Hooks, Simple Ideas, and Character Attitudes


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
What does snow, ice-cream chimes, and simple ideas  have in common? They all appear in this post – and I discuss character attitudes too.

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Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Glad to report there is an offer on Amazon on both of my flash fiction collections – see link for more. Go on, pick up a bargain!

I see there is a film about to come out called Operation Mincemeat based on the book of the same name by Ben Macintyre. Loved the book. Film looks promising – hoping they’re faithful to said book.

Looking forward to sharing Laughter in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. I love writing all of my posts but there are some which are sheer fun and this is one of them. Mind you, the topic helps!

I forgot to mention this last month but I am so pleased to be a member of the Authors’ Licensing and Collection Society. I have free membership of this thanks to being a member of the Society of Authors. I was really pleased with my pay-out from ALCS last month, which was up from last year. Definitely worth looking into to if you have books out there. And updating the online form when you have new works out is easy too.

I joined the Society of Authors years ago after receiving invaluable advice from them over a publishing contact I’d been offered. It was from a vanity publisher. I turned the contract down, got my manuscript back, and joined the Society. Never regretted any of that!

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Cold but no snow today so I count that as a win! See post further down for why I say this! Hope you have had a good Sunday. Much as I dislike the clock changes twice a year, I must admit it is nice having the lighter evenings. It means Lady gets a longer evening walk for one thing and she is happy about that.

Regardless of the length of story I write, I do like a good hook in the opening line. I am a great believer in the “hit the ground running” approach.

Sometimes I do this by getting a character to do something. Sometimes I will open with an intriguing line of dialogue. I also open with a set up that has to be followed through in some way and the only way a reader is going to find out is by reading the story through.

And yes I deliberately mix up the approach I take here. It keeps things interesting for me and I hope that comes through to readers too.

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Bizarre weather again today. I was doing some gardening, (”doing” being the operative word as I am no expert!), when snow fell again and at the same time I heard the charming chimes of an ice cream van! (I passed on that).

Many thanks for the wonderful comments coming in on The Way Time Smells, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Using the senses is encouraged in fiction as they all help readers “picture” things, they also make characters seem more real to me, and I was glad to get in a scent I have fond memories of as a child into this story.

I’m looking at Laughter in Fiction for my Chandler’s Ford Today post next week and look forward to sharing that in due course.

One positive thing about the cold weather is it makes it even more easy to stay indoors and get on with the writing!

Screenshot 2022-04-01 at 09-18-31 The Way Time Smells by Allison Symes

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I was talking yesterday about how I came up with the idea for my latest YouTube video, Away. Link below. It was based on a simple premise and, especially for such a short form as flash fiction, it pays off to keep the idea simple. Flash is not the place for the convoluted idea and again this is another example of the form of flash ensuring you do have to stick to the point.

I’ve also found, naturally, a simple idea is easier to deliver on (and stick to the word count with). There’s an old saying about not “over-egging the pudding” and that comes into play with flash fiction writing too. Just because an idea is simple, it doesn’t mean the story is simple. You can still show a wealth of emotion via the simple tale of one character telling another just what a hellish time they’ve had of it lately. Basic plot right there.

And the other character’s reaction whether it is sympathetic or not can show a reader just how caring or not that other character is and, to an extent, whether the first character deserves that sympathy or not. Yet that all stems from a simple idea.

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It has been another hectic Monday. Time to slow down and enjoy a story then. Hope you enjoy Away, my latest tale on my YouTube channel. I used a random picture generator to come up with the idea for a story based around chairs in a park and thought about who might have put them there.


I’ve talked before about how I sometimes write a punchline or a twist ending first and then use spider diagrams to help me work out how I could get to that closing line. The other advantage of this is this approach usually gives me a good idea of how long my story is likely to be.

If my spider diagram produces a result where I am likely to need more than one character in the story (as opposed to one or more being referred to – a kind of “being offstage” scenario), then I know my tale is likely to be between the 500 and 1000 words mark for flash. For short stories, I’m definitely looking at 1500 to 2000. That then gives me a good idea of where I’m likely to find a home for the finished tale.

What I don’t do is decide on the word count and then work out the story from there. I always go for the spider diagram option that resonates the most with me because it will do the same for a reader. The one that resonates most with me is one I’m going to love writing up because already that idea has triggered me and I will be itching to write it up.

