighter beheading a Westerner? We have to face, feel and understand duch things if they are to be addressed. Like 'emotions,' 'controversy' makes you think. No museum would last, though some open, that bore the visitor. Do we remember things that bore us? On the contrary. These days, whilst my curiosity is very easily satisfied, I still like to be suprised. To be asked or be made to see things differently.
Does a museum even need to 'inform'? Is wonder and the motivation to discover more enough? I ask in rekation to a visit to the Design Museum, London in 2012. Wonderous and inspiring, with often text like tags rather than explanation and infirmation ... all of that you got from a website then, or later. Motivate a visitor and they read up on a thing. and then return?
A fascinating point about the difference between an emotional response that evokes pity compared to one that evokes anger. I now wonder if the experiences I shared created the feeling of pity, but anger is what was required. These were images of the mutilated faces of combatants from the First World War in the 'In Flanders Fields' Museum, Ypres and a 'collection' of children's shoes in the Holocaust exhibition at the IWM, London. Ange might turn me into a pacifist ... or a politician. To want to do something, somehow, about the continual violence inflicted upon anyone: children, mothers, combatants ... Anger then would have required the 'presence' of, to use a term from storytelling, both the protagonist AND the antagonist. So, in the first case we'd need images of the weapons that caused such mutilations: shrapnel shells and machine gun bullets; while with the Holocaust exhibits we'd need to see Auschwitz guards/soldiers. i.e. there has to be somewhere to direct our anger, and then direct it further up the 'chain of command' to the leaders that caused these conflicts.
We learn because we forget. We have to revisit what we are trying to learn if we are to remember it. We construct knowledge and understanding therefore by going back over things we have done or experienced. Frequent visits to a museum gradually allows some of what that museums says and contains to rub off on us and make its impact.
My response -
As long as you don't swim too close to large ships or get caught in a trawler net. I'd stay in shore rather than 50 miles out. Try the first 20 yards off the beach and don't get out of your depth. Seriously, rip tides are a terror, I've been caught in a couple. Even I always swim with a kicker float on a piece of string ... something to grab onto in case I get cramp or caught in a current. Oh, and I might even wear a wetsuit and a woollen hat.
I'm sailing the Atlantic at the end of the year. I don't intend ever to be in the water unless there is an emergency. I won't fall in as I'll always be attached to a harness. I'm asthmatic so falling into cold water is dangerous.
I'm once again loving an online course from FutureLearn. This time it is 'Behind the Scenes of the 21st Century Museum.' The parallels between the 'theatre' and 'community' value of the modern museum and vibrant websites are tangible: both want to attract, retain, educate and please a wide variety of visitors. Though websites don't have closing hours.
At the end of Week 3 and fascinating roundup of the week, including the myriad of comments, led to a discussion about the worth of a museum creating an emotional response: such as 'pity' or 'anger.'
I now wonder if the experiences I shared created the feeling of pity, but anger is what was required. These were images of the mutilated faces of combatants from the First World War in the 'In Flanders Fields' Museum, Ypres and a 'collection' of children's shoes in the Holocaust exhibition at the IWM, London. Ange might turn me into a pacifist ... or a politician. To want to do something, somehow, about the continual violence inflicted upon anyone: children, mothers, combatants ... Anger then would have required the 'presence' of, to use a term from storytelling, both the protagonist AND the antagonist. So, in the first case we'd need images of the weapons that caused such mutilations: shrapnel shells and machine gun bullets; while with the Holocaust exhibits we'd need to see Auschwitz guards/soldiers. i.e. there has to be somewhere to direct our anger, and then direct it further up the 'chain of command' to the leaders that caused these conflicts.
