Creating Characters

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated. Also a big thank you to Richard Hardie for the images supplied for my second CFT post which appeared over the weekend, more below.

Facebook – General – bonus Chandler’s Ford Today post

A busy week on CFT for me this time. My second post this week shares news from YA author, Richard Hardie, about his link with Doctor Who. All very exciting and a feather in the cap for Richard. Well done! Check out the post for more details.

Facebook – Association of Christian Writers

More Than Writers blog spot – Creating Characters

It’s my turn on More than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers.

I talk about Creating Characters and share hints and tips, including a list of questions that will help you outline your “people”.

Hope you find it useful. (And many thanks to those who have commented on this. Much appreciated).

A good TV or film adaptation of a book only works if the images shown roughly coincide with the images I had from reading the text. The Inspector Morse series did this, as did the Poirot and Miss Marple series (with David Suchet and Joan Hickson). Film wise, I thought Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings had it spot on.

Are there any books you would like to see made into series or films? Which ones and why? Are there adaptations that haven’t worked for you? (I couldn’t get on with the Marple series. For me, Joan HIckson was perfect in the role and that was that).

When it comes to writing my stories, I put myself in my character’s shoes and see the world their way. I don’t always like my characters by the way! (Oh and a big thanks for a tremendous response to my ACW post on More Than Writers yesterday which was all about Creating Characters. Glad it was useful).

What I have found is you DO have to inhabit your character’s space so you can write about them/for them effectively.

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One very tired Lady on the sofa tonight. Had a great big play with several pals, including her “boyfriend”, a lovely Collie gent, and her best pal, a Rhodesian Ridgeback. I should imagine they’re pretty shattered as well!

Enjolyed listening to the Movie Music Hall of Fame on Classic FM today. I was right about the top two and pleased about them too. Must remember to find out where the Pink Panther theme came in (and there’s an earworm for anyone of a certain age!).

I usually write with classical music on as I find it helps me relax and when I relax, I’m more productive with the writing. Other things I have to have on my desk are my dictionary, my Scrivener for Dummies guide, my publisher guides (Writers and Artists and Mslexia) and plenty of pens (I know! I’m using a laptop, what do I need pens for? I guess I just like to see them around!).

I don’t have any rituals before writing. I just open my laptop and get on with it but I do like to see the accoutrements on my desk. I suppose it’s a case of Allison going into her comfort zone sort of thing.

And now I am IN my comfort zone, time to get on with more writing then!

 

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I can’t say a particular writer made me pick up my pen and start writing. I’ve loved books and stories for as long as I can recall. I loved writing stories in English lessons at school (and I’ll be talking a bit more about that in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week).

But it took me a long time to figure out I really ought to get around and write seriously. It took two major life events to wake me up here! My only serious regret with writing is NOT starting a lot sooner than I did.

But it is wonderful to say that all of the writers whose books are on my shelves (and the electronic one too!) have added to my love of stories and storytelling. For that I will always be grateful. And then there’s the joy of discovering new writers too.

If I could invent things I would invent:-

1. Elastic time so I never run out of time to read or write.
2. Calorie free chocolate.
3. Calorie free prosecco.
4. A stamina “topper-upper” for those times you could really do with it!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t know about you but I find it unsettling it is 8.30 pm in August in the UK and it is pitch black out there! (Not due to the weather either). The seasons are definitely shifting. Talk about going from light to dark!

I’ve mentioned before that one of my favourite writing exercises is writing to a set opening line. The ones that work best for me are the ones that can be taken in more than one direction. For example:-

1. The door remained locked despite her efforts.
2. He was on time, as the note insisted, but nobody was about.
3. The fairy godmother was on early shift.

Now all three opening lines here have comic as well as dramatic possibilities. (The door could remain locked because it took her a while to realise she was using the wrong key. He might be on time but what if he turned up at the wrong place and forgot to check? As for the fairy godmother, what could she expect to have to do on early shift that she might not face later on in the day? Definitely scope for humour there and that would almost certainly be the way I’d take these story ideas).

I find it useful to jot down initial ideas from an opening line and then go for the one that is a little way down my list. That is the idea which is not likely to be the obvious one and could well be open to my putting a twist on it, which I always love doing.

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One of my favourite stories in my new book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, involves a librarian and a snake. Can’t say more than that at the moment but it was great fun to write! By all means, let your mind boggle at the thought of that!

But then that is the fun of fiction. You can write in any genre, any time period, and the impossible isn’t so much in things like fantasy, magical realism etc.

Whatever you write, it is important to enjoy it. I mentioned to a friend and fellow author (the lovely #ValPenny) that you have to enjoy what you write, especially if it is a book, because you’ll be promoting said book for a long time.

You as the writer have got to be able to live with what you’ve written and enjoy living with it too! That’s an aspect to the writing life which isn’t often considered I think.

But commitment to what you write shows up here and not just in the hard work it needs to get those stories written in the first place.

Writing is good for you as it stretches you and develops your imagination. It is also good fun experimenting with different forms of writing and discovering where your strengths are. But even when you’ve found the style of writing that suits you best, writing should still keep pushing you.

Pushing you to keep on producing good work.

Pushing you to discover new markets/competitions for your work.

Pushing you to get better at editing your work and polishing it as well as you can to give it its best possible chance out there in the big, bad world.

Pushing you to develop new skills including but definitely not limited to reading your work to an audience, making the most of technology to produce items that can help you market your work more effectively, and so on.

What writing doesn’t do is allow you to rest on your laurels and that’s a great thing. Why? Because you want to keep on developing. The writing journey should be as much fun as possible. Different things come up along that journey, things you would not have expected when starting out, and by developing you will be ready to tackle those things and have more strings to add to your bow.

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Am looking forward to taking part in the Zoom session with #GillJames and #DawnKentishKnox on 26th September. I hope to be reading a story or two, including one from Tripping the Flash Fantastic. You did hear it here first!

I will share the link to the event later in September. You do need to register but the event is free. I’ll also be flagging it up via Chandler’s Ford Today in due course.

Flash is great for reading aloud at events etc. It doesn’t take too long to read. It makes an immediate impact and the “deeper” stories resonate with you and linger long in the memory afterwards. Nothing to dislike there!

And I’ve said before it is a good idea to read your work out loud so you can hear how it flows, whether the dialogue etc comes across as smoothly as you’d like etc. If you trip over your words, a reader almost certainly will. Again with flash, this doesn’t take long. I’ve spotted things I’ve needed to change many a time doing this.

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Goodreads Author Blog Book Dilemmas

What book dilemmas, I hear you ask?

Well, there is the obvious one of which book you are going to read next from your naturally huge TBR pile.

I refuse to believe that doesn’t give you pause for thought from time to time! (I get a little annoyed with myself for doing this. I realise the half hour I spent deciding what I’ll read next could have been spent on reading!).

Then there is the dilemma of whether you’ll reduce the TBR paperback pile or the one on your Kindle.

Then there is the dilemma of whether you’ll read short stories or another novel or non-fiction.

There is no one right answer to how you answer these.

I find I read a load of things on my Kindle for a while, then switch back to paperbacks for a bit, and that’s fine with me.

I just need to stop wasting half hours every now and again making up my mind and just get on with what matters – the reading!

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Further Thoughts On The Writing Game

Image Credit:  Pexels/Pixabay unless stated. A huge thanks to my guest authors on this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post for their author and book cover pics.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am thrilled to share the second part of my CFT series on The Writing Game – and What to Watch For Part 2. Plenty of advice and tips here, Hope you enjoy. A big thanks to all of my guest authors. This week I feature guests from Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books. Topics include handling professional jealousy and checking contracts.

