Reviews and Characterisation

Facebook – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My post for Chandler’s Ford Today this week is a review of three different plays staged in one production by The Chameleon Theatre Group. There was Oh What a Lovers’ War (set against the background of August 1914), The Dreaming (a surreal play), and Pina Coladas (a mystery). All were very good and I loved the mixture of plays. More details and pics in the post. Well done to the Chameleons for a great evening.

Image Credit:  Many thanks to the Chameleons, especially Lionel Elliott, for kind permission to use the images, which were taken by them.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

There will be a new flash fiction piece from me up on Cafelit tomorrow (sometime during the early evening onwards) called Getting Lost. Must try and enter more flash fiction competitions this year too.

I tend to draft promising first lines and then draft stories to fit them (often when on train journeys). It definitely beats doing the crossword by a very long margin! Often that promising first line sparks ideas for the title of the piece too.

How do I decide whether a story will be a drabble at 100 words or a longer one? Basically when I know I cannot edit the piece any more without it losing something that contributes to the characters or the overall story. I then leave the piece be and whatever the word count is remains the word count! Often this will be at 100 words or under but sometimes a piece really does work better as a 250-300 worder. This is where reading a piece out loud can show you how well the whole thing “flows” and if it “flows” well, that is when it is time to drop the editing pen.


Fairytales with Bite – Describing Your Characters

If you were asked to talk about your characters, how would you describe them (and without sending whoever questioned you to sleep!)?

I like to start with traits – for example, Eileen is brave, resourceful, and rebellious.  Those three words alone give you a good starting point for portraying Eileen.  Getting your characterisation right is everything in getting the story right (and therefore give it much more chance of being accepted somewhere).  A good plot needs great characters to make it work.

It is useful to outline a character whether you put all you detail into a story or not.  (The likelihood is you wouldn’t.  I know I need to know this and that about a character, your readers might only to know “this”).  However, outlining a character gives you all the information you need to work out what kind of story they would be in, how they would handle a situation (or mishandle it), and what their “happy ever after” ending is likely to be.  It is then up to you if they achieve it!  (Great stories can be found in a character attempting to get to this point but never quite making it so they have to adjust their “happy ever after” for something more sustainable over the long term.  I guess this is where the “happy for now” endings, especially in romance novels, comes from).

I’ve found it does pay to take time outlining.  I find when ready to write the story itself, I write it quicker because I’ve already got the “building blocks” in place ready to go with my tale.


This World and Others – Ten Things a Great Character Must Have

1.  A sense of purpose – whether they’re the hero or villain.
2.  Determination (without it, there’s no chance of fulfilling their purpose).
3.  A worthy opponent.  (Sherlock Holmes is wonderful but Moriarty challenged him and Holmes needed that challenge.  Your leads need those who will get in their way, try to thwart their plans etc.  That’s where the story comes alive).
4.  A cause worth supporting (even if they are the only ones supporting it!  Not quite the same as 1 above as a character can have a sense of purpose even without a cause.  The great sidekicks in literature are often like this.  Sam Gamgee in Lord of the Rings saw his cause as being supporting Frodo.  It was Frodo who really had the sense of purpose and Sam didn’t always understand Frodo’s “intensity”,  Frodo had both the sense of purpose in that he had a job to do no matter what, which was at one and the same time also a cause worth supporting).
5.  Courage.  This comes into it somewhere in the story.  It has to.  The kind of courage can vary from the obvious courage in battle to the quieter kind where someone will keep going to support someone no matter what the hellish circumstances.
6.  The ability to ask for help.  Not every character has this.  Recognising you need help and the best people to give it shows humility and pragmatism (as the character comes to terms with knowing they need help if they are going to fulfil their objective at all).
7.  A mentor/adviserThis ties in with 6.  A great character is going to need guidance to help them meet their goal and knows who to get that guidance from.
8.  The ability to get on with most characters.  This ties in with 6 and 7.  Nobody is going to want to guide or assist a character who is arrogant or overbearing.
9.  Planning. The character must work out how they’re going to meet their commitments and then just get on with it.
10 .  A cool head.  Given the undoubtedly hellish situations, you are going to put your character through, they will still need a cool head to face down those challenges and press on towards their goal.

The Word Fairy

Facebook – General

So if the word fairy turned up and granted you three wishes but they had to be related to writing in some way, what would you ask for? My choices would be:-

1. To never run out of ideas that will work!
2. To edit perfectly in one big edit. (Fat chance but just think of the time saved!).
3. To always be proud of what I have published.

