P’s and Q’s = Publication News and Questions

Image Credit:  As ever, all images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General

What have I learned from books I couldn’t finish?

Thankfully these are few but even these can help a writer. How? What I’ve learned from these includes:-

1. What doesn’t appeal in a character (to me at least). From that I can work out how to avoid this in the characters I create.

2. What kind of dialogue switches me off. This is almost always dialogue that goes on for too long and/or doesn’t tell me or show me anything useful.

3. What kind of description switches me off. Again, it is almost always description that goes on for too long. I want to get to the core of what is happening and long descriptive passages slow the pace down. Not only that, if they go for too long, they irritate! What I am after is the telling detail I really do need to know.

On a more positive note:-

What have I learned from books I’ve loved?

1. What DOES appeal in a character.

2. What kind of dialogue makes me glad to be “eavesdropping” on the conversation between characters.

3. What kind of description helps me to visualise something beautifully and the turn of phrase that takes my breath away in a good way.

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Publication News

A big thanks to fellow Swanwicker #PatriciaMOsborne for hosting me on her blog again today. I have been on before with her sub-100 words story challenge and am on there again today with my tale, Danger of Not Listening. I suspect this may resonate with many of you!

Please see link below.

The story was great fun to write and I hope you enjoy reading it. A big thanks to Patricia for having the flash fiction challenge. It’s good fun to take part in and to read the stories coming in!

 

classic close up draw expensive

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Have picked another competition to have a go at for a short story. Also drafted more flash fiction over the weekend. Homes to be found in due course!

Favourite part of writing though remains that moment when I’ve got that first draft down and have something to work with. Even after all these years of writing, I still feel a sense of relief to have got to that point!

I like editing. I see it as giving my story or blog posts that “oomph” factor as well as taking out errors, repetitions etc.

When I started out writing, my goal was to prove to myself I could write stories. After that I aimed to be published. Then I aimed to keep on being published. Now my goal is to keep that going but to stretch myself with my writing (especially on the flash fiction), try competitions new to me, and explore my non-fiction side more.

The writing journey should be a fun one after all! It has its frustrations of course but generally you should be enjoying what you write. That enjoyment can make all the difference as to whether you keep going or not.

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I’ll have another story up on Cafelit next week and look forward to sharing the link. It’s definitely what I call fairytale with bite!

My CFT post this week will be Part 3 in the mini-series where our local amateur theatre company, The Chameleon Theatre Group, share insights into life behind the stage. This week they’ll be looking at some of their favourite performances and sharing the reasons why they’ve picked these. Link up on Friday.

Have started fleshing out ideas for another competition. I like this stage of working out possibilities. The nice thing with this is the ones I discard I may return to at a later date. It is a case of the best fit for the competition. The other ideas may well prove to be useful for other markets/competitions later on.

I find the Scrivener templates very useful for outlining. I start with my lead character and as their major traits and what they want come to me, so often so does the story. Or at least an idea of what the story is likely to be.

But you can set up your own template. My top tip always would be to focus on getting the character(s) right. Work out what it is about them that intrigues you (as it will intrigue a reader too).

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Finally got my story submitted today. Found one tiny error on my final read through, sorted it, checked it again, all okay, and send! I always do edit my stories on paper.

When editing on screen I think your brain fills in the gaps. It doesn’t seem to do it on paper. I’m sure there is some clever reason why that happens. All I know is it does and I’d never be without a paper edit and the old red pen!

Now to find another competition to have a go at …. and have got one! Not flash this time, a standard length short story, but I do like to keep my hand in there too!

Am continuing to draft flash from the Prompts book and hope to get those out to different places throughout the year.

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It was great fun to be part of #PatriciaMOsborne‘s sub-100 words challenge again today. Link below.

I do have a very soft spot indeed for the drabble (100-words story). It forces you to focus on what matters in your tale but there is room for that lovely telling detail on which many a wonderful twist depends.

I would also recommend having a go at writing 100-words tales as a form of writing exercise. It is a good way to warm up your “writing muscles” and the great thing is there is now a big market for flash fiction, both in publications and competitions. So those writing exercises, once honed and polished, can find a home somewhere and add to your writing CV if they get published.

What’s NOT to like about that?

 

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I’ve been known to interview my characters from time to time. For flash fiction, where I generally only have one to two characters, this can still be done but I do this in abbreviated form (appropriately enough).

Whatever I write fiction wise, I need to know the character’s major trait and what it is they want. Answering those two things alone will give you a lot of the drive for you to write your story.

If you know your character’s major trait is a desire for peace and quiet and they want to get rid of their very noisy neighbour… well all sorts of things can come from that.

I would see those two questions as the foundations of a character outline. Then think of what else YOU need to know about your character so you can visualise them, hear them, know how they would act and react. Yes, they can surprise you but the surprise should arise naturally out of your outline.

In the example above, the character would do all the legal things to try to get the noisy neighbour to stop being so loud but what if that all failed? Could the character become angry enough to commit murder?

Or do they believe revenge is a dish best served cold and find another way to get their own back on the neighbour? I would then need to know why that character longs for peace and quiet so much. (Noisy childhood? Prone to migraines? Desperate to have their own little haven? Having worked so hard for it, they’re not going to see this snatched away from them etc). But once I knew what was behind their major trait, I could then work out what they were capable of. There is always a reason! And the storyline comes together nicely having thought this all through.

 

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As well as interviewing your characters prior to writing their story, a writer can always ask questions of their “stars” as they get the first draft down. It’s useful to check every so often that your characters are “up to the job” of being in your story.

Putting your characters through the emotional wringer is a lot of fun (for the writer naturally) but it is a good way of finding out what it is your people are capable of and whether they can surprise you.

If you envisaged Character A as being timid, quiet, unassuming etc., what would a dramatic event do to them? Would it change their personality for good and if so, how? Would having to say, come to the rescue of someone else, bring them out of their shell?

All worth thinking about. The point of change is not just about the dramatic events in the story. It is about the point of change in the characters too.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books for Difficult Times

Have your reading choices changed during this difficult period?

I must admit I’m not really in the mood for any kind of dystopian story when we seem to be living right in one!

For me, I’m reading short story collections, non-fiction on writing, and lighter works. I don’t need the “heavy” books in terms of mood right now.

One of the roles of a book, for me, is to provide entertainment, escapism, and uplift. So especially in difficult times, I don’t want difficult books to stretch me. I need to be in the right frame of mind for that.

I have found I’ve not had any problems writing stories during the lockdown. I have struggled to read. I can only assume my subconscious is fine with one creative activity but not more than that!

This is a pain but I know it will pass. If I become particularly tired, I find the same happens. When I am more rested, I’m away with reading again.

Have you found the desire to read increases or decreases with your mood? What do you do to overcome that?

For comfort reading, and there is a good role for that at the moment, I have to turn to cosy crime, short stories by Wodehouse, and usually favourite books I’ve read many times. I want the comfort of familiar material. Once I’m feeling better, then that is the time to try something new.

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Fun With Words

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I share another lighthearted post on CFT this week called Fun With Words. Here are some fun word games to have a go at, all involving book titles (but you could easily adapt these games to film and song titles etc).