The only times the word count is almost (!) the most important factor for me is when I am writing to a market which calls for a specific word count such as Paragraph Planet or Friday Flash Fiction. And even there I jot down ideas and still go for the one that makes the most impact on me. I am putting myself in my readers’ shoes here and asking myself what would they like from this idea. Then I go for it!

Having your reader in mind from the start is a good idea. It helps you keep on track too.

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Every now and then I write a story where the sentences open with the same words. In my The Wish List from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, all but the last sentence starts with the words I wish.

The advantage of doing this is that it creates a kind of rhythm to my story and, in this case, the “I wish”in each and every sentence ratchets up the tension and that in turn builds up to a conclusion.

It is not something I would wish to do all the time (the I wish being a deliberate choice of phrase there!) because I wouldn’t want it to come across as gimmicky and I fear frequent use of something like this would do precisely that. It does make a refreshing change every now and then though.

Goodreads Author Blog – Character Attitudes

What hooks you into following a character’s story though to those magic words The End? Something about the character has to draw you in and, for me, it is usually to do with their attitudes towards other characters, themselves, and life in general.

One of my favourite characters is Sam Vimes from Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Discworld series. Not only do I like following Sam through one novel I have loved watching that character develop over the series of Discworld novels he stars in – and boy does he develop. That is a sign of a truly great character. They’re never static! And his attitude varies depending on who is dealing with but there’s never any doubt about him wanting to see justice done. (And doing his level best to ensure it is).

I also like characters who acknowledge their own shortcomings but overcome them. (Pride and Prejudice, anyone?). A character who isn’t willing to change when it is clear change would bring them (a) happiness and (b) make them an all round better person is not a character that’s going to hold my interest for long.

Characters reflect us and what we know about life so a character’s attitude generally is something we will need to have understanding of, even if we don’t entirely agree with it.

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CafeLit, Creativity Matters, and an Interview

Image Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Screenshot of my stories on CafeLit and Friday Flash Fiction also taken by me and do check out both sites for fabulous tales.

A huge thanks to #PaulaRCReadman for hosting me on her blog this week, more details below. (Screenshot taken by me, Allison Symes, and do check out Paula’s blog).

Many thanks to #WendyHJones for supplying the book cover image for Creativity Matters.

Also thanks to #GillJames for supplying the cover for The Best of CafeLit 10.

As you’ll gather from those last three sentences, the week has got off to a cracking start! (Just a pity I can’t put in order somewhere for more of the same!).

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Now, as promised yesterday, for news on the non-fiction writing front. I am delighted to now confirm my chapter in #WendyHJones’ Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing will be called Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories? It’s a great honour to be taking part and I am looking forward to being “between the covers” with a lovely range of fantastic authors here. More details to come soon.

And now I can show you the cover too!

It’s not been a bad start to the week, given my news on the fiction front yesterday!

Allison Symes - Contribution to Creativity Matters


Not one but two posts from me tonight. And exciting news to come on the non-fiction front tomorrow too!

But tonight I’m focusing on my fiction news. Now I mentioned yesterday The Best of CafeLit 10 is now out and the lovely #Paula R.C. Readman has interviewed me for her blog specifically about my contributions to this book.

A huge thank you to Paula for hosting me and I’m delighted to share the interview here. It was such fun to take part and always a joy to flag up CafeLit!


Screenshot 2021-07-06 at 20-15-21 Clubhouse Cafelit 10 Chat Allison Symes

More flagging up of the wonderful CafeLit tonight with my second post on this page tonight. I’m pleased to say my story, Choices, is now up on site.

This started life as a writing prompt I set for the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group and it was such fun to write up. Hope you enjoy it. My sympathy is entirely with Jamie here.

Screenshot 2021-07-06 at 20-19-54 Choices


Am thrilled to say The Best of CafeLit 10 is now available. I have two pieces in here – Breaking Out and Taking Time Out of the Day Job. (Am also thrilled to say I’ll have another story up on the CafeLit website tomorrow and am looking forward to sharing the link for that then – see above.).

A huge thanks to #GillJames and the team here for bringing out such wonderful collections of short stories. Many congratulations to the other authors who are “between the covers” with yours truly. Looking forward to hopefully being able to have a proper Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books celebration get together later in the year. Missed that so much last year cancelled of course due to You Know What.

 


Hope you have had a good day. It was good to get out in the garden for a while earlier. I would never make any claim to be a “proper” gardener but tidying up where I needed to was strangely satisfying.

