Judging a Book by its Cover

Image Credit:- 

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay images.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

I’m starting a new three-part Chandler’s Ford Today series this week called Judging a Book by its Cover. Hope you enjoy it. A huge thank you to my guest authors for taking part and for supplying their author photos and book cover images.

Tonight’s guests are from the Association of Christian Writers – Fran Hill, Joy Margetts, Ruth Leigh, Wendy H Jones, Maressa Mortimer and I all contribute to this week’s edition.

Images of me reading at Open Prose Mic Nights were taken by Geoff Parkes (Swanwick) and Dawn Kentish Knox (Bridge House Publishing events) and Ana Coelho (Waterloo Arts Festival events).

Hope you have had a good week. Will have publication news from CafeLit next week and am looking forward to sharing that.

And it seems to have finally stopped snowing…. not before time it must be said.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share Part 1 of a brand new series for Chandler’s Ford Today called Judging a Book By Its Cover. Over the next three weeks, I set my guests three questions to answer and they have shared some fabulous information with me. I start the series by having a look at the cover for my own Tripping the Flash Fantastic and then go on to chat to my guests who this week are from the Association of Christian Writers.

I chat to Wendy H Jones, Fran Hill, Maressa Mortimer, Ruth Leigh, and Joy Margetts about what they think their latest book covers “say” to their potential readers. They also share a tip about book covers they have found works for them. I also set a challenge at the end of this post. Anyone who loves reading will be well up for this!

So then – judging a book by its cover – the old proverb says we shouldn’t but for books themselves we absolutely do and rightly so! Covers are a vital element. They are your book’s first advert and have to draw the reader in. So what works for you when you’re choosing your next read? Comments welcome here and over on the CFT post as usual.

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Hope you have had a good Thursday. Had my hair cut yesterday! What a wonderful feeling… and I no longer have a fringe that needed holding back with industrial strength hairspray.

Today I was back in the swimming pool for the first time in well since goodness knows when. For some reason I’m feeling rather tired this evening! But it is great things are slowly returning to normal and I am looking forward to having my second jab in June. That is something I never expected to say! It is an odd world when vaccinations are something you anticipate keenly…

Glad to say Part 1 of my new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Judging a Book by Its Cover, starts tomorrow. Guest authors and I look at some of our covers, analyse what we think they say to potential readers, and share tips on what makes for a good cover. Link up tomorrow and a huge thank you to all taking part in this three-part series. Tomorrow’s guests will be from the Association of Christian Writers. More details tomorrow. See above!


I was chatting over at #Val’sBookBundle earlier about the joy of audio books but what I am greatly encouraged by is that there is a format to suit everyone when it comes to stories. I can think of family members who won’t read a huge book but will watch the film adaptation of it or listen to the audio book of it.

I like to mix up reading “proper” books and ebooks. The Kindle is a great invention. I’m looking forward to taking that with me once again when I hopefully get back to the #SwanwickWriters’SummerSchool in August. I want to save room in my case for the books I’ll buy from the Swanwick Book Room after all!

But what matters is you read, no matter whether you use an e-reader or go for a good old hardback or listen to your stories. It is difficult to overestimate how much reading helps a writer. And you do learn by absorption how books are set out, how dialogue should be and so on, as well as being inspired by the characters you read.

As for my own stories, I try to think about the impact I want my tales to have on a reader and then work out ways of achieving that. As you know, the story for me is all about the characters and they’ve got to interest me to make me want to read on.

So when it comes to editing my own work, I do ask “what is in this for a reader to enjoy?”. It is a valid question.

By putting yourself in your readers’ shoes, you are more likely to write something they will enjoy. You will be thinking about how your character comes across. What is it about them that makes you love or hate them? If you feel that way about them, your readers are likely to do so too.

And it is a useful way, when editing, of ensuring that everything in your story matters to the story and your readers have to know what you are sharing with them. No matter what the length of your story is – 100 to 100,000 words – every word must move the story on and share something important with the reader.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Putting a collection together is interesting in that several things have to be taken into consideration. I’m looking for the right balance in my stories in terms of mood but also in terms of story length. I have more drabbles (aka 100-word) stories in From Light to Dark and Back Again then I do in Tripping the Flash Fantastic. But in the latter I have more of the longer (500 word+) tales and I have taken my characters that bit further as I’ve written historical flash stories for the first time for this book.

I also like to make sure I have “light relief” stories in my collections so they are not overly dark but I also want some of the darker material to ensure there is a bit of “bite” to my books. I am fond of twist in the tale stories and there are plenty of examples in both of my books but I didn’t want either volume to be dominated by them.

