In Fiction – Frameworks and Animals – and A Good Cause


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Somes images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you are all safe and well. UK currently experiencing Storm Eunice. Must admit I’m not impressed by her! Neither was the dog…

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today/Authors Electric

Authors Electric
Busy night on the old blogging front as I have two separate posts to share. First up is my Authors Electric post for this month where I talk about Animals in Fiction. This is something I talked about for Chandler’s Ford Today a few weeks ago but the topic bears repeating. I share my love of animal characters and talk about what I do when I write from the viewpoint of an animal character. I’ve written from the viewpoint of a mother dragon after all! Hope you enjoy the post.

Chandler’s Ford Today

And now time for my Chandler’s Ford Today post. This week I’m looking at Frameworks in Fiction. I look at why frameworks matter, share a few of the different ones I use (and why I like to mix them up), and what can be used as a framework, even when at first glance the device in question doesn’t appear to be a framework at all! I also ask if frameworks can be too constricting. Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful.

Frameworks in Fiction

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Lull between the storms in the UK right now. Take care, everyone, with Storm Eunice due tomorrow.
On a happier note, my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be about Frameworks in Fiction. I use a number of different ones for my flash tales and will be discussing these and why frameworks are so useful. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Don’t forget I send out an author newsletter on the first of each month with tips, news, prompts etc. If you’d like to sign up please head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Currently busy on story judging and editing as well as my own writing so am staying out of mischief well enough!

It was lovely catching up with everyone on the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group on Zoom last night. We all ended up with a new story to work on thanks to a free writing exercise set by #AnnmarieMiles. I used a random name generator to come up with the name of a character to write about and there were excellent and different approaches taken. All good fun!

 

The wind is already getting stronger here in Hampshire – take care, everyone, over what promise to be a wild few days in the UK.

Now I don’t use the weather in fiction at all (too many cliches etc and It was a dark and stormy night has been done!). But you can use the elements to help set mood including landscape as well as weather. Think about the detail a reader needs to know. You won’t need to spell everything out. The joy of flash is so much is inferred and the reader fills in the gaps.

I’ve always loved doing that when reading longer works but for flash writing, it is crucial. I may need to know your character is on a moor. I don’t need to know how wet, boggy etc the moor is because I have my idea of what a moor is like and that will be what I visualise when I read the word “moor”. What is more important to know is the season. Is your character there in the summer or the winter? That will make a huge difference to the conditions they face.

So it is the question of the telling detail then – select what readers have to know, what they cannot guess at, and let your readers fill in the gaps. We will – and it saves so much on the old word count! Nor do you irritate readers telling them what they can work out for themselves.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Now earlier this week, I shared my YouTube story called At Number 64  – see below – and I mentioned I had submitted a linked story to this for Friday Flash Fiction. Well, I am glad to say my second story on the same theme is now up on FFF and I am glad to share it here. Hope you enjoy A Good Cause (and many thanks for the fab comments in on it so far).

Screenshot 2022-02-18 at 19-20-44 A Good Cause, by Allison Symes


In a month’s time I’ll be on my way to the Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference where I’ll be running a flash fiction workshop. Looking forward to that immensely. Never thought I’d be doing this kind of thing when I started out.

But I have a very soft spot for workshops anyway. You get to meet other writers. You get to learn something useful. And a good workshop should trigger ideas for you own stories too.

Best invention since sliced bread? The notebook and pen of course.

Still great for workshop/conference environments. And flash gives you potential for writing up your exercises from workshops etc into polished stories you can submit later. Every so often I will go back through my old notebooks and see if there is something I can polish up. Sometimes I will find something useful like that. Other times I’ll read something which will trigger other story ideas and that’s great too.


Screenshot 2022-02-18 at 20-54-40 Writing Workshops Conference 2020 Scottish Association of WritersI was talking about giving readers the telling details they need to know to make sense of your story over on my Facebook author page just now and I referred to the elements. But you need to think about telling details for your characters too.

I’ve mentioned before I like to know the character’s major trait as all sorts of things can come from that which you can use to bring your character to life (e.g. the character is brave, they have a tendency to be reckless because of it and that’s where the story is – in what that recklessness leads to).

So work out what you need to know to make the character work for you. (If the character works for you, they’ll work for a reader). If a character is poor, do you need to know if they have become poor or have always been less well off? What is their attitude towards it? Can that attitude be where your story is – if your character is bitter, do they do something against anyone they hold to blame for their situation?