It's only seven or eight months since I came out of formal education with the OU. I am settling into more of the same elsewhere, as Digital Editor for the Western Front Association which is particularly vibrant right now due to the centenary of the First World War. I also continue to take part in OU Student Consultation Forums as a volunteer - sharing my 'wisdom' as a learner who survived the entirely online experience of the Master of Arts : Open and Distance Education ... and a wee bit of the OU MBA programme that had a Residential week and regular tutorials. And I have one or more FutureLearn courses on the go too: currently on Museums of the 21st Century, the First World War : Trauma and Loss (from the OU) and a new one on Climate Change from Space deliver by the European Space Agency.
Museum of Liverpool
I've studied mobile learning and the web for a decade so learning about the way the new Museum of Liverpool was conceived is music to my ears. It recognises how contemporary forces such as the Web have to be part of the dynamic that influences the design of a museum.
As I thought, coming to the FutureLearn online course on 'Behind the Scenes at the 21st Century Museum,' thinking about the modern museum will inform my views on what is required in the design of an effective learning website. It makes me wonder if something like Wikipedia, for example, is too fixed in its presentation: it is too book-like, catalogued and even linear.
Like a modern museum information needs to be freed and offered in more of a carousel or kaleidoscope. In other words reflecting or mirroring the way the imagination functions in the human brain.
Zeppelins were raiding the east coast of England. Three of them came over and dropped bombs on Hull, Grimsby and towns in the East Riding. 28 were killed and 40 injured. 40 commercial and other residential properties were damaged.
What possibly could have been the reasoning behind this?
Meanwhile I'm in touch with the University of Wolverhampton about completing my MA in Military History. It's that who keep it here and turn it into a more standard history MA. With the OU the period is 1845-1945 that is studied. This makes sense. There are authors who talk of the origins of the First World War who will begin with the rise of Prussian militarism in Germany.
My interest has paid off. I became the Digital Editor for all online content for the Western Front Association last week. The work's cut out for me. There are over 4,000 pages to refresh and bring up to current search engine optimization criteria. Other than that I can indulge my interest in everything to do with the First World War.
It may also bring me to the OU to complete an MA in History: I have 60 credits and guess I need another 60 or so.
Over the decades I've been a sucker for every piece of writing software that has come along, feeding it into my Mac from the early 1990s: Final Draft and PowerStructure both have their place, as does Word or PPT. These days I so far more of my thinking on paper, on cards and on a white board. And when I write I use Google Docs - swear by it. Thanks to the OU SWF course last year and over 4 months working and reworking a series of stories I am at last familiar enough with the characters and context to think I can devise and link a series of scenes to make a novel. On verra.
This is a fascinating insight into the way we learn and educate is changing with students exploring, creating and sharing from an App 'smôrgasbord' of rich, interactive content.
I picked up this thread in the WW1 Buffs Facebook pages
This conversation will keep me busy for several months. The debate on the guardian site is heated, personal and too often Luddite in tone. Why try to say that a book is better than an eBook is better than an App that is 'book-like?' I'll be pitching in as I believe what he argues is right and applies immediately to Geography too. I've studied online learning, history and geography - all to Masters level. I'm not an historian, geographer or an educator: I'm simply deeply curious and fascinated by the way we learn.
Key to Apps is immediacy, relevancy and motivation.
Put content into a student's hands in a way they appreciate: at their fingertips, multi-sensory and connected. An App can take all that is a book, and add several books and angles; all that is TV or Radio and have the person sit up, create content of their own, form views, share opinions and therefore learn, develop and remember.
If I have time on my hands in a town I've not visited for a while I might wander by the war memorial. During these centenary years you might even find a museum: a local exhibition on a regional division or local battalion, or a house that was used as a hospital. Until 2019 York Castle Museum have the exhibtion:
York Castle Museum has ample space to spread its narrative. It offers visitors carefully chosen narratives that a visitor might follow. I wonder if from the start they could be invited to think about a great grandparent or great uncle who may have served in the war. We are invited to think in turn about Alice, Thomas, John, Albert and John; the bookkeeper, the mechanic, woodman, shop assistant and a doctor.
Who will you follow?
