Progress, Success, and How to Judge Them

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, all images are from Pixabay.

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My CFT post this week (Progress and Success and How to JudgeThem) was inspired by thoughts on what makes a writer successful. Is it having multiple books out? Is it having a movie option on your book (which would rule most of us out!)?

So I thought I’d look at what I think would count as progress and success. The trouble with both of these things is they can be hard to measure. This is where science has the advantage – it is much easier to define progress and success there. Note I say easier. It’s not the same thing as easy though!

I also look at this topic particularly from a writer’s viewpoint and share why I think there can’t be a one size fits all for writers. I also share what I think would be progress and success for humanity. Very much one of those “if only” thoughts…

Captions as ever over on CFT.

 

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Enjoying the latest series of Tom Wrigglesworth’s Hang-ups (Radio 4). Great characterisation and dialogue.

My CFT post this week is about progress and success and how to judge them. Link up tomorrow. I’ll also be on the ACW More Than Writers’ blog tomorrow with a piece about history in stories. (I’m looking at this from a character history viewpoint and working out what you leave out of the actual story). I’ll put the link up for that tomorrow as well.

Happily writing further flash fiction stories. I often write these a batch at a time. I hope to edit my short story for a competition this weekend too. Making good progress on the novel though I know I won’t be submitting it anywhere this side of Christmas. Hope to get it submitted sometime during January though.

Also want to get a few blogs drafted in advance at some point to try and be more “efficient”! Scheduling posts is a great idea and I need to do this more often. No – tonight’s one wasn’t an advance one!

 

A big thanks to all who reacted and/or commented on my lighthearted post about the signs of being a “proper” writer (which I’ll repeat here shortly). I love writing fun posts like that.

Of course the real answer to being a “proper” writer is that if you write regularly, you are a proper writer and that’s it. By regularly, I would define that as being committed to writing no matter what, whether you write for several hours a week or can only manage 15 minutes every other day etc. If you can’t imagine your life without writing in it somewhere, that’s a pretty good sign too!

I’ll be talking about progress and success and how to judge them in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Link up on Friday. I’ll be taking a look at this topic as it applies to writers too.

 

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I think this lighthearted post is worth repeating. Many thanks to all for the reactions and comments to it. Much appreciated.

How do you know if you’re a “proper” writer?

1. You scorn the very idea you have too many notebooks.
2. You develop a thing for collecting nice pens too, some of which you will actually use.
3. You dread power cuts as they always seem to happen in the middle of a writing session.
4. You have the great joy of having a number of books written by friends on your shelves.
5. You are even more thrilled when your works are on the same shelves!
6. You can’t wait to tell everyone your latest publication news.
7. You open the latest copy of Writing Magazine and look for people you know in the letters page and the Subscribers’ sections in particular.
8. You feel a little miffed when you come across an issue when there isn’t someone you know in it. (It’s a kind of something’s not quite right with the world feeling).
9. Launches, especially online ones, are a regular part of your life and you love them all.
10. Your TBR and TBW piles never diminish but that’s the way you like them.
11. There is no such thing as having too many books. What you CAN have is not enough shelving.
12. You just feel SO at home in book shops and libraries.

Okay, guilty as charged on all those. How about you?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Time for a flash story to end the working week with. Hope you enjoy.

The End of the World

He was going to miss the end of the world. He was late. Of all the days this could happen, it had to be this one.

It was all over the media – the world would end at midnight on Wednesday, 3rd June.

It never occurred to him to ask about the oh-so convenient timing and how could anyone be sure of the exact date anyway when, even in the Bible, there were warnings against those predicting such things.

All he knew was he had to get to a good vantage point to witness first hand the last moments of the world.

It was a pity really. On the way to the top of St. Giles’ Hill in Winchester, he was run over by a bus that was also running late.

They put the time of his death as midnight, Wednesday June 3rd.

Ends

Allison Symes – 29th November 2019

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Drafted a couple of flash fiction stories yesterday based on a couple of phrases conjured up thanks to a random phrase generator.

It also occurred to me that a random letter generator could also be useful. You can use an electronic one or pick a letter at random from a Scrabble set. Some thoughts here:-

1. Take one letter and write a story where the opening word of every sentence starts with that letter. For example, M – Mary had no regrets about her life of crime. Misuse of a library book WAS a crime. Mind you, the miserable little wotsit behind the offence wasn’t going to be bothering her and the rest of the library staff for some time. Mary wondered how long it would take for the idiot to get out of the handcuffs and locked room down in the basement.

2. Take one letter and use it for every word in a sentence. For example the letter D – Daft duck drives dumpers daily! (Could have great fun generating some nonsense but this could be a useful way into a writing session or a way from winding down from an intensive time at the old desk).

3. Take one letter and use it for the opening and closing word of a sentence. (Could be a challenge though if you get the Q!). (Example: Queenie happily chomps quiches!).

Have fun!

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Flash fiction is a great vehicle for telling a story from an alternative viewpoint. As you know, I am very fond of fairytales told from said alternative viewpoint, not least because my first story in print, A Helping Hand, was precisely that type of story. (It’s the Cinderella story as seen through the eyes of the younger stepsister and can be found in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology). (Link takes you to my Amazon Author Central page where you can find Alternative Renditions).

I find these stories huge fun to write (and indeed to read) but the sharp focus of flash fiction I think makes them work even better. It forces you to focus on what is really important for that alternative viewpoint to get across.

It’s not enough for say Character C to rant about how Character A got all the breaks. What an alternative viewpoint story should show is why Character C deserved to do as well if not better than Character A. It’s then up to the reader to decide whether the character has a point or not!

Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers – History In Stories

It’s that time again – time for my monthly blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. I look at history in stories from the viewpoint of character histories. What do you need to know about your characters before you write their stories? What do you need to know but don’t need to put in the story itself? Hope you enjoy. Captions over on the More Than Writers blog.

Fairytales With Bite – A to Z of Fairytale “Rules” – Part 2

G = Generosity. You can guarantee those characters who are generous in heart, especially to those less fortunate than themselves, will do well in the fairytale world. Fairy godmothers will be falling over themselves to assist! So be generous!

H = Honesty. What is the point of lying to a magical being? They’re going to know. Honest characters do well. What I loved about Puss in Boots was the master knew full well the cat was far smarter than he was. Good man. Credit where it is due and all that. Again, be honest.

I = Integrity. There is a definite theme developing here and that’s not coincidental. Again, those characters with integrity such as Beauty from Beauty and the Beast prosper. The fairytale world knows what it likes and rightly sticks to those things. So keep hold of your integrity. In the fairytale world at least it makes all the difference. (It ought to here as well but that’s another matter).

J = Judgement. The fairytale world has a strong sense of what’s right and wrong and will ensure justice is done. Beast from Beauty and the Beast was punished for his arrogance and had to learn humility and to win true love before being set free from his curse. Evil does not prevail here (though it doesn’t necessarily mean there are sugar sweet happy endings to every story. Just look at Hans Christen Andersen’s The Little Mermaid). Judgement is always proportional too.

K = Kindness. It pays to be kind to people in the fairytale world. So many of the wizened old people turn out to be wizards or fairy godmothers in disguise! So be kind…

L = Love. As well as the romantic love, the fairytale world celebrates love. Take the story of Hansel and Gretel as one example. I also loved Bella’s love of books in the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. I guess I would! It could be argued that magic and love power the fairytale world.

M = Mayhem. This is common in the fairytales until a magical being comes along to put things right. My favourite example is the mayhem caused in the Emperor’s New Clothes by a child shouting out the truth! (You’ve almost got to admire the rip-off merchants who “stung” the Emperor and made him look like an idiot). Always look for the one causing mayhem in a fairytale. They’re the ones to avoid.