The games are very inspired by I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and other radio shows but I do sometimes use things like this to wind down with if a writing session has been particularly intense.

Have fun! Have a laugh! Sometimes it is just great to be silly for a bit…!

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Very much a lighthearted day for me today which has been lovely. As well as my CFT post on word games, which was huge fun to write, I’ve just completed my movie education by finally getting around to watching The Blues Brothers in full. Loved it. (Had always seen snippets before and yes I know. I should have done this years ago but better late than never!).

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Well done, everybody, in my neck of the woods for the great support shown at 8 tonight (Thursday, 23rd April) for key workers. Lady came out with us tonight but was bemused by it all. 😊

I’m looking forward to sharing my CFT post tomorrow. I share some wonderfully silly word games based on books and give some examples. Hopefully they’ll raise a smile and the games can be adapted for use with song titles, film titles etc. The sillier the answers the better!

I sometimes use word games like this to help me wind down a bit if the old writing session has been intense, as it can be at times. Having a laugh with the language is good fun to do! It also makes a useful reminder that writing should be fun, it doesn’t always have to be deadly serious. The moment the joy goes out of writing for me will be the time for me to hang up my pen but I can’t see that happening. The world of stories is just a fabulous place to be, reading them, writing them or ideally doing both but it is important to have fun with it too.

There are some things which really are better now. Cut and pasting work is so much easier. When I was a mere lass, cut and pasting involved a pair of scissors and a Pritt stick.

For my secretarial career, I used everything from a manual typewriter to a 486 PC. (My mobile phone has almost certainly got more go in it now than that old 486). That was in the space of about 10 years too.

Neither do I miss carbon paper or having to change typewriter ribbons. I know there has been a resurgence of affection for the typewriter. I understand that. I loved my old Olympia. (You just didn’t want to drop it on your foot, else broken foot!). The typewriter was never the problem, it was all the stuff that came with it.

The past really is a different country. Best visit only I think. As for being able to submit work by email now… woo hoo! I used to spend ages in Post Office queues getting stories sent out. Much as I love the Post Office, I’ll save queuing there for when I need to send parcels out.

So why the nostalgia fest tonight? Partly because this period of reflection is making us reflect more and this has come out of that. Partly because I really am glad to see the back of the typewriter ribbon and the Pritt stick (especially with the amount of chopping and changing I do to my stories at times).

Oh on a lighter note. My CFT post this week will share some thoughts on word games for you to try. All very silly and good fun. Link up on Friday.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My theme for tonight has been fun with words but playing around with the language is useful for all writers. Not only does it stretch your vocabulary (and knowledge of meanings), I think it strengthens your ability to write precisely. It really is a case of the mot juste!

For flash fiction writers, especially when we use humorous endings to a story, then knowledge of how puns work is crucial. And good fun to find out too so win-win!

 

I don’t often get story ideas when I’m out walking the dog. What I do get are interesting snippets that might become part of a flash tale later. These can vary from seeing a wonderful shade of red on a plant that might become the colour of my villain’s coat to hearing a noise I can’t quite place. I then work out what it could be and perhaps twist it to give it an other worldly feel for a story.

Sometimes I see a house I like the look of and wonder what kind of fictional characters could live there. What are they up to? What if they loathe the house and why would they do so?

Triggers for story ideas can come from all sorts of things. Over time I’ve learned to recognise these for what they are and then it’s a case of filtering so I use the strongest ideas only. Often it can be a case of combining two or three trigger thoughts and that’s when I’ll start getting ideas for a character. That’s when the story process really takes off for me.

But being observant and taking in little details to store away for future use is a good idea. You can have fun with it too.

I have a lovely book of inspirational quotes for writers on my desk, all of which are short pithy paragraphs. It was a freebie from Writing Magazine a while ago and every so often I dip into it.

I usually find something to remind me of what I am supposed to be doing (!) and some form of encouragement that generally I AM doing the right thing. It’s also a great source of comfort that whatever writing problem you’re facing right now, others have faced it before you and overcame it.

How do I know? Well one lovely quote describes the bowel clenching terror of a novelist writing their first draft… You can apply that equally to any writer getting their first draft of anything down. I know I always feel better once I’ve got something down that I can then knock into shape. I love editing and see it as THE key to good story writing. Nobody gets it right on the first go, ever.

One usual reminder that is handy for all flash fiction writers is to remember NOT to overwrite and to be economical with your descriptions. This is where the restricted word count of flash is a blessing as it kind of forces you into doing this.

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Fairytales with Bite – Fairytales and Animals

It is a peculiarly appropriate link with Fairytales with Bite tonight given animals have some kind of bite! But animals often play more than a walk-on part in fairytales.

I’ve always had a soft spot for talking animals in fiction and, naturally, fairytales play an important part in this. The animals are often wiser than the humans around them. (I’ve always liked the Puss In Boots character and even more so as he is portrayed in Shrek!).

I’ve written stories where the Three Bears are easily far nicer than Goldilocks (well, she is a vandal and porridge thief when all is said and done).

Animals can be used to represent character types too. In The Three Little Pigs, you find one sensible pig and two foolish ones. The latter should have listened to the former. How often have we wished we’d listened to good advice given by family and friends? It is a strong lesson put across in a simple story but even as a kid I remember thinking I would definitely go and live with the pig that made his house out of brick!

I would like to know what happened to the rats when the spell wore off in Cinderella. Did they remember any of their unusual experience? Or did they just know if any woman came near them waving a stick with a star on it, the best thing to do would be to run for the hills?!

The other reason I like talking animals is they can be used to show intelligence, wisdom etc are not just qualities reserved for humans. We don’t know it all. The animal kingdom would have good cause to rise up and moan at us all, would they not?

In fairytales, they can at least put their side of the story and show their best qualities. It makes a refreshing change for humans/humanoids not to be the the heroes or villains of the story. Finest achievement here is probably George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Animals in that book definitely do get a powerful message across!

This World and Others – World Differences

What are the main differences between your fictional world and what we know here? Why have you gone for these? If, for you, the most important thing about your fictional world is there is no violence on it whatsoever, then your characters are going to have to find other, far more imaginative and interesting ways to resolve disputes. And there will be disputes. There is no story without conflict after all.

Also think in times of physical geography. What does your created world have that we don’t? What ideas from Earth have you put into your fiction? Water will have to come into it somewhere, given life is not possible without it, so how is that controlled? Does your world have enough water or is its chief problem is that it has too much of it?

When it comes to focusing on a particular place in your world, work out what it is about this place that makes it worth being singled out to write about! The Lord of the Rings brings The Shire into it because we need to know where the hobbits come from. We also need to know about Mordor and all that it signifies. So what does a reader need to know about the setting you’re putting before us?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lists and Zooming Around

Image Credit:  As ever, all images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General

Am finding my social life has perked up no end – thanks to Zoom. Hmm… Lady has got used to “disembodied” voices coming out of my computer! She still doesn’t like it (who can blame her?) but she goes and curls up somewhere instead of barking at the screen. Progress takes many forms, folks.😊

Mind you, some things don’t change. When I was a kid, I used to have to stand on a box so I could be seen over a pulpit when I read a Bible lesson. For Zoom, I have to sit on a cushion so I show up clearly enough for people to be able to lip read me if they need to/want do. Some things don’t change much! 😕

In other news, I’m finding having a session once or twice a week where I just draft blog posts is proving useful. It is proving handy having a batch of posts good to go when I’m pressed for time.

