Inspiration and Grouping Stories


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated (and many created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos). Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
I look at inspiration and grouping stories for collections this week, as well as have a look at what led to me creating this week’s YouTube story. 

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Facebook – General

Another mixed bag on the weather front today. Sunshine, strong winds, and rain. There’s bound to be something there someone will like!

Looking forward to going to the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend very soon. I’m running my flash fiction workshop there. I’ll be back at The Hayes, Swanwick. When I get back from that, I’ll need to think about booking my train tickets to go back there again (!) for The Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Hold the revolving door…!

Am running the ACW Flash Fiction Group Zoom meeting tomorrow. Always great fun and lots of information and tips shared. Online groups are a real blessing.

I hope to write up for CFT a report on my recent workshop at the London Jesuit Centre and the ACW one in June in due course but this week’s post really will be on Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions in Fiction. Link up on Friday for that.

Many thanks also for the views in so far on Beach Life – Maybe which is my latest tale/tail on YouTube.
Link to video further down, taster pic below!

Screenshot 2022-05-24 at 20-08-42 Beach Life Maybe - YouTube

Hope you have had a good Monday. Quote of the day from my desk calendar is “A dog is a smile and a waging tail. What is in between doesn’t matter much.”. Sums Lady up nicely!

I was back using the old random generators yesterday. I’ve created two stories based on the premise of “pet peeves”. I’ll be sharing one of those stories on YouTube over on my book page shortly. I must admit though this was a great topic to write about and cathartic too! Definitely a case of writing about what you know too.

And the great thing about using that topic for flash fiction? You can’t go on for too long either!

You could think about the kind of pet peeves your characters would have and why they have those ones. What is the story behind that? There is always a reason for a peeve so can you get a tale out of that? It’s worth a go!

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Glad to say the May issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now FREE on Amazon – see the link for more. (Below).

Now this time I have got things right for flagging up my next post on Chandler’s Ford Today. This coming Friday’s post really will be called Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions in Fiction!

Am currently putting the finishing touches to my flash fiction workshop for the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend at The Hayes, Swanwick, in early June. Talking of ACW, I’m also looking forward to its Flash Fiction group meeting this coming Wednesday, which I’ll be leading. Zoom has been a lifeline over the last two years and, for groups like ACW, it has made certain things possible.

For ACW, this has meant being able to have genre based groups where the members cannot possibly get together in person. One very positive thing to come out of the pandemic!

 

A lovely Saturday here in Hampshire.

Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on my poignant Another Birthday, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. All much appreciated. I don’t always sympathize with my characters but I do here.

I do always know where my characters are coming from and why but nobody says I necessarily have to agree with “their” conclusions. That is a mercy I think for any writer because do you really want to agree with your villains or those characters who are on the “selfish” end of the spectrum? I think not!

 

Facebook – From Light To Dark And Back Again

My inspiration for yesterday’s tale on YouTube, Beach Life – Maybe, (video below) came from a random generator which triggered the question about pet peeves. No problems coming up with a story based on that!

Taking that idea further, think about what your lead character’s pet peeve might be. Focus on just the one.

How would that peeve affect their attitude and behaviour? What would it make them do that anyone else would think odd or just not worth bothering about? Could you get a comic tale out of it, for example? Why not jot down some ideas about what a pet peeve could lead to and see what that could take a character?

AE - March 2022 - Lateral thinking encouraged


Time for a story – well it has been a long Monday so why not? Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTube, Beach Life -Maybe. I have every sympathy with my character, Basil, here.

When I give a talk on flash fiction, I am always keen to share why practicing it regularly helps with whatever other kinds of writing you do.

I’ve found the editing and writing to a tight word count are aspects I’ve carried across into my blogging, for example. It could also be argued a lot of my smaller blogs would count as flash non-fiction anyway (usual word count for that is 500 words to 1000).

Also knowing I am writing to a small word count encourages me to make even more use of those tiny pockets of time that would otherwise be lost. I know I can draft something useful in five or ten minutes to be added to and edited later on. The writing I can get done in that time will be developed further so there is every point in getting it down on paper/on screen.

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The nice thing about any good book is it can take you into different worlds (sci-fi and fantasy etc) and times (historical/futuristic) and so on. With story collections (short stories and flash ones), you can go into different worlds with each story or flash piece you read and all within the cover of one book.

That is what I love about reading flash collections in particular and one element I appreciated when I was putting my first two books together. I love the mixture and often I will use a flash piece or a short story that has especially gripped me to help me decide which novel I want to read next. If I was gripped by a short crime tale, I am likely to make my next novel read a crime one.

What is interesting is when it comes to grouping your short stories or flash pieces in your collection. Do you do this by genre or by mood or by linked characters etc? I do tend to keep linked character stories together as it stressed to the reader these are meant to be linked and I haven’t used the same one again by accident.

Otherwise, I go with mood. I like to read a few darker tales, then I want something to lighten the mood for a bit and so on. I also like to keep in mind what I think my Ideal Reader would prefer. Once I’ve got a rough running order together, I go through the book again to make sure it does work the way I think it will.

Sometimes I find I have to adjust again to make the stories flow better into one another but that’s fine. It’s an interesting aspect to editing and one I enjoy. It feels good when you know you’ve got the running order right and the stories flow seamlessly into one another, creating the impact you want in your readers.

Goodreads Author Blog – The Best Times for Reading

Do you have a preferred reading time? My book reading tends to be reserved for bedtime. Am currently loving dipping into a huge book by Classic FM of classical music facts and figures (the people as well as the musical numbers!). I love reading magazines (especially writing ones) while having my lunch. As for holidays and travelling on trains etc., the Kindle comes into its own.

I like to mix up books and magazines, short stories/flash collections and novels, print reading and electronic reading. I like to see it as keeping my hand in!

But the best time for reading is really any time you can. What does reading do for us?

Well, it entertains, it educates, it takes us away from our troubles for a while, and we can explore this world. We can explore other worlds and worlds which might exist in a parallel universe.

