Snow, Stories, Patience, and Fish

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Lady wondering why I’m excited about a box of books was taken by Adrian Symes

An interesting title choice I think – see below for how these link up. Two of them are to do with stories I’ve produced this week!

 

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Many thanks for the great responses to my post yesterday.

Happily drafting more stories for what I hope will be my third flash fiction collection. I’m almost there at the word count requirement but know the draft needs a heavy edit (or several) so plenty still to do there.

Am also revising my non-fiction project. Generally happy with it but am tweaking at the moment. Next stage there will be to draw up a list of publishers I want to approach with it. Am hoping to get that out for submission in the next couple of months or so and I’d love to be able to submit the third flash book by the end of the year. Yes, that is my 2021 taken care of nicely!

I find once I get started on a writing session, it is like someone has fired the starting gun and off I go. It can be the getting started that can be tricky, especially if you’re tired etc as I mentioned yesterday.

My tip here is be gentle on yourself, don’t commit to too much, and on days when I feel like that, I focus on small amounts of writing I can polish up later. There will be places for a 100 or 200 word story later, that’s for sure, and I feel better for having got something down I know I can send off later.

Still no snow today so that’s promising! (I know, I know! Famous last words and all that. We’ll see!).

Not impressed with the recent wintry conditions in the UK. Image created in Book Brush using a Pixabay photo.

Snow again this morning. Other than that, it has been an okay but busy Monday. Hope you have had a good day.

Glad to hear Just a Minute on the air again. It’s not the first time they’ve used guest presenters but it is odd that the much missed Nicholas Parsons is no longer part of this wonderful game.

I’ve mentioned before I tend to write less on a Monday given it is one of my busiest days and tiredness takes its toll. But that’s fine. I know I’ll make up for it during the rest of the week. I don’t set myself a word count per day. I just want to write daily and there will be some fluctuations. It is a case of going with the flow. And that’s fine too but it has taken me some time to get to that point and to learn not to be too hard on myself.

 

Lady helps out! Image by Adrian Symes.


Still can’t believe how cold it is. Doesn’t feel like April at all. Oh and we had snow again today. Thankfully not for long but I suspect it will still be a while before our heating goes off!

Writing wise, I start my new Chandler’s Ford Today series on Friday. Called Judging a Book By Its Cover, this three-part series will see a range of guest authors and myself share our latest covers and talk about what we think of these. We also share some useful tips. Looking forward to sharing that later in the week.

Don’t forget I do have an author newsletter now. I send this out monthly and share exclusive stories and writing tips here. To find out more sign up (and receive a free giveaway) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am busy preparing the newsletter for May, working on my third flash fiction book, and editing my non-fiction project.

And the best thing of all about writing?

I get to write in the warm!

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Delighted to say I have another piece, Patience, up on Friday Flash Fiction. Day late sharing (sorry!) but if you like your stories on the darker side, this is one for you. And it is good to be writing drabbles again. Some of my most recent flash pieces have been on the longer side so it is great to be back to my first flash love here. After all it was the CafeLit 100 word challenge that drew me into writing flash at all!

Lady has had a good day. Got to see her best buddie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, on our way back home from the park so on a convenient corner, well out of the way of anyone, the two dogs had a playfight – as you do. Two tired and very happy dogs went home! (Would love to know how dogs can chew each other’s ears without causing any damage incidentally).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the views on my Fish Out of Water story video which I posted yesterday. (Coming up below!). These mini-tales are great fun to write and then put into a video format like this. I like to mix up the mood of what I produce here and it was more than time for a lighter piece.

Incidentally, talking of mood, I should add that character mood does not necessarily match author mood. This is just as well for (a) all my author friends who write crime, (b) all my author friends who write horror, and (c) me when I’m having an off day! Also, thinking of some of the characters I’ve come out with in my time, it is just as well my mood would never match theirs!

Never assume a character’s mood is the same as their author’s one! Image created in Book Brush using a Pixabay photo.


Hope you enjoy my latest story video on Youtube. Fish Out of Water is one of my lighter tales. Well it is From Light to Dark and Back Again here! Also pleased to say I’ll be having another story on CafeLit next week, which will be one of my longer flash tales. More details on that nearer the time but it’s lovely to have an acceptance at the start of the working week!

 


One thing I am loving about submitting drabbles to #FridayFlashFiction is the feedback on my stories. Many thanks, everyone, for that. For my latest story, Patience, I have deliberately not specified the creature that is the “lead” in this.

This isn’t a word count issue, funnily enough. I am going for effect here. One of my earliest introductions to horror was the film Duel which I think was the first directed by a certain S. Spielberg Esq. It works because the plot is simple, scary, and you never see the enemy. I think it would have lost something had we been able to see who the enemy was.

This is another reason why I don’t always give a gender to the non-human creatures that turn up in my stories from time to time. “It” for me conveys a sense of horror when used in this context. 

 

Sometimes the creature in a story is best left unspecified. Doing that can be a more scary effect for a reader than if you spell everything out.

Hope you’ve had a good Saturday. Still cold!

When do I know a flash story is going to “work”? When I know the characters convince me is the answer to that. If they convince me, they should convince other readers. And to convince myself, I’ve got to want to read their story and find out what happens! How can that be for the person who wrote the story?

Simple. I put the story aside for a while and then come back to it after a week or so. Only then can I look at it with fresh eyes and assess it as a beta reader might.

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Goodreads Author Blog – The Greatest Characters

The greatest characters in any story are for me the ones where I’ve got to find out what happens to them. Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings is an obvious one for me here, as was Aslan in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (especially after the sacrifice scene).

But characters who back up the main leads grip me too. I have a very soft spot for Sam (and Frodo would have failed in his mission without him). I also have a soft spot for Lucy in the Narnia Chronicles.

Any great character, for me, is one where I can identify with them in some way. They’re not perfect. Good. Neither am I. They have virtues I aspire to and flaws I’m glad I don’t have as well as some I know I do! But they come across as fully created beings I want to find out more about even if they’re not human.

Great characters for me include Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Sam Vimes and Granny Weatherwax throughout Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (though he makes my skin crawl with his miserly ways at the start of the story).

Great characters can also be redeemed as Scrooge shows and the theme of redemption is a powerful one.

So who would you nominate as your greatest characters?

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Story Types

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Deeply sorry to hear of the death of HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh today – 9th April 2021. His marriage to the Queen is a truly great love story.

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


So sorry to hear of the passing of HRH Prince Philip today. The story of his early life is an amazing tale in itself.

Pleased to share Story Types, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. Hope you enjoy it. I discuss why I mix up the type of thing I read and share what reading widely does for me as a writer. If you ever wanted to know why every writer under the sun tells you to read widely and well, my post is a good place to start to find out why.

Looking forward to my new series which starts next Friday. One good thing about a series on book covers is that I’m not going to have any problems at all in finding pictures to use for this! A huge thanks in advance to the authors who are taking part in this series with me and I will share more on this next week.

Story Types

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Glad to say my new Chandler’s Ford Today post is up tomorrow. This week I’m talking Story Types. I look at the type of stories I like to read (as well as write) and share some thoughts about how mixing up what you read gives concrete benefits to what you write. I look at flash fiction and short stories, as well as novels, and share thoughts on how my reading feeds directly into what I write. It can be forgotten we take in more than we think when we read. For one thing, we unconsciously take in that this is how a book should look etc. Link up tomorrow.

From 16th April, I begin a three part series called Judging a Book by its Cover. Really looking forward to sharing that. I do share my own (of course) but plenty of guest contributors share theirs and what they hope a reader would take from them. Some fascinating insights here. So plenty to look forward to here for the rest of April.

Am so glad there wasn’t any snow today but it’s still cold! More irritated today by the temporary traffic lights just down the road from me were stuck on red in both directions. You can imagine the chaos. Any sign of workmen? What do you think?!

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Another cold day (and yes a little bit more snow today). Brrr…

I was chatting earlier today over at #Val’sBookBundle about book collections you either still have or remember treasuring as a child. And some great memories were shared. I love the whole idea of collections – what a great way to encourage you to keep on reading. (It’s why I also understand and enjoy series novels).

But short story and flash collections encourage you to keep on reading too – just in a different way. I like to read through to see if there are links throughout the book. Even when there are no links, I want to find out what the next story or flash piece is all about. And then I like to work out which of the various characters I liked the most and why. (I can always learn from that).

The important thing then is to keep reading but I am preaching to the converted here, I hope!

