Characters, First Person, and Impact

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you had a good weekend. Have a weekend workshop coming up which I’m running – looking forward to that. Also preparing for a weekend conference I will be at in June (and where I’ll run one of the workshops. Naturally mine is on flash fiction). Weather all over the place again but then that is a UK spring for you!

Screenshot 2022-04-23 at 17-00-06 Finding your voice — London Jesuit Centre

Facebook – General

Lady got to play with her pals Coco and Kitima today – a good time was had by all.

Writing wise, I’m looking forward to running my workshop at the London Jesuit Centre on Saturday. Hope to have a visit to the National Gallery in the afternoon.

And my tickets have now come in for the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend at The Hayes, Swanwick in June. I must admit I am seriously impressed when booking my train tickets online. Always with me in a day or two after booking, even at the weekend. And no queues!

Am almost ready to submit a story for one of the competitions I always have a go at but I always make myself slow down a little to do a final “is it really good to go” check. I’ve found it pays to do this.

I’ve picked up last minute errors doing this and that’s despite having gone through the manuscript several times previously. It is easy to miss something. Hope to get the story off tomorrow or Thursday, and still in good time for the official deadline.

Time away

Hope you have had a good Monday. Busy, busy, busy here.

When I read any story, it has to be the characters I get behind, whether I want them to succeed or fail. Their success or failure must make sense and be the right things to happen for those characters. If a character has a problem solved with magic, say, I need to know earlier on in the story that might be a possibility so I don’t feel cheated when the author reveals this to me at the end.

To get behind the characters I have to care about them so there has to be something about who they are and what they do I “get”.

When I invent my own people, I try to keep all of that in mind so readers can identify with the people I put on the page/screen.

Above all, I have got to know what happens, whether I’m reading or writing a story.

Readers understand character failings


I’m back to my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today this coming week. I’ll be talking about Paragraphs and Punctuation In Fiction on Friday. Both have a crucial role to play for clarity, improving pace in a story and so on.

Am looking forward to running my fiction workshop for the London Jesuit Centre next Saturday.

Now when I write a story or a post like this, I have one question always in the back of my mind – what is in it for my potential readers? I’ve found having that in mind helps me to (a) not waffle and (b) come up with useful writing tips or a story which entertains. That question helps me ensure I deliver something useful and makes me focus. For my flash fiction work, the word count there helps me focus as I cannot go on for too long.

In trying to engage with a potential audience immediately, I write with them in mind and I think that helps me “up my game”. “Upping my game” means I stretch myself creatively too so win-win. Also for book writers, it helps enormously to have your audience in mind from the word go because it will help when it comes to pitching your novel to a publisher and/or agent as they will want to know who you think your potential audience would be.

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Have booked my train tickets for the Association of Christian Writers Worth Our Weight In Gold Golden Jubilee celebration. This will be at The Hayes, Swanwick from 3rd to 5th June and I’ll be running my flash fiction workshop as part of it. Looking forward to meeting everybody in due course.

Many thanks for the comments coming in on One of Those Days, my latest Friday Flash Fiction story. This was fun to write and inspired by two nouns coming up in a random noun generator. What came up here for me was “waitress” and “tiara”, not things you would usually associate together.

But then that’s the joy of random generators. They encourage you to think creatively and to put things together you normally wouldn’t do. Lo and behold, you get another story written which would not have come to you in any other way.

Screenshot 2022-05-06 at 17-04-48 One of Those Days by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The advantage of writing in the first person is you get into your character’s head immediately. The disadvantage is you can only see or think what your character can see or think. That works well for short pieces though so this is why first person is a good technique to use for flash fiction. (Essential for monologues naturally!).

I didn’t set out with the intent of writing more in the first person but it is something that has sprung from my flash writing. For first person to work, the character has to be a strong one so I find I have to ask myself why does this character “deserve” to get their story told at all and what it is about them that means “they” have to tell the story “themselves”.

Deadline


It’s funny how music can grow on you the more you hear it. Am currently loving listening to my favourite Mendelssohn piece – The Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave) on Classic FM. As at 8.00 pm UK time Monday night but there is never a time when this piece of music does not enthral!

The more I hear this piece, the easier I find to picture the scenery in that fabulous part of the world. (I’ve not been to that part of Scotland, it is on the To Do list, but I’ve seen plenty of photos and it is those I have in mind when I hear this).

When I write my flash fiction pieces, I do have in mind the image or impact I want my stories to leave with the reader. When I review my stories, I check how the tales make me feel. Does this compare with what I had in mind when I was drafting the story? Often the answer is yes and that is how it should be.

Sometimes though the impact is stronger than what I had in mind originally and that is even better!
As for my latest story on YouTube, A Magical Design, I have every sympathy with my lead character. See what you think!


Just to flag up that Amazon have an offer on both of my paperbacks – see screenshot and link for more.

As you know, I love inventing characters so having to do that all the time for flash fiction is a wonderful bonus for me. I also adore mixing up the moods of my stories so I get to write “light” funny tales and I get to write to deeper levels of emotion too. I get to write monologues, I can take you straight into the action by getting you to see what my character sees, and I don’t make you wait too long for the pay-off for twist endings or humorous punchlines. And even if you didn’t want to make flash fiction writing your main “thing”, it is still incredibly useful as a warm up writing exercise.

Screenshot 2022-05-08 at 16-28-17 Amazon.co.uk Allison Symes


Hope you have had a good Saturday. Nice day here. Lady got to play with her gentleman friend, a gorgeous Aussie Shepherd, who is a sweetheart. Both dogs so pleased to see each other. Our other (and much missed) dogs would say “hello” to other dogs but were not sociable in the way Lady is – they had a rotten start in life and having found “doggy heaven” with us didn’t really want anything else.

I’ll be spreading the word about flash fiction workshops over the next couple of months and am currently judging a flash competition.

On the writing side of things, I’m working on something I want to submit shortly to a competition. So busy-busy but in a good way.

Let nobody tell you that you have to have loads of time in which to write. Those odd moments of time we all get are useful for jotting down potential ideas for flash stories and flash non-fiction pieces. A writing session spent brainstorming ideas is never wasted. I often spent my odd five minutes here and there doing things like this. I then have things to refer to later which I can then write up into first drafts.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Is the Film Ever As Good as the Book?

Now there’s a controversial question! And my answer to it is “it depends”.

For The Lord of the Rings, I feel Peter Jackson’s trilogy of films does do justice to the books, though there are scenes missing from the films. I never understood this incidentally. Given the films were so long anyway, I would have had the missing scenes in the films given another twenty minutes to the running time wasn’t going to make a lot of difference in my view.

Where films can help is encourage people to read the original books. I watched Oliver Twist where Alec Guinness played Fagin and Oliver Reed played Bill Sikes. Excellent, and scary, performances from both of them. The story gripped me and I read the book immediately after seeing the film (it was on BBC2 one late afternoon years ago). And I’ve always loved The Muppet Christmas Carol for where Gonzo recommends viewers go and read the original of A Christmas Carol after watching.#

So films can help fuel reading. And if a book I’ve loved is adapted into a film, I’m more likely to want to check the film out, if only out of curiosity to see if they have stuck to the spirit of the book or not.

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Originality in Fiction and Alphabetical Writing Thoughts


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
It has been a busy few days. I have two blog posts to share tonight and a new story on Friday Flash Fiction. In most of the UK, it is a bank holiday this weekend so I hope those who can enjoy it. Wouldn’t mind the weather being a bit warmer though!

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today and More Than Writers

Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s a busy night tonight. First up, I’m pleased to share my latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today. I talk about Originality in Fiction and discuss whether or not we can be truly original in what we write given we are all inspired by what we have read and as there are only so many basic plots.

