Stories and Storms

Image Credit:  As ever, unless otherwise stated, the images are from Pixabay.

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My favourite adaptation of stories are:-

1. The Lord of the Ring films.

2. A Muppet Christmas Carol.

3. War of the Worlds – the album by Jeff Wayne. (We still have it. Richard Burton was the narrator/lead. He had a lovely voice).

I’d like to sneak in a mention for The Daughter of Time on radio but it’s not really an adaptation. It’s a wonderfully produced reading of a great book set against some evocative music (The Princes in the Tower by William Walton). It is repeated every so often on Radio 4 Extra. Well worth checking out if you like history, detective fiction, or, if you are like me, you love both!

Adaptations are just great ways to enjoy stories in other formats but the ones that work for me are the ones where you sense the people behind them really do love the originals.

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I don’t know about you but it already seems to me as if January has been here forever and we’re still under the halfway point! What is it about January that makes it seem to drag…?!

Making good progress on one story I’ve got in mind for a competition. Have got an idea for another competition but that needs fleshing out.

I have found it to be true the more you write the more ideas you generate (and reading well boosts that further). I will often have ideas for stories pop into my head while drafting my Chandler’s Ford Today posts (and other blogs) so I just make a note of these and come back to them later.

Yes, I do get ideas for non-fiction articles while drafting stories! I think it must be an unspoken rule of writing that, when you write more than one type of thing, you will get ideas for whatever it is at the time you are NOT working on! Again I just make a note of these. Can you have too many notebooks? Definitely not!

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Lady set a new world record for quickest and shortest evening walkies this evening, encouraged by her owners! She’s not fazed by storms, thankfully, but we can be! (It truly is a night for writing “It was a dark and stormy night”!😀). Hope all is as okay as possible wherever you are. If I knew where my hatches were, I’d be battening them down.

Still I guess it is the perfect night for settling in with writing to be getting on with and reading to enjoy later on.

My CFT post this week will be Numbers into Writing Will Go. Sometimes a post proves to be more fun to write than I anticipated and this was one such. I enjoy writing all my posts of course but I love it when one just “takes off” and this one has. Link up on Friday as usual.

The image of Lady I would caption as “There’s a dog in here somewhere!” (All other images from Pixabay).

 

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I’ve sometimes talked about writing tips I’ve found useful but what have you come across in the writing world which is anything but helpful?

1. No publishers will take work unless you have an agent. Not true. There are plenty of indie publishers who will! It is a question of seeking these out and following their submission guidelines to the letter. Yes, the very big publishers will want you to have an agent but always look out for submission windows. Some of the big publishers have imprints which have these windows so it is worth keeping an eye out for these too.

2. Blogging will open doors in the publishing world. Ahem. Blog because YOU want to. I like blogging as it is a great way to share thoughts and advice. I am not expecting it to pave my way to fame and fortune. That really is not the point of it. It is an outlet, a place where you can share publishing news etc. See it first and foremost as a useful tool for you. Also see it as a way of engaging with potential readers and potentially building up an audience. It is important to be consistent so people know when to expect your posts. Think about what audience you would like to reach and tailor your posts so these will be of interest to them.

3. Short stories have no market. A big no to that one. Yes, they do. Magazines are still the main one but there are indie publishers who cater for short story and flash fiction collections. There are online markets too (and these can be a great way to raise your profile). It is true you have to be a big name to have a big publisher bring out a book of your short stories. But there is always room for good quality anthologies out there. I know, much as I love the novel, I like to read story collections too and I refuse to believe I’m the only one!

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I don’t always set out to write flash fiction. I know that sounds odd coming from me but occasionally I will set out to write a standard length short story (1500 words) and realise it has far more impact if I leave it at 150!

But that’s fine. It is the impact on the reader that matters the most and I try to have the needs of the reader in the back of my mind all the time. Yes, I write what I love to write but I also want to get it to an audience if I can so the happy situation here is to write something you love that is likely to have others liking it too.