My current read is The Diary of Isabella M Smugge by #RuthLeigh (and the hashtag is so apt here, just trust me on that one, or better still, check the book out and find out why).

Am moving on to the first Richard Osman one shortly after that so plenty to look forward to, reading wise. (Don’t watch nearly as much TV as I used to. To be honest, I don’t miss it. The time I would’ve spent watching the box I now spend writing and I feel bereft if I haven’t managed to have my usual creative session here. Anything special that comes on, I tend to record and watch while ironing etc. The glamorous writing life? Err… perhaps not! But it’s still fun and I can’t imagine my life without the writing and that’s a good thing).

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Each flash story I write is the important moment in a character’s life. That is what I want to highlight. You can imply back story but you don’t have much room in which to do it. So how I do this?

I sometimes get a character to remember something.

In my story Enough Is Enough, from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I show you the character’s back story as it leads directly into the action she is going to take.

Sometimes I get the character to relate some of their back story to another character. I do this in The Terrified Dragon where my hero reveals something of his past to the angry villagers surrounding him.

So there are ways in which to do it but, as ever with flash, it is best to be brief! Readers do pick up on things that are inferred and I must admit I love doing this myself whether I’m reading a flash story or a novel. I don’t want the author to tell me everything. I do want to work out some things for myself. I just need the relevant information for me to be able to do that.

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As well as picking appropriate names for your characters and their settings/eras, give some thought to place names. Especially for fantasy and science fiction, these should still be easy for your readers to pronounce. No Mxzyoriaquantian here, thank you!

Whatever you write, it pays to read your work out loud. For novels, a section at a time is good. (I know. I have it easier here writing flash fiction!). But the thing to remember is if you trip over what you read out loud, so will your reader. You don’t want anything getting in the way of their having a fabulous reading experience as they read your latest wonderful prose.

Names should be tested this way. I’d also flag up dialogue or thoughts too. What looks good written down doesn’t always read so well and testing this by reading work out loud will flag up what you may need to simplify. No reader is ever going to moan about having an easy, seamless read. They will moan (and worse stop reading) if you make life unintentionally difficult here.


When I pick names for my flash characters, I obviously try to make the name suit the story genre. For example, in Losing Myself in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, one of the characters referred to is Graxia. That is meant to conjure up an alternative, probably magical, world setting – and the story does take place in one.

In Identity I had an older man as the main character so I went for an older man’s name here – Walter. (That also happens to be the name of one of my grandparents but no my fictional Walter is not based on my granddad! But the name is appropriate to conjure up a sense of age given Walter is not a younger person’s name).

In Being Yourself I thought the name Jane Stephens would give an idea of a lady probably in her late twenties or early thirties and who you wouldn’t be surprised to find working in a library where the story is set.

Keeping an eye out on names prevalent now (as well as using older books of names) is not a bad idea if you need a hand in coming up with suitable names for your people. But always bear in mind your story setting. Does the character name suit that?

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Fairytales with Bite – The Villain

So what would be your definition of a “good” villain? For me, it would be someone (or something!) who is a worthy opponent to your hero and who has understandable reasons for doing what they are/being what they are. Okay, you don’t have to agree with those reasons, far from it, but you should be able to see where the villain is coming from here and what drives them to take the actions they are taking.

It is just as important for the villain to be as well rounded a character as your hero. You need them both to make a great story. No conflict otherwise. And the needs of the villain and the hero should be diametrically opposed. In The Lord of the Rings Frodo Baggins wants to destroy the Ring, Sauron wants to get it back and use its powers. No compromise possible there. There has to be an outcome too.

So thinking about what your villain and hero want and ensuring they are at cross purposes also helps gives structure to your story as there can only be one winner and one ending (happy or otherwise).

A good way of working out what your villain wants is to have a closer look at their background. If a villain, say, comes from a background where the only way out is to be more powerful than everyone else around them, well there’s a pretty powerful motive for you. It would also keep them going. The fear of falling back into being “weak” again would also kick in here.

As with any kind of characterisation, work out what you think you need to know about your people (alternative beings are available!). Work out what drives them. Work out what could get in their way. As you do all that, story ideas will kick in and a good structure along with it. What’s not to like about that?!

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This World and Others – What Helps Your Villains to Thrive?

Is there anything about your created world that encourages villains to thrive? In The Lord of the Rings, Mordor is such a suitable setting for Sauron. (Good question here – does the darkness of Mordor come from him or does he make Mordor dark or is it both?).

Is there anything about your setting that encourages your characters to turn to evil to make their lives better, regardless of what that does to anyone else? What kind of politics exist in your setting that would lead to someone wanting to do whatever it takes to get to the top of the political tree? (And how do they achieve that?).

In a magical setting, do your villains use magic themselves, are they aided by it, or is it something they reject and they obtain power another way?

What is it about your setting that makes it difficult for the hero to beat the villain? If a people have been used to tyrannical leaders for centuries, would they suddenly take to a hero who wants to usher in a more democratic system or would they reject the hero and enable the villain to continue? (There would be a fair amount of fear of change coming in here, another obstacle for your hero to overcome, but does the setting itself contribute to that?).

The obvious use of setting almost as a character in its own right is, for me, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis where it is always winter but never Christmas. That is a powerful image and made me wonder whether that could ever change. Of course, that is the whole point of the story – something has to change and here it is a question of reading on to find out how.

Could you use your setting in a similar way? Does it seem to hinder the hero?

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Snow, Subverting Expectations, and Traffic Rivals

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

A nice mix of topics tonight I think!

My latest story video coming up further in the post.

 

Facebook – General

More snow flurries today. Central heating back on. Thick cardigans etc not being packed away just yet.

Glad to report my new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Judging a Book by Its Cover, will follow on from my Story Types post this Friday and will run for the remaining three weeks in April. Looking forward to sharing this week’s post and the series in due course.

Enjoyed listening to a poetry special on Hannah’s Bookshelf earlier today (I do love catch up listening!) and the imagery created was fantastic. Particularly enjoyed the lines from two poets. One was “thick as a Bible” (I have images of an old family Bible we had that was huge) and, in a separate poem, “Van Gogh stars”. Both just fantastic word portraits. Great examples of two poets making every word punch its weight.

This is one similiarity between poetry and flash fiction. I was not surprised to hear that some of Hannah’s guest poets had also taken part in her flash fiction shows. I don’t know how many flash fiction writers go on to be poets. Is there a correlation there, I wonder?

I do know that when I read the poetry columns in things like Writing Magazine, I pay particular attention to how the words are used and the tips for making every word count. That kind of information is useful no matter what you write.

It’s all about the impact on the reader.

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Brrr… it has been cold today! Had the odd snow flurry too (and yes odd is an appropriate word given I was just getting used to spring being here and then wham the snow turns up again!). Despite all of that, I hope you have had an enjoyable Easter Monday.

Managed to sub another flash fiction tale over the weekend to #FridayFlashFiction. There have been some wonderful comments on my two stories on the site so far so a big thank you for those. Made good progress on my third flash fiction collection too.

Am putting the finishing touches to a new series on Chandler’s Ford Today to be called Judging a Book By Its Cover. Looking forward to sharing this and the wonderful contributions from my guests for this too. Meanwhile, this week my CFT post will be about Story Types.

What was nice was over the weekend CFT’s lovely editor, #JanetWilliams, sent an email to the regular contributors that she had received from a fan of the site. That was lovely and I know the feedback was appreciated and not just by me. (Ties in with my post last week about Reviews nicely too – constructive feedback is invaluable).

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4th April – Easter Sunday

Happy Easter!

Delighted to see this came up on my timeline as a memory today – from four years ago.

My, how the time flies. From my first book launch for From Light to Dark and Back Again. (See photo below of the notebook and pen).

Look what came up on my timeline – a memory from 2017.


So much has changed in that time! I hadn’t heard of Zoom or Facebook Live when my first flash collection was launched. I hadn’t envisaged having my own Youtube channel, being interviewed on the radio, talking to a WI group, or taking part in an international writing summit either!

Memories like this remind me the writing journey is a continuous one. Sure, there will be times when you feel you are going nowhere or have headed straight into a cul-de-sac. But there are those wonderful moments when you know you are progressing. Progress can be anything from having something published to simply getting more work out there over the course of a year than you’ve done before or trying a new market and seeing what happens.

What matters I think is enjoying as much of the journey as possible and developing what you do in a way that you love doing. You are your own first reader so it is crucial you enjoy what you write.

