How To Guides

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated with many created in Book Brush. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good week. I had a fabulous trip out to my local theatre company’s latest production and ran a flash fiction workshop. Weather still all over the place but Lady has got to play with some of her best pals. So a good week then!


Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Wow, it’s Friday again already, and time to share my Chandler’s Ford Today post. This week I’m looking at How To Guides and I share some of the writing ones I have used (and in many cases continue to refer to). I look at how the need for specific guides changes as your writing progresses and share some thoughts on what makes a good guide for me. Do share details of any guides you’ve found helpful in the CFT comments box.

How To Guides

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I was talking about how to make the best of themes as part of my topic for the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction group last night. It pays to practice writing to themes – why? Because the classic themes come up time and again. Anything that doesn’t fit into a themed competition can always be saved for an open one.

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Lady had a fabulous time playing with her best buddie, the lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, today. Both dogs had a fabulous time. You should hear them run – it really is a thundering gallop!

Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group on Zoom this evening. It is great fun thinking of topics to discuss and then working out what exercises we can do related to these. We all get some drafts done and it has been lovely when people have gone on to have work published online and broadcast later. More power to the (flash) pens/laptops!

Also looking forward to my theatre trip tomorrow and to sharing my post on How To Guides on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. See above.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Glad to say the May edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is already out and what a cracking read it is. The theme this time was sailing and you can see how I used that for my flash fiction column on Page 56. Do check out the excellent stories which came in as a result of my challenge as well. Given it is a Bank Holiday weekend in the UK, that gives you plenty of time for a great read and several cups of tea/coffee while you do so – now that is what I call a good use of weekend time.

Flash fiction competitions come in many forms but the common ones are the 100 worders, the 300, and the 500 kinds so it is worth practicing writing to those different word counts. You can know these will come up regularly. For my collections, I wanted to have a good mix of all the different (and standard) word counts here including the 750 and the 1000 worders. I felt (and still feel) having a god representation of the different word counts in flash made a good advert for the form overall. I think it also shows the form has more flexibility than might be thought – it is only the upper word count you have to watch.

Always a joy to talk or write about flash fiction

I use random generators a lot as you know and I sometimes use the same thing generated for two stories. I invent different characters for the tales and will often ensure one is a humorous piece and the other isn’t. You really wouldn’t know they were based on the same underlying idea unless I told you! I just send these to two different markets or save one for my YouTube channel.

But I equally use two generators for two different ideas entirely. Then I can keep the mood the same if I wish to do so. I sometimes expand the number of parameters I set when using the generators (or in the case of story cubes I roll more than one of them!). There is plenty you can do with these things and they are a great source to find ideas, something just to get the creative sparks off to a good start.

May be an image of text that says "I love the fact there are so many different types of random generator I can use to help trigger ideas."

Fairytales with Bite – Endings

E = Expect the unexpected as not every fairytale has the classic happy ever after ending.
N = Never underestimate the “drab” character – they will almost certainly have an important role to bring the story to a good ending.
D = Do or dare – this will occur just ahead of the ending – something has to happen to bring that ending about.
I = Imagination – your characters may well imagine the ending they’d like but will they get that or something much better?
N = Narrators can guide the readers in some fairytales and you can find out what they make of the ending (have written some of these myself).
G = Good usually triumphs over evil as an ending here but I welcome that – would like to see it happen in real life more often to be honest (and maybe it is one of the comforts of the fairytale as a whole).
S = Stories need a satisfactory ending – it has to work for the characters and the set up of the story – but it doesn’t need to be a happy one (though I admit I prefer them!).

This World and Others – Changes

C= Characters and changes and causes and consequences – the bedrocks of any story in whatever setting.
H= How your characters handle changes will reveal much about them but also drive the story -not everyone reacts well.
A= Attitudes will determine how a character reacts to change – those who love routine will find changes harder to cope with.
N= Negative attitudes to change can lead to negative actions – what would that lead to in your story?
G= Great characters will find ways of dealing with changes and the consequences which come from them.
E= Every setting, every fantasy world, must develop and change whether it is in terms of technology, how they treat others, etc. What triggers the changes? Are the settings better because of the changes and if so how?
S= Stubbornness – there will always be those characters who resist change for various reasons (one of which is fear of change itself). How would they impact on your story?



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Feedback, Local Theatre, and Reviews

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated with many created in Book Brush. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Busy week this time with a trip to the theatre and running a flash fiction group online coming up. Both will be fun though.


Facebook – General

Posting early today as have a meeting tonight. Will also post again early for the next few days. It is just one of those weeks but at least the sun came out today and Lady got to play with her friend, a smashing Aussie Shepherd. Both dogs had a fab time.

Writing Tip: Never worry about how much time you’ve got to write. Just get something down. I’ve talked about using pockets of time before but I have to do this a lot and it does pay off. I have had several blogs drafted, stories written etc doing this. It would’ve been too easy to have missed the chance to write those things down, yet alone then go on to do something positive with them.

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Lovely start to the day (and Lady got to show off her running skills to her older pal, the lovely Hungarian Vizler we know) and then by lunchtime it was pelting it down. One thing you can say about the weather in Britain – it is variable!