A huge thank you for the wonderful responses to When Is Wednesday?, my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction.

The feedback on this site is so useful and much appreciated. This particular story resonates as it is one I have written drawing on direct experience of how dementia can be on people. (My The Pink Rose tackles the same theme from a different angle in Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Hard stories to write? In some ways, yes. I always feel the “punch in the gut” reaction to moving stories but I should. Stories, even the funniest ones, should make you feel something).

Screenshot 2021-07-06 at 20-24-09 When is Wednesday by Allison SymesBookBrushImage-2021-7-2-19-2735

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Thanks for the great response to my Spring story video on Youtube yesterday. (I plan to write a post for Chandler’s Ford Today soon about Youtube for Authors and a huge thanks to the lovely #HelenMatthews for seeding that idea. I’m looking forward to sharing the second part of a great interview with her on CFT on Friday. Writers talking to each other = bouncing ideas around and fab conversations! And I know a good idea for a CFT post or a flash fiction story when I hear it. These days, I’ve learned to take said idea and run with it).

Mind you, if my heroine ate all the doughnuts in my latest video, she wouldn’t be running anywhere!). See below for the video link. (Am just hoping my Slimming World consultant likes this one!).

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As well as my new CafeLit story now being live on site (Choices – see my author page for the link), I’m pleased to now share my latest Youtube video. Hope you enjoy Spring, another acrostic tale. I think my Slimming World consultant would appreciate this one!

And on a dull, wet Monday night here in Hampshire, sharing stories online to me seems a great thing to do! Trust me, it was dull and very wet!

Delighted to have further publication news with The Best of Cafelit 10 now available in Kindle and paperback. I have two stories in here and am honoured as the stories in these collections are voted on by regular readers of CafeLit. Thank you to everyone who voted for my two pieces Breaking Out and Taking Time Out of The Day Job.

I have some lovely tasks to do this week as a result of the book being out. One is to let Amazon know I’m a contributor and get the book up on my Author Central Page(Now done – see below!).

I also need to contact Goodreads (again now done, see below!) but the other task is to update my records with ALCS, the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society. Plus I need to put my own book order in but these are jobs I will really enjoy doing over the next couple of days or so. Now done. Books on their way! And do register with ALCS if you’re a UK writer with publications out there. More below.

To all writers with publications out there, don’t forget to register with ALCS. You get free membership with them if you’re a member of the Society of Authors but you can join for a one-off lifetime fee of £36.00 if that doesn’t apply to you. Best of all, you don’t pay the £36.00 immediately. ALCS take that from the first payment they give you as you receive your share of monies from copyright licensing. And you can earn money year on year via ALCS. Definitely worth doing!

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I mix up the moods of my stories as different characters face different things of course. Also Character A might be of the type to, say, not take a serious situation as well as they should do. Character B in the same situation might over-react to it. Both would be interesting takes on a story. What would make Character A “wake up” and do what has to be done? Can Character B be calmed down and enabled to resolve a situation (which they certainly wouldn’t do while over-reacting to it)?

My latest on #FridayFlashFiction is a moving one following a couple of light-hearted pieces by me on there but this is deliberate. Stories reflect life so naturally there should be funny ones, sad ones, and so on. What matters for any kind of story is the characters grip you and make you want to find out what happens to them. See above for story link.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Changes in Reading Tastes

How have your reading tastes changed over the years? My big love reading wise will always be fantasy (especially the humorous kind and you can’t beat Terry Pratchett’s Discworld for that) but I have also developed a taste for crime novels (on the lower end of the gory scale) and historical fiction.

I’ve also developed a taste for non-fiction and have enjoyed some of the Ben Macintyre books and London by Peter Ackroyd, books I wouldn’t have looked at only a few years ago.

Having a Kindle has encouraged me to explore more books too and I will use ebooks as a way of testing out books by authors new to me. I’ve also been reading more flash and short story collections. That of course is linked to my writing taking off in that direction. I want to read in the field I am in and am conscious I need to have a good reading diet of classic and contemporary fiction.

What is lovely is having books on my shelves (including the electronic one!) by writer friends. Becoming more involved in writing myself has led me to discovering what colleagues produce and I am reading more types of books and stories now than I’ve ever done.

So where has your reading journey taken you? Have you discovered a love for a genre new to you?

