Now there’s a combination you don’t often see in the same sentence!

Facebook – General

What are your favourite virtues in characters?

I would list courage, honesty, and reliability. Perhaps not the most exciting of virtues but certainly ones you can depend on.

I’ve always felt Sam Gamgee does not get nearly enough credit for the support he showed Frodo. To my mind, he is as much of a hero in The Lord of the Rings as Frodo is.

I suppose what I love most here is Sam doesn’t pretend to understand what it is all about or the pain and pressure Frodo feels. All Sam knows is he has got to support Frodo and that is what he gets on and does. I love characters (and indeed people) like that. They really are the ones you can depend on in a crisis

For villains, can you list favourite virtues? I think so. I want the villain to be a worthy opponent always (otherwise where is the real challenge for the hero/heroine?). So this means then an ability to plan and anticipate what the hero/heroine might do, their NOT underestimating the hero/heroine, and having a kind of charisma, where you can understand why other characters would support the villain.

Fan still going full tilt in the office. It’s more than what I am!

Writing wise, my plans for this coming week are to try to submit more work. I need to catch up a bit with competition entries etc. It’s not the writing of the stories funnily enough that is the problem here. It’s the selecting of the ones I HAVE written and deciding where to send them, then actually sitting down and getting them out there!

I can get into the state where I am writing loads of new stories but not testing the market with any of them, which is where I’m at again at the moment. So will try and work on that this week I think.

Must admit I hope it cools down a bit soon. I definitely work better overall when it’s not so hot. (The wildflower picture is one taken by me at a local park where part of it it set aside for a miniature meadow. This is literally just a tiny bit of it. The whole thing looks glorious and I hope to share more pics in my CFT post this week. And, yes, I do find getting out and about and enjoying the wonders of nature helps my creativity. It’s just the heat that doesn’t but then if you do feel as if you’re melting, that explains that!).

I love the colour combinations in the wildflower meadow

A close up of the wonderful wildflower meadow in my local park. Image by Allison Symes

Looking up towards the Hilt

Looking up the length of the park from behind the meadow. Image by Allison Symes

This is just a small section of some wonderfully coloured flowers

Another view of the wildflower meadow. Image by Allison Symes

Do you have a saggy middle? Hang on, let’s rephrase that.

Does your STORY have a saggy middle?

It is so easy to focus on coming up with that fantastic opening line. It is even easier, I find, to focus on a great ending, especially if it involves a twist.

But the bit in the middle? Well, unless it fulfils the promise of that opening line, that beginning is wasted. If it doesn’t lead to your great conclusion, then that’s wasted too.

Everything has to follow through from beginning to end, regardless of the length of the story. But let’s hear it for the sometimes neglected middle section. It is absolutely crucial to get that right otherwise the story falls down. (Never a pretty sight that!).

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I’ve occasionally used the title of a flash fiction piece to act effectively as the first line of the story as well.

My Time Waits for No Man is an example of this. The next line reads “But time does slow to a crawl when driving in traffic”. (And boy is that true?!). I must try and use this technique more often. It can be a great way into a story.

I always find, whether writing fiction or my CFT posts, I need a good start and then I’m away. Yes, the polishing and editing comes later but I find once I’ve started the story, I’ve just got to keep going until I’ve got a first draft down.

So whatever techniques help you to get to a cracking start with your writing, keep going! I love the freedom of knowing the editing will come later, the story will improve drastically later, but right now is just the sheer joy of creating and I treasure that.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many congratulations to Lynden Wade, who won a copy of From Light to Dark and Back Again as part of Elizabeth Hopkinson’s cyber launch for her Tiny Tales. Am looking forward to posting the book to you.

Many congratulations also to Elizabeth herself for a very enjoyable launch.

I loved my cyber launch (and many thanks to Gill James and Chapeltown Books for that), but I couldn’t believe how tired I felt afterwards! All that adrenaline I guess… or was it the virtual cake, wine. and other goodies?!

I love the way good flash fiction can capture a whole world in so few worlds. What the writer does tell you about a character should leave you being able to work out how that character relates to others, what effect they are likely to have on others, and often what their natural state of being is. Are they nervy? Are they calm etc?

My Time Waits For No Man on Page 40 doesn’t name my character but you know enough from what I have shared to see this is someone who has gone through hell. I haven’t needed to spell out all the details.

It is always the selection of what a reader needs to know to be able to identify with the character (whether it is sympathetically or not) that matters most.

I’ve talked a bit on my author page tonight about the sometimes neglected middle section of a story and I thought I’d continue the theme here.

We all focus on cracking opening lines and brilliant story endings but without the middle of the tale being equally excellent, the whole story falls flat.

I’ve forgotten who gave the advice “try not to write the bits people skip” but it is excellent advice. You want your readers to be so gripped by your story when they come to the middle of it, they will definitely want to see it through to the end. That middle section is where the set up is, regardless of whether the ending is going to be a sad or happy one. And it has got to “follow through”.

I use my middles to feed in those bits of information the reader needs to know so that the ending makes sense. Also I sometimes use the middle to expand a bit on what I’ve set out at the start. In my story, The Haunting, by the time I get to the middle, I have set out three times in three different ways that a particular object is irritating its owner.

So no saggy middles then!


The joy of the road traffic report
Is knowing, as if playing a sport,
You are not in the horrible queue
So the bad news means nothing to you.
But when it is the other way round
I can bet, from your car, comes the sound
Of a swear word or several dozen
Which irks your kin, except your cousin.

Allison Symes – 17th July 2018

Hope you enjoy. I love this sort of doggerel from time to time!


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Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Helpful Book Reviews

What do you find most helpful in a book review?

Speaking as a writer and reader, I love to see the following in any review, regardless of its length.

1. A good description of the central idea of the book. (This tends to indicate genre and often age range too).

2. Whether the reviewer liked it or not and good reasons why. (Nobody likes a troll! I want to know what people liked about what I’ve written and what they feel I could do better. I’m not necessarily going to agree but if several are saying the same thing, then it’s time to look again. From the reader viewpoint, I want to see sensible reasons given. “Not to my taste” doesn’t really tell you enough).

3. The review is clearly an honest one. I need to be able to gauge whether someone’s book is likely to appeal to me. Several comments, offering differing views, is a very good help to me to work out, yes this is likely to appeal or conversely that it won’t!

I write reviews myself sometimes and do follow my own advice here. The great thing about being a writer yourself is it kind of makes it easy for you to come up with a good review. You write the kind of review you would love to see on your own book or, if you do really dislike what you’ve just read, to still pick out where you think the book might appeal, while honestly admitting it wasn’t for you. (I love the honesty behind that sort of review).

So happy reading and reviewing!















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