Have a busy week ahead with my visit to the theatre on Thursday and running the Flash Fiction group on Zoom for the Association of Christian Writers on Wednesday. Both will be great fun. (And I know I’ll get a review out of one of them and I suspect some draft flash fiction out of the other!).

Talking of reviews, remember these don’t have to be long and they are a great way of helping an author, so do bear that in mind. One from a review of Tripping the Flash Fantastic reads “Allison Symes can pack more into 100 words than most people can into 1000. Politicians take note!”

I wonder if I can make use of that given local elections are coming up soon!

Tripping The Flash Fantastic - by night

It’s St. George’s Day today (in England) and the birthday (also probable day of death too) for William Shakespeare. Have enjoyed watching several of his works thanks to National Theatre Live. Must try and get to see more.

Watching stories (stage or film) is another great way of taking in tales. My late mother would have been pleased about this. She tried to get me into the works of the Bard for many years. Would probably wonder why it took me so long! And the basic plots are often the basis for other stories – The Lion King is loosely based on Hamlet. His stories have inspired classical music too (The Love Theme for Romeo and Juliet being just one example).

Am off to local theatre later this week to see Spring Trio by The Chameleon Theatre Group.

Have never been tempted to act though I always admire those who do this well. It always has been the story I’ve been interested in. Doesn’t come as too much of a surprise that, does it?!

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Hope you are having a nice weekend. Off out for a lovely meal out later. Looking forward to that. Nice not having to cook!

I’ll be looking at How-To Guides (writing ones) for next week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post. I have used a few in my time and have found the ones I used (and still use) incredibly helpful. No one writer can know it all and a well written guide or two, developing networks of writer friends, and going to writing events are all invaluable for helping you learn your craft.

I use Scrivener for my writing and find both the inbuilt tutorial and the Scrivener for Dummies book by Gwen Hernandez to be great aids.

Link up for CFT post on Friday as usual.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the great comments coming in on Going Home, my most recent tale on Friday Flash Fiction.

Feedback is much appreciated, especially for the short forms of writing. In the past where I was submitting something for a competition, if there was the opportunity to get feedback, I would take it. Usually there was a small additional fee (it is something towards the judge’s time) but I took the view it was worth it to get “soundings” back on my story. I always found this useful.

Sometimes I would then resubmit the story elsewhere and had it published then, having taken on board comments made. Didn’t always take the advice given – sometimes I had good reasons for disagreeing with it. But that was still useful. It made me work out why. And then there were those times when the commentator flagged up something so useful I wondered why I hadn’t spotted it in the first place! This is the way of these things.

Screenshot 2023-04-21 at 09-47-09 Going Home by Allison Symes

It’s Monday. It has been pouring down in my part of the world. It’s getting dark early due to the weather. It’s still Monday. Definitely time for a story then. Hope you enjoy my latest YouTube video – The Best. Not me being boastful (honest!) but see if you would do what my character does here faced with what she is facing.

One of the joys of going to things like The Writers’ Summer School, Swanwick, is getting to explore their wonderful Book Room! I’ve come back with flash collections and other books to enjoy many a time.

Don’t forget if you would like signed copies of either From Light to Dark and Back Again or Tripping the Flash Fantastic, please contact me and I will happily oblige! Payment is via bank transfer. Please contact me via the form on my website –



I was chatting about flash fiction and its benefits as part of an ACW meeting this morning. Always good to spread the word about the benefits of flash, no matter what else you write. I know it has brought on my editing skills a lot!

Sunday afternoons is often when I write a lot of flash. Always look forward to that. (I end up doing other bits and pieces on flash during the week whether I’m writing about it for blog posts or preparing for future books etc).

Above all, flash led me to having my own books published so will always love it for that alone!

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Goodreads Author Blog – What I Like about Reviews

All authors would like reviews, ideally good ones of course. What I like about reviews I read is when they give me information and a sense of what a book is about without giving away too much of it. These are the kind of reviews I try to write as well.

Other than buying a writer’s book, giving them an honest review is the second best thing you can do to help the authors in your life. We can share the fact we have had reviews in (which encourages people to take a look at those and hopefully our books too). It gives us a much needed morale boost. Bear in mind we are at our desks alone for a lot of the time. It is also a form of validation and most writers appreciate getting that every now and again.

So if you’ve read books you love, do review them. Reviews don’t have to be long. They don’t take much time to do and they really do help writers. And where better than to spread the word about the usefulness of well thought out reviews than at Goodreads?

Screenshot 2023-04-22 at 17-40-22 What I Like about Reviews





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Book Recommendations

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated with many created in Book Brush. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Not a bad week. Have had lovely spring weather. And I get to talk about Book Recommendations for Chandler’s Ford Today this week – always something I’m happy to talk about. Lady hasn’t seen quite so many of her friends this week so will be hoping for better I suspect next week!


Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s that time of the week once again – time for my Chandler’s Ford Today post. This time I’m talking about Book Recommendations and I share my criteria for my recommending any book to anyone. I also share what I would recommend at the moment (book recommendations are always updated!) and I discuss why I would recommend a series to writers. As ever, comments are welcome on the CFT page.