This series is the kind of one I would have welcomed when I was a new writer especially. Why?

Because you don’t realise at the outset how much there is to learn. You don’t know what the pitfalls and hazards are. You’re not aware, to begin with at least, of the difference between vanity publishing and real self-publishing.

It is only when you’ve been writing for a while and you make author friends that you pick up tips and good advice from them, as well as from organisations like the Society of Authors.

If there is only ONE reason to go to writing conferences and events (when such things are possible again), the learning from others is, for me, the most important one. No one author can know it all.

Mind you, there are LOADS of other excellent reasons to go to writing events when you can and via Zoom etc in the meantime.

The nice thing about all of this? Later on, you can share what you have learned with others who, in turn, will share it later. What goes around literally comes around in writing circles – and it should always be to the benefit of the writer!

Hope you enjoy.

Many thanks for my guests this week – #DawnKentishKnox, #GillJames, #AmandaJones, #PaulaCReadman, and #AmandaHuggins.

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Have gone from walking the dog before it became too hot, creosoting fence panels, to editing to about to have a lovely Zoom chat with writer pals.

Am looking forward to sharing Part 2 of my new CFT series – The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. Full of top tips, this week’s installment shares advice from writers from Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books. Link up tomorrow.

Need to get back to flash fiction writing but hope to do that over the weekend. Am also enjoying preparing material for a blog where I will be a guest. Now off to chat!

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Facebook – General – and the Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers – The Reading Challenge

I talk about The Reading Challenge in my monthly spot on More Than Writers. This is the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers.

This month I ask if writers SHOULD find reading a challenge.

So over to you. What do you read that challenges you? What benefits do you find from that? Do you read outside of your usual genres and how do you find that works? Has it inspired your own imagination and, if so, how?

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks to my lovely guests for their advice and tips in Part 2 of The Writing Game – and What to Watch For, my new CFT series.

As well as avoiding the scams (as we all must), the writing game does have a fun side to it! There are so many kinds of writing to explore so if you’re not sure which is for you, try different ones out. You’ll soon know which you are likely to stay with, which you might write occasionally, and those you loathe!

Exploring different forms of writing led me to discovering the wonderful world of flash fiction and blogging. I have no regrets about either!

Whatever you’re working on this weekend, I hope you have a splendid time writing.

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Mixing up how you find ideas for stories is always a good thing to do. It’s fun too. I think that was the major thing that I took from the Zoom creative writing workshop I was on recently.

I’ve mentioned before that I will sometimes start my flash fiction with what I know will be the closing line and work backwards to get to the starting point. At some point I ought to try a line that would work best in the middle of a story and see what I can do with that. To work forwards and backwards would be a good challenge!

Stretching yourself in writing in different ways helps you discover what you like and, best of all, find new ways of writing stories you also develop a liking for – and it keeps you on your toes.

 

What have been the differences for me in writing FLTDBA and my new book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, which is due soon?

I’ve had more fun with TTFF in terms of where and when I set my characters. I’ve also written some linked flash fiction for this one, which is a first for me, and I hope to do more of that. I strongly suspect some haiku flash fiction tales might make it into my next one!

Again themes have emerged as I put the collection together but I hope to talk more about that later. I am planning to have a cyberlaunch in due course and am looking forward to that.

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Fairytales with Bite – Reasons to Love Fairytales

Nobody really needs a reason to love fairytales, of course, but for the less convinced I offer the following:-

1. They are often the first stories youngsters come across and are a gateway into the wonderful world of reading. Once that spark is lit, there should be no turning back. It is no coincidence that those who read more develop a larger and more wide ranging vocabulary.

2. There is a clear sense of right and wrong in fairytales. (That appeals to children and those who decided growing up was overrated).

3. Some stories can act as warnings.

4. The stories can reflect injustice and cruelty but also usually have those things stopped by the end. (In life so often these things are not stopped. It is good to have stories where matters are rectified, justice is done etc. This is something shared with good crime stories too).

5. They’re great stories (reason enough!).

In fairytales the dragon does not win. (Shrek inverts that concept but there the dragon is one of the good guys. Love that idea).

This World and Others –

What Every Piece of Writing Needs

While every genre has specific requirements, what every good story needs can be summarised as follows. (A lot of this can apply to non-fiction too).

  1. Memorable characters with distinctive voices. For non-fiction, this equates to a memorable narrative style and voice. Think of documentaries you have loved. What made them stand out? A lot of that will be down to the narrative voice.
  2. A plot that keeps the reader enthralled and has plenty of ups and downs. For non-fiction, it is a case of setting out what you want to share with the reader in an entertaining and informative way. No dull list of facts etc. You want to engage with your reader and draw them into the world you’re trying to show them.
  3. To meet the needs of the reader whether it is to entertain them with a story or show them something they hadn’t known with non-fiction. You really do need to know your audience.
  4. A powerful ending that delivers on a promising start.
  5. No sagging middles!
  6. A good, memorable title which hooks the reader.
  7. To be a good advert for the other writing you do!

 

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Interviews and Good Stories

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated otherwise.

Facebook – General

Well, okay, I grant you, the weather HAS cooled down a lot since my last post but it has been a bit of an odd day here. Squally rain and blustery winds. What season are we in again?! It is June! Having said that, I am grateful for the temperature drop, as is Lady.

If you ask a writer to name their favourite book or story, they’ll usually reel you off a considerable list. (I am also guilty of this).

Ask us to name a book or story we don’t like and we might come up with a few but there won’t be so many. Part of that will be due to the stories in question being forgettable for us. We move on to what we hope will prove to be a more enjoyable read next time (and we do move on. Life is too short to do otherwise).

We want to remember good stories. We want our stories to be good stories people don’t forget.

Yet at the same time any negative reviews for our books and stories stick stubbornly in our heads like glue and those are the ones we SHOULD forget!

Funny old weather again today, though at least Lady and I didn’t get hot on our walk. Good to catch up with family in NZ on Zoom this morning (UK time). Then Zoom church which was lovely.

Also good to meet up with family yesterday for natter and nosh in the great outdoors. Lady had a wonderful time “hoovering” up. For someone who loathes the vacuum, she does do an excellent hoover impersonation. 😀😀

Writing wise, I’ll have a story up on Cafelit again soon and look forward to sharing the link to that in due course. I look at interviews in my spot on the Association of Christian Writers’ More Than Writers blog this month. Hope to share link on that tomorrow. I’m going to be setting some puzzles in my CFT post later this week too.

Drafting more flash fiction and am pleased with how the edit on my short story (1500 worder) worked out. Hope to give that story another read through and final polish before submitting later this week.

Have a good writing/reading/both week!😊

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Facebook – General – 

and Association of Christian Writers –

More Than Writers – Interviews

It’s always a pleasure to write my monthly post for More than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers’ blog. This time I talk about interviews.

I look at what I enjoy about them and how you can use them to outline your characters.

I also discuss using open questions for my Chandler’s Ford Today interviews and share some advice for those not yet published or who are just beginning their writing journey. Interviews are useful to think about NOW.

Hope you enjoy.

 

No chance of Lady and I being too hot today – rain for most of the day! Still, the park will look a lot nicer for it tomorrow. And my roses are blooming lovely. A friend gave me the ones I have at the front as the variety is called Allison. They smell nice too (and I do usually as well! 😀😀😆😆!).