I also look at finding and making the most of your author voice (which is key to being original), and at how to put your own take on an idea. Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful and do share your thoughts on originality in the comments box.

Oh and talking of CFT, Janet Williams, my lovely editor, and I had an absolute ball at The Dragon of Wantley pantomime put on by the Chameleon Theatre Group last night. Oh yes we did! Review to follow in due course.

Janet and I very much treat our trips out like this as “CFT works outings”! They’re an absolute joy to go to -and the panto was a hoot from start to finish. The Chameleons had to delay this from January but it was definitely worth the wait! More to come in my review.

Originality in Fiction

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More Than Writers – the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers

My second post tonight is for More Than Writers, the blog spot of the Association of Christian Writers. I blog monthly here and my topic this time is Alphabetical Writing Thoughts. Great fun to do and I get to share a number of useful tips and hints. Again, I hope you find this one fun and useful.

 

Am off to the panto this evening with my lovely CFT editor, Janet Williams. Oh yes I am…!

So not too much on the writing front from me today though I will be making up for that tomorrow with my double blog for CFT and More Than Writers. That’s it. No blog for ages then two come along at once, you know how it is!

I have no idea what the storyline is behind The Dragon of Wantley, which is what I’m off to see tonight, but I do know it will be fun finding out. And it will be lovely having a nice night out with guaranteed laughs – that is the joy of panto. Yes, it may be unseasonal but The Chameleon Theatre Group had to put it off from January and I say better late than never, especially after the last couple of years where there was no live theatre at all. It is lovely having live events back again.

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It will be a double blog from me on Friday with my Chandler’s Ford Today post out on Originality in Fiction. Also my More than Writers post, where I blog monthly for the Association of Christian Writers, will also be out and I’ll be talking about and sharing Alphabetical Writing Thoughts. I look forward to sharing both posts later in the week. See above.

Don’t forget I send out my author newsletter on the first of the month so if you would like to sign up for tips, prompts, news etc., do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I’ve mentioned before for my fiction work I always have an Ideal Reader in mind. I do the same for my blog posts. I try to think of what they would find useful about this story or blog of mine and tailor them accordingly. I find doing this helps stop me going off at unhelpful tangents. Having an Ideal Reader in mind from the start helps with targetting your work to the right place (market or competition) as well.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I hope you enjoy my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. The starting point idea for my story, Reflection, comes from a random object generator and I then took things from there as to why my character would want the object.

Screenshot 2022-04-29 at 19-00-20 Reflection by Allison Symes

I sometimes write historical flash fiction pieces. For these, I give my characters the benefit of being able to speak to us in language we understand so I don’t use Olde English. It’s not easy to read and clarity is everything for a story, especially a short one. What I do do is be accurate and everything I come up with is either based on fact or reasonable supposition given the known facts.

I sometimes get my characters to address us the readers and then go on to show us their perspective on things. I hope this is a way of making those characters seem more real. I think that is even more important the further back in time you go. It is easy to forget these were real people with real feelings. I hope my flash pieces here can correct that to an extent. Honesty in characterisation is vital as otherwise the reader simply won’t believe the people you present to them.

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Hope you have had a good day. Chilly today. Not that Lady noticed. She was too busy running around with her best buddy, the lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Whether I write my stories in the first or third person, I try to ensure my opening line has an intriguing hook immediately. There has to be something to entice the reader in to want to find out what happens next.

With my reader’s hat on, I know I want to be enticed to go on reading! Okay, okay, you don’t have to try too hard with me to get me reading. I do read the menu in the fish and chip shop because it is there, it has words on it, and words have to be read etc but I can be switched off by something that doesn’t grab me.

Writing flash fiction has meant that I have to hit the ground running from the opening words. There is no room to “run into” the story. And if I’m not intrigued by the story premise, I also know nobody else will be either. I have to be excited about writing it!

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Fairytales With Bite – Fairytale Acrostic

F = Flighty fairies, not likely!
A = Able to conjure up spells to bring down the arrogant – and they do.
I= Intelligent and they see right through to a character’s soul.
R = Reality for them is coping with everything from a dragon to a witch trying to build gingerbread houses again.
Y = Young? Not necessarily. The best have been around for centuries. Age is not a thing for them.
T = Tough but kindhearted, yes you can combine the two. They are anything but twee.
A = Always ready to help someone in distress.
L = Like helping people, loathe liars and cheats.
E = Experts in getting to the truth of a matter and not caving in to evil.
S = So why would you annoy a fairy? Only if you’re incredibly brave or foolish and my money would be on the latter.

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This World and Others – Games and Puzzles

When I’ve finished writing for the day, I like to unwind with an online game of CrossCraze (a version of Scrabble). So words still come into my “play time”! But I inherited my love of word games, as I did my love of reading from my late mother.

So in your created world, are games and puzzles a “thing”? If so, can anyone join in or do certain species play one type of game or puzzle and others have their own they have to stick to? Are the games and puzzles anything like the ones we have here? If so, what is different about them that could only exist in your fictional world?

I love a game to relax but what does your world use them for? Could they use them to assess intelligence (and therefore someone’s role in their society)? Can they use the games to control people?

Or is this kind of thing seen as a waste of time? If so, what kind of recreational activities are your people allowed to do and why are they only allowed to do these?

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Workshop News and Questions


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you had a good weekend. Tonight’s post looks at questions and aspects of flash fiction writing. I also share some exciting workshop news.

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Facebook – General

Hope Tuesday has been a good day. Lady loved being with her buddy, a smashing Hungarian Vizler, today. Still a bit chilly for April, mind you.

There are offers on both From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See the links (and the screenshot) for more.

My train tickets for my trip to London to run a workshop for the London Jesuit Centre arrived today. News on the workshop further down.

I was impressed with that. I only booked the tickets over the weekend – and these were sent out by second class post too. I nearly always book tickets like this online. It means I’ve got them and, as ever, when I go on trips like this, I hope to get a certain amount of writing done thanks to Evernote enroute. I vary what I draft here – from potential blog posts to flash stories, to my To Do list – it all proves useful!

Screenshot 2022-04-26 at 20-06-33 Amazon.co.uk Allison Symes

Loved listening to the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams on Classic FM just now. It always gets my vote in their annual Hall of Fame. Music can conjure up images and with this one it is an image of time travel all the way back to Elizabethan England. Absolutely adore that (and I think it is far better than The Lark Ascending so there!). I listen to classical music as I write and find it helps me unwind. A relaxed me writes more!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be on Originality in Fiction. Link up on Friday.

Am off to a (postponed) panto on Thursday (it was due to be on in January). Am off to see The Dragon of Wantley as performed by the Chameleon Theatre Group, my local amateur dramatic company (and very good they are too).

Looking forward to meeting up and having a good chat with Janet Williams, my lovely editor at CFT, who is also going. Review to follow in due course. And I know what will be particularly nice about this show will be the laughs – panto is wonderful for that and I can’t help but feel that will be a much needed tonic for many right now.


Sunny and blustery today. Weather still a bit odd. The wind is almost gale strength at times.

Booked my train tickets for the workshop I’m running at the London Jesuit Centre in May. (Again see further down). Looking forward to that.

Am also getting my May newsletter ready. To sign up for that, just head over to my website (landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

A huge thanks for the wonderful comments in on my Where Am I?, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. The feedback on this site is fantastic and I’ve found it so useful. It is also nice to know you’re not on your own – there is a supportive writing community out there. Thank you, all!

 

Hope Saturday has been okay for you. Busy out in the garden mowing the lawn and kicking Lady’s ball for her at the same time. Yes, it is do-able! Makes for an interesting if somewhat unusual workout! Used to do this for Gracie and Mabel too.

Workshop News

I’m running a workshop called Finding Your Voice – Writing Fiction – How to Get Started for the London Jesuit Centre in May. Looking forward to this very much. See the link for more information.