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Hope you have had good Holy Saturday.

Many thanks for the positive comments, tweets etc about my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week called Reviews. I’m not too surprised this one has struck a chord! I can’t say I review every book I read but I do review the majority. I also find reviews useful for anything from books to my groceries. The range of reviews usually gives a pretty good idea of whether I’m likely to like something or not.

A big thanks also for the lovely comments on my two stories on #FridayFlashFiction.

Enjoying listening to the Hall of Fame countdown on Classic FM. That’s my listening for the weekend sorted. I often pick classical/classic like pieces when I’m creating my story videos for Youtube. They have an impressive audio library and often I’m looking for a particular mood when creating my video. Can’t say I’m too surprised it is the classic section I head most often to look for the right mood music.

Looking forward to sharing details of a new Chandler’s Ford Today series soon too.


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


A big thanks for the wonderful response to my story video, Traffic Rivals, yesterday. (Video below). I adore writing the very short flash tale, especially quirky ones like this, and story videos are a great way to share said mini tales.

Lady and I were not impressed with the snow today. The weather’s being quirky too.

It pays to mix up how you come up with story ideas. For one thing, it will keep things interesting for you.

With Traffic Rivals, it was a case of working out why a witch would take action against a speed camera. After all it wasn’t as if someone was going to dare book her for speeding, was it?! So I then came up with the answer to why she might care about the thing and the story took off from there. Even for a two-line tale, some initial thinking about who, what, why always pays off.


Delighted to see more subscribers to my Youtube channel. Welcome everybody! And I’m pleased to share my latest short story video which is about a witch’s attitude to a fellow witch and speed cameras. Hope you enjoy!

 

 

4th April – Easter Sunday

I’ve talked about wasted words in flash fiction before and one of mine is the word “very”. Why do I consider it to be a wasted word? Simply, it is because it adds nothing of value to a story. Something either is or isn’t something.
The very in front of a word doesn’t strengthen impact.

For example, “I was very cold” is a statement of fact but “I was freezing” shows you how the narrator is feeling. By cutting out words you don’t need, you will have a tighter writing pace and there will be a more immediate feel to it too. Freezing is also a stronger image. You can picture it. “Very cold” can mean different things to different people after all.

Photo by Immortal shots on Pexels.com


Many thanks for the great response to my post yesterday about using intriguing titles to get me started on a new flash fiction story. The Terrified Dragon is not the only time I “subvert” an expectation in my titles. Well, you wouldn’t expect a dragon to be scared, would you?

I use the technique again for Punish the Innocent in my From Light to Dark and Back Again. Have fun brainstorming title ideas that would draw you in. Then and only then work out what stories could come from them and write up the one you like the most, the one that makes you react the most. It will have the same effect on a reader.

You can also do this with well known proverbs and phrases. Change one word in these and see what you can do. I often use a notebook and pen for brainstorming. That just works for me but it also means if I’ve only got a couple of minutes before, say, I have to go out (I know – possibly not right now but bear with me on this!), I can jot down some ideas to work up later. Well worth trying.


Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes a Book Special For You?

It’s always good to start with a leading question, isn’t it?

Okay then, maybe starting with two of them is then!

Seriously, what does make a book special for you? For me, it is always about the characters. I have to want to know them and come to love or loathe them as the case may be but they’ve got to intrigue me enough to make me want to read their stories.

I’ve got to understand their needs and motivations, though I don’t necessarily have to like or agree with them.

And if at the end of the story, I feel sorry that I am “leaving” the characters behind, that is a good sign. Those characters really have got to me – the way they should do.

The characters don’t have to be human. I can understand the rabbits in Watership Down. Their needs, their quest is an understandable one. But there absolutely has to be something I can latch on to about whoever leads the story. It is their journey I’m following after all.

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Reviews, Book Covers, and Publication News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her.

Hope you have had a good week.

To those who celebrate Easter (as I do), may you have a blessed one.

Writing wise, not a bad week and there’s another story of mine up on Friday Flash Fiction. This site is a great way to encourage me to write a drabble (a 100-worder) every week! More below.

Always fun to find out what happens next, writing wise!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today – Good Friday – 2nd April 2021

Delighted to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post which is on a topic close to many a writer’s heart – Reviews!

I look at why authors need them, my policy on reviewing (including when I review National Theatre Live productions and shows put on by our wonderful local amateur dramatic company, The Chameleons). I also discuss hatchet jobs and share my thoughts about those (!). I also share why paid-for reviews are, for me, a huge no-no.

Like so much in writing, building up reviews does take time and it has to be done the right way to avoid running into difficulties with Amazon especially. Even ignoring that, the policy of paying for a review does make my blood run cold. It just doesn’t seem ethical to me. I want reviews to be honest and with thought put into them.

The old saying goes that he who pays the piper calls the tune but for a review, I want that “tune” to be an honestly considered one and not “bought in”. You really don’t want to be muddying the waters here, to use another old phrase.

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Pleased to share a More Than Writers blog from #WendyHJones tonight. More Than Writers is the blog of the Association of Christian Writers. Wendy’s post this time is all about book covers and, as well as discussing her latest cover reveal (for the lovely Bertie The Buffalo), she invited some fellow ACW members to share their latest book cover and a few words about it.

Many thanks, Wendy, for inviting me to take part in this. And do have a good look – there are wonderful covers here.

(Oh and my CFT post is up tomorrow).


My CFT post this week is all about a subject close to many a writer’s heart – reviews!

I talk about why they are useful, my policy for giving reviews, and share a few thoughts on how to write a review that will be useful to an author.

I also chat about my policy when I review stage productions, National Theatre Live plays etc (and I am so looking forward to being able to go to these things again and review them once more! It has been a long year and even more so for our great local am dram company, The Chameleon Theatre Group).

I also discuss hatchet jobs. Now the big question is do I manage that without carrying out a hatchet job myself? Well, you’ll have to find out tomorrow when I put the link up!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again Good Friday – 2nd April 2021

I sometimes start a flash piece by coming up with an intriguing title. For example, in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, one of my stories is called The Terrified Dragon. I had great fun working out what on earth could possibly terrify a creature that is renowned for causing fear in every other creature that is not a dragon!

I do sometimes use a simple flowchart or spider diagram to work out different possibilities and I then go with the one that I like the most. That choice is nearly always determined by the impact the idea has on me. If the idea makes me laugh the most, or makes me cringe in terror, then it will have the same effect on other readers. I am always thinking about potential impact on a reader and that’s a good thing. I want to write with a potential audience in mind, always.

And good news, I have another story up on #FridayFlashFiction. Nice way to end a week! Hope you enjoy this one. Called Mustn’t Tell. I do like an “open” title which hopefully draws people in!


My latest author newsletter went out earlier today including an exclusive flash fiction story. If you would like to sign up just go to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

As well as sharing exclusive stories here, I share writing tips and news, most of which is related to flash of course. This time around I’ve also shared a writing challenge and set a 250 word count for it.

It wasn’t something I planned but the 100 to 500 word mark does seem to be my natural home for flash stories. I gravitate to that word length almost as if I’m on auto pilot. (I’m not by the way! If possible I would save auto pilot abilities for boring tasks such as the housework!).

A screenshot from my latest author newsletter. I also share tips and writing prompts here amongst other things.



There will be a new flash fiction story from me in my new author newsletter, which will be going out tomorrow, 1st April. If you would like to sign up for this, please go to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Have submitted another drabble to #FridayFlashFiction.

Am working on material for a third flash collection too so plenty going on to keep me out of mischief!

I’ve found the basic ingredients for a flash fiction story, regardless of length, are:-

  • A character (doesn’t have to be human!).
  • An action (sometimes a refusal to act can be the action).
  • Something indicating the story has to go on.

Get those lined up and you’re well on your way to producing a promising first draft!

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Fairytales with Bite – What Would Your Characters Wish For and Why?

Well, what would your characters wish for and why? Just as interestingly, is there any chance at all of them getting their wish granted? What would the consequences be?

Action and reaction. Cause and consequence. The basic building blocks of all stories.

A character outline is a useful tool for working out what your characters are likely to want and why. (I ignore the basics of wanting food, shelter etc because you can take them as read. Everyone wants those things, understandably). What you want to go into here is deeper than that.

Character A wants a loving relationship because they have had loneliness foisted on them all their life and they want to change that. (Interesting story here: who foisted the loneliness on them and why? Why wait until now to change things?).

