Story Ideas and Identifying with Characters

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 weekend. Lovely family do. We all had a fantastic time and Lady was spoiled rotten so she had a great time too. Looking forward to a short break next week (am still hoping to post but will have to play things by ear here. A lot will depend on my internet connection!).

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When I’m thinking of potential story ideas, I ask immediately what kind of character would “serve” that potential tale well. I then look at what makes the character stand out for me in this role (because if they stand out for me, they’ll stand out for a reader too). This is why knowing what makes my character tick is so important for me. It helps me to get into their head, work out how they would think and speak and so on.

I also know what are the kinds of things my character would not say. Funnily enough that can be useful because I might get them to start saying it if they are under so much stress they come out with something they usually wouldn’t. Readers would identify with that given this is something most of us would do. But the stress has to come out of the character’s situation. It should be the kind of thing that would stress us out too.

May be an image of text that says "01, Understanding what makes US tick is crucial for understanding what makes your characters tick."

Hope the week has got off to a good start for you. Not bad here – recovering a from family do at the weekend. Much fun had by all.

I’m looking at Breaks for Chandler’s Ford Today this coming Friday. Aptly since I’ll be heading off for an autumn break with my other half soon. I will also look at breaks for characters in fiction and ask whether there is any such thing as a lucky break for writers. Link up on Friday.

Later this month, I’ll be interviewing the fantastically funny #Ruth Leigh and if you have read her Isabella M Smugge books, you’ll know why using a hashtag is so appropriate. If you haven’t, go on, what are you waiting for? Looking forward to sharing more on that interview nearer the time.

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Pleased to say the October issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out and, as ever, it is free to download. I talk about Character Profiles in Flash Fiction this time and share how I use random generators to create such things.

The random question one is especially useful here and my flash fiction challenge this time was to have a character answer a randomly generated question (which was about wishes). I also invited people to generate a random name for their character if they wanted to and I did so with my own tale for this piece.

Hope you enjoy and do check out the whole magazine. It is a fabulous read. I have two links for you this time. One takes you to Issu and the other takes you to Amazon.

 

Hope you have had a good day. A bit later than usual with my posts tonight given I’ve had a family “do” today. It was lovely to see everyone, the weather held (and I am grateful to God for that – tomorrow’s forecast is grim and timings are not in my hands!), and Lady has a fabulous time with Lily, another family dog. Both dogs got spoiled rotten too so they have had an excellent afternoon!

Managed to get my author newsletter out this morning ahead of “kick off” so pleased about that. It was also lovely to catch up with my lovely editor at Chandler’s Ford Today and her other half at today’s do and am looking forward to joining them for the next Chameleon Theatre Group play later this month.

Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on Coming Home, my new tale on Friday Flash Fiction. In case you missed it, please see the link below.

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How much do you need to know about characters before you start writing a flash tale? I need to know major trait. I can then look at the virtues (and otherwise) from that trait. There is always a flip side! Often story ideas begin to emerge just from doing that.

When I have a twist ending or a humorous punchline “good to go”, I then work out the kind of character who could deliver that twist or punchline. A sombre character is highly unlikely to come out with a laugh out loud line. A Jack the Lad type of character is unlikely to come out with something which stuns people with its philosophical genius.

Yes, there are always exceptions to the rule but you would probably need a longer length of story to establish why these characters are the exceptions. Flash relies on “shortcuts” so if you have got a Jack the Lad character, readers will have a good idea of what to expect from them without you having to spell it all out. Does that mean the character has to be a cliche? Far from it!

Your Jack the Lad character will bring something unique to them to your story. It’s why you’re writing about this character. There still has to be something special about them. Readers will pick up on this and understand why you have to write their tale up rather than than that of another character.

Flash Fiction focuses on THE important aspect of a character's life

It’s Monday. It’s getting dark. It’s getting cold. And it is still Monday. Time for a story then.
Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTube – All In The Timing. It so often is too!

 

I often read out some flash tales when giving a workshop as it is the single best way I think to demonstrate what flash fiction is and can do in ways of impact on a reader. (I know it has helped increase book sales at signing events!).

This is added reason to keep your story moving and to cut out the old purple prose. You want something that is easy to read, conveys a lot of information quickly, and is a joy for the listener to listen to and it should give you joy to read out too!

I practice reading through ahead of an event but I also do so when I think I’ve got a story, not yet published (note the optimistic use of the word yet there!), which I think would make a good one to read out. Best way I know of picking up on phrases which are a little clunky or where dialogue doesn’t quite so flow as well as I thought it did. Still, that is what the editing pen is for.

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Wow, doesn’t the year just speed by? Could be said to go in a flash!

I’ve sometimes used dates in my flash tales (see Losing Myself In Tripping the Flash Fantastic) and used a time period as a framework for my story. In this case I used a diary format but only covered so many entries for a certain period of time as that was where the action of the story took place. It was up to the upper end of the flash limit.

It was fun to do but I did have to select the amount of time I was going to use here. I did this by using selected entries over a time span of two years. Each entry followed on from each other and I left a lot to inference but that is one of the great strengths of flash. You can leave your readers to work things out and I know I love this when other writers do this for me (especially in crime fiction. I do want to have a crack at trying to work out who the murderer is).

It also made huge sense for there to be gaps in the diary entries given what my characters are revealing here but this was all carefully planned out.

So time can be a useful element in a story then but, as with life itself I guess, we have to decide how we’re going to use it best.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Identifying with Characters

Do you identify with characters? I always have had a soft spot for Hans Christen Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling (and have always loathed bullying of any kind so that feeds in to my sympathy for the character here).

I also like justice to be seen to be done so I am always rooting for the detective in crime fiction unless they are the baddie.

What you value will feed into the kind of characters you root for and I have an especial soft spot for the underdog. I’m on the lookout for seemingly undervalued characters in a story because I am watching for them to turn out to have a major role to play in that story later on – and most of the time I’d be right to do so.

The characters I dislike the most are ones almost inevitably where I don’t share their values (and most of the time rightly so there too!). I’ve still got to be able to understand why they take the view they do though I don’t have to agree with it. That helps me create my own characters – the ones I like and love – and yes I have created characters I really can’t stand! The challenge there is to get into their heads sufficiently well enough to see why they are the way they are.

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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. For my CFT post this week, one photo was also taken by me and another is a family heirloom shot. Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here. Busy week on the blogging front and I’ve two stories to share here. Hope you enjoy.

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It has been a busy week on the blogging front (and a huge thank you for the lovely comments coming in yesterday on my More than Writers piece – see below). Tonight though it is time for my weekly spot on Chandler’s Ford Today and this time I look at Favourites.

My piece last week on Looking Back was a reflective one following the Queen’s death but I thought it would be nice to have a kind of follow on post which was lighter in tone.

Favourites takes a cheery stroll down Memory Lane and I share some thoughts on favourite sweets, books, music etc. Do join in with your comments too. Hope you enjoy the post.

Favourites

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29th September – More than Writers

It’s my turn on the More than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers blog spot. This time I talk about Season of Mist and Mellow Fruitfulness – definitely apt for the time of year! – and apply it to the writing life. Hope you enjoy it and find it encouraging.