Will be running my flash fiction workshop for the Association of Christian Writers as part of their Golden Jubilee weekend at The Hayes, Swanwick, Derbyshire over the weekend of 3rd to 5th June (and yes, we will raise a glass or two to Her Majesty as well!).

Looking forward to seeing everyone at both workshops!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

As I mentioned on my author page, there are offers on both of my flash collections. See the links for more. Grab yourself a bargain!

Another thing flash has shown me is how important character is when I enjoy a story, whether I write it or read it. I’ve got to care about what happens to the character for a story to work for me. Genre is far less important. And to care for a character at all, I’ve got to understand what motivates them and what they are aiming for. I do need to see where they are coming from and yes that goes for the villains too. I just don’t have to agree with the latter!

I wasn’t expecting to write more in the first person when flash fiction entered my life but it happened and I sometimes write monologues as a result. These work well for flash as monologues are at their best when they don’t go on for too long.

The important thing is to ensure your character has a strong enough voice to carry a monologue. Why would the reader want to know what this person has to say? What keeps the reader reading? Because they’re intrigued enough to find out what your character has to say and in flash you know you don’t have to wait too long to find out. So flash and monologues can be a very good match up.

Monologues can also work well for my YouTube tales.

Talking of which, I hope you enjoy my latest one – Mirror, Mirror.

 

I talked about asking questions yesterday and, continuing with that theme, another advantage to doing this is that it gives you a basic story structure immediately. Why? Simply because the question set has to be answered in some way by the end of your story.

All stories have to have a point of change and here the answer to that question is the point of change. Also there has to be conflict and resolution in any story – the question is the conflict which has to be resolved and the answer is the resolution.

The character can answer the question directly. Equally you can show them “acting” the answer out. For example, if my question was something like does love change anything?

I can get the character to “show you” by getting them to reflect on whether they think this is true or not. They can narrate something of their life to show the answer. I do this in my They Don’t Understand from From Light to Dark and Back Again.

I can also get the character to “show” how their idea of love answers that question. If they are trying to obtain love and they succeed, then they are showing you that love does change something – it changes their life.

Questions are useful then. Even when I don’t use a question directly, I always ask questions of the characters I’m outlining and that triggers story ideas. The answers that come to me tell me what I am going to do with that character and away I go and write their story up.

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Asking questions is a great way of fleshing out ideas for a story. I’ve often used questions as the theme for a story too. Sometimes I’ve used them as a title. But I mainly use them to get to know my character better. What do I ask?

Things like what is your major trait? What kind of trouble could this lead you into? (A great story always has trouble in it!). Could your major trait, if generally seen as a virtuous one, ever be misconstrued? What is your attitude to others? What kind of things can’t you stand at any price?

Questions that reveal a character’s underlying attitude to life are excellent for getting to what they are really like. Once I know my character, I find I can write them up. I know what their journey is likely to be. They can still surprise me but those surprises will fit in with the traits I’ve uncovered. I usually get my surprises as I am asking those questions of my lead characters. That’s when I sit up and take notice and ask myself what can I do with this? I usually find something!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books You Must Read

Every so often lists come out showing books you must read (and sometimes by a certain age at that). I admit I take absolutely no notice of these lists (other than to note they are out again)! Why?

Because the books I must read are the books I must read. I am always happy to take recommendations from friends (including via Goodreads) but most of the time I pick the books I want to read and leave it there. Some of my picks are based on my genre (I read flash fiction and short stories as well as write them (and I love reading outside my genre too).

I think it is more important to have a good mixture in your reading “diet”. I like to read magazines, books, novellas. I like to read non-fiction as well as fiction. I like to read online as well as print books.
I’m not a huge fan of literary fiction. I do like genre fiction (and utterly dislike the snobbery against it in some quarters. I’ve never understood this. Good writing is good writing, whether it is in a literary form or in a genre book).

Life is too short to read books you’re “supposed” to read. I focus on reading books I know I’m likely to enjoy. My non-fiction reading is where I go outside of my comfort zone a bit because here I specifically want to learn something (but it can still be done in an entertaining way).

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Spring-like Writing


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
A hectic start for the week for me after a lovely and happy birthday weekend spent with family. Mind you, snow is forecast later in the week. Never let anyone tell you the weather in Britain is dull – it is anything but!

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Facebook – General

It’s my turn on the Association of Christian Writers blog spot, More Than Writers, today. This time I talk about Spring-like Writing. What do I mean by that? Well, I take a look at the mood of our writing but also discuss the “energy” within a story. Hope you enjoy the post and many thanks to all who have sent in some wonderful comments already.Screenshot 2022-03-29 at 20-34-37 Spring-like Writing by Allison Symes

Hope you have had a good start to the week. As ever, it has been a hectic Monday here but at least there is only one Monday in any week! Had a lovely weekend with the family (Lady adored having everyone here) and I was back to story writing yesterday.

My latest More Than Writers blog for the Association of Christian Writers is out tomorrow, I’ve sent something off to Friday Flash Fiction, and I’ll share a new YouTube video on my book page shortly. See below for link. So not a bad start to the writing week then!

I look to complete certain things by the end of the week (such as two of my website round-up blogs on the Tuesday and Friday) and then work on stories and blogs around that. It means I know what I’m doing on each day and helps me ensure I never waste a minute of precious writing time.

I like to hit the ground running for my writing as well as getting my characters to do likewise. It keeps things interesting for me – and I trust for my characters too.

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#Had a wonderful time with friends and family at my birthday do yesterday. Lovely to have a good chat with the fabulous #JanetWilliams, my editor at Chandler’s Ford Today. It’s been a funny week. I started off coming home from Scotland to having a big do and I could so have done without losing an hour’s sleep this morning thanks to the clock change!

Talking of CFT, I resume my In Fiction series this week with an interesting post based around the letter K – Kindness and Killing in Fiction. How can I get a post out of a topic where the title is such a contrast? Link up on Friday – you will have to wait until then to find out!

My author newsletter goes out next Friday as well (see my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com for the sign up page).

Talking of my website, a big hello to all who have started following me here – it has been encouraging to see steady growth here.

And last but not least, there is an offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic over at Amazon. Do check out my Author Central page for more details at http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent


Getting together with family and friends today so thought I would post early. How do your characters handle get togethers? Do they relish them or dread them? And who controls the events? Is your lead character really the one running the show? They might think they are but…

Get togethers are often the source of family traditions so which would your characters have and do they uphold them? Do they cherish them or feel they are being held back by them? For your lone characters, which traditions do they remember from the past and do they miss these? How do they cope with being lone characters now? There is a sense of loss implied here so your story could focus on that.

This is where our own life experiences can help us in crafting a tale. We all know loss. We may not know what it is like to live on an alien world but we can take what we know of life here and help our characters to come across better to a reader. Empathy matters.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Have had one of those days where I’ve run late all day. But the nice thing about flash, and something I especially appreciate during a busy day, is with its restricted word count, I can still carve out five minutes some when during the day to draft a story! Or jot down ideas for stories, possible titles and so on. Those quick writing times mount up and give me a store of things to come back to when I’ve got more time. There is nothing to dislike about that scenario!

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It’s good to be sharing story videos on YouTube again after a brief break due to my being at the Scottish Association of Writers conference. Hope you enjoy A Scent of Sense. This story was triggered by a question which came up on a random question generator – what is your favourite smell? I thought it a good way to write a tale based on one sense and to focus on that.


If you’d like to check out some of my flash fiction, do visit my YouTube channel. As well as sharing mini stories there, you can find the two book trailers for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic, here, both of which have a free story included in them. Hope you enjoy (and new subscribers to my channel are always welcome).