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Living Up To A Name and Writing Challenges

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of The Writer’s Diary taken by me, Allison Symes, as this fab book was one of my Christmas presents!

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Brrr…. Another chilly day today, not that Lady seemed to notice.

My writing diary has a wonderful template for outlining characters and one aspect to that is talking about a character’s needs. These range from the basic needs (food, drink, shelter etc) to psychological needs (needing to be loved etc). But there is another aspect to this.

What does the character think they need? This will often not be the same as actual needs (basic, psychological or otherwise). The character may or may not be right to think they need these things. But what makes them think that they do?

This is a useful thing to consider when outlining your villains especially. Why does a villain think they need to dominate the world (and generally they so do!), for example? What drives them? Yes, the obvious reason will be the drive for power but what’s the reason behind that? That will colour how you outline your character so well worth giving further thought about.

If they honestly believe their actions are the only way to secure their own safety, that will drive them to keep going no matter what. It would also make their attitude understandable to a reader.

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Just to flag up Amazon have the paperback of Tripping The Flash Fantastic on offer right now. See http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent for more.

Have also just sent off a blog piece where I’ll be the guest sometime in March. Have another one to prepare. All great fun.

Am drafting a short story for submission later this month/early February. I have totally fallen for my lead character. It is a wonderful moment when you know you’ve got right under the skin of your character so accurately. It’s also nice this character is someone I wouldn’t mind having coffee with if they were for real. I can’t say that for all of my “people”. Some are definitely meant to chill you! Some are historical figures and long gone…!

Chilly one over at the park today though at least Lady got to have a good run around with her best buddie, the loveliest Ridgeback in these parts. Another doggy pal of them both came over and the three were very happy and above all warm, unlike their owners! Stamping life back into your feet can take a while…


I always find the time between Christmas and just after New Year a strange one. For a start, it can be tricky working out which day of the week it is (and not helped at all by the pandemic with most people being at home and again losing track of the days of the week). I guess this shows I need structure and I’m not surprised by that.

I have a structure to my writing after all, not just in terms of outlining my stories and characters, but also in terms of what I’ll be doing and when. For example, my CFT post for this coming Friday is already up and scheduled but I am working on the one after that and hope to get that sorted out probably by Wednesday or so.

I finish my day’s writing either by writing flash fiction, working on my non-fiction book or another longer term project. By the time I look back at the week that has just gone, I will have wriitten several thousand words and made good progress on my project. You build up on what you do. And I find that structure works for me.

I just can’t wing it though I have no problem doing that when I am set writing exercises say at places like Swanwick, I guess I know I’m going to be set those so subconsciously I’m ready for them even though I won’t know the topic.

The tricky thing is finding time to do the “housekeeping” (for example, updating the website and so on). These tasks I try to do at least once every couple of weeks (though with my twice weekly round up, I am adding fresh material to the website all the time).

Does a structure work for you? I find I do get more done than if I didn’t have one. Why? Simply because I tick things off my list as I go and it always makes me feel better to see that list go down a bit.

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Hope your Saturday has been okay. Nice quiet one here though appreciating the central heating right now! One good thing about the cold, dark nights is that it does mean an evening at the desk writing is even more appealing than it usually is!

Writing challenges that always need to be met:-

1. Getting started!

2. Committing time to write. (And if you only do have 10 minutes, commit to that. Over the course of a week, a month etc, those pockets of 10 minutes build up. And it’s a good time slot for drafting a piece of flash fiction say or trying out a writing exercise you’ve come across. I hope to be talking about writing exercises in a future CFT post. Watch this space!).

3. Silencing your inner editor. There is a time for your inner editor to get on and do some decent work but it’s never while you’re trying to get the first draft down. Just get your ideas and thoughts down. What needs to come out will come out in the edit later on. Don’t let your inner editor stump your efforts to get any work down at all. It can happen.

4. Convincing yourself you can write. Confidence is an issue for most writers. And most of us have had to fight (and keep fighting) Imposter Syndrome regularly. See that as part of the writing life. Rejections are part of the writing life too. These things are obstacles to be overcome. You can write. You can improve what you write (and therefore up your chances of being published). This takes time. It is not a race. Willingness to learn and improve what you do is what matters here. You can write. Nobody but nobody writes perfect prose at the first go. You do get better over time at avoiding the basic mistakes (as you’ve learned what to look for and avoid!).