I am also thinking of my audience as I get a book ready for submission. (I aim at YA upwards, anyone who can appreciate irony since that does feature in what I do). I want to give a good mixture of stories so people hopefully feel they have had a a darned good read after finishing the books OR it is the perfect thing for them to dip into. (I love “dipping in” books myself).

But overall I want the books to be a good representation of what flash fiction is and can be. And that’s always a great challenge to rise to!


I don’t always name my characters. Sometimes this is because I feel they will be more scary left unnamed (and this is especially true for my stories where the character is an “it”. You can have a lot of fun wondering just what the “it” is!).

What matters more to me is conveying what those characters are like and why their story matters. For example, in my story The Silence (Tripping the Flash Fantastic) I start by saying “It was the perfect way to shut up Mr Know-it-all.”
You don’t need a name there. What you have got is the attitude of the narrator and the attitude of the unnamed character being referred to as there has to be a reason why our storyteller is referring to him like that. Hopefully that would make you want to read on, if only to find out what the perfect way was and was it as perfect as our narrator is claiming?

Where I do name a character, it can indicate they’re not of this world, or I will pick a name like Mary or Ben and get something extraordinary to occur. Most of us will know people called Mary or Ben. We can conjure up in our own minds what a fictional Mary or Ben might be like – and I can then get to turn the tables on said characters. All great fun!

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Twist endings work well for flash fiction, as do “punchlines”, but everything in the story must lead naturally to that point. This is why for this kind of tale, I write the ending first and then spend some time working out ideas that could have led to that point arising naturally. I then go for the one I like the most as that will be the one which has “grabbed” me and hopefully, later, will “grab” a reader too (in the nicest possible way of course!).

I’ve used spider diagrams for working out different possibilities though a simple flowchart works just as well. (All those years ago when I was working on flowcharts in Maths etc., I never dreamed I would end up one day using them for storytelling but there you go!).

But it does pay to take time out to work out different possibilities. Especially if you are entering a competition, the same ideas will come up time and again but it is your take on them that can make your story stand out and give it more of a chance. Writing down various ideas will help you whittle out and discard the weaker ones.

I’ve also found in jotting down ideas, other ideas come to mind as well. It is almost as if you’re unlocking your imagination here and it will be the ideas that come from that which are most likely to be the strongest ones to go with.

Fairytales With Bite – Magical Hierarchies

There are hierarchies in any created fictional world but I think it is fair to say with magical ones, the sparks could really fly!

So how do you judge who should be the most powerful beings? Who can hold them to account or do they rule over everything and their reign is a tyranny?

If that is the case, there has to be someone or something that can bring deliverance (or at least the hope of it) to the rest of the population, otherwise you have no story. There has to be conflict and resolution.

If you are reading a story where the majority are “subjected”, what we as readers want to find out is whether anything or anyone can free them from that and usher in a better age/better way of governing. (Let’s just say I was relieved Sauron didn’t win in The Lord of the Rings and I refuse to believe that’s a spoiler after all this time).

You could, of course, have two equally powerful magical species and they act as a check on each other but stories here could arise from when those checks go wrong. What happens? Can things be put right so the balance is right again? Who does this and so? Have you got anyone prepared to rebel against their own side if necessary?

Give some thought also as to how those hierarchies develop and what sustains them or breaks them. Conflict, consequences, resolution – the three golden ingredients for any good story.

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This World and Others – Where Magic Fits Into the Non-Magical Elements

Is there anything in your created world where the magical elements are controlled by non-magical ones? If so, how and who is doing the controlling? (That’s always interesting to know!). Can politics be used to control those with powers who, if let loose, could destroy everything?

(One aspect I love about Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is how the wizards are far more fond of big dinners than magic and the Patrician knows this. Do check out Sourcery in this series for what happened when magic did take over Ankh-Morpork. It’s a great tale and an interesting study in magic not being the be all and end all).

If magic is used as a tool to help your fictional world, how is this done? Is it like engineering, say, when it is used to fix specific problems or develop your society in some way? Is the development to the benefit of all or a mere elite? Can anyone study magic or do you have to be from the right background? How does magic affect the lives of the majority or does it pass them by?

Hope you find some interesting story ideas there.

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Snow, Stories, Patience, and Fish

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Lady wondering why I’m excited about a box of books was taken by Adrian Symes

An interesting title choice I think – see below for how these link up. Two of them are to do with stories I’ve produced this week!