Generally I prepare these Facebook posts “live” and I am doing so now. There are times I come to this not knowing at all what my topic is going to be but I like that. It forces me to think and be more creative and then that flows well into the rest of the writing I’ll do afterwards. Also it means I can respond to news, writing news etc as it comes up during the day.

But the crucial thing is whatever you write, whether it is for publication or not, is to enjoy what you do. I can’t imagine a life without writing in it somewhere and that is how it should be.

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Zoom church was lovely this morning – and that was a combination of words I never expected to write!

I continue to make progress on my various projects though I always feel I should be achieving more. I cheer myself up with the thought most writers think that though!

I find I can’t work on one thing at a time before moving on. I have to have at least two to three different things on the go, partly because while I know when my writing slot is going to be each day, there can be some variation in time allocated to each one. I can adjust what work I do according to the time available so this is why having a couple of things on the go at any one time works well for me.

Also it means usually I’ve got something out there for consideration, something I’ve written but which needs some “resting time” so I can edit it properly, and something else I’m drafting. I find that useful.

Hope to have another lighthearted CFT post up later this week. Details to follow.

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What aspect of writing do you find the most challenging?

For me, it’s not letting my characters talk too much! I love writing dialogue. Failing that, writing their thoughts is also good fun. And, yes, I could go on at length which is why the flash fiction format works so well for me. It forces me to face up to the fact I can’t do that and I DO have to stick to what is relevant! There is a point to a strict word count!

What aspect of writing do you find the most fun to do?

For me, it’s finding that word or two which I know will either add depth to my characters or describe something well but economically. If I were to say, for example, Madame X had a velvet chaise longue (as I’m sure she would!), it is the word velvet that makes the difference for me. It helps me to visualise better. (I can also hazard a guess at what the rest of Madame X’s furniture will be like too!).

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What do books do for you? For me they:-

1. Entertain.
2. Inform
3. Take me to other worlds (and quite often it’s different aspects of this one).
4. Take me back in time (so I can see how others lived. This nearly always brings about a deeper sense of gratitude for what we have now, especially literacy. I just know I would’ve been a peasant in medieval times. Any chance of reading? None whatsoever. Chances of dying young in childbirth? Very high. Hmm…).
5. Keep me out of mischief. For a bit.
6. Show me just what a wonderful world of stories we have out there. There is at least one genre to suit everyone.

Happy reading!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Judging what to leave out of a flash fiction story can be tricky at times. I’ve sometimes been caught between two useful character details but I really only have the room for one of them.

This is not down to word count either given the range of different markets and competitions I could go for and I would just change which one I plumped for.

When I say I haven’t the room, what I mean is the story would feel too “top heavy” if I put all the details in. You learn to get a feel for this over time. Less really is more in flash fiction. It is the telling detail that matters. And it is a question of deciding which telling detail is the most important one and therefore should be the one to make the cut.

For me, it’s usually down to the impact factor which helps me decide what goes in. Detail A may strengthen understanding of a character’s motives. Useful. Detail B may show the character has a pathological hatred for something. If my story is showing a character being driven by something, then Detail B is almost certainly the one to go in.

So it is a case of selecting the right detail for the right occasion. What serves the story/character best is the way, I think, to judge this.

F= Find fantastic characters to write about but keep them few in number. Too many cooks spoil the broth = too many characters in a flash fiction story make it top heavy and can lead to confusion in your reader. Focus on one or two characters only.

L= Learn what makes your characters drive. Ask the old “luvvie” question “where is my motivation in this?” as it is a good one to ask of your characters. It will also help you focus on what really matters to your character and your story.

A = Always know what the story is and ask yourself what the point is and is your plot moving on to that point. Flash focuses on ONE important moment for your character. The limited word count means you have to shine a spotlight on ONE small area only but your story can make a powerful impact because of that.

S = Story, story, story. It’s got to be a cracking story. What will keep the reader reading? Think of your hook, lure the reader in, and deliver on the promise of that hook. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and ask yourself, when editing, is this achieving the impact I want the story to have? Change anything that doesn’t serve the story well.

H = Have a strong conclusion whether it is a one-liner or a twist ending. You want your reader to leave having thoroughly enjoyed your story and feeling not one word could be added or removed from it. Oh and above all Have Fun! It’s a mantra of mine that you’ve got to enjoy your writing to be able to keep going with it.

Good luck and happy writing!

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What aspect of a character do you look out for when you start reading a story?

I want some idea of their general attitude. How they treat or refer to other characters in the story is usually key to telling me all I need to know!

Now okay sometimes this can be a red herring. A twist at the end can turn my assumptions around but I love that.

I then go back and look at the story again and see if I can pick up any clues as to what the character was really like early on. On a second reading I usually find something. Of course, I can note how the writer has done this and then see if I can do something similar for my twist flash tales.

You really do learn from other writers, past and present, and this is just one excellent reason to read widely and well. None of us are going to re-invent the wheel after all. So be inspired and use that inspiration to fire your imagination. Your take on characters will be unique to you.

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So how do you decide which ONE pivotal moment is THE one to write about for your flash story?

For me, it has to be the one that makes the most impact on your character. Sometimes this is the obvious dramatic moment but it isn’t always.

In my Time for Tea, the crucial pivotal moment (from my viewpoint as writer rather than reader) is when the narrator reveals someone else has told them something about their adult children. The narrator doesn’t think to question it. An alert reader will. But this moment sets the course for what the narrator is going to then do and that is why it matters. Quiet moments or revelations can turn a character and their story just as much as louder, more obvious moments can.

 

Goodreads Author BlogLists

Do you make a list of books for gift ideas to share with family and friends as hints for birthdays, Christmas etc? I do. There is always a list to be made!

But I also like to list traits in characters I admire and work out how I can use something similar when I create my own characters.

One of the great joys of reading from a writer’s viewpoint is you learn so much from other authors and you can use that to strengthen your own writing. You also get to see how dialogue is set out and so on.

It is vital to read a good mixture of material though from comtemporary to classic and non-fiction should be included too. The more you read, the wider the net of potential ideas.

You read a wonderful story or piece of non-fiction writing and that can inspire you to wonder well how would I have tackled this topic. What take would I have taken on it?

Of course lists lead to incredible To Be Read piles, both physically and in electronic form, but that’s a nice problem to have!

Another fun list would be to create an inventory of places connected with books you would like to visit once the lockdown is over. On my wish list here would be the British Library and Gladstone’s Library to name but two.

How about thinking of books to take with you on a retreat? My list there would have to include something by Austen, Pratchett, and Wodehouse, and naturally I would be taking the Kindle for this. (The saving in weight and luggage space would be considerable though the main thing would be to not forget to take the charger for it).

Then there’s the list of books your friends have told you about that you haven’t got around to reading yet. That too can be a formidable list.

But lists involving books are fun! Just relishing the possibility of reading all of those lovely books is wonderful. Getting to do so is even better. And now back to my TBR list I think!