N = Names. Names are important and have meaning, as Rumpelstiltskin would be the first to testify. The important thing for a fairytale character is to keep their good name.

More next time…

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This World and Others – Top to Bottom

When you set out to create your fictional world, what do you focus on? How it is governed (the top) or how the practical stuff is done (the bottom)? Is there a class system? Can characters better themselves or are they expected to stay within their allocated class? Now you can guarantee that just asks for someone to rebel so how do they do so and what do they achieve?

By having a good idea of how your world works, you will write it with a conviction that comes through to a reader so it plans to to deduce what it is you need to know first.

Good luck!

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On Characters and Being a “Proper” Writer

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, all images are from Pixabay.

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What I look for in a great character:-

1. I totally understand why they’re acting the way they are. It doesn’t mean I have to approve though!

2. You can see how they got into the situation they’ve got to overcome and are keen to see if/how they get out of it again. You believe the character has the potential to get out of it and it’s a case of seeing whether you were right about that or not.

3. I love characters who come out with great one-liners but only as long as they arise naturally out of the situation and the character. It must never feel forced.

4. They stay with you in your imagination long after you’ve finished reading the story!

Examples of great characters for me:-

1. Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy

2. Jeeves and Wooster

3. Sam Vimes and Lady Sybil Ramkin – Discworld

4. Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee

5. Aslan – Narnia

6. Ebenezer Scrooge (though I prefer him AFTER the visitations! Am very fond of the Muppet Christmas Carol. Thought that was the best Muppet film too).

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I’m delighted to share Part 3 of Peter Russell’s local history series on The Hutments for Chandler’s Ford Today. If you have any memories to share of a part of the community that has now gone, do comment via the comments box. I know Peter would be pleased to hear from you.

Feature Image - Hook Road Hutments and My Family

It has been a good writing week. There has been plenty of progress on the novel. I’m enjoying it ! (That HAS to be a good sign, right? 😊😉).

Short story and flash fiction submitted. Am fleshing out another standard length short story for a competition and have got another “resting” for me to have a look at again, hopefully later this week.

Almost done on next week’s CFT post too. Continuing to add to my website and working on a non-fiction project.

So, no, I’m never short of things to do but that’s how I like things to be!

I’ll be talking about progress and success and how to judge them in the CFT post for Friday.

Am really looking forward to the Bridge House celebration event. Not far away now. It’s a great chance to catch up with friends and to make new ones!

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Word association can be a great way of triggering words to use in a story. You can play the standard way by setting a word and then finding others to link to it – e.g. play, toys, games etc.

Equally you can play the I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue version where there should be no connection at all to the chosen start word – e.g. play, universe, green.

Whichever version you go for, I suggest setting a limit of how many words you are going to use – I find that helps me focus. But of course you can raise or lower that limit for future stories.

 

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How do you know if you’re a “proper” writer?

1. You scorn the very idea you have too many notebooks.
2. You develop a thing for collecting nice pens too, some of which you will actually use.
3. You dread power cuts as they always seem to happen in the middle of a writing session.
4. You have the great joy of having a number of books written by friends on your shelves.
5. You are even more thrilled when your works are on the same shelves!
6. You can’t wait to tell everyone your latest publication news.
7. You open the latest copy of Writing Magazine and look for people you know in the letters page and the Subscribers’ sections in particular.
8. You feel a little miffed when you come across an issue when there isn’t someone you know in it. (It’s a kind of something’s not quite right with the world feeling).
9. Launches, especially online ones, are a regular part of your life and you love them all.
10. Your TBR and TBW piles never diminish but that’s the way you like them.
11. There is no such thing as having too many books. What you CAN have is not enough shelving.
12. You just feel SO at home in book shops and libraries.

Okay, guilty as charged on all those. How about you?

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I always consider impact to be the most important aspect to my flash fiction writing, but do you go about creating the impact you want to achieve?

Some of it is out of your hands. You may write a funny story but a reader doesn’t find it amusing – this is why humorous writing is so hard to do. It is subjective after all but what can you do to level the playing field a bit?

Having decided what the impact of my story is going to be, I look at what would make ME feel that impact. For example, if the tale is going to be a sad one, what would trigger that feeling of sadness in me?

Then it’s a question of picking the most appropriate trigger for your story. I prefer to go for understated emotional impact too. A story that tips overs into melodrama can put people off. I know it would do so for me. But sadness that is shown through the character without laying it on with a trowel will always make me want to read more if only to find out if the character “overcomes” the sadness or is beginning the process of adapting to the sitution by the end of the story.

For example if your story is about a fairy godmother rapidly approaching retirement and she really doesn’t want to retire, you could take that in a humorous or sad direction. So decide what you want it to be first.

If funny, what would make you laugh? Would setting your character into a ridiculous situation do it or are you better off having a wise cracking character who comes out with tremendous one liners?

Think about what you would like to read here as if the story was being written by someone else. I’ve found this to be really useful and hope you do too.

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Have you tried writing a piece of flash fiction to, say, 25 words, and then separately, writing it out to, say, 250 words?

It’s all perfectly legitimate but there will be different markets and competitions for the two stories.

I sometimes do this as a writing exercise (it’s a good way to get into a session of writing).

Not all stories or characters will be capable of being expanded. If the impact you are seeking to make on a reader is over and done with in 25 words then leave it at that. Never ever pad out a tale.

But if you CAN expand the story because the character is capable of so much more (and that’s the key way to judge whether a story IS capable of being expanded), explore what else you can do with that character and then you can either submit the two stories to two DIFFERENT places or pick the one you like the best and just submit that.

I like my titles to give a flavour of what is to come in the story without giving away too much. I like the title to lead people into wanting to read the rest. Of course, the challenge for me is to make sure I deliver on that promising title!

I occasionally use questions as story titles but prefer the statement, though I try to keep this as open as possible. Most of my titles could be taken in a humorous or serious direction.

I’ve mentioned before I have to have a title to work to as I draft my story but I am more than happy to change it if something better comes along as I am writing. It does sometimes and it is best to go with the flow here. Again, as with the story itself, I am looking for the likely impact of the title on the reader. The stronger impact title always wins.

 

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Do you ever think of music to suit your flash fiction stories?

The main time I have was coming up with ideas for the music for the book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I plumped for Saint-Saens Danse Macabre – quirky music to suit quirky fiction.

One of the things I love about music (and especially classical) is that, like flash fiction, there is something to suit every mood. I’m not going to be at any risk of running out of ideas for suitable musical themes any time soon either!

I’ve not yet used a piece of music to influence a story idea but may well give it a go and see what happens. The potential is there!

Goodreads Author Blog – Juggling the TBR Pile

I must admit I couldn’t physically juggle my TBR pile. There would be an almighty crash and some inventive language on my part, I think, if I tried that.

I love reading a mixture of fiction across many genres, non-fiction, short stories, novels, articles etc. I also like to mix up reading on the Kindle with reading “real” books but I also want to put magazine reading into the overall mixture too.

Over the course of a week, I try to cover most of those bases. I’m currently reading historical fiction, true crime, short stories, flash fiction, and my own novel (on Kindle. I’m reading it as a reader would. It has been illuminating!).

Over the course of a week, I have been thoroughly entertained too!

And yes I have a TBR pile on my Kindle too. One of the reasons I don’t put a Kindle app on my phone is so I don’t have a TBR pile on there as well.

It is true – too many books, too little time!

Still I’ll press on and have a fab time doing so.

Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Love History

Image Credit:  

Unless otherwise stated, images are from the marvellous Pixabay.