Have got a few things coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today which I look forward to sharing when I can. Will be brimming with useful information. That’s about all I can say for now.

Plans for the week including prepping the above things for CFT, giving an edited short story the final read through and then submitting it for a competition, and continuing to work on my longer term projects.

Also plan to write more flash of course. The nice thing with that is when I’m really pushed for time and I know I’ve only got 10 minutes, that’s when I jot down a very rough draft of a flash tale, knowing I can finalise it later. Those 10 minute slots add up over the course of the week and you can get a fair bit done in them. So if you only have little slots of time, use them!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What do I want my flash stories to do?

Chiefly to entertain of course. Books and stories are wonderful forms of escapism.

While I have nothing against “real life” writing, far from it, I do want stories to amuse, entertain, and/or inform me, but not depress me about the state of the world. I can get that from watching the news.

I do want to be able to identify with the character, whether or not I agree with what they’re doing and/or their attitudes. I want them to be able to make me react, whether it is to inspire pity, make me laugh, or what have you.

The difference with flash is all of that has to be done in a compressed word count but it does make you focus on what matters to your character. You should have no doubt that this story has to be told “by” this character and that what they have to reveal is vital to your readers.

Sometimes that vital element is to make your readers laugh! Both P.G. Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett did rather well out of that though neither were up for the Booker or anything like that. I am all for the laughter makers, always have been, always will be.

In between the laughter, that is when I will look for a story to move me in a different way so I come back to the lighter hearted forms of fiction, ready to enjoy that all over again.

But a story that doesn’t make me react in any form is not something I’m going to read again. Indeed it is highly likely I won’t get beyond the first paragraph.

And that serves as a useful pointer for me with my writing. What impact do I want my story to have on others? It is a good thought to keep in mind.

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I’ve just listened to the wonderful Pachelbel’s Canon in D on Classic FM and it made me think of repetition as its theme is repeated throughout.

Repetition can be a useful device in a story though for flash it has to be used sparingly. I don’t use it often because I want to use my restricted word counts in better ways but sometimes it IS the thing to do when the type of story or character needs/would come out with the kind of emphasis repetition gives you.

For this kind of story, I tend to repeat an odd word in close succession to build a “beat”. I used this technique in my story Why Stop Now by repeating the word “here” in the opening sentence (and more than once too!).

I did it for emphasis and it also shows something of the character who is doing the repeating. (Clue: this is one of my tales where it even gave me the creeps so I hope it does the same for you if you read it – it is meant to!).

I think it is true for any writing device that you need to think carefully about why you want to use it and why it is the best thing for your particular tale/character. If you can tick the boxes on those two thoughts, go ahead. It will be the right thing to do.

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I’ve been talking about interviews tonight as it was the topic of my ACW blog spot this month for More Than Writers. I’ve also interviewed my own characters from time to time.

I work out what it is I want to know and then ask a series of questions. Good questions to consider include the following but I’m sure you can think of loads. It really is up to you to work out what you need to know and frame the questions around that.

1. What do YOU think is your best quality? (You can use this one as a test as to whether your character is deceiving themselves or not).

2. What is your biggest weakness? (Again, you can use this to test how honest your character is).

3. What do YOU think others think of you? (You can also get an indicator of how much your character is likely to care about this depending on their response!).

4. What is your biggest fear? (Naturally as author you will make them face up to it too!).

Now for the shorter flash fiction stories, I tend to look at what my characters’ main traits are and how these are likely to land them right in it. (Such good fun that!). And for longer stories, you might want to ask more questions. But I have found, regardless of length of story, for that tale to work I’ve got to know my character inside out and questions like this help a lot with that.

 

I was watching one of the old Ealing comedies late last week (The Lavender Hill Mob starring Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway). Great story, fab acting, and all packed into about 75 minutes or so. (Flash film, anyone?!).

My overall favourite Ealing comedy is The Ladykillers which, if you’ve not seen it, is dark with its comedy and worth checking out. Again stars Alec Guinness and a very young Peter Sellers. We probably wouldn’t think much of dark comedy being such a “thing” now but back when it came out, I think it may have been a different matter.

What these films have in common is a tightly controlled storyline. Not a thing is out of place. Not a thing could be taken out without the films losing something important. Good lessons for story writers there, regardless of what word count you work to!

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Habits That Annoy!

Aside from the obvious one of people turning down corners of books (which is even more irritating when they’ve borrowed the book from you!), what annoying book habits “get” you?

1. Feeling yourself about to nod off when you’ve been looking forward to reading all day and you’ve managed to read about two minutes’ worth of glorious prose. Yet you know if you make yourself keep reading, you will wake yourself up and then not be able to sleep properly when the time does come for lights out.

2. Not being to make up your mind about reading from your Kindle or paperback bookshelf and by the time you’ve decided, guess what? It’s lights out time again.

3. Looking for THE one book you’re longing to read, knowing you’ve got it somewhere, but can you find it when you want it to hand? Surprise, surprise – no!

4. Managing to pick up that hardback you’ve been looking forward to reading and end up dropping it on your foot. Some of these big beasties hurt when they land on your toes!

5. Having two books come out at about the same time by your favourite authors and not being able to decide which one to read first.

Of course, all of the above COULD just be me but I don’t think so!

Over to you then. Can you add to the list?

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Books On The Radio

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is all about the links between books and radio. I also share the radio interview links for YA author #RichardHardie and myself when we were on #ChatandSpin radio recently.

(I also share the link with Wendy H. Jones‘ marvellous podcast The Writing and Marketing Show where I discussed, well what else, flash fiction!). This is a post you can read AND listen to! Hope you enjoy.

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It was good fun to take part in the Chat and Spin radio interview, as well as being a guest on Wendy H Jones’ The Writing and Marketing Show.

(For more see my CFT post this week called Books on the Radio – https://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/books-on-the-radio-local-a…).

Now I’ve mentioned before that preparation is key and it is. I prepared too much material for both shows but (a) I know I can use that material at some point and (b) it settled my nerves a bit knowing I had material to hand. I can’t overstate the importance of (b) there!

I hope to put some of that material on my website at some point (but you can still check out my website anyway meantime!!). See https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/

I also hope after the Waterloo Arts Festival event I’ll be involved in on 12th June to put the video I made for that on my website too.

And yes preparing material for future website usage is also a good idea and helps to keep that fresh and keep followers interested.

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Am at the very happy stage of the second edit on my Tripping the Flash Fantastic, which is due out later this year. Also planning my blurb and cover material. All good fun to do!

(Will be following my own advice on a recent CFT post in that I hope to have a cyberlaunch in due course and I will be preparing material for that too. It is always better to have too much material and not use all of it than be in a panic on the night because you haven’t got enough!).

Have also selected another writing competition to have a crack at. Deadline is not until July but that gives me plenty of thinking time. (I will set my own deadline for this to be the end of June so I make sure the story is in well ahead of time and I have time for that extra polish which can make all the difference beween a piece being accepted or not).

When I don’t have a lot of time to write, I draft blog pieces and build up a stock of these. It means I’ve got something ready to edit and send off where appropriate as I blog for the Association of Christian Writers and sometimes have pieces appear in their journal, Christian Writer.

I also like to have pieces to hand that I can adjust and turn into articles for Chandler’s Ford Today.

So always something to do then and that’s just how I like it!

 

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How do you feel when you get to the end of a first draft?

Relieved that part is over?
Sorry that part is over?
Dreading the edit(s) (especially as you know there’ll be more than one!)?
Wishing it hadn’t taken so long?