Ask yourself questions about what you need to know. I’ve found doing that sparks ideas and soon an outline for a possible story emerges. I like that – a lot!

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Fairytales With Bite – Happily Ever After?

And they all lived happily ever after has to be one of the most famous endings to any story. Though it should be added the original versions of fairytales often did not have a happy ending or gruesome things occurred before the happy ever after bit.

I understand it being in the classic tales for children but it is not one I am comfortable with myself. I like most of my stories to have a positive, upbeat ending where you can see things would continue to be okay for my deserving characters long after the story has finished. But sometimes I write stories with poignant endings because that is appropriate for the characters I’ve come up with.

And that is what I am really after in the stories I read and write – appropriate endings for the characters.

One thing I do get from my love of fairytales is the wish for the villains to get their well deserved comeuppance. I’m actually more interested in seeing how that pans out rather than the happy bit (because with the comeuppance bit achieved, the rest will follow).

I also like to see happy ever afters “earned” by the characters concerned – it seems more realistic to me the characters (a) deserve to get their happy ever after ending and (b) contribute to achieving that significantly themselves.

So give some thought to how you want your stories to end. When it is a happy ending, have your characters be worthy of it. You want your readers cheering them on to the happy conclusion after all.

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This World and Others – Living In Peace

Does your fictional world live in peace with other creations around it? Do the inhabitants of your created world get along with each other? How many species live in your world and is there any “history” between them? Do they live in peace now after centuries of not doing so? Is your world one of those where peace is a rarity or where war is unknown and disputes have to be resolved in other ways?

What would your fictional world make of our real one? Answering something like that can give you insight into how and why your people behave and act the way they do. Could they live in peace with us? What do they make of our warlike ways? Some would despise that (and possibly because we’re not warlike enough in their view). Some would hate it because they cannot understand violence. Some would love it, possibly seeing possibilities of exploiting that quality against us.

Living in peace takes effort. How much effort are your characters prepared to make? What is the incentive for them to be at peace especially if their culture is one of war?

Good story possibilities there I think especially since there is always someone who is prepared for various reasons to go against the status quo.

 

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Animals in Fiction


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Many thanks to Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn for shots taken of me at Open Prose Mic Nights at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. (Looking forward to being back there again!).
Hope you have had a good week. I think I’ve had the best comment ever on any post I’ve written in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. See further down for more on this.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am delighted to share Animals in Fiction, my post for Chandler’s Ford Today for this week. I look at favourite animal characters as well as explore their use in stories. I also look at writing from the viewpoint of an animal, which is something I’ve done from time to time.

And I am thrilled comments are coming in on this one already, including one that I think may well prove to be the best comment I’ve ever had on a CFT post (and possibly on any blog post!). Once you’ve read the post, scroll down and check out what one of my readers’ dogs made of the theme for Jaws! My sympathy is with the dog.

Also, do send in your own comments on the CFT post about your favourite animals in fiction.

Animals in Fiction

 

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Good news – Lady got to see her best buddy briefly today. Latter is much better and the two dogs were delighted to see each other, especially since today is not one of the days they usually meet.

I’ll be sharing my Animals in Fiction post for Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. Looking forward to sharing that. I loved animal characters when I was a kid. I have a soft spot for them still (helped no end by being a dog owner I suspect). Give some thought as to the ones you loved in books. Comments are always welcome over on the CFT page – link up tomorrow – would love to hear your thoughts on this topic over on that page then.

I have written stories from the viewpoint of an animal though I mainly focus on humans/humanoids but every so often it is good to turn the tables. I can use animal stories to show what I think they might think of us!


How has Wednesday been? Lady’s had an okay day but she missed her best buddy today (and that’s because her pal isn’t feeling too well, poor thing. Very much keeping everything crossed, paws included, that all is well again soon). It is lovely to watch how dogs make friends with each other.

Talking of friends, how do your characters measure up here? Do they have plenty of them? Or do they believe in quality over quantity? Equally, how good a friend are they to others?

There are plenty of stories where friends come to the rescue but how about writing one where a friend lets someone down and then goes on later to make up for it? Could have a lovely emotional rollercoaster of a story there. Rebuilding trust is difficult though not impossible. How do your characters manage it?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to share Dodging by Numbers, my new story on Friday Flash Fiction. I used a random number generator to come up with the number 766 and you can find out how I worked that into a flash fiction piece here. Hope you enjoy it.

The more observant may have noticed I used the same number for my YouTube story this week, Lucky Number.

You know how coincidences don’t really work in fiction, right?