Easier said than done I know but what I have found has helped enormously:-

1. Is knowing there’s no time limit on practising your craft and trying to hone it. I’m not in a race with other writers. I need to get to a point where my voice shines through in what I write at the pace that I can manage. If it takes two years rather than two months, so be it. I have found trying to submit work regularly means I’m getting that practice in regularly. It mounts up.

2. The really important thing is to enjoy your writing. If you enjoy it, someone else will too. From your viewpoint, if you enjoy it, you will be able to sustain your writing.

3. By thinking about what I want to read and why I have the preferences I do, I can use that to inspire the creation of my characters. It is nearly always characters that fascinate me enough to make me want to find out what happens to them. So I spend time in getting my characters as right as I can manage in terms of being able to see how they would appeal to readers. I find the Scrivener character templates really useful here but you can create your own. Think about what you need to know about your characters. Think about what you like about other writers’ characters. Story analysis is worth doing.

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What I love about flash fiction is being able to glimpse into a character’s life for a brief period and still being able to work out a great deal about them, when that is not part of the story. (It’s a sign of a great flash tale when you can do that. So much has to be implied but there should be plenty of implications for you to pick up on).

Flash fiction is like a mirror held up briefly. You get one glimpse and that’s it until you pick up the mirror again. Repeated readings of a flash tale should enable you to pick up on clues and inferences you missed on the first read. (A good book or film is always worth re-reading or re-watching for precisely that reason. You are focused on finding out what happens on the first reading/viewing.You pick up more on nuances on repeated reads/views).

 

There was an impressive flash of lightning tonight, while I was out with the dog, that lit up the whole sky. (Naturally these things would happen while I was out as opposed to being nicely cosy indoors but this is Rule 1 for the Murphy’s Law for Dog Owners. You WILL get a soaking every time the heavens even think of opening! Rule 2 is you can never have enough towels for drying the dog).

The ideal flash fiction story should also show an impressive amount of information even if at first read it doesn’t appear to do so. I usually find on subsequent re-readings, there’s more to a character than I first thought and I love that. I also love picking up on the little details that add “oomph” to the story which I may not have given enough attention to on the first read. (I’m too busy trying to find out what happened!).

But I have found it always pays to re-read stories, your own and others, as you will pick up something new. You can then look at what you could add to your own stories to give your own “oomph” factor.

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Am re-reading my Tripping the Flash Fantastic and looking forward to sharing more news on that as and when I can.

I am planning to change the title of this Facebook page later on when I know roughly when my second flash fiction collection will be out.

I have thought for a while that, given I focus on flash fiction advice and tips here, that a title based on that would be preferable anyway. Will let you know more on that later in the year. (It is lovely having plans like this though!).

 

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Goodreads Author Blog –Reading Preferences

My reading preferences depend on what mood I’m in. I will go through a spate of only wanting to read humorous prose, then go through another where I’m on a diet of crime stories, before moving on again.

I often find the spark for moving on to a different genre for a while will come from something I’ve read in a writing magazine. An interview with an author can lead me to checking their work out but also going on to read more in their genre once I’ve read their book.

One thing I will try and do better on during this year is posting reviews. I do appreciate receiving reviews myself. It’s remembering to post them that’s the issue and not just for me I suspect.

As for where I prefer to read, that’s easy enough – in bed at the end of the day. It’s the perfect way to relax before sleeping.

Do I ever dream about what I’ve read? Not usually though I occasionally get strange dreams where it’s clear something of what I’ve read has seeped in. The problem with those kind of dreams is they are disjointed and I’m not sorry I can’t remember them!

My overall reading preference is to keep on reading widely and well. I’d like to read more non-fiction this year too. Have you set any reading goals this year?

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Adaptations and What I Look For in a Fictional World

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What do you think about adaptations? Are they good or do they stifle new work coming through?