Hope you have had a good Wednesday. Busy, busy, busy this week as getting ready for a family do at the weekend. Lady loves these and will be spoiled rotten. That may have some connection as to why she loves family events…

Was sorry to hear of the death of Brother Andrew of Open Doors fame (an organisation which helps persecuted Christians. It is a sad truism if you have one group of persecuted people, there will be others being persecuted too. It saddens me a lot that we are still having the debate on religious freedom in this day and age – it should be a “given” and yes that includes the right not to believe. It should be a conscience issue).

Moving on to writing matters, I’ve set my monthly challenge for Mom’s Favourite Reads for the November issue and the October edition will be out very soon. I’ll also be sending out my author newsletter on Saturday. Am finishing the final touches for that one. I tend to add bits and pieces throughout the month. It helps!

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It’s Friday and that must mean it is time for another story on Friday Flash Fiction.

This one is called Going Home and was inspired by a picture prompt I used when setting exercises for the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group last week. Hope you enjoy the tale and would you do what my character is here? Do check out the other fabulous stories on this site. It is a great read and lovely way to have a good “fix” of contemporary flash fiction.

Screenshot 2022-09-30 at 09-25-38 Coming Home by Allison Symes

Many thanks to the lovely people at Elgin Writers for making me so welcome at last night’s flash fiction workshop on Zoom. It was great to meet you and and glad you found the workshop useful.

Another aspect to flash fiction writing is many of the techniques used for it will help you with other forms of writing. For example, you learn to think laterally to make the most of your word count and to write “tightly”.

You can apply that across the board. No more wasted words. No more descriptions which add little of value to your story and the characters. Learning to write with your Ideal Reader in mind and thinking about the impact of your story from the first word. All good stuff here.

May be an image of text that says "WHAT'S YOUR The short form -standard or flash -is is excellent for improving writing skills."

Flash has done so much for me from being published to tightening up my writing (and I am sure that has led to the being published scenario!). It is fun, great for when you don’t have huge amounts of time to write (because it means you can write something).

It has done wonders for my appreciation of good characterisation too. It is my belief every writer can benefit from practicing flash writing and is something I often cover in my workshops.

Advantage to flash is setting characters anywhere

Fairytales with Bite – Magical Rivals

Sparks should fly between magical rivals but how can they stop their magic from destroying themselves given they will face the problem of the other being capable of matching their “firepower”? It is why they’re rivals after all.

What do they use instead of magic to get the upper hand? How to those around them cope with the rivalry and what are the consequences of it for their followers and opponents?

How do those higher up from them deal with these rivals or do the latter take care to ensure they don’t trouble the authorities? The latter would be wise but actions have reactions and consequences which can often spread wider than intended. Could there be any circumstances where the rivals are forced to work together?

Story ideas can also come from exploring what led to the rivalry in the first place. Also whether any of them want the rivalry to end (for reasons of regret at the outcomes of it? Wanting friendship instead?). Even where the rivals themselves are happy to keep things going, are there others determined to put a stop to it and how do they do it?

You could also look at how things develop when rivals do become friends instead. Not everyone would welcome the change. (Who could be exploiting the rivalry to their own ends here and have vested interests in seeing it continue?).

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This World and Others – Growing Seasons

How does your fictional world produce its food and are the growing seasons like ours on Earth? If not, why are theirs different and what do they have in the way of light and water for their agriculture? Do your main species grow food or is that the work of robots etc?

Thinking more laterally, we all have seasons in life where we “grow”. We learn a lot, often through hardships etc. Can you explore that idea for your characters? What is it they have had to learn the hard way?

Naturally a growing season also indicates there has to be a dormant one so again look at your characters. What periods of their lives would they consider to be dormant and why? What brought them out of that?

Growth does indicate effort – how much effort do your characters like to contribute? (Not everyone is keen on huge efforts after all, especially if there is no obvious or quick reward for it!).).

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The Writing Life, Schedules, and Fact or 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. The autumnal weather has really set in here in the UK. I look ahead this time to a flash fiction workshop I’m running, discuss the writing life, including when work is turned down, and ask if you like fact or fiction or both.

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Am looking forward to running a flash fiction workshop for Elgin Writers via Zoom tomorrow night.

As well as my Chandler’s Ford Today post coming up on Friday, I’ll also be blogging for More than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. Link to that is due to go up on Thursday. I’ll be looking at Seasons of Mist and Mellow Fruitfulness for that one and the impact of this on writers.

For the various blogs I write for, I work out a writing schedule so I draft my pieces in good time. Again, as with my fiction, I give myself enough time to edit properly before submitting the posts. It pays to do that. Often I have had useful additional ideas to strengthen a piece on having another look through my original draft.

You have to give your imagination time to work. And imagination still comes into play with non-fiction writing, even if it is a case of asking myself have I presented the information in the best way possible? Sometimes changing a bit of the running order can help something I’ve said stand out more so creativity I think comes into play there.

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Hope you have had a good start to the working week. Strange weather here today – sunny, blustery, windy, cold – a right old mix. Not that Lady cared. She got to see her Hungarian Vizler pal again today so she (and her pal) were happy.

For Chandler’s Ford Today this week, I’m looking at the topic of Favourites. I wanted, after a rightly more thoughtful piece last week, to show that reflection can have its positive side too. I enjoyed my trip down Memory Lane for this week’s post and hope you do too as I look at favourite books, films, sweets etc. As ever comments are very welcome in the CFT box. Link up on Friday.

Heard today my flash story didn’t make it on to the listings for The Bridport Prize. At some point, I’ll take another look at my entry, see what I can do to improve it, and submit it somewhere else. I’ve mentioned before I have gone on to have work published doing this.

Rejection doesn’t have to be the final word. It can be the chance to polish a piece of work up and try it out there in the big bad world once more. (Incidentally I’m sure I’ve heard later than usual for this – I hope that means something positive!).

I have found you get more used to this kind of thing and that helps. It is all part and parcel of the writing life. Having been on the other side of the judging rostrum, I know it isn’t easy for judges to make their selections. And that’s how it should be. The stories should be as good as possible.

And there is nothing to stop you submitting the piece elsewhere. Another judge may think differently about your work but do take the chance to review your story before sending it out again. I’ve found ways of strengthening a piece when I’ve done this and I’m sure that is what has led to the story then going on to be accepted elsewhere.

 

Many thanks for the comments coming in on Good For Something, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Feedback is very welcome and the support from the writing community on this website is great. Do check it out.

Every writer needs some sort of affirmation that their writing is hitting the right note with readers. We know we’re not going to please all of the people all of the time. Nobody does that. What we’re after is knowing we are pleasing someone! So it is a joy to receive feedback and I enjoy giving feedback too.

There is nobody like another writer who will understand the ups and downs of the writing life. Added reason to go to writing groups, courses etc and meet up with other writers. I’ve made many friends this way (bless you, all!) and I hope to continue making other writer pals along my own writing journey.

Screenshot 2022-09-23 at 08-55-01 Good For Something by Allison Symes

Today would have been the 62nd wedding anniversary of my parents. Do you use special dates in your fiction at all?

I’ve sometimes written stories involving a birthday. I ought to try and do more with anniversaries as that can cover all manner of things – weddings obviously but also the anniversary of when you met someone special, a historical event and so on.