Fig. 1 1914: When the world changed forever. York Castle Museum
My grandfather, Jack Wilson, was two weeks short of his 18th birthday when war was declared in August 1914. He'd already been working for four years as office boy then brewer's clerk for the North Eastern Brewery, Consett, Co. Durham.
Fig.2. Studio Portrait of Private John Arthur Wilson, DLI (before transfer to the Machine Gun Corps) This picture was used by the Consette Gazette in 1917 when Corporal Wilson of the MCG was awarded the Military Medal.
My grandfather joined up a few months after his 19th birthday; a few of them from the office went along from the office. Jack's kid brother joined the RFC shortly after, lying about his age as he wasn't even 17.
Can you think of someone from your family, or from your family history who joined up? Or who would have had a story such of those above? Do you know if someone from your street joined up? A typical street during the Great War would have seen most men, some far younger, some far older joining up and lying about their age. It can be a shock to discover just how many from the local school lost their lives.
The York Castle exhibition uses objects that would have been familiar to the typical recruit. For example, an eye-test as part of the medical.
Fig. 3 1914: When the world changed forever. York Castle Museum
My grandfather Jack, age 18 did this test in the recruiting office, Consett in November 1915. He repeated it at the Hotel Cecil at the beginning of 1918 as part of his transfer to the Royal Flying Corps over three years later. I took him for an eye test in 1989 when sadly he could even see the first letter and age 93 it was suggested that he didn't drive any more. Whilst you could lie about your age, many 15 year olds got it, you couldn't fake your height. In 1914 you had to be 5ft 6in, though this soon dropped to 5ft 1in. To join the Guards you had to be 6ft ... unless you were the Prince of Wales. Edward was 5ft 6in ... he looks diminutive and childlike by far taller, and fall older looking men.
Fig. 4 1914: When the world changed forever. York Castle Museum
On 22nd October 1917 my grandfather buried the 42 year old Henry Gartenfeld. 'He shouldn't have been there. A married man with three kiddies.' That's how my grandfather talked about it. 'It didn't matter about me, not being a married man.' The reality is that older men not only joined for patriotic reasons: they joined because they thought it a better alternative, than say working in the cotton mills or down a mine.
Fig. 5 1914: When the world changed forever. York Castle Museum
Here the exhibit in the York Castle Museum talks about the bible. Jack Wilson, who was transferred from the DLI to the 'Suicide Squad' the just forming Machine Gun Corps, prized matches about everything else. He swapped his cigarettes for matches whenever he could. He never smoked. One reason he lived to be 96 then. He didn't drink much either, though worked in the brewery business for the better part of fifty years. He wasn't a Quaker, but many were.
Fig. 6 1914: When the world changed forever. York Castle Museum
I recognised this clasp knife because my grandfather had his and still used it 75 years after it was issued. I have it somewhere. A little oil and it is what I take sailing with me. As well as photos, a watch, a paybook, his Vicker's Machine Gun manual, and his RAF Log Book and medals he had a couple of harmonicas from the war.
Fig. 7 1914: When the world changed forever. York Castle Museum
My grandfather would play a few tunes when we were little; he was quite good. He could also do tricks with coins. These, and many other minor skills, such as repairing watches, he picked him in the trenches or out on reserve where for the bulk of the time you were looking for something to relieve the boredom. He often spoke of finding smashed up cars they would fix, or taking bits on one occasion from a plane that had come down near to their pill-box.
Fig. 8 1914: When the world changed forever. York Castle Museum
Were these the standard issue? Great for a swap according to my late grandfather John Arthur Wilson MM. We're asked to consider where each of our feature characters have got to by the end of 1914. A map of Western Europe pinpoints them.
Fig. 9 1914: When the world changed forever. York Castle Museum
If you haven't caught any of the episodes yet it is worth listening to BBC Radio 4's drama serial 'Homefront.' It's back from the 25th May.
