When a Story Has “Got You”

Facebook – General

Thinking about picture books with regard to my most recent CFT post, Picture Books and Other Hooks, made me also think about what my reading journey has been.

Every reader of fiction owes a huge debt to children’s writers as the vast majority of readers have grown up loving and reading books, moving from stage to stage and genre to genre as they grow. You get to experiment with the genres you love most (and ideally end up loving loads!).

Writing for children then underpins books overall, I think.

We almost all start with rhymes and fairytales (the latter is somewhat ironic given so many fairytales can be grim!). Picture books play a vital role bridging the gap between “baby” books and the first books we read for ourselves.

So let’s hear it for children’s fiction, especially as it is notoriously difficult to get right.

 

I’ve listed below books that have either made me change my opinion about something or I’ve had to re-read several times. (Usually the book concerned falls into both categories). They’re not in any particular order of importance.

1. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
5. Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett.
6. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
7. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.
8. Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
9. Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
10. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

For many of the authors, I could’ve listed more than one of their books. The lovely thing with books is discovering the joys of new ones and, when re-reading, catching up with “old friends”.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Book Offer News

Quick heads up! Amazon have currently got From Light to Dark and Back Again on offer at:-

£2.99 – Kindle edition
£4.04 – for the paperback.

Link takes you to the Kindle edition.

 

Facebook – General

When do you know a story has “got you”? When you are so gripped by the characters, you have to keep reading no matter what, and you get distinctly irritable when anything minor, like life, gets in the way of you reading! Confession time: have been distinctly irritable many a time due to this.

Of course the challenge for writers is to come up with a story that will make readers feel like that! Whoever said writing was easy has never actually done any. The great thing is nobody has to see your first draft, your sixth or what have you, until you are ready to let them see it! Nobody but nobody creates a perfect story first go. I do take a lot of comfort from that thought.

The great thing with writing is you have two interests in one here, the other being reading of course.

To feed your own writing “muscle”, you need to read widely in and out of your genre. I recommend reading widely in non-fiction too. Your creative spark will come from ideas that occur to you as you read other stories and non-fiction.

This author did this in this way. How would I do it? I’d have written this character this way because… etc etc. All sorts of great story ideas can come from asking yourself questions like that and then seeing what you do come up with.

Re non-fiction: I’ve found the creative spark ignites when I discover something interesting I hadn’t known and realise I can use it in a story setting.

It always pays to cast your imaginative net wide!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Far Flung Book News!

Many thanks to Raewyn Berry for supplying these pictures of From Light to Dark and Back Again in New Zealand!

My book in NZ 1

FLTDBA in NZ. Image kindly supplied by Raewyn Berry

My Book in NZ 2

Always good to see books about and it’s very special if one of them is yours! Many thanks to Raewyn Berry for the picture.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Have drafted a piece from the viewpoint of a groundhog which is this week’s prompt in my writing diary. Good fun to do but needs work but then the great thing with a first draft is only you need ever see it. Also I never envisaged starting a FB post with that opening line!

I often use sayings as titles for my flash fiction and generally that sets the theme and mood too. But a good title is always capable of having a twist put to it, so work out what would suit your character best. They’ll be “carrying” the story so if they are of a quirky nature, the story should reflect that.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I do love poetic justice stories and flash fiction is a great vehicle for them. You have to set things up immediately and deliver on the pay-off quickly too! My A Kind of Hell and The Circle of Life are examples of this.

Poetic justice stories work well within a short time frame, which is why they suit flash fiction. I don’t like to spin poetic justice stories out for too long a time span. My worry is a reader could get bored waiting to find out if there is ever going to be a pay-off. No danger of that in 100 words or so!

You haven’t got a lot of room in flash fiction to go into characterisation deeply. So what I do is pick the major trait/flaw/virtue of the character I’ve got in mind for a story and weave the tale around that.

The good thing with this approach is you can imply a lot (and flash fiction is brilliant for implying things!).

For example, if you decide your main character is going to be cowardly, all sorts of things are going to come out of that. How does the cowardice manifest itself? Do they know they’re cowardly? (Often a character will not think they’ve got the faults others think they have!).

Equally, are they prepared to lie to defend their position? Almost certainly yes to that one, I would have thought. Okay then, if they’re prepared to lie, what else would they do? You can already see how things could escalate (as will the tension in the story which is exactly what you want).

So pick a good place to start and away you go!

Time for some one-liners then.

1. Nobody saw the aliens leave with as many minerals as their spaceships would carry.

2. “I’m an endangered species, I’m allowed”, cried the dragon, after flaming the farmer’s field to get barbecued sheep for a mid-morning snack.

3. When even the rats run away, you know you’ve got problems.

4. I usually have no problems with pest extermination but you humans are beyond a joke.

5. It was funny how the beef always vanished whenever Joey the border collie was in the room.

Hope you enjoy.

Allison Symes – 12th February 2019

Goodreads Author Blog – Picture Books and Other Hooks

I don’t believe in wasting a good title! I used this for my Chandler’s Ford Today post recently when I interviewed a local author and her illustrator about a children’s picture book they had brought out. This in turn made me think about my own reading journey and what a debt we all owe to children’s writers.

Most readers have grown up loving books. Someone encouraged that love of story, bought them books, and in time they had the great joy of buying their own stories. I always remember one of my great wishes was to have a library of my own with books I’d chosen to be on the shelves.

Wish fulfilled there I’m glad to say! I’m also glad that there’s a special space on my shelves for books written by friends of mine. And of course my From Light to Dark and Back Again is on display too!

I was trying to think back to what was the first book I could read all by myself. Got stumped there but the Reader’s Digest Collection of Fairytales is a well read and taped up book (the spine needs support!) that would have been amongst the first of my “proper” reads. Has gorgeous pictures too. Never underestimate the power of good pictures to encourage reading and the development of imagination.

Someone “sees” the story and they “get” it. They can go on at a later date to read stories without pictures but there is still something of that hankering for images for most of us I think. Why else do we really love a great book cover?

And I’ve still got a good spot for books with good maps in them – The Lord of the Rings is superb here.

My favourite reads when growing up was Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Little Women (I always have loved Jo March as a character). I liked Heidi and Black Beauty too. I went on to discover Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, P.G. Wodehouse, and Terry Pratchett. I do believe in a good mix!

So what were your favourite childhood books? What did you “graduate” to?

And let’s hear it for the children’s fiction writers too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s