Book Recommendations

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Lovely day today – able to switch from good old mac to a body warmer. Will probably chuck it down tomorrow. Apologies if it does!

Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction group meeting on Zoom next week. Always fun and I get to draft flash pieces during this too! Yes, I do set homework but I also do it (not in advance either) so again it helps me get more flash pieces written. I can work out what to do with them later on. I will find homes eventually and I also build up pieces for inclusion in a future collection.

I’ve found over time little is wasted in writing. Stories I haven’t been able to place I have rewritten or taken a character out and reused the character. You learn from what doesn’t work as well as from what does, which is another reason why I feel even rejections are not wasted experiences. Doesn’t stop them hurting at times. But you can learn from them.

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Hope you have had a good day. Will be looking at Book Recommendations for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. See above. Looking forward to sharing that. I’ll be setting out my criteria before I recommend a book to anyone. One nice bonus to going to writer events is you end up with a load of book recommendations made to you so no danger whatsoever of running out of things to read. (Perish that thought!).

I’ll be off soon to see The Chameleon Theatre Group perform their latest production. Aptly called Spring Trio, this will consist of three one act plays. Looking forward to seeing that and it will be another Chandler’s Ford Today “works outing” given my lovely editor will be going as well. Review to follow in due course.

Writing Tip: Forget word counts. Is that odd for a flash fiction writer to say? Not really. Get your story or blog down first, then worry about the tidying up. Then worry about what the word count is – and sort accordingly. You really do need to work out what it is you are saying first, then worry about how many words you can use to do just that.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s the end of the week so time for another story of mine on Friday Flash Fiction. I hope you enjoy Going Home. Lovely to see some great comments coming in on this one already. Thanks, folks!
Screenshot 2023-04-21 at 09-47-09 Going Home by Allison Symes

Looking forward to a flash workshop I’ll be running in May. That one will be on Zoom (which is a fabulous word to get out in Scrabble by the way. Have only done it once. Got it on a treble word score and scored over 90 with it. My bragging rights are definitely word related!).

I love online and in person workshops, whether I am running them or going to them. Have learned plenty from both kinds.

Don’t forget my author newsletter will be out again soon (1st May). To sign up for tips, news, story links etc., do head over to my landing page at – and a huge hello to all who have already signed up. It is good to have you aboard!


Must admit I do love picking out pieces to read at Open Prose Mic Nights and the like. I like to mix up the mood as well as the word count of the stories I pick for this. I also mix them up altogether for other occasions so I don’t just read the same ones. I also practice reading these and will often use Zoom to play back my readings so I can hear how they sound. I’ve found that facility so useful and it means I can ensure I get my timings right.

You usually have up to five minutes for these things. People don’t mind you coming in at under that time. What they don’t want is you going over it. Nor do you want to unintentionally irritate other performers doing that. And it is a good practice to get into for those times when you might want to submit a story for broadcasting. You will know how long time wise your story is and again ensure you fit in with the broadcaster’s requirements here. More likely to get a second bite of the cherry if you fit in!

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Fairytales with Bite – Twists

To my mind, all fairytales have twists in them. The “harmless old lady” who turns out to be a powerful magical being in disguise so watch how you treat them or she will make you pay is one of my favourite twists here. Fairytales taught me early on that it isn’t a good idea to judge by appearances alone. Plus the stories are full of unexpected/unlikely heroes/heroines who make the story work Like that aspect a lot too. A girl in rags isn’t usually considered to be a heroine but the world of the fairytale turns expectations upside down.

How can you make use of that for your stories? What would nobody expect your character to be able to do (inbuilt prejudices?) and they then go on to do them? What would be the consequences? Could these be humorous or tragic?

Regardless of what you write, when you use twists, they must be reasonable for the characters, your setting, and the story line. I find it helpful to work out what my twist will be first, then figure out how that could come about “naturally” in my story line. I think of this as working from B to A! (But it does work. Well worth trying. It means I know my twist is logical and makes sense).


This World and Others – Setting Scenes

With my flash fiction, due to its limited word count, I tend to use selected details which will conjure up a wider picture of my setting in the reader’s mind. If I set a story in an alien world, I will use one or two details to show the setting cannot be on Earth/is definitely an alien world but I don’t go into chapter and verse. I will show you an alien who can make himself shrink so he can hide in a ping pong ball (and I have done this!). The fact the alien can shrink into that shows you that this creature is not of this world and probably needs to find better places in which to hide. (Yes, the tale was a humorous one. It is my oddest setting to date).

For longer stories, I’ve got the room to share a little bit more detail but I still try to avoid big swathes of description. I would rather show you my character spilling the tea out of her cheap crockery (rather than tell you this was in a drab lounge because you can imply if the crockery is cheap, where she is living is likely to be as well). I try to work out the details a reader couldn’t guess and ensure those facts go in – the rest they can and will work out. I love doing this myself when I’m reading works by other writers. I love being able to picture the scene without every little detail being “spoon fed” to me. I want to work some things out but need the right clues to do it.