We can go back in time thanks to historical works (fiction and non-fiction) and we can go forward as well thanks to science fiction. We can follow real people’s lives in biographical works and made-up people’s lives across the wonderful vastness of the fictional genres.

Writers take in what works in stories as they try to write their own.

Characters reflect what we know about ourselves. It can be eye opening at times too.

Screenshot 2022-05-24 at 20-50-33 The Best Times for ReadingBookBrushImage-2022-5-23-21-3411

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Questions in Fiction

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.
Hope you have had a good few days. I ‘fess up to one of the downsides of scheduling this week! Let’s just say I think most schedulers get caught out this way at some point and this week it was my turn!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Now I’ve talked before about the virtues of scheduling blog posts etc. It is a useful thing to do but one slight downside is it can mean you get ahead of yourself a bit and I’ve realised I’ve just done that for Chandler’s Ford Today.

My post this week is actually called Questions in Fiction where I talk about using questions as a structure, as inspiration for themes and titles, and I look at questions for characters too.

Screenshot 2022-05-20 at 09-54-18 Questions In Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

My Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions post will be on CFT next Friday, 27th May and will I hope to prove to be equally useful as I discuss why reading matters so much to writers. I will also look at rhythms in stories and how resolutions have to be suitable, even if not happy ones.

Apologies for the mix up but as ever comments on all of my CFT posts are welcome over on the website. (It has been a long week! That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!).

Questions In Fiction

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Hope you have had a good day. Nice to see some decent weather. Other half and I enjoyed our evening meal al fresco which was lovely and not something we get to do that often.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow covers Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions in Fiction. Err… no! See above! As ever comments are welcome in the CFT box. This is always true though!

Talking of comments, many thanks for the comments in on my Authors Electric post yesterday. See below. I was talking about Why I Love the Short Fictional Forms. I love novels, novellas, short story anthologies, and flash fiction collections though I must admit I would like the latter two to have as much “status” as novels.

What every short form writer will hear at some point includes the following:-

1. When are you going to write a proper book?

2. Can you only do short stories then?

3. You must be belting out short stories all the time then because they can’t take you long!

4. Are short stories only for children?

5. Is there really a market for short stories?

Answers (possibly given to stop the writer from gnashing their teeth at the questioner):-

1. A short story or flash collection is a proper book. It still takes time to compile, edit, and proof-read.

2. No but I love short stories so that’s what I write.

3. I do write a fair few but each story needs editing and crafting and that takes longer than you might think.

4. No! Best example here is the original story of The Birds by Daphne du Maurier, which Alfred Hitchcock then turned into a film. Definitely not for kids!

5. Yes. It’s a question of knowing where to look. There are the magazines, including the online ones. There are the competitions. And then there is the indie press who are open to collections.

I feel better for getting that off my mind!

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18th May – Authors Electric
It’s always a joy to blog for Authors Electric, especially when it’s on a topic close to my heart. This month I talk about Why I Love The Shorter Fictional Forms. I celebrate the wonders of the short story and flash fiction formats here.

One great aspect to them is you get the “payback” from a twist in the tale story, to name one example. that much more quickly. And I love going on from story to story in a collection too. In one book I can read a variety of moods and genres. Why should mixed assortments only be for chocolates?!

Screenshot 2022-05-18 at 08-51-06 Why I Love the Short Fictional Forms by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

20th May 2002 – Bonus Post – Mom’s Favorite Reads
Pleased to share a bonus post tonight. Here is an example of a column I write on flash fiction for Mom’s Favorite Reads. The magazine is FREE to download and, as well as the column, I set a writing challenge each month. Why not take a look, have a good read, and give the challenge a go?

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I like to start the working week with a story (YouTube) and I like to end it with one (Friday Flash Fiction). Seems like a good arrangement to me! Hope you enjoy my latest tale on FFF called Another Birthday.
Screenshot 2022-05-20 at 09-54-32 Another Birthday by Allison Symes

Titles can carry a lot of “weight” for flash fiction but I’ve found they work best when kept short. I like to use my titles to either indicate the mood of the story to come or to be open to interpretation so someone has to read the story to find out which direction I have taken it in. I sometimes subvert well known phrases (my Punish the Innocent is an example of that).

I also like using one word titles such as Expecting – the idea there is to raise questions in the reader’s mind. Who is expecting what? Are they going to be disappointed or thrilled?

So I do give some thought as to what I want my title to be/to do. For flash this is useful as in many cases, the title does not count as part of your overall word count so a writer can use that to good effect.

However, a ten word title to indicate mood etc isn’t going to work. As with the story itself, you want to have an impact on the reader and that works best when kept short. A long title will dilute the effect (and be harder for readers to remember).

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I love slipping in humorous one-liners into my flash stories sometimes. For example in my story, Rewards, from From Light to Dark and Back Again, I have the line “The mocking face of blue-eyed brunette, Gemma Alderson, who was endowed with a bosom that could knock someone out if deployed as a weapon”.

It was great fun writing that but I needed it to have a purpose too – I wanted to send out a specific image (and I so do there!). I could’ve just said that Gemma was big-busted and saved a fair number of words in doing that but it wouldn’t have been so much fun to read or to write.

So yes there is a time when you need more words rather than less in flash fiction but there should always be a specific purpose behind it. Here it was to raise a smile! Good enough reason for me!

Fairytales With Bite – Making the Most of Tropes

For my flash fiction, I can make the most of tropes to help me get the most out of my word count.

If I’ve got a fairy godmother character, I needn’t go into details about the magical equipment she uses, say. You will expect there to be a magic wand, probably a spell book, maybe some pre-prepared potions and so on. You will bring to the story what you know from other fairytales you have read. You will know what to expect. What you don’t want is for something to spill over into cliche.

Yet a fairy godmother character who turns up without a magic wand would seem odd to a reader. So you can use the conventions to your advantage here. You can work out what you don’t need to explain and what you can leave to your readers as they fill in the gaps.

