Underlining In Fiction


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots and one photo were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good week. Mixed bag weather wise (hot, cold, windy etc). Will be having another story on CafeLit next week and am looking forward to sharing that. Working away on further workshop material too.

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Screenshot 2022-06-24 at 09-19-44 Underlining in Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post on Underlining in Fiction. I look at how writers can stress points without seeming to repeat themselves. Also I look at where repetition, carefully used, can be effective too in underlining an important point. I give an example of underlining that I use when running workshops. (It’s also a good example of show and not tell).

I discuss how characters themselves can do the underlining, whether they are conscious of that or not, and why it matters to pick the right thing to underline.

For example, I want my readers to pick up on my themes from what I show them through what my characters say, do and think. I don’t want to have to spell everything out (for one thing I think that’s boring – I love working things out for myself when I read other writers’ books. I just need the right clues).

The best underlining is subtle. You want your readers to absorb things and work things out and to have fun doing that!

Underlining in Fiction

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Cooler today though Lady, and her lovely gentleman friend, a wonderful Aussie Shepherd, were clearly happy about that as they ran around. It was a joy to watch them.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post (Underlining in Fiction) goes up tomorrow – I don’t know where the time has gone as I rapidly head towards the end of this series. Link up above.

I use a variety of ways to find ideas for my blog posts, as well as my fiction. Often the random generators (especially the theme and question ones) can be used to trigger ideas for a CFT post say.

For example this came up on the random question generator I often use – If you lost all of your possessions but one, what would you want it to be?

  1. I could invent a character here and get them to answer the question (and that would be the story. Nice thing about that is I’ve got a basic structure in place immediately too. Questions always need answering!).
  2. I could answer the question directly and frame a CFT post around it.

You get the idea so why not give the random generators a go if you are looking for non-fiction inspiration.

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Another hot day here though Lady was pleased to see her best buddies, the Rhodesian Ridgeback and a lovely Hungarian Vizler, today. Am looking forward to another swim tomorrow.

I’ll be talking about Underlining In Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today – post up on Friday. See above. Am busy getting my author newsletter ready for July. Do sign up for tips, stories, prompts etc at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com.

Do you find it harder or easier to write much in the hot weather? I must admit I flag a bit but this is where writing short pieces is a bonus as I still feel like I’ve got something useful done and that is enough for me.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s Friday. It’s storytime. It’s time for Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy my latest – A Picture Paints a Hundred Words. Written in exactly one hundred words of course, barring the title.

Screenshot 2022-06-24 at 11-42-40 A Picture Paints A Hundred Words by Allison Symes

Getting into the head of your characters is vital in any fiction but for flash, with the short word count, it is essential to do that from the get-go. This is why I outline what I need to know about a character before I start writing their story up. I need to know what their reactions to any situation would be at once – I can then decide which situation I’m going to throw them in! It is great fun dropping your characters right in it.

I read a wonderful short story ages ago in The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose (compiled and edited by the much missed Frank Muir) where the characters come to life and berate their author. Very funny – and a teensy weensy bit scary for any writer I think!

Knowing your character’s basic attitudes (and why they have them) is a good way in here. Fleshing your character out means you are more likely to write their stories up with conviction because you know your character is definitely capable of this. You’ve already seen how and why they would be like this.

I’m convinced a writer’s belief in their character does come through in the story. Certainly I can sense when a writer has fun with their character precisely because I do the same thing myself with mine.

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I have fun sometimes having titles which are capable of more than one interpretation. For example in my story Serving Up a Treat from From Light to Dark and Back Again, I can take that in a lighthearted way or not, as I see fit. (Not saying which way I did though – do check out the book! Yes, I know I’m bound to say that!).

I also see this as giving my imagination more room in which to work. Proverbs and well known sayings come in handy here. And guess what I just found? Yes that’s right – a random proverb generator! Will take up less room than the old book of proverbs I suppose but this will prove to be another useful tool to use to trigger story ideas. Hope you have fun with it too.

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Fairytales with Bite – Character Development

I am partial to character development in any story, regardless of what genre it is or its word count length. Indeed I don’t think you can have a story without it given something has to change and often it is the character that does the changing. Sometimes it is forced on them if they are going to survive. Sometimes they are happy to change. Maybe they have been waiting for the chance to do so and escape something.

In fairytales, I think this is even more important. I don’t think a wave of the magic wand should be the cure to all ills. Where’s the drama in that? Even when the fairy godmother turns up to help out, I still want the main character to have done something to merit that help and to still have problems to sort out after the wand waving!

To avoid the old problem of character cardboard cut-outs, your character does need to have some sort of back story which has a bearing on their story now but which they overcome. That is the kind of development I love to read and write.

So think about how your characters will develop over the course of your story. Where is the moment when they have to change and go on to better things? How do they make themselves face up to what has to change? Great conflict can come from a character’s internal struggle as well as external circumstances.

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This World and Others – Formative Experiences

One of my earliest formative experiences is that of my late mum teaching me to read before I went to school. Back in the day, she got told off for that. (These days they’d probably give her a medal). Apparently Mum taught me in the wrong way. Have I felt the lack? Not a bit of it. Am I grateful to Mum for giving me my life-long love of books and stories (and from there the wish to write my own)? Oh yes!