As for twists, as mentioned in Fairytales with Bite above, I will ensure the right clues are put earlier on in the story so when the twist does come, readers can look back and see that yes, this twist could happen because the seeds were sown for it in paragraph three or what have you. (This where working out what the twist is first pays dividends and help me set my scenes more convincingly too).





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Writing To A Theme and Dragon Duty

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated with many created in Book Brush. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you are well. Had a lovely weekend away at the ACW Committee Retreat. Lady not happy I went. Was overjoyed when I got back! Now back to the usual routines, writing and otherwise. Spring weather seems to be more settled now. Am hoping that won’t prove to be a case of famous last words!


Facebook – General

Regular blog posting is a good indication of how quickly time passes by! Can’t believe we’re at the 18th already and it is my turn once again on the Authors Electric blog. This time I talk about Writing to a Theme.

This is something I do a lot for my blog posts here and elsewhere (I set them), to other places where the theme is set for me, including competitions. Hope you find the post helpful.

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After a busy weekend, it has been a busy Monday! Start as you mean to go on, perhaps?

Will be scheduling a story for my YouTube channel so it appears tomorrow. Looking forward to sharing that. Spent a lot of my train journey home yesterday drafting different pieces – will find homes for them in due course. I often do draft potential blog pieces/stories like this because I know I can use them at a later date. I don’t usually edit pieces on journeys like that. I just want to get something written and save the editing for when I‘m back at my desk again. I see journey time as bonus writing time.

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On way home from the Committee Retreat (Association of Christian Writers). Plan to do reasonable amount of writing on the trains home. Never short of things to draft here!

It was lovely to be back at The Hayes, Swanwick. Due to be back in August for The Writers’ Summer School, Swanwick.

This weekend I stayed in the Main House for the first time. Very nice and I literally got some steps in going up and down the stairs.

Will be talking about Book Recommendations for Chandler’s Ford Today. Link up on Friday.

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Am currently at the Committee Retreat for the Association of Christian Writers. Good to see everyone again. Getting to stay at The Hayes, Swanwick again which is lovely.

Between us the Committee represents Christians writing for the secular market (I’m included here) and those who do write for the Christian market. There are novelists across different genres, article writers, short story and flash fiction people (yes I count here but am not the only one I’m pleased to say).

We are in a way a microcosm of the wider writing world. Not sure what my colleagues will make of being referred to like that (!) but I think it is an excellent thing. The writing world is huge and the variety amazing. With both my reader and writer hats on, I love that.

May be an image of 1 person and text that says "The writing life is addictive but fun. The support of other writers makes a huge difference."

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I may be a day late (thanks to being away at the weekend) but there is always time for a story on a Tuesday as well as a Monday! Hope you enjoy my latest YouTube tale – Dragon Duty.


The day after you get back from anywhere is always a toughie as you try to resume your normal routines (whether they be writing, domestic, or in my case both!). This is where writing in the short form is a lovely bonus. If I get, say, 200 words written today, that may be a complete story for me (or I am well on my way to a useful blog post).

Never worry about only writing a “little”. These “little” bits and pieces mount up over time. It’s how I ended up putting two collections (and now a third) together. Also it’s not as if you could write a novel in “one go” anyway. All writing does need building up, you do get to the end. It’s not a race and I would rather write something than nothing.

I won’t beat myself up because I could only write a little rather than my standard amount (and I deliberately don’t work out my average word count. I just write and enjoy the process – mostly. I say mostly because we all get days when we’d far rather be doing something else but I always feel better for getting something creative done and for me that creativity is in the writing).

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Many thanks for the great comments coming in for Making Her Day, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Much appreciated.
Plan to write and submit pieces as usual this week for FFF and my YouTube channel but will be a day later than usual. Hope to draft both on my way back from my weekend away. I bless Evernote!

Screenshot 2023-04-14 at 17-27-12 Making Her Day by Allison Symes

Writing flash helps with other formats too. I’m not going to be fazed by having to write 500 words for an article, say, given I often write to that word count for stories.

I also know editing is vital no matter what word count you write to as there is no such thing as a perfect first draft. What you do get with that draft is a basic story which needs strengthening but that can be done later. You can’t strengthen the unwritten!

Flash has taught me to be specific with word usage and that is useful elsewhere too.

May be a graphic of text that says "Flash fiction illuminates briefly -it is a great form for a lighthearted piece. These often work best when kept short."

Goodreads Author Blog – Reading Away From Home

I usually take my Kindle with me for trips. Gives me choice. Saves weight. Gives me packing room for other things too.
But for my trip to the Commitee Retreat for the Association of Christian Writers, where I am as this goes out, I left my reader at home. Why?

Because I’m currently engrossed with two different paperbacks I couldn’t bear to leave behind.

One is 1000 Years of Annoying the French, which is funny and informative (written by Stephen Clarke).

The other is The Continuing Times of Isabella M Smugge (written by Ruth Leigh). This is funny and moving.

Plan to continue to make progress on these while away. Do think two decent sized paperbacks is a good limit for books in a case though!

