The Writing Life and Show, Don’t Tell


Image Credits:- All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good weekend. My workshop at the London Jesuit Centre went down very well and many thanks to all who came. Also for the lovely feedback. Happy writing to you all! (I plan to have a write up about this for Chandler’s Ford Today once I have also ran my flash fiction workshop at the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee celebration weekend in June. Meantime, there are pictures taken by me from the event throughout the post).

 

Facebook – General

Strange day – gorgeously sunny and warm and by this evening it was pouring down. Fortunately Lady and I missed the worst (we’re never sorry about that) and she got to play with her pal, Coco, today.

When do you know you really are a writer? Is it when you get your first publication credit or contract or you’ve mapped out your self-publishing route? Not necessarily! I would argue it is when you recognize that writing can not be part of your life and you will write regardless of anything else. Doesn’t matter if you only have a few minutes a day or several hours. It is the commitment and regular writing that matters I think.

Also the acceptance that rejections happen to everyone (and even more so not hearing back from a publisher or a competition) is an important factor. Another one is recognizing nobody’s work can ever be described as perfect. It is a question of making it the best you can make it at the time you wrote it.

I can look back on several of my earlier stories and see how I could improve them. They act as a record of where I was at the time and as encouragement to keep going and to continually try to improve on what I do. That is the challenge of writing – to keep on improving. Resting on your laurels doesn’t encourage you to see what else you might do either.

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Hope your week has got off to a good start. Changeable weather here again though Lady got to play with her two best girlfriends today and all three dogs went home very happy. It is quite something to see a Collie cross, a Ridgeback, and a Vizler playing! You do learn to get out of the way quickly, mind you.

Many thanks for the comments in so far on Creation, my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. The feedback on this site is encouraging and much appreciated.

It’s almost time again for my monthly Authors Electric spot – my post will be up on Wednesday (18th May so will be included in my next round up here) and I will be talking about Why I love the Shorter Fictional Forms. There you go! A good example of writing about what you know! Screenshot 2022-05-13 at 09-12-04 Creation by Allison Symes

More like an autumn day out there today than a spring one!

I plan to write up a bit more about my workshop yesterday for the London Jesuit Centre later in June, after I come back from The Hayes in Swanwick after the Association of Christian Writers’ Golden Jubilee weekend. I will be running my flash fiction workshop there and am looking forward to doing so and catching up with friends old and new.

That means I continue with my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today and next Friday’s post will be about Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions In Fiction. There’s some nice alliteration for you!

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

And I got my story off for one of the competitions I always have a try at so that rounds off the week nicely! As I mentioned to someone at the workshop yesterday, I really don’t miss having to send everything off in the post. I am so grateful for email submissions. It’s quicker and I can know my story got there straight away too!

 

A huge thank you to the lovely people at the London Jesuit Centre for making me so welcome today (Saturday, 14th May 2022). I ran my workshop Finding Your Voice – Writing Fiction – How to Get Started there this morning and there were some fabulous discussions and questions as a result of the workshop material. Many thanks all – I love interactive workshops whether I’m running them or attending them!

Also a quick trip down memory lane here as I always used to try and “buy” Bond Street on the old Monopoly board when playing this as a kid and my Tube Station stop today – you guessed it, Bond Street!

In other news, as they say, a big thanks also to all who have commented on Creation, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’m sure we’ve all heard the expression “show, don’t tell” and it took me a long time to work out what that meant. Writing flash helped me enormously here.

When I “clicked” it was all about getting your characters to say/do things and not the author, I was away. (Catherine walked through the wall as if there was nothing to it as opposed to me saying something like The character, Catherine, did this, did that. Oh and by the way she’s a ghost. My first example shows you she must be a ghost without my spelling it out).

The flash element helped me develop this because of the limited word count. I had to ensure my characters were doing all of the work.It’s a bit like a play – what does the audience want? To see the actors perform the story (or listen if it’s an audio play). What they don’t want are the stage directions. Those aren’t for them.

Likewise, a reader doesn’t want to see my early drafts of a story. They want to see and read what my characters get up to – and it has helped me to remember that it is the character’s story.

Why am I writing this character’s story up? What is so important they get to do this? Only answer there is for the characters to show me (and ultimately the reader) through what I get them to say and do. The only people readers want to hear from are the characters.

