Writers’ Days

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Images from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School were taken by me, Allison Symes,  in August 2021 (and it was wonderful being back there again).
Hope the week has been okay for you. Had a good run of nice autumn weather, due to change to rain next week. And my book order of Tripping the Flash Fantastic arrived. It is always lovely to receive books in the post, especially when you’ve written them! Below is image taken by Adrian Symes (always tricky to do your own author posing with books photo) when Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing arrived a few weeks back. Glad to hold up my two flash fiction collections too, which was apt since my topic in the CM book was flash fiction!

Creativity Matters - and my two flash collections

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post which is about Writers’ Days. I share hints and tips on making the most of events like this, whether they’re the in-person kind or on Zoom. This post naturally was inspired by my having gone to the Association of Christian Writers event held last Saturday in London, our first in-person event since You Know What struck. It was just so lovely to see people again and to have a wonderful creative buzz being generated by being with so many wonderfully creative writers.

You do get a buzz from a Zoom session incidentally but I think it is not quite in the same way. It is more subtle with online writing events in that I find a buzz after the event and I look back and think yes, that was fab. I think for an in-person event you pick up on that buzz immediately. Of course that may just be me!

Anyway, I hope you find the post useful and hope you have a wonderful time at whatever writing/reading/general literature events may be coming your way. (Oh and my books arrived safe and sound so it has been a good day here – see below for my posts on waiting for my book order to come in. I do feel like a kid waiting for Christmas when I’ve got a book order in somewhere!).

Writers’ Days

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The book order I mentioned yesterday (for Tripping the Flash Fantastic) will be with me tomorrow between 10.51 am and 2.51 pm. Bless the Royal Mail for their precision! (I’d have been quite happy with a between 11 and 3 category but there you go!).

Later this month, I am due to go and see the Chameleon Theatre Group perform Murder with Ghosts, which sounds hilarious. And my lovely editor at Chandler’s Ford Today will be there too. I haven’t seen her for ages so it will be nice to catch up with her too. Review will follow in due course though it will be delayed by a week or so as I am heading north to Scotland once more for a much needed break with my better half and the dog right at the end of the month.

Talking of CFT, my post tomorrow is called Writers’ Days and I will be sharing tips as to how to make the most of these as my image (created in Book Brush indicates). Link up tomorrow.  See above.

Tips will help you make the most of a writing day
Always pleased to receive an email saying my book order is on its way to me. Am expecting further copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic in any moment.

I’ll be talking about Writers’ Days for my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. Really looking forward to sharing that on Friday. I will also be sharing some tips as to how to make the most of these and events held on that wonderful app, Zoom. Hope this will prove useful. And if you think this is an odd coincidence after my going to the Association of Christian Writers’ day last Saturday, well it isn’t! Inspiration for blog posts can come from a variety of sources (as with fiction) after all!

I remember going to my first events as a delegate and being a bundle of nerves. Sometimes thinking about the tips I would have loved to have known back then gives me ideas for posts for CFT. Little is wasted in writing. It is sometimes finding the right use for material you have. It is sometimes a case of looking back at what I’ve learned over the years and writing it down. You do pick up more tips and useful advice than you often realise. I’ve also learned over time to spot the potential for a story or blog post and then flesh it out further to see if there is any “mileage” in that initial idea. If there is I go with it.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to share my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Development is the latest tale involving my hapless magical being, Sarah, as she tries to fit in well with her human neighbour, Tina. How does she do this time?

Screenshot 2021-10-15 at 18-35-06 Development, by Allison Symes

Delivering on the promise of an interesting title and hook is vital of course. You don’t want to let readers down. Always think of those you’re writing “to” as they’re the ones you’re seeking to entertain. This is another reason why I will use spider diagrams and/or flowcharts to work out different ways I can take a promising idea. I then go the one I like the most and it almost always is the one I think will have the most impact on a reader, whether it is to make them laugh, cry, scream or what have you. If the story produces that effect in me, whichever one I’ve chosen, it will do so for others.

I know how I feel when I read a story I love. I’m gripped by the premise, the characters etc., and I always want to reproduce those effects in my own fiction. And if you’re not sure about who you’re writing “to” invent your own Ideal Reader. Who would you like to enjoy your flash or other stories?

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On my reading list at the moment is Root, Branch, Tree, an anthology of flash fiction produced as a result of the National Flash Fiction Day in 2020. Whatever genre you write, you should read in your field, as well as out of it.

The latter helps you expand your imagination, the former helps you see what else is out there in your area. You can study the book to work out the publisher’s style and then decide whether or not your style of writing would fit in with theirs. Studying the market is vital and I would say every writer has to do it. How else will you know where to submit your work? You can’t do it blindly but at least studying the market is fun – you get to read and can legitimately call it research!

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Fairytales with Bite – Required Reading

What books or stories are required reading for your characters, whether they’re at school or not? Who writes these? Is anything specially banned and, if so, why? Would, say, a book on logic go down particularly well in your magical setting? And are our interpretations of the classical fairytales the same as those held on the world you’re creating for your story?

Is there any class of character in your setting who cannot read or is forbidden to do so (and do they seek knowledge and books another way)? Do your characters accept the stories they’re told to read or do they ever question them?

Who lays down the rules for what is read? Why did they choose this particular material? Are adaptations allowed?

What do your characters “make” of reading? If everyone is, say, expected to read and re-read classic books regularly, do your people do that or do they get sick of it and get put off the books they’re supposed to love?

For characters capable of producing magic, what text books, instruction manuals etc do they have? Is there such a thing as an editor in your world? (Someone should make sure the spells are written out correctly after all).

Thinking about questions like these can help you flesh out your creation. Attitudes to literature (and by default to the arts in general as well) will show much about your world and how it is run. A world that takes reading seriously is more likely to be a civilised place in which to live than one which despises knowledge, never wants to learn etc.

I must admit I can’t imagine a life without reading. Nor do I wish to imagine it!

This World and Others – Literacy Matters

Literacy matters a great deal to me as I am sure it does to most of us. As mentioned in Fairytales with Bite, I can’t imagine my life without books in it. Not being able to read fills me with horror – imagine missing out on so much. Occasionally I go to medieval weekends and the like and I always come away from these, having had a great day out and learning a lot, with a profound sense of gratitude I live int he age I do, despite its problems. I just know back then I would have been an illiterate medieval peasant who would probably have died in childbirth long before the age I am now.

So on your fictional world, how seriously is literacy and education taken? Do your characters get an education and, if so, what form does that take? How does it impact on them later in life? Does their education (or lack of) help them in the story you’re putting them in or cause them problems because they know too much or don’t know enough?

Can your characters easily access books? Is fiction valued or does your world only treasure cold, hard facts? Are there specific school/age related books as we know them or do your characters have to get to grips with archaic language from an early age?

And if you have a divide between the educated and those who are not, how did this come about? What clashes happens between the two groups? Is there anyone with a vision to get education to all and do they accomplish this or do other forces get in their way? (It is always easier to control those who don’t ask questions or who perhaps don’t know they should ask questions).

Food for thought there, I think, and I know I will always appreciate my books!

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Told you I loved books!

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Learning, Back at an ACW Event, and North Manchester FM

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated (and most created via Book Brush using Pixabay photos). Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good start to the working week. Lovely autumnal weather here in the UK right now – just the kind the dog and I like most.

Facebook – General

Enjoying the lovely autumnal weather at the moment – dry, sunny, crisp – my kind of weather at this time of year.