Your outline would go into who Character A is, who or what has got in their way (and what happened to them incidentally), what they are planning to do to change things. You won’t have every idea immediately but what you should have is a glimpse into who Character A is and, as a result of that, how they are likely to try to change things. A shy character is going to use more reserved methods compared to an extrovert, say.

Just knowing that will get you off to a good start with your story (and finding things out as you go along is (a) fun and (b) should confirm whether or not you know your character well enough to write their story up.

You may well find you will find out more about your character as you go along and that’s how it should be but you should also find your outline did nail the core elements you needed to know about them before you got started. I always find that aspect reassuring.

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This World and Others – Limitations

What limitations do your characters have? How do they overcome these? Can they overcome them?

If they can’t, do they have ways of getting advantages from their situation? What limitations does your setting have? Can your people only live above ground for certain time periods due to restricted oxygen (or other gas) availability the rest of the time?

I write flash fiction and find the word count restriction there (1000 words maximum) doesn’t stifle creativity. It fuels it. Why?

Because I have had to learn to think laterally to get the most out of every single word I put into my stories. And you can do this with limitations on your characters and settings too. If your characters can’t use magic without weakening themselves significantly, they will themselves limit their use of it (and probably save it for life and death moments. You just would, wouldn’t you?! So what would they do the rest of the time?).

If your setting has limited capacity for supporting life, how would that capacity be used? Who would control it? Would someone find ways of boosting that capacity so more people could live?

All interesting thoughts to explore.

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Characterisation Tips and Happy Hour

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. (Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay pictures).

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Screenshot from ALCS website taken by me for purposes of highlighting their work.

What kind of a week have you had? Interesting one here. I share my latest ACW blog about Characterisation Tips and a new story video, Happy Hour. The latter is one of those where I don’t want to meet the character and I invented them! Ho hum… More below.

CHARACTERISATION - Outlining is a good idea

Facebook – General

Really nice day weather wise today. Lady got to play with a couple of buddies today, the lovely Coco, who is a sweet Labradoodle, and Lady’s “gentleman friend”, a lovely Aussie Shepherd called Bear. Lady came home very tired but happy. The two dogs are happy to share their toys with Lady and she is happy to share hers with them (mainly I think because all of the dogs know the other will give their toy back so win-win here for everyone) so it was a great “play date”.

Many thanks for the lovely comments on my ACW post yesterday about Characterisation Tips and also to those who commented on my latest story video, Happy Hour. Links to both below.

Have sent in another drabble (the 100-word flash fiction type) to #FridayFlashFiction so happy with that.

I’m preparing a new Chandler’s Ford Today series which I hope to share more about soon.

And my new author newsletter will be out on Thursday. Sign up at my website (landing page) if you would like to receive! As well as news, I share exclusive flash fiction here (though I hope these will end up in a future collection) and writing tips as well as other interesting bits and pieces.

 

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers blog spot

It’s my turn on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog More Than Writers and this time I talk about Characterisation Tips. I do love a list and a list of Top Tips is always useful. Hope you find these handy.

Writing flash fiction has honed my characterisation simply because I don’t have the word count room for lots of description. But that’s no bad thing. My favourite parts of the novel, say, are where the characters interact in dialogue and/or action. I find descriptions useful background information but it is not that which draws me into reading a book. It is always the characters which draw me in regardless of the length of the story.

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Missed my hour’s sleep now we’ve gone over to British Summer Time. It’s not summery at all right now though the next week looks promising. Hopefully it will mean Lady and I don’t get a soaking this week. (Good for the soul possibly but never feels great!).

Have just had the delightful task of reading through my two stories for The Best of CafeLit 10, which is due out later in the year. Nice that there were only a couple of amendments to be made. Always feels good pressing the send button sending the corrections back to the publisher.

Looking forward to sending out my latest monthly author newsletter next week. If you want to sign up for this just go to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I share a flash tale here, writing tips, as well as news so would be glad to welcome you aboard. As for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts, I prepare as much as possible in advance and then wrap up towards the end of the month so I know the newsletter is good to go.

Thrilled to see my piece, One of Those Days, went up on the #FridayFlashFiction website this week. I like the idea here of having a target of writing a 100-word story a week so it is ready for the following Friday when the latest stories go live. You don’t copy and paste (and where is the fun in that anyway? As a way to generate new material, I think this is great. Will be getting on and drafting more shortly!).

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Am looking forward to sharing details of a new Chandler’s Ford Today series soon. Spent a lot of last night catching up with friends from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and the Association of Christian Writers via two separate Zoom chats. Many laughs on both and all great fun!

Delighted to receive my payment from the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society on Thursday. Every little bit helps, as a certain supermarket would say. If you want to know more about ALCS, do check out the link at https://www.alcs.co.uk/about-alcs

Membership of ALCS is free if you’re a member of the Society of Authors but even if you’re not, the cost is £36.00 for lifetime membership and they take the money out from the first payment due to you. What’s not to like about that? If you’re a writer with works out there, definitely check this out.

Screenshot_2021-03-30 ALCS

Facebook – From Light To Dark and Back Again

Glad to see my video Happy Hour has gone down well though I wouldn’t want to meet my character in this one. Mind you, that’s often the way. I can think of several characters of mine I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near. I take the view if they give me the creeps in the way that is intended, they will do the same for readers, again as intended!

And nobody says an author has to like everyone they invent. (Think about it. On that scale, where would Stephen King fit?! Does he like any of his creations I wonder?!).

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Pleased to share my latest short story video Happy Hour (though you’ll need to see the video to work out who the happy hour applies to!). (I really liked the music track for this).


One aspect to flash fiction writing I love is it is easy to share on social media, especially if you stick to the 100-200 words mark. That means I get creative writing and marketing done in the same post! I like that a lot!

And of course flash stories work well for book trailers too. Book trailers work best when kept relatively short and a great way to keep people watching them is to give them a story! We all want to find out what happens at the end, yes?

Flash and book trailers – match made in heaven there I think.

 

Publication News

Delighted to say my piece, One of Those Days, is now up on the Friday Flash Fiction website. There’s a lovely mix of stories here and I hope to submit more here. See https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories and there are categories for longer flashes.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this one!

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/one-of-those-days-by-allison-symes

Goodreads Author Blog – Reference Books

Reference books are dipped into rather than read through as such, but they are invaluable. Other than my combined dictionary/thesaurus, my favourite reference book is Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. But I have to watch how long I spent with it. Looking up an entry can so easily led me into looking up others I don’t really need at that moment. The book is a huge, fascinating world of words and their origins. What’s not to like there?!

So which reference books would you not be without and why?

I think it is easy to forget this “section” of the non-fiction world. I know many authors would be lost without these books, myself included. It is not a case of using the nugget of information directly. Often it can be a case of looking something up and that will then affect what I get my character to do. That in turn has a direct result on the story outcome.

So let’s hear it for the reference books then!

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Talking About Writing

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

It has been an odd week – starting with my birthday and my first Covid jab and ending with moving a metric tonne of pea shingle… it’s a long story! But the advice on the keyboard below is worth following!

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Oh and don’t forget my author newsletter sign up can be found here.

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Facebook – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my Talking About Writing piece for Chandler’s Ford Today. The last few weeks have been a good learning curve for me as I prepared for a WI talk, an international writing summit, and a radio interview!

I share some thoughts about the prep work I did for all of this (and good prep work always pays off even if you don’t end up using all of the material. I found it boosted my confidence no end just knowing I had material to hand I could use if I needed the extra. And material is recyclable! I am sure I will use at least some of this material in other talks and presentations in due course).

The link to my interview by #HannahKate is in my CFT post and am posting the link here too. Do have a listen. It was good fun and I think that sense of fun comes across in the interview.

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Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. This week my post is Talking About Writing and looks back at various events I’ve taken part in recently where I have done a lot of this! I also share how I prepared for the writing summit, radio interview and WI talk. Allowing enough time for good prep work is vital.

For me, I have to write down what I think I’m going to say. Other writers may just write down a few bullet points. What matters is recognizing what you need as prep and then follow through on that. (The other advantage of writing things down is you can take those notes and turn them into articles or material for other talks etc).

This post also gives me another chance to share the Share Your Story Writing summit and the poster for it. Now this will probably make me sound like a big kid, okay an old big kid (I know!), but I was so excited to see myself on the advertising materials for this event. It was something that hadn’t even occurred to me might happen when I started writing, My focus was on just becoming published and then seeing if I could do it again and then again etc.