The choices have been carefully made for this exhibition. It is intimate. My ticket gives me entry for a full 12 months. Unfortunately I live 261 miles away at the other end of England. All the more reason to make these notes and to have all these pictures to remind me what I saw.
Fig. 10 1914: When the world changed forever. York Castle Museum
Some of the most harrowing stories I heard from my grandfather were of the soldiers who took a long time to die. Dick Piper, a machine gunner like my grandfather, took a piece of shrapnel in the belly on the 21st October and died the following day. There was nothing to do for him other than put on dressings and make him comfortable by wedging bricks against his feet so that he could keep his legs pressed into his stomach. My grandfather described it as very matter of fact to wait until the body stiffened up before dragging it out and 'burying' it under rumble. 75 years later he marked the spot with a Commemoration Poppy. Imagine that. Returning to the very spot, where, on that occasion, two of his mates had died.
Fig. 11 1914: When the world changed forever. York Castle Museum
On the edge of Houthulst Forest in late 1917 - he returned to pillboxes north of Poelcapelle repeatedly in October, November and December, my grandfather took a prisoner - this German soldier got lost in the early morning fog and simply wandered into the pillbox they'd taken from the Germans a few weeks earlier. He was with the MGC crew for the entire day showing off photograph, a Mausser Pistol that was taken off him and looking at the odd looking currency.
What have you discovered?
Fig. 12 1914: When the world changed forever. York Castle Museum
Every story you hear of the First World War fascinates. Everyone who took part, whether the volunteered or were conscripted, is a story where someone who last all that was familiar and near to them behind. 1/7th were killed.
Fig. 13 1914: When the world changed forever. York Castle Museum
At the very end of 1917, have survived all of Third Ypres, my grandfather's papers came through to transfer to the Royal Flying Corps. It was 27th December. The officers wished him well, and gave him pictures of themselves. The company Sergeant gave him a Webley Revolver, just like this one. Saying he'ed have to buy one otherwise once he joined the RFC. He had this gun until there was a weapon's amnesty in Britain and being a law-abiding man he handed it in.
Fig. 14 Kodak Box Brownie 1914: When the world changed forever. York Castle Museum
As a flight cadet my grandfather had several months of training to get through. He started with military training at RAF Hastings, then to Bristol to learn aeronautics billeted in Haig's alma mater, Clifton College. on to Uxbridge for bomb training and finally up to Scotland for flight training He bought a Kodak camera though and made a visual record of his RAF training between June 1918 and November 1918.
Fig. 15. Flight Cadet John Arthur Wilson MM. RAF Crail, September 1919, age 23.
He stayed on with the RAF until February 1919 to help demob. Very sadly, in June 1919, his kid brother, who had joined the RFC as a 17 year old and at 19 only was a Flight Sergeant, crashed his bomber over Belgium delivering mail.
We come to the end of the exhibition and are asked to think about our featured characters and what happened after the war.
Fig. 16 1914: When the world changed forever. York Castle Museum
My grandfather was lucky. He had survived unwounded. He returned to the job he had started as a boy of 14. He'd been away for over 3 1/2 years. Money put aside to him by work colleagues bought him a motorbike. Things weren't to run smoothly though, recently married and with a one year old he was made redundant in 1932 when the North Eastern Brewery was sold to Vaux. He had 22 years service if you include the war years. He joined Scottish & Newcastle Brewery the following year and put in nearly 30 years with them. His war never ended. Growing up I was the grandchild who listened to his stories. How I envisaged these stories changed as my knowledge of the war grew.
FIg. 17 John Arthur Wilson MM meeting Belgian dignitaries with his only daughter, during the 75th anniversary commemoration of Third Ypres, the Battle of Passchendaele in July 1992 at the Menin Gate.
Jack attended the 75th anniversary of Third Ypres, Passchendaele in 1992 - one of five veterans that year. He also attended events marking the formation of the Machine Gun Corps and the formation of the RAF.
