Reviews, Transformations, and Publication News

Image Credit:-

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

Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. I also took the images from inside CafeLit 10.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Images relating to Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing were kindly supplied by Wendy H Jones, some were created by me in Book Brush, and the proud contributing author pics were taken by Adrian Symes. Always tricky trying to take those kind of photos yourself. If your other half needs to know how they can support the author in their life, taking their author pics (and doing a good job of it) is a great place to start!

Hope you have a good start to the working week. Not a bad start here with publication news for next week and reviews coming in for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing.

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Facebook – General

Pleased to say I’ll be having another story on CafeLit next week (found out today). Will share more details nearer the time but that kind of news cheers up any Tuesday!

I submitted another story about my hapless magical being, Sarah, to Friday Flash Fiction and hope that will appear later this week. I usually create a video for my Youtube channel on a Sunday and schedule it to appear on the Monday. If you would like to check out the videos I’ve created so far, see the link below which will take you to my YT “home page”.

Over the course of a week, I aim to have a good balance of fiction and non-fiction writing completed (or in the case of longer projects to have made progress on them). It keeps my writing life interesting and means I’m never short of things to do.

Youtube channel – Allison Symes

Youtube iconScreenshot 2021-09-14 at 20-33-09 Allison Symes

Busy old day as it usually is for me on a Monday. Was pleased with my productivity yesterday though. I wrote a couple of flash stories (one of which I’ll share on my book page in a moment as I turned that into a Youtube video). I used a random word generator to trigger ideas for one of them. The other story I’ve submitted to Friday Flash Fiction. And I’ve created a second, exclusive Youtube video with a new story, which will go out as part of my newsletter on 1st October.

I’ve also drafted various presentation materials too and am looking forward to delivering them in due course! Am looking forward to a nice break with better half and the dog later in the year and I plan to edit my non-fiction project during that time.

(I can’t NOT write. Sad muppet? Maybe but I am a productive one! And the dog, my better half and I will be getting in lots of lovely walking during the day so by the time we get back to where we’ll be staying, we’ll all be glad of a sit down. For me that’s a trigger to get the red editing pen out!). Am pleased with it generally but I know I can sharpen it up further so that will be my focus in the latter half of the autumn.

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Hope you have had a good weekend.

I look forward to sharing Part 2 of my interview with #MaressaMortimer on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. (And many thanks for the great responses to the share of Part 1 last Friday).

Busy preparing workshop and other material including blogs at the moment. All good fun.

And it was lovely to catch up with some Swanwick friends on Zoom yesterday.

Don’t forget if you want to sign up to my author newsletter (packed full of tips, flash stories, news etc), then please head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

And Amazon have an offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic at the moment. See link for more.

 

Delighted to see some wonderful reviews coming in for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing. (There is a blog tour going on right now which Wendy H Jones organised). I am going to share the link for this one though – and a huge thanks to Val Penny for this. It’s the kind of post that will put a smile on any author’s face.

In separate news, I’m making good progress on workshop and other materials for events later in the year (the Brechin/Angus Book Fest) so am well pleased with that too!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Funny old weather today – started gloomy, rain threatening, thunder predicted. Ended up warm and sunny and no clouds in sight. A complete transformation in what was expected.

Now it is possible to get a character transformation across in a flash fiction piece but it has to be a convincing transformation. You also need to be specific about what kind of transformation is likely as you don’t have the word count room to let your readers guess too much. And there has to be clues early on that transformation of some sort is going to be possible and will happen.

In my Seeing Is Believing from Tripping The Flash Fantastic, I open with “When Ben was unwell, strange signs appeared in the sky above his house.”.

That tells you immediately there has to be something special about Ben to make those strange signs happen. You can also reasonably expect to see some of those signs in the course of his story (otherwise why mention it?) and you have an idea of location.

House indicates an ordinary every day setting yet something is unusual here and that is the hook to draw the reader in with. You have the sense that something is going to happen either because of Ben or to Ben because of those strange signs. And that is how it should be. There is the sense something or someone is going to be transformed and the likelihood is that it has to involve Ben. It will be a question then of finding out what happens and how he handles it.

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Story time again. Hope you enjoy Being Bettered. Who will come off best – the witch or the fairy godmother?


I’ve mentioned before I need to have a way into a story but those ways can vary. Sometimes I am responding to a set prompt. Sometimes I use a proverb or well known saying as a theme. Sometimes I use an issue that means something to me.