What kind of formative experiences have shaped your characters? What impact are they having on your characters’ lives now for the purpose of your story? I don’t always put such things into my stories but I need to know enough about my characters to be able to envisage what they would do and how they would react in any given situation. Knowing what drives them including formative experiences is so useful here.

Also bear in mind a society’s formative experiences as well. A society which has had to face continual threat of invasion is likely to have a reasonably strong military to try to counter that and/or seek alliances with other threatened worlds. So their attitudes towards diplomatic relations will be different from a strong, isolated kingdom which feels it has no need of anyone else. Their people’s views and attitudes will be coloured by things like that.

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Flash Flexibility, Writing Workshops, and Supporting Other Writers

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. Summery weather at last which Lady and I have loved. I have publication news too so it’s a good start to the week in that department too.

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Facebook – General

Lovely day today and Lady is very happy because she got to “boop” her best mate, the lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback. Usually the Ridgeback boops Lady. For dogs, it really is the little things in life that bring them the most joy (oh and dinner of course!).

Delighted to say I can now reveal I will have another story on Cafelit on 27th June. Looking forward to sharing the link on that then. The piece comes from a homework exercise I set for members of the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group.

Will be off to the theatre again in July with my lovely editor from Chandler’s Ford Today, Janet Williams, Looking forward to seeing the latest production from The Chameleon Theatre Group. Will review in due course. I should’ve finished my In Fiction series for CFT by then – wish me luck finding something suitable for the letters V and X! I hope my years of Scrabble paying might help here!

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Hope your Monday has been okay. Busy as ever here though the weather was lovely. Glad to say I’ll have further publication news to share soon so that’s a smashing start to the week.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is about Underlining In Fiction. I’ll be looking at how to stress points to a reader without needless boring repetition and talking about planting the right clues. Link up on Friday.

Amazon currently has offers on the paperback of both From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See the link.

Writing Tip Number 3,004 or something like that but one I’ve found incredibly useful: time away from a piece of work is crucial. You do need the distance in terms of time away from it so you can see where it has strengths and, more importantly, where it hasn’t!

With my judge’s hat on, I can spot those stories where an author has clearly given themselves enough time away from their story as they have then edited it effectively too.

The trouble with editing a story immediately is there tends to be two responses to it – this is a work of utter genius, no work needs to be done to this deathless prose, or this is a work which I really shouldn’t have bothered with, everyone will loathe it. Neither are true. The truth is your story will have promise but needs polishing up and sharpening to show bring its potential out.

Screenshot 2022-06-20 at 20-11-22 Amazon.co.uk Allison Symes

Many thanks for the comments in on Time Off, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Some smashing feedback, all appreciated.

Going back to my Authors Electric post yesterday on Writing Workshops, I can’t stress enough how important it is to support other writers (something Friday Flash Fiction does very well, as does CafeLit). Nobody produces a perfect bit of work immediately (and is there any such thing anyway? I can look back at my earlier stories and see immediately how they could be bettered but they were where I was at during that time of my writing life).

We all have to start somewhere. We can all improve on what we do. It takes time and practice. There are no shortcuts for anyone.And people remember those who support them. They also remember those who were unsupportive. Which would you rather be known as – a supportive writer or not? I know what camp I want to be in! (That thought is assisted by the old saying make your words sweet as you never know when you’ve got to eat them!).

18th June – Authors Electric
It’s my turn on the Authors Electric blog and this month I’m talking about Writing Workshops. I discuss what I love about these, whether I run them or go to them, and look at how old school pen and paper can come into their own at these things. Hope you enjoy (and I’m looking forward to running another workshop at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash has more flexibility than you might think. Yes, there is the word count issue but I’ve written stories in the first person, the third, as diary extracts, as well as setting my characters backwards and forwards in time. I’ve written fairytales with bite, crime tales, the odd ghost flash piece etc.

What influences all of this are the kinds of story I’ve loved reading over the years and which I continue to love and read. It really has paid off for me to read reasonably well and widely (I don’t think anyone can claim to be perfect here. Why would you want to be anyway? You want there to be other books and genres to discover after all!).

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Many thanks for the views on my YouTube tale last week (or should that be tail?) – The Unexpected. But it is Monday once again and time for another video. Hope you like this one – The True Picture. I used a random verb generator which triggered the word picture and here is what I came up with for that prompt.

Sometimes I have an idea for what I think will be a flash piece but the story really does deserve a larger word count. So I simply write that piece for the short story market instead (and my stories tend to come in at 1500 to 2000 words for that). Sometimes what I think could make a good short story really does work better as a shorter, tighter flash piece. And that’s all fine.

It’s why it has paid me to ensure I have a foot in both camps when it comes to short form storytelling. What matters is the story is right for the character (and vice versa) and the story has a proper beginning, middle, and end. The story ends with a proper resolution to the dilemma the story is about and sometimes that will come in at a longer or shorter word count that you might have originally anticipated.