And, yes, things like magic wands can act as a kind of a shorthand. Saves a lot of explaining on your part. Pick your “things readers could reasonably expect” carefully.

If you want to bring in a twist on your trope, such as my fairy godmother character hitting someone with her wand rather than aiming it at them, do explain why. Better still, get your characters to do it. There must be a good reason for the trope being used in a strange way.

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This World and Others – World Building Acrostic

W = Work out whether you’re going to show the whole of your world in a story or just part of it.

O = Originality – what makes your world stand out? How is it different from ours?

R = Realistic characters are always vital. Just bear in mind in a strange setting, those characters can still be realistic even if, say, they are e a great big dragon! Their behaviour and attitudes should be reasonable for the world you’re in.

L = Limits are a good idea, funnily enough. Limit what your powerful characters can do and make them think of alternative solutions to problems.

D = Dreams – what do your characters want and what stops them getting it? Are their dreams/ambitions etc constrained by the type of world they’re living in?

 

B = Build in contrasts. Comparisons with things on earth bring home this is a alien type story.

U = Under your world – what lies there? All sorts of things are being discovered in our seas so what could be beneath current knowledge in your world? Could that have a major impact on them later.

I = Imagination. Have plenty of it! Use the right telling details to help us conjure up what you’ve created.

L= Lunches and leisure – how does your creative world affect them? Does everyone have to stop at a certain time? If so, what would happen on the odd occasion they couldn’t turn up?

D = Dig deep into your characters’ lives but also in to why this setting rather than one other.

I = Intensify the conflicts between certain people groups on your home planet.Look at how these developed. Then ideally come across people from both who will try to put things right. great drama there!

N = New scene, new paragraph. Keep things nice and tight. Drip feed information in throughout the story. Don’t go for big blocks of explaining. Those will be what readers skip.

G = Go for it! Have fun. Think about what you need to know to be able to write the world and characters up.

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The Writing Life and Show, Don’t Tell


Image Credits:- All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good weekend. My workshop at the London Jesuit Centre went down very well and many thanks to all who came. Also for the lovely feedback. Happy writing to you all! (I plan to have a write up about this for Chandler’s Ford Today once I have also ran my flash fiction workshop at the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee celebration weekend in June. Meantime, there are pictures taken by me from the event throughout the post).

 

Facebook – General

Strange day – gorgeously sunny and warm and by this evening it was pouring down. Fortunately Lady and I missed the worst (we’re never sorry about that) and she got to play with her pal, Coco, today.

When do you know you really are a writer? Is it when you get your first publication credit or contract or you’ve mapped out your self-publishing route? Not necessarily! I would argue it is when you recognize that writing can not be part of your life and you will write regardless of anything else. Doesn’t matter if you only have a few minutes a day or several hours. It is the commitment and regular writing that matters I think.

Also the acceptance that rejections happen to everyone (and even more so not hearing back from a publisher or a competition) is an important factor. Another one is recognizing nobody’s work can ever be described as perfect. It is a question of making it the best you can make it at the time you wrote it.

I can look back on several of my earlier stories and see how I could improve them. They act as a record of where I was at the time and as encouragement to keep going and to continually try to improve on what I do. That is the challenge of writing – to keep on improving. Resting on your laurels doesn’t encourage you to see what else you might do either.

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Hope your week has got off to a good start. Changeable weather here again though Lady got to play with her two best girlfriends today and all three dogs went home very happy. It is quite something to see a Collie cross, a Ridgeback, and a Vizler playing! You do learn to get out of the way quickly, mind you.

Many thanks for the comments in so far on Creation, my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. The feedback on this site is encouraging and much appreciated.

It’s almost time again for my monthly Authors Electric spot – my post will be up on Wednesday (18th May so will be included in my next round up here) and I will be talking about Why I love the Shorter Fictional Forms. There you go! A good example of writing about what you know! Screenshot 2022-05-13 at 09-12-04 Creation by Allison Symes

More like an autumn day out there today than a spring one!

I plan to write up a bit more about my workshop yesterday for the London Jesuit Centre later in June, after I come back from The Hayes in Swanwick after the Association of Christian Writers’ Golden Jubilee weekend. I will be running my flash fiction workshop there and am looking forward to doing so and catching up with friends old and new.

That means I continue with my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today and next Friday’s post will be about Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions In Fiction. There’s some nice alliteration for you!

Don’t forget I send out my author newsletter on the first of each month so please head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like to sign up for tips, prompts, news etc.

And I got my story off for one of the competitions I always have a try at so that rounds off the week nicely! As I mentioned to someone at the workshop yesterday, I really don’t miss having to send everything off in the post. I am so grateful for email submissions. It’s quicker and I can know my story got there straight away too!

 

A huge thank you to the lovely people at the London Jesuit Centre for making me so welcome today (Saturday, 14th May 2022). I ran my workshop Finding Your Voice – Writing Fiction – How to Get Started there this morning and there were some fabulous discussions and questions as a result of the workshop material. Many thanks all – I love interactive workshops whether I’m running them or attending them!

Also a quick trip down memory lane here as I always used to try and “buy” Bond Street on the old Monopoly board when playing this as a kid and my Tube Station stop today – you guessed it, Bond Street!

In other news, as they say, a big thanks also to all who have commented on Creation, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’m sure we’ve all heard the expression “show, don’t tell” and it took me a long time to work out what that meant. Writing flash helped me enormously here.

When I “clicked” it was all about getting your characters to say/do things and not the author, I was away. (Catherine walked through the wall as if there was nothing to it as opposed to me saying something like The character, Catherine, did this, did that. Oh and by the way she’s a ghost. My first example shows you she must be a ghost without my spelling it out).

The flash element helped me develop this because of the limited word count. I had to ensure my characters were doing all of the work.It’s a bit like a play – what does the audience want? To see the actors perform the story (or listen if it’s an audio play). What they don’t want are the stage directions. Those aren’t for them.