My story Enough is Enough in Tripping the Flash Fantastic is a good example of this as it shows my character’s response to being body-shamed. (Yet another form of bullying, which is something I’ve always loathed). What I do with this story is get my character doing something positive (though whether you would necessarily agree with her idea of positive is another matter). What she doesn’t do is feel sorry for herself. She does get up and do something.

Stories hinge on the “what happens” question and the role of the character/story is to answer that question in some way. Sometimes the answer will be a good one (e.g. the traditional fairytale happily ever after ending is an example of this). Sometimes it won’t be (e.g. the character doesn’t win through despite their best efforts) but the ending will be appropriate for the character and story. And we as readers find out what happens isn’t necessarily what we would have liked to have seen happen. But then that is another way fiction mirrors life.

 

Pleased to say a fab review has come in for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing on Amazon. See link for more. My chapter in the book is called Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories. Let’s just say I say (and in some depth!). The nice thing with this book as a whole is if you would like to write but don’t know where to start, Creativity Matters will give you plenty of ideas. It also shows you how much variety is out there too in terms of what to write.

And don’t forget to check out Friday Flash Fiction for a wonderful batch of 100-word and other flash tales. My Almost Right is my contribution for this week.
Screenshot 2021-09-10 at 19-06-14 Almost Right, by Allison Symes


Goodreads Author Blog – Anthologies

Now I must put my hand up here and confess to being biased. I’ve had stories published in a number of anthologies over many years (mainly CafeLit and Bridge House Publishing). As well as the joy of being published, I love reading the other stories and discovering what my fellow writers have come out with for their contributions to the books.

As a reader, I love reading anthologies in between reading novels. Often an anthology will help me decide which novel is going to come off my To Be Read list next. A short story in an anthology might put me in the mood for a good crime novel or a fantasy one etc. I also like mixing up the kinds of things I read so I like to have anthologies in between the novels and novellas.

In celebrating the written word, I definitely want to include the short stories as well as the longer works.

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Being an Indie Author and Editorial News

Image Credit-:

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.

Images of me reading at Swanwick Open Prose Mic Nights were kindly taken by Penny Blackburn and Geoff Parkes.

Author picture, where the author writes images, and book cover images kindly supplied by Maressa Mortimer for my interview with her for Chandler’s Ford Today.

Images connected to Creativity Matters:  Find Your Passion for Writing were kindly supplied by Wendy H Jones. Images connected to the Share Your Story Writing Summit held earlier this year were supplied by the summit’s organisers.

Screenshots were taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good week. It’s been an interesting one here – more below – but the picture below indicates what it is connected with.

Screenshot 2021-09-10 at 19-13-33 Amazon com mom's favorite reads september 2021

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to welcome #MaressaMortimer to Chandler’s Ford Today for Part 1 of a two-part interview where she discusses life as an indie author. This week she also shares the wonderful story of how she came to publish a book by accident. She also talks about her love of stories and what led her into self publishing. Great insights here and some useful tips too.

Maressa has guested on other CFT posts but this is the first time she has had a post “to herself”! I am already looking forward to sharing Part 2 next week.

What I love about author interviews like this is that every writer’s journey is different and there is something useful to learn from all of them.

Introducing Maressa Mortimer – Being an Indie Author – Part 1

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Hope you have had a good day. Lady is currently resting on the sofa having had a good run around with a flat coated retriever on this evening’s “walk”. Great time had by both dogs though I think the retriever was a bit surprised at how fast Lady is – she has been known to outrun a whippet in her time. Is the only member of my household who can do that. For a start I don’t run. Secondly, even if I did, it would be slow. (I would expect to be overtaken by a tortoise with the wind behind it, put it that way).

Just going to flag up my debut flash collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again, is currently on offer on Amazon (the paperback is on offer at under £4.00 – what a bargain). The link takes you to my Author Central page (and yes, Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing is now on there too).

Looking forward to the next Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group meeting later in the month.

And I’m chatting to the lovely #MaressaMortimer in the first part of a two-part interview for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Link up tomorrow. See above.

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EDITORIAL NEWS

Am thrilled to announce I am now on the editorial team for Mom’s Favorite Reads. I am joining as their flash fiction and short story editor and look forward to further developments in this area for the magazine. And don’t forget you can read the magazine for free – see the link.

For this month’s issue, I am talking about using frames in flash fiction. I don’t use them all the time but I’ve used a diary format as a frame, for example. Also, in my What The Neighbours Think from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my opening line is a question. That question is then answered in the last two lines.