 

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Many thanks for the great responses to my post yesterday.

Happily drafting more stories for what I hope will be my third flash fiction collection. I’m almost there at the word count requirement but know the draft needs a heavy edit (or several) so plenty still to do there.

Am also revising my non-fiction project. Generally happy with it but am tweaking at the moment. Next stage there will be to draw up a list of publishers I want to approach with it. Am hoping to get that out for submission in the next couple of months or so and I’d love to be able to submit the third flash book by the end of the year. Yes, that is my 2021 taken care of nicely!

I find once I get started on a writing session, it is like someone has fired the starting gun and off I go. It can be the getting started that can be tricky, especially if you’re tired etc as I mentioned yesterday.

My tip here is be gentle on yourself, don’t commit to too much, and on days when I feel like that, I focus on small amounts of writing I can polish up later. There will be places for a 100 or 200 word story later, that’s for sure, and I feel better for having got something down I know I can send off later.

Still no snow today so that’s promising! (I know, I know! Famous last words and all that. We’ll see!).

Not impressed with the recent wintry conditions in the UK. Image created in Book Brush using a Pixabay photo.

Snow again this morning. Other than that, it has been an okay but busy Monday. Hope you have had a good day.

Glad to hear Just a Minute on the air again. It’s not the first time they’ve used guest presenters but it is odd that the much missed Nicholas Parsons is no longer part of this wonderful game.

I’ve mentioned before I tend to write less on a Monday given it is one of my busiest days and tiredness takes its toll. But that’s fine. I know I’ll make up for it during the rest of the week. I don’t set myself a word count per day. I just want to write daily and there will be some fluctuations. It is a case of going with the flow. And that’s fine too but it has taken me some time to get to that point and to learn not to be too hard on myself.

 

Lady helps out! Image by Adrian Symes.


Still can’t believe how cold it is. Doesn’t feel like April at all. Oh and we had snow again today. Thankfully not for long but I suspect it will still be a while before our heating goes off!

Writing wise, I start my new Chandler’s Ford Today series on Friday. Called Judging a Book By Its Cover, this three-part series will see a range of guest authors and myself share our latest covers and talk about what we think of these. We also share some useful tips. Looking forward to sharing that later in the week.

Don’t forget I do have an author newsletter now. I send this out monthly and share exclusive stories and writing tips here. To find out more sign up (and receive a free giveaway) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am busy preparing the newsletter for May, working on my third flash fiction book, and editing my non-fiction project.

And the best thing of all about writing?

I get to write in the warm!

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Delighted to say I have another piece, Patience, up on Friday Flash Fiction. Day late sharing (sorry!) but if you like your stories on the darker side, this is one for you. And it is good to be writing drabbles again. Some of my most recent flash pieces have been on the longer side so it is great to be back to my first flash love here. After all it was the CafeLit 100 word challenge that drew me into writing flash at all!

Lady has had a good day. Got to see her best buddie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, on our way back home from the park so on a convenient corner, well out of the way of anyone, the two dogs had a playfight – as you do. Two tired and very happy dogs went home! (Would love to know how dogs can chew each other’s ears without causing any damage incidentally).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the views on my Fish Out of Water story video which I posted yesterday. (Coming up below!). These mini-tales are great fun to write and then put into a video format like this. I like to mix up the mood of what I produce here and it was more than time for a lighter piece.

Incidentally, talking of mood, I should add that character mood does not necessarily match author mood. This is just as well for (a) all my author friends who write crime, (b) all my author friends who write horror, and (c) me when I’m having an off day! Also, thinking of some of the characters I’ve come out with in my time, it is just as well my mood would never match theirs!

Never assume a character’s mood is the same as their author’s one! Image created in Book Brush using a Pixabay photo.


Hope you enjoy my latest story video on Youtube. Fish Out of Water is one of my lighter tales. Well it is From Light to Dark and Back Again here! Also pleased to say I’ll be having another story on CafeLit next week, which will be one of my longer flash tales. More details on that nearer the time but it’s lovely to have an acceptance at the start of the working week!

 


One thing I am loving about submitting drabbles to #FridayFlashFiction is the feedback on my stories. Many thanks, everyone, for that. For my latest story, Patience, I have deliberately not specified the creature that is the “lead” in this.

This isn’t a word count issue, funnily enough. I am going for effect here. One of my earliest introductions to horror was the film Duel which I think was the first directed by a certain S. Spielberg Esq. It works because the plot is simple, scary, and you never see the enemy. I think it would have lost something had we been able to see who the enemy was.