Likewise, a reader doesn’t want to see my early drafts of a story. They want to see and read what my characters get up to – and it has helped me to remember that it is the character’s story.

Why am I writing this character’s story up? What is so important they get to do this? Only answer there is for the characters to show me (and ultimately the reader) through what I get them to say and do. The only people readers want to hear from are the characters.

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It’s Monday (16th May 2022) and time once again for a YouTube video. Hope you enjoy my latest, 47. Linda has an unlucky number but it’s not one of the usual ones – she has no problem with the number 13 for example. Why 47? Find out here!

 

I suppose one of the reasons I love characters so much in any kind of story is I usually understand where they are coming from, even if I still disagree with their attitudes and actions. I want to then see how things pan out. Did those characters make the right choices for them and their situation after all or not? That is the big draw of fiction and I need characters to make things happen.

Okay, sometimes those things will make the initial situation worse but a “good” character will find ways of overcoming that/learning where they went wrong and put things right. In flash fiction, naturally, all of that happens so much more quickly so you get the payback more quickly.

And for any kind of story collection, I like a mixture of moods of story too. It is why I called my first book From Light to Dark and Back Again after all!

Flash with Amazon and Barnes and Noble


I was sharing a flash piece today as part of my workshop Finding Your Voice – Writing Fiction – How to Get Started for the London Jesuit Centre today (Saturday, 14th May 2022). The great thing about doing this is that it doesn’t take too long, flash can illustrate points quickly, and it is easy to demonstrate the point of hooks, powerful opening lines etc.

Also you can show a character does not necessarily have to be right about conclusions they’ve reached for themselves but what should happen in stories like that is the reader should have empathy with that character. They should be able to understand where the character is coming from even though they think the character should have reached a more positive conclusion, say.

Stories, of any length, should make you react, make you feel something, make you care about what happens to the character (and something does have to happen. There should be a conflict which needs resolving. It should matter to the characters that it is resolved).

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Books Acrostic

B = Brilliant books in all sizes and genres, sure to be something to suit you.
O= Original storytelling from contemporary writers or do you fancy the
O = Old Classics? Why choose – have both!
K = Kindles now mean you can now have an overflowing electronic book shelf as well as a physical one!
S = Stories you read may well inspire the ones you write.

A = Adventures or animal stories – enjoy them all.
C = Children’s fiction, YA, adult, – work your way through!
R = Reading feeds the mind, liberates the imagination.
O = Off in a world of your own – maybe when you read but then the author has done their work well if that is the case.
S = Scary or silly – there are stories for both.
T = Twist endings are not just for crime tales though there are plenty there.
I = Imagine what it might be like to live in a different world – books can take you there.
C = Characters – it’s all about the characters for me whether I love them or loathe them. They have to make me feel something. The very best linger in the mind long after I’ve finished reading the book.

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Paragraphs and Punctuation In Fiction

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.
Hope you have had a good week. Off to run a workshop in London tomorrow. Submitted a story for a competition I always enter. Finished judging a flash fiction competition and sent results back to the organisers. Has been a reasonably productive week!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s that time of the week again. I’m pleased to share Paragraphs and Punctuation In Fiction, my latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today.

I discuss how both are invaluable aids to clarity in writing which in turn is going to increase your chances of acceptance by a publisher or getting a placing in a competition.

What you don’t want to do here is give them a reason to turn your work down and writing which is clunky thanks to bulky paragraphs and/or unclear punctuation (which can change the meaning of what you want to say) is a sure fire way to ensure your work is turned down.

My post looks at the Oxford comma, why size matters for paragraphs, and why keeping it simple for punctuation does pay off. I also recommend checking out house styles for publishers (and for competitions the guidelines the organizers are asking you to adhere to) and share my thoughts on why I treat writing and editing as two separate creative tasks.

Albeit editing is creative in a different way to writing that first draft but it is still creative. Honest. I find it immensely satisfying seeing how a work improves over various drafts before I finally send my piece out into the big, bad world.

Hope you find the post useful and, as ever, do add your comments in the box – it is always good to hear from people.

Paragraphs and Punctuation in Fiction

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What got you into reading for pleasure? Well, in my case, it was my late mother who read stories out to me and encouraged me to learn to read at a very early age. You do copy by example.

What got me into writing my own stories? Suddenly waking up to the idea after I hit a significant birthday and a life change (the birth of my son) and realizing if I wanted to be a writer, something that had been in the back of my mind for ages, I should get on and do something about it.

I wrote just to prove to myself I could do it but it was some time later before I went on to try and be published. I suspect lack of confidence was an issue there, but by then the writing bug had got me well and truly hooked and I wasn’t going to let rejections etc stand in the way, which helped against the lack of confidence dilemma!

For me, stories are all about the characters. I have to find out what happens to them. I have to care about the outcome. And that remains an enjoyable challenge for me as I write my stories, as well as giving me immense delight when I read stories by other writers where I am rooting for their “people” all the way through. I use the word “people” loosely there. After all, I was cheering on rabbits in Watership Down!

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Changeable day weather wise. Lady and her pals were not that impressed by it. Their owners were even less impressed. At least the dogs were running around! (Before you ask, there’s no chance of me doing that. Walk yes; run out of the question!).

Will be sharing my Paragraphs and Punctuation In Fiction on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. See above. I’ll be looking at this from the viewpoint of a writer but also from the viewpoint of a competition judge – me! I judge flash fiction and short story competitions every so often and am currently judging for Nottingham Writers’ Club. I also judged the Margaret McConnell Woman’s Short Story competition for the Scottish Association of Writers earlier this year. So I hope you will find the tips in my CFT post handy as both of these things can help make or break a story for being placed. Will explain more on that in my post.

Image on the right is one I took at the SAW conference earlier this year. They have a very impressive range of trophies for their competitions!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s Friday. Hope you have had a good week. I’m glad to say my story, Creation, is now on Friday Flash Fiction and I think any creative type will identify with my lead character in this one. Hope you enjoy the story.