For me, it is a combination of the first and last ones! So over to you then. What is your reaction the moment you write The End for the first time?

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Facebook – General – and

Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers –

Honest Writing

A busy night for me this evening as it is my turn on the More than Writers blog spot. This is the Association of Christian Writers’ blog and my piece this time is called Honest Writing. Hope you enjoy.

 

Twitter News – @AllisonSymes1

I’m slowly learning to use Twitter more and I thought I’d share something here which is also a good piece of marketing (and great fun to take part in!).

The only book I couldn’t get into the above tweet was Magnetism where I have a short story. This book was produced by Gill James and features the work of Cafelit and Bridge House authors.  It is very much meant to give a flavour of what we do. To get a FREE COPY of this book, you just need to sign up to Books, Books, Books.

Magnetism Small

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The “oomph” moment in a flash fiction story can take different forms and be in varying places in the tale.

The whole mood of my story Calling the Doctor (see book trailer below!) changes on the very last word. This is why it is one of my own favourite pieces.

One of the challenges of flash is to find the right “oomph” moment for your character and to place it in exactly the right place in the story.

In this case, had I placed that particular word earlier in the story, the impact of the story would have been severely diluted.

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

My CFT post this week is about Books on the Radio and I’ll be sharing links to radio interviews on Chat and Spin Radio which YA author, #RichardHardie, and I took part in recently. I’ll also be looking at the general role of books on the airwaves. Link up on Friday.

Naturally for the radio interview I was waving the flag for flash fiction and books being a perfect form of escapism. And whether you write them or read them or do both, that escapism is so welcome right now!

My favourite flash stories are the ones that make me smile or laugh though. I do like the emotional ones where you really want the character to do well and they can’t/don’t but, for me, you can’t beat a good laugh.

Flash lends itself well to humorous stories because they often work so well when kept short. Flash helps a lot there!

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Fairytales With Bite – Making Space

I believe fairytales and fantasy fills the spaces between reality and chaos. Why? Because so many tales in these genres reflect what we can be like, while others give strong moral messages. Why do we need such things?

  • To guide us as to what our behaviour should/should not be;
  • To show us what life could be like without kindness, gratitude etc. Would you really not want things to come right for Cinderella, for example?

As writers, we also need to give our characters space to develop in themselves and as part of the plot development. A character who doesn’t change will be of little interest to readers.

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This World and Others –

How Do You Know When A World Is Going To Work?

I would say that a fictional world has worked for me when I can:-

  • Spot connections between the fictional world and the real one we know here.
  • See what is better on the fictional world and wish we had it here. (Flying carpets anyone? No emissions but I’ve always thought the landing on those things must be on the rough side and there is definitely no in flight entertainment. You’d be hanging on for grim life, yes?).
  • See what is worse on the fictional world and be glad it’s not coming here.
  • Can understand what the lead character has to contend with and how the setting helps/hinders them.
  • Can see further stories being set in that world, even if it is not with the same characters. That is always a good sign. For me, the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett really took off when it could “host” the Rincewind stories, the Vimes ones, the witches ones and so on. I also liked looking for the connections between the different series. For example a character would refer to another one not appearing in the story. It wouldn’t matter if you hadn’t read the other story. Referring to other characters like that implies a life above and beyond the immediate world of the story you are reading and that is great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Writing Does For You

Image Credit:  As ever, the images are from Pixabay or Pexels, unless stated.  A big thank you also to The Chameleon Theatre Group for their pictures in the Chandler’s Ford Today post.

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I’m delighted to share Part 3 of the mini-series from The Chameleon Theatre Group’s look at life off the stage.

This week they share what their favourite performances have been. I would be hard pressed to name my favourite show from them. I’ve relished their classic drama and some wonderful comedy and hope it is not too long before they are able to be back on stage again.

Good writing, for me, is all about character portrayal convincing the audience (a reader) but it is also true for acting. Actors have to convince those watching them and a good show always leaves you with that feeling you have left the real world to enter another one for a short while.

A good show can leave you feeling a bit disorientated when you have to come back to the real world again, as indeed finishing a good book can do. And I am pleased to say every Chameleons show I’ve been to has left me with that feeling of total immersion in the world they’re showing me on the stage, which is a very good thing indeed.

It really is all about the characters and how they are put across, whether you are writing them or acting them!

Captions over on the CFT post.

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Another good show of support at 8 – well done all. Tonight, Lady decided to join in. Okay she can’t clap but she can bark so that counts! Now back on the sofa, dozing, duty done!

I’ll be sharing the latest in the Chameleons mini-series on CFT tomorrow. This time they’ll be sharing some of their favourite productions. I’ve been to a number of their shows now and I would be hard pressed to name a favourite though Blackadder was outstanding, as was All My Sons. Very different moods too

!What do I look for in a good show? There is a lot in common here with what I look for in a good book. I want great writing, moments that move me whether to laugh or cry etc and to be totally convinced by the characters (as written or as performed in the case of a show).

How does a character convince me enough to believe in their portrayal? For me, a series of different things need to add up. The main one is I need to know what their main trait is and how that manifests itself. It isn’t always directly either. Characters can fool themselves as to what their main trait is – it is how the great hypocrites of literature work after all. They never see their own hypocrisy!

I also need to see how characters react when things go wrong. Their reaction should be true to that major trait.

For example, take The Ladykillers (brilliant film and stageshow – The Chameleons performed it a while back but alas I didn’t get to see their version).

We know from the outset that the Professor is a master planner. As the story develops we see how that plays out but we also see how he unravels as things go wrong. That makes sense. Someone of that kind of nature would be thrown when their very clever plan is wrecked by something they didn’t anticipate. Couldn’t anticipate even.

Do check The Ladykillers out if you don’t know it. It’s a fab story and you’ll see what I mean about the Professor!

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Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers –What Writing Does For You

It’s my turn on More Than Writers, the blog spot of the Association of Christian Writers. My topic this time is What Writing Does For You.

I also ask how we can make the most of writing and how to ensure we keep on enjoying it. Enjoyment of writing is vital. It is that spark which keeps you going no matter how many rejections etc that come your way. I share a few tips too.

Hope you enjoy.

 

 

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Following on from yesterday’s post about the random generator (see below!), one of the questions from that would also be useful for setting up clashes between characters.

What is the meaning of life will have different meanings and nuances for different characters.

If Character A thinks the meaning of life is to be found in nature but Character B thinks it is all about development (both as an individual and as a society), there will end up being conflict. The latter is far more likely to consider development worth it regardless of the cost. Character A is unlikely to agree! And off you go with your story!

Also consider whether your particular clash could be used for comedy or tragedy. Some themes are useful for either so exploit that. There’s nothing to stop you taking a theme and using it in two different directions for two different stories after all.

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I had a quick look at the random question generator tonight for ideas on developing story ideas.

For example what emerged tonight included:-

1. What is the meaning of life?
2. Name three beautiful things in nature.
3. What is the biggest personal change you’ve made?

Firstly, you could use 1 for a character who is trying to find out the answer to this! I could see both funny and adventure stories emerging from how your character DOES try to find out an answer to this. Also do they succeed and how do they define success here? Is their meaning to life different from everyone else’s around them and if so how and why? What are the consequences? Definitely stories to be had there!

You can also use this question to work out what drives your character the most and again stories can come from finding that out especially if their driving ambition is at odds with those around them.