Screenshot 2023-04-15 at 17-43-23 Reading Away From Home





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Using Time for Fiction

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated with many created in Book Brush. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here though the weather was mixed. Think winter is trying to hang on when it really should just go away now. I have a look at friendships, crossing divides, and whether flash fiction can bear having repetition in it amongst other topics this time.

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today which is on a topic which is close to my heart – Using Time For Fiction. I like to make the most of those odd pockets of time we all get and it can be amazing what writing you can do in these. See the post for tips and thoughts here which I hope you will find useful.

Using Time For Fiction

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Better day. Got to have some sunshine today and Lady got to “show off” playing with her ball in front of her pal, the one she treats almost like a mum, the lovely Hungarian Vizler.

Am off for a day or two tomorrow. Will be posting as usual but times may vary. A lot will depend on where I am and the quality of a Wifi signal. It can be variable indeed on trains!

Sharing Using Time for Fiction on Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. See above. As ever I plan to use what time I can on my journey to do what writing I can using my trusted phone and Evernote. Am never short of things to do here. Am never bored. The journey flies by and I end up going home with a lot drafted ready to be edited later. There is nothing about that scenario I dislike!

Using pockets of time boosts productivity

Another mixed bag, weather wise, here, but Lady got to play with her Rhodesian Ridgeback best friend today. Both dogs went home tired and happy.

Am talking about Using Time For Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. See above. Looking forward to sharing that.

Hope to be taking part in an author event in July. More news on that nearer the time. Am giving a flash fiction workshop for a writing group in May. Looking forward to that a lot. Always happy to talk about flash fiction!

Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group meeting on Zoom at the end of the month. I set some prompts last time and one of these was the first line of my story, Untaken, which was up on CafeLit yesterday. So I do write up my own prompts too!

May be an image of 1 person and text that says "I don't believe in writer's block. I DO believe there are times when we are not so creative for all kinds of reasons. We're human after all. Prompts can be a useful kick start."

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s the end of another working week (a shorter one in the UK given we had a Bank Holiday on Monday for the Easter weekend). Still time for a story. Hope you like my latest on Friday Flash Fiction – Making Her Day. See what does here!

Screenshot 2023-04-14 at 17-27-12 Making Her Day by Allison Symes

Does writing flash regularly make writing to a specific word count easier? Hmm… jury’s out there. What I find is it is a case you know you can do it. You’ve done it lots of times before. But you still have to face this blank page. I go by the Wodehouse maxim to apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.

I will often refer to my notebooks (and this is where an idea from there will grab me and I run with that). Using pockets of time just to jot down potential ideas is never wasted effort and it pays off for me a lot.

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Is there a place for repetition in flash fiction? It may sound ironic, given the limited word count, but yes there is. I’ve used a repetition of a phrase for a character to stress something. They are trying to convince you they are speaking the truth. Sometimes this kind of repetition can be a habit of the character. So there is a place for it but it must be something you’ve thought out and can back up the characterisation to limit the risk of it looking like a mistake.

May be an image of text that says "Repetition, deliberately done, can be highly effective in a story. It can lead to a ripple effect throughout and add depth to your characterisation. Saying something once and then repeating it twice (again a rule of three!) helps people remember that something ar better. It is a huge indicator to the read that this something matters to the story and its outcome."

Fairytales With Bite – Friendships

What kind of friendships are encouraged in your fictional settings? One of my favourites is the friendship which develops between Legolas and Gimli from The Lord of the Rings. So many funny moments when they’re fighting side by side too. (‘It still counts as one, elf’, just being one example. This was an aspect I thought the films brought out so well).

And you can’t beat the friendship between Frodo and Sam for loyalty and courage. But the latter friendship is more understandable – between two hobbits rather than between an elf and a dwarf, traditional enemies.

Does your world discourage/encourage friendships between different species? Where would friendships be forbidden outright and does anyone defy this? How do your characters meet and develop friendships (or enmity come to that given friendships can go sour)?

You can show so much about a character by the type of friends they seek out (or seek to have because it serves their career etc – that in itself tells readers a lot about them!). Also what kind of a friend is your character to others? That can also reveal a great deal about the type of person they are.


This World and Others – Crossing Divides

Following on from Fairytales with Bite, friendships can be a great way to cross divides. The Legolas/Gimil example is a great one here. Who would be brave enough in your setting to make the first move here?

What divides does your world have and how did these come into being? Does anyone ever challenge them? Are there any good reasons for a divide? (An aggressive country attacks another. They’re beaten back. The victim country puts up a wall to stop this happening again – that kind of thing).

Where you have a divide, you have characters caught on either side of it. There is an obvious potential for tragic stories here but could you bring out a funny side at all? Do you have the spiv type characters who use the divides to their advantage and manage to cheat the system?





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Publication News and Writing Up from My Notebooks

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated with many created in Book Brush. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hmm…back to the wild and stormy weather again. Am grateful Lady doesn’t mind being dried down when we get in. She sees it as a chance to have a cuddle. I get her dried. Just a pity I don’t dry off so easily and quickly but never mind! Am delighted to have publication news to share this time though.