Screenshot 2022-05-13 at 09-12-04 Creation by Allison Symes


Am currently judging a flash competition for the Nottingham Writers’ Club, which is a great pleasure to do. Does judging other people’s work make me think about what I do with my stories and why? Oh yes and that’s a very good thing.

It means I can take a more detached view of my own work for a start but I can also think about why a story works for me and apply that to what I’m writing. What will my readers make of this? Will my readers pick up on what I want them to pick up and so on?

The best tip I’ve ever had was (and continues to be) to put my work aside for a while before evaluating it. It does need that distance of time to help you to read the piece as a reader (or editor or judge) would do. That in turn opens your eyes to potential faults but you then have time to correct those.


Out in my garden at the moment is a laburnum in flower. Looks stunning. So what, you may think?

Well, this tree is an old one, it has lost major branches over the years, and every time there is a storm, we expect it to come crashing down. But it carries on and is a visual lesson in resilience and not giving up, I think. Now there’s an obvious parallel to the writing life in that but why not also think about this from a character viewpoint?

What kind of character could you create that battles on regardless and “blooms” again despite everyone around them having good reason to think they can’t? I think there could be some interesting story ideas from that.

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Fairytales with Bite – Magical Equipment

What springs to mind when you think of magical equipment? Wands? Crystal balls? Potions (and the ingredients for them)? Fair enough. These are the classic tools which spring up in countless fairytales. But I was wondering whether the magical world had its equivalent of Microsoft and they were always bringing out magical upgrades and so on. Perhaps someone’s wand wasn’t “healthy enough” to take Wand 11 Version 8.9 and so on.

What would your characters make of having to upgrade regularly? Would they be suspicious of the manufacturers doing this trying to make even greater profits? Would they make do with their old equipment for as long as possible? (I resisted switching to Windows 8 when that came out as I heard nothing but bad things about it from various sources. I basically wore my PC out still using Windows 7 and switched PCs only when Windows 10 was out).

Also how many magical equipment manufacturers exist in your created world? Is there a monopoly? Can old equipment be recycled or can people still find a use for it? Does said equipment ever let your characters down at awkward moments and, if so, are the consequences tragic or even humorous? Some story ideas there I think!

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This World and Others – Engagement

How does your created world engage with (a) other worlds near it or (b) with different species within its own confines? Is engagement a positive thing or are your people suspicious of it?

How would national characteristics come into play? If one part of your world was aggressive, how would that impact on the rest of your created world and what would their reaction be? How would they engage with the aggressor to try and persuade them to stop?

Now there are obvious parallels with the war in Ukraine (and indeed with many wars throughout our history) but this is where knowing how we engage with others can make you think about how you would do this for your fictional people and worlds. Are they better than us? Are they worse?

Comparisons with what we know here to what could be in what you are drafting are useful. They give you a place to start as you world build. They can also be useful “echoes” for readers who recognize certain traits are what we do or are based on what we do/have done.

Even the most fantastical world has to have something readers can identify with – they need to engage with what you have come up with – so basing your concept on what we know here helps with that.

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Characters, First Person, and Impact

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.
Hope you had a good weekend. Have a weekend workshop coming up which I’m running – looking forward to that. Also preparing for a weekend conference I will be at in June (and where I’ll run one of the workshops. Naturally mine is on flash fiction). Weather all over the place again but then that is a UK spring for you!

Screenshot 2022-04-23 at 17-00-06 Finding your voice — London Jesuit Centre

Facebook – General

Lady got to play with her pals Coco and Kitima today – a good time was had by all.

Writing wise, I’m looking forward to running my workshop at the London Jesuit Centre on Saturday. Hope to have a visit to the National Gallery in the afternoon.

And my tickets have now come in for the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend at The Hayes, Swanwick in June. I must admit I am seriously impressed when booking my train tickets online. Always with me in a day or two after booking, even at the weekend. And no queues!

Am almost ready to submit a story for one of the competitions I always have a go at but I always make myself slow down a little to do a final “is it really good to go” check. I’ve found it pays to do this.

I’ve picked up last minute errors doing this and that’s despite having gone through the manuscript several times previously. It is easy to miss something. Hope to get the story off tomorrow or Thursday, and still in good time for the official deadline.

Time away

Hope you have had a good Monday. Busy, busy, busy here.

When I read any story, it has to be the characters I get behind, whether I want them to succeed or fail. Their success or failure must make sense and be the right things to happen for those characters. If a character has a problem solved with magic, say, I need to know earlier on in the story that might be a possibility so I don’t feel cheated when the author reveals this to me at the end.

To get behind the characters I have to care about them so there has to be something about who they are and what they do I “get”.

When I invent my own people, I try to keep all of that in mind so readers can identify with the people I put on the page/screen.

Above all, I have got to know what happens, whether I’m reading or writing a story.

Readers understand character failings


I’m back to my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today this coming week. I’ll be talking about Paragraphs and Punctuation In Fiction on Friday. Both have a crucial role to play for clarity, improving pace in a story and so on.

Am looking forward to running my fiction workshop for the London Jesuit Centre next Saturday.

Now when I write a story or a post like this, I have one question always in the back of my mind – what is in it for my potential readers? I’ve found having that in mind helps me to (a) not waffle and (b) come up with useful writing tips or a story which entertains. That question helps me ensure I deliver something useful and makes me focus. For my flash fiction work, the word count there helps me focus as I cannot go on for too long.

In trying to engage with a potential audience immediately, I write with them in mind and I think that helps me “up my game”. “Upping my game” means I stretch myself creatively too so win-win. Also for book writers, it helps enormously to have your audience in mind from the word go because it will help when it comes to pitching your novel to a publisher and/or agent as they will want to know who you think your potential audience would be.

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Have booked my train tickets for the Association of Christian Writers Worth Our Weight In Gold Golden Jubilee celebration. This will be at The Hayes, Swanwick from 3rd to 5th June and I’ll be running my flash fiction workshop as part of it. Looking forward to meeting everybody in due course.