I also share the link to my interview with the lovely #HannahKate. If you haven’t had chance to hear this you can tune in via my link in the post tomorrow (though I will add in a quick thank you now to all who’ve given me great feedback on this).


Hope you have had a good Wednesday. I post on #Val’s Book Bundle most Wednesdays and this morning I was looking at the diary format for books. This is partly because I’ve always loved things like The Diary of Adrian Mole and am currently reading a fabulous book by #RuthLeigh (The Diary of Isabella M Smugge#doyourselfafavour, #checkitout – those who’ve read the book will know why I’ve put the hashtags in!).

I’ve used the diary format myself in flash fiction. Yes, it is possible! In my Losing Myself in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, I use this though I needed pretty much the whole 1000 words allowed in flash to do it. Good fun though and I’d happily use this format again.

This story was interesting to do as I get my narrator to write her diary for the person she wants to read it so it is addressed to that other character. As the diary goes on, you find out more about my narrator and her nemesis, a third character. And I managed to get a twist in the end too – so lots of wins for me there.

This was a story where I knew the beginning and how it needed to end pretty much from the start. It was filling in the gaps for this one where the work was needed but this was where outlining my character helped enormously. What I outlined acted as stepping stones and they are a lifeline!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


I sometimes set out to write a 100 word story (aka a drabble) but it doesn’t always meet that target. Sometimes a story simply does work better at 50 words or 500, say, and I know now to leave such stories be and submit them to different markets. I then have another crack at the 100 worder!

The story has to be the appropriate word count length for the story. (You’re not going to write a quest tale in flash fiction, though you could do it as a series of flash fiction pieces and end up with a novella-in-flash).

When I’m looking back at my “finished” piece, I ask myself if the story has the impact I thought it would have and has it said everything I want it to say?

If the answers to those is yes, I submit the story to the appropriate market.

If the answer to either is no, I have more work to do on that tale before it goes anywhere!

The ultimate question here I think is whether the story is at the best I can make it. If it is, off it goes.

Word count is obviously important in flash but the impact of the story is a more important consideration because you want to “wow” your reader. What you don’t want is a sense of anything being watered down because you’re trying to meet a set word count. The jigsaw pieces do have to fit properly! No squeezing the story to make it fit. It will lose resonance and impact.

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The “oomph” moment in a flash fiction story can take different forms and be in varying places in the tale. The whole mood of my story Calling the Doctor (see book trailer below!) changes on the very last word. This is why it is one of my own favourite pieces.

One of the challenges of flash is to find the right “oomph” moment for your character and to place it in exactly the right place in the story. In this case, had I placed that particular word earlier in the story, the impact of the story would have been severely diluted.

But sometimes I start a story with a powerful moment where you know from that point onwards, something has got to change and quickly. The fun of those stories is in finding out what that change is and what its consequences are – and there are always some! – and it is just as much fun finding that out when you’re writing the tales!

 

Comparisons are a useful device in stories. I use this in Rewards in my From Light to Dark and Back Again where I get my narrator to compare herself to a woman she has come to loathe. You can also save on the word count here.

For example, one line in this story reads “Her blue eyes didn’t sparkle”. That tells you the other character must have blue eyes and hers do sparkle! So I’ve managed to get good description in for two characters in one line and you can tell a lot about the attitude of one of those characters from the way that sentence reads. Someone is clearly not a happy bunny!

Also the fact someone is marking comparisons usually indicates that same someone may well have a self-esteem issue. Why would you want to compare with someone else after all? How else could that insecurity manifest itself in your story? So, though flash has to be short, you can still get in some useful unconscious revelations from your main character.

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Fairytales with Bite – Where do your characters go for advice?

Nobody can know it all. Everyone has problems that are beyond them at times. This equally applies to your characters regardless of how magical they are or how fantastical your setting for them might be. So where would your characters go for help or advice? Who would they turn to?

If they would turn to a wizard, say, why have they gone to them? Is that wizard reliable? What is their track record? Have they ever let people down, deliberately or otherwise?

Is the society your characters live in open to their people getting help when needed? Or does it despise such characters for being “weak”?

If it is a wizard needing advice, where would they go to? What hierarchy exists in your setting? Does it work? Can people fall between the gaps?

Once your characters have got their help or advice, do they act on it? What are the consequences?

Plenty of story ideas there, I think!

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This World and Others – How Open Is Your World?

Tying in with Fairytales With Bite above, just how open is your world in terms of characters being able to admit to weaknesses? Is it open to other species or is it a monoculture?

If the majority are magical, how do they treat those who are not? (An interesting idea to explore here is where the magical ones need the non-magical ones for something vital that cannot be produced magically. Who would be the servant in that servant-master relationship? Would it cause resentment?).

Has your world become open, having learned from its mistakes in the past? What were those mistakes? Are there ramifications coming through from those in the current day?

If your world feels threatened, how does it react? Does it stay open or does it become less welcoming? How do the characters react to the changes? (Another interesting idea here can be when the government is open but the people are not. How does the government react to that?).

I could see some interesting short stories coming from answers to these. There is potential for longer works too, Happy writing!

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Wishing, Reluctant Readers, and Talks

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Images from the Share Your Story Writing Summit supplied by the organisers, Creative U. I was on Day 2 of the summit, see below.

Screenshots from North Manchester FM taken by me, Allison Symes, but based on their website. (And Hannah Kate asks wonderful questions! Really enjoyed being interviewed by her).

Fabulous pics of me at Swanwick Writers Summer School taken by #JenWilson and sent to me via my Facebook timeline for my birthday (22nd March). Many thanks, Jen. It was fab to see these pics again.

Screenshot from Tim Taylor’s blog, where I was a guest this week, taken by me from his blog. And there’s a new flash fiction piece from me here. A huge thanks, Tim, for hosting me.

Screenshot_2021-03-18 Creative U

Facebook – General


Have loved being part of the Share Your Story Writing Summit which finishes at the end of today. Good news though – you can still register and download the talks. There is a fee of $97 USD (from 24th March onwards) but you do get 23 workshops for that. I do earn an affiliate fee (as indeed do all of the presenters).

Link is at https://www.creativeu.ca/a/46030/yLSebqrq

Good news is you are very quick, you will get the talks for $67 USD but you do need to act fast to get the cheaper rate.

Delighted to report the Covid jabs went well for my better half and I yesterday. We had the Astra Zeneca and I was amazed at how painless it was. I have literally had more pain taking a plaster off! No side effects so far though I did feel more tired than I thought I would be last night.

Hope that stays the case as I know some people have had effects a day or so later. But relieved it has been done and better half and I will enjoy another jaunt to Salisbury in June. (I would far rather feel a bit tired etc than have the dreaded Covid. I know people who have been so ill with it).

Many thanks also for the positive responses to my interview with #HannahKate.

Now writing wise I’m working on a book proposal for a non-fiction project. Am also starting to get material together for a third flash fiction collection. These two projects will easily keep me out of mischief for this year. Am hoping to submit the proposal later in the summer and maybe the flash collection by the end of the year. I know better now than to set definite dates. Life can and does get in the way at times but I have found setting a goal incredibly useful. It helps me focus and I am much more likely to achieve something concrete doing this.

The great thing is though you get to choose to set the goals. For a bigger project it may well help to break it down in sections. Those goals will seem more achievable then and should encourage you to get the next one!

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22nd March – my birthday and covid jab

Firstly, a huge thank you for the wonderful birthday wishes received today. Much appreciated and I was particularly pleased to see some wonderful pics from #JenWilson from previous years at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. See below!

Secondly, glad to report the Covid jab went well for my better half and I. We were impressed with how well organised everything was. It’s an unusual birthday gift perhaps but one that is much appreciated by us. We know people who have been ill with Covid so having the vaccine was a no-brainer for us.

Thirdly, my CFT post this week will be about Talking About Writing, which is a quick look back at how recent events have gone as I have talked about writing a lot lately! This was not something I anticipated doing when I first started writing but it is something worth “getting ready for”. Link up on Friday.

Can you describe what you write to a stranger? Can you share what it is you love about writing what you do? I also share a few thoughts on the prep work I carried out for the radio interview, the summit, and the WI talk. One thing I did learn reasonably early on is that prep work always pays off. And it is not too soon to think about how you will share what you write with others and getting yourself ready to talk about that.