Fig.18 Memorial to the fallen of the York Law Society
At the end of the York Castle exhibition on the First World War visitors are invited chalk up a thought or memory on a series of large black boards. And finally we pass through an ante-room which features a couple of memorials to the fallen. These are made all the more heartbreaking when you think they could be your brother, son or father, where this 100 years ago. I find such memorials in schools harrowing.
Fig. 19 Lewes War Memorial Pinned.
The above shows where those commemorated on the memorial lived. In some houses both a father and son were lost. In several streets every other door had a son, husband, father or brother a fatality. School parties walking passed these houses are left in tears. Imagine how many of your friends you lost.
My grandfather said of those who joined the DLI in November 1915 within him only he returned. Whilst 18 months in the Machine Gun Corps appeared 'suicidal' with his transfer to train with the Royal Flying Corps he was given 11 months grace and the war ended. His training had been delayed by influenza on the ground, then dreadful weather which delayed his training. My grandfather always regretted not getting back to the Western Front to 'have a go at the Hun.'
Fig.1. My goal. To write scenes as fluidly as changing gear.
Goal: What does my central character want from this scene?
Conflict. Who is the conflict with?
Disaster. What is the disaster for this scene?
Fig.2. Common scene writing errors. From Bickman.
I have characters, locations, events and situations in my head. For some characters the story runs for fifty years, most intense age 6 to 21. Armed with this editor's tool I can ruthless delete, rewrite or come up with fresh scenes that meet the above criteria. It fits the pattern I want in my head of a story with momentum - that could be made into a linear drama for TV or film. I particularly recognise the need to ask repeatedly 'what is the disaster?' to conclude a scene. I related to this from a career in writing persuasive copy and videos where you repeatedly ask, then ask again 'what is the problem?" The first answer is usually weak, though compelling ... more likely the ninth or tenth idea will fit the brief.
Fig.3. Elements of Fiction Writing
I continue to read, note and try ideas from Jack M. Bickham's book 'Elements of Fiction Writing - Scene & Structure.' I continue with the Open University course on FutureLearn 'Start Writing Fiction', as well as content on Open Learn of the same title.
We are all hung up on something – the terrible ex, the neighbours from hell, mothers, spiders, fitting rooms, flying or being alone. Anything you like. Some of the best stories come from the deepest and darkest obsessions (just ask Alfred Hitchcock). So dig deep and find your own personal heart of darkness.
I like this tip on writing from the Open University.
I've come to it a very roundabout way. Via a FutureLearn initiative to get people writing 140 word fiction on Twitter. I think I've posted a dozen @mymindbursts.
What do I get hung up about?
- People parking up on the kerb in residential streets
- Dogs, and cats, allowed to run about as they please yapping and shitting as they like.
- Rubbish left to burn and smoulder for days
- Loud radios played in gardens as soon as the sun comes out.
- Exceedingly loud petrol-engine driven strimmers used in gardens on a Sunday morning.
- Anyone who recites the party line instead of saying something truthful or original.
- Overtaking on the inside lane.
- Hogging the central lane.
- Cyclists riding abreast on narrow roads.
- Motorbikes revved and diddled with as their relaxing weekend activity.
- Wheelie bins left out for days
- Littering at beauty spots - some people regularly pull over a layby and toss their MacDonalds out of the window on leaving
I have this story called 'When the green man saw red.'
Like Michael Douglas in "Fallen' he goes mental trying to set the world straight and probably gets done over as a result. Sounds like me? I attract vandals and abuse. Was I born an arse who made one through parenting and boarding school. One wonders.
Collect words ....
Fig.1. How I listed new words in my teens.
This was during A'Level English age 17. I'd done it a bit age 12/13 ... not a big reader, or writer then, I never kept it up. Making lists was one thing, using fancy words quite another. More importantly, as a professional writer the opposite applies: communication is clearest when you use short, every day words, not fancy latinate terms or foreign phrases.