See my thoughts on that topic in my latest CFT post. I also discuss remakes, share my favourite adaptations and discuss what makes for a good one (and what makes for a bad one!). See what you think and do share your favourite adaptations via the CFT comments box.

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Just enjoyed listening to Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens on Classic FM. This is the theme to my book trailer (so wonderfully produced by Chapeltown Books) for From Light to Dark and Back Again and is fondly remembered for being the theme used for Jonathan Creek. Every time I hear the piece, I smile – I guess it’s a kind of “my song” moment!

Saddened to hear of the death of Andre Previn today. The Morecambe and Wise Greig Piano Concerto sketch with him was comedy genius and my favourite comedy sketch. Previn’s look of frozen horror is just fabulous. I automatically think of this sketch when this concerto is played – as I suspect most people over a certain age do!

I write with classical music on in the background and find it helps me relax and get into the writing mindset. That and a nice drink helps very nicely!

 

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When is a adaptation a good one? I’ll be looking at this later this week with my CFT post. (I’ll also be sharing my thoughts on what makes a bad one!).

I suppose one thing about writing flash fiction is you know they’re never going to be make a film out of your work. The best you can hope for is a series of shorts!! Appropriate somehow I think…

Give some thought as to what your favourite adaptations are and why. Comments will be very welcome over at CFT.

I like to see a good balance between adaptations and new work coming through, whether it is in books, for radio, TV, or what have you. You need the new blood coming through but tried and tested favourites have got to be that way for a reason and shouldn’t be discarded.

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I discuss adaptations in my CFT post this week. Short stories are often adapted for the screen (The Birds by Daphne du Maurier is probably the most famous example). Maybe it is a matter of time before a flash fiction piece is adapted – okay it probably will have to be a short but that’s fine!

Ironically, I’ve used moments from film to inspire my flash fiction stories so maybe there can be a two way process going on here.

One of the challenges facing a flash fiction writer is resisting the urge to bring too many characters into the story. Flash fiction works best with one to two characters only (and I love to get my people to refer to others who never actually appear in the tale. The mention is important to the plot but the absent character isn’t actually needed to turn up and “perform”).

The great joy with having a bigger cast of characters is being able to get so many interactions going but that really is best left for the longer short story and, even better, the novel. Flash fiction has to pinpoint and focus sharply. I’ve found it best to focus on one lead character and take things from there. I ask what is important for this character to know, to do, or to say that will bring the story to the right conclusion. Whatever doesn’t fit stays out.

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I have a Dogs calendar on my desk which has an appropriate “Thought for the Day” on it. (Or should that be “bark for the day”?). All coming in at well under the 50-words mark. Flash fiction with bite, anyone?

Given I put up Street Cred about cats the other day, I should redress the balance and put up a story about my favourite pet, dogs.

GETTING THE JOB DONE
She collected specimens, whether they wanted it or not. They didn’t get to argue for long. They didn’t have to be alive for a start. Tell them that and she usually got their co-operation.
So why was this one being so belligerent? She couldn’t remember when someone last argued with her. She did know nobody ever got to tell the tale. All she had to do was inform her supervisor there was an awkward one. Everyone back home understood that.
Well nobody was going to make a dent in her track record. She whipped out a light gun and aimed it at the miniscule creature in front of her. It was a stupid looking thing. All fur, floppy ears, and big brown eyes. Goodness knew why the bosses wanted it.and then she found out.
The puppy sat, whimpered, and held up a paw. There was a husk of some sort in there.
She put the gun down, gently removed the husk, and was rewarded with a big lick across her three pink noses.
She scooped the pup up in her elongated pink arms. ‘Sod the bosses. You’re staying with me. Let’s find you something to eat.’
The pup squealed and wagged its tail. She smiled. She’d not had anything nice happen for a long time. She’d focussed on just getting the job done.
There were going to be changes around here.
Ends.