Writers are often advised (and I’ve done it too) to read widely as sparks for story and article ideas will often crop up from what you enjoy reading. But I was at a fascinating Zoom talk last night about Cistercian Abbeys. Not something I write about. Nor am I likely to do so but the talk was interesting and revealed plenty I did not know especially about life in a community.

Now I can see I might get something from that for a story or two later on. Fabulous if I do. Still improving my knowledge even if not. Win-win basically. So why not try a Zoom or other kind of talk on a topic that might be a little outside of your own box but where you have some underlying interest? (In my case, I love history).

I’ve talked before about mixing up how you approach story writing to keep things (a) fresh and interesting for you and (b) to encourage lateral thinking and even more creativity. Why not use talks as another way into that mixing up your approach?

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Hope you had a good Monday. Not bad here. Nice autumnal day, plenty of sunshine, and Lady got to play with her Rhodesian Ridgeback buddy and her Labradoodle pal. All is well in her world at least!

Coming back to earth after a wonderful ACW event on Saturday but I find I always do need a bit of a breathing space after an event like that to take stock and then get on with my writing again.

Many thanks for the lovely comments so far on my Leaving It Late, which is my most recent tale on #FridayFlashFiction. Am so loving writing the drabbles again – and this particular tale shows just how far one character can take stubbornness.

Screenshot 2021-10-08 at 16-41-23 Leaving It Late, by Allison Symes

It was lovely getting back to using Evernote properly on my train trips to/from London for the Association of Christian Writers day yesterday. I’ll be out and about on the train again next month when I go to the Brechin/Angus Book Fest and again in December because Bridge House Publishing are having their annual celebration event, hooray!

Mind you, some things don’t change over the years. I always used to become irritated when bad radio reception would hit right during the middle of my favourite song. These days my irritation is aimed at when the internet connection drops out just as I’m trying to post something (and you don’t always know when a tunnel is coming up!).

It was fantastic catching up with so many friends yesterday and I look forward to catching up with more over the next couple of months. I also managed to draft a flash piece yesterday which I’m going to use for my YouTube video this week. Hope to share the link for that tomorrow over on my book page at From Light to Dark and Back Again. See further down.

Oh and it has been lovely listening to Gill James being interviewed by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM. Plenty of plugs for Bridge House, Chapeltown, CafeLit etc (and a couple for me too – thank you, Gill and Hannah). Give it a listen and discover insights into how a small independent publisher works.

Gill James Interview Here
Screenshot 2021-10-12 at 20-56-33 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 9 October, 2-4pm - Hannah Kate

Am on way to my first in-person event for the Association of Christian Writers today. Event is being held in London. I am so looking forward to catching up with friends I’ve either not seen or only seen through Zoom for the past two years. Am drafting this via Evernote on train up. Will probably post on train home.

As well as what you learn from the speaker(s), you pick up loads of tips, sites to check out etc., when chatting with other writers over a cuppa or several. You also sense a creative buzz at the event which you can draw on to inspire you when you’re back home again.

So it will be a tiring, inspirational, and fantastic trip out. ACW are also celebrating the launch of Write Well! This will be launched during the latter half of today’s event. The book is written by various ACW members about aspects of writing and I am looking forward to reading it.

The lovely thing with writing is you don’t stop learning or developing what you do. This is so good for the old brain!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Giving your character an immediate problem they have to resolve is a great way to get into a story. Your reader has to read on to find out what happens, which is exactly what you want. But you can also add intrigue by hinting at an unusual setting for the problem.

I did this with my Decisions from Tripping the Flash Fantastic. My opening line to this is “He could watch the world end or jump on the alien spacecraft that encouraged visitors.”.

Well, firstly, what would you do if you faced that? Whatever you decide, hopefully the hook is there for you to want to find out what my character did. Secondly, I’ve managed to give you the genre in four words – world end and alien spacecraft. This confirms the genre has to be sci-fi and this is an apocalyptic tale.

The setting is here on Earth – that is confirmed by my character’s name (Jeff). So little things like this give your readers plenty of information to take in and you don’t info-dump on them either. That was something I did use to do when I first started out. Great big blocks of description and/or “have to tell the reader this so I will give it to them all in one go right here and now”. Uhh… no!

Drip-feeding information is better by far, more interesting, and helps keep your word count down, invaluable for flash of course.

Pleased to share my latest YouTube story, The Package. Who do you feel the most for here? Comments welcome here on over on my channel page. Hope you enjoy the tale.

 

Nice to have a quieter day after a wonderful day in London yesterday with the Association of Christian Writers. Will be returning to the capital in December for a Bridge House Publishing celebration event – can’t wait for that. Have been in contact with people over Facebook and Zoom, of course, but it will be so nice to get together in person again.

I’ll be sharing tomorrow my latest YouTube video which was inspired by a snippet of conversation I overheard on the train yesterday! Good fun to write and I look forward to sharing the story. (I say overhear, it was more a case of not being able to miss the conversation, but it can all be useful material for sparking off story ideas!).

 

Am back on the train for an Association of Christian Writers event so am resuming using Evernote for jotting down blog posts and flash fiction pieces. It’s lovely getting to use the app again after a long gap. I used it for the first time since lockdown for my trip to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School back in August but with today’s event, it feels like it’s going to be a regular thing again. And that’s nice.

I will often use train writing sessions to brainstorm ideas for titles and/or opening lines. Course it’s a great chance to people watch again! Have just heard someone saying they had to go to their old house to pick up a delivery they sent to their old place by mistake and the person now living there was a “really old lady”. I suspect they mean someone of my age – fifties!! But could I get a story from that?

Oh yes! Firstly, the old lady could be something not of this world and my character has no idea what to do when they discover this. Far from getting one over on an old lady, she is the one turning tables here. Secondly, I could do something with the delivery itself. What is it? Why does my character need it? What would happen if the old lady opens it as it came to her house?

So will be keeping ears and eyes open for this trip ready to jot down ideas!  See YouTube video above – I did do something with this!

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Goodreads Author Blog – New Books

One lovely thing about going to events, as I’ve done this week, is exploring the book stalls and bringing home a new book or several! (Naturally I hope to sell some of mine too!).

It is great being able to go to events again. I missed this so much in 2020. And I know I will be picking up a very good read indeed when I go to the book stalls.

I’ve yet to go back to bookshops again but that will only be a matter of time! I may get to do so as part of my travels as there is a Foyles bookshop at London Waterloo. I think a lot will depend on how much I spend at the book stalls first!

The downside is every time I pick up new books like this, it reminds me I should sort my bookshelves out! I guess into every reader’s and writer’s life a little rain must fall!

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Sayings – Their Uses in Fiction and Non-Fiction

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Image of Lady and I examining a delivery of Tripping the Flash Fantastic was taken by Adrian Symes. A huge thanks to Fiona Park for taking the wonderful shot of me signing books at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August 2021.
Hope you have had a good week. Looking forward to getting out and about on the train again tomorrow for the Association of Christian Writers’ first Writers’ Day in well over a year in London. Will be so lovely to meet people I haven’t seen in person again for so long.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s time for my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post and this is on a topic I really should have written up a while ago. Sayings – Their Uses in Fiction and Non-Fiction is one of those themes with my name on it as I do use sayings a lot in my creative writing. I’ve used a number of well known sayings as story titles and even more as themes.

And many of the old sayings could be used for non-fiction work too. I share a few tips here on how to use sayings but so they don’t become cliches, which I hope proves useful. Sayings are well known for a reason but it pays to put your own spin on them so you can get something unique from them for your story or article. That is by far the best way to avoid falling into cliche territory.