Secondly, you could use 2 to find out what your character thinks here. Can they easily come up with answers here or do they despise nature? What would they do to defend what they really like in the natural world? There are definitely stories to be told there!

Thirdly, you can obviously apply 3 directly to a character. What made them make their biggest personal change? Why couldn’t they have stayed as they were? Again there would be good stories to come from that.

Good luck and happy writing!

 

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As well as interviewing your characters prior to writing their story, a writer can always ask questions of their “stars” as they get the first draft down. It’s useful to check every so often that your characters are “up to the job” of being in your story.

Putting your characters through the emotional wringer is a lot of fun (for the writer naturally) but it is a good way of finding out what it is your people are capable of and whether they can surprise you.

If you envisaged Character A as being timid, quiet, unassuming etc., what would a dramatic event do to them? Would it change their personality for good and if so, how? Would having to say, come to the rescue of someone else, bring them out of their shell?

All worth thinking about. The point of change is not just about the dramatic events in the story. It is about the point of change in the characters too.

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Fairytales with Bite – When The Magic Wears Off

There are times I wonder what happens when the magic wears off in a classic fairytale. Does Cinderella become fed up with her Prince Charming or he with her come to that? There are stories to be written there of course (and a fair few humorous ones at that!) but while magic is an important part of a fairytale, it is not the only one.

You still have to like the characters enough to root for them. You still have to think that, once the fairy godmother has packed up her wand and gone home for the weekend, the characters can get on with their happily ever after without her. They have to be strong enough characters in their own right to do that. No amount of magic wand usage in a story is going to save a weak character (in terms of how they appeal to a reader).

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This World and Others –

What Do You Need to Know About Your Created World Before You Write It?

Even for a piece of flash fiction or a short story set in another world, you ought to work out what you need to know before writing your story. It will affect how you write the tale for one thing (in terms of approach as well as what you put in the story).

If, say, your created world doesn’t have oxygen, your character is going to have to be breathing something else (!) – so what is this and how do they manage it? For example if your world is an underwater one, do all of your characters have gills? (They don’t necessarily need to be fish).

If it is a magical world, is your character able to perform magic or is he/she/it part of a lowly underclass forbidden from using it? (There could be some interesting stories there).

If your character is from one of the “lesser” species in your created world, why are you writing about them as opposed to the “top dogs”? What do you need to show us? (An obvious theme here would be to show that “lesser” species could produce heroes etc).

For a short story, a few notes will probably be enough to get you started. Working it out in advance will save you so much time later. I’ve found it helps me “cut to the chase” far more efficiently when getting that first draft down.

For a longer work, you will need a decent outline as it will be even more important for you to know your way around your own creation before committing too much to your story. Inevitably you won’t put everything in but the material you have left over may well be suitable for a second story or be excellent background material to share with future fans on your website.

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Quizzing and Questioning

It’s not often I start a post using the letter Q (which is generally best saved for getting a high score in Scrabble!).

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

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Quizzing your characters can be great fun and often leads to you to finding hidden depths to your creations.

Sometimes you can find your characters are more shallow than you thought initially they would be but you can use that. Shallow characters can be used for comic effect. They can also be a pain in the neck to your lead character.

Work out what their place is in your story. Work out if there is a reason to their being shallow. Do they develop at all? If not, how do they help or hinder your lead?

Work out what you think you need to know about your characters. You should find that leads to other questions but the more you can envisage your creation, the better it is for you to write them into existence. Because you know them well, you will write about/for them with conviction and something of that does come through to your readers.

 

It’s my turn on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog More Than Writers. This time I discuss Feeding Your Writing. (For gardening fans, I will say now it doesn’t involve Baby-Bio, though I admit I love the image from Pixabay below. Given some of my flash fiction is fantasy based this is particularly apt!).

I share some thoughts as to how you can feed your writing and why it is so important. Hope you enjoy.

 

I’m going to be sharing Part 2 of The Chameleons Say Hello series for Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. Their Spring Quartet production, due to be staged in April, is now off, unfortunately but understandably. The Ritchie Hall where they perform does not have a big stage. It is amazing what The Chameleons achieve given the limited space but it does make the 2 meter rule nigh on impossible to achieve. (I’m still in awe at the amazing set they built for Blackadder).

Do check out the interview later in the week and the previous one (there’ll be a link back in the post I put up on Friday). The interviews make for a great look at life behind the stage.

Being the nosey parker that I am, this kind of thing always fascinates me. The world of books can show you different life experiences, real or imagined. Interviews can also you aspects of life that you won’t experience directly but are fascinating to read about nonetheless.

And I hope it is not long, relatively speaking anyway, before The Chameleons get to entertain us again ON the stage.

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I’ve just discovered a new random generator – a random question one! I think I could have some fun with this.

Firstly, you could use the questions to help you develop your characters. Quizzing characters is a great way to finding out more about them before you write their story.

I’ve always found that this leads to better depth of characterisation. I need to know Character A loathes cheese because they were forced to eat it at school because cheese is somehow going to feature in my tale and it will be a major issue for them. Now that’s just a very random example but you see the point.

Secondly, you can use the questions as titles and/or themes.

Thirdly, get your character to answer the question and make that the story!

For example, one question that came up when I found this was:-

If you inherited or won a million pounds/dollars etc, what’s the very first thing you would do with the money?

Now there is definitely a story in that! I shall explore more of this generator. Really pleased to have found it.

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Following on from yesterday’s post, I did write a story based on the random question generator question I shared with you yesterday. Will polish and submit that in due course.

Having another look at the generator, I’ve found you can change category of question as well. That will be useful.

Another thing which will be useful from this is you can ask yourself WHY you have answered the question the way you have.

For example, the question that has come up tonight for me is “If you could start a collection of one kind of item, what would it be?”.

(In my case, books. I already have a good collection but that’s not a good enough reason to stop buying books! All I’m limited by here is budget and, for print books, shelf space! Oh and while I think about it, a big thanks to all of my writing friends for writing wonderful fiction. I’d always been a little bit lacking in reading contemporary fiction. Classics not a problem, contemporary was. Not any more it isn’t! One of my little pleasures in life is walking past my book case with my friends’ books on and even more so at the moment given I can’t see any of them for goodness knows how long. You good people know who you are! Well done and thanks, all!).

Now as well as answering that question directly for a character you’re creating, look at WHY the character would collect antique cuckoo clocks or whatever it is you have chosen. Are they trying to compensate for something they felt is lacking in their life? Are they fixated by time? What problems could that cause them? Have they a deep appreciation for the cuckoo (and yes the possibilities for a funny story are there!)?

So dig deeper. Answer the question. Then look at why. See what you come out with. There will be stories in the answers to the “why” question as well as to the “what” one! Try it and see. Have fun.

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Moving on from random things, which kind of writing competition do you prefer? One with a set theme or one which is open?

I love and take part in both but must admit I do prefer the set theme. It provides a framework for me to work to and I find that useful. It also forces me to think outside the box a bit more because I don’t want to go with a take on the topic that is likely to be a very popular one.

Whatever take I do use is something I want to be able to make unique. So, okay, there’s no new love story in the world for example, but that won’t stop them being written and rightly so. What is wanted is your unique take on a love story and your voice coming through and appealing to an editor.

Taking part and being one of the winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition has been a joy due to this aspect. One theme. One maximum word count set for us all (1000 words so handily just counts as flash fiction!). Fifteen winners. Fifteen different stories and styles. A jjoy to be part of. An even bigger joy to read the collection of stories (and if you want to know more, do check out my Amazon Author Central page – the two collections to date are Transforming Being and To Be…To Become).