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Just sometimes I write a CFT post where I have to stick to a very strict word count limit. I could go on at length about Why I Love History but that is precisely why I shouldn’t!

I’ve forgotten who it was who apologised to a friend for sending a long letter as they hadn’t the time to write a short one, but I know what they mean. (Whoever it was behind this comment would surely have made a great flash fiction writer – or at least had an appreciation for it!).

Captions over on the CFT site.

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This is one of those posts where I HAD to set a strict word count limit. Too easy to go on at length on Why I Love History. I take a look at how history gets everywhere, I discuss the importance of remembering, and how fiction writers use history. (Just to name one example, there will be the histories of our characters that we need to know to be able to write about them, though most of this will not end up in the stories themselves). I also look at the joy of local history. Hope you enjoy.

You found more in this amazing stained glass window the more you looked at it

The more you looked at this amazing stained glass window, the more you saw in it. Image by Allison Symes and taken at Tewkesbury.  History also gives you plenty of places to visit!

Why do you write? I write because I have to and that’s it. I aim to be published as often as possible yet know there will be plenty of rejections to cope with too. The former is a joy when it happens, the latter is a pain, but that is the writing lot, which is fine by me. Ups and downs are part of normal life, so they’re going to happen in the writing life too. It’s working out how you handle them that’s important.

I just cannot imagine (literally!) not writing. It is my way of playing with words. I was (and still am) useless at art but words are my way of being creative. I think everyone has some creative instinct in them somewhere. It’s a question of finding what is right for you.

I love the challenge of creating new posts for Chandler’s Ford Today, short stories, and flash fiction. Particularly for the latter, the challenge is to keep on coming up with interesting characters that will grip a reader (and said characters have got to start by gripping me first!).

Writing is a great way to keep the brain very active!

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Glad to report Nativity is now showing on my Goodreads page. Many thanks to the folks there for sorting that out for me.

I have had the joy of being published in other Cafelit titles though some of those stories made it into From Light to Dark and Back Again and naturally I’m going to focus on publicising that which is why is has a prominent place here!

Glad that I’m finally getting a grip on things like my Goodreads and Amazon pages though. It is easy to overlook things like that. (Also nice to find I’ve now had work in 12 books, including FLTDBA though there is one book missing from my Amazon page. I had a piece in The Shamblelurkers Return, a charity book edited by #MaritMeredith, many moons ago, which does show up on Amazon but is unavailable. It was good fun to take part in though! Many thanks, Marit!).

Nativity by Bridge House Publishing is a great example of several authors working to the same theme but taking many different takes on it. If you needed confirmation all authors have their own unique voice, anthologies like this prove it. I concede though it can take a while to work out what your voice is! I know it took me some time to do so. I think you know you’ve found what your voice is when you write in a certain way and know that IS the way for you to do it. When you can only write the way you do…

That doesn’t let you off the hard graft of editing and polishing your stories and articles to give them the best chance “out there” though. Knowing what your voice is and using it is just the start! But a reader should be able to read several pieces of yours and hear your voice through the way you present your characters etc.

 

 

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t often use adverbs in flash fiction. They don’t give me enough of an impact to justify their inclusion. For example, what makes the most impact out of these two sentences?

1. She ran quickly.

2. She ran as if the hounds of hell were after her.

Sure, the first one is economical in terms of word count but to me it is meaningless. When you run, you usually do it as quickly as you can for a start!

The second one, while longer, is much more promising. It conjures up much stronger images and I would definitely use this one. If I needed to reduce a word count down to say 100 words and this phrase took me over it, I would be looking to make cuts elsewhere in the text OR submit the piece to a competition with a higher word count limit.

Impact on the reader is by far the most important consideration when working out what to leave IN a story.

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Top tips I’ve found useful for writing flash fiction include the following:-

1. Keep the pace taut. (Short sentences and paragraphs work wonders here).

2. Stick to one major character if your flash fiction story is sub-500 words. The idea of flash is to focus and limiting how many characters you have in your story helps enormously with that focus. The character themselves can refer to other characters – I use this technique a lot to show what my lead thinks of the others who are “off stage”. That in turn shows up what this character’s attitude is and as the story goes on, the reader should find out whether the character is justified or not in their stance.

3. Vary how you create your flash stories. I sometimes start with the closing line and work backwards to get to the start. Mixing up your methods here keeps things fresh and interesting for you and I believe some of that filters through to a reader.

Have fun!

 

 

Quick bargain alert: From Light to Dark and Back Again is on offer at Amazon. Paperback and Kindle versions are at the same price. If you know someone who likes quirky fiction… 😊

One of the things I would love to become true, if it isn’t already, is that flash fiction helps reluctant readers overcome that reluctance to read. After all, none of us started off by reading War and Peace, did we? Oh… that was just me not doing so then…😀😉

Children are encouraged to read and with the wonderful world of children’s literature out there, they have such fantastic choices. “Grown ups” (the jury’s out on me!) also have fantastic selections but I’ve heard people say at book fairs etc that they “don’t read”. That strikes me as being incredibly sad. They are missing out on so much.

But what can we as authors do to encourage people NOT to stop reading much later on in life? To see reading as every bit a valid form of entertainment as TV, cinema etc? Thoughts welcome…

FromLightToDark_medium-2

Image from Chapeltown Books

Allison Symes and published works

Image taken by Adrian Symes

SG PART 2 - Warning - poems, blogs, stories, novels, all writing alike benefits from good editing - image via Pixabay

Warning: Writer at Work. Pixabay

Ideas, the spark for writing competitions, image via Pixabay

Read widely to inspire these. Pixabay

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Fairytales with Bite – A to Z of Fairytale “Rules” Part 1

This is what I think fairytale rules might consist of – see what you think.

A = Always Believe. The lead character usually has to!

B = Be Humble.  Characters who are not tend to get their comeuppance.

C = Charity Welcomed. Think of the characters who have been kind to little old men/women who then turn out to be powerful wizard or fairy godmother in disguise.

D = Deserving. Characters who are considered to be deserving of assistance get it – Cinderella is the classic example of this for me.

E = Energy.  The best fairytales are full of energy and zip along. There is not one dull moment, something all writers need to aspire to with their own work.

F = Fairy Godmothers. These turn up when needed. They always turn up to characters who aren’t expecting them. There has to be a rulebook about this somewhere…

More next time…

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This World and Others – Setting Your Sights

When coming up with your characters, how much of the world you’ve put them in are you going to show to your readers? How much do readers need to know? How much do you need to know that never makes it on to the page but which is crucial for you to create your characters and their setting with conviction?

You need to decide whether it is best to set your sights on a tight focus – i.e.  you show your characters living in one specific town, say. Or would your story be better served showing the complete world in which your characters live and the contrasts between areas in that world?

Only you can answer that one but it pays to set your sights as early on as possible and then focus on whichever route you’ve decided to go. If your story world has a major affect on how your characters act and react, then you probably do need to show the reader as much of that as possible so they understand why.

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The Writing Week, History, and Publication News

Image Credit:  As ever,  unless stated, the images are from Pixabay.

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Glad to say Nativity, the new anthology from Bridge House Publishing, is now up on my Amazon Author Central page.  I hope it will be added to my Goodreads page soon too. Am getting better at being organised about this sort of thing.

Have finished the first draft of a standard length short story so will probably look at that again to read it afresh next week. Need to outline another story. Want to submit these two stories at the same time. I like to do them in batches!

Am also drafting a couple of blogs, one of which will be my CFT post next week. Picking topics for CFT can be interesting. Times of year can be useful (I nearly always produce a Christmas limerick or piece of festive flash fiction, for example).