And you can change a word in a saying to put your own spin on it. I did this for my Punish the Innocent in From Light to Dark and Back Again. Subverting a well known saying for your own purposes is not only fun, it intrigues the reader. After all, we usually talk about punishing the guilty so, in the example of my story, I would hope a reader would be curious enough to find out why it is innocent in this case.

Best of all, there are loads of well known sayings so they are useful just as a source of ideas to get you started, even if you don’t use them directly. Course you could do both – as I do!

Sayings – Their Uses in Fiction and Non-Fiction

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I don’t know where the predicted sunny spells ended up today but I do know they didn’t show up in my part of the world. Today has been a classic murky autumn day.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post with you tomorrow. This week I’m talking about Sayings – Their Uses in Fiction and Non-Fiction. I talk about how I use these in my writing and share tips about avoiding these becoming cliches. I also take a look at character sayings. These can be an effective device – many of our well-loved characters have a pet phrase – though I think the secret is not to overuse them.

What aspect of writing do you find the most fun? For me, it is the editing. Yes, really. I know I’ve got a story down. I know what I’m going to do to it will improve it and help its chances “out there”. And when I do get to submit the piece, I know I’m sending in something far better than what I originally drafted – and that is how it should be.

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Hope you have had a good day. Writing wise, my post on Light and Dark in Flash Fiction is now out (via Mom’s Favorite Reads) and there are some cracking stories based on that theme too. Well done, everyone! (Link takes you directly to the relevant page – see https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2021/10/06/light-and-dark-in-flash-fiction/).

Screenshot 2021-10-06 at 20-01-30 Light and Dark in Flash FictionScreenshot 2021-10-05 at 16-34-08 Amazon co uk Mom's Favorite Reads October 2021

I tend to work on my next post for Mom’s Favorite Reads directly after I finish the last one. I find this a useful technique for everywhere I blog (Authors Electric, Chandler’s Ford Today, More than Writers etc). When I do get odd pockets of time, I will draft future blog posts and work out where to place them later. It is always a good feeling to know there is “material in the bank” good to go when I need it.

I’m also finding Friday Flash Fiction useful here given it encourages you to prepare a story for the next Friday’s magazine directly after the current one has gone live. It is helping me to produce 100-worders more regularly. For my YouTube videos, I set my own deadline and ensure I stick to it. Over the course of a week, I get a balance of fiction and non-fiction writing done.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy Leaving It Late. Has my character done exactly that? Read the story and find out!Screenshot 2021-10-08 at 16-41-23 Leaving It Late, by Allison Symes

Just to flag up the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently on offer on Amazon. See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic for more details. Have also topped up my supply (which is always a nice thing to do).

Looking forward to seeing both of my collections on a book stall once again when I go to the Association of Christian Writers event on Saturday, 9th October. It will be so lovely seeing book stalls again! I love a good browse…

Every so often I will draft promising opening lines or twist endings for writing up into a story later. The great thing with this is when I come back to them if the ideas still grab me, they’re likely to grab a reader too.

It can be difficult sometimes working out if an idea really is as good as you thought it was when you first came up with it. Time away from it for a while will help you assess it properly. I also find if the idea still grabs me (most of the time this is the case), I am then fired up, keen to get that draft down, and away I go. You don’t lose your enthusiasm for a really good idea. Time away from it, if anything, increases your enthusiasm because you know deep down this will work.

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I like picking open themes for my blog posts (such as for Mom’s Favorite Reads) and flash fiction tales. I like having “manoeuvre room”. It is also more likely I will be able to come up with a twist that surprises the reader but is compatible with my story and character having an open theme. More interpretations (and therefore more twists) become possible with an open theme.

But I do need time then to work out which would be the best option to use and I use spider diagrams to help me here. I’ve found taking the time to work out the best options saves me so much time later. I find I come up with different ideas and the first couple I can instantly dismiss (too samey, seen it before etc).

I then find I have a couple of promising ideas and I then ask a series of “what if” questions. That usually shows me out of two possible ideas, which is the most likely to engage the reader. If I’m engaged with it, someone else will be.

I also look at why something has engaged me and as long as it is something to do with the character portrayal, I go with it. I say that because any story is depending on strongly portrayed characters who appeal to the reader in different ways. As long as there is the likelihood this character will appeal because… then I’m likely to write them and their story up. (The reason because can vary as different readers take different things from characters but as long as there is at least one good reason a reader would want to read this character’s story, then I go with it).

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Fairytales with Bite – Light and Dark

Now this is a popular theme for me given the title of my debut flash fiction collection (From Light to Dark and Back Again). The title came about as I realised my two preferences for stories inevitably contrasted with each other. I love humorous/light stories. I like a well crafted darker tale too. And, with few exceptions, most characters are a mixture of light and dark.

Most readers like to read about flawed characters because we know we too are flawed. Most readers are bored by the “goody two shoes” with no spirit to them. Most readers are horrified by those who are just pure evil with no prospect of redemption. (Redemption or the possibility of it is a wonderful theme for stories).

So how will you show light and dark in your characters? What dark aspects do your “good” characters have to show they are well rounded, so a reader can identify with them precisely because they’re not perfect? What lighter aspects do your villains have to show they are nor caricatures?

For your setting, how does light and dark work in a physical sense but also what would be these be politically? Is there such a thing as a good government in your world? What would your characters see as being light and dark and would that agree with what we would consider such things should be? Not every world has the same values after all.

 

This World and Others – Generation and Regeneration

Now I’m a Doctor Who fan of longstanding so the idea of regeneration is not new or one I’m fazed by. In your fictional settings, do you have characters who can regenerate? How does your world generate its food, power supplies, anything it needs for the world to function properly?

Generation and regeneration can be reflected in agriculture. How does your world grow food? How does it generate seeds? How can it ensure crops can keep being grown?

If your setting is an old one, has it had periods where it has to re-generate or re-invent itself or face obliteration? How did it rise to the challenge here?

What are relationships like between the differing generations? Do the great ideas only come from one section of your society? And where there is pollution how can your setting “start again” and build a world where there is onoing regeneration?

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Pinch, Punch, The First of The Month and Trying Hard

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Many thanks to Fiona Park for the fab photo of my signing copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic at Swanwick 2021.
Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here. New story out and a new More than Writers blog post which has attracted a fair few comments but then I did ask about people’s Writing Niggles. It seems to have hit a spot!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s that time of the week again and time for my Chandler’s Ford Today post. This week’s one is called Pinch, Punch, The First of the Month. I look at what the first of the month means for me, writing wise. I also look at the origin of the saying and ask why white rabbits are considered lucky. Any thoughts on that? If so pop a comment over on the CFT page. This post will tie in nicely with next week’s one where I’ll be taking a look at sayings and their uses in creative writing.

Pinch, Punch, The First of the Month

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A huge thanks for the wonderful comments coming in on my More Than Writers blog spot yesterday. See further down. My post about Writing Niggles obviously hit a sore spot or several! Mind you, the one comfort here is we all have writing niggles. It is working out a way of (a) managing them and (b) limiting the irritation they can cause you that are the tricky bits to get right.

My post tomorrow for Chandler’s Ford Today is all about Pinch, Punch The First of the Month. I look at what the first of the month means for me now (author newsletter send out day!). I also look at the origin of this strange phase (which will also tie in with my post on the 8th October as I will be talking about sayings and their uses in fiction and non-fiction).

Oh and is it just me or have the light levels in the evening just plummeted into complete darkness so far this autumn? There has been no gradual fading of the light. It looks as if someone has gone in and taken the bulb out! Dark by 7.30 pm… I wasn’t expecting that until much later into October.