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At what point do I know if a story has come to life?

For me, it’s when I can anticipate the character reactions and actions based on the set up I’ve created for them.

If, say, I’ve created a character who is greedy, I can anticipate them carrying out some action which will help them satisfy that greed. (It doesn’t mean I have to like them OR their actions!). The anticipation should be realistically based on how I’ve portrayed the character.

Sometimes a character surprises me but it will still be in keeping. For example, my character could be greedy for money but what if they’re NOT keeping the money for themselves? What if they’re helping someone else or they’re being blackmailed?

Now that would change the course of the story BUT the greed still makes sense. The actions to satisfy that greed makes sense. It’s the motivation that will change what a reader thinks of the character and that is a good place for a surprise to come in I think.

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Goodreads Author Blog –

What Is It About Reading You Love The Most?

Hmm… could write chapter and verse on this one. I mean, where do you start? But here goes:-

My great love is characterisation so the success of a book to me is dependent on how well the characters appeal to me.

To be honest, much as I love Jane Austen, I’m not keen on Mansfield Park. I much prefer the more rounded Austen heroines in Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion etc.

My second great love here is when the book makes me forget time and the world around me because I’m too engrossed in the world of the story. Now that is an undisputable sign of a great story.

I love it when reading shows me worlds I have not known, including right here on Planet Earth. Good non-fiction comes into its own here.

I love it when I discover new genres. I’ve always loved fairytales and still do, but finding the wonderful worlds of well written historical fiction, crime stories etc., has been fantastic.

I love following the development of characters in series novels. It is like catching up with old friends when you come across them in Book 2 etc and discover in this one they’ve married someone they weren’t dating in Book 1! (You’ve got to find out why, right?).

And, like so many writers, I’ve got a soft spot for quietly overhearing conversations (well, you never know when you’ll hear something interesting that could spark an idea for a story of your own!), reading dialogue in fiction is exactly like that.

Reading helps me unwind, entertains me, informs me – what is there not to like?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cyberlaunches, The End, and Flash Fiction

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay, unless otherwise stated. (Images of The Hayes, Swanwick were taken by Allison Symes)

It has been a fun few days as I was one of the co-hosts for Patricia M Osborne’s cyberlaunch of her second novel, The Coal Miner’s Son. What follows is a kind of a report on that. Many thanks to Patricia for inviting me to take part. It was great fun – as a good launch should be!

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I’m looking forward to taking part in #PatriciaMOsborne‘s cyberlaunch for her second novel, The Coal Miner’s Son, tomorrow evening. (I interviewed Patricia as part of my CFT series on What Books Mean To Me a while back and I have guested on her website as part of her blog and her 100 word challenge. We are both also huge fans of Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, not least because we met there).

This is the follow up to her debut book, House of Grace. Obviously more on that tomorrow but very best of luck, Patricia, and hope you have an absolute ball with your launch.

I had a great deal of fun with mine for From Light to Dark and Back Again. Cyberlaunches are a fab opportunity to celebrate books and support writer friends. Always worth dropping by!

One of the loveliest things about the writing community is it is so supportive and launches, cyber or otherwise, bring that out. And best of all they are fun!

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Many thanks to #PatriciaMOsborne for inviting me to take part in her launch of her second novel, The Coal Miner’s Son. This follows her debut novel, The House of Grace.

A very good time was had by all at the launch and the lovely thing about online launches is that the calories in the cakes and drinks provided simply don’t count!😆

I am planning to hold a cyberlaunch for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, when that is out later this year. Preparation is crucial for you as the writer to get the most out of it I think. It helped me to relax into the event and get a real party feel going.

(And it WAS a wonderful party at Patricia’s launch tonight too!).

Launches are important for the obvious reason of getting the news of our books out there, but they also help a writer to have fun with their book after all their hard work in writing and editing it.

Cheers to that!

And congratulations, #PatriciaMOsborne, for a wonderful launch for The Coal Miner’s Son. (I love that cover! Do check out the link to Patricia’s Amazon page, given above, to find out why I love it!).

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I always feel a sense of relief when I write The End for a flash fiction or short story. (I should imagine the sense of relief for a novelist is proportionately larger depending on their text length!).

I do know the hard work is shortly going to begin with the editing but there is that moment when you know you’ve got something to work with and that’s nice. It shouldn’t be unappreciated either. You have finished the first draft.

The great thing is nobody but you has to ever see that first draft. I know from mine what a good thing that is!

For competition entries, I always take at least a week (and usually a fortnight) off the official deadline to ensure I have time for any final tweaks and still get the piece off in good time.

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Hope to draft some flash pieces on my train trip to Birmingham today for an Association of Christian Writers’ event. It is a great form to draft on a smartphone!

The only thing I make sure of is to put plenty of story prompts on Evernote before I travel so I have more than enough to write up.

If I ever forget to do that, I brainstorm opening lines and then write them up. Of course sometimes what I think will be opening lines make far better closing ones, but it’s fun to find that out!

When I started writing short stories, I nearly always used the third person. For flash fiction, I still use that, but I’ve developed a great love for using first person. I love its immediacy. I can tak you right into a character’s head and I have my narrator for the story literally to hand.

Flash, due to its brevity, means you can’t have too many characters as you’d quickly fall foul of word count requirements.

For example, if you want three characters in the story, you’ve got to have at least one good reason for all three to be in there. How many words will you use to get those good reasons in?! And even if you manage that well enough, what room have you got left for the actual story after all of that?

So using the first person is a handy technique but that is all it should be. I make myself mix up first and third person usage to avoid falling into the trap of all of my stories sounding the same.

Good reasons to get a writing event if you can and that includes online events (so travel is not a problem!):-

1. You will make writing friends who will totally understand your addiction to writing (and it IS an addiction). They also celebrate your successes and commiserate with your woes and that is vital. The writing community is precisely that, a community. We take the “no man is an island” bit seriously!

2. Said writing pals will tell you about competitions and markets you had not heard of as no one person can know everything that’s out there. You will also share useful news on similar lines to them.

3. You will get a lot from the courses and talks you go to as well!

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Book trailers were completely new to me until Chapeltown Books produced the excellent one for From Light to Dark and Back Again. Yes, I know I’m biased… (am not sorry, so there!).

Flash is a great vehicle for book trailers since as a form it can fit into a trailer beautifully and give a useful free sample to potential readers. I prefer using the 100 words or under for this.

A sample of my flash fiction work. Job Satisfaction was first published in From Light to Dark and Back Again by Chapeltown Books in 2017.

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Stalls at Writing Events

I love writing events anyway but I particularly enjoy having a good nose around book stalls/book rooms at these things. Wild horses wouldn’t keep me away and all that…

It’s always a joy to see works by friends, as well as my own, on these stalls too. But they also prove to be good opportunities to have a look at works and authors new to you.

So go on, at the next event you go to as a writer, put your reader’s hat on too and see what you can find. Explore reading avenues new to you as well as enjoying favourite genres.

And for non-writers, one of the best ways to support author friends is to go to their events. The great thing is you are likely to come back with your next good read too! And that is always a good thing!😊

 

Writing Prompts and Publication News

Image Credit

As ever, images are from the fantastic Pixabay, unless otherwise stated.

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Association of Christian Writers  – More Than Writers

My turn on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog spot, More Than Writers.

I’m on the 29th so that means I get every three Februaries off! 😆😆

Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful. Mixing up how you write stories is fun and keeps you on your toes too!