Funnily enough, I don’t think I would ask for everything of mine to be automatically published. The quality has to be there and you as the writer should be proud of what you’ve written long after you’ve moved on to other writing projects.

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Facebook – General

Many thanks to all who commented or liked my post yesterday on the three wishes I would go for if the word fairy turned up.

So turning this idea on its head, what three things related to writing would you ask the word fairy to take and dump somewhere inaccessible with no chance of said items ever coming back? (Naturally no pollution would be caused).

My choices would be:-

1. Amazon saying your book is temporarily out of stock when it is easily available. Grrr…

2. All snobbery relating to genre fiction.

3. All snobbery relating to the independent press.

Now before you say, hang on, Allison is published by the independent press and her stories would count as genre fiction, yes, yes I know. It just gives me added reason to dump these things! I am not pretending to be unbiased here (just as well really).

So what would you choose? (We’ll assume nasty reviews that are clearly having a go at the author rather than trying to be objective about the book have already been dumped by the word fairy. She’s good about things like that or will be when I’ve had a word in her ear…).

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Facebook – General

My Chandler’s Ford Today this week is a review of the latest production by The Chameleons. This was a set of three plays, all different in mood and setting, called an April Trio of Plays. More tomorrow but it was intriguing to see three different stories performed.

Contrasts in mood can also work well in stories generally, of course. If there could be said to be a golden rule, it is that there has to be at least one good reason for the mood to be shown. Mind, there has to be at least one good reason for any character to be in a story. If they are not contributing, out they go!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The delights of short fiction
Are in all of the friction
Contained in fewer words
That please us writing nerds
Who want to have a ball
With their tales and, in all,
Show cynics it can be done
In 100 words – it’s fun!

Allison Symes – 1st May 2018

For all you fellow drabblers out there! (Who did come up with the terms for flash fiction categories? Above all, why?! I still don’t see how 100-word stories could be called drabbles. What is the link there? If anyone knows, please let me know. Mind, I feel more sorry for the 50-word writers. To be a dribbler doesn’t sound right, does it? You just want to reach for some tissue…).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am delighted to say I am one of the authors chosen to appear in the Waterloo Festival anthology. Am gutted I can’t get to the launch event in June due to a much looked forward to holiday! Murphy’s Law for writers strikes again… ah well.

Timing being “off” sometimes is just one of those things that happens to most writers at some point. Sometimes a story can be rejected not because there’s anything particularly wrong with it, but because the editor has chosen another on a similar topic so doesn’t want two close together like that. So definitely time to see if you can find another home for your story then.

Am very pleased to see there are so many more flash story competitions around these days so hopefully that gives us all more scope to find what suits our writing best. Good luck!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Of all the sayings that flash fiction justifies, less is more is probably the best one!

You can only use the most important details in a story. I often don’t name a character either but write in the first person. (I tend not to use that at all for longer short fiction).

You have to get to the point of the story quickly (or if writing a twist ending, everything must be seen to build up to that point. There must be a sense of “movement” in the story getting your readers to where you want them to be).

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog

One Book To Rule Them All?

A good writing diet includes plenty of reading, in and out of the genre you focus on, and should include non-fiction too.

Why? Because ideas for stories spark from all over the place and by reading widely, you are effectively casting your net further. You are giving yourself more opportunities to be inspired. What’s not to like about that?

It is also a good idea to read contemporary as well as classic fiction. Again you are mixing up your reading and, especially if you’re a writer seeking publication, it does make enormous sense to support the industry you are trying to join by reading some of the books that come out of it!

I also think it a good idea to mix things up still further when reading fiction by reading novels, short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. I love reading things I know I couldn’t write myself because the joy of being creative in writing is enjoying the creativity of others. After all, what inspired you to write? Almost certainly something you’ve read.

REAL WRITING POST - Let your characters live

Books should keep you gripped and that is down to the characters. Image via Pixabay

Or you could just ask a few simple questions - image via Pixabay

Or you could ask some simple questions! Image via Pixabay.

Nobody gets their ideas spot on immediately, image via Pixabay

Nobody gets their ideas right first go. Image via Pixabay.

My stories are in The Best of Cafelit 4, 5 and now 6 and also by Bridge House Publishing (Alternative Renditions). My first collection From Light to Dark and Back Again is published by Chapeltown Books.

Where my stories are in print. Image by Allison Symes

The best advice for any writer - image via Pixabay

And prepare well!

Writing in many forms... Image via Pixabay

Writing in many forms… Image via Pixabay

Images from the magical world... Image via Pixabay

Images from the magical world… Image via Pixabay