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Reasons To Be Cheerful

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

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Those of us of a certain age will recall Ian Dury and the Blockheads thanks to the title of my CFT post this week – Reasons To Be Cheerful.

I am on a “cheery post for the time being” roll for CFT for the moment! Hope you enjoy.

And please do send in your own reasons to be cheerful. A bit of cheer goes a long way for us all right now.

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Following on from my Reasons to Be Cheerful theme for Chandler’s Ford Today this week, what reasons could we have for the writing community specifically? Some thoughts:-

1. We get the joy of creating interesting characters and then dump them right in the mire. We then have the additional pleasure of working out whether they sink or swim.

2. Positive feedback from readers is truly wonderful. (We really do appreciate good reviews, folk!).

3. There is nothing to beat the buzz of knowing you’re going to be published whether it is online, in print, or both. That buzz does not fade over time either. How often can you say that about something?

4. Story creation occupies the brain, inspires the imagination (and the more you write, the more that happens), and is just a fabulous thing to do. And there are markets for it! Creativity is a major part of what makes us human and for someone like me who cannot draw, sculpt or what have you, writing gives me a creative outlet I can enjoy.

5. You get to explore ideas. You can “live other lives” through the lives of your characters. (Mind you, if you are a crime or horror writer, I wouldn’t take this literally!!).

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Have been catching up on reading this week and that’s been a joy. It’s nice to get back into it again. I still don’t really know what that took a dip when the lockdown started.

Maybe my subconscious felt you can do one creative activity, Madam, but you’re not doing two. Well if that is the case, my subsconcious can pack its bags. Don’t want that happening again. I love reading and writing equally and that’s the way it should be.

I’m looking forward to sharing my CFT post with you tomorrow. It’s called Reasons to be Cheerful (and yes I am of that age who recalls Ian Dury and the Blockheads!). I’ll be sharing some positives. It is very much a time for the more cheery post I think.

I hope there is plenty of cheering for the NHS and key workers shortly! (This post was written on Thursday 16th April 2020. Oh and there was!).

 

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Hope to get my flash fiction piece submitted later this week. Then time to pick another competition to try. It helps me “raise my game”. Anything that doesn’t get placed I can rework and submit elsewhere later on so I see that as a great way of ensuring I’ve got new material out and about somewhere.

Have been taking part in a friend’s book and author game today (my entries included Stormy Weather by Gail Force and Standing Upright by Ei Leen Right amongst others).

Fun and pun games like this are great for writers. Why? As well as being fun to do, it makes you realise how good or otherwise your vocabulary is to be able to find those puns! Another challenge to raise my game then! I’ve always had a soft spot for word games, I think most writers do. It’s great to play with the language and see what you can come up with. You can also use games like that to help get you into your writing session or as a way to wind down from one.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve been talking about reasons to be cheerful tonight but for flash fiction writing, I find I have to set the mood for my lead character pretty much from the outset. There isn’t the word count space to allow for much in the change of mood.

I use mood (shown through dialogue or thoughts) to indicate the attitude of the character. You will know within a line or so what my character is going to be like in terms of attitude to others and so on.

The advantage of setting mood quickly is I hit the ground running with my stories. I take you straight into the action/setting.

The disadvantage of doing this is you are showing your hand as a writer immediately. So any surprises you want to bring in do have to come as twist in the tale finales that are appropriate to the character and the set-up.

But then that’s fine with me! I love reading and writing those kind of tales. It’s just that if you want to show lots of mood changes, you would probably be better off with a longer, standard length short story, rather than flash fiction. Flash has to show up THE single most important point of a character’s story. Anything that is not directly relevant to the story has to be cut out. The message here is then to focus on what you really need to get across.

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Very good turn out for the NHS and key workers around my way tonight. Well done, all.

What can you learn from flash fiction?

1. What you really need to know about the character in it. A good flash fiction story will leave you with the feeling nothing more could be added to it. Also that nothing could be taken away. You will have insight into the lead character in well chosen words equally well placed. One word can completely turn the mood of a story.

2. What the story really is – with flash there’s no room for anything that isn’t relevant to the tale. This is why I think it is a great thing for all writers to do. Concise, precision writing is useful no matter what your main writing work might be.

3. What words give “value for money” and can carry weight for you. He raced uphill is far stronger in impact than he ran quickly up the hill and you save three words!

4. You will lose all fear of killing adverbs. No more “ly” words when a stronger word will do the work for you. No more she said irritatedly when you can say she snapped.

Whatever you are working on at the moment, have fun with it! I find flash great fun to write and having fun with your writing is vital. It helps keep you going.

One of the joys of loving stories is that this comes in really useful for you as a writer.

You can work out what it is about the stories and their characters you love. From there, you can try to work out how the writer achieved this. Is there something you can use there? If your favourite story has a feisty character, how has the author shown that? They won’t have just told you the character is like that.

Also it is the love of stories that drew us into writing our own in the first place so it is only right that we should keep that love going! We need to be inspired. Reading widely fires up our own imaginative powers so there you have it – the perfect reason to keep reading! But the better thing is to let that reading inspire your writing and you keep writing too!

 

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Fairytales With Bite – Why Analyse Fairytales?

Analysing any kind of writing will help you work out what made a writer decide to write the story in the way they have. There is a lot to be learned from that.

You can also learn from stories you’ve disliked. Work out what it was your disliked and why. Then you know what to avoid in your own! Also work out what you like and dislike about the characters for the same reasons.

Fairytales are interesting to analyse because most of them have a message behind them. Work out how the fairytale gets that across without being preachy. How can you use that for your own stories? How do the characters illustrate the points made? Do they learn from the mistakes they make in the course of the tale? When wrongs are corrected, how is that done?

Fairytales are realistic about cruelty. There is no glossing over Snow White’s stepmother’s deeds, for example. But the reason for her cruelty is pure and simple jealousy, which remains such a powerful motivator. So look at your cruel characters and ensure their motivations are strong enough to justify, if only to themselves, their reasons for being the way they are.

Fairytales can also be tales of redemption. Would such a thing work for your creations?

Fairytales mainly have happy endings. Is a happy ending appropriate for your tale? How can you make that happen in your story without it being sickly sweet? Characters in fairytales generally deserve their happy ending. Do yours?

So just on these points alone, I think fairytales are well worth analysing for tips on improving your own writing!

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This World and Others – What Is Important?

This is a good question to ask because it will depend on your characters. A character on a quest is going to think getting to their destination is the most important thing of all. A ruler will consider achieving what they want to achieve is the most important thing (for good or ill. A real test of whether a ruler is a villain is whether what they seek enriches them or genuinely helps those who they rule over! Same as here really!).

So you need to decide what your characters think are the most important things of all. Then you put problems in their way to stop them achieving their most important things of all. The story fires up when they work out how to overcome all of that, assuming they do.

You also need to decide what is the most important aspect to your story. Yes, especially in a novel, there is room for sub-plots but they should seek to serve the main one and never be an “add-on”. They should blend seamlessly into the main narrative.