5. Avoiding the scammers and vanity presses. There is always someone out there waiting to trip up the unwary writer. Always ask for advice from the Society of Authors and/or Alliance of Independent Authors.

Happy writing! (I appreciate happy editing is possibly not for everyone though I like editing, as you would hope!).


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the great response to my story video yesterday (see post below). One/two line stories like Living Up To A Name, my story from yesterday, work wonderfully for this kind of thing.

Writing such stories is also great practice for writing a blurb for books etc given they usually have to be one to two lines only. The more I write flash fiction, the more I appreciate (a) the beauty of the short form and (b) the shorter the form, the more difficult it is to do well (so a big shout out to all poets here as well by the way!).

Flash fiction to my mind is precision writing. You do have to think about whether each word is really punching its weight in your piece or whether a better word would have more impact. (This is something that all poets do too).

But it is huge fun to do – and a good challenge. Challenges keep you as a writer on your toes and that’s no bad thing.

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Story time – and a timely one too given it has been so cold throughout most of the UK. Hope you enjoy.

Living Up To A Name
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BHYEO8Cv98


My new writing diary comes with plenty of prompts and I hope to get around to do at least some of this year. Flash fiction is perfect for this kind of writing because often you’re asked to write 500 words on this or that or you find the topic given is best suited to a short piece. So using prompts as a way of practicing your flash fiction writing is a good idea. And if you can polish those prompts up and get work submitted and accepted as a result even better! Definitely worth a go!


One of my goals for this year is to get a third flash fiction collection together. I’ve written a reasonable amount on this already but it will be what I return to when I’m resting my other big project, a non-fiction one.

Getting a collection together is an interesting process. As well as looking at the individual stories I’m looking at how well the collection will work as a whole. Does every one of my selected stories help enhance that theme in some way? If they don’t, well those are stories I save for another collection and another time.

What has been fascinating is seeing what my editors have picked up on for both of my books and it has always been a lightbulb moment for me of “oh yes”. That’s a good sign. It means the editors have picked up on things I’m too close to see as the author. You need an editor to point these things out. Do see your editor as your best ally in helping you to get your work as good as possible. It is what we are here for!

Oh and I am probably going to leave the name of this page as it is because (a) I like it and it’s a nice nod to my first book, (b), it is different, and (c) the link to flash fiction is apparent as you read through a post or two!

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Goodreads Author Blog – BOOKS Acrostic

B = Beautiful, bindings to suit (paperback or hardback or chapbook, brilliant at taking you into other worlds.

O = Original thoughts from writers and can make you look at our own world in a different light while reading fantasy and science fiction

O = Overdosing on books is fine. The worst you will be is well read and short on book shelf space.

K = Kindle. One way around the shelf storage problem and you don’t have to limit books to take away with you on holiday, when we can do such things again.

S = Stories in so many forms including non-fiction because that tells factual stories.

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Walkies and Interviews!

Image Credit:  As ever Pixabay or Pexels unless otherwise stated. The ones of Hiltingbury Flower Meadow were taken by me!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post is called Walkies and I look at the joys of local walking and living with collies. I am also pleased to share pictures taken by me this week of our beautiful wildflower meadow at the Hiltingbury Recreation Ground. It is absolutely stunning and it always cheers me to see such brightness. See if you can spot the poppy by the way!

I also look at how walking dogs has helped me. I did think I would get loads of ideas for stories and blog posts when I was out walking a dog. My sum total of ideas that have come to me doing this is precisely zero!

I’m too busy keeping an eye on the dog, particularly my young mischief, Lady, but walking her (and my previous two) relaxes me, gets me out into the fresh air, and I come back, refreshed, having had a break from the writing desk. That is important. Tiredness is the biggest factor, I think, in stifling any kind of creativity.

Hope you enjoy the post.

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Many thanks to fellow Swanwicker, Val Penny, for hosting me on her blog today (9th July 2020). It was great fun to take part! Hope you enjoy.

Amongst other topics, I talk about my writing routine and share some tips I’ve found useful over the years. I also talk about how I got into flash fiction writing. It wasn’t something I anticipated when I first started out but it is easily my happiest “writing accident”!’

I also talk about what I like and dislike about marketing. See what you think – do you agree with my choices?

Transforming Communities Full

My CFT post this week will be called Walkies! I share the joys of walking with Lady during lockdown, the latest pics of our beautiful wildflower meadow, which is looking stunning right now, and share how walking has helped me. Link up on Friday.