Screenshot 2022-03-29 at 21-21-11 Allison Symes - YouTube

Am having a family do today in celebration of my birthday. It will be lovely seeing everyone again and the weather is gorgeous. So am posting early. I’ll be resuming my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today next Friday. I also hope to get back to writing for Friday Flash Fiction this week. And I’ve a number of blogs to draft so I will be out of mischief for some considerable time!

Now there’s no reason not to use gatherings in your stories as long as they move your plot on in some way. What could your character find out at a gathering that will make them change what they do next? And could it change the outcome of the overall story?

If your character Is the shy type and a gathering of any kind would fill them with horror, how do they find out information they will need for their “quest”? And how would they handle things if they absolutely had to to go a gathering? Don’t be afraid to drop your characters right in the mire – this is where you find out if they will sink or swim and where you will find out so much more about what they are capable of, whether that’s in a good way or not.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Celebrating the Booksellers

We should celebrate the booksellers, yes? If you’re lucky enough to have an independent book store near you, make the most of it! Even where you have a known chain, still support them. Where I am, we were lucky enough to have a lovely independent book shop as part of our main shopping centre but the owner retired (understandably) and now the nearest bookshops are at least five miles away.

One of the joys of going to a writing event, such as the one I’ve recently returned from, is there is usually a book stall connected to it. These are often run by a local independent bookseller so, as well as supporting the authors whose works you buy, you support these good people too. And it does make sense to support the industry you want to be part of!

Although online ordering can be convenient, I don’t want the physical bookshops to disappear. I think we would lose something important. Browsing through bookshop shelves is a far more pleasurable experience than trying to browse online!

So go and support your local bookseller. You know it makes sense.

Screenshot 2022-03-29 at 20-47-10 Celebrating the Booksellers

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At The Scottish Association of Writers Conference


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. I also took the photos from the Scottish Association of Writers (SAW) Conference. It was a joy to be north of the border for the SAW event. I had a wonderful time and the journey to/from by train was a wonderful chance to relax and get plenty of writing done so win-win there too!

The journey home

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share my latest Chander’s Ford Today post, At the Scottish Association of Writers Conference. It’s a real pleasure to report back from last weekend’s fabulous event. I also take the chance to have a look at the art of judging since, as well as running my flash fiction workshop there, I had the pleasure and privilege of judging one of their competitions, the Margaret McConnell Woman’s Short Story competition. I must admit I wouldn’t have minded winning the beautiful trophy myself!

And it was so nice meeting people in person whom I’ve previously only met thanks to Zoom as well as catch up with fellow Swanwickers (attendees of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School – we get everywhere!).

At The Scottish Association of Writers Conference

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Nice to get back to a good old swim today – perfect day to do it too! No flash fiction on Friday Flash Fiction from me for this week, hope to resume that next time, but do check out the fabulous stories on there. There’s bound to be something you’ll love (and for flash fiction writers, it is a great way to showcase what can be done with the form).

Will be sending out my author newsletter next week so if you’d like to sign up for tips, prompts, news etc., do head over to the landing page of my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com for more. I’ll resume my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today after this week’s post, which is a report on my recent time in Scotland.

I’ll be off on my travels again in June to run a flash fiction workshop for the Worth Our Weight in Gold celebration weekend the Association of Christian Writers are putting on to celebrate their Golden Jubilee. Looking forward to that especially since it will be at The Hayes, Swanwick, where I “swan” off every August for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

Plenty to look forward to then – and now on with the writing!

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Many thanks for the great birthday messages yesterday (22nd March). Much appreciated and it was a lovely day.

Something I found out just before I headed to Scotland for the weekend was that I will be having a story of mine out in The Best of CafeLit 11 later in the year. Very pleased about that (and delighted friends of mine will be in there too).

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be called At the Scottish Association of Writers Conference and I report back on my time there. Looking forward to sharing the link on Friday.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Nothing from me on Friday Flash Fiction this week (I hope to make up for that next time) but don’t forget to check the website out. There are wonderful stories on here and it is a joy to scroll through and have a good read. It is important to read well as well as write well and sites like this have a very useful purpose to serve in providing contemporary material for you to read. Enjoy!

I make a point of reading flash and short stories as well as writing them. I think it is vital to read in the field you’re in as well as reading widely outside of it. Inspiration for ideas comes from all manner of places including what you like to read so it makes sense to have a broad pool from which to fish, so to speak. Sometimes an odd line will strike you and ideas for stories of your own will begin to develop from the thoughts that have occurred to you as a result of reading that story.

So don’t let anyone tell you that you’re “just reading”. You are, in fact, carrying out vital market research and it is a lovely way to do it too, so there!

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How do you make the most of a workshop? Notebook and pen or laptop or app where you can take notes is essential. I note down any markets suggested by the speaker (to check them out later and see if they suit me). I also listen out for specific tips – it is the detail I am after. I can then work out how to apply that to my own writing. And if there is anything like a checklist or template I can make use of, I make a note of all that too.

But best of all is the fact if a speaker sets a writing exercise, as many do, there’s nothing to stop you polishing that piece up and sending it out as a flash fiction piece later on. I’ve done that and had work published as a result. Always see any writing exercise you have a go at as a rough first draft and do give them a go.

The idea is for you to produce a piece of work you can work on again later. Even if you get to read it out at the time, don’t worry about how it will come across. Nobody’s expecting perfection. What they’ll be after is seeing how you took the brief because that can confirm to them they’re on the right lines.

If your exercise is to write a 100 word story set in any world, it won’t matter if you set your tale in Fairyland and someone else sets theirs on a rodeo. What matters is getting a story down any old how. They’ve seen/heard how you’ve done it. They know they’ve got something in their notebooks which could be read out. They’ll be reassured and maybe encouraged to read their work out too. You also get instant feedback from those around you here and you can use that to help you polish your story later on.

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A huge thank you for the birthday messages yesterday (22nd March).

I’ve mentioned before that one thing I love about flash is the ability to set characters anywhere and everywhere. I was able to prove that point during my workshop at the Scottish Association of Writers conference last weekend. And it is something to make full use of – I love reading across many genres, so why shouldn’t I write across them too? You can do exactly that with flash with only the 1000 words beings the upper limit as your main restriction and even there, you can write across the spectrum. Some of my stories genuinely work better at 500 words or less so I leave them at that word count. Others need a little bit more “room” so I give them 750 or the full 1000 words treatment.

Flash has to be character led. I never liked reading lots of description. I always want to find out what the characters get up to and with flash you pretty much have to do that from the start. So win-win there as far as I’m concerned.

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Fairytales with Bite – Character Traits in Fairytales

I use character traits as my major way in to finding out about my “people” and writing their stories up. I have to know what they are made of in terms of those traits to work out what their stories could be. #

Positive traits can fail at moments of stress (and those can make interesting stories as the character comes to terms with their failure – or not). Negative traits can be overcome especially with the help of other characters and the story is all about how that “overcoming” is done (and why).

Traits are a major feature in fairytales. The arrogant are punished and usually need some act of love/kindness to be redeemed from whatever spell they’ve had cast on them as punishment. Powerful magical beings often disguise themselves humbly to work out who is worthy of their support and who definitely isn’t and here kindness is definitely rewarded eventually. It is a trait that counts for something in fairytales.

So think about what character traits you want to see in your people. What matters to you here? If honesty is important, would you show that through a character who is honest or one who isn’t and they get their comeuppance for that? In your fairytales, how would you like to see magic used? To benefit the kind in some way? When those who are not kind somehow get magical benefits, will there be a price to pay for “bucking the system”?

In working out what matters to you, you can work out what matters to your characters and that will help you set up a good story structure. If your character has to be honest, your story structure will show how that honesty lands them in it, say, and how they get out of that.

