(E)xcellence in Fiction

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated (though most are then put through Book Brush). Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Has been very hot here in my part of the UK with more to come. Lady staying cool. And I found a suitable topic for X in my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today. It has been a good week! Hope yours has been too.
Screenshot 2022-07-15 at 16-45-33 (E)xcellence in Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m pleased to share (E)xcellence in Fiction, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. Comments about what you think makes for excellence in fiction would be most welcome over on the post. As well as sharing my thoughts on the topic, I look at what writers can do to make their work as good as possible in the hope readers will find their work excellent. A good goal to strive for!

The writing journey is full of ups and downs but it should be a moving one. Sometimes it will be a case of changing direction. I did so with the switch to flash fiction and short form writing and then blogging. Also over time I want to get better at what I do. I should move on from where I started out as a flash fiction writer, say. Very much a case of continuing professional development then and I hope it leads to excellence in what I write.

I want to get each story I write as good as I possibly can and to always be open to the thought that, while no story is perfect, as it is written by fallible human beings, I should be able to see progress. Hopefully if I do, a reader will too. It is all about the reader, what they get from your work.

(E)xcellence in Fiction

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Looking forward to sharing (E)xcellence In Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. Relieved to find a reasonable topic for X in this series! I’ll be looking at what I think makes for excellent fiction (and it’s not genre dependent either) and what a writer can do to help things along here. See above.

Are you finding it easy or hard to write in this hot weather (for those parts of the UK with the high temperatures)? I’m writing as usual but find I am “flaking out” earlier than normally do come the evening. Am getting around that by trying to start my writing sessions earlier! It is nice writing with the French windows open though. Nice breeze this evening is refreshing. Won’t be doing this come November! Having said that, and to prove there can be a positive side to a lot of things, I won’t be peeling myself off my chair come November either – it’s an ill wind and all that!

Am looking forward to going to see The Chameleon Theatre Group‘s latest production, Hoovering the Edge, later this month. It will be lovely getting together with my great CFT editor, Janet Williams, for this too.

How can I judge when I’ve got the flash fiction word count right for my story? It depends on whether I’m submitting a piece of work to a fixed word count competition or market. Obviously if I am, I stick to the rules. If it’s an “open”word count (but still up to 1000 maximum), I go by what I need the character to do to bring the story to a satisfactory conclusion. Sometimes that is at 300 words, sometimes I need the whole 1000.

What I love with Scrivener is I can set the word count I want to write to and watch the bar at the bottom of the screen go from red to amber to green as I type. I do love a simple visual! Over time I’ve learned to judge what roughly looks like 500 words, say. When I then do a “proper” word count to check where I am, I find I’m usually within about 50 words of my initial estimate. You do get better at judging these things over time and the more you write.

I don’t always set my word count bar deliberately. I always do use it for a fixed word count market. Where it is more open, I just write and then worry about the word count later on. I find this works for me.


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to share my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. This one is called Cookie Surprise and I used a random noun generator to trigger a story idea. The words cookie and road came up and this tale is a result of putting those together. Hope you enjoy it.

Screenshot 2022-07-15 at 16-53-16 Cookie Surprise by Allison Symes

Intriguing a reader to want to read on is vital for all forms of storytelling. With flash you do have to hit the ground running given you have less room and time in which to do that intriguing. This is why I find knowing my character and their voice from the start helps a lot.

I know my character has got something worthwhile to share so I’ll let them “get on with it”. I don’t want my author voice getting in the way because that is all it will do. It is the character’s story. I love powerful opening lines which make me want to find out what happens next as I figure a lot of readers will react the same way.


I love writing about characters who turn the tables on people (naturally said people deserve to have said tables turned on them!). What I need here is a character with a good reason to want to do this. There has to be something in their personality which flags up they are capable of turning those tables if they are pushed far enough. The fairytales show this kind of character time and time again – and I love them all.

What I don’t like are characters who are pushy, dominant, careless of the needs of others (precisely because they couldn’t care less) etc. If I write a character like that, you can be sure I will get another one to turn the tables on them. And that I will have written this with considerable relish!

Writing is so much fun. I once told my other half I had had an excellent day because I’d just finished bumping off a character and I’d got away with it! Fortunately by this time I’d been writing long enough for him to consider this as a normal day in my office… make of that what you will!


Fairytales with Bite – Using the Tropes of Fairytales

Every genre has its tropes. I see them as useful shortcuts that readers will expect to see in the kinds of stories I write. For example, if I mention a magic wand, I’m not going into details about what it looks like because most people will have their own ideas. Disney and Pixar will also have helped people form those ideas I suspect.

Also people will expect for these things to turn up in fantasy tales/fairy stories. Neither do I spell out what my fairy godmother characters look like though I usually give some indication of likely age range. The story she is in will have some indicator showing her level of experience in fighting evil etc and that will flag up a likely idea of age.

The other trope is that justice is expected to be done in some way so I deliver on that. I’m not reinventing the wheel here. What I will do though is turn things on their head. My sweet little old lady of a character turns out to be fearsome when confronting the latest monster in her world and so on.

I can keep you in suspense here too as you wonder whether she will deliver on expectations or not. The way she tackles it will be unique to her too. But you just know that somehow this lady is going to deliver because you expect unassuming characters to be more powerful than they look in fairytales – another trope here.

Think about what you’re going to use in your stories and why you want to use them. I won’t bring in a magic wand or fairy godmother character unless I have got a definite role for them to play. Everything in your story has to earn its place in it. The shorter the form you write in the more important this is, as readers will query why something being in the story if there’s not a role for it and they will remember.
Tropes are there to be used but with care I think.


This World and Others – Trips Out

In your fictional settings do your characters get to have days out for the sake of it? Or is travel restricted to only the high and mighty. What would happen if there was a public clamour for transportation to be opened up to everyone? Can people freely go from one village to another and have nobody think anything of it or does the approach of a stranger send everyone into mild panic and they get the government to intervene? Not everyone welcomes strangers after all.

If day trips and holidays are a thing in your setting, where would your characters go and why? What is the hospitality sector like? What would considered as a tourist trap in your setting? Do the locals welcome it or nor? And could one of your characters find out something important on a day trip that leads on to further things?

Also sometimes a stranger can see what a local does not precisely because the latter is too close to the situation in question. Would locals welcome having their eyes opened or not? Could that trip out for the stranger have unfortunate consequences?

Food (possibly takeaway!) for thought there!


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