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It’s Monday (16th May 2022) and time once again for a YouTube video. Hope you enjoy my latest, 47. Linda has an unlucky number but it’s not one of the usual ones – she has no problem with the number 13 for example. Why 47? Find out here!

 

I suppose one of the reasons I love characters so much in any kind of story is I usually understand where they are coming from, even if I still disagree with their attitudes and actions. I want to then see how things pan out. Did those characters make the right choices for them and their situation after all or not? That is the big draw of fiction and I need characters to make things happen.

Okay, sometimes those things will make the initial situation worse but a “good” character will find ways of overcoming that/learning where they went wrong and put things right. In flash fiction, naturally, all of that happens so much more quickly so you get the payback more quickly.

And for any kind of story collection, I like a mixture of moods of story too. It is why I called my first book From Light to Dark and Back Again after all!

Flash with Amazon and Barnes and Noble


I was sharing a flash piece today as part of my workshop Finding Your Voice – Writing Fiction – How to Get Started for the London Jesuit Centre today (Saturday, 14th May 2022). The great thing about doing this is that it doesn’t take too long, flash can illustrate points quickly, and it is easy to demonstrate the point of hooks, powerful opening lines etc.

Also you can show a character does not necessarily have to be right about conclusions they’ve reached for themselves but what should happen in stories like that is the reader should have empathy with that character. They should be able to understand where the character is coming from even though they think the character should have reached a more positive conclusion, say.

Stories, of any length, should make you react, make you feel something, make you care about what happens to the character (and something does have to happen. There should be a conflict which needs resolving. It should matter to the characters that it is resolved).

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Books Acrostic

B = Brilliant books in all sizes and genres, sure to be something to suit you.
O= Original storytelling from contemporary writers or do you fancy the
O = Old Classics? Why choose – have both!
K = Kindles now mean you can now have an overflowing electronic book shelf as well as a physical one!
S = Stories you read may well inspire the ones you write.

A = Adventures or animal stories – enjoy them all.
C = Children’s fiction, YA, adult, – work your way through!
R = Reading feeds the mind, liberates the imagination.
O = Off in a world of your own – maybe when you read but then the author has done their work well if that is the case.
S = Scary or silly – there are stories for both.
T = Twist endings are not just for crime tales though there are plenty there.
I = Imagine what it might be like to live in a different world – books can take you there.
C = Characters – it’s all about the characters for me whether I love them or loathe them. They have to make me feel something. The very best linger in the mind long after I’ve finished reading the book.

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Originality in Fiction and Alphabetical Writing Thoughts


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

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

Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

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

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

Originality in Fiction

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fairytales With Bite – Fairytale Acrostic

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

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This World and Others – Games and Puzzles

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

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

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

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

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Workshop News and Questions


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

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Facebook – General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

 

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

Workshop News

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

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

Looking forward to seeing everyone at both workshops!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

Monologues can also work well for my YouTube tales.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books You Must Read

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

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

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

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

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Making Characters Real in Fiction


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Happy Easter to those who, like me, celebrate it. Good to have some proper Easter weather too – lovely, sunny and warm in the UK right now.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

15th April 2022 – Good Friday – CFT
Happy Easter to those who celebrate it. I visited another church this morning for a lovely Good Friday service. I had a lovely walk of a couple of miles each way and I was especially grateful for the cup of tea on offer when I got to the church! It was needed!

My usual church has all of its Easter events on Easter Sunday so it starts mournfully and then ends in celebration. It is a lovely service but I like to get to a service on Good Friday when I can. On my walk down, I came across a little bridge and someone had put up a small bin with sticks in it. They’d marked the bin “Pooh Sticks” so someone is a Winnie the Pooh fan – made me smile as I saw it. (No sign of Eeyore or Tigger before you ask).

Screenshot 2022-04-15 at 12-34-21 Making Characters Real In Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

I hope you find my Making Characters Real In Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today useful. I talk about why characters have to resonate with readers for their stories to be believable (and that’s still true even for the most fantastical of settings). I look at motivation and realism too. (Wish me luck for when I get to Q in this series! It is approaching rapidly!).

Making Characters Real In Fiction

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Lady had a fabulous play “date” with her gentleman friend who is a gorgeous tri-coloured Aussie Shepherd this morning. She usually prefers to play with her girlie dog friends but this very nice lad is a rare exception for the boys. Good to see them both running around at full pelt and having a wonderful time.

