Moments, One Liners, and Publication News

Image Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Screenshots of my latest CafeLit story and latest Author Electric blog spot taken by me, Allison Symes. (But do go and check the links out – see posts below!).

Spring has finally turned up here in the UK – hooray!

 

Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Loving the spring weather (now it is finally here!).

Don’t forget the ebook of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is on offer at Amazon for £0.99 for the next two days. See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic for more details.

Looking forward to sending out my next author newsletter. If you would like to sign up for a monthly newsletter, full of tips and stories, as well as news, please go to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – and on sign up, you will receive a welcome email with a link to a giveaway too.

In other news, as they say, what do you make of writing prompts? I love them though I appreciate not everybody does. My favourite kind is the opening line. I like to rise to the challenge of them! I also like picture prompts though I find it easiest to use a prompt like that where the image is taken by someone else. I suppose with my own photos I’ve already got the links and stories in my head associated with those pictures.

I find writing prompts are a great “go to” as a warm-up writing exercise but the most important thing about them is to have fun with them. If they take you out of your comfort zone, then you’re being stretched as a writer and it is only by being stretched like that, you will find out what you are capable of and it may well prove to be more than you think.

Definitely worth a go I think!

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CafeLit – Publication News

Pleased to share a new CafeLit story from me – Smashing Sally. This is a long piece (by my standards!) but I hope you enjoy it. I was rooting for Sally all the way through – and I don’t always do that for my characters as it depends on how I’ve portrayed them! – and hope you do too. (Also nice to have a longer piece published again. Makes for a nice balance with my recent drabbles on Friday Flash Fiction!).

 

Facebook – General and Authors Electric

Pleased to share my latest post for Authors Electric. This time I talk about editing. I look at when to edit and discuss whether you can edit too much. I always feel a sense of relief when I’ve got my first draft down because I then know I’ve got something to work with and improve and it will improve after a decent edit.

I can’t edit as I go. I have to reassure myself it is okay to write total rubbish to begin with because it is not going to stay in and that nobody but nobody ever wrote a perfect first draft. That’s definitely not going to change with me!

However you write and edit, what matters is you do and it helps enormously to get as much creative joy out of both processes (if only for your own sake!).

Hope you enjoy.

Thought the funeral service for HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was beautifully done. Felt so sorry for the Queen sitting alone. (And for anyone who has had to do that this past year).

Looking forward to sharing my Authors Electric blog tomorrow and there will be a new CafeLit story from me up on that website on Monday.

Oh and a quick shout out for #ValPenny who kindly gave me a mention on her blog today.

Friday night is often Zoom night for me and it was lovely catching up with friends from the Association of Christian Writers. To think just over a year ago, if someone mentioned Zoom to me, all I would think of was that it is a fabulous ice lolly and a great word to get out in a game of Scrabble, especially if you can get it out on the triple word score! Yet since then, I’ve attended various writing events on Zoom, given a talk on Zoom, and been part of an international writing summit (the Share Your Story Writing one) all thanks to it. I wonder where we’ll be a year from now!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the great response to my new story video, Fear. (See below for link to it). Some aspects of life never change and my character’s attitude and actions in this prove that!

It has been a joy to find a way of using my mini-tales (the one and two sentence kind) as a way of flagging up (a) what I do and (b) what flash fiction can be. I never anticipated having my own Youtube channel only a year or so ago.

I adore writing the mini tales because they are an excellent challenge (and would also work well on Twitter incidentally which reminded me to just put Fear on there!).

I like writing across the range for flash. The form has more flexibility than it might at first appear. Not only can you set your characters in different genres and times etc., you can choose the word count to write to as long as you don’t go above the 1000 maximum allowed. I’ve written across the word count range though my natural home is under 500 words. Have fun with the format!

 

Time for a new mini-story video again. This one is called Fear. Hope you enjoy it though it will have more meaning I suspect for the cat owners out there! (Also like to think of this as a kind of tribute to the old Tom and Jerry cartoons. Absolutely adore those though clearly Jerry was the intelligent one. Being small myself, I like that!).

 

 


One reason I like to start my stories with a character I know well enough to write for is that stories encourage empathy and understanding. Therefore I think it crucial to understand your character and where they are coming from so you understand (as will your reader) their actions and attitudes. It is that which I think keeps readers reading. Readers will follow a character they can get behind.

The great thing is you don’t have to like the character. You don’t have to approve of their actions either but you do need to understand why they are the way they are. Interviewing your characters is something I’ve mentioned before but it is a useful way of making sure you know what you need to know before getting that first draft down.