I did think when I first became a dog owner 15 years ago, I would be able to think up ideas for stories while out walking Gracie, then Mabel, and now Lady. Not a bit of it! Haven’t thought of one story idea at all walking them!

Mind you, I have made many wonderful dog owner pals and Lady especially has made a few four-legged friends too.

What walking the dog does do though is enable me to unwind. Ideas for stories are far more likely to come to me when I’m in a relaxed state after getting back home again. And of course there are plenty of opportunities for practising observational skills. A particular colour of a front door might strike me as nice for Character A’s cloak in a flash fiction story – that kind of thing.

Never despise the little details! They may come in handy in a story one day.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It has been a good week with another flash piece up on Cafelit (Rotten Day) and my interview on Val Penny’s blog post (see next piece down for the link to this).

Oh and a bit of promotional news – From Light to Dark and Back Again is currently on offer on Amazon. So if you fancy quirky fiction at a discounted price, do check the link out. Reviews are always welcome too.

My favourite story in FLTDBA? Hmm… tricky one though I do have a very soft spot for Calling the Doctor which you can check out for free on the book trailer. (See below!).

Whatever you read or write this weekend, have a good one!


A big thanks to Val Penny for interviewing me on her blog today. (9th July 2020). See link for more but one of the topics I discuss here is how I got into flash fiction writing at all.

Let’s just say it wasn’t planned! Let’s also say I am very pleased with how it has turned out and hope to keep going with it for as long as possible!

On a side note, interviews like this really make you think about what you’re doing and why and where your writing journey has brought you to date. That’s no bad thing. And interviewing your characters can make you as their creator think about what they’re doing in your story and why. It’s a good way to see who is really necessary to your tale and who isn’t.


Much as I love listening to classical music when writing, I haven’t used it in my stories. The only time I use it is when trying to pick something what would work well in book trailers or when I am creating videos of flash tales to put on my website.

Music can set mood of course and I think I would rather my characters did that directly through what they say and do. (And isn’t it always more interesting when what they do goes against what they say?! Hypocrites are always good fun to write stories for!).

 

Fairytales with Bite – Fairytale Acrostic

F = Fantastic has to come into it somewhere, usually in the form of magic being performed, usually to help the deserving.
A = Animals often play a crucial role and sometimes at least prove to be more intelligent than the humans in the story.
I = Inventiveness can come into the stories – you wouldn’t usually think of turning a pumpkin into a coach would you?!
R = Realism? Well maybe. Fairytales can show a great deal of truth about human nature, not all of it is pleasant either, but it is accurate.
Y = Your fairy godmother awaIts… hmm… not necessarily. The character often doesn’t know they’ve got one until they show up. Best not to assume here!
T = Tension between the forces of good and evil is a given in this world.
A = Animated versions of the tale are generally good but some of them can’t be as originally written given the latter are often more violent!
L = Love and its importance is a key theme. Not just the romantic kind either. Think of Hansel and Gretel and their care for one another. Also I thought Gerta was a magnificent character in The Snow Queen with her commitment to rescuing Kay. (And I so loved the idea that the girl was rescuing the boy here).
E = Elephants! Have always had a very soft spot for Dumbo. Always will do. I see it as a classic film fairytale.
S = Stories. The classic fairytales have very strong storylines behind them. Wrong is righted. Evil is confronted. Good prevails. Not always a happy ending though. And I love fairytales for all of those reasons.

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This World and Others –

Questions to Ask Your Characters

One great thing about this topic is that it is a timeless one! (Bear in mind also if you’re writing non-fiction, if you are using a narrative voice, you can treat that voice as a character, so some of these questions at least may also be worth trying). So what to ask then as part of your outline?

What do you really want and why?

What stops you getting what you really want?

Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?

How are you going to achieve your objectives?

Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?

Are you making your life unnecessarily complicated? (Worth asking this one – any complications getting in the way of your character achieving what they want should be those that arise naturally out of the plot. There should be nothing that seems “faked” to increase the tension in the story. The tension should be genuine, the obstacles real and so on. For a non-fictional narrator, a good question to ask instead of this one is are you communicating as clearly as possible (i.e. go for clarity, not gobbledegook, don’t make your narration unnecessarily complicated? Are you conveying the facts reasonably? Are you backing the facts up with evidence? What are your sources?).

What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?

