All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
What does snow, ice-cream chimes, and simple ideas have in common? They all appear in this post – and I discuss character attitudes too.
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Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Glad to report there is an offer on Amazon on both of my flash fiction collections – see link for more. Go on, pick up a bargain!
I see there is a film about to come out called Operation Mincemeat based on the book of the same name by Ben Macintyre. Loved the book. Film looks promising – hoping they’re faithful to said book.
Looking forward to sharing Laughter in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. I love writing all of my posts but there are some which are sheer fun and this is one of them. Mind you, the topic helps!
I forgot to mention this last month but I am so pleased to be a member of the Authors’ Licensing and Collection Society. I have free membership of this thanks to being a member of the Society of Authors. I was really pleased with my pay-out from ALCS last month, which was up from last year. Definitely worth looking into to if you have books out there. And updating the online form when you have new works out is easy too.
I joined the Society of Authors years ago after receiving invaluable advice from them over a publishing contact I’d been offered. It was from a vanity publisher. I turned the contract down, got my manuscript back, and joined the Society. Never regretted any of that!
Cold but no snow today so I count that as a win! See post further down for why I say this! Hope you have had a good Sunday. Much as I dislike the clock changes twice a year, I must admit it is nice having the lighter evenings. It means Lady gets a longer evening walk for one thing and she is happy about that.
Regardless of the length of story I write, I do like a good hook in the opening line. I am a great believer in the “hit the ground running” approach.
Sometimes I do this by getting a character to do something. Sometimes I will open with an intriguing line of dialogue. I also open with a set up that has to be followed through in some way and the only way a reader is going to find out is by reading the story through.
And yes I deliberately mix up the approach I take here. It keeps things interesting for me and I hope that comes through to readers too.
Bizarre weather again today. I was doing some gardening, (”doing” being the operative word as I am no expert!), when snow fell again and at the same time I heard the charming chimes of an ice cream van! (I passed on that).
Many thanks for the wonderful comments coming in on The Way Time Smells, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Using the senses is encouraged in fiction as they all help readers “picture” things, they also make characters seem more real to me, and I was glad to get in a scent I have fond memories of as a child into this story.
I’m looking at Laughter in Fiction for my Chandler’s Ford Today post next week and look forward to sharing that in due course.
One positive thing about the cold weather is it makes it even more easy to stay indoors and get on with the writing!
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I was talking yesterday about how I came up with the idea for my latest YouTube video, Away. Link below. It was based on a simple premise and, especially for such a short form as flash fiction, it pays off to keep the idea simple. Flash is not the place for the convoluted idea and again this is another example of the form of flash ensuring you do have to stick to the point.
I’ve also found, naturally, a simple idea is easier to deliver on (and stick to the word count with). There’s an old saying about not “over-egging the pudding” and that comes into play with flash fiction writing too. Just because an idea is simple, it doesn’t mean the story is simple. You can still show a wealth of emotion via the simple tale of one character telling another just what a hellish time they’ve had of it lately. Basic plot right there.
And the other character’s reaction whether it is sympathetic or not can show a reader just how caring or not that other character is and, to an extent, whether the first character deserves that sympathy or not. Yet that all stems from a simple idea.
It has been another hectic Monday. Time to slow down and enjoy a story then. Hope you enjoy Away, my latest tale on my YouTube channel. I used a random picture generator to come up with the idea for a story based around chairs in a park and thought about who might have put them there.
I’ve talked before about how I sometimes write a punchline or a twist ending first and then use spider diagrams to help me work out how I could get to that closing line. The other advantage of this is this approach usually gives me a good idea of how long my story is likely to be.
If my spider diagram produces a result where I am likely to need more than one character in the story (as opposed to one or more being referred to – a kind of “being offstage” scenario), then I know my tale is likely to be between the 500 and 1000 words mark for flash. For short stories, I’m definitely looking at 1500 to 2000. That then gives me a good idea of where I’m likely to find a home for the finished tale.
What I don’t do is decide on the word count and then work out the story from there. I always go for the spider diagram option that resonates the most with me because it will do the same for a reader. The one that resonates most with me is one I’m going to love writing up because already that idea has triggered me and I will be itching to write it up.
The only times the word count is almost (!) the most important factor for me is when I am writing to a market which calls for a specific word count such as Paragraph Planet or Friday Flash Fiction. And even there I jot down ideas and still go for the one that makes the most impact on me. I am putting myself in my readers’ shoes here and asking myself what would they like from this idea. Then I go for it!
Having your reader in mind from the start is a good idea. It helps you keep on track too.
Every now and then I write a story where the sentences open with the same words. In my The Wish List from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, all but the last sentence starts with the words I wish.
The advantage of doing this is that it creates a kind of rhythm to my story and, in this case, the “I wish”in each and every sentence ratchets up the tension and that in turn builds up to a conclusion.
It is not something I would wish to do all the time (the I wish being a deliberate choice of phrase there!) because I wouldn’t want it to come across as gimmicky and I fear frequent use of something like this would do precisely that. It does make a refreshing change every now and then though.
Goodreads Author Blog – Character Attitudes
What hooks you into following a character’s story though to those magic words The End? Something about the character has to draw you in and, for me, it is usually to do with their attitudes towards other characters, themselves, and life in general.
One of my favourite characters is Sam Vimes from Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Discworld series. Not only do I like following Sam through one novel I have loved watching that character develop over the series of Discworld novels he stars in – and boy does he develop. That is a sign of a truly great character. They’re never static! And his attitude varies depending on who is dealing with but there’s never any doubt about him wanting to see justice done. (And doing his level best to ensure it is).
I also like characters who acknowledge their own shortcomings but overcome them. (Pride and Prejudice, anyone?). A character who isn’t willing to change when it is clear change would bring them (a) happiness and (b) make them an all round better person is not a character that’s going to hold my interest for long.
Characters reflect us and what we know about life so a character’s attitude generally is something we will need to have understanding of, even if we don’t entirely agree with it.
liked Allison Symes's blog post: Character Attitudes https://t.co/nHX3aCyjae via @goodreads I chat about character attitudes for Goodreads this week and share a little about what I like about one character in particular, Sam Vimes, from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. pic.twitter.com/swqmjrKG4j— Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) April 2, 2022
Time to slow down and enjoy a story. Hope you enjoy Away, my latest tale on my YouTube channel. I used a random picture generator to come up with the idea for a story based around chairs in a park and thought about who might have put them there. https://t.co/OuNf6By5To— Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) April 4, 2022