Radio Interview Link

Thrilled to share the link to my interview on North Manchester FM yesterday. A huge thanks to #HannahKate for interviewing me on Hannah’s Bookshelf. Hope you enjoy! It was great fun to do this but agony to only get to choose three books for the Apocalypse Books section of the show. Every writer would want to smuggle in far more than that!

https://www.mixcloud.com/Hannahs_Bookshelf/hannahs-bookshelf-with-special-guest-allison-symes-20032021/



It was a real pleasure to chat to #HannahKate for her Hannah’s Bookshelf show on North Manchester FM. My interview was broadcast this afternoon but I hope to be able to share the link soon. I chat about flash fiction, blogging, and share some tips that have stood me in good stead amongst the wonderful questions Hannah set me.

Am enjoying watching the talks on the Share Your Story Writing summit. It’s not too late to sign up and if you do it before the summit ends on the 23rd March, you can (a) access the remaining talks for FREE for a limited period and/or (b) get a cheaper rate if you decide you want to purchase the 23 workshops and watch them at a time that suits you.

This is $67 USD until the summit ends. After the summit the price goes up to $97 USD. There is an affiliate link so if you do decide to go for the paid for option I will earn some money from it.

It has been a blast taking part in the summit and being interviewed by Hannah. The writing journey is an interesting one as you can’t know exactly what will happen next. You can make plans, but they may not come off. Or circumstances force plans to change (and haven’t we known all about that over the last year?!).

Am I looking forward to what comes next? Oh yes!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


A huge thanks for the great response to my story video, Wishing. It was great fun to write. I do love exploring the Youtube free to use audio library. There are some great tracks in there.

I mentioned on my author page I’m starting to get together material for a third flash fiction collection. I estimate it takes about a year to 18 months to have a collection ready for submission. Well, it takes me that long!

The editing on a collection is an interesting task. As well as looking at the individual stories, I’m looking for emerging themes, appropriate grouping of stories and so on. My overall aim is a sensible, logical, and enjoyable “flow” of stories for the reader. The lovely thing with that is for my first book, this “flow” directly inspired the title – it really was a case of From Light to Dark and Back Again.

The idea for the title Tripping The Flash Fantastic came from one of the stories in the book. I changed the word “light” from the story to “flash” for the title as I thought it would make a great flag for the book’s genre. And the word “flash” in turn inspired ideas for what could be on the book cover.


My latest story video on Youtube is called Wishing. Hope you enjoy it. There’s a lot of truth behind it!

 

Guest Blog Appearance

A big thanks to #TimTaylor for hosting me on his blog today. Tim set a theme of writing about the pandemic and asked for flash pieces as well as blog posts about it. Now I hadn’t anticipated writing about Covid but the thought of producing a flash story based on it did bring out the “go on, give it a go instinct” in me – and here is the result!
Screenshot_2021-03-23 Welcome, Allison

And to see the rest of the story, do go to the link!


Plenty of marketing for the flash fiction going on this week with my interview on North Manchester FM by #HannahKate today. I hope to be able to share the link for that soon. Also the Share Your Story Writing Summit is currently on and I have been so pleased to receive positive feedback on my presentation, Flash Fiction – Why I Love It and Why I Think Every Writer Should Try It.

Now to resume writing flash fiction! It is always a tricky balancing act for any writer working out just how much marketing to do in relation to creating new material. I don’t think there is any one simple answer to this either. My approach is to look at the week as a whole and try to have a 50/50 split. It doesn’t always work out. This week it will be 80% marketing for example but there will be other weeks when it will be 80% new writing/editing material etc.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Coaxing in Reluctant Readers

I’m a flash fiction writer and one of my hopes for the form is that it may prove to be an excellent way to coax in the reluctant reader. For one thing, with flash fiction stories coming in at a maximum of 1000 words (and often considerably less than that), I’m not asking a reader to commit to too much in one go!

I’ve loved stories and books all of my life (thanks to my lovely much missed mum encouraging and developing that love) but not everyone “gets” stories and books. So how do you reach them and persuade them books can be “their bag” too?

No easy answer to that but I hope films might draw people in to read the books the movies are based on. I also hope audio can be a way in. You can listen to a great story as well as read one. And as I say I hope flash fiction, which reads well on screens, would also help here.

I do know that the love of reading should be encouraged. I think it is a question of convincing people there really are books out there which would suit them.

 

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Places to Go For Writing Advice/Radio Interview/Share Your Story Writing Summit

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images connected to the Share Your Story Writing Summit supplied by Creative U, the summit’s organisers. Images re Hannah Kate’s Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM come from her link and screenshots taken by me. (Am SO looking forward to sharing the link for the show itself. Will be doing that for the next post and on my Facebook page in the meantime).

A huge thanks to The Disparate Housewives WI affiliated group I spoke to on Wednesday, 17th March. Great fun! Oh and sharks came in re my talk to them about The Ups and Downs of Becoming An Author.

Allison Symes (1)sharks

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


My post this week is called Places to Go For Writing Advice and is exactly what I would have wanted to read when I first started writing seriously. The saying is to write what you know but sometimes that can include what you would have wanted to know when first starting out. It was when I had been writing and submitting work for a while I truly began to realise how big the publishing world is, how much I didn’t know, and began to get an inkling of the kind of things I would need to know (and pronto too!).

Any industry has its charlatans and sadly publishing isn’t exempt. Hope you find the post useful. Oh and the great thing about sharks? You don’t have to get in the water with them. You don’t have to get bitten by them! And the single piece of advice that has stood me in good stead is to always ask questions. My post will show you some places where you can get those questions answered.

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Facebook – General – and Authors Electric


My turn on the Authors Electric blog today. I chat about what I love about flash fiction and whether I really should start a Flash Fiction Writing Addicts Anonymous club.

I talk about Flash with A Dash and share what I love about flash fiction writing. If I had to name the top thing about writing flash fiction, it would be the need to invent characters – a lot of them – and to keep doing so! Inventing characters has always been my favourite aspect to storytelling and I get to do this all the time so win-win!

Also a huge thanks to the lovely Disparate Housewives WI group I spoke to last night via Teams. It was great fun (and another opportunity to share my love of flash fiction!). My topic was The Ups and Downs of Becoming an Author and my own journey here has been full of twists and turns.

This is an ongoing topic too as the writing life is a moving one, not static at all. Am I looking forward to what comes next in my own writing journey though right now I can’t know exactly what that will be? Oh yes! (Oh and in my Chandler’s Ford Today post coming up tomorrow I will be sharing thoughts on Places to Go For Writing Advice so plenty going on at the moment and I hope the CFT post will be especially useful. More on that tomorrow).


Am delighted to be #ValPenny’s guest on her blog today. I chat about my writing journey which has been full of ups and downs and a few near misses down some cul-de-sacs! I also share a couple of useful tips based on my experiences. (I’ll be talking about this to The Disparate Housewives WI group later tonight on Teams as well. Every writer has a unique writing journey but it is what you take from mistakes made along the way that matters. How you handle these matters and we all make them!).

A huge thank you to Val for hosting me and I hope it is not too long before we meet up again at the wonderful Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was delighted to discover a new (to me) flash fiction site as a result of a comment on my Authors Electric post on 18th March where I talked about Flash With a Dash. The site is Friday Flash Fiction and I hope to check this out more over the weekend. I certainly hope to submit to it in due course.

Now the wonderful thing with the take up in flash fiction writing is there are more competitions and markets available now. Definitely worth taking time out to explore these and see what might suit you. There is bound to be something! Happy drafting!
(Oh and it bears out my point about engaging with readers and other writers. As well as hopefully entertaining them with what you write, they can give you pointers as to useful markets to check out. Win-win here and I love that kind of scenario).

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The Share Your Story Writing Summit is now open so I hope you can come along and listen to the wide range of presenters on a great range of topics. My presentation is on tomorrow and I’m talking about Flash Fiction – Why I Love It and Why I Think Every Writer Should Try It.

The presentations are free for 24 hours but if you can’t make the time slot of your preferred talk or would like to keep the presentations so you can watch them as you wish, you need to go for one of two paid for options.

The price is $67 USD from now until 23rd March when the summit ends. You get access to everything immediately. From 24th March the price rises to $97 USD. Whichever option you go for, you do have full access to 23 workshops from 23 experienced writers. See the link for more details. There is an affiliate fee. If you sign up for either of the paid options via my link, I will earn some money from that.

See https://www.creativeu.ca/a/46030/yLSebqrq

And I am beyond thrilled to be taking part in this!