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This World and Others – Differences

Differences take many forms, of course. Differences in culture, language, what we find funny and so on. Most people have no trouble accepting others are different. But how does that work out in your fictional world? Are your characters tolerant or not? What would your fictional world count as “normal” or “different”? And does it react well to differences?

Fear can be a major motivator in the unkind treatment of others. If you dislike a particular trait, how would you act towards a character who has that trait in abundance? Would your character’s fear lead them to prejudiced treatment of others, for example?

If your fictional world is a monocultural one, how did that evolve? Was there ever a time when that wasn’t the case and, if so, what led to the removal or suppression of the other culture(s)?

How we handle differences can reveal a lot about us whether that is conscious or not. We can use that for our characters too.

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Travels, Flash, and Feedback


Image Credit:
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Am about to go off on my travels again. Am doing a LOT of talking about flash fiction this week but it’s great fun to do!

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Facebook – General

Busy packing ready for the Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference. Plan to do lots of writing on the train journey. I just love Evernote for this. I still just use the free version of it but find it is enough for what I want to do.

I’ll be off again on my travels in June for the Association of Christian Writers’ Worth Our Weight In Gold Golden Jubilee weekend in June and I am due to run a flash fiction workshop there too. Won’t have to go so far for that one – it’s at my old haunt The Hayes, Swanwick, Derbyshire where I’ll be back again in August for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

I’m getting plenty of use out of my railcard this year at least!

And a huge thank you to the History Writers last night for the wonderful feedback on my talk about historical flash fiction. Feedback is always useful and it is something I especially appreciate from Friday Flash Fiction too.

Now writing wise, when I’ve got editing to do, I block out periods of time to do it as I know I will need to focus. Those odd pockets of time that crop up now and again – ten minutes here, fifteen there etc – are best used for drafting something new or adding notes to something you’ve got in the pipeline.

I’ve discovered this over time of course but I am now better at suiting writing jobs to the time I’ve got available and that matters. It means I end up getting more done overall. Any spare capacity in terms of writing such as trips on train I just write as much as I can. I will find a use for this later. There’s always space for a spare blog column or more flash fiction stories. Little is wasted in writing. You can either find a home for it or learn from it (and ideally you do both).

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Many thanks for the kind comments and likes in on my post yesterday about owing my love of reading to my late mother. I treasure the books I’ve inherited from her too! See below for earlier post.

Looking forward to talking to the History Writers group tonight about historical flash fiction and to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group on Wednesday about random generators.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be a timely one – Journeys In Fiction. So apt since I am travelling up for the Scottish Association of Writers Conference later this week! I plan to post on Friday as normal.

My posts over the weekend will be at differing times but I am looking forward to the conference very much and to reporting back on it in due course. Am also looking forward to catching up with writing friends and making new ones – that is the great joy of a writing event for me.

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Today would have been my mother’s 88th birthday and it is thanks to her I have my love of reading. She taught me to read long before I started school and reading was just such a natural thing at home, it still seems odd to me that there are those who don’t “get” reading for pleasure.

Whether you read the classics, contemporary, the big blockbusters, the flash fiction collections (well, I was bound to mention them now, wasn’t I?!), or are a magazine “fiend,” what matters is reading. From that love of reading came a love of creative writing.

Many thanks, Mum.

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Many thanks for the wonderful comments coming in on Cherryade, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. I remember my kid sister and I going to the tobacconists at the end of our road, clutching our empty fizz bottles, ready to hand them in for money back. Ironically the fizz bottles came mainly from a wonderful firm called Corona – there are less positive associations with that word now! My favourite flavour was orangeade funnily enough.

The tobacconists also ran a sweet section – the old pick and mix types of sweet jar – so of course guess where my sister and I spent the refunds. Happy days – and I really enjoyed writing this story. Brought back great memories.

Screenshot 2022-03-11 at 09-56-02 Cherryade - What Not To Do by Allison SymesScreenshot 2022-03-10 at 20-01-14 Friday Flash Fiction

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am pleased to say the March 2022 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now free to download on Amazon. I write a monthly column here on all aspects of flash fiction writing and I set a challenge too. I talk about random generators this time, something I’ll be talking about again via Zoom to the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction Group tomorrow. Plus there are a wide range of interesting articles, stunning photos, and much more more so do treat yourself to a FREE read.

Screenshot 2022-03-15 at 20-26-41 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine March 2022 eBook Publishing Goylake Howe Hannah Smith Melanie Fae Sylva Jones Wendy H Macleod Sheena Symes Allison Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store

It’s Monday. Not a favourite day of the week for many including me so it is definitely time for a story! Hope you enjoy Alien Concept – am sure many of you will identify with this one.


I love writing across the genres with my flash fiction stories. It continues to be a great joy to write crime flash, historical flash, humorous fantasy flash and so on. I love reading various anthologies (short stories and flash fiction ones) and I love coming across a good mix.

And this is where what I have loved (and continue to love) reading influences what I write. I have to read some crime to be able to write a crime flash piece for example. The wider you read (and do include non-fiction), the bigger the pool you have to fish from for influences and inspiration. If that’s not a good excuse to put your feet up with a good book and a cup of tea/coffee, I really don’t know what is!

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Am so looking forward to being part of the Scottish Association of Writers conference next week where I’ll be running a flash fiction workshop. Always keen to spread the word about this wonderful writing format! Have a busy few days coming up in the run-up to that as I’m talking about historical flash on Monday on Zoom and will be talking again about random generators for another Zoom talk on Wednesday. But I do know one thing – it will all be great fun! Flash should be fun too. The challenge of coming up with different characters and seeing what I can do with them is fabulous and keeps me out of mischief well enough!

Goodreads Author Blog – Drawing in The Readers

If there was a simple way to guarantee drawing in the readers, then someone somewhere would be a very wealthy person for selling the secret to that! Speaking with my reader hat on, I am drawn to a book by (a) its cover, (b) its blurb, and (c) if I have already read the author’s work. If it is someone whose work I know and love, then it is pretty much guaranteed I will go for their next one.

Out of the cover and the blurb, I have to say I think the latter is the most important. That has got to get me wanting to read more. Yes, sometimes, a good book cover will catch my eye and I will want to check it out but if the blurb isn’t up to scratch, I’m not biting!

Once I’ve got the book though I want the characters to keep me reading. I have got to want to find out what happens to them and to care about the outcome. I think you can only do that with realistically portrayed characters whose goal you can understand.

I also want my characters to be “worthy” of winning through in the end. I don’t want it just to fall into their lap, so to speak. I want them to contribute significantly to their success, even with the help of others. I think you should also be able to see why the others would help the lead character with their goal rather than just leave them to it.

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Making an Impact with Words – and Delia’s Choices


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.
When the news is so grim, and the impact from words can be dreadful, we need stories more than ever, I think.

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Facebook – General

Am delighted to share the link to the brand new edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads for March 2022. As ever the magazine is a wonderful mix of articles, photos, puzzles, and, of course, stories.

My column this time is called Random Generators and I share some of those I use regularly as well as share a story I created using one. As ever it was a joy to read the stories submitted on the the theme I used here. I’ll be sharing the topic for next time soon on the MFR Facebook page.

On a separate note, I was thrilled to see someone I know from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School mention they were inspired by some of my 100 word flash pieces for Friday Flash Fiction and then submitted a piece themselves to the Swanwick newsletter.

Flash is great fun to write – and addictive too! There is always the challenge of can I write a story in 100 words, then 50 etc? And you find you’re never afraid of editing again, as thanks to the restricted word count, you do have to develop a robust attitude and not be afraid to wield the red pen.

https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2022/03/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-march-2022/

Screenshot 2022-03-01 at 17-02-46 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine March 2022

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One good thing about having the 29th as my slot for More Than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers blog spot, is that I get every three Februaries off! Am looking forward to blogging again on there next month.