It is also my belief it will save you a great deal of time later. I know I’ve stopped myself going off on unhelpful tangents by simply using an outline of my character so I know what they are likely to do. It doesn’t stop them surprising me but when the surprise comes, my reaction should be one of “yes, that’s possible because they’re capable of this, that, and that, so doing this ties in with that”.

If something comes completely out of the blue, I need to look at my character again because I want to know where that surprise came from. There is always a trigger. And it flags up to me I didn’t know my character as well as I thought I did.

Oh and a quick bit of promotional – the Kindle version of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently available on Amazon at the bargain price of £0.99 so do grab a copy. Offer lasts for four days.

Little moments can have a powerful impact and that is something flash fiction brings out so well. I mention this as I was moved at seeing the late Prince Philip’s hat and gloves on the seat of the horse drawn carriage today. (17th April 2021 – for the royal funeral).  (Also loved seeing the sugar lump pot for his horses). Things like that mean a great deal.

Another item that brings things home are shoes. If you ever go to the Imperial War Museum or the Mary Rose Exhibition when such things are possible again, there are a collection of shoes there, which brings home to you the people they’re telling you about were real. And, for me, there is a link forged between the past and the present.

So when it comes to our storytelling, what are your characters’ little moments? The things that mean the most to them? Why do these things mean so much? What it is about them that will convince your readers about the truth of your character portrayal?

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Goodreads Author Blog – One Liners

What are your favourite one liners from stories etc?

I love the opening to Pride and Prejudice.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Sets the scene and the tone. Beautifully done.

I also love this one, by complete contrast, from Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.


“Many phenomena – wars, plagues, sudden audits – have been advanced as evidence for the hidden hand of Satan in the affairs of Man, but whenever students of demonology get together the M25 London orbital motorway is generally agreed to be among the top contenders for exhibit A.”

Hard to argue with that one! It certainly explains the queues…

A good one-liner usually makes me smile or laugh out loud. A really good one-liner will make me pause, read it again and enjoy it again, before moving on to the rest of the story.

And there are far too many from P.G. Wodehouse to quote here but that in itself is a tribute to his wonderful ability to come up with lines that just “hit” you and make you laugh out loud.

As you will gather from this, my favourite one-liners are of the humorous variety. Which are yours?

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Places to Go For Writing Advice/Radio Interview/Share Your Story Writing Summit

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images connected to the Share Your Story Writing Summit supplied by Creative U, the summit’s organisers. Images re Hannah Kate’s Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM come from her link and screenshots taken by me. (Am SO looking forward to sharing the link for the show itself. Will be doing that for the next post and on my Facebook page in the meantime).

A huge thanks to The Disparate Housewives WI affiliated group I spoke to on Wednesday, 17th March. Great fun! Oh and sharks came in re my talk to them about The Ups and Downs of Becoming An Author.

Allison Symes (1)sharks

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


My post this week is called Places to Go For Writing Advice and is exactly what I would have wanted to read when I first started writing seriously. The saying is to write what you know but sometimes that can include what you would have wanted to know when first starting out. It was when I had been writing and submitting work for a while I truly began to realise how big the publishing world is, how much I didn’t know, and began to get an inkling of the kind of things I would need to know (and pronto too!).

Any industry has its charlatans and sadly publishing isn’t exempt. Hope you find the post useful. Oh and the great thing about sharks? You don’t have to get in the water with them. You don’t have to get bitten by them! And the single piece of advice that has stood me in good stead is to always ask questions. My post will show you some places where you can get those questions answered.

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Facebook – General – and Authors Electric


My turn on the Authors Electric blog today. I chat about what I love about flash fiction and whether I really should start a Flash Fiction Writing Addicts Anonymous club.

I talk about Flash with A Dash and share what I love about flash fiction writing. If I had to name the top thing about writing flash fiction, it would be the need to invent characters – a lot of them – and to keep doing so! Inventing characters has always been my favourite aspect to storytelling and I get to do this all the time so win-win!

Also a huge thanks to the lovely Disparate Housewives WI group I spoke to last night via Teams. It was great fun (and another opportunity to share my love of flash fiction!). My topic was The Ups and Downs of Becoming an Author and my own journey here has been full of twists and turns.

This is an ongoing topic too as the writing life is a moving one, not static at all. Am I looking forward to what comes next in my own writing journey though right now I can’t know exactly what that will be? Oh yes! (Oh and in my Chandler’s Ford Today post coming up tomorrow I will be sharing thoughts on Places to Go For Writing Advice so plenty going on at the moment and I hope the CFT post will be especially useful. More on that tomorrow).