Also your characters can give a date meaning so stories could be found from exploring that meaning and whether your character treasures it or dreads it but can’t avoid it.

You can also use a a date as a deadline for your characters and put time pressure on them. Okay not so dramatic as a countdown in minutes but you could give them less than 24 hours to achieve something.

You could also think about something that makes a date special for you but would have not meaning to anyone else and try the same kind of thing with your characters. The date can be their driving force to do something because…. Fill in the blanks!

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Hope you have had a good day. Lady and I got a bit of a soaking (I say bit because it could have been worse!) earlier. Not that she worries – one good shake off her coat and she’s done (according to her anyway!).

Looking forward to giving my flash fiction workshop to Elgin Writers via Zoom tomorrow night. I often read a couple of my flash tales as part of things like this. The best way to show what flash is, and can be capable of doing in terms of impact on a reader, is to read some.

Often when I am at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, it take the opportunity of picking up flash collections there to add to my own reading list. Love reading them and I learn a lot from them myself.

You do need to read widely but I would also say you need to read in your genre as well as out of it. Best of all, it’s fun and I find doing this inspiriting. There is never a time when being inspired is ever a bad idea (at least not when it comes to reading books and stories!).

 

It’s Monday. It’s been a blustery day weather wise. It’s getting darker earlier. We haven’t even turned the clocks back yet here in the UK. Definitely time for a story and here is my latest on YouTube. Hope you enjoy Glad to Get Away. Members of the ACW Flash Fiction Group may recognize this as this tale is based on an exercise I set last week based on the closing line.

 

One of the joys of leading the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group is setting exercises. Usually I prepare my “answers” in advance to give an example of what can be done with the topic I’ve been talking about. I’ve found having examples has helped me a lot when someone has set a writing exercise for me. It gives you a kind of rough route map and I’ve always found that useful. I then get on with a draft knowing I am heading in the right kind of direction. I don’t want to be “way out” on this.

This time I did something different (and it will certainly be something I will do again). This time I set the exercises but didn’t prepare my answers. I wrote “live” when the others at the group did so we all had rough drafts to take with us and work up into something. So I have a few drafts to work on which will be fun to do.

Time away

Don’t forget I issue an author newsletter on the first of the month where I share tips (many of them as relevant to flash fiction as to standard length short stories), links to my flash stories, and so on. If you’d like to sign up head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – would be glad to have you aboard!

Just occasionally when I set an opening line writing exercise or respond to one, I come up with a line which makes a story all by itself. Those are great for sharing on Twitter. Sometimes I go on to extend the story out but it is lovely to have the choice here.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Fact or Fiction?

A good book is a good book regardless of whether it is factual or not. I was late to the party when it comes to reading non-fiction but I am glad I’ve discovered the form, I’m also fond of those stories which are based on truth – historical fiction is wonderful for this. I was sorry to hear of the death of Dame Hilary Mantel. I loved Wolf Hall.

The best non-fiction books often read as if they could be a novel (and this is where creative non-fiction is a genre I definitely want to read more of). The irony here though is that fiction can share truths which non-fiction cannot because those truths can’t be “scientifically” verified.

I love it when a character “rings true” and I can put myself in their stead and think yes I would’ve done that too. Of course you sometimes come across a character where you almost want to shout at them “don’t do that”. That’s the fun of fiction though! You can get behind the characters. You don’t necessarily need to agree with all they say and do.

The best non-fiction will show you aspects of a historical character you might not have considered before. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey is fiction but it is a rare example, for me, of doing just that for Richard III.

Screenshot 2022-09-27 at 21-08-13 Fact or Fiction

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Looking Back

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. In what has been a historic week, I take the opportunity to look back, share a new story, and prepare to embrace the new season. It has taken an autumnal turn here!

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Am pleased to share Looking Back, my new post for Chandler’s Ford Today. At the end of the week which began with Her Majesty’s funeral, I thought I’d look back at some of the events I recall over the last few decades and set them against some of the major royal events which were in the news at the time. I look at the importance of taking time out to reflect too.

Long term, I believe it does you good. We need time to process things and taking time out gives you some of that at least. There is a time for looking back, even enjoying some nostalgia but the important thing I think it not to wallow in this but to learn from our past and move on. But you need to take time out to reflect and then move on. It is in the reflecting we learn.

Looking Back

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Lady got to play with her pal, Coco, today. Lovely time had by both dogs. Always nice to see dogs playing.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is about Looking Back, which to me seemed an apt topic in the week of the late Queen’s funeral. Given Her Majesty was the only monarch I’d known, I’ve taken a look back at the decades I’ve been on the planet and shared some of my highlights against the backdrop of major events in her long reign. (Naturally I could not cover all of those). I also reflect on why I feel it is important to reflect. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Many thanks to those who came to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group on Zoom last night. It was great fun and I hope we all produce stories from it. We at least have got a head start on some! (And it was the tonic I needed after a frustrating day thanks to the Case of the Non-Appearing Washing Machine Engineer! See below!).

I’m giving another Zoom talk next week on flash fiction and am looking forward to that.

 

Hope you have had a good day. Has been a bit of a frustrating one here – have been waiting in for an engineer to visit. No engineer! Ring the company up and “apparently” they rang me late last week to say the part needed wasn’t in. They didn’t. I did point out that they didn’t call and also they could’ve emailed me (they have to have my email address). Not impressed. It’s a lesson of how NOT to do customer service. Did manage to walk Lady though – she’s had the better day!

It will be especially nice to be at the Association of Christian Writers Flash Group meeting tonight. It will be fun and great to see everyone especially after a frustrating day. I suspect an awkward customer service person may end up in a flash piece of mine at some point – writing can be so therapeutic at times!

Always a joy to talk or write about flash fiction

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It’s Friday night and time for another story of mine which appeared on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy Good for Something – my writer character has fears about their upcoming book signing.

Screenshot 2022-09-23 at 08-55-01 Good For Something by Allison Symes

Am looking forward to sharing my flash fiction workshop to some lovely Scottish writers next week. This is where Zoom is a blessing!

What I love about flash is especially on those days where I’m tired or just too busy, I can still write something. I can still create something. And that makes me feel so much better.

Unless I am on holiday, or ill, where I expect not to write much, if at all, I have to have my fix of daily creative writing. Am a grouch without it – you heard it here first!

Flash is a wonderful outlet for small pieces you wouldn’t otherwise do something with so I love it for that too.

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Feeling very autumnal at the moment. Not that I mind. I think autumn is a lovely season. But as the days grow shorter and the nights longer, can that be made use of in a story? A crime flash piece is perhaps the obvious use for that but you could also do reflective pieces where the characters are tune into the mood of the season to share something important with us.

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Fairytales with Bite – A New Beginning

The classic fairytales often end with “and they lived happily ever after”. It’s what we expect. But for me that line heralds the start of a new beginning for the characters involved. Where could their story take them next?

Many an additional fairytale has come from writers asking and answering that question. It is along those lines I got into print for the first time back in 2009 with A Helping Hand from Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing). I looked at the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of the youngest step-sister and explored if there could be a new beginning for her.