Now I’ve been planning my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today for a while and this week I’m up to H. My topic is Human Behaviour In Fiction. It’s the kind of topic you could write a treatise about but I’m keeping it to one blog post.

And is it timely with all that is going on in the news? Possibly. It is odd sometimes how something you prepared becomes timely. It can sometimes happen with fiction too. Always sends a shiver down my spine when it happens to me.

Anyway, I’ll be looking at how human behaviour is both reflected in fiction and why it is the cause of fiction. Link up on Friday. Oh and I’ll be sending out my author newsletter tomorrow as well. Went out on 1st March but I share a link to the newsletter further down.


Am thrilled to be back on CafeLit once again with my story Delia’s Choices. This story is a result of the ten minute writing exercise set by #AnnmarieMiles at the last Association of Christian Writers Flash Group Zoom meeting. I set the name thanks to using a random name generator.

Those of us at the meeting all gave this exercise a go and shared the results. There was a lovely range of stories all based on one character called Delia. Writing to a set theme does produce varying results as we all have our individual author voices and those come through especially well when you’re all writing on the same topic. Hope you enjoy my effort here (and do let me know what you think of my Delia).

https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2022/02/delias-choices.html

Screenshot 2022-02-27 at 16-09-25 Delia’s Choices

Many thanks for the comments coming in on Light of the Moon, my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. Much appreciated.

I’ll be sending out my author newsletter again next week so if you would like to sign up for tips, stories, news etc., do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – would be glad to see you.

A big hello to all who have joined since the last edition and many thanks to all who follow me here and on my website.

Now what is the most important thing about any character, regardless of genre, length of story etc?

For me, they have to be relatable whether these characters are human, animal,some odd alien species or what have you. There has to be something I can identify with (though I don’t necessarily have to agree with the character)

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/light-of-the-moon-by-allison-symes

Screenshot 2022-02-25 at 16-16-25 Light of the Moon, by Allison Symes

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Pleased to get my author newsletter out earlier today. Do take a look (see link at https://mailchi.mp/5955992ab501/allison-symes-march-2022-newsletter-heading-north-again). If you’d like to sign up head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com.

And a big thank you to the lovely comments in on Blue Memories, my latest YouTube story.

Screenshot 2022-03-01 at 20-14-12 Allison Symes - March 2022 - Northward BoundScreenshot 2022-03-01 at 10-10-11 Your Swanwick Newsletter 1st of March 2022

 

 

 

It’s Monday. It’s story time. Hope you enjoy Blue Memories, my new YouTube video. I’ve taken a random object, a blue hanky, and based my tale around it. I’ve done the same for the one I hope will appear on Friday Flash Fiction later in the week. The moods of the two stories are different too. It’s good to mix the moods up and I am relishing getting two ideas out of one randomly generated item.


Flash fiction is the ultimate in the quick read but that doesn’t mean the stories are quick to write. I can get a first draft down in minutes (especially for the 50 to 100 word tales) but the crafting takes much longer. And for me a story isn’t written until it is fully edited and “out there”.

With the limited word count, I am always asking have I really expressed this in the best way possible? Is it better to have extra word count here because it gives more depth to a character and/or moves the story along, and if so (and the answer to this is nearly always yes), what do I cut elsewhere?

Equally do I accept the story is better at 150 words rather than 100? Often the answer to that one is yes too. So all sorts of things come into play when I am putting the final version of the story together and that takes time – as it should do.

What I want is the most powerful story in terms of impact on a reader in the fewest possible words yet to have the best characterisation possible within that limit too. I don’t want much, do I?!

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I read flash collections as well as write them, as it is important to read what is in your genre as well as reading widely from outside it. Firstly, it is important to support the industry I am in and, secondly, it helps me to see what is out there in terms of flash and that in turn encourages me to up my game. I also have come to love flash, as you know, so it makes sense to feed that love by reading it.

Advantage to flash is setting characters anywhere

Goodreads Author Blog – Making an Impact with Words

One of the joys of stories and books is when the words flow, you have to keep turning the pages, and the language just hits you “right there” as it is so appropriate for the character or what have you. And the very best authors add words to the language too, Shakespeare being the obvious one there. There is more than one way to make an impact with words then – have some of your invented ones make it into the dictionaries!

As a flash fiction writer, with a maximum word count of 1000 words per story, I have to make an impact with words quickly. So anything that doesn’t add to my characterisation or moves the plot along gets cut out.

The joy of the novel is having a wonderful reading experience and looking back at that – reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time was a fantastic experience once I had finished the book. It was only by finishing it I could really appreciate the depth and scale of the work. For the short story and flash fiction formats, you get the “pay back” of impact that much quicker.

But the joy of reading widely, in whatever form or genre, is you take in words and their impact and you can learn from how other authors do this to improve your own works so other readers get the impact from your stories, your words.

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Heading North Again Soon and Frameworks in Fiction


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Most images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as were the photos of the wonderful view as you come into Dundee Railway station and of my table at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good weekend. Went to see a live comedy gig over the weekend, booked my tickets for a very special event in March, and got soaked with the dog – so a mixed bag here!

Facebook – General

Lady and I had a soaking while out this morning at the Recreation Ground but other than that it has been a good day.

Am looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group Zoom meeting tomorrow night. I’ve mentioned before that one reason I think for the growth in the popularity of flash fiction is that people read more on screens now and flash works brilliantly for that. It is also easy to screen share on Zoom!

Now when it comes to thinking of topics for blog posts, I start by looking at what I think might interest other writers. (For the moment for Chandler’s Ford Today I am writing an In Fiction series). I then think about what might encourage people to join in with their comments and I also aim for my blogs to be both useful and entertaining. I do know from years of going to writing conferences etc that a topic which grabs one writer is likely to hook in others!

And for my fiction and non-fiction work, I ask myself one vital question. What will the reader get from this? It is crucial there is something in your writing that is of benefit to them, whether it is to amuse/entertain or to give them information which will be useful for their own writing. Do that and it is far more likely people will come back to you and read more of what you do.

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Hope you have had a good Monday and happy St. Valentine’s Day to all who celebrate.

Had a hilarious time at the Mayflower Theatre last night and it was good to see the entertainment industry coming back to life too.

Am pleased to say the February 2022 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now free to download on Amazon.

Screenshot 2022-02-15 at 20-58-34 Amazon com Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine February 2022 eBook Publishing , Goylake , Howe[...]

Am looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group meeting on Zoom on Wednesday night. Meanwhile I’ll be enjoying meeting up with the History Writers on Zoom tonight. I’ve been very grateful for how Zoom has made things possible – with both of these groups I would not be able to get to these events in person (well, maybe once a year but that would be about it).

I’ve used a number generator as the focus for my stories for Friday Flash Fiction this week and for my new YouTube video which I’ll be sharing over on my book page shortly. See further down for the link. The number generated was 64. What could I do with that? Well, pop over to my book page in a moment and pick up the link for the video and I hope to share the second part of the answer to this on Friday!

Web capture_8-2-2022_203821_www.facebook.com

Am posting early today as am off with better half and other family members to see Jack Dee at The Mayflower Theatre later. Has been such a long time since we were last there.

A huge thanks for the fantastic response to my post yesterday about my forthcoming trip to the Scottish Association of Writers Conference. See below.

I’ll be looking at Frameworks in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today later this week – link up on Friday.

A big thanks also to the response to Misunderstanding, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Feedback always appreciated.

Hope this week proves to be a good one (though Lady and I were none too impressed with the weather today – let’s just say the bedraggled look is in!)

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Thrilled to say I have booked my train tickets for the Scottish Association of Writers Conference which takes place in March (18th to 20th). See link.

Now you may well be thinking that’s all very nice, Allison, but you’re a Hampshire lass so how come you’re heading north?