Writing wise, I am busy getting workshop material ready. Love this (and indeed presenting it later on). As with my flash work where I have my Ideal Reader in mind all the time, here I am thinking of what my audience is going to find useful. Putting yourself in your readers’/listeners’ shoes is a good idea, always. It helps cut any tendency to waffle for a start!

I also have in mind what I’d find useful from a workshop if I was going to it as a delegate. That perspective again helps me tailor my material in the right way. Later, I will record my material and play it back via Zoom. That is a great way of highlighting any issues – such as am I speaking too fast? Am I speaking clearly enough and so on? I’ve also found it triggers ideas for material to add in as I literally listen to what I’ve said and spot gaps which I then fill. It’s also great practice at writing and presenting non-fiction of course so win-win!

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Not a bad day. Looked grotty first thing, then brightened up. This could often apply to me first thing in the morning just after I’ve had my first cup of tea for the day!

Looking forward to sharing my Making Characters Real In Fiction post for Chandler’s Ford Today on Good Friday. Hope you will find it useful.

My author newsletter goes out on the first of the month and is packed with tips, news, prompts etc so if you would like to sign up do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

The next couple of months will be busy with workshops – one in May in London and the other as part of the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend at The Hayes, Swanwick.

Did I ever anticipate running workshops one day when I started going to writing events etc? Not a bit of it but I am thrilled with how things have worked out here and ironically the pandemic helped. Zoom was my way in to workshops as it made certain things possible. I hope to do much more of this kind of thing.

I’ve taken the long view that I will see where my writing journey takes me. It has thrown up some interesting things which I hope to develop further. I mean I hadn’t anticipated being a flash fiction writer either when I started out and that has worked out well! Being open is important.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

15th April 2022 – Good Friday
Happy Easter to those who, like me, commemorate it (today, a sad day) and celebrate it (Easter Sunday, a joyful day). I once wrote a flash piece for Christian Writer magazine (the journal of the Association of Christian Writers) called The Craftsman. It focused on the carpenter who made Jesus’s cross.

What mattered for that story and indeed for any I write is that I know where my focus is – for this example, I had my carpenter smooth the wood down as much as he could. He couldn’t help in any other way so he did that. So my focus here was on my carpenter’s wish to help and to figure out a small way in which he could feel he had done that.

My focus for my current story on Friday Flash Fiction comes from a prompt. It was from a random scenario generator (yes really!) and the scenario that came out was finding a piece of paper stuck in a chest of drawers. And this is what I did with that prompt. Hope you enjoy my A Timely Reveal and a huge thanks to those who have commented on this one already.
Screenshot 2022-04-15 at 12-35-32 A Timely Reveal by Allison Symes

I don’t always name my characters in my flash stories. One reason for this is that, with my darker tales, keeping something as an “it” is more scary than naming “it”. But with other tales, the name of the character isn’t so important to the story. What matters is what the character does.

Where I do use a name then see that as important information. I’m nearly always using a name to convey social status, sometimes species (in my Losing Myself from Tripping the Flash Fantastic I start the story with the name Graxia – this is highly unlike to be a human name), sometimes genre (ditto with Graxia – likely to be a fantasy name, as it is).

Names, like any other vital information, need to move the story on in some way and that can be by giving an indicator of likely status/setting as that in itself will put pictures inside the reader’s mind. You want them to see the right kind of pictures here.

Allison Symes - Flash Fiction Collections

I sometimes start a flash piece with a question. It makes for a good hook as the reader knows that question has to be answered by the end of the story and they have to read on to find out how that answer happens. My The Truth from From Light to Dark and Back Again does this. I rarely finish a story with a question though I did for Losing Myself in Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Why do that? Because the question itself reveals crucial information that wraps up the tale nicely.

Questions also make for good themes. Shorter questions might be useful as titles too. I use random question generators every so often and have found that most of the ones from those tend to be on the long side (e.g. What was your favourite meal as a child and why don’t you have it now?) and so work best as a theme.

In this example, I would probably show a character being offered an old childhood favourite meal and get them having mixed feelings over eating it because there are sad associations with it now etc. I certainly wouldn’t have that question as a title. Titles work best when kept short and snappy. They draw in a reader’s attention better too like that.

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Fairytales With Bite – Diaries

It was great fun writing my fictional fairy godmother’s diary last week. Hope you enjoyed it.

Now think about your own writing. Do you have a character who could keep a diary like that? The one thing I would say about this kind of writing is it is essential you know your character’s voice well enough. You need that strength of voice to come through to your readers (and to be able to sustain the diary for however long you choose to write it).

