Writing Newsround & Story Starter


Writing newsround & Story Starter

It’s time I did a bit of a writing newsround to catch you up on what we’re looking for, what lengths and seasons you should focus on, and useful info like that.

But first…

You know I’ve been banging on about ageism: how we need to be much more aware of the reality of “older” people these days. And I’ve got two examples of how it can still catch us out, me included.

The first was last Saturday, when I’d walked to the newsagents for the morning papers.

I stopped to text a friend, and out of the corner of my eye was aware of a woman approaching: silvery hair, dark clothes, also peering at her mobile. Older lady, was my first impression, perhaps from the sheltered housing complex nearby.

Then I noticed that a white cable snaked from the phone to earbuds tucked in her ears. White cable. Kind of trendy. My perception shifted slightly. On a call, I presumed. But no, she wasn’t speaking. Selecting some music, then. Good for her! (Yes, a bit patronising….)

We exchanged smiles as she tucked her phone in her pocket – and then she took off at a steady run. I realised she was well kitted out in sports leggings, black lightweight quilted jacket, backpack on her back and proper running shoes. Basically she was dead fit, as I could tell from the musculature of her legs, with an easy, effortless stride. And she kept up that steady pace until she disappeared from sight in the far distance.

See? That first snap assumption about “older lady” shattered.

The second example was yesterday, at lunchtime as I sat in the car after my daily walk along the front. I’d passed a man, again older, with white hair, walking pole and dog, and we’d exchanged hellos. He emerged from the path and went to a car parked ahead of mine that I couldn’t quite see.

Again I made an assumption, that it would be the kind of sensible smaller hatchback that “older people” tend to drive. But no. What drew out of the space was a sporty silver convertible.

It reminded me, again, that it’s too easy to characterise older people in ways that are just plain wrong these days.

I wonder if the pic I’ve used to illustrate this point is actually a Story Starter image?

Now, back to that writing newsround…

We still have lots of 1200-word stories coming in, which makes the competition for success in that range all the greater. What we use most of is 2000 and 3000 words. Romance. Period romance. Mature romance. Humour. Male pov. Surprise us!

Seasons wise, next week I start scheduling our December issues (Jan/Feb for the special). So if you’re writing right now, you need to be looking forward six months to Easter, holidays, weddings, sailing, picnics, car boot sales…. Nice to escape into next spring and summer, isn’t it?

If there’s anything else you want to know, just ask.

Oh, but before I go, have you noticed some of our stories are available as a podcast now? Look for the Audio tab on our home page and you’ll find the first two. And a new one will go up every Wednesday. They’re beautifully read by actors Lesley Mackie (a Dundee girl) and her husband Terry Wale, and our own Judey Struth. Intro’d by yours truly. Few of us like having our photographs taken; it’s always a case of “Do I really look like that?” I now have the same feeling about my voice being recorded….

Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.

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