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Am thrilled to share the link to #HannahKate for her show on North Manchester FM. I am on her show on Saturday talking about flash fiction and my blogging and I do hope you can tune in between 2 and 4 pm. I will be sharing the link to the show after it has been broadcast as well. (I must admit one of my favourite developments in radio is the Listen Again ability because I know I can’t always tune in for a live broadcast).

A huge thanks to Hannah for a wonderful interview and for questions that really made me think. (That is always a good thing!). It was such fun to do but I do wish I could’ve picked more than three books for the Apocalypse Books section. I can’t think of any writer who would willingly limit themselves to three books if they had the choice not to!
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Fairytales with Bite – The ABC – Always Believable Characters

Your written world might be fantastical but it is the characters your readers need to react to, root for etc. And for that to happen your characters must be believable. It doesn’t matter what they are but a reader needs to understand what their needs and wants are and they should be ones most of us can identify with.

So how to create an Always Believable Character then?

  • They have to have flaws. We all have them. Instant identification factor for your reader.
  • They have to need something. This can be from the basics (food, drink, shelter etc) to more abstract things (a penchant for nice pictures perhaps). We can all understand these needs.
  • There has to be something or someone getting in their way.
  • They have to work out what they are going to do to overcome that because the point of the story will be they must overcome it to get what they want or need. And readers will want to know whether there is going to be a happy ending or not. (Incidentally if your character gets what they want but they are not as satisfied with that as they thought they would be, that too could be an interesting ending).
  • Where characters are magical, readers need to see how that works to the characters’ advantage and also how it can get in the way. In a setting where everyone is magical, being able to wave a wand about is not necessarily going to help your character much. They will have to find other methods to achieve their objective.
  • Equally where magic will make a significant difference, is there a price to pay for that so your character has to weigh up whether it really is worth them using it. If the use of magic shortens their life, that is going to add another dimension to your story and heighten the drama.

Think about characters you have read and loved. What makes them work for you? What can you learn from that to apply to your own stories?

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This World and Others – What Jobs do your Always Believable Characters do?

Following on from having Always Believable Characters, we also need to look behind the scenes a bit. What do they do to provide for themselves? Do they have employment as we would know the term or are they hunter gatherers? How do your characters manage? What rewards for service can they expect?

Do your characters feel the need to better themselves and, if so, how can they do that? Does that drive them to break out from their society and do something nobody has done before, for example? If someone wants to learn to read because they know their “betters” read and their “betters” have the control, what can they do to learn to read? Do they have to learn secretly and who would be willing to reach them?

Is your world capable of great technological change, which would affect what characters would do for jobs, or does any change come slowly?

If your character has to go on a quest (it’s amazing how often that happens!), what do they leave behind? Is it a wrench to leave it behind?

Now there are some interesting questions to trigger story ideas!

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Twitter Corner

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Superstitions, Characters, and the Love of Story

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. (Some screenshots of my reviews too).

Looking forward to the WI talk I’m giving this week (17th March), the start of the Share Your Story Writing Summit (18th to 23rd March 2021), and the interview with #HannahKate which goes out on North Manchester FM on Saturday, 20th March 2021. (Images connected to the summit were supplied by the organisers, Creative U, or screenshots from their website advertising the summit).

And I have my first Covid jab on 22nd March… it will be a busy and unforgettable few days for all sorts of reasons!

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Facebook – General

Lovely big walk with Lady today. Delighted to spot a few early bluebells out and some early blossom. Spring is almost here! It’s hard to say what my favourite season is as all of them have charms of their own. (Yes, even winter – I love seeing the silhouettes of bare trees against a setting sun in the winter months and must try and remember to get more pictures of these).

Thanks for the great response to the heads-up about my CFT post this week, Places to Go For Writing Advice. Feedback is always useful and something writers often cry out for, especially for reviews. It helps us know if we are generally speaking on the right track and reviews, as well as being useful for marketing, can be a great source of encouragement.

Given we spend a lot of time at our desks on our own, hoping our characters are going down well with people (or going down the way they are meant to!), that encouragement is so useful. Go on you know you want to – write a review today!

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My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be Places to Go For Writing Advice and, while this will be especially useful to new writers, I hope everyone can get something helpful from it. This is the kind of broad overview post I would’ve loved to have read when I was starting out so many years ago as it is a good place to start. (It’s also reassuring to know there are places you can go and that there is no such thing as a stupid question either!). I’ll be sharing useful links too. Post up on Friday.

I’m talking to The Disparate Housewives WI-affiliated group on Wednesday night and part of that talk will be about the ups and downs of the writing life. The idea for my CFT post this week has come from that talk. I love it when one piece of writing inspires ideas for other work. (It’s useful too!).


A huge thank you for the wonderful response to my post yesterday about my late mum gifting me the love of books and stories from an early age, which is something I do appreciate more than words can actually say. I was moved by the responses. Thank you, all.

I generally don’t write about mothers in my stories but with one exception. That is Time For Some Peace from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, where I look at motherhood from the viewpoint of a lady dragon. (As you do – and someone had to!).

My main focus on characters is usually centred on them as opposed to their relationships with others. I can and usually do imply the latter through what I show a reader via the character’s own head, attitudes etc. It is a very direct approach and one that works well for flash fiction.

When I outline my characters, I look at their major traits and what reactions are likely to come from those. When I have a longer flash piece, with more than one character in it, then I can let the sparks fly but I have chosen Character A to be that spark generator and it will be seen from their viewpoint. I have, interestingly, come across a competition recently in the Writing Magazine comps guide where the organisers are looking for the same story told twice, but from opposing viewpoints. Now that is an interesting idea and one I hope to explore at some point.


Today would have been my mum’s 87th birthday. One of my fondest memories was when I showed her my first story in print – A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology back in 2009. She was so pleased. I owe my love of stories and books (and therefore writing) to her.

And to all who will find tomorrow a difficult day, for whatever reason, know you’re not alone. Virtual hugs to you all.

I’ve long thought that giving someone the wish to read and to keep on reading is a truly fantastic gift for anyone, whether or not you go on to write your own stories. It certainly inspires me as a writer to try to keep on writing tales that will entertain people.

I’m not a literary writer. I never will be. I have nothing against literary fiction, far from it, but it is just not me. Seeking to entertain people through stories is a fantastic thing to do in and of itself and great fun.

But it is the love of story that sparks all of that.

Thanks, Mum.

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Allison Symes and published works 640 VERSION

Allison Symes and some early works.

My flash collections are available in Kindle and paperback

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thanks for the great response to my video Superstitions yesterday. Much appreciated.

This story hinged on a well known superstition and showing my character is more affected by them than she perhaps cares to admit. This was a case of knowing what the twist would be and then working backwards to getting to a logical start point.

But I do deliberately mix up how I write a story. Sometimes I have a line which I know will make a cracking opening, It is then a question of working out where that line could lead to and going with the storyline I like best.

And I have to be “taken” by the characters. If they don’t grip me, then I can forget any chance of hooking other readers with them. It is useful to know what fascinates you about characters you’ve read and work out what makes them work for you. You can then apply what you discover here to what you then go on to write.

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Am delighted to share a new story video – Superstitions. Hope you enjoy. Am enjoying exploring the Youtube audio library. Good fun to try the different tracks and try to match an appropriate one with the mood of my tale. As for my CFT posts, where I have to think laterally sometimes to find pictures that suit my theme, I am doing this with music, which I had not anticipated doing when I first set the Youtube channel up. It’s good fun though!

Many thanks for the great response to my post yesterday about my forthcoming interview with #HannahKate. If you can listen live, it is on Saturday between 2pm and 4pm on North Manchester FM. Hannah’s show is called Hannah’s Bookshelf. I will share the link to the show as soon as I can after broadcast and I am really looking forward to doing that. The interview was great fun to do and I can’t wait to share it.

Now I know I’ve mentioned before that interviewing characters is a great technique for a writer to work out what makes the characters tick. I’ve found I write the characters’ stories up with greater depth, even in a restricted word count, because I do know “my people” well enough.

(And it is good to remember it is the character’s story. Why? It helps you focus on getting their viewpoint across without the author voice butting in and, frankly, getting in the way. It’s also a great way to avoid head-hopping because you are focusing on your major character, their needs and wants etc).

But it is down to you what questions you use to find out what you need to know. I need to know what the major traits are, for example, but a good secondary question to that is to ask your characters what made them develop those traits in the first place. A defensive trait for example – what caused your character to develop that as they won’t have been born with it? That could trigger story ideas.

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I will flag this up again later, when I have the link, but my interview with #HannahKate on North Manchester FM will be going out next Saturday, 20th March.