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Onwards and Downwards

Image Credit:  As ever, images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General

Making progress on editing my flash competition story. You get to a point where you remove the “obvious” unnecessary words. (As you know, I get to cut very, actually, and that out as these are my pet wasted words. I still haven’t found a way of stopping myself writing these things in the first place but hey that’s what the first edit is for!).

The tricky bit is now when I’ve got what I want in place but need to find ways of rephrasing without losing meaning. There’s the challenge of flash fiction writing. I know this story will work well at the word count I’ve got to get it to. It’s whether I’m up to the job of doing it that is the issue here!

Onwards and downwards then (with the word count!).

 

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Am enjoying listening to the Classic FM Hall of Fame for 2020. Disappointed though one of my choices, Danse Macabre, has slipped down in the rankings, though I expect I’ll hear my other two choices sometime tomorrow. (Jupiter from the Planet Suite by Holst and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams).

Classical music is a wonderful relaxation aid which is why I have this on while writing. The more relaxed I am, the more I write.

Almost there on my flash fiction piece. Want to put it aside for a while so I come back to it with a fresh eye. It is amazing what a difference that makes. You spot things you missed etc. Also I look for how the story makes ME feel when I’ve had a break from it. If it still makes me feel the way the story is meant to make me feel, then it will do the same for a reader.

I was so sorry to hear about the loss of Tim Brooke-Taylor. Was a huge fan of The Goodies (and still am. Favourite episode? Hard to pick but Goodies Rule UK and the giant Dougal from The Magic Roundabout is an image that is hard to forget!).

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It hasn’t felt like a Bank Holiday Monday, has it? Still on the plus side, the bluebells and primroses are out, we are successfully wearing Lady out so know she is definitely getting the right amount of exercise, and the writing and editing continue apace.

Two of my nominees for the Classic FM Hall of Fame dropped places this year (yes, I know. I am beginning to wonder if there is an Allison effect here. If there is, it’s not a good one!). Jupiter, appropriately, rose though! Well done, Gustav Holst!

I’ll be looking at Reasons to Be Cheerful in my CFT post later this week and yes I am of an age to remember Ian Dury and the Blockheads.

My favourite picture, taken today, is of Lady with one of her favourite toys in her mouth, as if it was an overgrown dummy. Enjoy (she did – and promptly dropped the ball on realising Mum was trying to take pictures again!).

Lady with dummy

Lady with dummy! Image by Allison Symes

Coping with the downside of the writing life (rejections, competition entries not getting anywhere etc) takes time but it does get better over time. Why? Because I’ve learned if a story hasn’t done well in one place, I can look at it again, see if I can improve it, and submit it somewhere else. I’ve had work published by doing that.

Oh and I almost always can improve a piece of work. The one thing I’ve learned years ago is that nobody writes a perfect piece of work. All you can do is the best at the time and seek to grow and develop from that point. Yes, I look back at work I’ve had published for a while and I can see now how I could make it better, but that was where I was at as a writer at that time. What matters here is moving on and always striving to improve what you do.

That’s the challenge for any writer, published or not. Enjoy what you do, that’s crucial, but also seek to get better at it. In the striving, you WILL improve.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What do I look for in a flash fiction story when I’m reading works by other authors?

1. I want to be entertained. (Hey I’m just like that!).

2. I want the story to have emotional impact.

3. I want the point of change to be a good one with a real problem for a realistically drawn character to resolve.

4. I want to feel as if not one word could’ve been added to the story.

5. I want to feel as if not one word could’ve been taken out without the story losing something important.

6. I want to feel something for the lead character, whether it is to empathise with them, or to heartily hope they come to disaster because they’re a well drawn villain. But that character has to make me feel something (and separately to what the overall story makes me feel).

7. I want to read more by that author!

Naturally all of these points are a challenge to me too but that’s a good thing. There is no such thing as a perfect piece of work. It is the best you can make it at the time. What you want is for it to resonate with readers and for them to enjoy where you’re taking them with the stories.

 

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How do you know when you’ve found your writer’s voice? I think it is when you come up with a piece of work in a way that seems the most natural way to you. You see a competition, say, like the sound of it, and know instinctively how you’re going to approach it. Ideas may start coming to you based on how you’ve approached competitions before and obviously you go for what worked best for you.

In my case, I know I’m going to outline my character, then a story they could be in, and away I go when I’ve got that in place. The style of writing is an indicator. There is a lot of humour in my flash fiction but it is generally shown through the characters themselves. So based on that alone a competition which calls for a darker style is probably not going to be for me. (I’ve got to get a little humour in it somewhere and that’s not suitable for all topics/competitions).

Learning then where your strengths are and where your writing cup of tea is, I think, crucial to you finding your voice. Once you’ve got that, away you go.

Story time I think. Hope you enjoy. Hayfever sufferers, this one is for you.

A MISGUIDED DAY OUT

After a fraught day in town, Hattie told Betty a soothing walk in Meresfield Park Gardens would do them both good. Tea and cake would follow.
The smell of the tea roses was so strong Betty thought she was being bathed in it.
It was a pity she suffered from hayfever.
It took her a fortnight to stop sneezing altogether.
It took her a month to speak to Hattie again.

Allison Symes – 13th April 2020

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While every genre has specific requirements, what every good story needs can be summarised as follows. (A lot of this can apply to non-fiction too).

Memorable characters with distinctive voices. For non-fiction, this equates to a memorable narrative style and voice. Think of documentaries you have loved. What made them stand out? A lot of that will be down to the narrative voice.

A plot that keeps the reader enthralled and has plenty of ups and downs. For non-fiction, it is a case of setting out what you want to share with the reader in an entertaining and informative way. No dull list of facts etc. You want to engage with your reader and draw them into the world you’re trying to show them.

To meet the needs of the reader whether it is to entertain them with a story or show them something they hadn’t known with non-fiction. You really do need to know your audience.

A powerful ending that delivers on a promising start.

No sagging middles!

A good, memorable title which hooks the reader.

To be a good advert for the other writing you do!

 

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Entertainment and Escapism

I can understand why, after the coronavirus is over, there will be lots of books and stories dealing with that topic. It’s just I can’t bring myself to write stories like that. I’m not sure about reading them either. Why?

For me, in times of trouble, I want books and stories to make me laugh and give me some escapism for a while. I don’t think that should be undervalued.

I raise a hearty three cheers for all who, by writing, seek to entertain and amuse us. It is not an easy thing to do.

So I shall continue to look for escapism and entertainment. Those can be very good coping mechanisms and books and stories are great vehicles for delivering on those things.

I do hope and pray though that the bookshops, particularly the independents, will recover well from this. I hope online buying of books has proved to be a lifeline.

The one thing that is clear to me is people still want stories. And I doubt if I’m the only one who wants entertaining right now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Murphy’s Law For Readers

Time for some lightheartedness I think… hence my CFT post. More in a moment.

Image Credit:  As ever, all images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I thought a lighthearted post would be useful for my slot on Chandler’s Ford Today this week – hence Murphy’s Law for Readers! Hope you enjoy this and do send in your own Murphy’s Law suggestions for Readers via the CFT comments box.

The post takes in readers and books, readers and libraries, and readers and book events etc and so I’ve taken a broad approach here! Hope you enjoy.