Screenshot 2022-09-23 at 20-17-54 Allison Symes

You can take the idea of a new beginning for characters who have solved one crisis and have to learn to live with their new situation in which they find themselves. How would they adjust? Do they need additional support? Do they get it? And when a character has literally moved on, how do those left behind cope with their new beginning? Is it a good thing for them or something they are not looking forward to having to cope with?

A new beginning can be a threat to a character as well as holding out a promise. How will you make your characters face and deal with their new beginnings and what triggers such things? Have your characters known this was coming?

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This World and Others – Continuity

Many of us like continuity in our lives. We like to know certain things will happen at certain times. We like to know we are going to be able to do the things we need to do to survive and so on. Some of us like a routine. (I do. It’s how I get my writing done). So we can apply this directly to characters too.

Think about how they would react if that continuity was threatened or even taken away for a while. How would they cope? Do they get the natural rhythm of their lives back again or do they have to face up to change they didn’t seek and set up a new kind of continuity?

Are there other characters who thrive on chaos? What happens when they disrupt the community continuity and how do characters react to that disruption?

What community leaders does your setting have and how do they react to threats to their authority? It is not likely to be a good reaction but are they measured in how they put things right (in their eyes) or do they take extreme measures? Are they prepared to do anything to get that continuity back?

Definite story ideas there!

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Goodbye to A Great Lady

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.
I spent a lot of Monday, 19th September 2022, along with so many others, watching the funeral of Her Late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth. I share some thoughts on that below but there was no way I could call this post anything else. She truly was a great lady. Goodbye for now, Ma’am. We will meet again.

 

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20th September 2022
Most moving moments for me watching the Queen’s funeral yesterday were the corgis, the pony, and the tolling of Big Ben. Have never heard that. (Last time it would definitely have been done would have been for the funeral of the Queen’s father, King George VI. I don’t know if was done for the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill).

Writing wise, don’t forget to use the senses when you can do so in your fiction. We get our characters seeing things, sometimes hearing them, but don’t neglect the senses of touch, taste, and smell. These should figure “naturally” in your story. If your character is in a cafe, we’d expect them to smell food, drink coffee etc.

Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on Times Past, my story on Friday Flash Fiction. Link here if you missed it – and do let me know what you think of Granny Mary.


Screenshot 2022-09-09 at 09-12-26 On That Day by Allison Symes

 

19th September 2022 – The Funeral of Queen Elizabeth

The late Queen’s funeral was a moving and beautiful tribute to her. I thought the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon was wonderful and the music and processions were just stunning. The flowers were so lovely.

I salute all those who worked so hard behind the scenes on this.

My thoughts and prayers go out to King Charles and the Royal Family,

Long live the King.

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18th September – bonus post – Authors Electric
Apologies folks – I almost forgot to share my latest post on Authors Electric. I talk about Creative Non-Fiction, which is one of the courses I went to during my week away at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School back in August. Hope you find it useful.


Screenshot 2022-09-18 at 20-36-49 Creative Non-Fiction by Allison Symes

18th September 2022
Am glad the weather is keeping okay for The Queue. Not surprised they’re shutting it later on – I hope everyone gets to go through okay. It is kind of bizarre to think of shutting a queue though! Only in Britain I suspect… I did watch a little of the live streaming from Westminster Hall yesterday and found watching it very moving.

I’ll be looking at Looking Back for Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. I usually do write an autumnal reflection piece at some point in September or October for CFT and it seemed apt do to this now.

I look back at my decades on this planet with some of the major events from the late Queen’s time and discuss why momentous moments should make us take time out to reflect. We need that time before we can move on. More on Friday.

How do you get your characters to show emotion? I tend to use their dialogue – there are certain things you would say when upset, angry etc that you would not say at other times. I also use gestures.

I can sometimes get other characters to bluntly ask Character A something along the lines of “what the hell is wrong with you?” etc. The important point though is I am showing and not telling here and you can mix up how you do this to keep things fresh and interesting for a reader.

17th September 2022
It is touching seeing The Queue – am glad the weather is keeping okay – at least it is dry! I was told that the Salvation Army are out there issuing out 1000 cups of tea an hour. That has to be a record, hasn’t it? It’s an apt one that’s for sure!

My late mother always used to say if tea was alcoholic, she’d never be sober but I don’t think even she could’ve brewed, yet alone drunk, so much tea in that kind of time scale!

Many thanks for the comments coming in on Times Past, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Link given further up. This story is in letter format. I use this every now and again. It’s a great form for a “two-handed” story with two characters only (and one of them can be “off stage”). It is effectively an all dialogue kind of tale so you need to ensure your lead here has a strong voice. Here, I think you’ll visualise Granny Mary well from what she says in her letter.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

20th September 2022
A day later this week for obvious reasons. Hope you enjoy my latest story on YouTube – Precious.

19th September 2022 – The Funeral of Queen Elizabeth

Whenever there are big occasions, there are stand out moments. These will be the things you treasure. The Queen’s funeral had so many of these moments though seeing the corgis and Her Late Majesty’s pony was an emotional moment.

The beauty of Westminster Abbey and St. George’s Chapel, Windsor were amazing.

And I had to smile a little as the state hearse left London via Chiswick (the A4) and the flyover there. When we used to visit my late father’s family in London, we would often come into the capital that way. Lost count of the number of times we passed by Fuller’s Brewery.

It was lovely to see the flowers on the road and on the hearse too.

God bless the late Queen.

Long live the King.

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18th September 2022

Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group meeting held online which will be next week. Always good fun and it has been lovely seeing some of those taking part having stories out there – more power to your pens and laptops, folks!

The great thing with flash is what with the competitions and online and other magazines out there taking this material, we do have more opportunities to build up a track record in being published. That is likely to come in handy I would’ve thought!

And, of course, you can build up a collection of stories too – the indie press is very much your friend here. I must admit this is where I find having a subscription to a writing magazine is useful – I can spot the competitions and markets that might be of interest to me more easily and it proves to be a most enjoyable read while I’m having my lunch so win-win there!

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17th September 2022
Flash is great for humorous tales. It is equally great for twist ones and those stories which manage to make you catch your breath (the “punch in the gut” ones as I like to think of them). So as well as writing different genres, you can mix up the moods of your tales too. This is a huge advantage to having a form of fiction which has to be character led. The mood for the story is led by them and the situation you put them in.

I also feel where I’m writing a story with emotional depth to it such as my Judgement Day in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, then keeping the story short helps with that impact enormously. I’m not diluting it. Also who says you need thousands of words to get a serious point across? It is not necessarily so!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Stand Out Moments

What are your favourite stand out moments in fiction?

In Pride and Prejudice for me it is where Elizabeth meets Mr Darcy again at Pemberley. You just know at that point somehow things are going to be sorted out between them. It is a question of finding out how.

For The Lord of the Rings it is when Sam Gamgee eavesdrops Gandalf’s conversation with Frodo, is hauled in, and is determined to go with his boss, no matter what. You just know at that point Frodo is going to be glad of Sam accompanying him – and so it proves.

Sometimes the pivot point in the book is the stand out moment for me. But in both Pride and Prejudice and The Lord of the Rings, there are several stand out moments. You can’t beat seeing the Ring of Power going into Mount Doom after all but that can’t happen without the earlier stand out moment.