On a related note, in your created world, are diaries and journals kept by the population at large or only by the elite? (Can everyone read and write or is that privilege kept for a select few?). Are there official diaries that everyone can read? Would diaries be amongst your world’s historical documents and do the contents still impact on how your world is governed?

Just because a document is old doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. The Domesday Book has been cited in legal cases and is still a valid legal document. (I suspect William the Conqueror might have considered it to be his personal diary of what he owned!).

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This World and Others – Record Keeping

Who keeps the records in your fictional world? Who keeps the unofficial ones and how are they kept away from those who would destroy them? If only a few can read and write, are the scribes treated with honour by the general population or are they resented?

One thing I picked up from a medieval fair I went to some years ago was that it wasn’t unknown for scribes, when asked by a peasant to read a letter for them so they could understand its contents, to deliberately tell their client wrong information. Part of the reason for that was to drum up further business from the peasant. Get the peasant angry enough, the scribe would offer to write a suitable reply, the peasant pays up, and another letter gets written! And the scribe moves on to another town before they get found out! Scribes would often be part of travelling fairs and were always on the move.

Is there any way of the accuracy of your world’s records to be checked? Are there records which should be kept but which deliberately are not? What does your character(s) take as “gospel”and are they right do so so?

Records matter. They can confirm or remove an inheritance for one thing. They can sway how a country, say, reacts to another one, because that is all dependent on the pasts of these two nations. If one is deliberately wrong, that can easily change the course of history and the future.

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Spring-like Writing


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

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Facebook – General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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Goodreads Author Blog – Celebrating the Booksellers

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

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

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

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

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

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At The Scottish Association of Writers Conference


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

The journey home

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

At The Scottish Association of Writers Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fairytales with Bite – Character Traits in Fairytales

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

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

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

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

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

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This World and Others – Differences

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

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

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

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

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In Fiction – Frameworks and Animals – and A Good Cause


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

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

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

Chandler’s Ford Today

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

Frameworks in Fiction

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Screenshot 2022-02-18 at 20-57-33 (2) Allison Symes Facebook

Fairytales With Bite – Happily Ever After?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This World and Others – Living In Peace

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

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

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

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

 

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Random Questions and Feedback


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Good to see the evenings slowly becoming lighter in my part of the world. It’s still January though… aka the month that goes on for what seems like forever!

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Facebook – General

So cold out there today in my part of the world – even the dog wasn’t impressed.

Had a lovely time talking about flash fiction via Zoom to an ACW-affiliated group last night. I do hope it leads to more people trying flash fiction for themselves – it is good fun, addictive, and helps you sharpen your writing skills.

Certainly I’m not afraid of editing thanks to writing flash and it also makes me think about the impact of my stories and characters from the start. Doing that means I am thinking about the reader’s needs immediately. It also means I am less likely to go off at unhelpful tangents which only slow stories down.

And it is the perfect format for those times when you don’t have much time to write. You can get something drafted in a few minutes. The great thing is it doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s what the editing stages are for!

 

Has been a good Monday for me – as busy as ever but I seemed to get more things done more quickly. I wish all Mondays were like that. Still you treasure the good ones you get!

I’ve used the same prompt (from a random question generator) to trigger two stories. One I’ve submitted to Friday Flash Fiction and the other one I’ll share on my book page shortly as it is the latest in my YouTube videos. The question generated was what makes you cry? Link further down.

Interesting one as you can take this in a tragic direction but there is a possibility for comedy too (which is the direction I’ve taken). And of course you can adjust it to think about what would make your character cry.

I love random generators. They really make me put my thinking cap on.

 

Have been enjoying a quiet weekend. I’ll be taking a broad look at Characters in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. Looking forward to sharing that on Friday. Have been spending time preparing pieces for different blog spots – plenty to keep me out of mischief anyway!

And I am also getting my author newsletter together ready for that to go out on 1st February. (Do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like to sign up – I share news, tips, prompts, videos etc here).

What is the one thing you like most about writing? I know it’s hard to say but for me that feeling of knowing you’ve created a piece of work that you can’t improve any more and someone else has accepted it – well, it is hard to beat that one!

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Many thanks for the comments coming in on Someone Like Her my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. It is lovely receiving feedback from other readers on this site and I love reading through the other stories too.