When I’ve got events coming up, such as the Richard Hardie/Antony M Brown talk on Tuesday, that gives me the post for that week. I like to do extended posts every so often and invite guest contributions. I’ve found a three part series works well (beyond that, people tend to switch off). Generally though I go for a “wide” topic (this week’s one will be about history) and then look for either my take on it or link it to something in the news or an event which is going on in my area.

What were your favourite subjects at school?

Mine were English and History. No big surprises there. I loved composition as it was called back in the day and enjoyed inventing stories then.

I also used to like the old SRA cards which were colour coded. The card had a story on it, you had to read it and then answer some questions. You could then progress to the next card and so on. I used these at junior school usually either when a teacher was marking or we had a supply teacher in.

History – well it is a great big story when you think about it. There’s “standard” history – the tales of kings and queens. There’s the history of scientific discovery and invention and so on.

And there’s local history too. CFT has two great series going on at the moment on this. One is The Hutments by Peter Russell which I edited. The other are extracts from the journals of Rick Goater’s grandmother who covers social and natural history in her diaries.

I love history for its glimpses into the past (and it makes me so grateful I live when I do now. I wouldn’t have made it to anywhere near my age had I lived in medieval times. I am assuming here I would have been a peasant!).

English obviously feeds directly into my writing and reading. History influences the topics I come up with. (Oh and the other reason I’m grateful to live when I do, despite all that is currently going on, is that in medieval times, it would have been highly unlikely I could read or write at all. The thought of not being able to do either makes me shudder).

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When do you know a book has really got to you?

1. You can’t wait until you can continue reading it.
2. You fear for the fate of your favourite characters (and usually with good cause).
3. You re-read it often.
4. You worry when you discover there will be a film or TV adaptation. How can it do the book justice?
5. You are overjoyed when the film or TV adaptation IS faithful to the book and brings to your eyes the scenes you’d only seen in your head as you read the book.

For me that’s fulfilled by The Lord of the Rings in particular but I also loved the adaptations of Going Postal, Hogfather, and The Colour of Magic.

For me adaptations only work if it comes across that whoever is behind said adaptation HAS been faithful to the book. There’s no point in going away from the original material.

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Publication News

Pleased to receive my copies of Nativity, this year’s anthology from Bridge House Publishing. My humorous fairytale, What Goes Around, is in there. Love the cover (and honestly I still would even if I wasn’t in it!). The joy of opening a parcel with your books in it never lessens.

I’ll be looking at Why I Love History later this week for Chandler’s Ford Today. History plays a major role for all writers and not just historical fiction authors. More details and the link will be up on Friday.

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Let’s see what I can do with a phrase taken from a random generator as an acrostic flash fiction story.

TALK THE TALK

T = Touche, the witch thought, someone’s trying to frighten me.

A = All the people I’ve cursed in my time and someone’s fighting back; it has to be one of them.

L = Less than five seconds in and my feet have turned into concrete.

K = Keyword here is preparation; someone’s put so much thought into this, so who’s got the skills for that round here?

T = Turns out I’ve a magical rival who’s clearing the opposition, me!

H = Hell, no; they’re not getting away with this.

E = Extending her arm, the witch reached for her wand and cursed the concrete away.

T = Turning to her desk diary, yes every magical being needs one, the witch flipped the pages.

A = Ah, yes, it’ll be her – she’s had her eye on my cottage and the privileges of being head witch here for ages.

L = Likely she’s assumed I’d die – well let’s show her I’m still very much alive and well and bloody annoyed, how dare she try this on me.

K = Kind of got to admire her nerve, the witch thought, as she uttered the spell that would turn her rival’s cottage into millions of splinters, hopefully with said rival still inside it.

Allison Symes – 16th November 2019

Hope you enjoy.

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Many thanks for all who read Talk The Talk, my flash story that I created yesterday, using a random phrase generator to come up with this as a title (and theme. My character really did talk the talk!). I created this live. I only edited a few words where I realised a tweak here or there would improve the impact.

Normally of course I would prepare a story, put it aside for a while and, once happy with it, I would then share it here or submit it somewhere. But I deliberately use the random generators (word, phrase, number) to create a “live” story with only a light editorial touch on it afterwards.

Can stories created this way be improved? Oh yes, almost certainly but I find it fun to create stories this way sometimes. It also keeps me on my toes.

It makes for a really good writing exercise even if you don’t share the results. You can pretend you are and see what you can come up with in a set time limit, say. You then leave the story at that and move on to the next one.

You can come back and “edit properly” later on. But there is a freshness to a newly created story I adore, which is another reason why I like to create stories this way and then leave them be. Often I find when I DO come back to them later, I still sense that raw energy of creating them and it is usually a case of tweaking words to create stronger images and impact. I always think about the impact of the story on the reader. It helps to keep me focused.

Oh and random number generators can be useful. I’ve used the numbers that come up as times to be used in the story, or as a countdown to something happening. The number 13 could in itself be taken as a theme given it has its own phobia – Triskaidekaphobia. (Just don’t try saying that quickly!). How could that manifest itself in a story?

And do have fun with the random generators. They’re excellent triggers for stories.

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Flash fiction is a great vehicle for dropping your characters right in it! They also have to get out of the situation quickly too but it must all be plausible, even if your characters and/or setting are magical. The characters need to be seen to get themselves out of the situation which is why I have to outline before I get the first draft down. It’s also why I sometimes start the story by working out what the ending is and then deducing how the character could have got to that point.

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I tend to “hit the ground running” with my flash fiction stories. I want to get a reader into the story as quickly as possible (and of course out again at the end of the tale). I mix up the way I do this as it keeps things interesting for me (and I hope for readers).

I sometimes take a reader straight into my character’s thoughts. Sometimes I ask a question I hope will provoke curiosity – the must find out the answer type. Sometimes I will start with a character action, again the type that will trigger the where will this go reaction (and there is only ever one answer to that – read on!).

I mix up using the first and third person for my stories (though I love the immediacy the first person gives you). I also mix up my settings. My first love is the humorous fairytale with a sting in the tale but I adore writing crime and historical ones too. That is the thing I love most about flash fiction – its flexibility with setting. It is just the word count I have to watch!

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Dreams

Do you ever dream of your favourite characters (written by you or others)?

I can’t say I do. I’m also relieved about that. I can think of several of my own characters who I don’t want to meet in any kind of alley. I certainly don’t want them haunting me at night either!

Where I DO dream of characters is in hoping they have the impact on a potential reader I set out to achieve. It’s not really for me to say whether that works or not, only the reader can know. All I can do is give it my best shot.

When reading works by other writers, the ones that stay with me the most are the ones where the characters have the most impact. So that inspires me with my own writing. I’m still glad they don’t disturb my sleep pattern though! (I would not be a happy bunny…!).

I do a lot of my reading at bedtime so I did wonder if I would have strange dreams based on whatever it was I was reading. Hasn’t happened at all. Given I read fantasy, crime, historical, and a good range of non-fiction books, it is just as well. I think some very strange images would be conjured up.

 

 

 

 

 

When Authors Talk and Publication News

Image Credits:

The photos of the author event at the Hiltonbury Farmhouse were taken by me, Allison Symes. Many thanks to Antony M Brown (Cold Case Juries series) and Richard Hardie (Temporal Detective Agency) for supplying other photos, especially their book covers. The other images are from those fantastic people at Pixabay.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

This week’s CFT post When Authors Talk is a look back at an author event held by YA author Richard Hardie (Temporal Detective Agency) and Antony Brown (Cold Case Juries series) recently.

Both authors talked about how they got into writing (and in Richard’s case publishing too) and the ups and downs of the writing life.

I also look at the benefits of author events like this from the viewpoint of a reader. Hope you enjoy. (And do support author events!).