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I’m chatting about Writing Workshops for Authors Electric this month (see my author page on this – https://www.facebook.com/allison.symes.50) and one advantage to flash fiction here is these are easy to share when you want to discuss elements of story writing. They don’t take too long. They also demonstrate the points you’re trying to make. (And it’s another way of spreading the word about flash fiction so win-win there!).

I’ve found flash pieces are especially useful for demonstrating the old advice of show, not tell. Precisely because I don’t have the word count room for description, I do have to get my characters to show the readers what matters. And showing a point gets things across more clearly I find. I’ve been on the receiving end of that benefit many a time from workshops I’ve been to and have always appreciated that.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Covers

For a book to grip me, I have to be gripped by its characters, but the right book cover is what is going to get me to look at the blurb, the opening page, and then go on to buy said book. I want the cover to show me something of the mood/genre of the book, to be attractive, and to intrigue me enough so I do pick the book up in the first place. Not asking much. Hmm…. No wonder book covers are so difficult to get spot on.

My favourite quote on the topic comes from the wonderful P.G. Wodehouse who, in a letter to a friend, said “God may forgive Herbert Jenkins Limited for the cover of……… But I never shall!” Book title deleted here to protect the guilty. I highly recommend the Wodehouse books of letters by the way – there is a wonderful one edited by Frances Donaldson (Yours Plum, the Letters of P.G.Wodehouse which is where I came across this quote) and another which was edited by Sophie Ratcliffe (Wodehouse: A Life in Letters). Both are fascinating reads.

It is some comfort to me as a writer that even the big names didn’t/haven’t always liked the book covers they’ve been “given”. I’ve been fortunate here in that my small indie publisher has ensured I have had some input into my covers which is something I’ve appreciated.

The author ought to have some idea of themes etc that their book cover could draw on though, rightly, the publisher should have the final say given they know what has worked for them already and can drawn on that kind of knowledge one author is simply not going to have.

So then what works for you with book covers? I don’t like over-complicated ones. Indeed my Agatha Christie collection (good old Odhams Publishers) are simply red hardbacks with gold lettering – simple but effective. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has Gandalf striding out in bad weather and again works well (I know immediately this has to be a fantasy quest).

Screenshot 2022-06-18 at 20-24-23 Book Covers

 

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The Rule of Three in Fiction – and Workshop News

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.
Very hot in my part of the world right now. Lady keeping cool (and probably doing a better job of it than I am!). Thrilled to have more workshop news to share and I look at the Rule of Three in Chandler’s Ford Today this week. It’s something we come across all the time but just how often are we aware of it and can it stifle creativity?

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

First of two posts on my author page tonight. Am pleased to share The Rule of Three in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today. I look at the links with fairytales, plays, and non-fiction and ask if the rule stifles creativity. It is one of those rules most of us take in all the time without really being aware of it. Hope you enjoy the post. Comments, as ever, are welcome over on the CFT page and many thanks for those which have come in already.

The Rule of Three In Fiction

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17th June – Bonus Post – Workshop News
Quick bonus post tonight to share exciting workshop news. I’m thrilled to say I’ll be running a one-hour workshop at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. I’ve called this one Editing – Both Sides of the Fence. Really looking forward to this. Link here and see screenshots.

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How to tell when it is really hot outside? Easy. It’s the only time the water in my local swimming pool feels lovely! Lady was a shady lady today – and rightly so. If you’re flagging with the heat as you try to write, you have my deepest sympathies!

Don’t forget my Chandler’s Ford Today post is up tomorrow, followed by an Authors Electric one on Saturday. Yes, I am glad I have a writing diary – it helps a lot! I also issue my author newsletter on the first of the month – to sign up head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

When is the best time for you to write? For me, it is in the evening when most things are behind me for the day (though when I can squeeze in extra writing time during the afternoon, I do). Lady is pretty good and leaves me to it, which is handy!


Lovely day today. Lady got to play with her best buddy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, today before things became too warm. Both dogs went home tired and happy. The nice thing with Lady is I don’t have to persuade her to drink water – I did have to with my other two – and Lady is sensible about keeping her fluid intake up. I note that as sensible and Lady don’t usually make it into the same sentence, to be honest.

Looking forward to sharing The Rule of Three in Fiction, my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Link up on Friday. Three crops up so often in fiction and not just in that rule either! Link above.

And on Saturday it will be time for my next Authors Electric blog where I’ll be discussing Writing Workshops.

I enjoy the balance of flash fiction and blogging – it is nice to have a foot in both the fiction and non-fiction camps.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s Friday evening (well at least it is in my part of the world!) and it’s time for another story. My latest on Friday Flash Fiction is called Time Off. Is my character Marion being kind or chilling? You decide!


Screenshot 2022-06-17 at 15-15-41 Time Off by Allison Symes

I love flipping things around. For example, in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I have a story called The Terrified Dragon. Not normally a creature you would expect to get a bad case of the nerves!

But that is the point and this premise also gave me my story structure. I had to show why the dragon is terrified and what could be done about it. A story like that is best kept to the point so it makes a perfect flash piece. You don’t want the novelty of an alternative point of view (and my dragon is definitely in that category!) to wear thin.

And talking of dragons…


I sometimes have fun with perspective in my flash tales. In The Truth from From Light to Dark and Back Again, my character is annoyed by what could be called a “social untruth”. Something everyone knows is untrue is still being taken as gospel and this has got to him. The perspective change here is that my character is not human. Why should the things we find annoying be confined to us? Why shouldn’t other species feel the same way about the same things? Interesting prompt idea there possibly, I think.

What could you do to “flip things around”? Stories show us much about ourselves through the actions and thoughts of our characters. They don’t have to flatter either. What could you do with that for your tales?

Flash with Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Fairytales With Bite – Customer Service in the Magical World

You know how we all have a hard day in the office. Well, it happens in the fictional magical world too. Here are some typical complains received from a much put-upon magical shopkeeper.

Complaints
‘Faulty oil lamp, you say, sir? No genie came out of it, sir? Well, yes, they do have a tendency to do their own thing once they’ve been set free from the lamp. Did not you not read the terms and conditions? No need to take that tone with me, sir. Correct. No refunds, ever.’
‘And what happened when you recited the spell, madam? The shoe was made out of glass, rather than fur? Interesting. Not known that before. I’ve never had a problem with my other wands. I suspect you mispronounced a word, madam. Easily done. No need to take that tone with me, madam. You’re supposed to be a lady too. Correct. No refunds, ever.’
‘Oh it’s you again, madam. No. My policy on refunds has not changed. I don’t want a huge pile of pumpkins outside my front door, thank you. But I do know someone who does. My cousin will take them off you wholesale. Can’t say fairer than that.’
‘Right, young pipsqueak, if your boss tells you he wants the floors washed manually, that’s what you’ll do. I’m not selling someone under age any magical equipment or books. I’ve had that happen before and I got caught out. The wizard was most indignant. I only just avoided being turned into something unpleasant. Off you go. Don’t want your sort here.’
Ends.
Allison Symes – 15th June 2022

Ah! The joys of selling to the public, especially a discerning magical one!

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This World and Others – Engineers and Manufacturers

My story above was triggered by the thought that someone somewhere in a magical world has to supply the equipment and, inevitably, maintain/service it. So who are the manufacturers and engineers in your created world? Who does fix the equipment? Who does everyone call when they’ve got a problem?

Where do they get their supplies from (and can those supplies be threatened by outside situations)?

If you have species which can travel across universes/dimensions, which good ideas do they take back with them from, say, Earth? Is there anything we have which they laugh at (and with good reason)? Is there anything in which we’re superior?

And are your fictional engineers/manufacturers respected or are they looked down on? Not everyone appreciates the hard work behind creating and maintaining equipment after all.

What materials does your fictional world have and does it have to trade/steal from other worlds to get what they can’t supply themselves? Is the danger of running out of something crucial propelling them to attack other worlds including ours? And how do engineers work in your fictional world? What kind of technology and/or magic do they have and how good are they at using these things effectively?

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What Keeps You Reading?


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, as were the photos from the recent Golden Jubilee weekend.
Hope you have had a good weekend. It was lovely having a quiet one after a very busy and exciting one at the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend. Think fun and hectic for that one!

ACW workshop info

Facebook – General

Free read time, folks. Do check out the most recent flash fiction pieces which came in as a result of my column Numbers in Flash Fiction for the June edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads. All great pieces and it is amazing how you can work in numbers into a story.

My article explains more about that but I would say the impact of a number with meaning to a character is greater in flash because the form of writing is so short. Where you can have fun is working out why that number has meaning and what that can do to the story outcome.

Screenshot 2022-06-14 at 11-39-46 Flash Fiction

 

Hectic day as always for me on a Monday but Lady and I did enjoy the lovely weather at the park earlier this morning.

It was good to get back to normal in writing editing and submitting a story for Friday Flash Fiction and another for my YouTube channel. I’ll share that over on my book page shortly. To check out all of my story videos, see the link below.

It is great fun creating these stories. I use Book Brush to make the video and then simply upload it via YouTube. The editor function there makes it easier to add a music track too. It’s a nice way of bringing visual and audio to a flash fiction tale.

Allison Symes – YouTube channel 

Screenshot 2022-06-14 at 20-40-58 Allison Symes - YouTube

Gloriously sunny day in Hampshire – hope it is lovely where you are too. Nice to be back in church this morning too after a month’s absence. I was away at the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend last week and before that I was under the weather with a thankfully mild dose of You Know What. So good to see everyone once more and the singing was lovely.

Writing wise, I hope to have some exciting news to share soon – all I can say now is it is workshop related. Looking forward to sharing more on that when I can. It is funny how the pandemic combined with workshops has led to me re-discovering the joys of PowerPoint! I didn’t see that coming.

Do you like film or TV adaptations of books? I loved The Lord of the Rings trilogy (Peter Jackson) and enjoyed Hogfather, Going Postal and The Colour of Magic, which were wonderful Pratchett adaptations. Tim Curry was superbly evil in the last one. Well worth checking out if you love Discworld.

AE - March 2022 - the creative spark
Hope you have had a good Saturday. Already a week gone since the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend – it was lovely to see everyone there. Now back at home listening to the main theme form Wallace and Gromit on Classic FM’s Saturday Night at the Movies! (And before you ask, I do appreciate some “cracking cheese” as does my dog! If you’ve not seen these wonderful animations do check them out, you’re in for a treat).

I’m back to my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I’ll be looking at The Rule of Three this time. Link up on Friday for that. And talking of that number, I thought I’d share three top tips here.

1. Don’t expect to write a perfect first draft. Nobody ever does. Shakespeare didn’t. Dickens didn’t. We’re not going to either but that’s fine. Getting things right is what the editing process is all about.

2. Take off about ten days from any official deadline. Why? It gives you time to go through your piece again and pick up on those annoying typos etc that you missed on your previous edits. Trust me, there will be something, there always is!

3. If you edit on screen, change your font, the font size, even the colour, anything to make your text seem different. When you come back to edit, it is more likely you will spot the things that need to be corrected. I’ve found that on paper, it is easier to pick things up.

With screens, it is easy for your brain to fill in the words you meant to put in but which you didn’t actually get to type in. Making the text different will help you spot those omissions. And you will need to correct the changes before you send the piece out as again it is a chance for a final read through to make sure all is well before submission.

Top Tips

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Time for a prompt. Not quite such a mad day for me, which I always appreciate Tuesdays for (!), but that led to me thinking what days do your characters dread/look forward to and why? Am sure there are stories to be told there!

If your setting is not of this world, what time elements does it use? Does it mirror ours or are their concept of days literally alien to us? And even in that concept, I’m sure you can think of a story where a character has a right rotten time of it and you then have fun trying to get them out of the mess they’re in.

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It’s been a busy Monday so time to chill out with a new story on YouTube. Hope you enjoy my The Unexpected where magic is not of the variety my character expected. Find out how she was nonplussed here. (It is a tiny tale so you may need to play it through twice).

 

One-liners can make excellent opening lines for a flash piece, but have you tried using one as powerful closing line? When I write twist in the tale flash stories, or humorous ones, I will usually write the twist or the punchline first and then work out how I could have got to that point. Spider diagrams to work out different possibilities are useful here and I always go for the one that makes the most impact on me. I figure a reader is likely to react in the same way.

Trying to put yourself in the head of your Ideal Reader helps here. I try to work out what I think they would like and to ensure everything that is in the story meets the needs of said reader. A well edited story is one where you can’t imagine a word being taken out or added. Thinking of your Ideal Reader helps ensure you cut the waffle out!

I sometimes jot one-liners down for use when I only have a few minutes of writing time. Why? Because I am still doing something creative. I can come back to those one-liners later on and then decide if they’re going at the start of a tale or at the end of it. When I have a longer writing session, I have something to work with immediately.

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Last week’s ACW Golden Jubilee weekend was good fun and it was a joy to share my flash fiction workshop. Many thanks to all who came to it and for the lovely feedback. One thing I looked at was the benefits of writing flash fiction even if it is not your main writing form, I’ve found I’ve lost all fear of editing thanks to writing flash.

And so often at conferences you are set exercises to have a go at (I always set them incidentally!) and, in the time given, you’re not going to have time to write that much. The great thing here is (a) you can finish that piece off later and (b) even if the piece remains short, you now have a market for pieces like that.

There are so many more flash competitions about these days too – and don’t forget the online markets. A great way to get some publication credits too!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – What Keeps You Reading?

I don’t think there is any one answer to this question but it is a good one to make you think about why you read. For me, I can’t not read. I can’t imagine life without books and stories in my life and neither do I wish to! So the love of the written word in and of itself is one reason I keep reading.

The main reason though is because I am gripped by the characters in the stories and have to find out what happens to them. Only one way I can do that – read to the end! I rarely abandon a book but on the odd occasion I have, it is because I have lost all interest in the characters. Now that serves as a lesson for me with my own writing. I try and look at what made me switch off and try to avoid replicating that!

I don’t often read a book because it is “in”, the current flavour of the month etc. I have to be intrigued by the premise of the book and then by the characters to read and keep on reading. Life is too short to waste on a book which doesn’t grip me.

For a series I love, such as Discworld, having read one and loved it (Jingo was my starting point there), I had to read others in the series. Now that’s what every author wants to happen!

For authors new to me, I often read their works on Kindle first to see if their stories grip me. If they do, as does happen most of the time, I am more likely to get their paperbacks later on. But again they have to keep me reading.

So what keeps you reading? Have you stopped reading a book? If so, why?

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Travelling Workshops

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Photos for Chandler’s Ford Today post taken by me, Allison Symes, as were the screenshots.
Hope you have had a great week. I had a wonderful time at the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend. Many thanks to those who came to my flash fiction workshop. It was so lovely catching up with old friends and making new ones. It’s great to be out and about again too.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week about Travelling Workshops. I look back at the Scottish Association of Writers conference, and the more recent workshops I ran for the London Jesuit Centre and the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend.

Screenshot 2022-06-10 at 09-27-05 Travelling Workshops - Chandler's Ford Today

I look at the point of workshops, I discuss the value of writing exercises (whether I set them or do them!), and share my thoughts on why workshops should be interactive. Hope you find the post useful preparation for your next workshop!

Travelling Workshops

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Hope you have had a good day. My Chandler’s Ford Today post about Travelling Workshops will be up tomorrow. See above. I then plan to resume my In Fiction series after that. Will be at the letter T for next time (17th June) so I am getting there!

It’s been a busy week since coming home from the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend but it is always a better week when you happily get a publishing contract sent off to someone you’ve worked with before on many happy occasions. Also spurs me on to try and get another one!

A big thank you for the response to my rather long post yesterday. Just sometimes you really feel the need to say something, right? And I wanted to share that my writing journey has had (and will continue to have) setbacks. The writing life is up and down and I think over time you get used to that. I’ve found it has helped me appreciate the up times far more (and to not take them for granted).

One of the joys of writing for me, whether it is published or not, is having an outlet for creativity. For many years I sought to just write for myself. I wanted to prove to myself I could write and keep on writing. It was only when, with my confidence up a bit knowing that I could write, I stared approaching publishers etc. That was a huge learning curve in itself!

This is a good indication of why I say writers always learn. You have to learn from your mistakes so you can do better (and sometimes just being alerted to what the mistake is can be a great help. I found that when someone told me about vanity publishing).

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Shortly, I’ll be having the joy of returning a contract to my publisher for a short story to appear in an anthology due out later this year. It’s always a lovely thing to do but for many years, I despaired of ever being published. All I ever seemed to receive were rejections or, even more frequently, I just wouldn’t hear back. So what changed?

Firstly, I didn’t give up. Secondly, when I could get feedback on my short stories (some competitions offer this), I took it. Thirdly, I read plenty of writing advice (reputable writing magazines and websites etc) and tried to apply it. Fourthly, I gave myself much more editing time before submitting a story anywhere. All of those things put together made a huge difference.

The best tip is the last one though – write regularly and read regularly. It is the regularity that matters. You do kind of build up your writing “muscles” here. From reading, you can work out what it is about stories you love or dislike and apply those principles to your own stories. I dislike insipid heroines so am not writing any!

Yes, you do need some luck. But putting in all the work you can matters too. It is a bit like an apprenticeship here and every writer I know has had their fair share of set backs.

The positive thing about the rejections? They made me look at my stories again and sometimes I could find a way to improve them. So I did. I then resubmitted that work somewhere else and I have been published doing that. Sometimes it was a case of accepting I could do no more with this particular tale – time to write more.

And I found having a story “out there”, another one being written and rested ready for editing, and another one being drafted helped a lot. It still does. It means I always have something on the go. It pays not to pin your hopes on one story on the chance it will be rejected and that then crushes you.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s the end of a long week (well it will seem like an even longer one than usual after the Platinum Jubilee weekend!) and it is time for another story. My new tale on Friday Flash Fiction is Midnight Bells. See what Maggie thinks about bells and firemen here!

Screenshot 2022-06-10 at 09-27-17 Midnight Bells by Allison Symes

If you’d like to check out my latest column on flash fiction for Mom’s Favorite Reads, you can do here. It is great fun writing for the magazine (and a challenge too but writers need a challenge to keep their creativity firing on all cylinders, so to speak).

As with my blogs, I prepare material in advance and this does pay off. It means I’m not going to worry about deadlines as I know I’ve got the piece prepared. And I draft future blogs too. I inevitably use these on those occasions where I really don’t have time to write anything new. That pays too.

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Great to see such wonderful comments coming in for On The Doorstep, my most recent story on Friday Flash Fiction Thanks everyone. I love inventing characters but sometimes one particularly “gets” to you. For me Mabel does that here. See what you make of her.

Screenshot 2022-06-10 at 20-22-49 On The Doorstep by Allison Symes

Fairytales with Bite – Celebrations

I loved watching the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee events recently (and I especially loved the Paddington Bear sketch – marmalade sandwich, anyone? Do look this up if you haven’t seen it – it’s good fun and quite sweet too). So all of that turned my thoughts towards celebrations.

In your fictional world, what would these celebrations be for? What food and drink would they have? What music? Can anyone take part or are only certain types allowed to celebrate? I loved the fireworks Gandalf produced in The Lord of The Rings but how would your magical world have a spectacular display like this? Would magic be used to produce it or would things be hand-made?

Is the whole of your society expected to celebrate when told to do so and what would the consequences be for those who do not take part? How do your characters celebrate when, due to their own circumstances in your stories they really don’t feel like doing so? How well can they cover up and pretend all is well?

Who would feel relief when the celebrations were over? That could range from the organisers to the security people who can now step down. So that relief can be for positive reasons rather than the obvious negative ones.

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This World and Others – Commemorative Events

Commemorative events tend to be more sombre than celebrations, of course. So how does your fictional world remember important historical events? Do they actively remember to try to prevent future wars etc? Does your world have schools and how are younger members of your society educated about commemorative events, if so?

I remember being told many years ago by family what the meaning of the Remembrance Sunday/Armistice Day events was and there was no question of not watching or going to these. (My grandfathers both served in the war – one in the forces and later as an ARP Warden in London’s East End and the other in armaments in the Woolwich Arsenal – the latter was forever being bombed out).

Commemorative events are full of meaning and symbolism so how does this work in your fictional world? Can anyone pick up on the meaning of the symbols used? If anyone is excluded from taking part, who are they and why are they shut out? Do different societies in your world commemorate the same event but in vastly different ways and does this cause conflict? People don’t always like different after all.

How did the commemorative events come in to being and who was the driving force behind them? How did they persuade those in authority to stage these things?

Food for thought there I think!

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Jubilees, Flash Fiction, and Publication News


Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots and photos relating to the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend taken by me, Allison Symes.
It has been a lovely few days. No Jubilees for ages and then two together – Her Majesty’s Platinum one (I loved the Paddington Bear sketch) and the ACW one.

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Facebook – General

Funny old day weather wise here. June is being far from flaming in my part of the world.

I’ll be looking at Travelling Workshops for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. I’ll be taking a look back at two I’ve recently run and share what I think the benefit of these things are. Link up on Friday.

Managed to get a story drafted for Friday Flash Fiction on my train home on Sunday as I came back from the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend. Polished that up on Monday and submitted it. Also drafted and then edited a story for my Youtube channel on the way home and I hope to share the results of that over on my book page shortly. Good old Evernote – a very handy app to have on my phone!

Screenshot 2022-06-07 at 20-52-43 From Light to Dark and Back Again Facebook


Hectic day after a wonderful and busy weekend away. Lady went bonkers, the way she usually does, when she saw me again last night. She went even more bonkers with her best mate, the lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, in the park this morning! Back to normal here then!

Delighted to come back to another acceptance of a story of mine, which I hope to talk about more later on in the year. Separately have had the contract in for my story for the next Bridge House Publishing Anthology. All exciting stuff.

What is especially nice is for a long time you get stories out there and then things tend to happen at once (or seem to). You get used to those periods where nothing seems to be happening and then make the most of those times when it is clear things are definitely happening!

The writing life really is a roller coaster.

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Am on my way home from a fabulous Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend. Had a great time and it was wonderful to catch up with old friends and to make new ones.

I was especially pleased to meet up with #JennySanders because she often sends in stories for the flash fiction challenge I set monthly for Mom’s Favorite Reads. And talking of which I’m pleased to share the link for the June edition of MFR. Hope you enjoy.

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It was lovely to see so many at my flash fiction workshop at the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend. Many thanks for coming along and I hope people use the writing exercises to draft flash stories. Would love to hear news of publication successes later on.

It has been a fantastic day of celebration and writing here. Have loved catching up with friends and chatting in person to those I’ve enrolled for ACW membership or whose email queries I’ve dealt with.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It may be a day later but we can still start the week with a story! Hope you enjoy my latest tale on YouTube – Ringing The Changes.

My post in this month’s Mom’s Favorite Reads is all about Numbers in Flash Fiction. I look at how I use these in various ways to create stories. Link to the magazine here – and do check out the excellent flash pieces that came in as a result. Hope you enjoy.
Screenshot 2022-06-06 at 20-40-13 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine June 2022

Had a wonderful time talking about flash at the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend. I hope people try writing it as well as enjoy reading it. It’s an interesting writing challenge and I’ve found it has sharpened up my writing considerably and not just for my fiction work.

So pleased to be having a standard length short story in the next Bridge House Publishing anthology. Looking forward to finding out what the cover will be – and for The Best of CafeLit 11 also due out later this year.

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It has been wonderful to share the joys of flash fiction at the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend. It was great to share stories and give feedback too. I’ve always found that element of things so useful at workshops.

Back home again tomorrow. Lady will wonder where I’ve been. As usual, Lady went a bit bonkers when I came back! Lots of cuddles and pleased to have ALL of her “pack” back!

Goodreads Author Blog – Sharing Stories

One great joy of stories is their share-ability. I’ve happily recommended books to friends and often taken up their recommendations to me.

When I run writing workshops, especially for flash fiction, I often share a couple of my tales and break down how I wrote them. I’ve learned a lot when other writers do this. We’re all keen to learn more about improving on what we do.

I base my recommendations to others on what I know of their book tastes but also if the characterisation is especially good. We all read to find out what happens to the characters after all.

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Settings and Simplicity 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. Have enjoyed what I’ve seen of the Platinum Jubilee events (and plan to catch up on the rest next week. Why then? Because I’m off to a Golden Jubilee weekend for the Association of Christian Writers, where I’ll be running a flash fiction workshop. No Jubilees for ages and then two at once!).

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share Settings and Simplicity in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today. I look at how settings can act like characters. I also wonder whether some authors came up with their settings first and then knew what characters had to be in them or if they came up with the characters first and then had to find the most appropriate setting for them.

I also look at how simple writing takes work and crafting but it is a joy to read and the reader has nothing clunky getting in their way. It makes a huge difference to the reading experience for them. I often wonder when I come across over-complicated prose, as I do sometimes, just what the writer was trying to hide or show off here. For me the joy of writing is about communicating with a reader and I want to be as direct as possible on that. I don’t see the point of doing anything else.