What I find helpful in feedback I receive is in finding out what readers responded to – was it the character, the twist ending etc? (This is another reason why book reviews matter – it isn’t just the number received, it is what is said here as well).

And in giving feedback, I look to stress the positives, share what I think can be improved, and maybe make market suggestions if something obvious comes to mind. Sometimes a story you’re reading for a competition just calls into mind a possible market for it.

Am looking forward to giving a Zoom talk on Monday night too. So all go at the moment but in a very good way.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the views coming in so far on Crying, my latest YouTube video. Much appreciated, always.  See video link below.

For a short story like this one, I nearly always go for using the first person. I can take you straight into my character’s head and show you their thoughts, attitudes and actions. I like to think of it as “hitting the ground running”.

The funny thing here though is I had barely used first person before writing flash fiction. I suppose for a short word count format the immediacy of the “I” character has more impact than it would do in a longer piece where its effect might be “diluted” a bit. I do know it works really well in flash though.

 

Pleased to be sharing my latest YouTube story called Crying. This came from a random question generator and the question that came up was what makes you cry? Find out here what makes my character cry. Hope you enjoy it.


I’ve never liked those stories where the description seems to go on for ever and ever, amen. Funnily enough I have no problems here with classic novels where the writers had to spell everything out for their readers (no TV, no film, no easy way of a reader visualising what London looks like etc).

But in this day and age where we can get a good idea of what a place looks like because of our experiences with TV and film, I certainly don’t want to see that kind of description in any kind of story.

This is where flash fiction comes into its own. It makes you focus on only the most important things that have to go into the story for it to make sense. Having to work to a tight word count means you have to make choices but it is all for the good of the story – and that is always a great thing. Regardless of what we write, we should always be focusing on what is for the good of the story (which is where that famous phrase about “killing your darlings” comes in I suspect).

(But if you do want a great read right now and one which is free how about following this link to Mom’s Favorite Reads?).

 

Am giving a Zoom talk on Monday night about flash fiction. Love talking about that. I also think it is a great form for people who don’t have a lot of time to write but know they want to write something! And you can. Over time you can build up another flash stories for your own collections etc. I remain convinced in learning to write to a tight word count, that skill will carry over into writing query letters, synopses etc that also have to “not go on for too long” and convey information to attract an agent/publisher quickly.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Best Friends in Fiction

With my other writing hat on, I blog including for a weekly online magazine. My current topic for them is Best Friends in Fiction but I realised it would be a good topic for Goodreads too. When a lead character and their best friend/sidekick character are well portrayed, it is a joy to read their adventures and the interactions between them.

Can you imagine Holmes without Watson or Wooster without Jeeves? So many classic stories depend on the best friend character – and across genres too. Think Sam Gamgee and his support of Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings. (It was literal support at some points too).

Characterisation has always been what makes or breaks a story (of any length) for me. I have got to understand where the characters are coming from, even if I disagree with their attitudes and actions. And for lead and best friend characters I have got to see why the lead has the best friend character they do.

Holmes is a genius but needs Watson to temper that but Holmes does recognise that. Watson knows he can never be as brilliant as Holmes but knows he has his own role to play that could not be fulfilled by Holmes. Can you imagine Holmes trying to narrate a story for the masses? Err… no I think!

Do you have any favourite best friend fictional characters and if so why have you chosen these? Mine is Sam Gamgee – you can’t beat the guy for loyalty and guts when it matters.

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Out With The Old?


Image Credits:- 
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Hope you have had an enjoyable Christmas break. Happy New Year!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Firstly, may I wish you a very Happy New Year.

Secondly, I’m pleased to share Out with the Old?, my new post on Chandler’s Ford Today. Hope you enjoy it. I talk about whether you should necessarily discard everything that is old about your writing (old markets, old work which has been turned down, old ways of doing things) and about appreciating the new.

I also look at how this time of year is a great opportunity to assess where you are writing wise and maybe set some plans for the coming twelve months. And I also include a timely reminder that it is a normal part of the writing life to have to take the rough with the smooth, which gives added reason to celebrate the positives in writing when they happen.

Out with the Old?

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One of my post Christmas treats is to have a day trip to Dorset with better half and Lady. Cobwebs well and truly blown away. Lovely time had by all. Big walks are not where I find story inspiration funnily enough. What they do achieve is being something where I chill out. It’s being in that state of mind which does achieve kickstarting the old imagination.