Am delighted to be #ValPenny’s guest on her blog today. I chat about my writing journey which has been full of ups and downs and a few near misses down some cul-de-sacs! I also share a couple of useful tips based on my experiences. (I’ll be talking about this to The Disparate Housewives WI group later tonight on Teams as well. Every writer has a unique writing journey but it is what you take from mistakes made along the way that matters. How you handle these matters and we all make them!).

A huge thank you to Val for hosting me and I hope it is not too long before we meet up again at the wonderful Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was delighted to discover a new (to me) flash fiction site as a result of a comment on my Authors Electric post on 18th March where I talked about Flash With a Dash. The site is Friday Flash Fiction and I hope to check this out more over the weekend. I certainly hope to submit to it in due course.

Now the wonderful thing with the take up in flash fiction writing is there are more competitions and markets available now. Definitely worth taking time out to explore these and see what might suit you. There is bound to be something! Happy drafting!
(Oh and it bears out my point about engaging with readers and other writers. As well as hopefully entertaining them with what you write, they can give you pointers as to useful markets to check out. Win-win here and I love that kind of scenario).

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The Share Your Story Writing Summit is now open so I hope you can come along and listen to the wide range of presenters on a great range of topics. My presentation is on tomorrow and I’m talking about Flash Fiction – Why I Love It and Why I Think Every Writer Should Try It.

The presentations are free for 24 hours but if you can’t make the time slot of your preferred talk or would like to keep the presentations so you can watch them as you wish, you need to go for one of two paid for options.

The price is $67 USD from now until 23rd March when the summit ends. You get access to everything immediately. From 24th March the price rises to $97 USD. Whichever option you go for, you do have full access to 23 workshops from 23 experienced writers. See the link for more details. There is an affiliate fee. If you sign up for either of the paid options via my link, I will earn some money from that.

See https://www.creativeu.ca/a/46030/yLSebqrq

And I am beyond thrilled to be taking part in this!

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Am thrilled to share the link to #HannahKate for her show on North Manchester FM. I am on her show on Saturday talking about flash fiction and my blogging and I do hope you can tune in between 2 and 4 pm. I will be sharing the link to the show after it has been broadcast as well. (I must admit one of my favourite developments in radio is the Listen Again ability because I know I can’t always tune in for a live broadcast).

A huge thanks to Hannah for a wonderful interview and for questions that really made me think. (That is always a good thing!). It was such fun to do but I do wish I could’ve picked more than three books for the Apocalypse Books section. I can’t think of any writer who would willingly limit themselves to three books if they had the choice not to!
Screenshot_2021-03-17 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 20 March, 2-4pm - Hannah Kate(2)Screenshot_2021-03-17 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 20 March, 2-4pm - Hannah Kate(1)Screenshot_2021-03-17 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 20 March, 2-4pm - Hannah Kate

 

Fairytales with Bite – The ABC – Always Believable Characters

Your written world might be fantastical but it is the characters your readers need to react to, root for etc. And for that to happen your characters must be believable. It doesn’t matter what they are but a reader needs to understand what their needs and wants are and they should be ones most of us can identify with.

So how to create an Always Believable Character then?

  • They have to have flaws. We all have them. Instant identification factor for your reader.
  • They have to need something. This can be from the basics (food, drink, shelter etc) to more abstract things (a penchant for nice pictures perhaps). We can all understand these needs.
  • There has to be something or someone getting in their way.
  • They have to work out what they are going to do to overcome that because the point of the story will be they must overcome it to get what they want or need. And readers will want to know whether there is going to be a happy ending or not. (Incidentally if your character gets what they want but they are not as satisfied with that as they thought they would be, that too could be an interesting ending).
  • Where characters are magical, readers need to see how that works to the characters’ advantage and also how it can get in the way. In a setting where everyone is magical, being able to wave a wand about is not necessarily going to help your character much. They will have to find other methods to achieve their objective.
  • Equally where magic will make a significant difference, is there a price to pay for that so your character has to weigh up whether it really is worth them using it. If the use of magic shortens their life, that is going to add another dimension to your story and heighten the drama.

Think about characters you have read and loved. What makes them work for you? What can you learn from that to apply to your own stories?

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This World and Others – What Jobs do your Always Believable Characters do?

Following on from having Always Believable Characters, we also need to look behind the scenes a bit. What do they do to provide for themselves? Do they have employment as we would know the term or are they hunter gatherers? How do your characters manage? What rewards for service can they expect?