Can there be stand out moments in non-fiction? I think so. It is usually that point where something is shown to you that you’d not realised before and you learn something new or have a theory you had confirmed or challenged (either work. The moment that makes you change your view or have it confirmed is what you remember).

The ultimate stand out moment though is the one that made you glad to have read the book!

Screenshot 2022-09-17 at 20-25-54 Stand Out Moments

 

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Hooks, Colours, and The Queue

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. I’ve been watching the various ceremonies for our late Queen and am amazed at how beautiful a building Westminster Hall is. I’ve been to the Abbey but not to that so this is something to make amends for, I think.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Loved a tweet I came across earlier which felt we had reached peak Britishness re The Queue (definitely capitals needed there) and it now having regular weather updates. All that was needed was for the tea to come out (and I am sure someone has organised that!). We do queues well. We organise well. We have organised a queue – a very special one. Yes, I’d say we’d reached peak Britishness all right!

Am pleased to share my Chandler’s Ford Today post about Hooks. Hope you find it useful. I look at different kinds and why it matters that the author plays fair with their readers. We do have to deliver on our hooks.

I love a good hook and enjoy it when I guess how the story will pan out. I like it even more when the writer wrong foots me. I then go back through the story and look for the clues I missed on my first reading. You learn a lot from doing this, much of which you can apply to your own writing.

Hooks

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The flowers around Buckingham Palace, Sandringham, Balmoral etc are so very lovely.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow will be about Hooks. I’ll be looking at some of the ones I use most often, discuss the importance of playing fair with your readers, and I’ll ask if you can have too many hooks. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Hooks are useful for non-fiction as well as stories of course. They just differ a bit in type. A hook for a non-fiction piece would be for me to share some indication this post or article is going to tell me something I need to know. (Sometimes something I didn’t know I needed to know too!).

The important point though, whether for fiction or non-fiction, is the hook does have to deliver on its promise.

Non fiction can have hooks too - useful information

The service for the late Queen at Westminster Hall today was lovely. It is a beautiful building but I was struck by the vivid colours of those taking part, on the coffin itself, and down the Mall and Horseguards. I thought it apt too given Her Majesty loved her own vivid colours.

I sometimes use colours as a a distinguishing feature for my characters. For example, rather than say Character X had a moth-eaten coat, I’ll show you they had a red moth-eaten one. The addition of colour makes the information given here more pertinent and I think much easier to visualise.

And you can tell something about characters from the kinds of colours they choose to wear – red is vivid, dark blue less so. I would expect the character’s personality to match that. (Incidentally that can be twisted. A shy character can wear red to try to give themselves more confidence but the story should make it clear that is what they’re doing and I would then expect to find out whether the character succeeded in their aim here or not).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I sometimes write flash stories in the form of a letter and I’ve done so for my piece on Friday Flash Fiction this week. Hope you enjoy Times Past.
Screenshot 2022-09-16 at 09-34-16 Times Past by Allison Symes

When you write, do you have anything on in the background? I listen to classical music as it helps me relax and when I’m relaxed, I find I get “into” writing that much more easily.

You could also think about what makes your characters relax and why they might need that. What has stressed them out that they need their comfort of choice? Again, especially for flash, it’s the telling detail which is needed here. I could get my character to make themselves a huge mug of hot chocolate and put on Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata for instance. That character will be different to someone who pours themselves a large double whisky and puts on a hard rock track.

Think about why your characters have the tastes they do. How do these indicate their personality, especially that which they keep hidden from other characters in your story? Also what are they hiding and why? Are they successful in hiding it?

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I like to use specific details about a character to help bring them to life for potential readers. Specifics are easiest to visualise and you can infer a lot from them too – saves on the word count too! The nice thing here is you have a wide range of things to choose from here. You can use colours, a character’s tastes in music, food, the senses, their favourite book and so on.

A reader will take different things from a character loving Winnie The Pooh in adult life compared with someone who likes the latest horror instead, for example.

And you can always use a random generator (objects, pictures etc) to help you work out what those specific things could be!

May be an image of text that says "What Who Where When How Why find using random question generators a great way to build up my character profile. These questions are pretty good τσσ."

Fairytales with Bite – When an Era Ends

I’m writing this in the week after the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. The mood in the UK generally is sombre and sad, as you would expect. The Queen was just a constant presence and it is odd to think she has gone, despite her great age.

Now when it comes to your fiction, who rules in your story world and what happens when there is a change of leader? Is that done peacefully or not? What rules are there in your setting to allow for changeovers? And if you are writing about immortal characters, are they only allowed to serve for so long? This is also where time comes into play. How does that work in your setting? Do your characters age? Is there a natural time for leadership etc to come to an end?

How do the people cope with the end of an era, especially if it has been a long one? If some cope better than others, there could be interesting stories there as to why that is, especially if that triggers resentment in the ones not coping so well.

Going into a new era, are people optimistic or fearful? What is behind the way they feel? Does the world’s history give them good grounds for fear, say?

And just what does the new era usher in for your characters? What are the likely positives and negatives here? Also, will anyone try to get in the way of the one likely to succeed as the new leader?

 

This World and Others – Changes

Changes in life are inevitable though not always welcome of course. Do your characters embrace changes or try to resist them? Do changes come in thanks to advances in technology and the like or through the way life is lived in your setting?

Are there certain types of changes your characters take in their stride or do they struggle with any kind of change?

Changes can also be seen as opportunities. What kind of changes have led to improvements in the way your characters live/their health/their quality of life etc?

Are our characters the kind to bring in changes for the benefit of others (or are they power hungry and the changes they seek are not in the general good)?

Any kind of story from the shortest piece of flash fiction to the most epic novel has to have change in it. Something happens to a character. The chraracter reacts – there are consequences and conflicts which have to be resolved in some way.

But the joy of characterisation I think is inventing different people who react to these things in different ways and I want to find out what happens to them. If you’re intrigued by how your characters handle changes in their circumstances, then your readers will be intrigued too.

And we all know what it is to have changes we don’t like thrust on us. We know we have to find a way of coping with things. That’s where empathy for characters come in because they can live through things we don’t have to and we can learn from how they do handle things.

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Emotions, Solace, and Books With Meaning


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 you can imagine it has been a strange and sombre week here in the UK following the death of Her Majesty the Queen. Some of my posts below reflect that.

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Facebook – General

13th September 2022
The scenes around Buckingham Palace tonight are moving. Especially when you consider the last time there were crowds like that it was for Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. You are and will be much missed, Ma’am.

Portraying emotion in fiction can be tricky. I like to let my characters show you how they’re feeling by what they say (and you will also pick up how they’re saying it from context). Sometimes I use gestures to back that up. I can show you a character pacing up and down for example, muttering to themselves. I can also show them biting their nails. I don’t need to tell you they’re worried. You’d have seen that from what I’ve shown you through them.

I like to build up a character picture with small touches like that. For me that is more realistic. I don’t want”over the top” emotion here because it can spill too easily over into melodrama and that for me is a huge switch off. Why? For me it simply doesn’t feel real. And I have to be convinced by my characters. If I’m not, nobody else will be.

We need to care about the characters we read

12th September 2022
I thought the ceremonies from Scotland today for the late Queen were wonderful and most moving. The Honours of Scotland are beautiful (as is the country. Am not on holiday there this year but did enjoy my visit as part of the Scottish Association of Writers Conference earlier this year).