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It is always good fun to write humorous posts for Chandler’s Ford Today and I hope the Murphy’s Law For Readers which is this week’s piece amuses you! It amused me when I wrote it so I hope that’s a good sign! (I wrote a piece on Murphy’s Law for Writers a year or so ago so that is everyone on the reading and writing fence covered now I think).

Many thanks to our church for sending a Good Friday service sheet for us to use at home today. It was great but must admit to missing seeing everyone and I hope it is not too long before we meet again. It really does not feel like Easter to me. Mind you, the weekends don’t really feel like weekends either at the moment.

I would be glad to have a writing routine anyway as I am one of life’s planners (as much as possible at the moment anyway) but am finding having this routine now to be incredibly useful. It’s a bit of normality in what is an abnormal situation for us all.

Nice lot of cheering in my neck of the words for the frontline workers. Well done all. (This is happening ever Thursday night at 8 pm in the UK for the duration of the lockdown here – I don’t know whether anything similar is happening elsewhere but I do think this show of appreciation is a very good thing indeed).

Looking forward to hearing where my choices for the Classic FM Hall of Fame come in this year’s chart. They count this down over the Easter weekend. My choices were:-

1. Jupiter (from the Planet Suite) by Holst
2. Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams.
3. Danse Macabre by Saint Saens (and used as the theme for Jonathan Creek and the book trailer for my From Light to Dark and Back Again – see below! So this music will always have special meaning for me!).

Need a sort out of my writing desk so that is on the cards for me to do tomorrow. Yes, have been putting it off. I refuse to believe I’m the only writer who does that.😆😆

Have resumed playing tennis on the old Nintendo Wii to help with my exercise levels. Well I say playing… let’s say I give it a go! Lady doesn’t like it though and goes and hides while I “strut my stuff” here. Of course it won’t help she can’t possibly get the ball here and no collie will like that.

Writing wise, am working on a book proposal for my non-fiction idea but that will take a while to do. Am also fleshing out ideas for a flash piece for a competition so plenty to be getting on with.

My CFT post this week will be a lighthearted one about Murphy’s Law for Readers. I wrote one about a year ago for writers so it is only fair readers get their turn! Link up on Friday.

Am slowly getting back to reading again which is good. I’ve had no problems writing but think my focus has been on ONE creative activity rather than two.

Reading is a creative activity in its own right in that, for fiction, you should be able to engage with the characters. For non-fiction, you should be gripped by what you are discovering and hopefully go on to find out more about the topic you’re engrossed with.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am happily drafting a flash fiction piece for a competition at the moment. Have got the character and her voice as I like it. But she’s spouting on a little bit too much for the word count requirement so she is going to be shortened! It is one of those cases where I know she can be shortened without losing her style and indeed her style will come through better at the reduced count.

This is where I need to work out what is VITAL for the reader to know. Anything that is not something I could honestly call vital comes out.

This is why I do like writing the longer flash fiction stories too as those give you a bit more room to play with and there you can have characterisation that adds depth and strengthens the story. This is where you can have that “little bit more” which adds flavour to a story.

I think it is a good thing to write a mixture of word count stories so you get a real feel for writing short and spare tales and longer ones with added “value” that you simply can’t put into a shorter story. But what I do know is when I’ve got my character and their voice right, the word count has to suit that. I know I can simplify what I’ve drafted for my current story and I should do that anyway. It should take me to the required count but there are times I really can’t get a story down any further without losing something important – so I don’t! You do get better over time I think at working out when to call it a day.

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One thing I have found useful with regard to having an Amazon Author Central page is having my book trailer on it for FLTDBA. I very much hope later in the year when hopefully Tripping the Flash Fantastic is out that a book trailer for this will also appear.

I have had some fun on my website with book trailers too. (https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/book-trailers/)

As well as the ones for FLTDBA and the Bridge House/Cafelit/Waterloo Art Festival Writing Competition collections I’ve been involved in, I have created a basic trailer for one of my stories from FLTDBA. I hope to do more of this as and when but I mention it because flash fiction is ideal for this kind of thing! You want something nice and short that is easy to read on a screen… hmm… on to a winner there I think!

 

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What do I like best about story and flash fiction collections?

I like the range of moods that can be contained in one book (which directly inspired the title for my own From Light to Dark and Back Again of course).

I love being able to dip in and out of such a book, whether I read it in paperback or via the Kindle.

I love them as they are brilliant for those times when I don’t have time to read or don’t feel like reading a huge amount. Indeed it is often the collections that get me out of the latter mood and into reading novels and non-fiction again.

I also just love the whole idea of reading a book full of little self-contained worlds with a host of characters. They are just fun!

They’re huge fun to write too!

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Fairytales With Bite – 

What Fairytales Have Done For Me

I’ve loved fairytales for more years than I care to remember, encouraged no doubt by my parents buying me The Reader’s Digest Complete Collection of Fairytales. This is a two volume set which I still have. (One of the books is bound up with tape to keep the spine together!). I spent hours reading the stories and admiring the wonderful illustrations. So what have fairytales done for me as a writer then?

  1. Fairytales have a strong message which they get across without lecturing and in an entertaining way.  I find that inspirational (and a challenge to always “raise my game” here).
  2. Fairytales don’t shy away from calling something evil that is evil. There is no mistaking the goodies and baddies here. The characters are clear cut and their actions and thoughts are consistent. That’s all useful stuff for writers.
  3. Fairytales have endings which are appropriate. Generally these are happy ones but there are exceptions and that’s  okay too. What matters is the ending is appropriate to the story.
  4. When magic is used in a fairytale, it is always used to assist and it is rarely the first resort. Characters still have to use their intelligence and take advantage of others forms of help coming to them.

 

This World and Others – The Arts

What place do the arts have in your fictional “other world”? Is there music? Painting? Creative writing? Are these things valued or despised? Does everyone have access to them or only the privileged few?

For your characters, what do the arts mean to them? What role can the arts play in their story?

When fleshing out your creation, think of the arts as a way of adding culture and depth to your created world. You can always use things like statues as well known landmarks your character has to reach to meet someone etc. That tells a reader there is sculpture in your world at least (and therefore likely to be other art forms too. It also reveals there is at least some appreciation of these things and this is a good indicator of likely intelligence levels too).

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Brainstorming and Rainbows

Image Credit:  All images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General

I’ve mentioned before that every so often I brainstorm ideas but I do this for non-fiction, as well as for flash fiction and short stories. I jot down thoughts for future Chandler’s Ford Today articles, note ideas for future blog posts for different places including for the Association of Christian Writers, and material for use on my website.

This is a great use of odd five minutes of time which build up every now and then and means I’ve always got ideas to work on. It is usually these ideas I work on further when I’m travelling by train anywhere, though that’s not going to be happening for a while!

The point though is if you’re not sure what to work on, jot down possible ideas. Even if you don’t work on them immediately, it means you’ve got a store of ideas to turn to later on and that is a good thing.

 

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Thought the Queen’s speech tonight was spot on (Sunday, 5th April 2020). Hope it encourages people. I know it did me. Encouragement is needed (and too often undervalued).

Now on to writing matters. Encouragement can come into our stories too. I think the best example is Sam Gamgee’s role in The Lord of the Rings. He literally carries Frodo at times. So how can we show encouragement in our stories? Well, pretty much the same way we show encouragement to each other.