Allison Symes
27th February 2019

Hope you enjoy! Lady is generally more appreciative of walks and playtimes in the park!

Inquisitive Lady -1

Inquisitive Lady. Image by Allison Symes

Fairytales with Bite – Ideas and How to Find Them

This is by no means an exhaustive list but this includes some sources I’ve found most useful when generating story and article/blog post ideas.

1.  Proverbs and sayings.  What can you come up with, say, to fit the proverb “love is blind”? A book of proverbs is great for dipping into for themes you’d like to try to write to and generally are not that expensive to buy.

2.  Classic fairytales.  Look for the themes behind them.  A common one is that of wrongs being righted (see Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel to name but a few).  How could you use that theme?  And that is just one to play with!  There are others.

3.  Films.  Again look at the theme but also look at the theme of the sub-plots (there will be at least one in any good movie).

4.  Advertising slogans.  Don’t copy word for word but adapt.  (This ties in nicely with my CFT post this week on Adaptations!).  For example, in the UK, there was a slogan from years ago which was “go to work on an egg”, advertising the virtues of eating eggs.  Your theme could be something like “go to work on…” and name a foodstuff of your choice or a vehicle we don’t see on Earth etc.  Let your imagination run riot!

Happy writing!

This World and Others – What Do I Look For in a Fictional World?

This can only be a brief summary but the important points I look for in a fictional world are:-

1.  Characters.  They can have three heads, two noses or what have you, but the important point is I’ve got to be able to root for the characters, whether it is to cheer them on to success or hope they come crashing down.  There has to be something about them I love or loathe but makes me want to read on to find out what happens to them.

2.  A sense of how the world is governed.  I don’t need all the details, they’ll get in the way of the story, but I need to know that your characters know the rules of their world and how these affect them as the story progresses.  For example, in a world where there is no oxygen, what do your characters breathe instead?  DO they breathe (or are they water dwellers)?

3.  The details given are relevant to the story.  Enough said I think!

4.  A sense of what it would be like to live in that world.  I don’t necessarily have to want  to live there.  I may be very glad I don’t in fact but this sense of what it would be like is enough for me to create my own mental images of what your fictional world might look like.  That in turn helps me engage with that world and the characters you’ve put in it.

5.  A sense that it could exist somewhere out in the universes.  No matter how unlikely, the possibility should be there!  This means that there has to be a sense of a world that can sustain itself, possibly trades with other worlds and so on.

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SUBMISSIONS, IMPACT, AND DELVING INTO THE PAST

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Sent off a story submission tonight so pleased with that. Had drafted the story a while ago but wanted to leave it to one side and come back to it with a fresh eye. The voice of my character comes through loud and clear!

This piece is just under 1000 words, which is LOADS compared to my favourite 100-worders! But that is a major joy of flash fiction – it has divisions within it and there is nothing to stop you sticking to one type or mixing and matching. I like the latter approach.

Sometimes a character does need to be “let off the leash” for a longer distance and that was the case with this story.

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Whenever I watch/listen to an adaptation, whether it is a panto, a play or a novel turned into a TV series, am I looking for a word-to-word faithful rendition?

No! What I am looking for is the adapation to be faithful to the spirit of the original book, play or what have you. There is also a strong reason to adapt, say, fairytales for pantos and the like, given so many of the original stories are far too grim (some pun intended!) to be staged exactly as they were originally written.

I want the characters to be recognisable as the ones the original author created. I don’t like mish-mashes of characters, as can happen. Those never seem real to me, precisely I think because now I can spot the joins!!

Am looking forward to sharing my CFT post as it will be a review of a recent panto put on by The Chameleon Theatre Group. The style I’ve used for this one is a bit different too but suits the material well. More on Friday! (I think we need pantos in January given it seems such a long month and the weather’s generally awful or cold or both).

Making good progress with the novel. Am “brewing ideas” for a story competition (deadline end of March) so plan to start outlining hopefully later this week/over weekend.