BookBrushImage-2023-4-11-20-4815Facebook – General

Publication News: Am pleased to say I am back on CafeLit with my story Untaken. Hope you enjoy it (and it’s a warning to beware of thorny hedges with special properties – see the tale for more!).

Screenshot 2023-04-11 at 20-17-17 CafeLitMagazine

After a gloriously sunny Easter weekend, it has been an odd day weather wise today. Have had rain, hail, torrential rain, strong winds, sunshine etc. Just need snow now and we’ve got the set. (Has not been unknown to happen either!).

Looking forward to sharing Using Time For Fiction on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. Will also be reprising my role as CFT arts correspondent when I go to see The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production of spring plays later on this month (called aptly enough Spring Trio). More nearer the time.

Many thanks for the lovely comments continuing to come in for Which Way?, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. I do find the feedback on this site useful and encouraging. Also good to see familiar names on here too.


For all who celebrate Easter, I hope you had a very happy one!

Am enjoying listening to the Classic FM Hall of Fame as I write. I hope my three choices end up playing on the final day of this, which is tomorrow. They did last year! One of mine was in the top three too.

Publication News: Am also thrilled to find out today I will be in The Best of CafeLit 12, which will be out later this year. Always great to have publication news. (And a story of mine will be on CafeLit as well during this coming week. Looking forward to sharing the link there when I can).

A huge round of congratulations to the other authors will be in CafeLit 12 with me too!

Publication News

Lovely sunny day, Lady had a great time at the park, and loved being able to have lunch with my other half in the garden for the first time in months. Lady loved “hoovering” up too.

Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on Which Way?, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. In case you missed it, do check it out here. I rather like my character, Betty, in this. See what you think.
Screenshot 2023-04-07 at 09-12-58 Which Way by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Hope you have had a good day. Lady, my better half, and I all got rather soggy tonight. This is where I am pleased writing is an indoor activity – in the warm and dry!

I did okay in the Classic FM Hall of Fame this year. One of my pieces went down one place, another went up by one place, and the other stayed where it was last year! One of my chosen pieces was Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens. I remember this piece from the old quirky detective series, Jonathan Creek, but I do have another reason for loving it. See link!

It’s Easter Bank Holiday Monday here where I am but it is still time for a story. Hope you enjoy Super Soaker, my latest on my YouTube channel.


Have had a lovely Easter Day at church and then came home later to find out I will be in The Best of CafeLit 12 later on this year. (Also thrilled to see friends of mine will be in there too). Now that is a nice start to the week ahead!

I’ve talked about jotting down promising opening lines in those pockets of time everyone gets (aptly) from time to time. I’ll be talking more on that in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week but a good follow up question would be, “Allison, do you actually write up those opening lines into stories?”.

Yes, I do. Some of those stories have ended up in my flash collections (From Light to Dark and Back Again/Tripping the Flash Fantastic). Others have ended up on Friday Flash Fiction, CafeLit or my YouTube channel. But they do get written up. Not always immediately, I admit. That doesn’t matter though. Indeed a break away helps convince me this opening line really does have the promise I initially thought – and that’s a good thing, always.

Screenshot 2023-03-26 at 21-11-21 Allison Symes

Hope you have had a good day. I’ll be looking at Using Time for Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today next Friday. Always a timely topic!

One thing I think should go into the Murphy’s Law of Creative Writing is when you start a writing session slowly, time seems to drag a bit. You then find your “spark” and get cracking and then time speeds up and before you know it, it is time to stop. I guess time must reflect state of mind here. I do know it can be a pain at times.

Glad to report I will be back on CafeLit next week. Looking forward to sharing another story with you from there early next week.  See above.


Goodreads Author Blog – Humorous Books and Stories

I love humorous books and stories. As well as treasuring the works of Wodehouse, Austen, and Pratchett (now there’s a trio for you!), one of my favourite books is The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose compiled by the much missed humorist and all round good person, Frank Muir. (I remember him from the TV show Call My Bluff and he was an early pioneer of BBC radio comedy with his writing partner, the equally missed Denis Norden).

The book is huge (and not to be dropped on your foot if, like me, you have the hardback edition) but it is a riveting read. Also perfect for dipping into when you need a quick “humour fix”. Can’t recommend highly enough.

The reason I mention it is because my late mother taught me to read at an early age and I inherit my love of books and stories from her. The one thing she never really got though was humorous writing. No idea why. Just didn’t work for her at all. The nearest she got to it was with Jane Austen. Yet she read sci-fi, crime, thrillers, Du Maurier, Dickens, all sorts, and fantasy. She loved the Terry Brooks series of fantasy books. Me? It was Terry Pratchett all the way here!

Which humorous books would you recommend? Do you have any “blind spots” with regard to reading?

Screenshot 2023-04-08 at 20-46-23 Humorous Books and Stories




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Building A Book Workshop – Author Interview: Gill James

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated with many created in Book Brush. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as was the photo of Gill James at a Bridge House Publishing event.
For those who celebrate/commemorate, may I wish you a Happy Easter. It is lovely to have the sunny weather to go with it! A busy week again this week. I hope you enjoy a fabulous interview with Gill James on Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Really great idea here. Check it out below.