The joy of author events, from a writer’s viewpoint, is they give us a chance to engage with readers (actual and potential). From a reader’s viewpoint, you can quiz the author about what inspired them and find out their latest news. So do support author events you know of (the support is always appreciated).

My favourite remains, I think, the signing at my local railway station. It was a great venue, I hope to do it again at some point, and flash fiction is great to demonstrate to curious passengers! It also doesn’t take up too much time (which is one of its selling points to the reluctant reader).

My next event should be the Bridge House celebration event in December, all being well. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with writer friends I don’t see the rest of the year too.

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When you go to author events, what do you like best about them?

For me, it’s always hearing how the writer concerned got the “itch” to write in the first place and how they kept going despite all the rejections etc that happen. I’ll be reporting on the joint author event held by Richard Hardie and Antony Browne tomorrow for Chandler’s Ford Today. I’ll also be looking at what readers can get out of events like this. It is very much a two-way thing.

I loved the old James Garner films Support Your Local Gunfighter and Support Your Local Sheriff. There ought to be something for Support Your Local Writer!😀

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Had a lovely evening at a local author event held by YA writer, Richard Hardie, and Cold Case Jury writer, Antony M Browne at the Hiltonbury Farmhouse yesterday. Write up to follow for CFT later in the week including why author events are important for the READER as well as the writer.

Publication News

It’s a nice feeling to get to Wednesday and to already have had publication news with the “advent” of Nativity by Bridge House Publishing yesterday. I make no apology for the pun. (Am shameless like that but that’s what being a fan of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue can do for you).

Nativity Full

Am catching up with some fantastic reading on my Kindle. Hope to post some reviews soon.

It’s also nice to get to the stage where Writing Magazine hits the doormat and the first thing I check is if there is anyone I know in there! Usually there is…

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Some ways to trigger ideas:-

1. Random generators – I’ve used random word, phrase, and even number ones to trigger ideas. It also pays to mix up the parameters you set for these things too.

2. Play the What If game. Ask that question of potential characters. Think about the setting and play What If on that. Can the setting have an effect on what your character can and cannot do? Are there stories there about how your character overcomes this?

3. Think attitude. What kind of attitude does your lead character have and how does that land them in it? What do they do to overcome the issues that throws up?

4. Is your character a rebel or a conformist? If the former what are they rebelling against? (That can be anything from a corrupt power to expectations they or their famiies have). If a conformist, what has led them to take that view? Is it a case of fear for their own safety to be otherwise? Look at the story behind that fear.

Have fun!

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I received a lovely message from FB that the FLTDBA page is now up to 50 followers. A big thank you to everybody (and to all who follow this blog!). Just for that, I think the appropriate response is a flash fiction story for you! Hope you enjoy.

JUST A MINUTE

The big mistakes don’t take long to make.
Stranbarb chose the wrong shortcut in no time and faced a witch.
Her glower told him his life could be measured in seconds. Her wand was raised and she looked as if she wanted blood. It didn’t matter whose.
‘Dwarf, why are you here?’ She paused. ‘Did you see two children go by?’
‘I got lost. No.’ The dwarf looked at the confectionery cottage behind the witch. Understanding dawned. He’d just stopped her having dinner.
He looked at her again. She was smiling. She’d already selected an alternative main course.

Ends.
Allison Symes – 14th November 2019

SEASONS IN WRITING - But setting your own deadline can be helpful for writing competitions

One thing flash fiction is brilliant for is that it is so easy to demonstrate what it is at signings etc. Nor does it take long! (Mind you, I make a point of sticking to ONLY reading out a couple of my 100 word stories. The longer ones in the flash word count range can be saved for when people read the book!).

I was asked at a local author event I went to yesterday if I used adverbs. Generally I don’t. It’s an easy save on the word count. The exception is if I think the use of an adverb adds something to the characterisation or the plot of the story. That doesn’t happen often.

For example:-

The witch wickedly put the kids in the oven.

You really don’t need the wickedly for that, do you? I think wickedness is definitely implied by the action!

BUT:-

The kids put the witch in the oven forcefully.

It makes more sense to use forcefully here (though I would say forcefully can still be implied. Well, you’re not going to put a witch in an oven gently now, are you?). I would prefer to write a sentence like this as:-

The kids shoved the witch in the oven.

You’ve got all the force you need in the word “shoved” and you save a word on the old word count. Those saved words mount up over the course of a story which in turn can make all the difference to which competitions/markets you can use. (Paragraph Planet, for example, is 75 words INCLUDING title so for something like that you are really looking to pare things back).

Oh and no kids or witches were harmed in the making of this post.😀

 

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Fairytales With Bite – Adverts

Okay so adverts get everywhere so why not in the magical realm? How about some slogans then?

The porridge so good thieving girls will love it – won’t commend itself to the Three Bears but Goldilocks might go for it.

For comfortable shoes, don’t go to the fairy godmother, come to us – Cinderella would concur with this one.

Need a long sleep? Be sure to get a comfortable mattress! – One for Sleeping Beauty. Possibly Snow White too.

Looking for the perfect apple? Don’t go to the old crone, come to us. Definitely one for Snow White.

Worried about your looks? Come to us at Swan Beauty. One for The Ugly Duckling.

Hope you enjoy!

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This World and Others – Working Out Your Characters

I’ve mentioned before that I start by working out what my characters’ major traits are and, from there, what kind of scrapes said traits are likely to get them into! If a character is stubborn, you can have a lot of fun with that. But with most traits there is a flip side to that. Stubborness can also mean grit and determination and courage to keep going when nobody else will. How can you use that aspect in your stories? That’s only naming one trait too.

Another way in to knowing your character(s) is to interview them. Work out what their tastes would be and why.  You can also ask yourself why you want to write about these characters. Why are they special enough to be written up into a story? If they’re not special enough, then why even consider putting them into a tale? The first person that has to be convinced by your characteristion is you!

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The Gift of Reading and Writing

Image Credit: 

As ever, unless otherwise stated, the images are from Pixabay. The stained glass window shot is taken by Allison Symes (at Tewkesbury Abbey).

Facebook – General

Publication News

Am absolutely delighted to announce my short story What Goes Around is now published in Bridge House Publishing’s anthology for 2019 called Nativity.

Many congratulations to all of the other writers who are also included in this eclectic collection. Currently available in Kindle but will also be out in paperback. Naturally I will share those details when available!

(It’s going to be a nice task updating my Goodreads and Amazon Author Central pages again! That’s the kind of task no writer will ever mind!).

 

Nativity Full

Am delighted to share this new three part series by Peter Russell on Chandler’s Ford Today. I acted as editor and it was a pleasure and privilege to do so. The Hutments were a community within a community and are now long gone. For anyone interested in local history, do have a read. Part 2 will go live next Saturday.

Feature Image - Hook Road Hutments and My Family

I cannot tell you how much pleasure writing and reading books has given me over the years. They are gifts that keep on giving.

The more widely you read, in terms of both volume and genre, the more room you give your imagination to fire up. Every writer is inspired, and continues to be inspired, by both what has gone before and what is contemporary and that’s exactly how it should be.

I realised long ago that I will never be in competition with any writer for the simple reason I write in my voice and they write in theirs. What inspires each writer is also unique to that writer.

Sure, there will be themes and books in common BUT there will be differences too. It is what we as individual writers bring to the mix that matters and we will bring something unique because we bring something of ourselves to our stories, consciously or otherwise, and we are all different. None of us brings exactly the same thing as the writer next to us (metaphorically speaking).