What if you’re wrong? (How would your character handle that? That could make for a really interesting story).

Are there limits you won’t cross (and if so what are these? What is your thinking behind this?).

Are there rules you are prepared to break? What would the consequences be? How are you going to limit your risk (or are you not worried about that? Some characters aren’t!).

Now if answering those questions doesn’t generate story ideas, I’d be very surprised!

 

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Books, Books, Books!

Facebook – General

I suspect I’m preaching to the converted with the title for this post but never mind!

Books have been a vital part of my life since goodness knows when but I’ve only been writing since I turned 30…. X number of years ago!! Quite a considerable number of years in fact but not so many as when I first discovered the joys of reading and would spend many a happy hour in the local library.

Why did it take me so long to make the connection between “you really love books and stories” and “you really like writing your own stories” so you should become a writer? Goodness knows. Looking back on it, it is daft I didn’t start writing sooner but the main thing is I am writing now!

My advice to anyone pondering if they should write or not is to give it a go and have fun creating characters and stories. Whether you then try to get published is up to you. There’s nothing wrong with just writing for your own satisfaction. What matters is you’re writing and loving it.

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I loved watching the TV series of Black Beauty when I was a kid. That encouraged me to read the book by Anna Sewell. Southern TV, as it was back then, adapted some of the Enid Blyton Famous Five books and I loved those too. Pity they lost the franchise because that ended the series pronto!

So a good TV adaptation can encourage people to get back to the books, which is very much A Good Thing! This also happened with me with Oliver Twist. Alec Guinness and Oliver Reed were superb as Fagin and Bill Sykes. Had to read the book after watching the film.

With The Lord of the Rings, I had read the trilogy first. The magic of those films was bringing to life the images I had conjured up in my head of what Middle Earth looked like. (I still like the look of the hobbit holes. I’m about the right height to live in one too!).

I love it when creative media feeds off AND benefits other creativity like this.

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So terribly sad to see the news about Notre Dame. I hope the damage is as limited as possible. Also that restoration can take place as soon as possible too.

On to other things…

The only time I specifically write to a theme is when entering competitions. I’ve usually got a character in mind when I’m thinking about a new flash fiction story and work out, from their main characteristics, what theme would best suit them. I can’t say whether this is the right or wrong way to do things but I do know it works for me.

My other use of themes is to trigger ideas for a new story and then I spend some time working out which kind of character would best suit it. If I can’t work out a suitable character I don’t write the story.

For me it is all about the characters, always.

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I suppose my first introduction to short stories must have been the Reader’s Digest Collections of Fairytales, which I still have.

I was never conscious of this when reading these books (over and over and over and over again etc!) though I do recall being stunned at how long The Little Mermaid was and that it really didn’t have a happy ending. That was an eye opener for me. I didn’t know stories could be like that!

I also loved The Snow Queen with Gerda being the “action lead”. That was an eye opener too. Here was a girl off having all kinds of adventures to rescue her neighbour from said Snow Queen (and the splinter of the evil mirror in his heart). Loved that on first reading.

Here is where you meet ideas for future characters of your own – by reading widely and discovering them in other stories, then wondering what YOU could do with a character like that. You then wonder what setting YOU would put them in and what adventures/problems YOU set them. YOU wonder how your characters would sound and act and react and all of this comes together, creating a story that is uniquely yours. Writing and reading are truly wonderful things.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The Book Depository UK has FLTDBA listed as available within 2-3 business days. Amazon currently has it available as one month plus! I don’t know why this happens but it does pay to check out online retailers for availability, whether it is in books or anything else!

And I will put in another word about reviews. They really do help authors. Amazon sit up and take notice if you have 50 reviews. If you’re not sure what to write, one line saying what you liked (or loathed) about the book is sufficient. It is a great irony that even a review where someone didn’t like s book still helps the author of that book when it comes to the “numbers game”.

My own policy for reviews, whether it is for groceries or books, is to have a good look through what people have said. Usually there is a consensus and I can then go with that or not as I see fit but I find reviews a useful guide when I’m on the other side of the fence. So please do review! Thanks!

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I sometimes use alliteration in my flash fiction titles (Pen Portrait, Telling The Time etc) but I haven’t deliberately done this. In each case the title has been the right one for the story and the alliteration is a nice side effect!

I also think it is better to have things that way round rather than try to think of a clever title and try to make the story fit it. I can never see how that would work. Something would feel artificial about it.