I talked about writing prompts in my monthly slot for the Association of Christian Writers today. As well as sharing some tips, I share a story I produced using one of the tips. Annoyed librarians may well like it… hmm… go on have a look then!😊

What I’ll add here is that I’ve found it useful to mix up how I approach writing a story. It keeps things interesting for me. It keeps me on my literary toes too.

By mixing up the methods, I avoid the dangers of becoming formulaic too. I don’t want any of my stories to sound the same to a reader after all. What I do want is someone to read my stories and spot my voice through them all, but to also enjoy each tale for its uniqueness. My characters are very different people after all. The way I tell their stories should reflect those differences too.

 

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Loved the finale to Doctor Who but that’s all I’m saying about that. It is nigh on impossible to say anything else without unwittingly revealing a spoiler so best not, I think. Give it a week and then I should be all right on that!

Well portrayed characters, for good or evil, will keep you glued, whether they’re on the page or on the screen. The challenge as a writer is to ensure the characters you create have that quality to keep a reader hooked. How do you make the readers care about what happens to your people?

Firstly, YOU’VE got to care what happens! Thankfully this happens rarely but I have come across instances where I’m bored with a character portrayal and I suspect the author became bored too.

Secondly, your character has got to have a problem that must be resolved somehow. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a life or death problem, though that is obviously a great one for winding up the tension in a tale, but the issue your character HAS to resolve must be something they can’t run away from. Their situation won’t improve until they DO do something etc.

Thirdly, your character mustn’t give up easily. When their initial attempt(s) to get out of their situation fail, how do they react? Do they learn from their failures? What gives them the break through to success?

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Story time again. Hope you enjoy. A little humour at the end of a busy Monday is never a bad thing!

Taking Time Out From the Day Job is my latest tale on Cafelit. (I’ve written flash fiction tales with fewer words than the title for this one in my time but there you go!). I have every sympathy for my lead in this one.

It’s lovely having one of my humorous fairytales with bite up on Cafelit.

Taking Time Out From the Day Job shows what happens when a fairy decides to do just that.

Hope you enjoy reading it. I loved writing it but then I do adore characters like this one.

It is a real contrast in mood from my recent linked stories on Cafelit but now you know why my collection is called From Light to Dark and Back Again. It sums up what I write!

Just to say that #ParagraphPlanet archive stories at the end of each month and the February 2020 “lot” are now available. See the link.My Time Is Everything is amongst the collection here. #flashfiction #amwriting #75wordstories

Is it easier to write to a specific word count or write the story first and then work out what the word count would suit it best?

Hmm… I’ve done both. The discipline of working to a specified word count is a great one and keeps you on your toes. It really does force you to check that each and every word has to be included in your tale. If there’s anything that doesn’t carry its weight, out it goes.

When I am working to a theme or title (often generated by random word generators), I write the story first. I see what I have, edit it, and then decide on whether it would work better at 100 words or 200, for example.

However you write, have fun!

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Conflict in stories can take many forms of course but some of my favourite tales are the ones where a character is in conflict with themselves.

This is why I find Gollum from The Lord of the Rings an interesting character. You know you can’t trust him but I found on reading the tale for the first time, I desperately wanted him to somehow come good at the end. (And I’d say it’s open to interpretation whether he did or not. I am with Gandalf on this one when he says Gollum had his part to play in the history of the Ring and left it there).

In my story, Rewards, which is one of my longer flash tales, I use thoughts to show my lead character’s conflict. The reason this tale needed to be towards the upper end of the flash limit was because I needed some space to show those thoughts and then how my character acted on them.

But then that’s the joy of flash. You can go from the tiny tales in terms of word count to the longer ones but still have a limit you need to stick to. (I do find that a really good writing discipline. It’s why when I prepare my Chandler’s Ford Today posts I set my own word count and stick to it. I have to have parameters!).

The conflict a flash fiction writer has is deciding what word count will work best for their story. Sometimes you do have to go to the upper limit. Sometimes you can say all you need to in 100 words or less. Always think of the impact of the story on a reader. Don’t water it down by padding it out. If the conflict in the story is played out in 250 words, leave it there! But if you need 999, that’s fine too.

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Symbols have a great deal of meaning of course. Can they be used in flash fiction?

Yes, as long as readers are likely to know the meaning of the symbol or can get to the meaning from context. As with any writing, clarity is the important thing here.

Could you come up with your own symbols for your characters?

Yes but it would be useful to base them on what we already know.

For example, red roses are associated with love but what could black roses be associated with?

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Reviews are so important for any writer for a variety of reasons but the good news is they don’t have to be lengthy. One or two lines would be absolutely fine. A big thank you, while on topic, to all those who have been kind enough to review From Light to Dark and Back Again.

So if you’re looking for a way to support author friends, do review their books. The one caveat is reviews have to be honest for them to have any meaning. Honest reviews also aren’t usually at risk of being taken down!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/…/B07T…/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Story Openings

What is it about a story opening that makes you want to read on?

For me, either the character has to be “hitting the ground running” in such a way, I’ve got to find out what happens to them, or the set up is intriguing enough to make me want to read on.

Mind you, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the classic fairytale opening of “once upon a time”.

There is the wonderful association with happy childhood reading of those great stories. That opening just, for me, sets the tone for what is to follow.

I know to expect fairy godmothers turning up at surprisingly convenient moments. (I’ve always wondered why Cinderella didn’t berate hers for not coming to her aid a lot sooner but that’s another story).

I know to expect talking animals (and I should imagine the Three Bears had quite a bit to say about Goldilocks that was best kept off the page. I know how I’d feel if someone destroyed my chair and bed – though they’d be welcome to the porridge. I’ve never liked the stuff!).

I know to expect the villains to get their comeuppance. It’s just a question of finding out how and when.

And there is something wonderfully poetical about Charles Dickens’s opening to A Tale of Two Cities (which I confess I’ve not read but is on my To Be Read list), but even I love the sound of “It was the best of time, it was the worst of times” and the rest that follows. The rhythm of that opening paragraph is amazing.

So what I’m saying here is I want a story opening to take my breath away so I have to read on. Now there’s a challenge for any writer (including me!).

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Storms, Flashes, and Podcast News

Image Credit:  As ever, unless otherwise stated, all images come from the magnificent Pixabay.

Podcast News

I’m delighted to say I am the guest on Wendy H. JonesThe Writing and Marketing Show talking about flash fiction tomorrow, Wednesday, 12th February. Wendy is a Scottish crime writer of the DI Shona McKenzie series and also writes about Bertie the Buffalo for children. Do check her website out for more information.

The podcast was a wonderful opportunity to chat about why all writers should write flash fiction, even if is not their main work. More on the show and I look forward to sharing the link on the next post on Friday.

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And In Other News…

Am very pleased to say my website links are now included on:-

  1.  Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Swanwick Connections page.
  2.  The Association of Christian Writers’ Members’ Website page.

Facebook – General

I’ve set up a page on my website where from time to time I share some flash fiction stories and look at how I wrote them. I hope this will be useful for other flash fiction writers and entertaining anyway!

I had great fun yesterday evening putting together a simple video for Putting My Face On and think it works well. (See below and on the link too).

Hope you enjoy!

 

Horrible day weather wise with the storm (Sunday, 9th February in the UK – Storm Ciara). Hope and trust everyone is okay. Did like seeing the full moon rising tonight and the way it lights up the clouds though. The clouds DID have a silver lining tonight! (One sign to confirm the weather is truly awful is when Lady wants to finish her walkies quickly and she did today).