What I DO know is I owe a huge debt to my late mum, who I lost four years ago today (9th November 2019) to dementia, who taught me to read before I started school. She got into trouble for that. Apparently, I was taught “the wrong way”. Today, she’d probably be given a medal but things were very different back in the 1970s. Oh they were different! Incidentally, I don’t think I’ve done too badly for having been taught “the wrong way”.

One of my treasured memories is her joy in seeing my first story in print (A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions back in 2009). That memory will always mean so much to me.

Says it all really

I owe a huge debt to my late mother for her encouraging my love of books.  Pixabay image.

 

Thought it was time to update the cover photo (on my Facebook page).  I’m using this image on this website too. As well as being “branding”, it makes it simpler for me to have a common image running through my Facebook page, website etc.

Happily drafting a new story for a competition. Really like the way the character has come to life. That is one of my favourite aspects to creating new stories, regardless of word count. When that character “takes off” for me, they will do for a reader too. It is then a question of finding the right competition or market to reach the kind of reader I think will enjoy the story the most.

Biggest writing issue for me? Finding enough time to do all the things I would like to do, writing wise, but that’s a nice problem to have. What I loathe is having additional time but not knowing what to do with it – what a waste that is! – so I make sure I always have competitions to draft for etc.

Allison Symes and published works

Image taken by Adrian Symes

Great to hear I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue is back on Radio 4. The word play on this is sublime (as it is on Just a Minute too).

Have completed the draft of a short story. Time to rest it for a bit and work on something else. I’ll probably look at the story again in a couple of weeks’ time. It will only be at that point I can re-read the tale and look at it as a reader would.

I also ask myself questions as to what I think a reader would make of the story and why. I also look for anything that might be considered weak from a reader’s viewpoint – and then either eliminate it or strengthen it.

But the crucial thing is having enough time away from the story before I look at it again. You really do have to distance yourself.

Also looking forward to going to YA writer Richard Hardie’s and Cold Case Jury writer, Antony M Brown’s, author talk and signing session at the Hiltonbury Farmhouse tomorrow from 7.30 pm. Should be fun.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Publication News

Many congratulations to all of the writers in Bridge House Publishing’s Nativity anthology. I have a standard length short story in here called What Goes Around.

I often use well known phrases and proverbs as titles for my flash pieces too. They can make a very useful short cut as they spell out the theme too without me having to repeat it! They’re also open to interpretation too. For a story like What Goes Around that could be humorous or serious. I love the flexibility of that.

Looking forward to the Bridge House celebration event in December. It will be the first time I’ve had a story in the BHP anthology AND two in the Cafelit collection for the year, The Best of Cafelit 8 (The Art Critic and Dignity and Injustice).

I just love that the buzz of being published online or in print or both never goes away. And does it encourage me to keep writing? Of course!

 

I’d not heard of flash fiction when I began writing seriously. I was sticking to the standard length short story (which I still love writing) and drafting a novel. It was when Cafelit issued their 100 word challenge, I thought I would try the form and quickly became hooked. So beware of what you get into then!!!

Having said that, I adore flash. Sometimes when writing a longer story (or more accurately what is MEANT to be a longer story), I realise the material is strong enough for something around the 750 word mark but to get it to, say, magazine requirement, I would have to add at least 250 and probably 500 words to it.

If there is one thing I have learned over the years it is NEVER pad a story. It never works. It comes across, I think, that the good ideas were in the first half of the story and the rest was to get it to the required word count length. I know I’ve read stories where I’ve had the impression and I also think you, as the writer, just know this isn’t really working. So stick with a shorter piece you know DOES work and find an alternative home for it instead.

The lovely thing with flash fiction is there is now a very welcome home for those shorter, strong pieces. So win-win then!

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How do I create a new flash fiction story?

It depends! I know, I know – not particularly helpful is it, but it really does depend on:-

1. Am I writing for a competition with a set theme?

Here I need to focus on the kind of character who would suit that theme best. Once I’ve got them pictured and outlined, away I go. You can tell when you’ve got the character right because it can feel as if they are telling you the story!

2. Am I writing for a competition with an open theme?
I start by thinking about what theme I would like to tackle. I like to give myself room for manoeuvre here so I tend to go for a simple but open theme such as love, justice etc. You can do so much with themes like that. I then look at the kind of character who would suit the theme I’ve chosen.

I sometimes deliberately set myself a word count target even if I haven’t got a competition in mind. This is partly to keep me on my toes and also because I know I’ll find a potential market for it later on.

Again, I outline the character I want to write about and then think about what kind of trouble I can stir up for them. That is the fun bit, always! I also look at what it is about my character that will either get them out of that trouble or land themselves further in it.

For a very short flash (under 250 words), I go for one lightning quick problem the character has got to resolve quickly. They really have to get on with it but there has to be strength in that character so I know they are capable of doing it.

 

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When do I know a flash fiction story is complete?

I put the piece aside for a while, re-read it and then work out what impact the story had on me. I’m usually looking for a strong response whether it is to laugh, scream or what have you.

Sometimes I write more thoughtful flash tales and there I’m looking for impact in terms of just how thought provoking was the story? When it is a character study, did the story leave me with insights as to why that character is as how they have been portrayed? Do I get a sense this character is realistic? Am I glad to have spent time in their company?

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Goodreads Author Blog – Living in a Fictional World

I’ve never really wanted to live in a fictional world.

I wouldn’t mind a guided tour of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld (as long as it wasn’t by Rincewind and Twoflower. See The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic for more on why!).

I’d love to visit Middle Earth from Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, though I would give Mordor a miss.

And I never had the slightest inclination to follow Alice down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland, Even as a kid, I thought that was a daft idea, though I loved the story itself.

Incidentally is this just me or was Alice either incredibly gullible or greedy? Whenever she saw signs saying Eat Me or Drink Me, she’d just do so. Never thought to question it and then wondered why she suddenly shot up in height etc. (I refuse to believe saying that is a plot spoiler, not after this length of time). Oh well…

I loved the Famous Five by Enid Blyton so a good nose around Kirrin Island would suit me. (I always thought of Kirrin Island whenever I’ve visited Brownsea Island, just off Poole Harbour. It’s the sort of place the Five would visit).

So if there was a fictional world you would visit, which would it be and why?

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Favourite Adverts

Image Credit:  

Unless otherwise stated, all images are from the magnificent Pixabay.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I look at advertising in this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post. I also look at the topic of writers and advertising. Naturally I get in a little bit for The Best of Cafelit 8! Well, you’ve got to practice what you preach, right?

perf5.500x8.500.indd

And some more advertising right here! Many thanks to Gill James for the cover image.

Also, if you remember the 1970s and 80s well, there’s a quiz here which may well suit you! Have fun. (I’ll be putting the answers up to said quiz in the comments box early next week to give people a chance over the weekend to see how many they can remember).

I also discuss how advertising has benefited me – yes, really!

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I’ve got some slogans and products for you to identify as my quiz within my CFT post on Favourite Adverts this week. I look at how adverts have benefited me too (they were my way into classical music for one thing).

Branding etc is a topic very much on my mind as I continue to revamp my website so I thought I’d write about a closely related topic!

I’ve found the postcards of my book cover (From Light to Dark and Back Again) have proved effective, as have the pens. I guess you can always use a postcard and a pen when all is said and done! (The postcard can double up as a bookmark too).

I’m generally not impressed by “flamboyant” advertising. For me the ones that work best are simple, often humorous, and to the point.

The lesson about not going on for too long and refusing to over-complicate things is a good one for writers too.

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My CFT post this week is called Favourite Adverts. I share some of mine and also look at advertising for writers. I will be sharing some thoughts on what can work for writers and how important it is not come across as too pushy. It puts people off! There will also be a kudos only quiz! Link up on Friday.