Do your characters feel the need to better themselves and, if so, how can they do that? Does that drive them to break out from their society and do something nobody has done before, for example? If someone wants to learn to read because they know their “betters” read and their “betters” have the control, what can they do to learn to read? Do they have to learn secretly and who would be willing to reach them?

Is your world capable of great technological change, which would affect what characters would do for jobs, or does any change come slowly?

If your character has to go on a quest (it’s amazing how often that happens!), what do they leave behind? Is it a wrench to leave it behind?

Now there are some interesting questions to trigger story ideas!

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Twitter Corner

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New Blogging Spot, Launches in Lockdown – The Finale, and Flash Talking

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Have had a great time on the blogs this week too. I share below my first post for Authors Electric and am looking forward to writing more for them.

Many thanks to all of my fabulous guests for my CFT series, Launches in Lockdown. Book cover and author pics provided tonight by #AmandaJones (aka Amanda Baber), #GailAldwin, and #Gill James.

And a very familiar sight here… I had better get on and add THIS post!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share the finale of my zeitgeist series, Launches in Lockdown. Many thanks to everyone for taking part. The feedback on this series has been stunning. Thanks, all.

Tonight I chat with #AmandaJones (aka Amanda Baber), #GailAldwin, and #GillJames.

Usually my CFT series are only three parters but there was such a wealth of information to share, I knew I had to expand this. And I could think of many excellent authors I would have loved to have added to this so the series could have been much longer!

In the meantime, I hope you continue to find the series useful and informative. And good luck to all who are launching books this year.

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Facebook – General – and Authors Electric

Am delighted to now be blogging for Authors Electric on the 18th of each month. For my first post, I thought I’d share some of my life changing books. Have you any nominations?

Further to my earlier post about Authors Electric, I couldn’t resist the temptation to nominate some of my favourite and life changing books. So I didn’t! The trick here is limiting it to a few! And that is tough.

A while back for Chandler’s Ford Today, I wrote a post called Desert Island Books where I could take eight and that was also tough. Good fun to write though. Blogging stretches the little old grey cells and makes you think not just about content but how to present that in an entertaining way to readers.

So let’s hear it for the blog! A fabulous invention (and really the modern equivalent of writing a diary or journal I think but with capacity for more. Not many diaries or journals end up published. I’m not including the fictional ones here (I loved the Adrian Mole ones). Blog posts can inspire article ideas which might be published elsewhere. Besides which the blogs themselves are published and can be shared easily with a far wider audience than a private journal).

Talking of CFT, the finale of my series Launches in Lockdown is up on site tomorrow. A massive thank you to all of my guests for this series ranging from Authors Reach, the Association of Christian Writers, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit and, naturally, Chapeltown Books. Naturally as my flash fiction collections are published by them and appropriately for my post tomorrow, I shall be talking to the creative force behind the last three contributing places – Gill James.

Screenshot_2021-02-19 Authors Electric

If you’re wondering who the handsome stone gentleman is, it is Richard III, picture from Pixabay. Go to my Authors Electric blog and see why he is relevant (after reading the rest of this of course!).

Every so often I will take time out to brain storm. Sometimes I set myself a task such as to brain storm ideas for future story titles. Sometimes I jot down character templates so I have “ready made” people good to go for future stories. Often when I do the latter, one of the characters takes my fancy and I start working out situations where they would shine (for good or for ill) and before I know it I have another flash story drafted.

So brain storming is a great idea! It’s also a fabulous way to use those pockets of time when you don’t have time to write much but you are itching to write something. And if you use a warm up writing exercise before you do your main writing work, well not why not look to brain storm as a form of exercise? It will encourage creative and lateral thinking and that is always a good thing, no matter what your main writing work might be.

(Oh and a good place to start with brain storming is to play a game of Word Association but just write down what you come up with. Links will start forming).

To quote that wonderful detective, Columbo, just one more thing – I’m looking forward to sharing my first blog for Authors Electric tomorrow. (See above!).

 

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The magnificent Columbo as played by the late Peter Falk. Pixabay image.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A little later this evening, I shall be recording my flash fiction presentation which will be part of an international writing summit that will be “out” in March. I’m looking forward to sharing links etc when I have them but meantime it is a privilege to speak about a form of writing I am passionate about.

Flash fiction is my big writing love. The impact of the very short form of story writing has impacted me a lot! I hope it continues to do so!

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My two flash collections – and to think I discovered flash fiction by accident!