My favourite way of getting into a story is with an intriguing opening line but I sometimes know how the story has to end before I write it up thanks to that opening line. I like to think of that as having the top and bottom of my story picture there ready and I just have to fill in the middle.

If you like a good structure in place before you write, a frame is a useful technique to have. Bear in mind, you can also use time as a frame if you give your characters a certain amount of time only in which to resolve their problem. You have a frame right there – a kind of countdown.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Glad to say my story Almost Right is up on #FridayFlashFiction. What will Lizzie do when she realises something is not right about the lipstick on her bedside cabinet? Find out here!

Screenshot 2021-09-10 at 19-06-14 Almost Right, by Allison Symes

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/almost-right-by-allison-symes

I’ve mentioned before one of the joys of flash fiction is it is a delight to read out at an Open Prose Mic Night. It’s not long enough to send your audience to sleep (!) and it is a great way to demonstrate the form and what it can do. (It also helps you get better at reading to an audience).

I find the 100-word stories work perfectly for this. Usually at these things you have a short time span in which to read, mainly to ensure everyone who wants to take part does get to do so, but that works well for this. In a few minutes I can read three stories out so I can decide whether I want contrasting story moods or stories that work to a theme etc.

Incidentally, it does pay to record yourself reading your work out loud as a practice run. I did this via Zoom for when I was preparing my talks earlier this year. Zoom converts your recording into a mp4 file for you when you end a recorded meeting (with yourself!). I discovered for my talks that I was speaking too fast and, of course, you are more likely to trip yourself up over words doing that. You have to learn to slow yourself down a bit.

So for reading flash out loud, I deliberately only choose three stories, which I know I can read in the time limit and not rush them out to the audience either. (And audiences never mind if you still come in at under the time. What they generally don’t want is people going over the allotted time span. It is also not popular with your fellow readers).

Many thanks to #Penny Blackburn and #Geoff Parkes for taking the images of me below reading at different Swanwick Open Prose Mic Nights.

81c3b525454b4749288740f600b1f96a.0The Open Mic for Prose night

I mentioned this over on my author page but I’m delighted to say I am now the flash fiction and short story editor for Mom’s Favorite Reads. As you know, I am always keen to highlight the wonderful form that flash fiction is and how any and every writer can benefit from it so this is a logical step for me.

Later in the year I will be at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival and will be running a workshop on flash, as well as giving a separate author talk. More details to come nearer the time. But am very excited about these developments as you can imagine.

Am going through the draft of what I hope will become my third flash fiction collection in due course. It needs a lot of editing but that’s fine. I like the process of that, “knocking” the book into shape, and ensuring each story not only works but is in the right place in the book, which in turn helps with reading “flow” and a better experience for a reader. It was that process which helped me come up with the title for my debut book as I realised my stories in that were taking me “from light to dark and back again”!

Fairytales with Bite – Crime and Punishment in the Magical World

How does the law work in your magical world? Is crime recognised as such and is it the same kind as we have here? When you think about it, Snow White is really a story about attempted murder, yet it will always be classed as “just a fairytale”. (That does make me grimace. There is so much depth to most fairytales and that shouldn’t be underrated).

What would happen if someone uses magic they’re not supposed to be able to access?

What kind of punishments are carried out? Often people are humiliated for their pride and arrogance by being transformed into something hideous until love redeems them (for example Beauty and the Beast). But in your setting, who defines what the crimes are and what the punishments should be? I can imagine a major punishment for infringement of magical law (well, you don’t want everyone doing it) but is there anything in your world we would not consider worthy of punishment but they do?

Is there an appeals procedure? Are there trials as we would know them? Or is guilt assumed?

No world can survive for long if crime is left unchecked. It would lead to chaos. So this applies to your magical world too. How do they rein in potential chaos especially if there are a number of magical species with different capacities for magic?

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This World and Others – Geography

Does your fictional world’s geography have any bearing on your story or is it just used as a backdrop? What do your readers need to know to be able to visualise it? What kind of problems can the physical landscape cause your characters as they set off on their adventures?

What kind of natural or other disaster can afflict your creation and what can your characters do to prevent or minimise the impact?

What would your world find odd about ours and also think about this the other way round? Think about what you need to have in your setting. Your characters will need food and drink of some kind so how is that produced? Is the land conducive to agriculture or does everything have to be imported in? What happens if that goes wrong?

