Triggers and Descriptions

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. Image of me signing at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School was kindly taken by Fiona Park while the photo of Lady and I examining my books was taken by Adrian Symes. I took the photo of my two flash collections for sale at Swanwick in August 2021.
Hope you have had a good few days. Writing going well. Weather less so right now!

Facebook – General

I swear it was almost time to call Noah out again given the amount of rain that has fallen in my part of Hampshire today! Hope it is not too bad where you are.

Have booked my train tickets for the Brechin/Angus Book Festival in November. I always get tickets posted so hopefully these will be with me in a few days.

Have got my train tickets for the first Association of Christian Writers in-person to be held since before lockdown – that will be on 9th October. Looking forward to that and seeing everyone again. I will make use of my railcard this year! (And it will be nice to hopefully sell a few books in person again too!).

My lovely editor at Chandler’s Ford Today and I are planning to be at the next production by The Chameleon Theatre Group in October (which will be Murder With Ghosts – sounds fun!). Definitely time for another CFT “works outing” I feel. Not the same when I go on my own!

Hope you have had a good Monday. Was pleased to get a significant amount of editing done over the weekend on what I hope will end up being my third flash fiction collection. And I managed to draft some future blogs so those will come in handy in due course.

Am enjoying the new series of Just a Minute. It is odd not having Nicholas Parsons in the chair but Sue Perkins is doing a grand job. One of the reasons I love this show is there is some wonderful word play and I always have a lot of time for that! It also shows how difficult it is not to repeat. Every word has to count – and I guess that would always prove popular with a flash fiction writer.

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Many thanks for the comments coming in on An Undesirable Property, my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Much appreciated. Am currently working on another story for this week’s submission and hope to get that polished and sent off later this evening.

I’ll be looking at Pinch, Punch, The First of the Month as my topic for Chandler’s Ford Today this week given Friday will be 1st October. I’ll also look at how we can use sayings in our fiction and non-fiction. I’ve used several sayings as titles and/or themes for my flash fiction stories, for example. So don’t throw out your books of proverbs and well known sayings. Mine them for ideas!

Talking of the first of the month, my author newsletter will go out on Friday as well. I share tips, news, writing prompts, and stories here. If you’d like to sign up head over to my website (landing page).

 

Hope you have had a good Saturday. Nice to catch up with friends and family today. Lady loved seeing everyone. She loves people (and the food they drop of course). Autumn evenings drawing in – getting dark here before 8 pm.

I don’t use a lot of description, mainly because in flash room for this is limited. What I look for is the telling detail, something that will show a reader setting, character age/class (often done via the name I give them – names can date people – mine does as I mentioned the other day), or story mood.

It is a case of working out what a reader has to know and what can be left for them to pick up on inference/context. I ask myself when editing a story, does the tale make sense without it? Does the tale lose anything if I take this out?

I am more interested in character than description anyway. I want to know what a character is like. Finding out where they live is, for me, something I will pick up as I keep reading. What I don’t want is to be switched off by long descriptions.

I want the dialogue, the character’s thoughts etc and description slipped in every now and then. I will “assimilate” that. I don’t want a great big block of description (and I am wary that kind of thing is likely to switch a lot of readers off. They want to know what is happening as opposed to what something looks like).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Triggers for story ideas can come from anywhere – and at unexpected times. (Not always convenient times either). I’ve never used the keep a notebook and pen by your bed so if you wake up with a great idea you can jot it down quickly. Why? Because when I’m asleep, that is it.

I don’t tend to dream story ideas. They come to me as I’m getting on with other things, which is fine if I can pause to jot things down, but that is not always possible. I have had odd ideas come to me when in the shower, when I’ve just parked, when on the loo etc. What I will do here is grab my phone and use Evernote to jot things down as quickly as I can after the idea has occurred. Best endeavours and all that).

But I worry less now about “missing an idea” because I know now in a way I didn’t when starting out that ideas will crop up. It’s not as if you have one “go” at getting ideas, far from it.

The best trigger I know and often make use of is to ask the old “what if” question? For Being Yourself in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I knew my character was going to be accused by a love rival of being cold. So I asked myself what if my character could become cold? What would that make her capable of and how could she use this against her rival?

And random generators can be a good way of triggering words to put into a story. I’ve done this recently and I came up with promising words and then asked the what if question. That showed me how to use this words well and two of my more recent videos on my YouTube channel came about because I did this.

 


Delighted to share my latest YouTube video called Housework. Even dragons tidy up when they have a strong enough motivation to do so. Hope you enjoy.

F = Fun to Write – and you can write across genres too.
L = Less is More – what are the telling details your reader must know?
A = Always axe anything that does not move your story along in some way.
S = Story, story, story. What happens? How does your character change? What is the important thing we need to know about your character in this tale?
H = Has an upper limit of 1000 words but you can write across the spectrum. There are different categories including the dribble (50 words) and drabble (100 words – and my favourite). You can pack a lot into a tiny tale whether or not you go to the upper word limit.

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I was talking over on my author page about not wanting a lot of description. There isn’t room for it in flash anyway. I chatted about telling details and working out what a reader has to know. Some examples from my published stories include:-

Making the Grade – one word, “magical” ahead of the word “exams” shows my reader the character is not in any ordinary school and they have talents we do not.

Pen Portrait – “brushed her hair once a day” shows you my character, whatever else she is, isn’t vain.

It Has to be Me – the words “you break customs at your peril” shows you my character lives in a repressive world.

There is an indication of setting in two of these as well.

Also, given we live in a TV and film era, the days of long descriptions are behind us, I think. Someone like Dickens had to spell out what London looked like for readers who would probably never go there. We, on the other hand, can take shortcuts here as we can set a story in London and most people will have their own ideas as to what that looks like.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Shopping

Book shopping is an absolute pleasure, of course, and I like to mix up how I do this. I do shop online but mix up the retailers I use (and I like to also support those who support independent bookshops. I have used You Know Who and I have found them helpful with out of print books in the past. I also believe in not putting all my eggs in one basket here but that goes for You Know Who as well as the other retailers here).

I also love going into a “proper” bookshop and browsing. Have not done the latter yet since the pandemic restrictions were lifted but hope it will be something I get back to before too long.
And the nice thing here is that book shopping is easy enough for family and friends to do for you for Christmas etc. Just give them a list of the books you want and send them to Waterstones!

I also like to mix up asking for paperbacks and ebooks (though usually I’ll sort out the latter myself). And I like to have non-fiction as well as fiction on my Wish List. The downside of all of this?

I know I need to sort out my book shelves. Adding more books is not going to help! But it is a nice problem to have!

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Twitter Corner

 

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Anniversaries, Questions, and Where Magic Is Possible, What Isn’t?

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.
Hope you have had a good week. Wonderful autumn weather in the UK this week. Lady and I have loved it.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Anniversaries. I look at why these are important, I share some of my favourite writing ones, and how it matters to take time out to recall where you were and where you are now. Sometimes it is only by looking back, you realise you have made progress.

And, of course, it is important to remember so many vital people and events in our lives, past and present. I also discuss bucket lists. Hope you enjoy the post.

Anniversaries


Pleased to share a link to the September issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads which takes you to my last article here which was about frames in flash fiction. Hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

It is one of the ironies of flash that limiting things (the word count) encourages creativity. You learn to make the most of what you do have to work with and this encourages lateral thinking. That comes in useful for whatever you write. And you learn to write with precision and to ask yourself do I really need this in the story? If in doubt, the answer to that is no and out the section comes!

Screenshot 2021-09-24 at 19-49-03 Frames in Fiction


Another gorgeous day out in the park with Lady. She got to play with two of her pals yesterday and played with one of them again today. What was nice was the two dogs were resting side by side for a bit and I just got my phone out to take a nice snap and, yes sure enough, Lady’s pal decided that was the right time to get up and move away!

Am leading an online flash fiction group tonight. Looking forward to that. It’s always good fun.
Will be later than usual with posts at the weekend due to family events but those should be good fun too! (And Lady adores said events. Let’s just say I don’t have to clear up anything from the ground).

My CFT post this week will be on Anniversaries. Do you note any of your writing ones? I have noted a few of mine and it is important I think to remind yourself this was where you were and this is where you are now because it is easy to think you’re getting nowhere when actually you’ve achieved more than you think. Anyway post up on Friday.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Story time at the end of a working week – what’s not to like about that? Hope you enjoy my An Undesirable Property, now up on #FridayFlashFiction.
Screenshot 2021-09-24 at 19-17-23 An Undesirable Property by Allison SymesI’ll be looking at Anniversaries in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week (link up tomorrow) (See further up for link) and naturally I include some writing ones. Two that had to go in were when From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic came out.

Wonderful moments and not something I anticipated when I started submitting work for publication. (My eyes had been and still are on the short story market – flash fiction was not something I had heard of but I’ve made up for that in the intervening years, I think!).

It was a delight to have such a wonderfully interactive flash fiction writing group session last night (on Zoom naturally) with fellow members of the Association of Christian Writers. We talked prompts and picture ones in particular. It may seem odd to use pictures to help you produce something that is text-based but they can make for useful ways “into” writing a story. And I like to mix up how I approach writing a story because that encourages me to think differently and to develop lateral thinking.

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I like titles to encourage readers to ask questions. For example, my Time for Some Peace in Tripping the Flash Fantastic -well the questions there would be “who wants the peace?” and “do they get the peace they crave?”. As long as the title provokes interest and curiosity in the reader, it is doing its job.

I’ve mentioned before I have to have a title to start with but my end story doesn’t always retain the title I came up with initially. Often a better idea for a title will crop up while I’m drafting or editing and fine, I’ll go with that instead. Place holders are absolutely fine (and I find them invaluable). Only the Ten Commandments were set in stone after all!

It’s a question of working out, I think, what you need in the way of “scaffolding” to help you get on and write that story. I need a title and to know who my character is and why I want to write them up. I don’t need to know everything but just enough to get me started. Then once started on my draft the creativity can really kick in. And it does.

Fairytales with Bite – Where Magic Is Possible, What Isn’t?

Good question, yes? It is worth thinking about because if your characters can use magic to solve any and every problem they face, where is the drama in that? Where is the conflict with other characters (or even where is the inner conflict they would face in trying to work out how to deal with a problem?).

So it pays to have limits then. Does magic physically and/or mentally tired a character so they have to limit their use of it? What would happen if a magical character became ill? Would they still be able to do what they usually would with their magic? Or does it backfire?

If your created world is a magical one, is there any room for what we would see as science? How would your world react to logical solutions to issues rather than just using the old magic wand to deal with problems? Would magic automatically exclude science or could the two co-exist? Could science mean that characters would use magic to deal with those issues science could not?

And I think there would have to be some situations magic could not change. For example, your characters would not want to live in a world where the geography and/or some other physical aspect to nature could be changed by magic. It would lead to an unstable environment to say the least. Talking of the laws of nature…

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This World and Others – Laws of Nature

What laws of nature apply to your created world? Is your world subject to gravity, say? How do the species survive in terms of food, reproduction etc?

Could anything disrupt or destroy the usual laws of nature or rewrite them even? Who would have that capacity and what reasons would they have for doing it? (There are easier ways to get power, say, than trying to rewrite how your world works as a physical entity!).

Is the natural world in your fiction anything like what we have here? What is better? What is worse?

A lot of the information you jot down as you answer questions like that may well not make it into the story but it is important you know enough about your world to be able to write about it convincingly. So figure out what you think you need to know to make this work. (It will pay off. This kind of planning out can save a lot of rewriting later on).

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Twitter icon
I sometimes tweet on the Association of Christian Writers Twitter feed, usually on topics helpful to writers. I was on duty this week and I am glad to share those tweets here.

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