Many thanks for the comments coming in on One of Those Days, my latest Friday Flash Fiction story. This was fun to write and inspired by two nouns coming up in a random noun generator. What came up here for me was “waitress” and “tiara”, not things you would usually associate together.

But then that’s the joy of random generators. They encourage you to think creatively and to put things together you normally wouldn’t do. Lo and behold, you get another story written which would not have come to you in any other way.

Screenshot 2022-05-06 at 17-04-48 One of Those Days by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The advantage of writing in the first person is you get into your character’s head immediately. The disadvantage is you can only see or think what your character can see or think. That works well for short pieces though so this is why first person is a good technique to use for flash fiction. (Essential for monologues naturally!).

I didn’t set out with the intent of writing more in the first person but it is something that has sprung from my flash writing. For first person to work, the character has to be a strong one so I find I have to ask myself why does this character “deserve” to get their story told at all and what it is about them that means “they” have to tell the story “themselves”.

Deadline


It’s funny how music can grow on you the more you hear it. Am currently loving listening to my favourite Mendelssohn piece – The Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave) on Classic FM. As at 8.00 pm UK time Monday night but there is never a time when this piece of music does not enthral!

The more I hear this piece, the easier I find to picture the scenery in that fabulous part of the world. (I’ve not been to that part of Scotland, it is on the To Do list, but I’ve seen plenty of photos and it is those I have in mind when I hear this).

When I write my flash fiction pieces, I do have in mind the image or impact I want my stories to leave with the reader. When I review my stories, I check how the tales make me feel. Does this compare with what I had in mind when I was drafting the story? Often the answer is yes and that is how it should be.

Sometimes though the impact is stronger than what I had in mind originally and that is even better!
As for my latest story on YouTube, A Magical Design, I have every sympathy with my lead character. See what you think!


Just to flag up that Amazon have an offer on both of my paperbacks – see screenshot and link for more.

As you know, I love inventing characters so having to do that all the time for flash fiction is a wonderful bonus for me. I also adore mixing up the moods of my stories so I get to write “light” funny tales and I get to write to deeper levels of emotion too. I get to write monologues, I can take you straight into the action by getting you to see what my character sees, and I don’t make you wait too long for the pay-off for twist endings or humorous punchlines. And even if you didn’t want to make flash fiction writing your main “thing”, it is still incredibly useful as a warm up writing exercise.

Screenshot 2022-05-08 at 16-28-17 Amazon.co.uk Allison Symes


Hope you have had a good Saturday. Nice day here. Lady got to play with her gentleman friend, a gorgeous Aussie Shepherd, who is a sweetheart. Both dogs so pleased to see each other. Our other (and much missed) dogs would say “hello” to other dogs but were not sociable in the way Lady is – they had a rotten start in life and having found “doggy heaven” with us didn’t really want anything else.

I’ll be spreading the word about flash fiction workshops over the next couple of months and am currently judging a flash competition.

On the writing side of things, I’m working on something I want to submit shortly to a competition. So busy-busy but in a good way.

Let nobody tell you that you have to have loads of time in which to write. Those odd moments of time we all get are useful for jotting down potential ideas for flash stories and flash non-fiction pieces. A writing session spent brainstorming ideas is never wasted. I often spent my odd five minutes here and there doing things like this. I then have things to refer to later which I can then write up into first drafts.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Is the Film Ever As Good as the Book?

Now there’s a controversial question! And my answer to it is “it depends”.

For The Lord of the Rings, I feel Peter Jackson’s trilogy of films does do justice to the books, though there are scenes missing from the films. I never understood this incidentally. Given the films were so long anyway, I would have had the missing scenes in the films given another twenty minutes to the running time wasn’t going to make a lot of difference in my view.

Where films can help is encourage people to read the original books. I watched Oliver Twist where Alec Guinness played Fagin and Oliver Reed played Bill Sikes. Excellent, and scary, performances from both of them. The story gripped me and I read the book immediately after seeing the film (it was on BBC2 one late afternoon years ago). And I’ve always loved The Muppet Christmas Carol for where Gonzo recommends viewers go and read the original of A Christmas Carol after watching.#

So films can help fuel reading. And if a book I’ve loved is adapted into a film, I’m more likely to want to check the film out, if only out of curiosity to see if they have stuck to the spirit of the book or not.

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The Dragon of Wantley, Live Events, and the Writing Life

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. A huge thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Company for supplying most of the images for my review of their recently staged The Dragon of Wantley for Chandler’s Ford Today.
Hope you have had a good week. Weather improving here. Hints of summer in the air too.

Screenshot 2022-05-06 at 17-04-28 The Dragon of Wantley - Chameleon Theatre Company - Review - Chandler's Ford TodayScreenshot 2022-05-06 at 17-04-48 One of Those Days by Allison Symes

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is with great pleasure I share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post, my review of The Dragon of Wantley. This wonderful pantomime (loosely based on a true story) was recently staged by the fantastic Chameleon Theatre Company.

My lovely editor at CFT, Janet Williams, and I had a fabulous time and spent most of the evening laughing (a sure sign of a successful pantomime well performed). For more details and a good flavour of what went on, do check out the review. It is so nice getting out to live events again and being able to review them once more too.

(And if you’re in a position to support your local amateur dramatic company, do so. I’ve watched many gems performed by The Chameleons and discovered plays new to me and I look forward to that continuing. Watching a live performance is a fabulous way of taking in a story when all is said and done).

A huge thank you to The Chameleons for the great pictures for this post too.

The Dragon of Wantley – Chameleon Theatre Company – Review

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Looking forward to sharing my review of The Dragon of Wantley, the recent production staged by the Chameleon Theatre Company, for Chandler’s Ford Today.  See above. It has been lovely getting out to live events and reviewing them once again. I’ll resume my In Fiction series on 13th May.