Many thanks for the great response to my flash fiction and word count tip post yesterday. I guess I can speak from direct experience in saying that the more you write, the more you learn.

Using flash fiction as a warm up writing exercise is something writers in other fields might consider doing to “flex” the old creative muscles. The nice thing of course now is that those writing exercises when suitably polished up and edited could well find a market or competition now that flash has taken off as a genre.

One word of warning though. I have found flash fiction (and indeed blogging) incredibly addictive so once you’re in, you’re in, but that’s not a problem for me!

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When I first started writing flash fiction, I worked to specific word counts, especially the drabble at 100 words. I do still do that but more often these days, I will get the story down, rest it, edit it, and then decide on the word count. Why? Because I have found some tales simply work better with more depth at 200 words, than 100, say, and it is then a case of finding the right market/competition for the 200-worder. And that’s fine.

I have learned not to squeeze something to fit a word count. The story has to be the right length for what it is and not be made to fit something it really doesn’t quite suit. But it has taken me a while to learn how to judge when to leave well alone, I must admit!

Fairytales With Bite – Non-Magical Characters in a Magical World

Do you have any non-magical characters in your magical story worlds? If so, how do they manage? What have they got that perhaps the magical ones need and which helps guarantee survival?

This could be something as simple as the magical ones will lose some or all of their powers if they harm the others (and who is going to want to risk that?). Maybe food has to be grown and produced using normal agricultural techniques and those with magical powers aren’t going to dirty their hands doing that kind of work?!

You could also explore the frictions between the two different groups. Do the non-magicals resent those with powers (or vice versa – maybe the magicals see the others as a waste of space but cannot act against them?).

For me, I would have a lot of sympathy with a non-magical character using the skills and talents they have (and maybe some luck) to end up being the hero/heroine over and above those who are more obviously talented than they are. I think this is one reason I am so fond of Frodo Baggins in The Lord of The Rings. I like the characters who are under-estimated precisely because they don’t have powers.

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This World and Others – Codes

What role do codes play in your stories? I’m thinking of several different kinds of code here:-

Codes of conduct – (what happens when these are breached? You just know someone will breach them!).

Codes used in language – (maybe certain groups use terms which are meaningless to anyone but others from their groups and it would seem like code to those not in the know)

Mathematical codes – (are there machines which need coding? If so what are these, what codes are used, what are these machines used for? And the purpose could be anything from the simple to the sinister).

Codes used for spying – (who is being spied on and why? What encryptions are used in your fictional creation? Who is the spymaster and who do they work for?).

What happens when the codes are breached or broken? Would this threaten the security of your characters and/or their world? How can they overcome that and undo the damage done?

Plenty to think about there!

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Titles,Writing Magazine, Publication News, and Part 3 of Launches in Lockdown (and Lady news update!)

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

A huge thank you to Val Penny and Jen Wilson for their author pics and book cover images for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

This post title should indicate what kind of week I’ve had – good but busy! Am just hoping the drink in the Pixabay picture below is a nice hot chocolate… I’m not a coffee fan. (I know, I know, writers are supposed to be but there you go).

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share Part 3 of my Launches in Lockdown series on Chandler’s Ford Today. The advice and tips given in this series so far has been top-notch, not to be missed etc., (and the good news is there is more to come!). A huge thank you to #JenWilson and #ValPenny for their contributions this week.

Jen, Val, and I are huge fans of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School which is where we met and we are all hoping to meet up again there this year after last year’s event sadly had to be cancelled due to You Know What. We are also part of a team there called the Prosecco Queens (anyone fancy a guess at why we went for that name? Anybody? Anybody at all?!).

Last week’s post was from writers from the Association of Christian Writers. Now I mentioned earlier this week one of the joys of reading Writing Magazine is spotting how many of your writing pals you spot in between the covers, so to speak. I have to say it is usually a fairly even split between people I know from Swanwick and people I know from ACW. Keep going, folks!

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Hope Thursday has worked out okay for you. Glad to report Lady is now running again (and is very happy to be doing so, I can tell you). Mind you, it does look like she’s had a mud bath by the time I get her home. Thank goodness for my late mum’s old towels… perfect for dog cleaning duty! Also thanks goodness for an excellent washing machine!

Writing wise, I am looking forward to sharing part 3 of my Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Link up for that tomorrow.

This week I feature two fabulous guests and writing friends I’ve come to know thanks to the marvellous Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. (So not only have I learned from the wonderful courses there, I’ve made fantastic friends and they are the best support any writer can have. Who else but another writer knows the elation when things are going well and you have work out there? