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.


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.


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.


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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