Why did I start to write? Well, I’ve always been a reader. I loved what was known as composition lessons in English in school where I could invent stories. It just took me a while to realise I could carry on doing that as an adult!

What do I want from my writing? I want to improve on what I do, to continue having fun creating stories, and to be published as often as possible. I don’t expect to make my fortune (which is just as well!) but the moment writing stops being fun is the moment I will consider hanging up up my PC/pen. Writing has to be fun.

And creating something which is unique should be a joy (though it is also hard work and there are bound to be moments when any writer will wonder if the slog is worth it. I often find when I feel like that it is because I am tired. That is when I back off a bit and start being kinder to myself. Then the joy of writing comes back. I don’t think that’s a coincidence).

I know now as well in a way I could not know when I was starting that the writing life is a roller coaster. It helps to know to expect the peaks and troughs and this is all normal, It isn’t just me!

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4th May!

Hope you have had a good day (Star Wars related or otherwise!). Am busy getting workshop material ready and looking forward to presenting both in due course. I love going to workshops too and always learn a great deal from them.

This is where my trusty notebook and pen gets a good workout too! The act of writing something down helps embed what you are writing down into your memory so there’s another reason to do it! Is there a writer out there who doesn’t have the dilemma of which notebook and pen combo to use? Oh well. It’s a nice dilemma to have.

I do sometimes read out a flash piece or two of mine when giving a workshop as I select stories which will back up the points I’m making. The nice thing with flash of course is that this doesn’t take too long. I think it’s easier to take the points made on board too.

So practicing reading out loud is a good idea too. The biggest thing I’ve had to learn to do here is slow myself down when reading. That also makes it easier for me not to trip over my own words.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’m pleased to share my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. My One of Those Days is based on ideas triggered by a random noun generator this time. I generated two items – a waitress and a tiara. See how I used them here! Hope you enjoy the story.

Screenshot 2022-05-06 at 17-04-48 One of Those Days by Allison Symes

One of my own favourite openings comes from Helping Out in From Light to Dark and Back Again. This reads as:-

It’s not everyday you untangle Hanacrill, a fairy who, Merlin knows how, got caught in a Leylandii hedge but being a witch means being able to handle anything though I’m not meant to rescue fairies.

Why do I like this one?

Firstly, you hear the character voice clearly. You can sense the attitude!

Secondly, you’ve got a fantastical setting spelled out in only a few words (fairy, witch, Merlin etc).

Thirdly, you’ve got a situation which I hope makes the reader curious. Just why would a witch come to the rescue of a fairy? How did that fairy end up getting tangled up like that?

Fourthly, you have a named character who has to be important to the story somehow – and so does the unnamed narrator. They’re telling the story after all so they have to be “in on it” in some way.

Fifthly, you can sense the mood. There is humour here if only in the idea of a fairy getting caught up in a hedge.

If I was writing this again now, I would split the sentence after the word hedge. This is a long one by my standards and I usually prefer short and punchy lines. But this one does work and I do love lines which show a lot of information like this. No need for lots of description. You an imagine what a fairy might look like and do the same for the unnamed witch.

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4th May – Star Wars Day!

When I’m reading a flash collection by someone else I’m looking for a nice mixture of story moods. I do like a good selection! It helps with the tempo of the book too. I like a nice mix of upbeat and lower beat stories.

Life is like that so I like my story collections to reflect this. It also means there will be a good mixture of characters in the collection. Some will serve humorous pieces better than others, for example. And I like to “meet” a nice range of characters in any anthology.

When I’m putting a collection together, I like a nice balance of characters and stories knowing it is what I would like to read (and other readers will feel the same way. Again I have my Ideal Reader in mind here.). I also like to vary the flash word count used too. I’ve mentioned before I think of my books as mixed assortments of stories so it makes sense to me to vary the word count element too.

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Fairytales With Bite – A Wand’s Tale

Woe to the one misusing me.
Who thinks that by casting a spell
He can get out of and be free
From fetching water from the well.

Who using objects for his work
Means he can take things so easy
Magic is not meant to let you shirk
Life isn’t so easy-peasy.

So guess who then called the big boss
When things went so horribly wrong?
His Nibs won’t let anyone “doss”
He’ll make them sing a different song.

That young smart alec apprentice?
You should’ve seen him go bright red
It was all rather momentous
Hearing what the big boss then said.

He came up with a naughty word
Oh I blushed as the big boss swore.
The apprentice didn’t – he’d “heard”
It from the owner of the store.

Where our lad “worked” briefly last time.
Boss there sacked him with a rude mime!

Allison Symes – 4th May 2022

And before you ask, I do love the music and story of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice!

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This World and Others – When Things Go Wrong

Hope you enjoyed the above. It was fun to write. Now things did go wrong for that lazy apprentice and he was taught a lesson.

When things go wrong for your characters in your settings, how do they learn their lessons? Was it something they did need to learn of were they a little bit unlucky? What kind of machinery etc exists in your created world and what are the consequences when that goes wrong?

For the rulers of your setting, what things could go wrong for them and what do they do to try and prevent this? Would this explain why they rule by dictatorship, for example?

Understanding where your characters come from is important. It will help you picture them better and write them up more convincingly because you will believe in them precisely because you do know where they are coming from. Readers will pick up on that too.

Of course things could go wrong in a humorous way too. How do your characters react to that? Do they find it funny? What would happen when one character did find something amusing and another one finds it to be anything but hilarious? How would that change the nature of the relationship between the two? What impact would that have on the rest of the story and would it lead to other things going wrong, which are not so funny?

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Getting The Story Down and Hooks

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. Weather still hot and cold (literally) where I am right now. I guess that’s a kind of bank holiday tradition in the UK!

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Facebook – General

Writing Tip Number 5085 (or thereabouts): When set a writing exercise or responding to a prompt, just get the story down as quickly as you can. Go with your imaginative gut here. You can tidy things up in the edits. It is what edits are for! (And yes there will be more than one).