It’s my turn on the More Than Writers blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. This month I talk about Writing Niggles and it is a rare writer indeed that doesn’t have at least one. I share some of mine (yes, some!) and solutions I have found that have helped me. A huge thanks to everyone for the wonderful comments on this subject which have come in already.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to share my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Will my hapless Sarah finally make things right with her neighbour in Trying Hard?

Screenshot 2021-10-01 at 18-59-48 Trying Hard, by Allison Symes

One of the biggest things flash fiction has done for me as a writer is to help me understand what “show, don’t tell” means in practice. It took me ages to get my head around that.

Because I have to write to a tight word count, I have no room for “extras” and showing a scene rather than telling it can take up a fair bit of said word count. I’ve found it helpful to focus on one thing I have to show a reader for a story that is 500 words or less. I’ll show two for 500 to 1000 words. So I have to work out what is the most important thing to show a reader and focus on that alone. That in turn does help me keep my word count down.

I’ve mentioned before my “she wears a red coat” and “she wears a moth-eaten red coat” as these are great examples of tight writing and how one word can change perspective. I don’t need to tell you my character is poor in the second example. I’ve shown you (and hyphenated words, since they count as one word for flash fiction, are the flash writer’s best friend). So think of ways in which you could show something.

Anger – character slamming something.

Sadness – character being asked by another character something along the lines of “what’s up with you?” and then getting the first character to sob.

Happiness – Showing your character walking jauntily, whistling a cheery tune etc.

So you can show a mood quickly. Setting can be done with the selective use of detail. A poor house can be shown as characters moaning about the roof leaking again etc. Think about what you want to show and then what words you can use to do that. Always pick the strongest. A roof leaking is far more powerful than characters moaning about how poor they are. Readers do pick things up on context (I love doing this). We just need to give them the right clues so they can.

BookBrushImage-2021-9-30-20-354Just to flag up the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently on offer on Amazon. See link for more.

Will also be sending out my author newsletter on 1st October. I share tips, prompts, flash stories here (and these are often exclusive to newsletter readers) as well as my news. Do head over to my website (the landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where the landing page takes you straight through to the sign-up. There is a giveaway too.

Fairytales with Bite – Seasonal Magic

Do your magical characters use their powers more at certain times of year or spread the use evenly throughout the twelve months? In your fictional setting, do certain seasons encourage the use of magic or, conversely, limit it? In the darker times of year, is magic more difficult? Is there any link to available light levels and when there is light, is it easier for a character to “produce the goods” when it comes to using their powers?

Do physical weaknesses limit magical use? After all, we are prone to colds, the flu etc more in the winter months and that affects how we “perform” so could your characters be affected by something similar?
Also, can your characters adapt their spells to match the time of year? For example, when it is dark and gloomy, are they on call for “lift me up” charms to help get people through these times? (For me a cup of hot chocolate, a cosy home, classical music, and a good book would do this for me nicely!).

Are your people expected to produce more magic at certain times of year? If magic can be equated to energy, are they on call to produce more of this at certain times of year to help keep their environment “going”? (Think Monsters Inc where the monsters need energy from children’s screams and then run into problems when they find youngsters aren’t so easily scared any more).

How do the seasons affect your people? In good ways or negatively and how could that change the outcome of your stories (or do your people “compensate” and, if so, how? What matters here is that you know how things work here even if you don’t need to share all of that with your readers.

You inevitably won’t share it all but you could have a character exploiting weaknesses here to their advantage. You would need to know what they are exploiting, how, and what would be the outcome? Also could the exploited hit back by using your natural world against whoever is trying to pull this trick off?).

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This World and Others – Seasons

I love the seasons. See some of the above pics for proof! The last one with the summer house is from my garden earlier this year. There is beauty to be found in each, even in winter (and there I also have the delicious compensations of hot chocolate, a cosy home etc to enjoy). Okay, so we have the four, but what does your created world have? More or less? Same as ours or totally different?

How do the seasons work in your created world? Especially if you have magical characters, is there anything they can do to influence how the seasons work and, if so, how? What would they gain from this?

Seasons tie in with celebrations too so what seasonal events would your world hold? Why are these things special to them?

As for the climate, can it compare with ours or is yours worse or better? How do your characters manage the ups and downs of the seasons and the climate?

There are seasons in life too. How do your stories reflect this in your characters, especially as they age? Have they learned anything useful from their younger years (especially what not to do) that benefits them now? Do they appreciate the season of “maturity” or do they resent not being young any more?

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Triggers and Descriptions

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Image of me signing at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School was kindly taken by Fiona Park while the photo of Lady and I examining my books was taken by Adrian Symes. I took the photo of my two flash collections for sale at Swanwick in August 2021.
Hope you have had a good few days. Writing going well. Weather less so right now!

Facebook – General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Shopping

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

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

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

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

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Festival News, Pockets of Time, and an Online Bookshop

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. Hope you have had a good few days since the last post. This time, I share a new story video and exciting Festival news for later in the year. The pic below is a big clue!

Screenshot 2021-09-03 at 19-44-05 Authors events


Facebook – General

Had a wonderful swim this afternoon. Was able to have a longer session in the pool as we don’t have to pre-book a session any more. Loved that and it was the perfect sunny day to be in the water for a bit. (I suspect Lady would have liked to have joined me. Unlike my other collies, she isn’t fazed by water, but even if it was allowed… well let’s just say she’d cause chaos swimming up to everyone else in the pool to say hello!).

Am looking forward to sharing Part 1 of a fabulous chat with #MaressaMortimer on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday.

My train tickets arrived today for the first in-person event the Association of Christian Writers have held for well over a year. This will be in October and I am looking forward to seeing so many friends again. Plus in November, as I mentioned the other day, I’m off to take part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival so plenty going on. And I strongly suspect there will be a future CFT post about that Festival from yours truly in due course!

What is the most difficult aspect of storywriting? For me, it is getting started which is why I have to have an outline of some sort to give me the kickstart that I need to get going.

Intrigue the reader
Pleased with work done over the weekend. Managed to get a story out for Friday Flash Fiction. The lovely thing with that is it won’t be long before I know whether it’s on site or not! Have also created a new story video which I’ll share over on my book page on FB shortly. Am drafting future blogs and presentation material for events later in the year. Talking of which…

I’m delighted to share the screenshot below. I’m one of the authors taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival in November. More details to come nearer the time. Looking forward to this immensely. It will also be a joy because other author friends of mine are taking part in this and it will be lovely to see them in person too.

On a side note, I am going to get use out of my railcard this year! I renewed it just ahead of the lockdowns last year. Hmm…now that was a waste of time. It won’t be this year!

Screenshot 2021-09-03 at 19-44-05 Authors events

 

The writing journey is not meant to be static


It has been a lovely sunny Sunday here in Hampshire today. Much appreciated by Lady and I.

This week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post is the first part of a splendid interview with indie author, #MaressaMortimer. Maressa and I know each other thanks to the Association of Christian Writers. Maressa is the only person I know who has published a book by accident, yes really! For more details on that and for wonderful insights into life as an indie author, do check out the post later this week. Link will go up on Friday, part 2 on the following Friday.

A good use of small pockets of time is to draft blog posts. When I’m not brainstorming for ideas for stories, titles etc., I will start drafting blogs for a general audience as I know I will get to use these later on. I can then choose which market I will use them for. So never despair at having only ten minutes to write on any one day, you can still write valuable things in that time.

