At The Scottish Association of Writers Conference


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. I also took the photos from the Scottish Association of Writers (SAW) Conference. It was a joy to be north of the border for the SAW event. I had a wonderful time and the journey to/from by train was a wonderful chance to relax and get plenty of writing done so win-win there too!

The journey home

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share my latest Chander’s Ford Today post, At the Scottish Association of Writers Conference. It’s a real pleasure to report back from last weekend’s fabulous event. I also take the chance to have a look at the art of judging since, as well as running my flash fiction workshop there, I had the pleasure and privilege of judging one of their competitions, the Margaret McConnell Woman’s Short Story competition. I must admit I wouldn’t have minded winning the beautiful trophy myself!

And it was so nice meeting people in person whom I’ve previously only met thanks to Zoom as well as catch up with fellow Swanwickers (attendees of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School – we get everywhere!).

At The Scottish Association of Writers Conference

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Nice to get back to a good old swim today – perfect day to do it too! No flash fiction on Friday Flash Fiction from me for this week, hope to resume that next time, but do check out the fabulous stories on there. There’s bound to be something you’ll love (and for flash fiction writers, it is a great way to showcase what can be done with the form).

Will be sending out my author newsletter next week so if you’d like to sign up for tips, prompts, news etc., do head over to the landing page of my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com for more. I’ll resume my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today after this week’s post, which is a report on my recent time in Scotland.

I’ll be off on my travels again in June to run a flash fiction workshop for the Worth Our Weight in Gold celebration weekend the Association of Christian Writers are putting on to celebrate their Golden Jubilee. Looking forward to that especially since it will be at The Hayes, Swanwick, where I “swan” off every August for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

Plenty to look forward to then – and now on with the writing!

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Many thanks for the great birthday messages yesterday (22nd March). Much appreciated and it was a lovely day.

Something I found out just before I headed to Scotland for the weekend was that I will be having a story of mine out in The Best of CafeLit 11 later in the year. Very pleased about that (and delighted friends of mine will be in there too).

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be called At the Scottish Association of Writers Conference and I report back on my time there. Looking forward to sharing the link on Friday.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Nothing from me on Friday Flash Fiction this week (I hope to make up for that next time) but don’t forget to check the website out. There are wonderful stories on here and it is a joy to scroll through and have a good read. It is important to read well as well as write well and sites like this have a very useful purpose to serve in providing contemporary material for you to read. Enjoy!

I make a point of reading flash and short stories as well as writing them. I think it is vital to read in the field you’re in as well as reading widely outside of it. Inspiration for ideas comes from all manner of places including what you like to read so it makes sense to have a broad pool from which to fish, so to speak. Sometimes an odd line will strike you and ideas for stories of your own will begin to develop from the thoughts that have occurred to you as a result of reading that story.

So don’t let anyone tell you that you’re “just reading”. You are, in fact, carrying out vital market research and it is a lovely way to do it too, so there!

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How do you make the most of a workshop? Notebook and pen or laptop or app where you can take notes is essential. I note down any markets suggested by the speaker (to check them out later and see if they suit me). I also listen out for specific tips – it is the detail I am after. I can then work out how to apply that to my own writing. And if there is anything like a checklist or template I can make use of, I make a note of all that too.

But best of all is the fact if a speaker sets a writing exercise, as many do, there’s nothing to stop you polishing that piece up and sending it out as a flash fiction piece later on. I’ve done that and had work published as a result. Always see any writing exercise you have a go at as a rough first draft and do give them a go.

The idea is for you to produce a piece of work you can work on again later. Even if you get to read it out at the time, don’t worry about how it will come across. Nobody’s expecting perfection. What they’ll be after is seeing how you took the brief because that can confirm to them they’re on the right lines.

If your exercise is to write a 100 word story set in any world, it won’t matter if you set your tale in Fairyland and someone else sets theirs on a rodeo. What matters is getting a story down any old how. They’ve seen/heard how you’ve done it. They know they’ve got something in their notebooks which could be read out. They’ll be reassured and maybe encouraged to read their work out too. You also get instant feedback from those around you here and you can use that to help you polish your story later on.

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A huge thank you for the birthday messages yesterday (22nd March).

I’ve mentioned before that one thing I love about flash is the ability to set characters anywhere and everywhere. I was able to prove that point during my workshop at the Scottish Association of Writers conference last weekend. And it is something to make full use of – I love reading across many genres, so why shouldn’t I write across them too? You can do exactly that with flash with only the 1000 words beings the upper limit as your main restriction and even there, you can write across the spectrum. Some of my stories genuinely work better at 500 words or less so I leave them at that word count. Others need a little bit more “room” so I give them 750 or the full 1000 words treatment.

Flash has to be character led. I never liked reading lots of description. I always want to find out what the characters get up to and with flash you pretty much have to do that from the start. So win-win there as far as I’m concerned.

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Fairytales with Bite – Character Traits in Fairytales

I use character traits as my major way in to finding out about my “people” and writing their stories up. I have to know what they are made of in terms of those traits to work out what their stories could be. #

Positive traits can fail at moments of stress (and those can make interesting stories as the character comes to terms with their failure – or not). Negative traits can be overcome especially with the help of other characters and the story is all about how that “overcoming” is done (and why).

Traits are a major feature in fairytales. The arrogant are punished and usually need some act of love/kindness to be redeemed from whatever spell they’ve had cast on them as punishment. Powerful magical beings often disguise themselves humbly to work out who is worthy of their support and who definitely isn’t and here kindness is definitely rewarded eventually. It is a trait that counts for something in fairytales.

So think about what character traits you want to see in your people. What matters to you here? If honesty is important, would you show that through a character who is honest or one who isn’t and they get their comeuppance for that? In your fairytales, how would you like to see magic used? To benefit the kind in some way? When those who are not kind somehow get magical benefits, will there be a price to pay for “bucking the system”?

In working out what matters to you, you can work out what matters to your characters and that will help you set up a good story structure. If your character has to be honest, your story structure will show how that honesty lands them in it, say, and how they get out of that.

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This World and Others – Differences

Differences take many forms, of course. Differences in culture, language, what we find funny and so on. Most people have no trouble accepting others are different. But how does that work out in your fictional world? Are your characters tolerant or not? What would your fictional world count as “normal” or “different”? And does it react well to differences?

Fear can be a major motivator in the unkind treatment of others. If you dislike a particular trait, how would you act towards a character who has that trait in abundance? Would your character’s fear lead them to prejudiced treatment of others, for example?

If your fictional world is a monocultural one, how did that evolve? Was there ever a time when that wasn’t the case and, if so, what led to the removal or suppression of the other culture(s)?

How we handle differences can reveal a lot about us whether that is conscious or not. We can use that for our characters too.

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