I’ve mentioned before I always feel a certain sense of relief once I’ve got my first draft down. This is because I know I have got something to work with and improve. I’m not worried about the fact it will need improving. Shakespeare didn’t write a perfect first draft. Neither did Dickens.

Guess what? I’m not going to either! But that’s okay. What matters is having that something to work with in the first place. As someone wiser than me once said, you can’t edit a blank page.

Editing has its creative side too

Hope those of you who had a Bank Holiday today enjoyed it. It was overcast and cold today so we got the traditional weather associated with most UK bank holiday weekends!

Have loved the movie music special that’s been on Classic FM today. As ever, the theme from Jaws gave me the creeps. Am so glad I only ever swim in a swimming pool! Am still hoping the Pink Panther theme will come on. (Apologies for those of you who, like me, are of a certain age, as you too will now have an earworm on the go).

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be my review of The Dragon of Wantley, the latest production from the Chameleon Theatre Company. Link up on Friday. (Many thanks to them for sharing with me some fabulous pics – I look forward to sharing them via my post).

I’ve been using the old random generators again. I used the random noun one this time and chose two items – a waitress and a tiara, an interesting combination! I’ve used both for my story which I hope will be on Friday Flash Fiction later this week. I used just one of them for my YouTube video, which I will share over on my book page shortly. See below for link.Screenshot 2022-05-03 at 20-53-53 From Light to Dark and Back Again Facebook
Happy reading Sunday! Am glad to report the May edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out – see the link. For my column this month, I look at Objects in Flash Fiction and share how these can be used to create some great stories. It helps a lot that the reader can picture the object you choose.

The object I chose for this column was a silver teapot and I share my story here. But do check out the other flash pieces that came in as a result of the challenge I set. There are some wonderful tales here. And you can always make yourself a nice brew in a silver teapot while you enjoy a good read!

Screenshot 2022-05-03 at 20-57-08 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine May 2022 eBook Publishing Goylake Howe Hannah Smith Melanie Fae Sylva Jones Wendy H Macleod Sheena Symes Allison Amazon.co.uk Kindle StoreHope you have had a good Saturday. Spent some time in the garden. Lady loves it out there. Next couple of weekends will be busy so it has been nice to have a quiet one this time.

My monthly author newsletter goes out again tomorrow. Now sent but do sign up on my landing page! I’m planning to review the wonderful The Dragon of Wantley for Chandler’s Ford Today as next Friday’s post. I will resume my In Fiction series after that.

Many thanks for the comments in on Reflection, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. This is an object lesson in not being vain and/or greedy, literally an object lesson. Also it acts as a reminder to be careful about what you wish for.


Screenshot 2022-04-29 at 19-00-20 Reflection by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Bank holidays are lovely but they always make me feel as if I’ve somehow skipped a day all week. Throws the dog a bit too (suddenly wonders where everyone has gone!).

Now how do your characters approach holidays? Do they take any? Could your flash piece be a story about what happened on a holiday?

The nearest I’ve got to that I think is my Camping It Up from Tripping the Flash Fantastic where a vengeful fairy disrupts a camping site. Good fun to write.

Holidays are where the normal routines are suspended for a while so that in itself could lead to interesting story ideas.

Framed Flash Collections


It’s (bank holiday) Monday and time for a story. Hope you enjoy Putting on a Good Front, my latest YouTube video. Let’s just say my sympathy is with Marjorie. See what you think.

 

Hope you have had a good Sunday. The rain is back and the temperature has dropped again – welcome to a UK spring!

My latest flash fiction column is out in the May 2022 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads. I talk about Objects in Flash Fiction this time. Yes, I do use a random object generator to trigger these.

The huge advantage of that is I don’t know what will come up so I “raise my game” to meet the challenge set by the object which has been generated. Making yourself think in different ways encourages creativity. I know I’ve produced far more stories due to doing this.

I like to have a mixture of ways into writing a story as it keeps things interesting for me (and hopefully for future readers too), stops me from falling into a rut, and there is always a challenge to be faced and dealt with. I love that. And I get to do my favourite writing thing all the time – invent new characters to write about!

Screenshot 2022-05-03 at 20-58-14 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine May 2022

 

Almost at the end of another month but at last the weather is warming up a bit.

I sometimes write poetic justice stories. As with the twist endings, I tend to work out what that poetic justice should be first. I want to ensure that is right. I can then ensure my character motivations tie in to it nicely and that the character on the receiving end of the poetic justice really does deserve it! Mind you, it is huge fun working that out!

Whatever my kind of story, everything in it has to make sense. A reader should be able to see where a character is coming from and to understand why they are the way they are.

Motivations need to be strong enough too. This is where asking “what if” helps a lot. I ask what if X happened, would I then really do Y or could I be talked out of it? Or if I was to do Y, what would be the X behind that? There has to be an X here! Characters won’t do things without good reason to do then, any more than we would, which is another way in which fiction reflects what we know.

Character Needs are everything

Goodreads Author Blog – Hooks

As a writer, I think about hooks a lot. I want different ways in which to “lure” a reader into reading my stories, of course. And with my reader’s hat on, I want to be lured into reading by a promising character, an intriguing opening line, a promising idea on the book’s back over and so on.

What I need to make sure of as a writer is that I deliver on my promise to the reader to give them a good read. And with my reader’s hat on I want to find out that character was even more promising than I thought, the intriguing opening line led me into a wonderful story, and the idea on the back cover was fulfilled. The good thing with the latter is that if the author delivers here, I am far more likely to want to read more of their works.

Hooks matter then but delivering on them is even more important. You don’t want the reader to feel let down. Neither do I, as reader, want to feel let down. In situations like that I am highly unlikely to read anything by that author again.

When I’m browsing books, I do turn to the blurb first and then look at the first few opening lines. If I like both, I’ll get the book. The hook has worked!

My favourite kind of hook is the intriguing character one because I want to find out what happens to them and that keeps me reading.

Screenshot 2022-05-03 at 21-09-40 Hooks

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