You know you have to plant clues for the readers so when your event happens they know it was within the realms of possibilities for your character so don’t feel cheated, right?

So the wise author never ever uses coincidences because they know they won’t be believed by a reader, right?

Well, there was no coincidence here either!).

Screenshot 2022-01-13 at 21-22-24 Random Number Generator

Screenshot 2022-01-14 at 19-00-29 Dodging by Numbers, by Allison Symes

 

I have a “stock” of stories for reading out at Open Prose Mic Nights. Flash fiction works brilliantly for this as you can’t go on for too long – and everyone likes that!

Naturally I mix up the mood of the flash tales I read out. I like to start and finish with an amusing piece and have something darker and/or more reflective in the middle section. And I do practice reading the stories out loud first at home. (For one thing I have found knowing I’ve done that helps steady the old nerves a bit!)

Delighted to say I’ll be giving a Zoom talk on flash fiction again soon. Always happy to spread the word about what a wonderful format it is!

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I must admit I do a lot of my reading in bed – it’s a wonderful way to unwind. But we all get stressful days when perhaps it is more of an effort to read. This is where I do turn to flash fiction and short story collections. I am still reading wonderfully crafted stories. I’m just going for the shorter form. I also deliberately read collections in between novels. I like to mix up what I read in terms of author, genre, and length of story too.

Writing flash fiction gives me a great opportunity to mix up what I write too in terms of word count, genre I write in (as I’ve written crime flash, historical flash, fantasy flash etc). And it is such fun to do especially if you like creating people as I do. I’ve found flash has helped me to develop my show and not tell technique as well (which can of course be applied to any length of fiction).

Writing short is also marvellous practice in preparing material for blogs, advertising, blurbs etc.

BookBrushImage-2021-12-14-21-748Story MoodBookBrushImage-2021-12-17-20-366fromlighttodark_medium-2Tripping the Flash Fantastic Small.jpgAE - Nov 2021 - One way to lose yourself in a good bookAE - Nov 2021 - Love books, love reading

Fairytales With Bite – Time

How is time measured in your fictional world? Does it have the same divisions? I’ve used time in my flash fiction stories (and in one crime story I had 1a clock as a murder weapon!).

Do you use Time as a character? I’m drafting a story with this in mind and am showing Time as a character who cannot be cheated. The fun here is in showing how another character tries to be the one who will finally achieve that. There is always someone who will try to do that which has not been done before and you could make that a comedy story or a tragedy.

What impact does time have on your characters? Are they ruled by the clock or other time measuring device? How does time affect the way in which they live? In your fictional world, is there anyone who can control time and how do they do this? I would expect there to be a heavy price to pay for that ability (with great power should go a sense of great responsibility and, if not, misusing the ability to control time should have consequences. Note I said should there!).

How does time affect what your characters can do and when? Do different characters appear at differing times of the day/week/year etc? Why do they only come out at certain times?

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This World and Others – Reacting to Time

How does your world measure time? Does it worry about keeping “tabs” on time? Or do your characters just go with the flow? Do your characters age, as we understand the term? If they get to one age and then stop at that point until, presumably, they die, why does time stop for them?

Time, of course, has a big impact on us all and governs so much – everything from when we get up to making the most of natural daylight before having to go inside for the night. We can’t keep going for 24/7 – sleep has to happen. Time tires and ages us. But when we are having a lovely time of it, don’t we want those times to last for ever?

Now think about your characters. What are their attitudes here? How do they react to time? Do they see it as kindly or as a cruel thing (and age would probably have a role here in how your characters respond to that)?

With time of course there comes the point when it has to stop. We’re mortal after all. How do your mortal characters handle this knowledge? Do they make the most of the time allotted to them?

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Getting Into Character Heads and New Stories

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Images of me reading at Swanwick Open Prose Mic Nights taken by Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn. Image of me book signing at Swanwick was taken by Fiona Park. Many thanks, folks. Looking forward to seeing you again at Swanwick later this year hopefully!
Hope you enjoyed the weekend. Glad to be back to producing stories for YouTube and Friday Flash Fiction.

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Many thanks for the views coming in on Lucky Number, my latest YouTube video. It is always great fun putting these together. I adore using the Book Brush tool for videos here and being able to add a music track from YT’s library of free-to-use clips.

I don’t have a lucky number. I don’t believe in such things but characters can and do. How would their belief in a lucky number affect their behaviour? How would other characters respond to their behaviour? Equally what would their belief in an unlucky number cause them to do?