Many thanks for the comments coming in on On That Day, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. If you missed the story, you can find it here.

I’ll also be discussing Hooks for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday.

Screenshot 2022-09-09 at 09-12-26 On That Day by Allison Symes

11th September 2022
I liked the line up of tractors as a farming salute to the late Queen on Her Majesty’s final journey. I thought that was nicely done – and also the line up of horse riders further down.

Gestures have so much meaning and they are something that can be used in fiction too. Does your lead character have a gesture they use? It doesn’t even have to be a conscious one. A character twiddling with their hair may not be aware they’re doing it but it is an immediate signal that character is nervous about something.

Gestures can be a great way to show and not tell given most gestures are immediately understandable and we can picture the character giving these out.

You can also think about what you would like your character to signal. If it is respect, do they bow their head? Doff their hat? Just say still for a moment when they don’t strictly have to do that? Readers will pick things up from context here too.

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10th September 2022
Music and books are two things that bring great solace to me – the other one is chocolate but that’s not such a healthy option, I admit.

I’ve found bringing my characters to life so I can visualise what their tastes would be and things like that means I write about them with more conviction. So working out things like what would bring them cheer, their minor vices (like chocolate!), and so on can make them seem more real to you. I think something of that does get through to readers as they read your tales.

Using your own tastes can help you work out what your characters might like. I love classical music, my characters might like hard rock, but my taste in music has given me a way in to working out what I need to know about my character. It is the way into a story that matters, I think. Once I’ve got that way in, off I go happily with my first draft.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash captures a moment in a character’s life – the single most important one. This is why it is such a great tool to help you focus on what really matters to your character and to figure out just what story it is they have to share.

I always like to think of these things as my characters’ stories. I don’t want my author voice getting in the way. By taking this view, I am getting into my characters’ heads more effectively and I hope end up writing their stories with more conviction.

I also focus on getting the story down and then working out how I can improve it. I don’t worry about the word count at all until I know I’ve got everything in place and then I can figure out what word count would suit the story best. Often it isn’t what I had in the back of my mind initially but that’s okay. There’s plenty of different markets and competitions for different word counts out there.

Flash Fiction focuses on THE important aspect of a character's life

It’s Monday so time for a story again. Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTube – this one is called Memories.

I like using flash fiction to show moments in a character’s life which are complete stories in and of themselves. They’re just smaller than the ones you see in the magazines. But that’s fine. Sometimes something is best said in 100 words or so than it would be in 1000. (You can dilute the impact for one thing).

I also think slice of life stories probably work better when kept short. You get an interesting insight into a character and enough time to develop empathy for what they’re showing you but not enough time to be bored or to think they’re whining!

It’s also why monologues/first person narration work so well in flash. Enough but not too much. The Bridport Prize describes flash as “the art of just enough” which is one of the finest descriptions of the form I’ve come across.

Flash Fiction Impact


Flash is brilliant for those ties when you might not feel/be able to write much – life does get in the way. How you feel can feed into this too but flash does mean you can write something that will be a complete piece of work. There are markets and competitions for it too so there are opportunities out there for you to do something with your work.

Even when you’re on a roll with your writing, you can still use flash an excellent warm up exercise for your “main event”. I like the flexibility of flash with regards to genre and the different word count brackets. I don’t write drabbles (100-worders) all the time. I like to mix things up.

Above all, it is lovely to write something for fun and then see what you can do with it. Flash does give more opportunities here simply because by its nature it is quicker to produce than a novel. If you can get your work out there, you get the payback of publication quicker too. And it can make a great way to build up a track record to tell a publisher about when you are sending longer works somewhere.

Advantage to flash is setting characters anywhere

Goodreads Author Blog – Books With Meaning to You

All books have meaning. For me, I have a few categories here. There are the books written by and signed for me by author friends. I love seeing those books on my shelves, Then there are the books left to me by my late mother. Then there are books I saved up to buy when I was much younger and which I still have.

Then there are books such as The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey which opened up my eyes to the idea there is a whole story behind Richard III that needs further investigating. Do not take Shakespeare as gospel!

Then there are the books which make me gasp as I take in their full scale and scope – The Lord of the Rings is the obvious one.

Then there are my childhood fairytale books – The Reader’s Digest books here were my first introduction to the wonderful (and often scary) world of the fairytale. They remain a great influence on me as a writer too.

Then there are the shelves with my collections of books by P.G.Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett – the laughter shelves if you like.

So which books have special meaning to you and why?

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A Sad Week

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.

THE DEATH OF HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH THE SECOND

ON 8TH SEPTEMBER 2022

It has been an odd couple of days since the news broke of Her Majesty’s death. My posts below reflect that. There is a collective sense of loss even though we all knew that at some point this day would have to come.

I believe it to be a remarkable tribute that the sense of loss is palpable given she was the only monarch most of us had known and she was a constant presence even for those of us who never met the late Queen.

Constancy and consistency matter (as Her Majesty proved by her devotion to duty) and I feel that is only brought home by events like this.

My late father was a child during World War Two and was, at first, too young to be evacuated. Later he recalled often seeing the late Queen’s parents in the bombed out areas of the East End of London. I am absolutely sure the late King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother as she became, would be very proud of their daughter. We are.

May you rest in peace and rise in Glory, Ma’am.

God save the King!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

There was really nothing I could add to my Facebook post yesterday. See below. Her Majesty will be much missed. I thought the King’s speech was wonderful.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is Good Interviews and I look at the topic from using interview techniques to get to know your characters better before writing their stories up. I also share some thoughts on how writers can prepare for interviews and what I think makes for a good interview.

Hope you find it useful.

Good Interviews

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8th September 2022
So deeply saddened to learn of the death of Her Majesty the Queen. She has been a constant presence and will be much missed.

God save the King.

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Hope today has been okay. Have enjoyed listening to the 30th birthday celebrations of Classic FM today. I’m a fairly late convert to the joys of classical music. This is very much a case of better late than never.

Now talking of well known sayings, how can you use them in story telling without falling into the great big cliche trap?

One way is to use the saying as the title. It also gives your readers the theme immediately. It is then a question of you delivering something special on that well known saying – no pressure then! – but it can be done. The big hook for any story for me (and I won’t be the only one) is the lead character. Get me interested in them and I will read on.

Also think about ways you can prove the well known saying to be right or wrong in the case of your character. Maybe for your person, it really isn’t a question of being late than never. Never would’ve been the better option etc. You could have fun with that.

I’ve subverted sayings for titles but you could do it for the story itself too. Your character would have to establish fairly early on they are different enough to be able to do that as it is unlikely a meek and mild character would subvert anything much!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Today has been a strange day, as you can imagine, though I thought His Majesty’s speech hit the right note and was beautifully done. I’ve been listening to various recollections of people meeting the late Queen on Classic FM today. Personal stories matter and they were all deeply touching.

I love stories as they can be a form of escapism and just sometimes that is exactly what is needed.

My latest story on Friday Flash Fiction is called On That Day, which is about what happens when Bella finds a travel machine conveniently left open. Hope you enjoy it. Definitely on the light side this one.