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Posting early today but am pleased to share my latest post for More Than Writers, the blog spot from the Association of Christian Writers.

This time I talk about Aspects of Writing. I look at what I need to know before writing and why it helps to accept a first draft is not meant to be perfect, far from it!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Will be sending out author newsletter tomorrow. I share tips, prompts, links to stories and videos I’ve created etc, as well as news. To sign up head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Given flash is brief, and newsletters work better when they’re kept fairly short, a flash fiction based newsletter is a good match up I think! (And Tripping the Flash Fantastic is still on offer over at Amazon – see screenshot).

Happy New Year!

Screenshot 2021-12-31 at 20-21-21 Tripping the Flash Fantastic Amazon co uk Symes, Allison 9781910542583 Books

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Looking forward to resuming drafting drabbles at the weekend. The 100 worder is a great form to practice as there are plenty of competitions and markets for it. Check out the Writing Magazine Competition Guide or do a web search. And if you can write to that tight a word count, it will help you draft your blurb and synopsis for longer works.

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Lovely warm and sunny day for the time of year though Lady did manage to find all the mud in the park this morning!

As I write this on route to see family, I get glimpses of people, houses etc. Now any of these could spark ideas for flash fiction pieces. Who is that person? Why do they live where they do? Have they always lived there? If not, what or whom made them move? All story ideas there.

Anything that triggers you asking questions, start wondering “what if” etc, will have good flash potential to it. And people watching is a great one – just be discreet. Nobody should be able to guess what or whom inspired your story unless you tell them.

Fairytales With Bite – New Beginnings

This is an apt topic as we rapidly approach 2022. Do your characters see a new calendar year as a chance to have a new beginning or is this not something which would occur to them perhaps because their world does not celebrate the passing of time like this? If the latter is the case, what would make your character decide now was the time to begin again and which aspect of their life needs them to have a new start?

You could argue that a new beginning for a fairytale character should start after the “happily ever after” bit because your character(s) would be making a new life for themselves. And there are stories to be told here. How well did Cinders, Snow White etc adjust to married, royal life for example?

I should stress that does not need to be a negative story. They could adjust very well indeed but it would be likely they would need time to adjust, they would make mistakes, and it would be there that the stories could be told. How do they overcome all of that?

How supportive are their spouses? What mistakes would they make as they adjust to married life themselves? Certainly there would be space for good romance stories there – and probably humorous ones too, if the couples overcame the issues in a humorous way.

New beginnings, for me at least, would be positive stories and there is no reason why that can’t happen in a fairytale world. For me, here, the stories would be more interesting if the fairy godmother was not called in to sort things out and the couples had to sort things out themselves, probably making a bit of a hash of it along the way but overcoming that too. (Don’t we all do that at times?!).

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This World and Others – A Brand New World

I don’t know about you but the New Year period can feel a little like we’re about to enter a brand new world. There is (usually) more optimism and hope around for the start of the next twelve months. Okay, at the end of the year, we tend to look back and review whether the year was as good as we’d hoped for or not. In the case of 2020, with the onset of Covid, I suspect it could be named the Year Everyone Wants to Forget. (And I suspect 2021 is not going to score too highly in the Best Year of All Time Awards either!).

How do your characters respond to a new time in their lives? Are there the equivalent of New Year celebrations? If so, how are these celebrated and do your characters join in with this? What is societal expectation here? If not, how is the passing of time marked in your fictional setting instead? Why is it different from what we know? What would make your characters feel like they were about to enter a brand new world? Are they right to feel that way?

Taking your setting and characters a whole, what is the prevailing mood? Is it optimistic or pessimistic and why? For example if your world is generally optimistic because it is at peace, most people have all needs met etc., what would it take to change that mood? What would make it become a brand new world in a negative way? (And you can swap that round too – what would make a negative world positive? In either case, are the changes permanent?).

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SEASONS IN WRITING - When life gets in the way be kind to yourselfWriting Routines varyTime awayGood advice whatever your walk of life

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Hello Again – Hope You Had a Lovely Christmas!

Image Credits:
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you have had a lovely Christmas. A shorter post than normal due to the Christmas break but hope you enjoy it and find the tips useful. I moved my usual Goodreads blog post to Monday this week so that is included here. The period of time between Christmas and New Year is a bit of an odd one.

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Facebook – General

This week is always an odd one in that the days after Christmas seem to blur into each other until we reach New Year’s Eve. I do know it doesn’t “feel” like a Tuesday even though I know it is!

