All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.
Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good week. Have had good publication news this week and I’m particularly proud of this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post. I hope it encourages reading and sheds light on what is needed to portray realistic characters.
Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today
Am pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post called Understanding. I look at how reading promotes empathy and understanding. I also discuss how important it is I understand my characters before I write their stories up. I have got to know where they are coming from regarding their actions and at least a little of how they got to that point.
I also share some thoughts and tips and discuss how a knowledge of human nature is crucial for being able to create characters readers can identify with (and it is okay not to like them by the way. I don’t like all of mine!).
I also look at “point of change” and how this applies to non-fiction as much as it does for fiction. Hope you find the post useful and thought provoking. I hope it encourages understanding of the writing process and encourages you to read even more. Reading is wonderful for encouraging empathy. After all we get “behind” characters we love, yes? Why do we do that? Usually because we can see where they’re coming from and there is your empathy right there!
In separate news, I am thrilled to say a piece I’ve written about flash fiction will be appearing in Mom’s Favorite Reads (an online magazine) in June. Look forward to saying more about this nearer the time. Lovely way to end the working week (though really every day of the week is a working one for every writer I know – and for me!).
Am making progress with swimming. Have got back to doing my old number of lengths per session so am pleased with that. Do I ever think about story ideas while swimming? Not a bit of it. I think about very little – and it’s that aspect I love. It is chill out time especially when, as with today, I swear the water was colder than normal! (I suspect this is done deliberately to ensure you get moving quickly!).
Lady has got used to me going out again well and I am pleased about that. She has loved having us all at home during the various lockdowns and I did wonder how she’d adjust as life slowly returns to some sort of normality but she has been fine.
When it comes to writing characters, do you focus on the glamorous side of things? That is you focus on your heroes and their marvellous qualities? I can understand that but when I’m outlining a character, I look for their major trait first and then how that can be both an asset and a right pain in the proverbial. Most traits can be used that way.
For example, take the trait of courage. The virtues of it are obvious but the downsides? Well, they could range from your brave character simply not being able to understand other characters’ fears and coming across as arrogant and highhanded to your character being reckless for the sake of keeping the brave appearance up to all and sundry.
I also sometimes look at what is behind a trait. Again with courage, what has led to the character developing this? Is it a front to keep their deep down fears at bay? Is it their coping mechanism and so on? What would happen if they were forced to confront those deep down fears? (I would suspect they would not react well – would they be able to get back to their normal courageous front?).
It probably says something about human nature that it is easier to imagine the flaws though!
Hope you have had a good Wednesday. Lady and her best buddy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, did. Both went home tired but happy.
Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I’ll be talking about Understanding and I will look at how reading can encourage empathy as well. I’ll also chat about how I need to understand my characters before I can write their stories up and share a few tips.
Reading widely helps so much with your writing. For one thing, you take in how characters and storylines work. You can even do this by reading a book or story you don’t like. Why? Because you can work out what it was you disliked and then try to avoid that in your own work.
Looking forward to being back at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School later this year. I rolled over my place from last year and it will be so nice to get out and about on the train again too to get there. Will be wonderful to catch up with writing pals and be at a live event again.
Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again
Just to flag up I will have a piece about flash fiction appearing in Mom’s Favorite Reads (an online magazine) in June. Will share more details nearer the time. Very pleased about this as you can imagine. It is always good to spread the word about flash fiction writing.
Delighted to say my story Got You! is now up on #FridayFlashFiction. Hope you enjoy it and a big thank you to all who have commented on my stories on this website – the feedback is incredibly useful!
A standard length short story illuminates an aspect of a character’s life and there is usually room for a sub-plot. With flash you do have to focus on the most important aspect of the character’s life. There is no room for anything else but what I love about this is you can imply so much and leave the reader to make their own deductions.
For example, in my story They Don’t Understand (from my debut collection From Light to Dark and Back Again), I have my character come out with the thought “Same bloody patronizing attitude to us peasants”. I don’t need to tell you what this character thinks about authority given that line, do I? It’s obvious and I have found that this kind of implying things has helped me to show and not tell far more effectively.
Flash fiction, with its tight word count, has encouraged that development in me and of course that is going to help with my other fiction writing as well. Win-win!
I often use proverbs/well known sayings as titles for my stories and the great thing about doing that is you not only have your title, you’ve got your theme as well.
In Tripping the Flash Fantastic, for my story A Stitch In Time, I take this idea and get my character to reject it and justify why they are rejecting it. That was a fun take to do on the topic.
In my tale The Power of Suggestion I get my character to live up to that title and face the consequences of doing so. There are always consequences!
But you as the writer can have lots of fun taking these proverbs and sayings and using them as you think best. I am fond of twisting them and it is a great way of mixing up how to approach a story.
My favourite method by far is to start with the character.
My second favourite method by far is to use a proverb or saying in this manner as they highlight the kind of character best placed to be in the story.
Fairytales With Bite – The Fairytale Code
If there was a fairytale code, what would you expect from it? My expectations would be such a code would lay down some guidelines for what you could expect to see in a fairytale.
For that I would include:-
- Good to overcome evil
- Calling evil out for what it is
- Cheering on the underdog
- Rewarding humility and punishing arrogance
- Things often not being what they seem
- Characters coveting power/abusing it
- Characters wanting to thwart said power-mad characters.
What would you include in your fairytale code and why?
I have a soft spot for humorous fairytales (and have written some) but I do love the way such stories can cover a whole range of emotions. I cheered for when things worked out well for The Ugly Duckling. I was deeply saddened by The Little Match Girl (and rightly so too).
Above all, I want to see fairytales cherished by all and not looked down on. I loathe it when someone dismisses something as “just” being a fairytale. There is no “just” about such wonderful stories!
This World and Others – Identifying Aspects
What makes your created world stand out? What would you say were its chief identifying aspects? What makes it unique? What is it that would attract readers and help us to “place” where we are so we can see what your characters see? I like to see vivid pictures so I can think I would love to live there or, conversely, be very glad that I don’t! But it is those pictures created by your words that have the most lasting impact on a reader.
Think about The Shire from The Lord of the Rings and certain images immediately come to mind, helped no end by the wonderful film adaptations.
What is it about your created world we have to know? What obstacles, natural or otherwise, do your characters have to live with or find ways of overcoming?
What does identity mean for your characters? Are names used or is social status more important? Are any species more important than the others and how did that come about?
Plenty of story thoughts there I think!
I thought I’d share here a tweet from the Association of Christian Writers (I’m their Membership Secretary) and my reply to it. Hope you enjoy though I know several writers whose internet research history would make for far more interesting reading than mine!!
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever had to research for your writing? How much arsenic kills a person? Bus timetables in Goole? The habits of burrowing bees? Let us know below! 👇🏻— ACW (@ACW1971) May 13, 2021
What poisonous plants you would reasonably expect to find in a garden… it was for a short story, honest, guv!— Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) May 13, 2021
Understanding https://t.co/grjwparlx6 My latest CFT post looks at how reading promotes empathy and why it is crucial for a writer to understand their characters. Hope you enjoy – oh and also find out why the moment of change matters. pic.twitter.com/HP8PDhBbPT— Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) May 14, 2021