This is another reason why I don’t always give a gender to the non-human creatures that turn up in my stories from time to time. “It” for me conveys a sense of horror when used in this context. 

 

Sometimes the creature in a story is best left unspecified. Doing that can be a more scary effect for a reader than if you spell everything out.

Hope you’ve had a good Saturday. Still cold!

When do I know a flash story is going to “work”? When I know the characters convince me is the answer to that. If they convince me, they should convince other readers. And to convince myself, I’ve got to want to read their story and find out what happens! How can that be for the person who wrote the story?

Simple. I put the story aside for a while and then come back to it after a week or so. Only then can I look at it with fresh eyes and assess it as a beta reader might.

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Goodreads Author Blog – The Greatest Characters

The greatest characters in any story are for me the ones where I’ve got to find out what happens to them. Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings is an obvious one for me here, as was Aslan in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (especially after the sacrifice scene).

But characters who back up the main leads grip me too. I have a very soft spot for Sam (and Frodo would have failed in his mission without him). I also have a soft spot for Lucy in the Narnia Chronicles.

Any great character, for me, is one where I can identify with them in some way. They’re not perfect. Good. Neither am I. They have virtues I aspire to and flaws I’m glad I don’t have as well as some I know I do! But they come across as fully created beings I want to find out more about even if they’re not human.

Great characters for me include Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Sam Vimes and Granny Weatherwax throughout Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (though he makes my skin crawl with his miserly ways at the start of the story).

Great characters can also be redeemed as Scrooge shows and the theme of redemption is a powerful one.

So who would you nominate as your greatest characters?

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Story Types

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Deeply sorry to hear of the death of HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh today – 9th April 2021. His marriage to the Queen is a truly great love story.

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


So sorry to hear of the passing of HRH Prince Philip today. The story of his early life is an amazing tale in itself.

Pleased to share Story Types, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. Hope you enjoy it. I discuss why I mix up the type of thing I read and share what reading widely does for me as a writer. If you ever wanted to know why every writer under the sun tells you to read widely and well, my post is a good place to start to find out why.

Looking forward to my new series which starts next Friday. One good thing about a series on book covers is that I’m not going to have any problems at all in finding pictures to use for this! A huge thanks in advance to the authors who are taking part in this series with me and I will share more on this next week.

Story Types

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Glad to say my new Chandler’s Ford Today post is up tomorrow. This week I’m talking Story Types. I look at the type of stories I like to read (as well as write) and share some thoughts about how mixing up what you read gives concrete benefits to what you write. I look at flash fiction and short stories, as well as novels, and share thoughts on how my reading feeds directly into what I write. It can be forgotten we take in more than we think when we read. For one thing, we unconsciously take in that this is how a book should look etc. Link up tomorrow.

From 16th April, I begin a three part series called Judging a Book by its Cover. Really looking forward to sharing that. I do share my own (of course) but plenty of guest contributors share theirs and what they hope a reader would take from them. Some fascinating insights here. So plenty to look forward to here for the rest of April.

Am so glad there wasn’t any snow today but it’s still cold! More irritated today by the temporary traffic lights just down the road from me were stuck on red in both directions. You can imagine the chaos. Any sign of workmen? What do you think?!

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Another cold day (and yes a little bit more snow today). Brrr…

I was chatting earlier today over at #Val’sBookBundle about book collections you either still have or remember treasuring as a child. And some great memories were shared. I love the whole idea of collections – what a great way to encourage you to keep on reading. (It’s why I also understand and enjoy series novels).

But short story and flash collections encourage you to keep on reading too – just in a different way. I like to read through to see if there are links throughout the book. Even when there are no links, I want to find out what the next story or flash piece is all about. And then I like to work out which of the various characters I liked the most and why. (I can always learn from that).

The important thing then is to keep reading but I am preaching to the converted here, I hope!

My current read is The Diary of Isabella M Smugge by #RuthLeigh (and the hashtag is so apt here, just trust me on that one, or better still, check the book out and find out why).

Am moving on to the first Richard Osman one shortly after that so plenty to look forward to, reading wise. (Don’t watch nearly as much TV as I used to. To be honest, I don’t miss it. The time I would’ve spent watching the box I now spend writing and I feel bereft if I haven’t managed to have my usual creative session here. Anything special that comes on, I tend to record and watch while ironing etc. The glamorous writing life? Err… perhaps not! But it’s still fun and I can’t imagine my life without the writing and that’s a good thing).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Each flash story I write is the important moment in a character’s life. That is what I want to highlight. You can imply back story but you don’t have much room in which to do it. So how I do this?

I sometimes get a character to remember something.

In my story Enough Is Enough, from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I show you the character’s back story as it leads directly into the action she is going to take.

Sometimes I get the character to relate some of their back story to another character. I do this in The Terrified Dragon where my hero reveals something of his past to the angry villagers surrounding him.

So there are ways in which to do it but, as ever with flash, it is best to be brief! Readers do pick up on things that are inferred and I must admit I love doing this myself whether I’m reading a flash story or a novel. I don’t want the author to tell me everything. I do want to work out some things for myself. I just need the relevant information for me to be able to do that.

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As well as picking appropriate names for your characters and their settings/eras, give some thought to place names. Especially for fantasy and science fiction, these should still be easy for your readers to pronounce. No Mxzyoriaquantian here, thank you!

Whatever you write, it pays to read your work out loud. For novels, a section at a time is good. (I know. I have it easier here writing flash fiction!). But the thing to remember is if you trip over what you read out loud, so will your reader. You don’t want anything getting in the way of their having a fabulous reading experience as they read your latest wonderful prose.

Names should be tested this way. I’d also flag up dialogue or thoughts too. What looks good written down doesn’t always read so well and testing this by reading work out loud will flag up what you may need to simplify. No reader is ever going to moan about having an easy, seamless read. They will moan (and worse stop reading) if you make life unintentionally difficult here.


When I pick names for my flash characters, I obviously try to make the name suit the story genre. For example, in Losing Myself in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, one of the characters referred to is Graxia. That is meant to conjure up an alternative, probably magical, world setting – and the story does take place in one.

In Identity I had an older man as the main character so I went for an older man’s name here – Walter. (That also happens to be the name of one of my grandparents but no my fictional Walter is not based on my granddad! But the name is appropriate to conjure up a sense of age given Walter is not a younger person’s name).

In Being Yourself I thought the name Jane Stephens would give an idea of a lady probably in her late twenties or early thirties and who you wouldn’t be surprised to find working in a library where the story is set.

Keeping an eye out on names prevalent now (as well as using older books of names) is not a bad idea if you need a hand in coming up with suitable names for your people. But always bear in mind your story setting. Does the character name suit that?

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Fairytales with Bite – The Villain

So what would be your definition of a “good” villain? For me, it would be someone (or something!) who is a worthy opponent to your hero and who has understandable reasons for doing what they are/being what they are. Okay, you don’t have to agree with those reasons, far from it, but you should be able to see where the villain is coming from here and what drives them to take the actions they are taking.

It is just as important for the villain to be as well rounded a character as your hero. You need them both to make a great story. No conflict otherwise. And the needs of the villain and the hero should be diametrically opposed. In The Lord of the Rings Frodo Baggins wants to destroy the Ring, Sauron wants to get it back and use its powers. No compromise possible there. There has to be an outcome too.

So thinking about what your villain and hero want and ensuring they are at cross purposes also helps gives structure to your story as there can only be one winner and one ending (happy or otherwise).

A good way of working out what your villain wants is to have a closer look at their background. If a villain, say, comes from a background where the only way out is to be more powerful than everyone else around them, well there’s a pretty powerful motive for you. It would also keep them going. The fear of falling back into being “weak” again would also kick in here.

As with any kind of characterisation, work out what you think you need to know about your people (alternative beings are available!). Work out what drives them. Work out what could get in their way. As you do all that, story ideas will kick in and a good structure along with it. What’s not to like about that?!

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This World and Others – What Helps Your Villains to Thrive?

Is there anything about your created world that encourages villains to thrive? In The Lord of the Rings, Mordor is such a suitable setting for Sauron. (Good question here – does the darkness of Mordor come from him or does he make Mordor dark or is it both?).

Is there anything about your setting that encourages your characters to turn to evil to make their lives better, regardless of what that does to anyone else? What kind of politics exist in your setting that would lead to someone wanting to do whatever it takes to get to the top of the political tree? (And how do they achieve that?).

In a magical setting, do your villains use magic themselves, are they aided by it, or is it something they reject and they obtain power another way?

What is it about your setting that makes it difficult for the hero to beat the villain? If a people have been used to tyrannical leaders for centuries, would they suddenly take to a hero who wants to usher in a more democratic system or would they reject the hero and enable the villain to continue? (There would be a fair amount of fear of change coming in here, another obstacle for your hero to overcome, but does the setting itself contribute to that?).