If you set your story in another world, what numbers would that world consider lucky or otherwise? Thirteen, for example, is often considered unlucky because there thirteen people at the Last Supper of Christ, including the traitor, Judas Iscariot. There usually is some reason why numbers have luck associated to them. Could you find interesting stories to tell about that?


Glad to get to my desk to sit and write for a while. Mondays are always horrendously busy for me. Is there a particular day of the week you find challenging? For me it is a relief to get to my desk on any day of the week but especially on Mondays. I find writing so therapeutic and I can feel myself relax as I start).

I don’t know quite what it is but getting into the heads of characters and bringing them to life is just wonderfully relaxing and a challenge. Responding to that challenge gets the old imaginative sparks flying and before I know it I am taken out of myself which I guess is the point! Characters should seem real to you for them to stand any chance of seeming real to a reader.

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Hope you have had a good weekend. Weather better but colder today.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is called Animals in Fiction and I am looking forward to sharing that on Friday. I share some of my childhood favourites here and what I think would be the downsides to writing animal characters. Mind you, this is from someone who wrote a story from the viewpoint of a mother dragon! See below.


Has been a blustery and wet day in soggy Hampshire. Hope things have been better with you (though given the power cut earlier this week I am just thankful to have got in from walking the dog to a nice cosy home!).

Do you find it harder to get your creative juices started at this time of year when it is dark and gloomy (in the UK at least) or does the time of year not matter? I find when I get started, I end up being on a roll. It can be the getting started which is tricky which is why I use a number of ways to help me begin a story. I’ll be talking more about that in my next column for Mom’s Favorite Reads but in the meantime there is always the January issue to enjoy.


Screenshot 2022-01-01 at 17-16-40 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine January 2022 eBook Publishing , Goylake , Howe, Hannah , S[...]

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ll be looking at Animals in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I sometimes have animal characters in my flash fiction but I prefer writing human/humanoid characters. It is easier to give them thoughts and dialogue!

But animals can (and have been used to) represent human behaviour, especially in fables. Many of those would fall within the flash fiction category thanks to their word count. The best fables are kept short. They’re easier to remember this way and especially in the days before print that mattered.

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Pleased to share Lucky Number, which is my latest YouTube story.  See link further up. I used a random number generator to come up with 766, the “lucky” number in this tale. It isn’t usually a number associated with luck, good or otherwise, so why is it considered lucky by my character, Denise? Check out the video – hope you enjoy.
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One of the joys of flash is being able to capture those moments which would not sustain a full standard length short story of 1500 words or more, yet is still a complete tale in and of itself. It means nothing is wasted here.

So if you have a writing exercise jotted down which won’t come to more than 1000 words, why not review it and see if you can turn it into a piece of flash fiction? It doesn’t just have to sit in your notebook!

And given there are more competitions and markets for flash now (especially the indie press), there’s every reason to try and get it published too. Good luck!

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Many thanks for the comments coming in on New Start, my first story of the New Year for Friday Flash Fiction.

Am looking forward to the ACW Flash Group Meeting later on in the month too. That took a break for Christmas and it will be lovely to see everyone again, even if we are in a Zoom box!

When choosing pieces of flash to read out, I usually focus on the 100-worders. They’re to the point and are effective at showing what flash is quickly. If I’m reading at an Open Prose Mic Night, I usually start and finish with a 100-word tale and then have something a little longer in the middle.

Even then I tend to go for the 250-300 words and no more. These stories still have the “oomph” effect of flash but also show you can put in a little more, relevant, detail which adds detail and information that you can’t do in the drabbles.

And it is fun to mix up the word counts I write to – give it a go! There will be markets and competitions for the differing lengths of story.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Why Reviews Matter

Every writer with a book out longs for reviews but they can be difficult to come by. I’ve never really understood why. Reviews don’t have to be long. Indeed the short one or two liners often work better.

And, aside from buying the book itself, leaving a review is one of the best ways you can support authors.

What I like to see in a review (and try to do when I give them) is for the reviewer to give a flavour of what the book is about without giving too much away.

I like to see mention of characters that have grabbed the reviewer’s attention and, in flash and short story collections, which were the “stand out” tales.

Reviews obviously help raise an author’s profile. The author can quote from them on their website, Facebook and social media posts etc. And they really don’t take long to write.

My policy here is to review a book as soon as I have finished reading it. It ensures I don’t forget to do it. Maybe that is where the problem lies. Any thoughts?

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