(Not for the first time either, missus. Quite right as I was at the Brechin/Angus Festival in November which was great fun and I must admit my breath was taken away by the stunning view as you come into Dundee Railway Station – see pic below!).

Stunning views as I came into Dundee station

Another view as I came into Dundee.

I thought Dundee Station looked rather splendid

I thought Dundee Station was rather grand.


Well, I joined the History Writers group who are part of the SAW and indeed I will be giving a talk to them very soon via the wonders of Zoom about historical flash fiction. Very much looking forward to that. Now you may be suspecting there is probably a common link somewhere amongst all of this and there is – the lovely #WendyHJones links SAW, History Writers, and the Brechin/Angus Festival.

At the Conference in March, I will be running a flash fiction workshop. I’m also one of the judges for one of the SAW’s competitions.

So lots going on behind the scenes for me right now, all very exciting, and I am looking forward to meeting everyone at the Conference in March.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I need to know my character before I start writing up their story but I also need to know the framework of the story in which I am going to put them.

Will it be a linear narrative, a circular story, a twist in the tale, a diary format, or should I write the story in the form of a letter? (I’ve used all of those frameworks in my time and will do so again!). I’ll be looking at Frameworks in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today this week where I’ll discuss this further but I do find frameworks so useful. I like to have a rough road map of where I am going. And sometimes I know what the story is going to be and then have to decide which is the best way to tell it for the character I’m writing about.

I do usually write A to B but for twist endings/punchline endings, I write B to A because it is simpler to get that kind of ending down first and then work out what could have led to it. It is also a relief to know I have got my ending in place and just have to work out the starting point.

There are often several options there and this is why I use spider diagrams to help me work out which would be best. And when I say best, I am thinking best for the character and best for the future reader. It isn’t the same as what would be easiest for me, the writer, to actually do (and I always dismiss this anyway because the idea is to stretch myself and not make life easy for me or my unfortunate character I’ve chosen to drop right in it!).

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Hope you enjoy my new YouTube story, At Number 64. I’ve submitted a linked story to this for Friday Flash Fiction this week and I hope to share the link on that on Friday if I can. I am enjoying using the same theme generated for two stories per week but it is also great to have a story with connections to another one, yet both stand alone.

 

The joy of flash is having a completed bit of work to hand relatively quickly but there is a difference between “completed” and “first draft”. I can draft a story in about ten/fifteen minutes (for say a 100 to 150 word count) but I will spend considerably more time after that honing and improving that draft. And that is how it should be.

The first draft is to get the idea down. Then and only then do you look at ways of making that better. Guess what? There are always ways of making things better! But you yourself get better in spotting what can be improved and sharpened over time. You get better at knowing what your writing flaws are and then making a beeline on the first edit to get rid of those.


Hope you have had a good Saturday. I mentioned this on my main author page the other day but I will repeat it here – Amazon have a good offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic at the moment. See the link for more information.

Looking forward to talking about historical flash fiction at the History Writers group I’m part of on Zoom soon. Given flash is focused on characters there is no reason why some of those characters can’t live in the past! And you can use characters to explore that past too. It is something I am hoping to do more of in due course.

History is made up of so many stories, of course, and as long as you are accurate, I see no reason why you can’t explore history via fiction. After all one of my favourite books The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey led me to change my mind about Richard III and take more of an interest in his life and times. Flash illuminates briefly. Why not illuminate a small section of history?

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Visualising Characters

I started reading Dickens as a result of watching Oliver Twist on TV. The film version being shown starred Sir Alec Guinness and Oliver Reed (Fagan and Sykes). Both were brilliant and I absolutely had to read the book after seeing this.

And, again with Dickens, I loved The Muppet Christmas Carol (and still do, it’s a must see at Christmas) with Sir Michael Caine as Scrooge. What I loved best, with my reader’s and writer’s hats on, is where Gonzo acting as Dickens the narrator tells us all to go and read the original book. Quite right too!

I don’t need a film or TV adaptation to visualise a well portrayed character but where adaptations are thoughtfully done, those TV and film portrayals add something special to the book when I then go on to re-read it again. I do visualise the well cast actors. I can’t read a Poirot novel now without visualising Sir David Suchet in the role or a Miss Marple without seeing in my mind’s eye the wonderfully cast Joan HIckson.

So are there any adaptations that bring a book more to life for you? Or will you always prefer the book over any adaptation?

 

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Dialogue 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.
Hope you have had a good week. I hope to be on a train on my way to Derbyshire by the time this goes out (and it will be lovely to meet up with members of the Association of Christian Writers Committee once again, I’m their Membership Secretary). I’ll be at The Hayes, Swanwick – and I got to book my place for that in August this week so it has not been a bad week at all!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I look at Dialogue in Fiction for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. I also include internal dialogue (aka thoughts in this and discuss the use of dialect. I also share my policy on whether a character should swear and list what I think the functions of dialogue should be in any kind of fiction. Hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

Dialogue in Fiction

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Hope you have had a good day. Has been a bit mad here. Glad things are winding down a little. Posts from me over the next couple of days will be at differing times as I am away on Association of Christian Writers business for a couple of days.

Before you ask, Lady isn’t coming but she will be spoiled rotten while I’m away. She always is! She’ll sulk a little when she knows I’ve gone (she tends to look around my side of the bed just to double check I’ve not sneaked back during the middle of the night) but will mug me for all she is worth when I do get back.

Now what is it that you like best about books? Yes, I know. It’s a question of where to start on this one, isn’t it? For me, it’s where I’ve got to the point in the story where I’m rooting for the character to succeed or fail because I know the book has now gripped me and I will just have to read on to find out what happens. And it doesn’t matter whether I’m reading a flash piece or an epic fantasy trilogy, that point doesn’t change for me.

My next favourite bit is getting to the end of the tale and finding the author has made good on their promise – the character has succeeded or failed, as is appropriate for them and the story they’re in. I must admit I do feel so disappointed if I’ve read a story with promising and interesting characters and then find the ending falls flat. But the best ending in the world won’t work for me if I’m not gripped by the characters in the first place.

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Many thanks for the views on No B Gratitude, my latest YouTube story. This is a short and fun tale and I manage to get a pun in on the choice of music for this too. I’m off at an ACW Committee Retreat soon so I may well be putting up a video later than usual next week. Will just have to see how things go. Likewise for getting a piece in to Friday Flash Fiction but I am really enjoying producing something for both of these things once a week. Keeps me on my toes and I am finding more uses for the random generators I love so win win!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I hope by the time you read this I will be in lovely Derbyshire on Association of Christian Writers business for a couple of days. (I’m their Membership Secretary). But right now it is the end of the week and time for my weekly drabble. Glad to share my latest on Friday Flash Fiction and this one is called Timing. Again I used a random generator for this and the question behind it was what was the most recent silly thing you did? So I got my character here to answer that one! All great fun and I hope you enjoy it.

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/timing-by-allison-symes

Screenshot 2022-02-04 at 08-57-53 Timing, by Allison Symes

Screenshot 2022-02-03 at 21-31-38 Friday Flash Fiction

 

Your first audience for any story you writer is, of course, you. If you’re not gripped by the characters and the situation they’re in, nobody else will be. This is why I outline my character so I can get a “feel” for who they are, what they’re capable of, and as a result I can determine whether they really do have a story in them that should be told.

With flash fiction I reach that “yes, got to write this character up” stage very quickly indeed and you get better over time (and with practice) at spotting promising characters earlier. I don’t always know the length of the story at this point unless I am writing to a specific word count market such as Friday Flash Fiction, but I don’t let that worry me. I get the story down. I edit it. I leave it for a bit and then look at it again and read it as a reader would. I ask myself tough questions particularly of the “do I really need this in here” variety! That question is useful because you have to be able to say an emphatic “yes” to that one.