The obvious use of setting almost as a character in its own right is, for me, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis where it is always winter but never Christmas. That is a powerful image and made me wonder whether that could ever change. Of course, that is the whole point of the story – something has to change and here it is a question of reading on to find out how.

Could you use your setting in a similar way? Does it seem to hinder the hero?

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Snow, Subverting Expectations, and Traffic Rivals

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

A nice mix of topics tonight I think!

My latest story video coming up further in the post.

 

Facebook – General

More snow flurries today. Central heating back on. Thick cardigans etc not being packed away just yet.

Glad to report my new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Judging a Book by Its Cover, will follow on from my Story Types post this Friday and will run for the remaining three weeks in April. Looking forward to sharing this week’s post and the series in due course.

Enjoyed listening to a poetry special on Hannah’s Bookshelf earlier today (I do love catch up listening!) and the imagery created was fantastic. Particularly enjoyed the lines from two poets. One was “thick as a Bible” (I have images of an old family Bible we had that was huge) and, in a separate poem, “Van Gogh stars”. Both just fantastic word portraits. Great examples of two poets making every word punch its weight.

This is one similiarity between poetry and flash fiction. I was not surprised to hear that some of Hannah’s guest poets had also taken part in her flash fiction shows. I don’t know how many flash fiction writers go on to be poets. Is there a correlation there, I wonder?

I do know that when I read the poetry columns in things like Writing Magazine, I pay particular attention to how the words are used and the tips for making every word count. That kind of information is useful no matter what you write.

It’s all about the impact on the reader.

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Brrr… it has been cold today! Had the odd snow flurry too (and yes odd is an appropriate word given I was just getting used to spring being here and then wham the snow turns up again!). Despite all of that, I hope you have had an enjoyable Easter Monday.

Managed to sub another flash fiction tale over the weekend to #FridayFlashFiction. There have been some wonderful comments on my two stories on the site so far so a big thank you for those. Made good progress on my third flash fiction collection too.

Am putting the finishing touches to a new series on Chandler’s Ford Today to be called Judging a Book By Its Cover. Looking forward to sharing this and the wonderful contributions from my guests for this too. Meanwhile, this week my CFT post will be about Story Types.

What was nice was over the weekend CFT’s lovely editor, #JanetWilliams, sent an email to the regular contributors that she had received from a fan of the site. That was lovely and I know the feedback was appreciated and not just by me. (Ties in with my post last week about Reviews nicely too – constructive feedback is invaluable).

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4th April – Easter Sunday

Happy Easter!

Delighted to see this came up on my timeline as a memory today – from four years ago.

My, how the time flies. From my first book launch for From Light to Dark and Back Again. (See photo below of the notebook and pen).

Look what came up on my timeline – a memory from 2017.


So much has changed in that time! I hadn’t heard of Zoom or Facebook Live when my first flash collection was launched. I hadn’t envisaged having my own Youtube channel, being interviewed on the radio, talking to a WI group, or taking part in an international writing summit either!

Memories like this remind me the writing journey is a continuous one. Sure, there will be times when you feel you are going nowhere or have headed straight into a cul-de-sac. But there are those wonderful moments when you know you are progressing. Progress can be anything from having something published to simply getting more work out there over the course of a year than you’ve done before or trying a new market and seeing what happens.

What matters I think is enjoying as much of the journey as possible and developing what you do in a way that you love doing. You are your own first reader so it is crucial you enjoy what you write.

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Hope you have had good Holy Saturday.

Many thanks for the positive comments, tweets etc about my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week called Reviews. I’m not too surprised this one has struck a chord! I can’t say I review every book I read but I do review the majority. I also find reviews useful for anything from books to my groceries. The range of reviews usually gives a pretty good idea of whether I’m likely to like something or not.

A big thanks also for the lovely comments on my two stories on #FridayFlashFiction.

Enjoying listening to the Hall of Fame countdown on Classic FM. That’s my listening for the weekend sorted. I often pick classical/classic like pieces when I’m creating my story videos for Youtube. They have an impressive audio library and often I’m looking for a particular mood when creating my video. Can’t say I’m too surprised it is the classic section I head most often to look for the right mood music.

Looking forward to sharing details of a new Chandler’s Ford Today series soon too.


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


A big thanks for the wonderful response to my story video, Traffic Rivals, yesterday. (Video below). I adore writing the very short flash tale, especially quirky ones like this, and story videos are a great way to share said mini tales.

