Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Once upon a time

What is a story?

This is a question asked by one of the characters in the ABC TV show Once Upon a Time, which retells traditional fairy tales and jumps between the contemporary world and the ancient parallel reality of fairy tales.  He is questioning what is real and what isn't; and how truth and fact affects our perceptions of reality.

I have just written a guest blog for Creatabot, which explores ideas of story and narrative.  An extract is below.......

Writers think instinctively in terms of narrative, of story.  It’s how we make sense of the world.  The brain, our computer, processes what we see, feel, hear and looks for meaning in this input, based on our internal database of past experiences, of what has already been recorded and stored.
“Our brain casts us as ‘the protagonist’ and then edits our experience with cinema-like precision, creating logical interrelations, mapping connections between memories, ideas, and events for future reference.  Story is the language of experience.”
(Quote from Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron, Ten Speed Press.)

To continue to read the full article, go to 

Related posts:

Sunday, 15 July 2012


The other day, while I was sitting in the Lavender Tea House in Folkestone, (http://www.thelavenderteahouse.com/enjoying their amazing carrot cake and coffee, my thoughts momentarily left the book I was reading on my kindle and instead tuned in to the music playing in the background.  The lyrics struck a chord.

Free Black And White Clipart“The wheels are falling off the world”. I later learnt it came from a song by Jamie Cullum.  It was such an evocative phrase.  I reflected on the speed at which the world was changing, and the fears we might have about the future. 

If we knew how our lives would unfold,  where it would all end, how many of us would want to start the journey in the first place?  When we reach our destination, we will be a different person to the one who started out, as we are inevitably influenced and changed by the way we experience the world and how it affects us. 

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Time for Creatabot

I'm really thrilled to be a contributor to the excellent online magazine for creatives and artists called Creatabot, which aims to inspire, inform and promote creative people in the UK.  
To quote editor Natasha Steer,  "Creatabot is a community interest website which means any funds generated are principally reinvested in the website or into the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for contributors and owners."

My first post is an exploration of our attitudes to time, entitled Tick Tock.  Click on the links below to find out more and read the feature. 




The art of storytelling

I just came across a great list called The 22 Rules of Storytelling according to Pixar, written by their animation storyboard artist Emma Coats.

I picked out 3 that were especially helpful for writers.

No 3:  “Trying for theme is important but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it .  Now rewrite.”
I like this.  The more I write, the more I realise the truth in this.  Sometimes, you realise when you are near the end of a story that a theme runs through it that you didn't even consciously intend.  This mysterious process can be quite spooky - but wonderful.

No 7: “Come up with your ending before you figure out the middle.”
I generally sort out my ending well before I even touch the laptop and start to write.  If I'm going on a journey, I need to know where I will end up.  Or at least plan to end up.

No 10: "Pull apart the stories you like.  What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognise it before you can use it.”
This is a thought provoking and profound observation.  It also links with other advice I adhere to, which is to read like a writer.  More on this in future posts.

To see the list in full go to 

Friday, 6 July 2012

Time to spare

I just saw a commercial for the Territorial Army on TV, in which viewers are informed they can train to be a soldier in their spare time.  “Spare time.”  It got me thinking about the concept of time, how we use it, segment it and categorise it.  Time that is essential and time that is “spare, extraneous.”  The more you think about it the less sense it makes.  There is an assumption that time should be earmarked and that most of it (and our lives) should be spent on work, doing a paid job.  And then, if any of it is left, we fill it with hobbies. So it is all used up.  Time is a commodity and spare time is a luxury, a privilege. 

When I was a child I railed against clocks.  I always resented having to work to a schedule, to obey the tyranny of the clock.  Maybe that’s why, try as I might, I have always had a problem with timekeeping.  Perhaps there’s a deeply ingrained part of me that just resents it.  I used to ask, “who invented the clock, who dictated that we divide our day into 24 hours, into 7 days.  Who decided that office hours are 9-5, so the roads are jammed with traffic during the man-made concept of rush hour.  Why?”

It’s a question I still ask myself. 

Related post: http://janeayres.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/writing-routines-and-running.html

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Happy Endings

I’m currently enjoying the boxed DVD set of Ace of Wands, a 70s TV series about a telepathic magician called Tarot who, with his loyal assistants, solves intriguing mysteries.  When I was a kid I absolutely loved this.  I was in love with Tarot.  I was always a sucker for a hero with superpowers.  As soon as I pressed Play and heard the theme music from the series I became an idealistic dreamer again.  Maybe this is sentimental nostalgia rather than any logical thought, but I remember the 70s as a more innocent, na├»ve age somehow.  I miss it. 

I recently re-acquainted myself with another children’s TV series of the70s, The Tomorrow People.  About a group of telepaths from the future who solve mysteries and save the world.  Sounds familiar.....

In both dramas, the heroes and heroines are pacifists.  The acting might be a bit wooden and the sets wobbly but what they have in common is their positive outlook and the fact that good always triumphs over evil.   
Watching programmes like this triggers off a whole chain of emotions.  Pleasure, wistfulness, joy.  For a short magical while, I am transported back to a time before mortgages and emotional responsibility, before life got complicated and grown up.  I think it’s good for our souls to revisit this part of ourselves.

As a pony-mad youngster, my favourite programmes included The Adventures of Black Beauty and The White Horses.  Both featured a girl who loved horses and her adventures, whether in Victorian England or 60s Yugoslavia.  I longed to be that girl with a horse.  It was my ambition, a dream that kept me warm for a long while.   The sense of longing this ignited was part of growing up.  I never became that girl but it doesn’t matter.  That craving inspired and fuelled my writing and is still there when I write my pony books 40 years later. 
Happy endings are reassuring.  That’s what the children’s dramas I enjoyed had in common.  Maybe that’s why I feel good when I revisit them, tinged with a whisper of sadness for something lost.
These days, the only kid’s series that makes me smile is Shaun the Sheep.  Fun, funny, lovable, simple and with a positive message.  Always a happy ending.  It’s what we all hope for. 

Related posts:http://janeayres.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/black-beauty-past-and-present.html