Talking of advertising for writers, there will another CFT post prepared by me which will go up tomorrow advertising a joint local author talk.

#RichardHardie YA author of Temporal Detective Agency fame and Antony M Brown of Cold Case Jury fame will be in the Hiltonbury Farmhouse next Tuesday from 7.30 pm. They’ll discuss how they became authors and hold signing sessions. Do get along if you can.

I don’t need an excuse to visit a pub but finally I seem to have one! Thanks, guys.

Author signing and talk at Hiltonbury Farmhouse

Poster kindly supplied by Richard Hardie

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My CFT post on Favourite Adverts this week of course made me think about advertising for writers.

Good copywriting makes flash fiction look “wordy” given the best adverts keep their slogans simple and to the point. The trick for writers is to do exactly that for our one line pitches/tag lines. The old question of can you sum up your story/book in one line is a good one.

Thought for My Day

Write some one liners down that sum up a story or book you love which is written by another author.

Then do this for your own work.

Then simplify!

(Never go with the first efforts here. You will know when you’ve got your one liner right – it will be when you really cannot change anything and it flows and it sounds so good to YOU that you’d read the work if someone else had written it. That’s a good test by the way – ask yourself, would you?).

I was pleased to find the picture from Pixabay that I’ve used for this week’s Feature Image. It kind of says it all for writers. What is our brand? How do we come across when engaging with readers, potential or actual? All of that should feed into the brand we present to the public. But it should be genuine (people spot fakes) and it should be fun for YOU. You’re the one living with this after all! You’re the one who needs to keep it going for future books and stories.

Writers need to think about their brand too

Well, what is your brand? Pixabay

Always glad to advertise these people

Always pleased to advertise Pixabay!

What are the things you most like about your characters?

What are the things you most dislike about your characters?

Even in flash fiction, I have a rough idea of the answers to these for my lead “actor”. I find I have to have something to like AND dislike about them. It reassures me that this character is “real” enough to be liked and disliked. Well they’re real enough to me anyway. The first reader you have to convince IS you!

Besides nobody’s perfect. Our characters shouldn’t be either. Nobody wants to read about perfect characters even if somehow they did exist. It’s how flawed creations overcome their difficulties (or not) that fascinates readers. I can’t see that changing at any time soon!

Flash fiction, like any good story, needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. The only difference is those three key ingredients are so much closer together! I often find with my very short stories (sub 100 words) that one line is the middle and acts as the pivot point of the whole tale.

I occasionally start with the pivot point and then work out how my character got to it. I then work out in which directions the pivot point could take them and go with the one I like best. But I do find it hard to start with a middle point. (There are competitions which give you a middle line you have to incorporate into the story).

My preferred way of starting a story is with a strong character whom I’ve just dumped right in it, (I’m a sweetie, really, just not to my characters!), and then go from there. It’s a really fun way to start! But however you start a story, it helps a lot if you know where you want your character to be at the end of it. It helps keep you on track.

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Fairytales With Bite – Fairytale Advertising

Linking in with my theme for tonight, what would or should be the advertising slogans for some of our favourite fairytale characters?  Hmm…

Cinderella – Comfortable Classic Shoes Always or

Cinderella – Troubled by rats? Worry no more!

Sleeping Beauty – You can’t beat a good cocoa to send you to the Land of Nod or

Sleeping Beauty – Needles giving you the needle? Worry no more!

Rapunzel – Never let your hair get too long or

Rapunzel – Life too short for washing your hair? Worry no more!

Snow White – Additives in my Apples? Never!

Thumberlina – See what the high-heeled look has done for me.

Tom Thumb – If I can get a suit to fit, so can anyone.

The Ugly Duckling – Feel good about yourself, look good!

I love inventing this kind of thing, as you can probably tell. Hope you enjoy. Several of my stories in From Light to Dark and Back Again play on nursery rhyme/fairytale themes and characters though the example given in the trailer below is my nod to Frankenstein.

This World and Others – Likes and Dislikes

As well as working out what your characters like and dislike (so you get to know them ahead of writing the story), what is it about the world you’ve set them in that you like and dislike? No world is perfect. What are the flaws of your creation? How do your characters cope with or overcome those flaws?

Why have you put those flaws in? If a character has to go on a quest and hates water, having your world mainly as a seafaring one, with all that implies, gives said character a lot to overcome before they even start on their quest. They will know that they’ve got to go by boat at some point so how do they prepare for that? What makes them do it when the more sensible thing would be to stay at home? (I know, I know, no story then but your character does have to be driven enough to overcome their fears. And having to face fears as well as carry out the quest makes for a very powerful story when well done).

 

 

 

 

Getting Started and Genre Fiction

Image Credit

Unless otherwise stated all images are from the brilliant Pixabay.

Facebook – General

Regardless of what I write where, the hard part is getting started. Once I’m away, I’m away. But I have learned over time to trust the instinct that something will come which I can work up into a story or a blog post. The great thing is it’s going to be a first draft and the only person seeing that is me.

I never worry about getting the writing right first go. I know I won’t. What matters is getting started and putting something down on paper or on screen. You can only work with what you’ve put down to work with after all!

So ways to get started on a piece of writing then?

1. Look through any brainstorming notes and see if ideas jotted down there take your fancy now. If so, away you go.

2. Have another brainstorming session and write anything down that occurs to you. I’d do this for about five minutes. Then look through the ideas. Did one in particular stand out? If so, great, off you go. If not, what was the idea you like the best and why do you think that is? Then still write it up. There will be a reason why you like this particular idea so go with it.

I’ve found that once you start writing, the ideas continue to flow. It is a bit like turning on a creative tap. Stronger and better ideas come as you write too. Jot them down. Come back to them. But just get writing and have fun. Nobody has to see this work but you.

Out of what you jot down, there may come ideas to write up fully. Even if you seem to draw a blank, you are clearing away some creative clutter from your brain in getting these ideas down and out of your system. Just put them away for a bit. Come back to them later. You might see potential in them THEN.

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Am forging away with my CFT post for this coming Friday – and it will include a quiz too. No prizes – just bask in the glow of getting the questions right! More details later in the week.

Revamping a website always takes longer than you think. I’m adding pages to my work on Cafelit and Bridge House Publishing/Chapeltown Books. I also hope to have a page on writing tips etc. Looking forward to sharing more details when all done. Do explore the rest of the site. There will be more goodies to come in due course. The site is now known as allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Next big event for me will probably be the Bridge House celebration event in December. Looking forward to that a lot. So good to meet up with fellow writers that, for the rest of the year, I meet courtesy of Facebook! Incidentally, I do think that is one of the nicest aspects of social media – writers being able to encourage one another even if they can’t meet in person.

More immediately, I’ve got short stories to draft and non-fiction ideas to work on too. Why is it that it can take ages to get started on a piece of work, you get into your stride with it and THEN the time whizzes by and you have to stop? Oh well. The one comfort there is I know I’m not alone on that one!

Allison Symes and published works

Facebook – General – and Publication News

Glad to say Staying In is my latest story on Cafelit. It ties in with my last story, Humourless. I’ve been working on some linked flash fiction this year and hope to write more of these.

Definitely on the darker side of my particular writing scale but I hope you enjoy them both.

 

Catching up with reading on the Kindle at the moment. I’m also re-reading my novel on there too (I do love the Send to Kindle function!) and am trying to read it as a reader would.

I tend to save using the Save to Kindle function for my big projects. I think I might try batching my short stories and flash fiction in one document so I can review them like this too.

When I put the Kindle on, I am straight into reader mode which is precisely what I want to achieve here. The inner editor has been told to go away somewhat forcefully and I can relax and read.