I’ve drafted the opening paragraphs to future blog posts, a complete flash story etc in pockets of time like that. And by having just the opening paragraphs of a blog there already, when I do have more time to get back to it, I find I “hit the ground running” with the rest of the text for that blog. Having something there to start me off encourages further creativity I find. I guess it is because it is not an entirely cold start and I have found it is worth doing.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Mine has ranged from going to an ACW Committee Meeting via Zoom to walking the dog to mowing the lawn and now to writing. A right old mix!

Music can trigger memories of stories. I think of that as I enjoyed listening to the Classic FM TV theme countdown on Bank Holiday Monday and many favourite memories came back – Poirot, Morse, Thunderbirds, Eye Level (Van de Valk theme), Black Beauty, Jonathan Creek (which uses Danse Macabre appropriately as its theme) – all thanks to the themes used for the shows.

Thinking of your characters, could you name their favourite TV theme? Why would they choose it? What does that choice say about them? For many of my quirky characters, quirky music such as Danse Macabre and Gershwin’s Walking the Dog would suit very well. Mind you, I think they suit me quite well too! Oh and Lady loves Walking the Dog too… can’t imagine why.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

As well as writing flash, I love reading it – and if you want a place to check out various collections, may I recommend you pop over to the Bridgetown Cafe Bookshop.

The Chapeltown Books collections stand out thanks to being square with distinctive pictures in the middle of their “cover frame”. You will also find the short story anthologies on here too – and there are a range of options for buying too. It doesn’t just have to be through You Know Who.


Screenshot 2021-09-07 at 21-05-25 The Bridgetown Café Bookshop

Story time once again (and always a nice way to start a week I think). Hope you enjoy Wordsearch.


I’ve sometimes used objects in my opening line to a flash piece. It flags up immediately to the reader this object is important and it is often a case then of finding out why that object is important. I use boots being missing as an opening hook in my Shoplifting from From Light to Dark and Back Again. For Getting It Right I used a shiny red apple which should be an immediate flag to any lover of fairytales!

And there is such a thing as a random object generator if you need somewhere to start. The one that came up on my search engine allowed you to choose how many objects to generate so you could use all you choose or just pick the one or two you like best.

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Am looking forward to drafting more flash stories tomorrow (I often use Sundays for this) ready for submission to Friday Flash Fiction and for use on my YouTube channel in due course. All great fun to do. And if you want to check out my YouTube videos, you can do so here. More subscribers always welcome.

The nice thing about preparing the story videos is I have to think about what would work well visually. Sometimes I can’t find an appropriate video for the story I want to share so I think laterally around my character and/or setting and/or theme and I can usually find something that way.

Goodreads Author Blog – How To Books

Do you like how to books? I love the creative writing ones and have found them useful. My overall favourite is On Writing by Stephen King though I also love How Not to Write A Novel which is funny as well.

What I’m looking for in books like these is information written in a down to earth style. I don’t want jargon or complicated theories. A “kind of” how to book is The Seven Basic Plots which is a huge book but you learn so much from the way the author outlines these plots and you can see for yourself how so many films and books have used these time and again. (With good cause – a great story on a theme which is timeless is always going to work).

I’ve also found things like Scrivener for Dummies useful. A good how to book always has a decent cross-referenced index. I appreciate the art of the indexer far more now. I have read a few non-fiction books without such a thing and you do feel the lack. And every writer needs a source of advice and practical tips to help them along their writing way. I know I’ve appreciated the useful tips and hints I’ve picked up by reading a good quality how to book.

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Publication News, Alternative Worlds, and Dialogue

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing book covers from #WendyHJones.

Author publicity photos taken by Adrian Symes. Other images (including screenshots) taken by me, Allison Symes. Thrilled with my publication news this week, more below, especially as this is my first non-fiction work in print.

Creativity Matters - and my two flash collections

Facebook – General

Delighted to say my copies of Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing arrived this evening. And naturally that means photo opportunity time! (Thanks to my better half for taking the following).

I can confirm you never do lose the thrill of opening a box of books which you know you have written or contributed to. It’s just a pity you can’t bottle that feeling for drawing on later as and when needed!

Oh and given my chapter in Creativity Matters is Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories, I thought my two flash collections should get a look in too.

AND I’ll be chatting to Wendy H. Jones, who compiled and edited Creativity Matters, on Friday for Chandler’s Ford Today about what made her decide to publish other authors. Looking forward to sharing the link.

Hope you have had a good Bank Holiday Monday. Hope you had a great Monday if it wasn’t a Bank Holiday for you. Glad to hear the Inspector Morse theme came top in the Classic FM TV themes countdown. Also glad to hear Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens was in the top 30 as my first introduction to that wonderful music came thanks to it being used as the theme for quirky detective series Jonathan Creek. I suspect most people’s introduction to classical probably does come from TV and film themes and/or adverts.

It has been an odd day weather wise here in Hampshire. Murky and overcast all day. (I can think of some of my characters who could be described like that!). Am busy putting the finishing touches to my September newsletter and will be working on a super two-part interview for Chandler’s Ford Today to go out in the next couple of weeks or so. More details nearer the time but it has been encouraging I have had no shortage of material for CFT for many, many months now. Long may that continue! Am also working on presentations and workshop materials for use later in the year so plenty going on. And for the other reason I love Danse Macabre, see below!

Bonus Post – 29th August – More than Writers

Sorry, meant to share this earlier as it is my turn again on More than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers blog spot. This time I talk about Being Back. I refer to my recent visit to Swanwick but also look at being back at live events again and how, whether we can get to these or not, we should definitely “be back” to encouraging other writers.

Screenshot 2021-08-31 at 20-52-12 Being Back by Allison Symes

Wow! The responses are really coming in for The Turn Around, my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Many thanks, everyone. The general feel is my characters deserved each other. If you want to check the story out and decide if you agree or not, please see the link below.

Am so looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. This week, I welcome back #WendyHJones and I will be talking with her about her latest venture, Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing. This is the first time Wendy has published other authors, including yours truly (my chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories), and I wanted to ask her what made her decide to follow this path.

I also talk with her about what she has had to learn to do this. Wendy also shares with me how she balances her fiction and non-fiction work and balancing getting her own writing done, as well as publishing others. Link up later in the week (and I am on tenterhooks as my copies of the book are due with me any time. Cue the usual author holding up new book photo later this week I hope!). See above!

Screenshot 2021-08-27 at 17-10-59 The Turn Around by Allison Symes


Great to see the response to my blog round-up post Swanwick 2021 yesterday. Not at all surprised most of these are from fellow Swanwickers!

Just a quick reminder I will be sending my author newsletter out next week (1st September) so if you’d like to sign up for tips, news, prompts etc, please head over to my website (the landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I tend to compile the newsletter as the month goes on as (a) it means I don’t forget anything important and (b) it is easy to just finish off and send at the right time. Mind you, I schedule as many of my blog posts as possible whether it is for Chandler’s Ford Today, Authors Electric, or More Than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers blog spot.

Scheduling has been a boon for me but I still wish I had more time to write!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am so thrilled to receive my copies of Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writingtoday. (Link is for Hive.co.uk – an alternative to Amazon). The book is edited and compiled by #WendyHJones. My chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories. I’ve mentioned before that I did not know flash fiction as a format existed when I first started writing seriously for publication. I am so glad I discovered it! (Pictures from my better half).

Am pleased to share my latest Youtube video. Hope you enjoy Wondering. Miranda cannot understand her neighbours’ fears about a local inhabitant. There is someone else they should be frightened of – as the video makes clear.


I sometimes have fun with flash stories set in alternative worlds. In A Day Out in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, for example, I have my character on his way to feed the ducks but these are no ordinary ducks and my character is not looking forward to the trip. So you can take elements from what we know right here, such as feeding ducks, and turn it into something comedic, tragic, horrific etc.