Lady and I were not impressed with the snow today. The weather’s being quirky too.

It pays to mix up how you come up with story ideas. For one thing, it will keep things interesting for you.

With Traffic Rivals, it was a case of working out why a witch would take action against a speed camera. After all it wasn’t as if someone was going to dare book her for speeding, was it?! So I then came up with the answer to why she might care about the thing and the story took off from there. Even for a two-line tale, some initial thinking about who, what, why always pays off.


Delighted to see more subscribers to my Youtube channel. Welcome everybody! And I’m pleased to share my latest short story video which is about a witch’s attitude to a fellow witch and speed cameras. Hope you enjoy!

 

 

4th April – Easter Sunday

I’ve talked about wasted words in flash fiction before and one of mine is the word “very”. Why do I consider it to be a wasted word? Simply, it is because it adds nothing of value to a story. Something either is or isn’t something.
The very in front of a word doesn’t strengthen impact.

For example, “I was very cold” is a statement of fact but “I was freezing” shows you how the narrator is feeling. By cutting out words you don’t need, you will have a tighter writing pace and there will be a more immediate feel to it too. Freezing is also a stronger image. You can picture it. “Very cold” can mean different things to different people after all.

Photo by Immortal shots on Pexels.com


Many thanks for the great response to my post yesterday about using intriguing titles to get me started on a new flash fiction story. The Terrified Dragon is not the only time I “subvert” an expectation in my titles. Well, you wouldn’t expect a dragon to be scared, would you?

I use the technique again for Punish the Innocent in my From Light to Dark and Back Again. Have fun brainstorming title ideas that would draw you in. Then and only then work out what stories could come from them and write up the one you like the most, the one that makes you react the most. It will have the same effect on a reader.

You can also do this with well known proverbs and phrases. Change one word in these and see what you can do. I often use a notebook and pen for brainstorming. That just works for me but it also means if I’ve only got a couple of minutes before, say, I have to go out (I know – possibly not right now but bear with me on this!), I can jot down some ideas to work up later. Well worth trying.


Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes a Book Special For You?

It’s always good to start with a leading question, isn’t it?

Okay then, maybe starting with two of them is then!

Seriously, what does make a book special for you? For me, it is always about the characters. I have to want to know them and come to love or loathe them as the case may be but they’ve got to intrigue me enough to make me want to read their stories.

I’ve got to understand their needs and motivations, though I don’t necessarily have to like or agree with them.

And if at the end of the story, I feel sorry that I am “leaving” the characters behind, that is a good sign. Those characters really have got to me – the way they should do.

The characters don’t have to be human. I can understand the rabbits in Watership Down. Their needs, their quest is an understandable one. But there absolutely has to be something I can latch on to about whoever leads the story. It is their journey I’m following after all.

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Reviews, Book Covers, and Publication News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her.

Hope you have had a good week.

To those who celebrate Easter (as I do), may you have a blessed one.

Writing wise, not a bad week and there’s another story of mine up on Friday Flash Fiction. This site is a great way to encourage me to write a drabble (a 100-worder) every week! More below.

Always fun to find out what happens next, writing wise!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today – Good Friday – 2nd April 2021

Delighted to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post which is on a topic close to many a writer’s heart – Reviews!

I look at why authors need them, my policy on reviewing (including when I review National Theatre Live productions and shows put on by our wonderful local amateur dramatic company, The Chameleons). I also discuss hatchet jobs and share my thoughts about those (!). I also share why paid-for reviews are, for me, a huge no-no.

Like so much in writing, building up reviews does take time and it has to be done the right way to avoid running into difficulties with Amazon especially. Even ignoring that, the policy of paying for a review does make my blood run cold. It just doesn’t seem ethical to me. I want reviews to be honest and with thought put into them.

The old saying goes that he who pays the piper calls the tune but for a review, I want that “tune” to be an honestly considered one and not “bought in”. You really don’t want to be muddying the waters here, to use another old phrase.

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Pleased to share a More Than Writers blog from #WendyHJones tonight. More Than Writers is the blog of the Association of Christian Writers. Wendy’s post this time is all about book covers and, as well as discussing her latest cover reveal (for the lovely Bertie The Buffalo), she invited some fellow ACW members to share their latest book cover and a few words about it.

Many thanks, Wendy, for inviting me to take part in this. And do have a good look – there are wonderful covers here.

(Oh and my CFT post is up tomorrow).


My CFT post this week is all about a subject close to many a writer’s heart – reviews!