I have to have a title to work to when writing a story (of any length) but I will change it if something better pops into my head as I’m working on the first draft. I use my titles to help me set the mood for a story. I sometimes use titles which can have a secondary meaning that the story makes clear.

The important thing is that the title suits the story.

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Once I’ve got a flash fiction collection written and edited, I spend some time working out what would be the best “running order” for the stories. This can take some time but it’s worth it.

From Light to Dark and Back Again lives up to its name (!) but the big plus with that was it helped me group stories beautifully!

The reason for all of this? I don’t just want my individual stories to make an impact on a reader. I want the book as a whole to do so too so taking a step back and planning what stories goes where helps enormously with that.

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What is the worst aspect of writing flash fiction?

For me, it’s coming up with a character with a strong enough voice. Once I’ve got that (after some outlining), I can set that character wherever I want and away they go!

It’s not enough for a character to be pushy or what have you. There has got be strong enough reason for them to be like that. Give them this and you will take the reader with you even though the reading journey for flash fiction is necessarily a short one!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Playing with Genre

With my flash fiction, I like to play with genre a lot. As flash fiction has to be character led due to the strict word count, I can have great fun putting that character wherever and whenever I want. I’ve written fantasy flash fiction, historical flash fiction, crime flash fiction etc as a result.

I’ve read excellent collections by other authors too. Some focus on one genre. The Great War by Dawn Kentish Knox is a great example of a themed historical flash fiction collection. Do check it out. The characterisation is very moving.

But it is not just in the flash and short story form that genre can be played with, far from it.

I love the crossover novel. It blends the best of the two (usually) genres it is mixing and gives something unique to the reader as a result. A good example to check out here is Jennifer C Wilson’s Kindred Spirits series which crosses ghost stories with historical fiction. Great mix!

I think readers are much more flexible over this than writers/publishers realise at times. I know what I like when I read it even if I can’t categorise it! And while categories ARE important, I don’t think they’re meant to be straitjackets either.

Have fun with your reading/writing and mix those genres!

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Notebooks old and new - image via Pixabay. Ideas have to be jotted down somewhere!

FAIRYTALE ONE-LINERS

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

In Fairytale One-Liners, I list 5 things you do not want to hear addressed to you and why. For example, you will know you are in trouble if you ever get to hear “You do know what I can do with this wand?”  (It means you’re about to find out, the hard way!).

FWB – FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN

On the book page, I share the link to the Amazon reviews of the book so far.  I also discuss a forthcoming Chandler’s Ford Today post where I hope to share what I learned from the launch.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

And What Next? looks at what I think is the crucial question in any form of fiction.  Without the “what next” there is no story.  Character A does this, that happens as a result, they then have to get out of the mess somehow etc.  I discuss why writers must ask themselves the question too.

FACEBOOK PAGE

I write a lighthearted post here tonight on publications my characters might read.  See what you think and please add any you might think of for your characters.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAllison.Symes.FairytaleLady%2Fposts%2F947406945362285&width=500

ideas-the-spark-for-writing-competitions-image-via-pixabay

My debut flash fiction collection from Chapeltown Books

FAIRYTALE PROVERBS

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

In Fairytale Proverbs I share what the magical world could have as some of its sensible sayings.  This includes “never cross a witch” (if you want to live) to “talking animals may well make more sense than you do” amongst others.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Life Lessons is my more serious post tonight in that I look at what lessons you characters have learned in their fictional life and how do these shape the way they act now.  I also ask about those characters who seemingly never do learn from their errors and wonder what it does take to bring them to their senses.  Also, experience should shape how a character acts and reacts.  Do yours react differently to the way they once might have done because they do know better now?

BOOK NEWS

Am delighted to share the links here to some wonderful reviews for From Light to Dark and Back Again in both paperback and Kindle formats.

I’ve also created a specific page within my Fairytales with Bite website for the book, which I hope to copy across to This World and Others before too long. I share all relevant links here.

Am also pleased to say the book is now on Writing Magazine’s Subscriber Showcase spot.

FACEBOOK PAGE

I’ve booked my two “big” writing events for this year – Winchester Writers’ Festival in June and Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August – and am looking forward to them both.  I discuss in my post tonight a little about what I get from events like this.

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The wonderful world of stories... Image via Pixabay.

The wonderful world of stories… Image via Pixabay.