Also hope to finalise third flash fiction collection in the next couple of months. The material is pretty much all there now but it needs a darned good edit! Mind, there is nothing I write (with the possible exception of the annual holiday note to the milkman) that DOESN’T need a darned good edit!

I discuss impact in my turn on the More Than Writers’ blog spot from the Association of Christian Writers.

I look at the impact I hope to achieve in the stories I write by deciding in advance what I’d like that to be and then selecting the words to best achieve that. The rest, of course, is down to the reader. You can put down the pointers but it is up to reader if they “run with them”.

Having said that, I have found thinking about impact like this means I’m trying to engage with readers from the outset. It also stops me going off at unhelpful tangents (and that is too easily done!).

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Looking ahead to some of the writing prompts coming up in my diary, there are some promising thoughts for new flash fiction stories. Some of the prompts are asking for character studies (with some being based on a specific name. I’ll have fun with that when I get to the week for that one. A name is just a peg after all. It’s what you do with the peg that matters!).

There are also some word association prompts. That will be fun too. A great way to allow yourself to go off at tangents to generate further story ideas. I love playing with words like that.

One huge advantage to writing flash fiction is it can give you a way of getting work out there while working on a much longer project, such as a novel.

I’m happily revisiting a novel of mine and using the editing skills writing flash fiction has given me. This should sharpen the novel up and I hope give it a better chance “out there” when I’m ready to submit it.

Naturally, this is going to take time but when not working on that, having flash fiction stories on the go is a great way of building up publishing credits and so on. I hope all of that will prove useful with regard to the novel later on. Watch this space, as they say!

One of the hardest things to do is cutting out a character you love but you know doesn’t really fit into the story or novel you’re writing. At one time you thought they did, that’s why they were there at all, but you have come to realise, often on repeated reading, that they’re not doing that much and if you cut them out, they wouldn’t be missed. (By anyone other than you naturally). Of course they’ve GOT to go but it seems such a shame…

Well, have you thought about seeing if you can write some flash fiction for them? Waste not, want not and all that. If a character can’t justify a full length story, can they be useful in a much shorter piece?

Food for thought I hope!

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Linking on from my theme of impact which I discuss in my monthly spot on More than Writers (the Association of Christian Writers’ blog), flash fiction has the huge advantage that its impact is immediate. It has to be.

That doesn’t rule out having “big themes”, far from it, but in a flash fiction story, you touch on them briefly and leave the readers to ponder on them.

I love this when I read flash fiction by other authors. I like being given the room to think on the impact of the stories I have just read. When a piece really inspires me, I look at how I think the author achieved that and learn from this. One shared joy of reading and writing is there is always something to learn to add greater enjoyment to what you read/help you improve your own writing.

Goodreads Author Blog – Delving into the Past

Delving into the past has great connotations for readers and writers alike.

Firstly, there is the whole range of historical books to explore – fiction and non-fiction. Then there’s the delight in exploring your favourite historical eras and discovering ones you hadn’t known much about.

For me, coming across Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time was one of those moments when a book really does change things for you. It completely altered my views on Richard III. Do check out the book and see if it does the same for you!

Secondly, there is the joy of rediscovering the stories that were favourites of yours in your own past. I’ve done this recently by, of all things, going to a panto and revisiting a story I’d not read in years – Ali Baba. The panto was great but the story reminded me that fairytales are anything but twee and when justice is served, it is usually with a very rough edge!

Other books connected to my past are my late mother’s Dickens collection. Some I’ve read, others not, but I do know I’m not running out of reading material any time soon! This is a VERY good thing!

So if you are stuck for something to read (I know, perish the thought!), delve into your past and look again at wht you used to read. Why did you stop reading that? Is it a question of going, say, from “childish” fairytales (though I’d argue fairytales are anything but childish) to more adult magical realism and fantasy stories?

Above all have fun delving into your literary past and see where it takes you now!

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