Friday, 28 October 2011

Review: 'Gamerunner' by B.R. Collins

By B. R. Collins

Gamerunner follows Rick, a teenage boy living in the future where acid rain prevents people from going outdoors. Rick’s father, Daed, works for Crater—a virtual reality game developer that benefits from people spending the majority of their time, and money, in their games. Daed created the Maze as the ultimate game that can never be beaten. Rick not only tests the Maze for glitches, but also finds solace in the various activities and challenges within. And when a player comes close to completing the game, it falls to Rick to stop them.

Collins has created a detailed and believable setting where the greater population is scared of the outside world, Undone, and obsessed with the Maze. Sure the Maze isn’t real; but, it beats living in Undone.

Collins effectively uses the limited third-person point of view. At one stage, Rick eavesdrops on a conversation in another room. Although Rick can’t ‘see’ inside the room, sounds allow the reader to figure out what happens while Rick remains confused.

Whenever Rick is in the Maze, the narrator uses an awkward, repetitive sentence structure with very little punctuation. This is awkward to read at first, but after a few chapters it proves to be a great way to differentiate the Maze from the real world. Sharp, repetitive sentences remind the reader that although Rick would happily spend all his time in the Maze if he didn’t have to eat and sleep, he shouldn’t shun the real world for a game.

Corporate greed; dysfunctional father-son relationships; a dystopian future; and, humanity’s tendency to follow the status quo, rather than challenge it, are all explored in Gamerunner. While the setting, theme and plot are definitely dystopian, gamers like me will say, ‘Bring on the rain!’

The novel for this review was supplied by Bloomsbury

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Six Word Stories in Platform Magazine

One of the first subjects I completed in my ongoing Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing was Short Story B with Margaret McCarthy. In this class, Margaret introduced us to a variety of short story forms including the ‘six word story’.

How hard can it be to put together six words, right? Wrong!

Those six words need to convey all the elements of a good story—character, mood, setting, theme and plot—while having a definite beginning, middle and end, and using a style that shows rather than tells. Phew!

After the original discussion in class, I scoured the internet for six word stories and found a few sites dedicated to the form and hundreds of great examples. My favourites include:

Found true love. Married someone else.  —Dave Eggers
Blind date. Wrong restaurant. Missed destiny.  —Clare Hill
Dad called: DNA back: he isn’t.  —Helen Fielding
“Apple?” “No.” “Taste!” “ADAM?” Oh God.  —David Lodge
Megan’s baby: John’s surname, Jim’s eyes.  —Simon Armitage

Every single sight mentions Ernest Hemmingway and his belief the best story he ever wrote contained only six words:

‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’

While new clothes frequently get lost in my children’s cupboards until they are outgrown, I think Hemmingway is alluding that something happened to the baby. The voice is that of an advertisement and hints the author needs the money and is ready to move on from whatever happened. I might be thinking about this too hard, but my reasoning shows those six words imply a much greater story and, more importantly, create a taking point for readers and writers alike.

Over the next week or so, I created more than 50 six word stories of my own; I just couldn’t help myself. I recently submitted my best to Platform Magazine, who commissioned 13 for their 10th, and current, issue. If you’d like an electronic copy of Platform (it’s free!), please email me at . You can also pick up a hardcopy at Victoria University’s St Albans campus or one of the Rotunda in the West events.

I’d love to know what you think of the stories and welcome you to post your own.

Thanks for visiting,

Friday, 7 October 2011

Emerging from school holidays writing-hybernation...

'What have you been doing?' I hear you ask.
     Well, apart from editing revision and chasing my kids around the house, I ran a workshop on 'Creating and maintaining a blog' at the Melton library; finalised two short stories and sent them off to local competitions; and, submitted a piece of creative non-fiction to Wet Ink magazine.
     I also managed to 'almost' complete a 3,000 word story for young adults and re-draft a sci-fi story to the brink of nonsense (back to the drawing board with that one!)
     With a little luck, I might have some good news to share just before Christmas.
Fingers crossed,

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Words on the Page

The below is an extract from a fictional piece I've been working on for a little while now.

Hi, I’ll be your narrator this evening. Please allow me to introduce you to my chosen medium—this is my job as a writer after all. Words, meet our audience. And you, dear reader, meet my words. You two are going to get along great. I just know it.
If you really want to have some fun, take the phone off the hook, place a lamp beside your favourite reading spot, turn off all the other lights and make sure it’s very quiet. Don’t stop reading for anything—you might miss something important. Go on, I’ll wait for you here…

Love to know what you think,