And in Job Satisfaction from From Light to Dark and Back Again, I show what a disgruntled fairy is prepared to do as part of her “dentistry work” as she carries out her rounds as the Tooth Fairy. Here I am taking the element of someone being fed up with a client she doesn’t like (with good reason) but setting that with a magical background so my operative has more options open to her than us mere mortals would.

So mix elements up and have fun. See what you can do with them. Taking the ordinary and turning them into extraordinary parts of a story is a great way to come up with some interesting and quirky fiction. And for another example of that, see below.

 


Looking forward to receiving my copies of Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing which I now know are on their way. My chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories. Looking forward to doing the “author opening the box of books” pose again! Great fun (and we all need validation. It’s a funny thing but every writer needs it. It is just a question of degree).

It was also great to see a very familiar name (thanks to Bridge House Publishing) on Friday Flash Fiction recently (well done #HannahRuthRetallick). I am also thrilled to see a very dear friend of mine and fellow Swanwicker on CafeLit today with a fabulous story called Marmalade. Go visit and check it out. (Always worth scrolling through CafeLit. Lovely mixture of stories in terms of style and word count. Marmalade was out on 28th August 2021). My sympathy is entirely with her lead character, Annie. More power to your pens, Hannah and #JuneWebber.

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Dialogue in Books

I love dialogue in books as long as that conversation is moving the story on in some way. I need the characters to show me something either about themselves or the unfolding plot (and it is often both at the same time) for their conversation to grip me and keep me reading. It is something I have to watch with my own writing as I love setting up my characters for a good “chin wag” but it must always be relevant to the story. So if it isn’t, out it comes.

What I don’t like is where characters can sometimes tell each other stuff they clearly must know. I don’t buy the “character needs reminding” business here. It is usually done because the writer needs to get information across to a reader, they know they mustn’t “tell” the reader and are conscious they need to “show” the information.

I totally sympathise and it was something I did when I was starting out but with time and practice, you learn to be more confident in allowing your readers to work things out for themselves. Flash fiction writing with its limited word count really encourages that. So it is a question of putting in the right clues in the right way so readers do something to work with so they can figure things out for themselves.

I’ve learned over time to put in an odd line or two where I reveal something to a reader rather than have a pointless conversation between characters telling each other what they must already know. It takes less time and word count and you don’t switch your readers off with a conversation they will quickly sense is more to help the author out rather than to help the story along.

But when dialogue does what it is meant to do – move the story along, keep up pace etc., – then it is amongst my favourite parts of a book. I want to eavesdrop what the characters are saying because I know I am going to find out useful, interesting things. And often in dialogue the tension rachets up as well, which I also like.

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Wildflowers, Seasons in Writing, and Flash Moments

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. (I’m especially fond of the one I created below about the best lines, think the imagery works really well here).

All screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here and am looking forward to talking about flash fiction via Zoom to the Byre Writers on Saturday, 31st July.

The best lines conjure images

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I end the standard working week with a gentle post for Chandler’s Ford Today called Wildflowers. I am lucky to live near a nice recreation ground, where I exercise Lady, which has a stunning wildflower meadow as part of that. This post celebrates this year’s wildflower “blooming” and it is especially nice to do so as it has emerged late this year. Indeed, as you will see from my post, I had thought we weren’t going to have flowers out at all here this year.

Now the funny thing is the natural world does not inspire my writing at all. I know it can do for writers but not for me. What it does do is give me a refreshing break from my desk and it is that break which helps “fire” me up for writing on return to said desk.

Hope you enjoy the post – and the pictures. It is a joy to share pictures like this.

Wildflowers

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Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers

I’m posting early for once as I have the great delight of returning to watch live theatre this evening. My local amateur theatre company are exceptionally good and I am looking forward to tonight’s entertainment so much.

Meanwhile, I discuss Seasons in Writing for my More than Writers blog spot this time. Slower seasons may be just what we need at times to recover from intensive work and/or to develop ideas that need more time to come to fruition. I do know, whatever season of writing I am in, I need the support and encouragement of other writers. They in turn will appreciate that support and encouragement from you.

Hope you enjoy the post.


Hope you have had a good Wednesday. Got a bit of a soaking out with Lady and my better half this evening. Changeable weather again but Lady did get to play with her best buddie, the Ridgeback, again today so all is right with their world.

Favourite writing tips of mine include:-

1. Get the story out, edit later.

2. Worry about word count (especially for flash) only when you know you have got the story down and there will not be major changes.

3. Fire up your imagination by reading widely, in and out of your genre, and don’t forget the non-fiction. Ideas for stories can come from there.

4. Get the story out, put it aside, then edit it. You need to come back and read the story as a reader would to see where it works and where it could do with work! Only time away gives you the necessary distance.

5. Draft other stories while you’re resting others. I like to see this as a writing – resting – editing – submitting – writing virtuous circle. The idea being you will always have a story to draft and, when not doing that, you will have another one to edit and get ready for submission somewhere.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It was a joy to watch The Chameleons perform last night for the first time since their pantomime in December 2019. I was talking about flash moments in stories yesterday, including those stories produced for the stage. There were several in last night’s performance and I hope to write about some of those in my review for Chandler’s Ford Today next week.

And talking of flash, I’m pleased to share my latest drabble from #FridayFlashFiction. This one is called Oddity and is my take on the Demon Barber of Fleet Street story (aka Sweeney Todd). Hope you enjoy. (And yes always go to a barber you know you can trust!).
Screenshot 2021-07-30 at 18-42-48 Oddity, by Allison Symes

Am off to the theatre this evening for the first time in over a year to see our excellent amateur theatre company, The Chameleon Theatre Group, perform once again. This is why I am posting early. I usually post at around 7.30 to 8 pm UK time. For an evening out, my posts were up by 5 pm! But it was worth it. The performances were great and I’ll talk more about what I went to see in my CFT post next week.

I like stories in whatever form they come in – books, audio, and for something like this getting to watch the stories being brought to life. And yes, flash can pop up here too. How? It will be those one liners here and there that strike a chord with me that perhaps are too easy to overlook. It will be those lines that resonate with me the most. I like to think of those as flash moments.

(And of course different people will get different things from the performances they go to watch so will have different flash moments. But maybe, just maybe I will get ideas for stories of my own from those flash moments. Even when that doesn’t happen, I still get to see an excellent performance and discover plays new to me so win-win!).

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I write mainly in the evenings listening to Classic FM. Does that put me off my stride for writing flash stories, blogs etc? Not a bit of it. I find I relax and when I relax, I write and write and write. You get the picture.

A useful way of working out who your characters are would be to decide what their favourite music would be and why. If your character loves, say, Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens above anything else, does that mean they themselves have a quirky nature given the music is quirky? (See my book trailer for FLTDBA above as I use Danse Macabre as the music here if you don’t know the track. I swear you can hear the quirkiness in it and it is why I chose this piece for this trailer. You might also remember the music from the old TV series, Jonathan Creek). Book trailers below.

Of course, you can use almost anything (and not just music) to work out who your character is but it is down to you to decide what you need to know before you write their stories up. I’ve found a bit of time spent working my characters out has saved me a great deal of time later on and I usually find depths to my characters as I explore their personalities more, which in turn adds depth to my story.

Fairytales with Bite – The (Magical) Arts

What role is there for the arts, as we know them, in your magical world? Is there a place for, say, portrait painting when a quick wave of the old wand could produce a stunning picture without any physical effort at all? Do your magical characters turn to “old-fashioned” ways of producing art as a means to unwind?

