The Joys and Pitfalls of Writing Research

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. Photos of Swanwick were taken by me, Allison Symes. Many thanks to colleagues who took images of me on my phone about to run the workshop on editing there in 2022.
Hope you have had a good week. Loved running the workshop on Monday. I’ve had some lovely feedback on that too. Weekend will be a bit odd. On Sunday it will be the anniversary of my Dad’s passing (six years) and I’ll be ordained as an elder in my church. Mixed emotions especially as he would’ve loved to have seen that service (as would my mum and late in-laws). Lady and I have relished the emergence of consistent sunshine this week though. Not before time we think!


Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to be back on Chandler’s Ford Today. My post this week is called The Joys and Pitfalls of Writing Research. All writers need to carry out research (yes it goes for fiction too) but the advantages we have now are easier access to a wider range of material and a greater appreciation of keeping and treasuring records of the past.

Hope you find the post useful. I share tips on researching and useful questions to ask yourself as you do. It is too easy to get sidetracked on to an interesting section of research which is not needed for your story or article.

The Joys and Pitfalls of Writing Research

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It’s my turn to be on Authors Electric and this time I talk about Story Shapes. What do I mean by that? Well, I often use linear shapes in my writing – a straight sharing of a story where I start at A and finish at Z, but I also write circular ones too. This is where my end line repeats the opening line (or has strong echoes of it). The repetition is deliberate and works so well for poignant stories. But can shapes apply to blogs too? Check out my post and see what you think. Hope you enjoy it.
Screenshot 2023-05-18 at 09-48-22 Story Shapes by Allison Symes

Another lovely day here and Lady got to play with three of her girlfriends today – the Rhodesian Ridgeback, the Hungarian Vizler, and a lovely Labradoodle. Very much a girls morning out in the park!

Am pleased to say I’ll be running a one hour workshop at The Writers’ Summer School, Swanwick, in August. I’ll be looking at editing from both sides of the fence given I’ve been edited and have been editing at the same time at different points in my career. For more details on the school, do see their website.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in already on News, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. If you’ve ever had round robin letters, you may well sympathise with my character, Wilma, in this one!
Screenshot 2023-05-19 at 09-49-56 News by Allison Symes 
Hope you have had a nice day. Lady got to show off in front of her Hungarian Vizler chum so Lady definitely has had a good day. (And her pal never minds the showing off so all well there).

I’m talking about The Joys and Pitfalls of Writing Research for Chandler’s Ford Today (link up tomorrow). See above. Do I need to research for my flash pieces? Simply, yes and often.

For a crime flash tale, I might need to find out what poisonous plants would be found in a garden (and I have researched that one!). For historical flash pieces, I need to get dates etc right if I use them. I sometimes need to know if something was available at a certain time period.

Research comes into fiction, as well as non-fiction, writing in all sorts of ways and it is great we have a wider range of materials available for research purposes. More in my post tomorrow.

But bear in mind a story has to ring true for a reader even if it is set in a bizarre setting. Using facts from what we know here on Earth (especially for world building) can help give that sense of “this could be real if this world existed somewhere”. So yes research is needed for fantasy too!

May be an image of text that says "ਜਗ |could happily while away many hours researching in here!"

Many thanks to Medway Mermaids, the writing group I presented my flash fiction workshop to on Monday for some wonderful feedback. Very much appreciated.

“It was comprehensive and informative, giving writers an excellent guide to the art of writing short fiction”.

Now that is a quote I am proud to share!

One problem all authors have is that most of the time we work alone. We don’t always know how our work is going down with others. So feedback is useful (and it is something I appreciate from Friday Flash Fiction as well).

May be an image of text that says "HONEST FEEDBACK WELCOME"

Fairytales with Bite – Inspiration

What inspires your characters to take the actions they do in your stories? Is it a question they have no choice but to do whatever it is you’ve set them – it is life or death for them here – or because they are motivated to help someone else in need of help? (Sam Gamgee did not have to go with Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. It is just as well that he did).

When your fairy godmother is looking for a suitable spell or to create something suitable to help a client, what inspires her? Does she base her creation on years of experience, stick strictly to the books, or is happy to add her own special ingredients given she knows they’ll give her magic that bit of “kick” she feels her client needs?

What inspires your characters to keep going when it would be the easiest thing for them to give up and go home? (And even more so when they could go home and nobody would blame them!).

Also think about what inspires you from the classic fairytales. For me, a big one here is seeing wrong being righted as we all know that so often doesn’t happen in life, unfortunately. But the thought of that inspires me to write my own fairytales with bite where I can ensure wrong definitely is righted! Good fun to do too!


This World and Others – The Creative Industries

Industry can sometimes seem as if it is a negative word. It conjures up images for me of factories and works back in the Victoria era where conditions were often not that great.

On a more positive note, we talk about the creative industries. What does your setting have in the way of these? Are the arts celebrated? Do they bring in significant income for your world? (They do for the UK, for instance).

What creative industries would your characters be involved in? Are they involved in these willingly or is it expected of them because they’re following a a family or tribal tradition? The kind of thing which goes “your grandfather was a musician, your father was too, so guess what you’re doing!” There is potential for humour here if the unfortunate character really cannot play a note no matter how hard they try.

What is the attitude of your setting’s governments to the creative industries? Do they welcome them or view them with suspicion given they can be a vehicle for free expression? What would happen if there are clashes here? Who would win? On the face of it you might think it would be the powers that be and in the immediate term that might be the case. But the creative industries live on for centuries. People look back at events. Views change and the arts can help change them so I wouldn’t see this a s a clear cut thing at all.

Do your characters take part in the creative industries just for fun? If so, what is their main work and how do they find the arts helps them?



Allison Symes - Flash Fiction Collections

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