BookBrushImage-2023-4-7-20-1515Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am thrilled to welcome back Gill James to Chandler’s Ford Today to discuss her Build a Book Workshop. Doesn’t that sound intriguing? Find out all about it here.

Author Interview: Gill James – Build A Book Workshop

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Another good day for Lady – she got to play with her pal Coco today.

Will be sharing a wonderful interview with Gill James on Chandler’s Ford Today soon. We’ll be discussing Build a Book Workshop which is a fabulous idea. More tomorrow. See above.

Don’t forget the April issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is out. Do check it out – it’s a great read and free!


Lady had a ball with her best mate, the lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, today. Good time had by both.

Looking forward to sharing a fabulous interview with Gill James about Build a Book Workshop for Chandler’s Ford Today. Interesting premise. Great answers to questions, what’s not to like? Link up on Friday. Again see above and yes I am really excited about this interview. The premise here is a superb one. Do check out the interview.

Talking of questions, don’t forget you can use these to quiz your potential characters, I often do and will also use the random question generators to help me come up with “left field” questions, which can be a great way of truly finding out what your character is made of! They also stop you using the same old questions over and over again.

I will often use questions to give me ideas for themes for stories and again often they make for good titles too. I find they help me dig that big deeper and that in turn benefits my story and characterisation.

May be a cartoon of text that says "Questions make for good themes τσσ. What questions DO bother your characters and why?"

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to be on Friday Flash Fiction this week with my story Which Way? Hope you enjoy it. This story was prompted by the throw of a story dice and, aptly, a picture of a dice came up!

Screenshot 2023-04-07 at 09-12-58 Which Way by Allison SymesIf you do get Writing Magazine the last issue had their competition guide in it. Bear in mind a lot of the short story competitions either have categories for flash as well or their word count requirements fall within flash territory. Well worth checking out.

Don’t forget to check out the Ts and Cs of the competitions too (and that should be easily done by going to the competition’s website where you should be able to see these). You can sign up to Writing Magazine on line – their website says you could get access to their archive here, which would include the last edition with the guide, I would have thought!
Screenshot 2023-04-07 at 20-29-10 Writers Online Membership - Writers OnlineEntering competitions is also good practice for writing to deadlines

I was talking about using questions to help me with my fiction writing over on my author page earlier. Of course, because I am coming up with stories and characters all the time for my flash fiction and short stories, I need to ensure I have a constant supply of idea generators.

This is where the random generators are a blessing. It is also why I mix up the type I use frequently. Doing all of that makes me think outside the box more. That in turn helps fuel creativity and I am always all for that! (Story cubes, the old game of bits of paper in a hat with different words, adjectives on etc and then you pick out pieces at random – these all work too).

Also don’t forget the prompts books (and I will admit to bias here given I’ve contributed to some). Talking of which, I am also in The Big Book of Prompts, and many of the writers who regularly contribute to CafeLit, Bridge House Publishing etc are in there too. Why not see what we’ve come up with for ideas and see what you can make of them? Have fun!


Fairytales with Bite – Light and Dark

I’m writing this after what seems to have been the dullest, wettest March on record. Even the recent clock change where the clocks went forward did not appear to make much of a difference. And then the sunshine turned up and now we can believe spring has got here after all! Light makes all the difference.

In your setting, what kind of light would be considered natural? Are your characters affected by light levels the way we can be? What would they have in the way of artificial light for the winter season? Does your setting have a long dark period or a long light one? How would that make your characters behave?#

If you live in a setting where there isn’t a lot of natural light for most of the time, behaviour will be different compared to those who have nigh on perpetual natural light. (Those living in the latter can more obviously get out and about that much more easily. Sleep patterns will differ here too. How would that affect your characters?).

Is dark feared or welcomed? How do your characters manage to do the everyday tasks of life when dark is a way of life for them? Is crime more prevalent in a “dark” world?

You can also explore the issues of light and dark for each of your characters too. What would be their light attributes, which their dark etc? That alone could give you a good character outline ahead of writing your story up.


This World and Others – Nature

Light and dark are natural phenomenons of course but in your setting what is the natural world like? Is it comparable with ours? How do your creatures (human like or otherwise) cope with light and dark? What are their natural tendencies? Is there prey and predator, for example, and who would be considered to be the “top of the tree” here?

Have your main creations changed the natural world and, if so, how? Are there benefits to what they’ve done? What are the disadvantages and has your natural setting found a way of fighting back against what it hates? There are stories to be had in climate disasters and their aftermath, for example, but a more positive outcome here would be a tale where your characters learn from their mistakes, put them right, and the natural world responds to that. Redemption stories are always welcome! (If only to cheer us up as readers because there is so much gloom out there. We see natural disasters all the time, yes?).

How broad is your natural world? Is there a range of geographical settings? That directly affects what can live in your setting naturally so what kind of varieties of plant/insect/animal life, do you have here? How do these affect how the others can live?
It pays to take time to work this kind of thing out. Setting can so often act like a character in its own right. Think of The Shire, Mordor, Gondor etc in The Lord of the Rings. Each distinct. Each memorable. Each with their own “natures”.