I know a kindly and timely word does me the world of good especially in stressful times. Getting a character to do the same for your “lead” should have an inspirational effect. I also think it important to show our leads under stress, needing help from others, as that adds realism to our characterisation too.

Realistic characters have the ring of truth to them and that makes the world of difference to readers sympathising with your “people” and “buying into” your story.

 

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I am sorry to hear Boris Johnson is so ill and hope and pray he recovers soon. Regardless of political or any other kind of belief, I wouldn’t wish coronavirus on anyone. (Nor should anyone else).

On a more positive note, and the reason I’m late on here tonight, was I was discovering the joys of video calling with friends from the Association of Christian Writers. I’ve “gone” to the odd webinar, had video calls one-to-one on things like What’s App with my sister etc., and am now “doing” Slimming World online via Zoom, but tonight was one of the single biggest online chats I’ve taken part in.

It was good fun and lovely to see everyone, albeit at a distance. We did look like we were contestants on the old quiz show, Celebrity Squares though. For anyone not growing up in the 1970s, it was a quiz show based on the old game of noughts and crosses and celebrities were in boxes of 3 x 3, which is why tonight’s video call reminded me of that.

On Sunday, we’ll be having a virtual Easter Day service with communion (we’ll be bringing our own bread and wine!).

So all very different but the need to stay in touch with our friends and family does not change. Nor should it.

And what can writers contribute?

Stories and articles to entertain – don’t underestimate the importance of entertainment. It can be a coping mechanism.

Stories and articles to cheer – and I think we could all do with that.

Stories and articles to inform.

Stories and articles to encourage other writers in their craft and readers. We don’t know what difficult journeys they might have but if a story or work of ours lifts spirits for a while, that’s good.

And other than walking the dog, I shall be only too glad to be at home tomorrow.

Take care everyone.❤️❤️❤️❤️

black and white laptop

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Pexels.com

 

I’ve had to change how I exercise Lady at the moment (though overall she is doing pretty well). It has been lovely spotting the rainbow pictures, whether they’re chalked on the ground, or on paper in people’s windows. Thanks all. They are cheery.

Question for you: What do you get if you have an upside down rainbow?

Answer: A multi-coloured smile! See below.

So whichever way up the rainbow is, it is always a good thing!

Whatever you are reading or writing, whatever creative work is your “thing”, I hope it makes you, and others smile. We could all do with that.

Facebook – General – and Publication News

Bonus post from me tonight.

Delighted to say I have a new story on Cafelit – Getting the Job Done.

Hope you enjoy.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

So what should a flash fiction piece aim to do? It should illuminate something of a character. It should produce a good response in a reader (whether to make them laugh or cry etc).

There should be a sense of there being nothing else to say and that the story works perfectly as it is – a mini form of fiction. It should never feel as if it has been artificially cropped to fit a word count requirement!

If a short story is a moment in time, then a flash piece could be described as a half moment, a blink if you like, but you can still take quite a bit in during that blink!

 

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How can flash fiction reflect deeper emotions and attitudes such as encouragement? You need another character to do that for the lead, surely, and that increases the word count?

Yes, of course, but this is where the beauty of flash comes in. It has a range of word counts up to the maximum of 1000 to play with. So if your story needs to be 750 words, with your lead person needing support and encouragement along the way, then so be it. Don’t lose vital characterisation for the sake of the word count.

Ask yourself always what is is the reader needs to know.

Ask yourself always what the character has to do and how they can achieve it.

Ask yourself always when the character needs help, how does that happen? Who assists them?

It is generally true in flash fiction you can’t have too many characters. But you can certainly have a couple of them. I also get some of my characters to refer to others who are “off stage” as this shows my character has a life outside of the world of the story I’ve put them in.

Also a character can recall words of encouragement so there are ways to get this kind of deeper characterisation into flash fiction and not exceed the maximum word count.

In darker times, do you prefer to read longer works or shorter ones?

I know regardless of what I read, I want the tone to be uplifting in some way. And flash fiction has a role to play here. Given its brevity, it is a perfect vehicle for the short funny story to cheer people up. I often finish a story with a punchline. Flash lends itself well to that.

For longer works, for me it is always Wodehouse or Pratchett that I tend to turn to first.

But take pleasure in your reading and writing. That’s always a good thing to do anyway but particularly now I think.

For a story to work properly as a story, there has to be a pivotal moment of change. In flash fiction, there isn’t much time to set that up of course. This is why I generally start with that moment and the story then shows the consequences.

(And even when I don’t, my opening is written in such a way as to signal to the reader the moment of change is coming soon and you have got to find out what is going to happen, haven’t you? You make the premise so promising, “no” is ruled out as an answer to that immediately!).

For short fiction, the pivotal moment has to be as close to the start as possible (otherwise why would a reader be interested?), so this, for me, is another side benefit to flash fiction. It means I know I have to hit the ground running! That’s no bad thing.

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Goodreads Author Blog –

Titles – What Is It About Them That You Like The Most?

What is it about a book title that encourages you to look inside the book itself?

I like titles (of stories, books or what have you) to give me some idea of the mood of the story and, where possible, its genre too.

My next flash fiction book will be called Tripping the Flash Fantastic which I think manages to do both. From Light to Dark and Back Again, my first flash collection, was specifically chosen to reflect the mood of the stories and the range of moods for the collection as a whole.

I like titles that sum up the book’s contents well. You can’t misunderstand The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection can you?! (Fabulous book too. Conan Doyle was a genius and I’m sure we owe the concept of the flawed detective to him. Certainly he can take the credit for popularising it at least. Holmes’ drug addiction would still be controversial now. As an aside, I wonder if that is why Conan Doyle chose that, believing drug use would never be uncontroversial. Just a thought).

For my flash fiction stories, especially for those competitions and markets where the title is included in the word count, I like to keep titles short. I’m also fond of alliteration every now and again. Well, let’s face it Pride and Prejudice is a much more memorable title than Jane Austen’s first idea, First Impressions. (To be fair that would’ve worked. It’s not a bad title. It is a question, I think, of working out what is better for your work and she certainly did that).

Some of my favourite book titles include:-

The Lord of The Rings. Doesn’t that make you want to find out who the Lord is and why the Rings matter?

Interesting Times (Pratchett). Again, doesn’t that make you want to discover what the interesting times are and who they are happening to?

Murder on the Orient Express. My favourite Christie novel for many reasons but the title is an instant attention grabber.

It is the book title that makes me want to read the book’s blurb and, from there, the opening paragraph or two.

Yes, a good cover will catch my eye and it is important but if the title intrigues me, then even if the cover isn’t as good as it could be, I’ll try the book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do You Need to Know?

Image Credits:  A big thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Group for kind permission to use their photos for the Chandler’s Ford Today post.  All other pictures are from Pixabay or Pexels.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s good to welcome the Chameleons back to Chandler’s Ford Today. The second part of their compiled interviews takes a look at the technical aspects of staging a production. Topics covered include lighting, sound, set design, and props. Hope you enjoy. Many thanks to them for the photos and info!