Are those who do create works of art, as we would understand the process, looked down on or up to because they use “manual” rather than magical ways to do these things?

Also, what role is there for music? Is music created magically? Or does your created world import music it likes from other places, including from Earth?

Do you have characters who prize the arts and those who despise them? What kind of conflicts could that produce in your stories?

For me, our world would be a much poorer place without the arts. That could apply to a fictional world too. (I don’t like dystopian works much, especially after the last year or so with the Covid pandemic hitting us all so hard, but art would be looked down on in such settings at best I feel and that’s no coincidence. A world without art in some shape or form would always be pretty bleak to me).

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This World and Others – Fiction or Fact in Your World

Following on from my Fairytales with Bite post, what emphasis does your created world put on fiction and fact? Is one more heavily weighted than the other?

If, say, your world despises fiction (and the arts) and focuses on plain facts (the sciences, engineering etc as we would know them), what would happen if their “knowledge” is challenged by the discovery of something new? Or if a long cherished theory was debunked? Or if if was proven the world of the arts had health benefits science could not produce? Would your created world suppress these because of its disapproval of the arts rather than accept they got it wrong and there was place for fact and fiction?

There could be interesting character development here. If say Character A was a scientist open to new ideas, how would they react when Character B, their boss, who was anything but open, suppressed knowledge? Would Character A leak the knowledge somehow? What would the consequences be if they did?

If Character A was open to the arts but their boss wasn’t, again what would the consequences be if Character A was caught going to an exhibition or a concert?

Interesting story ideas to explore here I think.

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Genres, Opening Lines, and Publication News

https://morethanwriters.blogspot.com/2021/06/genres-by-allison-symes.htmlImage Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope all is well with you. Glad to share two new stories this time – one from Friday Flash Fiction and another from my Youtube channel. Hope you enjoy. Also have publication news from CafeLit and an update about my contribution to Wendy H Jones’ book on Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing so plenty going on. (Images of me signing my contract for the latter were taken by Adrian Symes).

AE - July 2021 - Whether you love or loathe the characters, they should make you feel something


Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers

Delighted to share my blog on More Than Writers, the blog spot from the Association of Christian Writers. I talk about Genres this month and define a few (having fun doing so too!). I chat about why I love ghost stories where the ghost is not the villain, give you pointers regarding major things to look out for in a fantasy novel, and ask you what are your favourite genres and why amongst other things.

So what are your favourite genres and why? Fairytales/fantasy are it for me though I do love crime and historical fiction as well. Is there a book that took you by surprise as to how good or bad it was? For me, The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey surprised me in a good way and changed my view about Richard III.

I don’t have any time for the snobbery that can prevail around genre fiction. A good book is a good book and if it is accessible to more people because it is in a certain genre, so be it.

You sometimes have days when there is lots to announce. Today is one of mine!

1. I’ve seen the book cover for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion For Writing by Wendy H. Jones where I am contributing a chapter on flash fiction and short story writing. Can’t reveal the cover yet. Looking forward to doing so. It looks great. Trust me on that!

2. Delighted to say From Light to Dark and Back Again is now up on the Bridgetown Cafe Bookshop. Oh and the great thing about the bookshop is there are a variety of places to buy from too. See link for more.

3. There will be some fabulous author interviews to come on Chandler’s Ford Today, starting this very Friday, 2nd July, with part 1 of my chat with domestic noir writer, Helen Matthews. (I always learn a lot from reading/listening to author interviews which is why I love having writers on CFT).

4. I’ll be on the More than Writers blog spot tomorrow (for the Association of Christian Writers) with a humorous piece about Genres. Looking forward to sharing the link for that tomorrow. See above!

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Hope you have had a nice Sunday. It was lovely having family over in the garden yesterday (and what change in the weather today – it’s chucking it down as I type this!).

I’ll be sharing the first part of a fabulous interview with domestic noir writer, Helen Matthews, later this week on Chandler’s Ford Today. Looking forward to sharing that. I always learn so much from author interviews and it is a pleasure to be doing them.

I’m thrilled that so many wonderful comments are coming in on my latest #FridayFlashFiction story, Restless. You can check it out at https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/restless-by-allison-symes

Have sent another story in for them and I’m delighted to say I’ll be having another story up on CafeLit before too long as well. So it has been quite a productive weekend.

Hope you have a good week! (I also hope the weather improves somewhat but we shall see).

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Today (26th June) would have been my Dad’s 84th birthday. It’s a strange day in many ways, as you can imagine. I was pleased he got to see my debut published book, From Light to Dark and Back Again, as my late mum only got to see my first printed story, A Helping Hand in Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing). There is a kind of symmetry to that I think.

I occasionally use a character’s memories in my flash tales. The obvious two are The Pink Rose in Tripping the Flash Fantastic and They Don’t Understand in my debut collection.

Flash fiction can be a great vehicle for character studies like these precisely because they work best when kept short. The impact on a reader is greater too because of the brevity. What matters is getting across what is the important thing about the character you are writing about. What is it about them that readers have to know?

(Oh and on a very happy note, I’ve booked my train tickets for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Can’t wait to catch up with people there).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When do you know your flash fiction or short story character “works”? When they intrigue you enough to write their stories up is the answer that works for me. As I outline my character and discover more things about them, if they grip me at that point, they should do so for a reader as well so away I go.

Also just a quick reminder I share writing tips and exclusive flash stories over at my author newsletter which I issue monthly. The next one is out on 1st July so if you’d like to sign up for this do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where you’ll find the relevant sign up form. You’ll receive a welcome email initially with a link to a free pdf download where I chat about flash and share exclusive stories there. (And a big thank you to those who have signed up already – it is great to have you aboard).

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Pleased to share my latest story video here. Hope you enjoy Borrowing.

 

27th June
Delighted to say I’ll be having a flash piece, written as a result of a writing exercise I set for the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group, up on CafeLit on 5th July. That is what I call a result and I look forward to sharing it then.

I love opening lines as an exercise. There are usually at least two or three directions in which to take them too. (That makes me feel like a kid with the keys to the chocolate factory!). I suppose the reason I love them so much is I know I am “away” once I’ve got that line down, and knowing who my character is and what they’re capable of, means I’ve got the opening line and a structure in place. I find that so useful.

Funnily enough it’s not a question of then joining the dots. I still have to show my character developing and changing but my structure means the change is reasonable for the character and so will make sense to a reader.

I can still wrongfoot a reader (and often do) but if you then went back over the story you would find the clues were there to indicate the wrong-footing was possible given what you are shown of the character. (I love this when other authors achieve this with me whether it is a short story or a novel. It keeps me on my toes and I have learned so much about how to place things in a story to achieve this).

Have managed to get another flash pieces “off” this weekend – another one to #FridayFlashFiction. I am having so much fun writing the drabbles (100 worders) again as those are what drew me into flash fiction writing in the first place.


One idea for a story is to take a date that is special to you and make it special for your character. The reasons could be the same or the polar opposite. Either way you could write an interesting character study out of this.

Dates mean something for a reason and, especially if you don’t choose the well known ones such as Christmas or Mother’s/Father’s Day, you could show us a character with a unique take on life due to the reason they cherish the date you’ve picked for them.

Also, are there dates your characters would be keen to avoid and what would happen if they can’t get out of whatever is happening on the date in question? There’s potential for comedy and tragedy there – up to you which direction you take it.

But having a special date will reveal something of your character to you as the writer. If that appeals, it will appeal to a reader also. (Also there would be broad sympathy given most of us have dates that mean something to use and not to others).