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Hope you have had a good day. Lady got to play with her best pal, the Rhodesian Ridgeback today. Two tired and happy dogs went home again. I do sometimes write flash pieces based around dogs. One of them is Jumping Through Hoops from From Light to Dark and Back Again. Let’s just say I am very much on the side of the poor dog in this one!

Fairytales with Bite – Dreams and Nightmares

Most of the classic fairytale characters go through a nightmare stage before their dreams come true (though it is always useful if you have a kindly fairy godmother turn up armed with a large wand and bigger pumpkin!).

In your fictional world, are your characters able to make their dreams come true and is this dependent on magic (whether it’s their own or someone else intervening to help them)? What would count as a nightmare situation for your characters and how do they overcome that?

Of course one person’s nightmare could be someone else’s dream – the villain wants their schemes to succeed, it would be their dream come true. How can you ratchet up the tension between Character A trying to make those schemes succeed and Character B who desperately needs them to fail? There should be plenty at stake here – just what do your characters have to lose or gain?

In a magical world, is the meaning of dreams taken seriously? Who interprets them? Do they do this honestly and do your characters act on what they have been told? What are the consequences of that?

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This World and Others – Interactions

Fiction is dependent on interactions between characters. Story is dependent on conflict and resolution (even if the latter is not a happy one) so there has to be a case of a character wanting something and something/someone else getting in the way of them obtaining that.

Sometimes the conflict can be an internal one – the character wants to change some aspect of themselves and struggles to do so. You see glimpses of this with Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. There are times Frodo’s more positive attitude towards Gollum seems to be paying off and other times when Sam’s cynical view of Gollum is justified.

So yes a character can interact with themselves and Gollum does that a lot. Not necessarily to his own benefit either. For the record, I see Gollum as a tragic, evil character whereas Sauron is just evil. There is a huge difference here. I don’t like Gollum but the possibility of redemption is there – whether he takes it or not is another matter.

How do interactions between your characters play out? Does on character always seem to get the upper hand or is there more of a balance? The problem with dominant characters, as with dominant people full stop, can be they cause resentment (and rebellion) in others. Interactions matter – they fuel the conflict which is the heart of any story.

So give thought to what you want your characters to do and why they are the way they are. With Gollum, you can see what led him to become the creature he became. Your readers need to do that with your characters – and indeed with mine!

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Starting and Finishing and Creativity


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.
Hope you had a good weekend. Nice quiet one here but lots of exciting news to report this time plus I hope a useful blog I prepared for the Association of Christian Writers on Starting and Finishing.

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Facebook – General

You know how sometimes there is no news and then all of a sudden there is loads to share – well today is one of those days for me.

Delighted to say my new author newsletter is now out there (for more do see https://mailchi.mp/22ec1b09a6da/allison-symes-february-2022-newsletter).

Many thanks also for the comments in on Tears Before Lunch, my most recent Friday Flash Fiction story. See https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/tears-before-lunch-by-allison-symes for more.

And I’m delighted to share the link to the brand new edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads which is free. See https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2022/02/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-february-2022/ – the range of articles in here is amazing. Do check it out.

Has also been a good day for another reason – I’ve booked my place for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Can’t wait to go and there is plenty to look forward to before then.

I’ll be at the Scottish Association of Writers conference in March and running a workshop on flash fiction there. So looking forward to that – https://www.scottishassociationofwriters.com/workshops-speakers/

 

Hope Monday hasn’t been too trying. Newsletter out tomorrow, new story video out (will share link on my book page shortly), and pleased to have submitted a new story to Friday Flash Fiction. I’ll be discussing Dialogue in Fiction for my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday.

I use more dialogue in my short stories (1500 words plus) than in flash though I am counting thoughts as internal dialogue and I do use that a lot in flash. It’s a great way of taking you straight into a character’s head and showing you their thoughts and attitudes. You see things as they see them and I think it a good way of developing character empathy. Okay you may not always agree with them but that’s another matter! You at least see where they are coming from.

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Hope you have had a good weekend. Lovely to catch up with writing friends on Zoom last night. Always such a morale boost. Am getting my next author newsletter up together ready for sending out next week. If you would like to sign up for tips, prompts, news, stories etc., head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

What would you say was your favourite kind of story? I suppose mine comes from my life long love of fairytales in that I love to see wrong being righted and the underdog to do well. Mind you, that does open up a lot of possibilities for reading material as well as for writing stories. Wrong being righted is a common theme to crime stories after all. And the underdog aka the hero nobody expects to be a hero is a common theme in fantasy.

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I talk about Starting and Finishing for More Than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers, this month.

I discuss how I often get into starting a story by using a random generator and share why spider diagrams are so helpful too. As for the other end of the story, I look at how for twist in the tale stories, it is a good idea to write that twist down first and then look at what could lead to that point.

I also look at whether planning your work out kills off spontaneity.

Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The new edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is out and you can download it for free. See the link at https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2022/02/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-february-2022/ for more.

In my column this month (see Page 42), I talk about Creativity. I look at some of the different ways I use to trigger story ideas and fuel my own creativity (and I discuss picture prompts and random generators amongst other things. I hope to talk more about random generators for a future column as these are so useful). My theme for people to write to this time was What Creativity Means to Me and the responses to that were wonderful but don’t just take my word for it – go and treat yourself to a good and free read!

 

Hope you enjoy my new YouTube story – No B Gratitude. This story was inspired by something that came up on a random question generator – the question was what was the most recent silly thing you’ve done?
So I got my character to show you! (There’s also a pun in the choice of music chosen for this one – I was so pleased to find it available to use from YouTube’s comprehensive audio library which is the audio equivalent of Pixabay for photos).

Just to flag up there is an offer on From Light to Dark and Back Again at the moment over on Amazon.

What do I love most about reading flash fiction by other writers? Firstly I learn a lot from seeing what other people do with the format. Secondly, I love to see what writers do when writing to the same theme and word count.

The Waterloo Art Festival Writing Competitions held in the last few years were a great example of this – the fifteen winners for each year, including yours truly, all wrote to the same theme and word count yet the stories were so vastly different.

Last but not least, it encourages me to “up my game” and see what I can do better. Why is that a good thing? Because it fuels the old creativity “grey cells” and helps me produce (a) more work and (b) better work because I have tried to stretch myself a bit.

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Twist endings work beautifully in flash fiction precisely because you don’t have to wait long for the pay-off! I’ve always loved that aspect of things. And the nice thing here is you don’t have to limit twist endings to crime stories, though that is the obvious home for them.

Twist endings can also be punchlines so will work well for humorous tales. And a monologue can be enlivened by a surprise ending too. For this kind of tale, I always write the twist first and then work backwards to get to the start. It seems an odd way of doing things to begin with but you do get used to it. It also means you have a logical plot leading to that final twist. You don’t want your twist let down by a weak start or flabby middle.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books and Trains

Books and trains are a match made in heaven (especially publishing heaven!). As well as stories inspired by train (and my favourite here is Murder on the Orient Express – the ultimate train, yes?!), books are the best form of portable entertainment and a fabulous way of passing the time.

I must admit I wait to read until I know I am on the train I want otherwise there is the risk I will still be reading at the platform long after the train has gone! (It helps a lot if I know I’m going somewhere like London Waterloo which is the end of the line as I know I can’t miss my stop either!).

It is no coincidence that the major stations have bookshops on them. For me the perfect way to escape the cares of the world is to read, ideally while listening to classical music via my headphones. (If there’s a cup of tea or hot chocolate to hand, even better!) And if I’m not reading stories while travelling, I am writing my own so I love that too.

It probably helps that I write flash fiction which a dear friend described as a “bus stop read”. It works well on trains too!

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