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Turning the Tables, Mom’s Favorite Reads, and Publication News

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated with many created in Book Brush. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good start to the week. Looking forward to sharing a wonderful interview on Friday and it is nice to have publication news again too. Also, we have had sunshine here – spring has finally turned up!


Facebook – General

Delighted to say I’ll be having another story (a flash piece) up on CafeLit next week. More details nearer the time but news like this always cheers. I find it useful to submit stories regularly to different places, including my YouTube channel.

Doing this builds up publication credits and I enjoy sharing the links to stories on my author newsletter. Who doesn’t like a free read after all? Also said publication credits backs up my books (From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic) so win-win there too.
Screenshot 2023-04-04 at 20-48-24 Allison Symes - YouTubeWoo-hoo, welcome to spring! Got my washing out on the line today – it is always the simple pleasures in life I appreciate most!. Gorgeous sunny day today, much enjoyed by Lady and I. Hope you have had a cracking start to your week.

I write for a number of blogs and online magazines and I love the different challenges each sets. But this is where scheduling is vital for me. I plan out when I am writing X piece for Y, also giving myself enough time to rest a piece and then edit it before submitting it (naturally in good time for the deadline).

And what helps me schedule effectively? The good old-fashioned A4 sized diary! So using a pen and paper still comes into my writing processes. I like that.

May be an image of text that says "I use my diary to note down what I am writing when and to record how I'm doing. Has helped make me more productive."

Hope the weekend has been a good one for you. Bit of a mixed bag here. Poorly again (but thankfully it was brief) on the Friday night, spent Saturday recovering, and now back to my full self, happily writing away, Looks like we might see some sunshine this week. Do hope so. Lady would welcome it too.

Looking forward to sharing a fabulous interview with Gill James on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. We’ll be discussing her Build a Book Workshop book. Later this week I hope to flesh out some stories I drafted during the Flash Fiction group meeting on Wednesday night for submission – definitely want to get these somewhere!

Have a great writing and reading week. Am currently reading and loving 1000 Years of Annoying the French. It‘s a different way of looking at history, that’s for sure!

May be an image of phone, screen and text that says "Air T"

Pleased to say the brand new edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out. Grab yourself a wonderful, free read. I’m talking about New Life – Transformation as the theme for this month’s flash fiction column given the link with Easter in April. Hope you enjoy the piece (and the great fiction and non-fiction pieces that came in as a result of my challenge this time).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Do you find music evocative? Have you used that to help you get in the right mood to write a specific story? I tend to use classical music to relax to as I write and find that really helpful. I write more when relaxed. But music doesn’t change what I write – and I like that too because the one to change anything is me (later an editor/publisher as and when needed – always is by the way. There are inevitably some changes to be made before a book sees the light of day).

For the historical fiction writers amongst you, do you use music to help you get the right era set in your mind as you write? I can see a use for that. Mind you, given historical includes anything aged over 50 years, that has to include me too!

May be an image of indoor

It’s Monday again (though it has been lovely to have a sunny one!) and time for another YouTube story from yours truly. Hope you enjoy Still There. This story started life as a response to a throw of my story cube dice. See the tale for why this is so appropriate!


Flash fiction is great for turning the tables on a character. I love doing that. (Who said authors had to be nice, by the way? If a character deserves what’s coming, that is precisely what they get from me!). It is why punchline endings and/or twist endings work so well in this format. The reader doesn’t have time to get bored before “wham!”, they’re at that punchline/twist ending.

But the reasons for turning the tables should make sense. I’m not going to drop a character in it just for the sake of it. There has to be a good reason for it, even when my character doesn’t have it coming.

May be an image of tree, road and text that says "Make your twist a strong one. Twists, well delivered ơη, are superb hooks. love it when a twist catches me out and I ook back at the story and see the clues WERE there."

The latest edition of my author newsletter went out earlier today. I enjoy compiling these and I aim for a good mix of news, tips, story links etc. Talking of news, I’ll be glad to welcome back Gill James to Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday where she’ll be talking about her book, Build a Book Workshop. Now this combines two of my favourite things – books and workshops – so this will be a special joy to share! (Just add in chocolate and I would have hit the jackpot!).

Goodreads Author Blog – Animal Stories

Do you like animal stories? I have a very soft spot for the classic tales like Black Beauty. Anna Sewell was an early campaigner against animal cruelty with this wonderful book. I also love Aesop’s Fables. The Tortoise and the Hare will never date. I sometimes write animal stories in my flash fiction. I think it can work well there given flash is so short and the impact is greater due to that.

I also liked Fantastic Mr Fox and Watership Down (though it is probably best if those characters don’t mix!).

I think the strength of animal stories is when they are well done, you see things from a different perspective. You certainly do with Black Beauty. As with any fiction, I like the character to be well portrayed and what they come up with to be reasonable in terms of what we know about them and their character. In the case of animal stories, what we know about their behaviour patterns too should fit in with the tale being told.

Screenshot 2023-04-01 at 19-54-14 Animal Stories




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