Do your characters ever feel this way? Can their mistakes with dates/times etc create havoc in your stories? (Certainly there would be comic potential here). Are your characters punctual and, if so, what happens when they have to deal with someone who isn’t?

Time can be a useful device in a story – it is a good way of making things happen. Characters set up a meeting. There has to be a time for it even though the real story will be in the meeting itself and the outcome from it.

You can also use Time as a character too. Is Time cruel or beneficial or does the answer to that depend on the perspective of your character?

Hello again! Hope you had a lovely Christmas. We did (and I can confirm there is no such thing as leftover turkey when you have a dog in the house!). Nice to be able to see family and I am happily reading one of my presents – The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman. Enjoying it so far.

I resumed a little bit of writing late last night and have been putting the finishing touches to my next author newsletter, due out on 1st January.

For Chandler’s Ford Today this week, I’ll be asking if it should be a case of Out With the Old? Link up on Friday. I hope to resume preparing YouTube videos and stories for Friday Flash Fiction later on in the week.

And I did have a nice surprise over the Christmas period. I received a review of Tripping The Flash Fantastic directly.


This is an interesting book of flash fiction; a fascinating way to read stories here and there and before I knew it, I accidentally finished the book. A book of flash fiction and short stories is a great way to engage in stories even when things are busy.

 

Many thanks to my reviewer and they hit on an important point. No matter how busy you are, there is something you can read – flash fiction is ideal for the quick read!

 

NO POSTS Christmas Day or Boxing Day

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

There’s a special offer on Tripping the Flash Fantastic on Amazon at the moment so if you want a quick to read New Year bargain, do follow the link!

In other news, I’m sending out my next author newsletter on 1st January (am not promising to be particularly early though!). Do sign up for this at the landing page for my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am also working behind the scenes on further workshop and talk material so plenty to keep me busy. Naturally I talk about flash. Am thrilled the form has taken off in such a big way. Good fun to write and read. Never waste a writing exercise again – polish it up, send it out as a piece of flash fiction. Why not? You have nothing to lose here.

Screenshot 2021-12-28 at 20-08-10 Tripping the Flash Fantastic Amazon co uk Symes, Allison 9781910542583 Books

Good to be back at the old writing desk once again. Hope you had a lovely Christmas. Hope in amongst your book presents, there are some flash fiction collections included! I’m currently reading a couple myself, as well as Richard Osman’s latest. I often have more than one book on the go at a time. It saves me making up my mind deciding which one I will read next when I can so easily decide which two or three I’ll tackle next instead! Reduces the To Be Read pile a bit quicker too.

What I love about the festive season is there are many possibilities for coming up with some lovely flash tales. I’ve written about Santa, his helpers, used other characters from well known fairytales so often performed as pantomime at this time of the year, amongst others. This is very much the “light” side of what I do and it is great fun. I don’t just write these tales now either. I will draft up ideas as they occur to me throughout the year and then save them for this time of year.

NO POSTS Christmas Day or Boxing Day

Goodreads Author Blog – Stories at Christmas

Thought I’d put my blog up after Christmas this time. Next one will be back on Saturday.

I hope you received plenty of books in the formats of your choice for Christmas. Am currently reading the second Richard Osman book and enjoying that. I’m also reading a couple of excellent flash fiction collections. Whoever said you only had to read one book at a time?!

Naturally I enjoyed stories via film over Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The Muppet Christmas Carol is a must. How can you not love an adaptation where the narrator, in this case Gonzo, recommends you read the original book?

The other must is The Polar Express. I’ve not read the book but the film is wonderful. Has a bit of a dark edge to it as well. Definitely not twee and something to make you think about the nature of belief. Oh and Hogfather. I didn’t get around to re-reading the Terry Pratchett classic this time (I usually do) but did watch the film.

Have you found a good film adaptation makes you read the book? I have. One of my earliest introductions to Dickens was watching the Alec Guinness version of Oliver Twist. I just had to read the book directly after watching that. And yes it can be fun spotting where lines (especially of dialogue) are kept word for word with the book and where it is clear some editing has gone on.

Do I mind if the film adaptation doesn’t stick to the original book entirely? Not if it is done well. The Lord of the Rings is a classic example. Not everything from the books goes into the film version (and that goes for the extended version too) but the spirit of the book shines through those movies and that is fine with me.

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