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Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes a Good Story Ending For You?

Story endings don’t have to be happy ones. For some tales, a happy ending would be inappropriate. But what would you class as a “good” story ending?

For me the ending has to be appropriate for the kind of tale being told and for the character.

It was clear in A Christmas Carol, for instance, that Scrooge would have to change. It was a question there of how it would be done. Had Scrooge not changed, there would have been no point in the visitations of the ghosts and there would have been no story.

So I am looking for change to have happened by the end of the story. Being a fairly positive person, I like these changes to be as upbeat as possible. Failing that, I’ll be happy with a kind of “yes, that’s appropriate for this character”.

What you don’t want is a feeling of disappointment that the story hasn’t been closed off properly. There should be no loose ends. The character should have learned something and moved on from the starting point of the story. If that learning something and moving on is something I can identify with, then that makes it an even better ending for me.

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Summer (finally!), The Author Voice, and Mom’s Favorite Reads

Image Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Summer weather now finally here in the UK and I have publication news too – for non-fiction this time and something I hope will be now be a new “regular” for me, Mom’s Favorite Reads. Screenshot of cover image of MFR taken by me, Allison Symes, as was snippet of my piece on flash fiction.

BookBrushImage-2021-6-1-19-5015

Facebook – General

Another glorious day. For once the swimming pool water felt refreshing rather than like a blast from the icy North. (Am sure it is a ploy to make you start swimming quickly and to be fair it is an effective ploy!).

Sent out author newsletter today. Hope those of you who have signed up to it enjoy it. I love putting them together.

Delighted to say I am now in Mom’s Favourite Reads and this time I have a feature article about flash fiction (Flash Fiction and Sharks) in there along with a flash story called Dressed to Kill. Looking forward to contributing more to Mom’s Favourite Reads in due course.

It has been a gloriously sunny and warm Bank Holiday Monday in my part of the world today. This is more like it!

Looking forward to taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival later this year. (Also lovely that many of my writer pals are also going – it will be a blast!). More details as and when.

Also looking forward to giving another Zoom talk on flash fiction at the end of July. Can’t wait to be back at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August too. So a promising summer and autumn lies ahead.

Now I’ve mentioned before that when I have odd pockets of time, I will jot down one or two liners which I will then write up into flash or short stories. Sometimes the ideas I jot down can become blog posts for Chandler’s Ford Today, Authors Electric, or More Than Writers. (From next month, I’ll be jotting down regularly ideas for articles for Mom’s Favorite Reads too).

It really does pay to to do this. I was feeling especially tired yesterday, the old imaginative tank was definitely running on low, so I went back over a couple of old ideas and wrote them up. One is a flash story which has become a story video (see my book page at https://www.facebook.com/fairytaleladyallisonsymes for the link to this – going up shortly after I post this!). Also see further down!

The other story has become a 100-word story I submitted to #FridayFlashFiction. (And I can let you know on Friday whether or not they took it!). I ended up finishing my writing session feeling considerably more cheerful than when I began it because I had something I could work with immediately and so off I went.

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Hope you have had a good Sunday. Lovely to see some “proper” May weather – nice sunshine, decent temperatures etc. Lady relished it when having her usual playtime in the park.

I guess I should’ve known the weather would perk up because my Chandler’s Ford Today post for later this week is called Summer Here, Maybe? There really is a Murphy’s Law for Writers!

On the plus side I do share some good news that has lately come to my attention in this post, discuss holiday reading, and anticipate returning to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School later this year.

Mind you, I could easily have written 1000 words on the vagaries of the recent weather!

New newsletter from me out on Tuesday (1st June) so if you want to sign up please head to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I’ve been having great fun with Book Brush recently for a lot of my blog work as it has been great creating images I can use with the captions already in them, captions I invent. The images are still from those marvellous people at Pixabay but prior to discovering Book Brush, I had to add captions in under the image itself which, for me, was not as clear. And, of course, I’m using the same program to create my short story videos – all good fun. (Talking of which I will be sharing two exclusive short story videos in my newsletter on 1st June).

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Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers

I look at why it matters we hear from your characters, and not from you the writer, in my turn on the ACW blog, More Than Writers, this month. When we tell stories, we are showing readers what happens to our “people”. It is “their” story. We just create their roles for them. So let them speak, act, think etc. It is the characters that grip readers, the characters who keep people reading.

Now to ensure I get my characters to do the talking and acting, rather than have my author voice butting in, I outline those people first. I use a simple template so I know enough about my characters before I start writing them up.

If they don’t grip me at that stage by showing me, yes, these characters could do this, do that, really impact a reader this way, then I don’t write those characters up. If they don’t engage with me, they won’t for anyone else. I share a simple template I use a lot to help me get my characters “fit for purpose”. Hope you find this useful.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Just to flag up the paperback of Tripping The Flash Fantastic is on offer at Amazon. See link for more info.

Also sharing the link for Mom’s Favorite Reads as I have an article on flash fiction and my story Dressed to Kill in there. Will be writing more for MFR in due course.

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Delighted to share my latest story video on Youtube – Mirror, Mirror On The Wall. (Yes, I do love using fairytales and nursery rhymes for story ideas. They can make great themes – and I’ll be talking about finding themes for Chandler’s Ford Today in a couple of weeks’ time). Hope you enjoy!

 

If you like inventing characters, flash fiction is for you. It has always been my favourite aspect to creating stories so this is a win-win situation for me. My favourite kind of character is the quirky type (and my heroine, Mary, from my story Assumptions which is on #FridayFlashFiction, is a good example. Let’s just say nobody is going to con or otherwise hoodwink my older heroines. I once came across the term CroneLit for heroines of a certain age and upwards. I like that).

And flash works brilliantly for those “one-off” situations which you couldn’t justify stretching to a full length short story (1500 words + generally). It also works well for quirky characters. Now to get on and invent some more!

 

Thanks for a great response to my story, Assumptions, on #FridayFlashFiction yesterday. Also thanks for the fabulous response to my contract news the other day. Am looking forward to writing up my chapter on flash fiction in due course.

Now I remain convinced one of the things that has helped flash take off so well in the last few years is technology and a change in reading habits. More of us are reading on screen (and I do so whenever print books are a little less convenient such as if I’m away somewhere – there are only so many books you can pack in a case and the Kindle does get around that issue!).

And something that is easy to read on screen is ideal – flash is perfect for that of course. It is also great to share on social media as a way of entertaining (hopefully!) your readers. It is great here as an advert for your writing work overall and to give something of value to your followers.

Less is more really could be the anthem for all flash fiction writers!

Goodreads Author Blog – What Puts You Off Reading a Book?

I know this is a bit of an odd question for a book blog spot but I think it a valid one. So is there anything which would put you off reading a book?

For me, hype tends to do it. I want to decide for myself what to read and I am always suspicious when a book is hyped. Lots of good reviews is another matter. People say what they think, I do so myself, and that’s fine. It’s when you get the “you’ve got to read this – everyone else is reading it” that tends to make me pause and think “well not everyone”. I don’t want to be told what to read while I am always happy with recommendations.

I still haven’t read Fifty Shades. Really not my style of book. The hype for it wasn’t going to make me change my mind either (if anything, it made me more determined not to do so).

I have got around to reading The Thursday Murder Club and loved that. I had word of mouth recommendations on this one (always the best kind to get) plus I checked out the reviews. (I still think the book was let down by poor proofreading though, always a disappointment and even more so when a big publisher is guilty of it).

So what would put you off reading a book? Is it a question that you know the genres you like and you stick with those no matter what? Comments welcome!

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