Ironically, I’ve found on the novel it has made me spot things I can improve but that is because I’m reading it in a relaxed way. I’m not at this stage trying specifically to do anything to it. I think state of mind as you read is key here.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I like to write flash fiction in a variety of moods. My absolute favourite are the humorous kind but that’s because I’ve always had a very soft spot for funny writing. I also think it’s under-estimated. (Anything that looks easy to write, you can bet the writer has worked very hard for years to get to that point).

Humour, I think, is the most difficult to get right in any form because it is so subjective. You have to accept not everyone might “get” your sense of irony.

My dear late mum loved a wide range of books but just didn’t “get” funny writing at all. I suspect that’s one reason I DO love it. Well, I guess it is one way of rebelling… albeit very tamely. (She would have been delighted though about From Light to Dark and Back Again and my other published stories).

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I’ve mentioned using random word and phrase generators before as good triggers for story ideas. I thought I’d take a look at the random phrase generator and again and came up with:-

Two Down, One To Go
Down for the Count
On the Ropes

All of those would make great titles and/or themes for stories. May well have a crack at some of these myself. The nice thing is you can keep clicking until you come to a phrase you like the sound of and, also, how about combining phrases?

Two Down, One to Go could make a great title while On the Ropes could be the theme of that same story.

Happy writing!

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Are there themes that really resonate with you whether you’re writing the stories, reading them, or both? I think I’d list mine as:-

1. Seeing the tables turned on superiors by a character who has been underrated or rejected.

2. Injustice put right, especially if someone has been falsely accused. (This is why Azkaban remains my favourite Harry Potter story).

3. A quest carried out by someone who is assumed will never fulfil it but they do. Take a bow, Frodo Baggins!

4. Where someone technically inferior is clearly far superior to their boss (but their boss knows it and acknowledges it) – Jeeves and Wooster are the top men here.

For flash fiction, of course, you would need to show a “brief taste” of these themes but there is nothing to stop you fleshing our a short piece into something much longer if you wanted to do so later.

That is one aspect of flash fiction I love – you CAN have a second bite of the cherry here. It’s just that the second bite is going to go much deeper (and go on for longer) than the first one!

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Am having great fun revamping my website at the moment. Am planning to put on an All About Flash Fiction page with hints and tips. Will share once it’s ready. Plan is to update it regularly. I’ll also use it to compile some of the advice I’ve shared here and I hope to share thoughts on writing exercises too.

I love flash fiction for the way it shines a sharp light on one moment in a character’s life. There is something about the intensity of flash that really appeals to me. And I love getting to create so many different characters too.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Genre Fiction

I’ve never understood snobbery around genre fiction. Genre fiction encourages people to read according to their tastes and isn’t the idea to get people into books in the first place?

My favourite genres include:-

1. Fantasy
2. Crime
3. Historical

(And yes you can combine those. Terry Pratchett’s Sam Vimes novels in his Discworld series combines 1 and 2 and I’m sure you can think of others that blend genres).

I suppose the only “properly literary” fiction I’ve read is Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which I adored, but my go-to-for-a-good-read first is always something which is genre based.

Yes, I know what to expect from, say, a crime novel, but what is fascinating is seeing how different crime writers handle their material. (As a writer, I can pick up tips there myself so win-win!).

I’m always fascinated as well by character creation and different writers take varying approaches to this. So reading widely across genres opens my eyes to different ways that this can be done.

So reading books then is a good idea then? Well of course it is!

Now to decide which genre I’m going to go for next…

Happy reading!

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Competitions and Revamped Website

Image Credits:

1.  A huge thank you to Stuart Wineberg and The Chameleon Theatre Group for kind permission to use their photos for my CFT post. As ever, captions for the photos appear on the CFT post.

2.  Unless stated otherwise, the rest of the images come from the marvellous Pixabay as usual.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is a review of the latest Chameleon Theatre Company – Chandlers Ford production My Husband’s Nuts.

I discuss farce (well, with a title like that, this wasn’t going to be a serious documentary now, was it?!) and what it is meant to do.

I also research the background of plays etc that I review. Putting this title into a search engine produced some interesting results, including a link with candied almonds! See the post for more.

Also a big thanks to the Chameleons who seem to like the review!

Fantastic review of ‘My Husband’s Nuts’ by Allison Symes on Chandler’s Ford Today. Thank you, Allison! :

 

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Am revamping my Word Press website (this very one!). Enjoying doing so and looking forward to sharing the results once I’m done. (Mind you, I bet there’ll be something I’ll have forgotten to add and then remember later but hey, that is the way of things!).

My CFT post this week is a review of the latest play put on by the wonderful Chameleon Theatre Group – My Husband’s Nuts. I’ll refrain from further comment other than to say the link will go up on Friday. Fans of serious documentaries may wish to skip this one… titles DO give clues!

Many thanks to all who’ve given great feedback on my latest Cafelit story, Humourless. I will have more work up in November and look forward to sharing that. It’s hard to believe it WILL be November on Friday! I get a sense of how fast the year is going by every time I schedule a CFT post as I have to know the dates!

I do wonder what that blue tit is telling the other one in the first picture below (from Pixabay as ever). Any chance is it’s nagging the other one to get up earlier to give it the best chance of getting the worms, do you think?

Image may contain: bird

I hope it’s a good story the blue tit is relating here! Pixabay

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Reviewing is not the easiest thing to get right. You want to give a flavour of whatever it is you’re reviewing without giving away all of the “best bits”. It was good fun going to see The Chameleons’ My Husband’s Nuts and reviewing it this week for Chandler’s Ford Today though.

This play’s title confirms the importance of getting your title right to reflect the mood of your play, story, book etc! You just know this play isn’t going to be a serious documentary.

So how do you decide which title is right for your latest flash fiction story, say? The methods I use include:-

1. I use my titles to reflect the mood of the story.

2. I use my titles to reflect something of the main character.

3. I often keep my titles open so they can be taken in a humorous or other mood (e.g. Time Waits For No Man can be a funny story, could be a very sad one but the title flags up to the reader that the mood of the tale could go either way so that’s fine).

4. I sometimes use a pun as a title.

5. I’ll often use proverbs of famous sayings as titles, again because they can be open to interpretation. What I hope to do here is hook the reader’s curiosity so they want to find out which way the story goes.

If a better idea for a title occurs to me as I’m writing or editing the story, then I switch to that. You do get gut instincts that a title would be better if you went from Title A to Title B and I’ve learned to trust my gut instinct here. It’s rarely wrong.

 

 

Aside from writing flash, I, of course, read it, but I also like turning to longer works of fiction and non-fiction as something completely different.

It pays to mix up what you read to keep your reading life interesting AND ideas spark from all over the place so reading widely helps widen the areas where those sparks can originate from! And of course it is so much fun…

(One of my great joys is having books on my shelves at home written by friends. Always lovely to add to my collection there).

What do I look for when reading flash fiction by other authors?

1. I want to be hooked by the character(s).

2. I want to be surprised by the ending. (This does not mean it has to be a twist in the tale funnily enough, though I love those. I want to be able to foresee a good ending for the story and then discover the writer has come up with something better!).

3. I want to half wish I’d writen the story!

Why only half wish? Because I learned a long time ago I’m not in competition with other writers nor are they with me. Why? Because I write in my voice and they write in theirs. They are not the same.

You can take a dozen authors, give them the same word count and title and there will be a dozen different takes and styles.

The Waterloo Art Festival’s ebooks (produced by Bridge House Publishing) have proved that. My entries in To Be…To Become and, for this year, Transforming Being, are very different in style to the other tales. And that’s how it should be. Makes for a wonderful eclectic mix too.