Good day today. I’ve finished drafting a standard length short story which gave ME the creeps (and yes it is meant to!) and I’m looking forward to polishing that and submitting it later this week. Will have more news on the publication front fairly soon too.

Have a good week and I hope the weather soon calms down.

 

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I can hardly believe it is the 80th anniversary of the first Tom and Jerry cartoon. Always loved those two (but then I’ve always been a fan of the kind of story where the underdog clearly has the upper hand of the “master”. The Jeeves and Wooster stories by P.G. Wodehouse are the sublime prose example of those).

Never despise “light” entertainment whether it is in the form of a cartoon or book. Escapism is invaluable and something I think most of us need, for one thing. For another, this kind of thing is harder than it looks to write. If anyone makes anything look easy, you can bet they’ve been working quietly away for years to get to that point.

I do take some comfort in knowing there are no shortcuts in writing (it means it’s not just me taking the scenic route!), but I take even more from knowing very little is ever wasted. Even rejections can teach you something you can use to improve your writing. And I’ve lost count of how many stories of mine didn’t get placed somewhere, I’ve looked at them again, reworked them, submitted them elsewhere and, as a result, got them into print/on to screen (sometimes both).

Persistence is a virtue when it comes to writing but a better one is being open to looking at your writing and thinking well, I could do this bit better… Time away from the piece is crucial here for being able to give yourself distance but it does pay off.

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I was delighted to find this picture on Pixabay (and you wonder why I like them so much!). Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

What is your inner vision and are you making progress towards it

What is your reaction when you come across a book you don’t like? Do you carry on reading? Do you abandon it and maybe try it again at a later date?

In my time, I’ve done both. The latter has been more successful. For example, I tried reading The Hobbit when I was at junior school but I just couldn’t get into it. Now, of course, I have no problems with it. Sometimes it is a case of timing. YOU sometimes have to be “ready” for a book.

Very rarely do I abandon a book altogether. Even then I feel a sense of failure. I do wonder if it’s just me. What is useful though is to analyse what it is was you didn’t like and make sure nobody can say the same of your books and stories! So even a book that, for whatever reason you couldn’t get on with, has its uses for a writer!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When do I know a flash fiction piece is going to work?

When the story makes me feel the way I want it to make a reader feel, whether it is to make them laugh, cry, or, on occasion, scream!

One of the joys of flash is its almost instant impact but there definitely has to BE an impact! Incidentally slice of life studies can work well here too because the impact there is to make you care for the character you’ve just read about.

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Today was the perfect day, weather wise, to stay in and write and/or read! It’s about the only good thing to say about the horrible weather… I trust things are calming down where you are. Trees down here but it looks like damage is limited.

I don’t use the weather a lot in any of my stories partly because, with flash, there is limited room for description, and I always think the character is far more important anyway. I would rather show you a character battling through the elements than focus on the elements themselves. I’m also determined not to be caught out by the “dark and stormy night” cliche!

 

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How to spot a writer Part 1:-

1. They mutter and probably swear at spotting yet another typo in whatever it is they’re reading. (Guilty here: last one that really annoyed me was the ITV news report online which had Isle of White instead of Isle of Wight. Someone didn’t check the place names there…).

2. Their other half has to drag them out of bookshops OR plot a route around any area that is lucky enough to still have said bookshops. This is particularly important if they have an appointment in two hours time or less as it will be the only way to ensure that appointment isn’t missed. If you tell me you couldn’t possibly spend two hours in a bookshop, then I’ll know you’re not a writer!

3. Flash fiction writers are easy to spot. They will get their smartphone out at every opportunity and will tap away on it. Some of them might even use a stylus (Guilty as charged). If desperate, they will grab a napkin and draft something on the back of that. (Before you ask, not yet, but I suspect I will do this at some point!).

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How to spot a writer Part 2:-

1. You can’t move for them in stationery shops. (We are all suckers for lovely pens, notebooks etc). Guilty as charged on this one.

2. In coffee shops, they are likely to be in a corner, phone or laptop plugged in, and they’ve made one drink last at least an hour so they can get some writing done. (Not quite guilty on this one. I always buy a hot drink and at least one other cold drink if I know I’m going to be there for a while).

3. The flash fiction writer will be keen to explain what their genre is to anyone who will listen so it is more of a case of them spotting you. On the plus side they will know the importance of Less is More for their genre and will keep their talk short and to the point. (Another clue as to who the flash writers are is in their speech. If they seem to cut out all adverbs even when talking, you know you’ve found one). Ahem…

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Goodreads Author Blog – Why Read Then?

Strange question to put on Goodreads, isn’t it? We all love books and stories. Reading is a way of life.

Celebrating books at literary festivals and/or writing conferences is a lovely part of life too!

But it is easy to forget reading isn’t a way of life for everyone. Books have to compete with other forms of entertainment for people’s attention. Sadly, books don’t always win.

I was deeply saddened once, when on a book stall with some other local authors, I heard someone walk by and loudly exclaim “I don’t do books”. Hmm… I wonder why that is? Nervousness about reading? Too many associations with bad experiences at school? I thought the comment was so sad, and I still think that.

I read to:-

1. Escape the world for a bit. (It is beyond me people don’t latch on to this more. The great thing books are legal, they won’t make you put on weight, or give you a hangover).

2. Be entertained in a way that suits me. I don’t have to commit to reading for three hours at a time (though chance would be a fine thing!). If you’re in the cinema and it’s a long film, you really do have to love it otherwise you’re in for a dull evening.

3. Discover different worlds in a way that I choose. I vary my reading. I’ll read crime books for a while, then historical fiction, then short story collections etc. But I choose which worlds to explore and when and I like that.

What I don’t want to see is books being seen as “elitist” or anything like that.

Happy reading, everyone!

 

 

Panto, Numbers, and Publication News

A real mixed bag tonight but hope you enjoy!

Image Credits:-

Firstly, a huge thank you to the lovely people at The Chameleon Theatre Group for kind permission to use their photos as part of my review for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I’ve included a couple of photos I’ve taken but the majority are from them.

Secondly, all thanks to Pixabay as usual for the other images used. Thirdly, thank you to Penny Blackburn for the picture of me taking part in the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic Night last year. Great fun! Now down to business…

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my review of the excellently performed show, Atlantis – The Panto. Well done to all at The Chameleon Theatre Group. Also I look at why an eclectic mix of music and a decent villain are vital to a good pantomime. Both are as important ingredients to a successful show as having a convincing Dame is.

I was intrigued by this story as it is not one I knew. How does an underwater adventure work as a pantomime? Well I had to find out…  Captions as ever for the Chameleon photos over on the CFT link.

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I loved going to the panto by The Chameleon Theatre Group last week. (Oh no you didn’t, oh yes I did, oh no…etc etc!). I had no idea what Atlantis – The Panto would be given it is not one of the classic fairytales pantomimes are usually based on. All I knew was it would have to have an underwater setting and I was interested to find out how that would be conveyed. (Good use of suitable music, the right costumes, props etc is the simple answer to that).

For stories, especially flash fiction, inference and implication play a big part in scene setting. If I told you someone was wearing a red coat, that would conjure up possible images for you. (For me, it would conjure up memories of a favourite red coat I had as a kid). If I then add one hyphenated word “moth-eaten”, that image will change, as will the mood of the story. The person wearing said moth-eaten coat is going to be poor, possibly homeless, and that will set the tone of the story too.