Also, think about whether you would like to live in your setting or not and the reasons why. What is it about your setting that readers will identify with the most and how can your characters make the best of it?

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Festival News, Pockets of Time, and an Online Bookshop

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good few days since the last post. This time, I share a new story video and exciting Festival news for later in the year. The pic below is a big clue!

Screenshot 2021-09-03 at 19-44-05 Authors events


Facebook – General

Had a wonderful swim this afternoon. Was able to have a longer session in the pool as we don’t have to pre-book a session any more. Loved that and it was the perfect sunny day to be in the water for a bit. (I suspect Lady would have liked to have joined me. Unlike my other collies, she isn’t fazed by water, but even if it was allowed… well let’s just say she’d cause chaos swimming up to everyone else in the pool to say hello!).

Am looking forward to sharing Part 1 of a fabulous chat with #MaressaMortimer on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday.

My train tickets arrived today for the first in-person event the Association of Christian Writers have held for well over a year. This will be in October and I am looking forward to seeing so many friends again. Plus in November, as I mentioned the other day, I’m off to take part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival so plenty going on. And I strongly suspect there will be a future CFT post about that Festival from yours truly in due course!

What is the most difficult aspect of storywriting? For me, it is getting started which is why I have to have an outline of some sort to give me the kickstart that I need to get going.

Intrigue the reader
Pleased with work done over the weekend. Managed to get a story out for Friday Flash Fiction. The lovely thing with that is it won’t be long before I know whether it’s on site or not! Have also created a new story video which I’ll share over on my book page on FB shortly. Am drafting future blogs and presentation material for events later in the year. Talking of which…

I’m delighted to share the screenshot below. I’m one of the authors taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival in November. More details to come nearer the time. Looking forward to this immensely. It will also be a joy because other author friends of mine are taking part in this and it will be lovely to see them in person too.

On a side note, I am going to get use out of my railcard this year! I renewed it just ahead of the lockdowns last year. Hmm…now that was a waste of time. It won’t be this year!

Screenshot 2021-09-03 at 19-44-05 Authors events

 

The writing journey is not meant to be static


It has been a lovely sunny Sunday here in Hampshire today. Much appreciated by Lady and I.

This week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post is the first part of a splendid interview with indie author, #MaressaMortimer. Maressa and I know each other thanks to the Association of Christian Writers. Maressa is the only person I know who has published a book by accident, yes really! For more details on that and for wonderful insights into life as an indie author, do check out the post later this week. Link will go up on Friday, part 2 on the following Friday.

A good use of small pockets of time is to draft blog posts. When I’m not brainstorming for ideas for stories, titles etc., I will start drafting blogs for a general audience as I know I will get to use these later on. I can then choose which market I will use them for. So never despair at having only ten minutes to write on any one day, you can still write valuable things in that time.

I’ve drafted the opening paragraphs to future blog posts, a complete flash story etc in pockets of time like that. And by having just the opening paragraphs of a blog there already, when I do have more time to get back to it, I find I “hit the ground running” with the rest of the text for that blog. Having something there to start me off encourages further creativity I find. I guess it is because it is not an entirely cold start and I have found it is worth doing.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Mine has ranged from going to an ACW Committee Meeting via Zoom to walking the dog to mowing the lawn and now to writing. A right old mix!

Music can trigger memories of stories. I think of that as I enjoyed listening to the Classic FM TV theme countdown on Bank Holiday Monday and many favourite memories came back – Poirot, Morse, Thunderbirds, Eye Level (Van de Valk theme), Black Beauty, Jonathan Creek (which uses Danse Macabre appropriately as its theme) – all thanks to the themes used for the shows.

Thinking of your characters, could you name their favourite TV theme? Why would they choose it? What does that choice say about them? For many of my quirky characters, quirky music such as Danse Macabre and Gershwin’s Walking the Dog would suit very well. Mind you, I think they suit me quite well too! Oh and Lady loves Walking the Dog too… can’t imagine why.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

As well as writing flash, I love reading it – and if you want a place to check out various collections, may I recommend you pop over to the Bridgetown Cafe Bookshop.

The Chapeltown Books collections stand out thanks to being square with distinctive pictures in the middle of their “cover frame”. You will also find the short story anthologies on here too – and there are a range of options for buying too. It doesn’t just have to be through You Know Who.


Screenshot 2021-09-07 at 21-05-25 The Bridgetown Café Bookshop

Story time once again (and always a nice way to start a week I think). Hope you enjoy Wordsearch.