I talk about why they are useful, my policy for giving reviews, and share a few thoughts on how to write a review that will be useful to an author.

I also chat about my policy when I review stage productions, National Theatre Live plays etc (and I am so looking forward to being able to go to these things again and review them once more! It has been a long year and even more so for our great local am dram company, The Chameleon Theatre Group).

I also discuss hatchet jobs. Now the big question is do I manage that without carrying out a hatchet job myself? Well, you’ll have to find out tomorrow when I put the link up!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again Good Friday – 2nd April 2021

I sometimes start a flash piece by coming up with an intriguing title. For example, in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, one of my stories is called The Terrified Dragon. I had great fun working out what on earth could possibly terrify a creature that is renowned for causing fear in every other creature that is not a dragon!

I do sometimes use a simple flowchart or spider diagram to work out different possibilities and I then go with the one that I like the most. That choice is nearly always determined by the impact the idea has on me. If the idea makes me laugh the most, or makes me cringe in terror, then it will have the same effect on other readers. I am always thinking about potential impact on a reader and that’s a good thing. I want to write with a potential audience in mind, always.

And good news, I have another story up on #FridayFlashFiction. Nice way to end a week! Hope you enjoy this one. Called Mustn’t Tell. I do like an “open” title which hopefully draws people in!


My latest author newsletter went out earlier today including an exclusive flash fiction story. If you would like to sign up just go to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

As well as sharing exclusive stories here, I share writing tips and news, most of which is related to flash of course. This time around I’ve also shared a writing challenge and set a 250 word count for it.

It wasn’t something I planned but the 100 to 500 word mark does seem to be my natural home for flash stories. I gravitate to that word length almost as if I’m on auto pilot. (I’m not by the way! If possible I would save auto pilot abilities for boring tasks such as the housework!).

A screenshot from my latest author newsletter. I also share tips and writing prompts here amongst other things.



There will be a new flash fiction story from me in my new author newsletter, which will be going out tomorrow, 1st April. If you would like to sign up for this, please go to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Have submitted another drabble to #FridayFlashFiction.

Am working on material for a third flash collection too so plenty going on to keep me out of mischief!

I’ve found the basic ingredients for a flash fiction story, regardless of length, are:-

  • A character (doesn’t have to be human!).
  • An action (sometimes a refusal to act can be the action).
  • Something indicating the story has to go on.

Get those lined up and you’re well on your way to producing a promising first draft!

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Fairytales with Bite – What Would Your Characters Wish For and Why?

Well, what would your characters wish for and why? Just as interestingly, is there any chance at all of them getting their wish granted? What would the consequences be?

Action and reaction. Cause and consequence. The basic building blocks of all stories.

A character outline is a useful tool for working out what your characters are likely to want and why. (I ignore the basics of wanting food, shelter etc because you can take them as read. Everyone wants those things, understandably). What you want to go into here is deeper than that.

Character A wants a loving relationship because they have had loneliness foisted on them all their life and they want to change that. (Interesting story here: who foisted the loneliness on them and why? Why wait until now to change things?).

Your outline would go into who Character A is, who or what has got in their way (and what happened to them incidentally), what they are planning to do to change things. You won’t have every idea immediately but what you should have is a glimpse into who Character A is and, as a result of that, how they are likely to try to change things. A shy character is going to use more reserved methods compared to an extrovert, say.

Just knowing that will get you off to a good start with your story (and finding things out as you go along is (a) fun and (b) should confirm whether or not you know your character well enough to write their story up.

You may well find you will find out more about your character as you go along and that’s how it should be but you should also find your outline did nail the core elements you needed to know about them before you got started. I always find that aspect reassuring.

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This World and Others – Limitations

What limitations do your characters have? How do they overcome these? Can they overcome them?

If they can’t, do they have ways of getting advantages from their situation? What limitations does your setting have? Can your people only live above ground for certain time periods due to restricted oxygen (or other gas) availability the rest of the time?

I write flash fiction and find the word count restriction there (1000 words maximum) doesn’t stifle creativity. It fuels it. Why?

Because I have had to learn to think laterally to get the most out of every single word I put into my stories. And you can do this with limitations on your characters and settings too. If your characters can’t use magic without weakening themselves significantly, they will themselves limit their use of it (and probably save it for life and death moments. You just would, wouldn’t you?! So what would they do the rest of the time?).

If your setting has limited capacity for supporting life, how would that capacity be used? Who would control it? Would someone find ways of boosting that capacity so more people could live?

All interesting thoughts to explore.

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