It was great fun talking to Hannah about flash fiction and blogging, my twin writing loves.

It is going to be a busy week as I chat online to a WI group about The Ups and Downs of Becoming an Author. I also hope to share some examples of flash fiction as I have found the best way to explain it is demonstrate it! The 100 worders (the drabbles) are especially useful here!

And the Share Your Story Writing Summit begins on 18th March. My topic for that is Flash Fiction – Why I Love It and Why I Think Every Writer Should Try It.

Then there’s the interview with Hannah on the 20th. (And I get my covid jab, the first one, on the 22nd – well I’m pleased about that anyway!).

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books as Gifts

I always love to give and receive books as gifts. For me they are the perfect present and so easy to gift wrap too! Also no calories are involved whatsoever and a good book as I’ve mentioned before will take you to all sorts of wonderful worlds. Books are the places to escape your cares for a while. (This is just one reason why I can’t read misery memoir. When I read, I do want to escape. I guess that is why fantasy IS high up on my reading list).

But flipping this topic, let’s wonder about what books would make great presents for fictional characters.

Scrooge – The Art of Generosity. (He would have got more from this after the visits from the ghosts).
Jane Eyre – Exploring the Attic.
Elizabeth Bennet – Knowing Your Own Mind
Frodo Baggins – Appreciating Your Friends
Miss Marple – Anything from the I-Spy collections.
Hercule Poirot – Hair Care for the Fussy

Okay over to you – what books would you give to fictional characters?

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Twitter Corner

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Book Trailers and Story Videos

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some Pixabay images used via Book Brush to create captions within the picture. (Love that facility!).

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Busy week ahead with my WI talk happening mid-week and the Share Your Story Writing Summit starting on 18th March. Images from the Summit provided by the organisers, Creative U.

3. writers IG 2021

23 Presenters, 23 Writing Workshops, Join Now! (FREE for a limited period, paid options available so you can keep the presentations – link below. An affiliate link will apply so if you go for either of the paid for options, I will earn some money from that affiliate link).

Share Your Story Writing Summit Link https://www.creativeu.ca/a/46030/yLSebqrq

Facebook – General

Pleased to share my Book Trailers and Story Videos post for Chandler’s Ford Today. I look at how much has changed between my first book trailer (From Light to Dark and Back Again), which Chapeltown Books produced, and Tripping the Flash Fantastic, which I produced.

So much has changed in terms of software available to writers and this is wonderful. There are so many more ways we can be creative without it costing a fortune.

I also look at learning how to be creative in different ways, including learning to think laterally. I often have to do this with my blog posts, including for CFT, as some of my topics don’t lend themselves to obvious picture links but there is usually a theme I can peg to, so that’s okay. And I take a quick peek at getting the balance right between marketing and writing new material. It’s not an easy juggling act!

Hope your Thursday has gone well. Just a quick reminder my usual Chandler’s Ford Today post is up tomorrow and I’ll be talking about book trailer and story videos.

I’ll be sharing a few thoughts on my involvement with these and how they’ve helped me learn to think laterally. That in turn has helped fuel my creativity.

One interesting thing about the writing life is how so often one thing learns to another. For example, my first book trailer was produced by my publishers, Chapeltown Books. For Tripping The Flash Fantastic, I produced the trailer myself. Between the two I learned so much about how to do these things as I found I needed to be able to do this kind of thing to help with my marketing.

Nearly everything I have learned over the last five years especially were things I had not anticipated needing to know when I started out. In some cases the technology simply wasn’t available!

But the writing journey is not meant to be a static one after all so this is a good thing indeed!
Link up tomorrow. (Also nice to put this video up again!).


Have posted a bonus article on Chandler’s Ford Today about the Share Your Story Writing Summit. All the details you need are here.

As well as having the info in one handy place on CFT, I wanted to give at least a week before the summit starts so those who wish to can take advantage of the special discount if you decide you want to go for a paid version of the workshops (23 in all!).

The paid for versions do have the advantage of your being able to keep the presentations for ever and means you can refer to them whenever you wish, rather than have to be about on the day you want or for a limited time afterwards.

As ever with these things, the earlier you book in for a paid version, the greater the discount. There is an affiliate fee so I will earn some money if you go for any of the paid for versions using the link in the post itself.

Am looking forward to taking part in this and to catching up with the other presentations. There will be much to learn!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the responses to my post yesterday and in particular to my opening line from My Life (which you can find in From Light to Dark and Back Again).

Hooks for a reader have to include an enticing book cover, a promising blurb, and an interesting title but, for all forms of writing, the opening line is essential to get right. It is that one line which will lead your reader on to read the next one, the one after that, or not as the case may be!

My favourite hooks for opening lines are to intrigue a reader with a setting or a character who is about to do something odd or which will grab the reader’s attention in some other way. I also love promising dialogue (who doesn’t like “eavesdropping” a conversation between interesting characters? I refuse to believe that is just me!).

But I do know that if the opening line doesn’t grab me, well… time to scrap it and come up with something much better. It won’t grab anyone else. You are your own first reader (so if you’re not grabbed by the line, why should anyone else be?) and it helps, after you’ve set aside the piece for a while, to come back to it and read it as a reader would.

You’ve almost got to pretend you haven’t written it to be able to do that but it does help you look at the work from a different perspective. I ask myself if I would like a story of mine if it had been written by someone else and I’ve found that a good technique to use. And yes, to quote that famous writing phrase, I do kill my darlings on a regular basis!

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What I love about flash fiction is how a few well chosen words can take you straight into a setting. For example, in My Life in From Light to Dark and Back Again, I start with “It is all white dresses, lace, and flowers now but I hated him when I first saw him”.

No prizes for guessing the setting here or the genre of the tale. The pivotal word here is “but” of course. I love “but” used like this as you know something is about to happen or be revealed. And you’ll hopefully want to find out what happened so the “white dresses, laces, and flowers” bit makes sense. All ways of drawing your reader in, which is what you want.

Flash fiction does make you think carefully about what description you have to show (and it is a case of showing the reader here, so win-win there too). It makes you focus on what the reader has to know and that is a good thing, regardless of what else you write.

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I’m currently leafing through the latest edition of Writing Magazine, which has its phenomenally useful writing competition guide with it. Am impressed to see a huge number of flash fiction competitions (and am sure this is up on last year too). Must go through with a red pen and circle some to have a go at myself!

One nice thing to look out for here is some of these are ongoing rolling competitions, so if you miss one deadline, you can get a piece ready for the next one. Must make a note of a few of those in my diary too.

And good luck if you are entering competitions.

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Fairytales With Bite – Mood Music for Fairytales

Music is wonderful for soothing the soul (especially classical) but it can also inspire and somehow “suit you”. So what music would suit certain fairytale characters then?

Cinderella – I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass – can imagine her the moment Cinders was able to smash those wretched glass slippers. I find it hard to believe they would have been comfortable.

Snow White – Poison Apples – Snow White should have heard this before her stepmother came to visit.

The Little Mermaid – Under the Sea – what else?

Okay so let’s flip this and look at music in general that would suit a magical world.

One obvious one stands out – Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens – to reflect the quirky nature of the magical world. Also a good one if you have Death as a character (though for me nothing will ever beat the wonderful creation of Terry Pratchett here)

Another obvious one is The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. I’ve never seen Fantasia in full but always have images of Mickey Mouse when this music comes on Classic FM. But this is a great track for almost any magical setting.


Thinking about your own stories, what music would suit it and why? Can you think of any anthems that would suit your characters? This kind of thing is just for fun but what you work out here will help you get further insight into your characters’ personalities and that is always useful to know.

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This World and Others – Promotions and Demotions

What kind of careers exist in your created world? Are all jobs manual, magical, or a mixture of both? Can people/beings/what have you (!) work their way up the career ladder? Could they also come tumbling down it and, if so, what would the consequences be? I would suspect in some settings losing a job would be nothing compared to what else a character would lose!

So how do promotions and demotions work? Are rewards made in money or magical gifts? Is there corruption in your setting and do people accept it or rebel against it?

What are the careers people could follow? Do certain backgrounds mean those folk from them can only do certain jobs? What would happen if someone decided to break out from that?

Is work compulsory for all or are certain groups exempt? Do other groups resent them for that?

What political links are there to career advancement (or otherwise)? Who controls those links and can that control be broken or opposed?

Lots of interesting story ideas to come from answering these, I think!

Happy writing!

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