I’ve sometimes used objects in my opening line to a flash piece. It flags up immediately to the reader this object is important and it is often a case then of finding out why that object is important. I use boots being missing as an opening hook in my Shoplifting from From Light to Dark and Back Again. For Getting It Right I used a shiny red apple which should be an immediate flag to any lover of fairytales!

And there is such a thing as a random object generator if you need somewhere to start. The one that came up on my search engine allowed you to choose how many objects to generate so you could use all you choose or just pick the one or two you like best.

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Am looking forward to drafting more flash stories tomorrow (I often use Sundays for this) ready for submission to Friday Flash Fiction and for use on my YouTube channel in due course. All great fun to do. And if you want to check out my YouTube videos, you can do so here. More subscribers always welcome.

The nice thing about preparing the story videos is I have to think about what would work well visually. Sometimes I can’t find an appropriate video for the story I want to share so I think laterally around my character and/or setting and/or theme and I can usually find something that way.

Goodreads Author Blog – How To Books

Do you like how to books? I love the creative writing ones and have found them useful. My overall favourite is On Writing by Stephen King though I also love How Not to Write A Novel which is funny as well.

What I’m looking for in books like these is information written in a down to earth style. I don’t want jargon or complicated theories. A “kind of” how to book is The Seven Basic Plots which is a huge book but you learn so much from the way the author outlines these plots and you can see for yourself how so many films and books have used these time and again. (With good cause – a great story on a theme which is timeless is always going to work).

I’ve also found things like Scrivener for Dummies useful. A good how to book always has a decent cross-referenced index. I appreciate the art of the indexer far more now. I have read a few non-fiction books without such a thing and you do feel the lack. And every writer needs a source of advice and practical tips to help them along their writing way. I know I’ve appreciated the useful tips and hints I’ve picked up by reading a good quality how to book.

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Creative Matters: A New Direction and Mom’s Favorite Reads

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing kindly supplied by Wendy H Jones (as was her own author pic). Some images for Creativity Matters created in Book Brush by Wendy H Jones and Allison Symes. Image of yours truly proudly holding up one of her copies of Creativity Matters taken by Adrian Symes.

Other images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos as usual. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

A busy week with Creativity Matters now being out and my latest article is also out in Mom’s Favorite Reads. 

Moms Favorite Reads - September 2021

Creativity Matters

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am thrilled to welcome back #WendyHJones to Chandler’s Ford Today to talk about Creative Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing.

Wendy shares with me what made her decide to go into publishing other authors and how she has found this aspect of her own writing journey. She also shares fabulous tips for writers on working with editors and publishers, as well as marketing tips.

All great information regardless of what stage you’re at in your own writing journey. I’ve found from experience that what might not be directly relevant to me now becomes so later on and I have been so grateful to have that information to fall back on when I needed it.

We also discuss the technical side of bringing books out and Wendy shares what skills she has had to learn to take on something that is brand new for her. She has written from the cradle to the grave, in terms of audience, but publishing others is a first. There are always learning curves but these are what keep us on our toes as writers and help us develop and achieve more than we might once have thought possible.

Wonderful information here and a big thanks to Wendy for sharing this.

Creativity Matters – Wendy H. Jones – A New Direction

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Pleased to say the September 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out. My topic this time is Frames in Fiction and I look at how I use a frame format for some of my flash fiction writing. See my article for more on why this is a useful thing to do and do check out the excellent stories that follow which are on the topic of framed. Loved reading those. Hopefully you will too! My story on the theme is part of my article.

What with Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing, it has been a busy week for celebrating and talking about flash fiction!


A huge thanks for all of the wonderful responses to my post about Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing yesterday. It is always a joy to share author pics, proudly holding book etc! Especially since in the early years, I received outright rejections or simply didn’t hear back from publishers. (The latter is even more common now given time constraints for most publishers and agents).

Persistence and willingness to learn from mistakes are crucial attributes for any writer. You do get better the more you write. You learn what works and, just as importantly, what doesn’t.

I recently judged a flash fiction competition for The Byre Writers. Great fun to do and many congratulations to the worthy winner, #SuzanneMilne with her Why Can’t You Hear Me? I often talk about impact in stories, especially flash fiction. You are looking for the “wow” factor. This one had that in spades.

When I enter competitions I try to come up with unforgettable characters who will move me. If they move me, make me laugh, cry, scream, or what have you, they’ll do that for someone else, including hopefully the competition judge!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Confession time: forgot to submit anything to Friday Flash Fiction this week but I was pleased to see more stories by more people I know on there. (Particular shout out to #HannahRuthRetallick, #VeronicaBright, and #ElaineLangford here).