Screenshot 2022-09-09 at 09-12-26 On That Day by Allison Symes

8th September 2022

Today is a historic day. The late Queen’s devotion to duty was legendary. You will be much missed, Ma’am.

God save the King.

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One quick way into a character outline for a flash story is to ask five quick questions about them.

1. Your name?
2. Your major trait?
3. Your tastes in music, food, film etc.
4. What you like/loathe the most?
5. Name one thing you would never do.

The great thing with the last one is your story would have them facing up to that one thing they’d never do. When push came to shove, would they still really not do it or cave in? A great way to ratchet up the tension and there would have to be a conclusion – which way would your character go and why?

Asking and answering questions sets up a structure for your piece of work

Fairytales with Bite – By Hook or by Crook

Which way of doing things do your characters prefer? Do you have characters who couldn’t be honest if their life depended on it and would do anything to get their way? What obstacles do they come up against and do they change their tune?

What would be fun here, I think, is having a character who does things the right way – they hook support in legitimately – up against someone who will take every crooked turn available and then watch the sparks fly! Only one of those characters can win by the end of your story. Will the judicious use of the right “hook” be enough to save the day?

How honest, or otherwise, is your main setting and its government? Do your characters moan about their leaders the way we moan about ours and, if so, what are the consequences, especially in a magical world?
What kind of crook does exist in your setting? Is there crime as we know it? If there’s magical crime, what form does that take and what are the consequences for those caught using it?

Last not not least, what is the hook for your story and characters? What will draw readers in? It helps to draw yourself into the story and view it as if someone else had written it. What do you make of this tale if it was written by someone else?

This World and Others – On Whose Order?

Orders can be given by all manner of people. The kind of order given matches the importance or otherwise, of those giving the order, so who do you have in your stories barking out commands to all and sundry? How well does this go down the the other characters? Potential set up for comedy and/or tragedy here I suspect.

It can also led to interesting story ideas if you look at how someone got into a position of authority ad what they’ve had to do to stay there. On whose orders are the orders given out? Are the orders ever disobeyed? Can anyone question an order to prevent it being carried out?

Is your society structured in such a way everyone knows their place and everyone knows whose orders are being belted out to people and why? If you have a stranger in town, so to speak, how do they pick up what they need to know?

Are orders backed up by the use of force ore are people generally obedient?

Best question of all, who challenges the status quo? Many a fine story has been told using that premise. Also just because orders are given it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re followed properly.

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Regular Writing and What Makes a Good Read

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 had a good weekend. Starting to get rain, thunder etc here. Lady okay with it but does not like being woken up by it. Can’t say I blame her.

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Not bad here and I managed to get some swimming in as well so that’s good. Managed to duck most of the showers as well – definitely a good day. Lady and I have had plenty of soakings in our time so any time we miss out on that, we feel we have won!

Just to flag up there’s an offer on the paperback on Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See the link at https://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic

Writing Tip 9002.5 or thereabouts: Regular writing is important. So is life. If life does get in the way, don’t feel bad about what you can’t do. Focus on what you can.

If it means you need to have another writing session some when else, then fine, so be it. The writing journey is a marathon and not a sprint. Pacing yourself helps a lot.

I must admit I know there are some nights of the week I know I’m not going to get a lot done so I focus on blogging (just adding a few paragraphs sometimes) or I draft a flash story. It gives me something to work on when I do have more time.

 

Am grateful Lady isn’t fazed by thunder and lightning as we had some in my part of the world at about 11 last night. Her policy here is the same as mine – the sensible one of sleeping through it and letting the weather carry on without you. It’s not as if it needs our help!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be about Good Interviews. I’ll be looking at what writers can do to help themselves prepare for these as well as looking at interviewing your characters to find out more about them ahead of writing their stories up. Link up on Friday. (And I’m interviewing two great writers for CFT before long – more news nearer the time – so I plan to be practicing what I preach here!).

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)Comments welcome for CFT


Changeable weather today with rain forecast this week. Won’t be that sorry, though it will mean Lady and I will probably get a bit wet. The trees here are shedding leaves early to conserve water so the rain is needed. And Lady and I are used to being “drips” anyway so that’s okay!

Many thanks for the comments in on Fitting In, my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. In case you missed it, you can find it here.

Now this story is loosely based on fact. I did have a dog called Gracie and I did fall for her immediately. Inspiration for story ideas can and does come from incidents in life but also from what I read and sometimes an overheard bit of conversation which intrigues me. (Train journeys are great for that by the way).

It’s being open to the possibility you might get a story from something that is important I think. The more you read, the more you are open to being inspired too.Screenshot 2022-09-02 at 09-11-55 The Arrangement by Allison Symes

Hope you have a happy weekend.

Any autumn plans you’re looking forward to? Any books you’re planning on reading this season? I mentioned the other day I’m currently reading Churchill’s Wizards on Kindle (having just finished the excellent Regal Retribution by Jennifer C Wilson).

It’s a lovely contrast in reading material – non-fiction -v- contemporary fiction (historical crossed with ghost). But I love to mix up my reading and ideas for stories come from both sides of my reading diet. I’ll read something and the cogs get whirring and I jot down ideas for another flash story or blog post. Reading feeds the imagination and it pays all writers to keep theirs topped up.

Best of all, it is fun to do!

And talking of reading, why not check out the latest edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads? It is free to download, has a wealth of articles, photos, stories and, of course, my flash fiction column.

This time I’m talking about Questions and Answers in Flash Fiction. I love questions as they give you a great story structure from the word go. Your story has to answer the question set. Your question draws the reader in – they know there will have to be an answer by the end of the story. Do also check out the flash fiction pieces that came in as a result of my challenge – there are wonderful stories here.

Screenshot 2022-09-03 at 20-32-31 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine September 2022

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Don’t forget I often post flash fiction videos to my YouTube channel. New subscribers are always welcome (and the current ones treasured!). You can find my channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

Screenshot 2022-09-06 at 20-23-13 Allison Symes

 

It’s Monday. It’s time for a story I think. Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTubeThe Right Number. No prizes for guessing which random generator I used to trigger the idea for this one!

 

Does geography come into your fiction at all? It sometimes ventures into mine. For example in A Day Out from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I refer to Earth Mark Two. I didn’t have the room in this story to say more than that but you immediately know you’re in an alien environment loosely based on what we know here.

More importantly, I didn’t need to say more than that. As ever it is the telling detail which matters here. You can bring the senses in here too.

For example, if you say Character X was standing by the blood red waterfall, you can deduce they must be on a foreign planet even if you don’t give the name of it.

Also think about how geography might impact your story (the quest tale is the obvious one here but it can be done for the smaller flash stories). If your character is on a mission to deliver cakes, (quite possibly to Grandma’s house), how could the geography get in their way and what do they do to bypass that? There’s the story. Readers will want to know if those cakes did get delivered. There’s your structure.

The geography is what causes conflict and challenge for your character and they will have to resolve it as best as they can to be able to do what they are meant to do. Usually failure is not an option (and you can increase the hazards for your character here by making it clear what will happen if they do fail).

May be an image of ‎tree and ‎text that says "‎Just give your readers what they need to know to picture your world. Everything else they will هll in from what they have read/seen on film.‎"‎‎

I often refer to some of my stories as “fairytales with bite” because they often have a twist and they’re not aimed at children. They often see characters getting their comeuppance. I also like to look at stories from the viewpoint of alternative characters to the well known ones.

Indeed my first story in print was A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions. My story looked at an aspect of the Cinderella story from the youngest step-sister’s viewpoint. Great fun to do.

The original fairytales are anything but twee as I’ve mentioned before. They can work so well as in flash fiction format, especially if you want a succinct story focusing on one incident in a character’s life.

My The Poison Pen from From Light to Dark and Back Again looks at the Snow White story from the viewpoint of the crone before the King marries Snow White’s mother and shows early indications of what the crone is like.

This kind of tale can add to the world of the well known fairytales I think. But you need to think about what character you’re going to use for this and work out what you can do with them. In this story’s case, I am showing the crone was like this years prior to the original Snow White story. In other words, she’s got form!

My flash collections are available in Kindle and paperback

Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes You Read?

Leading question, hmm? What makes me read is curiosity first and foremost. I have to find out what happens to the characters in the story. Or I have to find out what an expert is imparting to me via their non-fiction work. I read to escape worries and cares for while. I read because I love stories and finding out things. I read because it is a privilege and pleasure to be able to do so.

Reading fuels the imagination and that is why I think all writers should read widely and regularly, inside and outside of their chosen genre. I’ve had story ideas come to me from reading non-fiction. Occasionally a blog idea will occur to me from reading something in a story. I also see reading as supporting the industry I am part of – makes great sense to me.

Besides, as we go into autumn in my part of the world, what is better than curling up with a hot chocolate and a good book or something fascinating on your Kindle?

Screenshot 2022-09-03 at 20-47-58 What Makes You Read

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Author Newsletters

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. Weather turning autumnal where I am but I like that. I think autumn is beautiful and September is a lovely month.

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share Author Newsletters, my latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today. Some writers have them, others don’t. Still others won’t!

I look at why I do have one now and what I use it for. I share some thoughts I hope will be useful to anyone considering going this route. Hope you enjoy it. Comments also welcome over on the CFT page about what you find useful in a newsletter.

As with my story writing, I have my readers in mind when I prepare mine. Having your audience at the forefront of your thinking is a good idea – why?

Because by writing with them in mind, you’ll be seeking to entertain, provide them with useful information etc. It is a great way of ensuring you don’t waffle on as well. All win-win there and useful for newsletter writing in particular. Readers don’t have to read them after all!

Author Newsletters

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Hope you have had a good day. Author newsletter out earlier today. And I’ll be talking about that topic for Chandler’s Ford Today – see link tomorrow. Link above.

I had held out against having an author newsletter for a while but am glad I do one now. It’s another way to be creative as I engage with readers. Mind you, I held out against having a smart phone for ages. Now I wouldn’t be without one. I live and learn!

Is there one aspect of the writing life you really can’t stand? For me, it’s how time vanishes down a great big black hole when I’m right in the middle of things, am keen to keep on writing, but tiredness strikes and that’s it. For me the days of being able to stay up until all hours to finish something have long gone. Probably a good thing I must admit.

Still having to go to bed at regular hours these days does mean I get more reading done so that’s more than okay.

Reading can encourage empathy

The end of August already – where has the time gone? I must admit though I do like September. I think it is a beautiful month – even the name of it sounds a little poetic to me. And I love the changing colours of the leaves (though it has been a bit sad to see them dropping off the trees so early this year).

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be about Author Newsletters and I will be sending out my latest one of those tomorrow. Timely, eh?!

Look out for Mom’s Favorite Reads too – will share the link here when I’ve got it.

Looking forward to giving another Zoom talk later on in September too and am making good progress with the third flash fiction book. Am on track to submit that this autumn.

And don’t forget to review books where you can. It does help authors. Yes, I review as well as seek reviews. It seems only fair to me to be prepared to give reviews as well as (hopefully) receive them!

Reviews help writers

From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am pleased to share The Arrangement, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. This one is loosely based on fact too. Hope you enjoy it.

Screenshot 2022-09-02 at 09-11-55 The Arrangement by Allison Symes

Many thanks for the great responses to my Writing acrostic yesterday. See below. These are good fun to do – works best with relatively short words though. I sometimes tell flash tales in acrostic form – it makes for an interesting challenge.

The challenges that face your characters should hook in the readers. For flash fiction, it is one major challenge for a character to deal with but I think it makes the emotional response of your character more powerful. They know they are going to have to solve this one and they don’t have a lot of time (or word count room) in which to do it.

That mean your readers get the payback quickly (which for me is another joy of flash – I like the fast turn around. I love reading novels funnily enough and expect the payback to me much slower there but I also expect lots of sub-plots along the way)). You pays your money etc etc.

This is where knowing your character pays off. You find out about them. You work out what makes them tick. You then find would would be a challenge for them and then you get your story to be where they have to face up to it and deal with it. Nobody says you have to be nice to your characters!

May be an image of 1 person and text that says "WIA ()EVER()TOP EVER (s)TOP LEARNING Good idea. It can be great fun though getting your characters to learn their lessons the hard way. Makes for good drama."

W = Write what you would want to read.

R = Recognise the need to edit and re-draft is part of the process.

I = Imagination needs feeding – give it a good book and story diet!

T = Timing sometimes plays a part in rejections so see if you can rework your story and sent it out somewhere else.

I = Investigate your character and know what their traits and attitudes are – that will trigger their actions and reactions.

N = Names can reveal age and class of characters so play around and see what would suit yours best.

G = Go for it – whether you write for pleasure, to try and be published, or whether you can write a lot regularly or a little regularly.

The writing journey is full of twists and turns

Fairytales with Bite – Spreading the News

What form does the news take in your fantasy world? Newspapers? Technologies we don’t know here? Or is your setting behind us in terms of tech and things like that? Are there parts of your world where even older methods of spreading the news exist (e.g. town criers etc)? Is the news reliable or dependent on sources close to government only?

As well as news, people like a good gossip to spread their own news so how do your fairy godmothers etc get together to do this? What hierarchy do they have (someone is bound to be boss)? Which fairy godmother always brings the best gossip to the party and how does she get to hear it? (I could see there being a humorous tale there).

Is magic used to control what “ordinary” people get to hear/see news-wise? Is news from other worlds welcome or are your characters kept in ignorance other worlds might be out there?

Stories could be found too in working out who prepares/writes the news? What conditions do they work under? What pressures do they face? And who goes against the status quo? (Someone usually does!).

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This World and Others – A Free Media?

Tying in with Fairytales with Bite, is your media in your setting a truly free one? If not, who controls them? Are people free to criticise or analyse what the government is up to? If the media is a free one, what are the pressures and threats they face and how do they deal with these?

What do people from different levels of society make of the media and why? Has your society always had a media or is this a recent development? Who were the pioneers here? What kind of tech is used by the media?

Can “ordinary” people make their voice heard this way or is this only the privilege of the elite? No matter what world you’re on, there is an elite somewhere, there always is!

Is there a media watchdog and how much has it got in the way of teeth to deal with the errant journalists etc? Also, who decides what errant is and how did they come to be in that role? There are stories here.

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