This is a tip three of ten from the Open University and FutureLearn supporting 'Start Writing Fiction' the online course and a Flash Fiction, 140 character Twitter challenge next week.
“Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.” Will Self
This is tip one of ten from the Open University course 'Start Writing Fiction' and its launch of a Twitter Fiction campaign.
Fig.1 Fig.1. Steven Pressfield's 'Foolscap Method' to write a novel
Once more I am loving the Open University's free online course 'Start Writing Fiction' on FutureLearn: it only started this week so there is plenty of time to join now. This free online course is all about character, so us novice fiction writers struggle with thoughts on plot. I love this from author Steven Pressfield: 'The Foolscap Method' is for me the 'Creative Brief' by another name, or even Churchill's dictum of being given reports on a single sheet of paper. By setting parameters and being succinct you are forced to get to the kernel of an idea. When constructing a story then, say a novel, answer the following. I find I return to and refine this often and eventually have it on the wall to stop me wandering off ... those ideas and stories can be kept for another project.
Fig.2 Close up on Steven Pressfield's 'Foolscap Method' used to write his first novel
Steven Pressfield's Foolscap Method : From his blog.
THE FOOLSCAP METHOD
Story telling device
Looks easy? Then add 70,000 coherent, clear, exciting words!!!
|Blue Bells 30th April 2015 HH|
Every years it's the same. Every year I pop back often.
Metaphors teach us to think and well chosen can, with some caveats, initiate and stimulate meaning. The educator, Gráinne Conole, Professor of Learning Innovation at the University of Leicester often talks of 'metaphor for meaning making' in our efforts to unravel and explain the complex. However, metaphors have an inbuilt bias: their creator. It is helpful to talk of a 'tree of life' when it isn't? Is it OK to teach it to Junior School Kids in the knowledge that they will be given a more complex visualisation, explanation and metaphor as graduate students? Should we talk of a 'War of Drugs' as if beating a disease is a conflict, when actually it is collaboration and aspiration that leads to communities accepting vaccines ...
What do the educators use and what do we participants remember from the courses we do: flat vocabulary, more complex vocabulary, classification schemas or models or metaphors? I hazard a guess that we remember indiscriminate moments of insight from a comment here, a visualisation, a comment, a shared point of view ...
I then read around the subject and often go back to the sources the author used and eventually form my own opinion. These days I will share it online and have it shot down or applauded - or both. In due course I read more and adjust my original perspective which is fluid. The origins of the First World War, Haig and Passchendaele are points of interest - also all factual and fictional interpretations on TV ... and RFC/RAF flight training (because that was part of my grandfather's story).
Unable to get near a mountain this winter I've nonetheless gloried in watching the seasons start and gradually melt away into spring from the Katalys HD livecams at 1250m, 2750m up in the French Alps.
Fig.1 La Grande Rochette looking south east towards Mt Bellevarde from summer into early winter.
Once there is snow the landscape changes little. The weather changes dramatically. People comes and go. The snow mounts up, then sinks away.
Climate change is telling. Three decades ago the winter 'season' kicked off in Val d'Isere with the first races of the World Cup on the 17th November - they are now lucky to race at all at this height in December. Three decades ago, closer to four in fact, having worked 12 hours days 6/7 days a week since early December I finished my 'season' on 2nd May and could still ski down to 1250m ... just. The snow below 2000m has, without artificial snow largely melted away.
A paper studying fifty years of snowfall in the Alps paints a convincing story: snow cover is variable, the season later and shorter, the freezing level consistently higher making rain as likely as snow even as high as 2000m through-out the season. Yet to confound the 'industry' a nice fall of 47cm this weekend and early next week falling down to 1500m is forecast. All but a handful of resorts with glaciers close this weekend.
Twitter I: JJ27VV
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LinkedIn: Jonathan Vernon
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As well as others ... Quora, CloudBursts, FutureLearn, OpenStudio, SimpleMinds, Studio ...
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