Browsing the stories on here every week is a great joy and is a fabulous way to discover the wonderful world of flash fiction. Submission rules are easy to follow too so why not give it a go? (And yes I plan to get another story on there again soon).

Screenshot 2021-09-03 at 20-22-56 Friday Flash Fiction

Just a quick reminder that I’ll be talking with #WendyHJones about Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing tomorrow in Chandler’s Ford Today. Link further up. My chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories and it was a joy to write. I’m always up for celebrating flash fiction and spreading the word about what a wonderful format it is… not that I’m biased… much!

I am also in the September issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads and discuss using frames in flash fiction writing. See link for more. And don’t forget Friday Flash Fiction if you are looking for somewhere to send your 100-word stories. The feedback I have had here has been incredible and so encouraging. This is nice because this doesn’t always happen online. Happy to share the link for MFR twice – it is a fab magazine with a wide range of articles and stories. It is a joy and pleasure to write for it.

 

One of the things with flash fiction is working out exactly where to end the story. I know, I know, that’s true for any story, I hear you cry. True but given you have less room in flash, it is even more important to get it right.

This is one reason why I will often “start” with a closing line (which is often a twist or a punchline) and then work backwards to get to a logical start. Let’s call it writing from B to A rather than A to B. (Mixing up how you approach is a story is good fun and keeps you on your toes. It also encourages you to think in different ways which encourages lateral thinking and greater creativity as a result).

I aim to leave a story where the tale is concluded but the reader senses the characters could go on to “live” in other stories not told by me at this time. That’s a good sign of characters coming to life for the reader and helps maximise character impact. I know when I read works by other writers, one of the things I love most is, having got to the end, I can still envisage those characters living lives outside of the novel or short story concerned.

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Fairytales with Bite – Magical History Lessons

In your fantasy setting, what role does history play? How much of your created world’s history is known by your characters? And do mistakes from the past come back to haunt your characters now?

When it comes to education, whose version of history is the “accepted” version taught in schools etc? Is there an alternative history that is suppressed because it is a threat to those in power?

When it comes to fairytale history, do stories such as Cinderella and Snow White form the basis of what is taught as in a magical setting, those could be “real life” tales and be treated as such? Are there fairytales that are considered unacceptable and so are not taught? Why are these “banned”? What would happen if word about them got out? Would it make your people re-examine what they’d always taken to be the truth?

Whatever your setting is, whoever your characters are, there has to be something “behind” them in terms of history. Characters have a past. The setting also does (and you could examine what changes have happened over time here too. Are they better? Is the environment damaged by the changes? Has it affected people’s magical abilities in the same way pollution here on Earth would and does choke our planet? All interesting story ideas to explore).

What matters is getting across to a reader what they need to know but to do it in an interesting way. You almost slip the information in so readers pick it up, almost without noticing. What you don’t want is “info dump” and characters should never tell each other what they ought to know. Readers will see right through that, correctly too, as a way for an author to get information across without “telling” you but it doesn’t really work. Dialogue has to be what you would reasonably expect characters to say and I know I don’t tell people I know what I know they already know! So our characters mustn’t either.

What you could do is get a character to ask another what they opinion is on a historical event in their world which is having impact on their world today. We say history goes around in cycles. There’s nothing to stop that being true in your fictional creations.

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This World and Others – Compare and Contrast

A good way to get started with creating a new setting is to compare what you think you want to write about with what we know exists here. For example:-

Planet Earth has 71% of its surface covered in water. That in turn means we have all sorts of creatures living in water or around it or who are dependent on food from it. So what if your fictional world didn’t have water? What would it have it instead? What creatures would live in that substance? Equally if there is a reason for your world not to have water, as we know it, what is that reason? Is it because your world is a gas giant say and what your characters depend on is being able to breathe using that gas?

Politically, you can take what we know here about democracies and dictatorships and apply them directly to your creation or come up with direct opposites. Equally you can have your world have something that is far superior or inferior to what we have here, depending on your preferences.

For characters, you can take what we know about human behaviour and apply that directly to your alien being. Or your alien being has a totally different nature to ours – e.g. it is not motivated by a desire to survive, it is motivated by a desire to befriend other species so all survive.

But comparing and contrasting is a great place to start. It can help you find a way in to your world and character building.

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