Settings and Simplicity in Fiction

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2nd June – Queen’s Coronation Day Anniversary

Loved watching Trooping the Colour and the flypast today. Fabulous weather. Great crowds too. I plan to catch up with the other events once I am back from the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend. Am off on my travels for that tomorrow.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow is all about Settings and Simplicity In Fiction. I look at how settings can act like characters and why simple writing isn’t as easy as it (a) looks and (b) sounds. One benefit from flash fiction writing is it has taught me how to spot my wasted words, what doesn’t add anything to my story, so I know to ruthlessly cut all of that on my edit.

And I have publication news too – I am pleased to say my story has been accepted for the Bridge House Publishing anthology due out later this year. More news as and when – am delighted to be included again. Congratulations to everyone else who received this lovely news too!

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Two days to go to the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend. So looking forward to seeing everyone.

Next trip after that will be to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Looking forward to that too! Am getting good use out of my railcard this year. This is nice because I was the woman who bought a railcard two weeks before the first lockdown started in 2020 when nobody was going anywhere. Oops! Making up for lost time now though.

I will be putting my posts up as normal over the weekend but they will be at different times. Will be pretty busy during the day and evening so expect the posts to go up late. I do hope to write up about the weekend (and my time with the lovely people at the London Jesuit Centre recently) for a CFT post before long as well.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

So pleased to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy On The Doorstep. This was a joy to write and I was rooting for my character, Mabel, all the way through. This is good. The first person to care about a character should be their creator!

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/on-the-doorstep-by-allison-symes

Screenshot 2022-06-02 at 20-42-56 Friday Flash Fiction

One reason I outline before writing a story is to avoid the old saggy middle problem. Yes, it can happen in flash fiction too. I’ve found knowing my start and end points is a good way of avoiding that issue. I know where I’m heading so off I go!

How much to outline is up to each writer. I don’t fill in each and every detail as I want to give my imagination manoeuvre room, as I’ve mentioned before, but I do need the “pillars” of the story in place so I know from the start the structure is going to be okay. (Maybe without a good structure in place, that encourages the saggy middle to happen – just a thought).

I think it is a question of working out what you need to know before writing a story and that will differ from writer to writer as well.

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Looking forward to sharing the joys of flash fiction at the ACW Golden Jubilee at the weekend. Talking about talking…! One good thing about flash is when you do use dialogue, you’ve got to keep it focused. I must admit I do enjoy getting characters chatting but conversational ping-pong is not the idea!

What I look for dialogue to do (including internal dialogue) is for it to move the story on in some way. If it does, fab; it stays in. If not, out comes the old editing pen. It has helped to be aware though that I do like conversational ping-pong. I love to hear my characters speak because to me that proves they are “real”.

But the overriding concern has to be does it help the story develop? That is my guiding light as to whether something stays in a tale or not, regardless ot the story length.

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Fairytales with Bite – Clothes in a Magical World

When the thought for this topic came to me. I thought of two stories immediately. The obvious one was Cinderella – the rags being turned into that wonderful dress.

I also thought of the fairytale The Elves and the Shoemaker – I do count shoes as clothes (well, if you’re going out somewhere, you need something on your feet!, but also because of how this story ends with the shoemaker’s wife sewing clothes for the elves in return for their kindness to her husband and herself. I also like this story because you get to see the elves being cobblers (and not just using magic to make the shoes etc) and you also see the wife sewing.

I could have thought of The Emperor’s New Clothes too but that is really a story about a pair of successful con artists when all is said and done!

So in your created world, what do your characters wear? What are the differences between species and/or classes here? How are the items made? Is there a manufacturing industry as such or does everyone make their own? Or are skills bartered? What equipment is used? I’ll take spinning wheels as a given!

In your stories, you almost certainly won’t need to go into a lot of detail here but the odd line here or there about who wears what, where they get clothes etc from will help your world seem more real to a reader. Having a character go to a shop (or your world’s equivalent) would be enough to show a reader how this works. I love little details in stories. They help me picture things and I won’t be the only reader who thinks that.

This World and Others – Material Matters

Tying in with Fairytales with Bite , where does your fictional world get its materials from, whether for clothing, shoe making or anything else? Can it produce its own or does it have to import some or all of what it needs? Where would it import from and have there ever been trade wars etc or have two societies been able to trade successfully?

When it comes to producing its own, what can it produce? Are crops (such as cotton) grown? What kind of people in your society would do things like that? Are they looked down on for doing manual work or held in high esteem? Attitudes to others have repercussions!

What does your fictional world value? We obviously value things like gold and silver but do they? In a world where that is common place, it might be treated with contempt. You don’t tend to notice the “every day” stuff.

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Twitter Corner

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Pleased to share latest CFT post. I look at settings acting like characters and why simple writing isn’t easy writing. It is vital for good prose though!<a href=”https://t.co/llXyQpHphi“>https://t.co/llXyQpHphi</a></p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1532659454084251648?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw“>June 3, 2022</a></blockquote> http://a%20href=

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Hope you enjoy my latest drabble on Friday Flash Fiction. I was rooting for my character, Mabel. Hope you do too.<a href=”https://t.co/Q7WjxPCo5T“>https://t.co/Q7WjxPCo5T</a></p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1532659994797154304?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw“>June 3, 2022</a></blockquote> http://a%20href=

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