Looking forward to going back to seeing their fabulous productions again in due course. I am missing my “CFT works outings” with my lovely editor, Janet Williams.

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Always nice to have a compliment – many thanks to the Chameleon Theatre Group for the following:-

Great second piece today from Allison Symes in Chandlers Ford Today, utilising Sheila’s superb series of articles about all things behind the scenes.

Feature Image - Part 2 - The Chameleons Say Hello... to the Technical Side
It’s a joy to share Part 2 from the Chameleon Theatre Group for my CFT post this week. I love behind the scenes looks at most things being the nosey parker that I am so interviews like this give me a glimpse into different aspects of life. I find that endlessly fascinating.

Now what insights into your characters do you need to reveal to your reader? I’ve found it useful to work out what it is I need to know and what a reader needs to know. The two are generally not the same. I need to know, for example, a character is lazy. My reader just needs me to show the character demonstrating that.

Sometimes a character does need to “tell” something usually to another character, revealing something of their background and motivations. For example, in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, it is the ghosts who unlock the sadness behind Scrooge and which go some way to explaining why he became the man he did – and why he needed to be set free from that. I’ve always found the scene where Scrooge BEGS to not be shown any more incredibly moving. But we are reliant on the ghosts telling Scrooge his own past to make him face up to it. The story then becomes whether Scrooge changes or not.

So what do you need to know about your characters? How can you best show things to a reader? In many ways your characters act their scenes out. I’ve found that thought useful to help me make sure my characters only reveal things that they would be reasonably expected to know or deduce. They see what they see. They do what they do. They deduce based on reason. The readers draw conclusions from that.

Good support for the applause for carers round my way, well done all. Also got to see two bats fly overhead. That’s a bonus. I like bats. Much misunderstood creatures though you have to admit they wouldn’t get very high in the All Time Graceful Flying Stakes! (Some pun intended).

I’m not struggling to write at the moment but I am struggling to read much. I know I’m not alone on this right now, I also know it will pass, but it has bemused me a bit. I tend to read more when upset etc, especially the humorous prose, so this has surprised me.

Looking forward to sharing further publication news next week.

Am preparing non-fiction material at the moment so will “indulge” in some flash fiction writing at the weekend. I like the contrast between the two types of writing and it keeps me on my toes. Never a bad thing that.

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My CFT post this week will be Part 2 – The Chameleons Say Hello… to the Technical Side. Our local amateur theatre group have been conducting a series of interviews which I’ve compiled into articles. This week’s one looks at lighting and sound amongst other delights. Link up on Friday. And I must add I am really looking forward to their next production whenever that may be.

Insights into how things work are always fascinating especially if you’re curious (and I SO am!). A writer needs to have at least a basic level of curiosity as to what makes people (and therefore characters) tick to be able to write at all, I think. That curiosity develops into what would Character A really do if push came to shove. It is always fun to find out!

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When it is possible to do so, I enjoy my “CFT works outings” with my lovely editor, Janet Williams, to the excellent productions staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group, who are featured in my CFT post tonight. Am really looking forward to resuming being able to do these again!

Janet and I have enjoyed National Theatre Live productions too. So what it is about plays that attracts a flash fiction writer then?

Simply, it’s because it is huge fun spotting the pivotal moment in a play when you know everything is going to change, whether for better or worse. Working out what the tipping point is helps fiction writers of all kinds too.

My tipping points can be the very last word of a story (Calling the Doctor is an example of that). It is often the line before I deliver a punch line or finale which has a twist in it. It is sometimes towards the beginning of the tale. My Punish the Innocent with its opening paragraph has the reader knowing from that point that everything is going to change dramatically for the characters in the story. What follows through then is how.

Have fun working out where the best place is to put your tipping point. Early can work well because your reader will want to follow through on the outcome. Right at the end can also work well because you have carried off a very successful twist ending if you can keep a reader guessing until then.

 

Time for some one liners, though I will admit to sharing one on the Association of Christian Writers page earlier today.

1. The dragon decided to turn veggie.
2. The house was empty because the walls seeped.
3. Mary decided she had a talent for art but she was alone in that view.
4. The genie took one look at who had rubbed the magic lamp and vanished inside again.
5. Treasure was meant to be found, not bite hard the person who found it.

Hope you enjoy. One-liners can of course be used as a writing exercise as an opening or closing line.

 

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Masks are symbolic of drama of course but you could argue characters in stories sometimes wear them. (Best one for me here remains Severus Snape and I’m not going to say more though I strongly suspect this would not be a plot spoiler by now!).

How do your characters hide the traits they themselves aren’t proud of? How do they convince other characters they really are “the business” when perhaps deep down they know full well they’re not? If they are a double agent, how do they convince both sides they’re working for them?

Masks can be used by characters in more subtle ways. A character is heartbroken for some reason but they have to carry on and appear to be “strong” to help someone else cope. How do they do that? DOES it help? When does the mask come off? What are the consequences?

Now there’s definitely a story or several in there! Have fun…

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Fairytales With Bite – What Fairytales Don’t Do

Fairytales don’t gloss over the reality of human nature. So many of them show cruelty (Cinderella and Snow White to name but two) and there is no glossing over this. Others show poverty. Others show the importance of love.

Think about Hansel and Gretel. It has always bugged me why the father didn’t show the stepmother the door for even suggesting abandoning the children to their fate but there you go. I’ve mentioned before Disney couldn’t film the stories as originally written. Fairytales were often (and still can be) used as warning tales. We talk about wolf like behaviour – a nod to the Big, Bad Wolf I think.

Fairytales, despite their magical elements then, are realistic about behaviours and motivations then. They don’t flatter. There is a blunt honesty about them that appealed to me even as a kid. The ring of truth always did hold appeal to me.

I couldn’t get on with characters that were too good which is why I always found it easier to sympathise with vain Amy rather than saintly Beth in Little Women. (Before you ask, I was sorry Beth died. I thought that whole storyline was beautifully done and I also liked the way the impact of her death was shown too).

I’ve always loved those tales where great wrongs were put right. Even as a kid I knew full well that didn’t always happen in life. There is a comfort to fairytales I think that shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to things like that.

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This World and Others –

How Does Your Created World Help or Hinder Your Characters? 

This is an interesting question because it can be taken in several directions. Firstly, think about the political landscape of your world. If the politics define that a character from an area should never associate with anyone from another area because of past history etc., what would happen when characters are forced to ignore all that and go against what their society would expect from them?

Secondly, there is the geographical aspect too. If you’ve got a long journey to take and there are mountains in the way, some thought has to be given as to how your characters tackle those (and that does include finding another route of course).

Thirdly, the state of development in your created world makes a difference too. Your character is off on a quest (note: it is never for something as mundane as nipping to the shops for a pint of milk, your character must have real problems to solve!). Right, that’s fine, they’re all geared up to go but how do they do it? What is the transport like? Must they walk? Are horses considered sacred and only certain kinds of people can ride them? (Naturally here your character will not be of that class and again will defy expectations here. There should be consequences).

Think about what your character needs to be able to fulfil their quest. Think about how what is around them will help or hinder them. Usually it will be a question of both. A created world will have something practical your character can use (otherwise there is no chance of them fulfilling the quest).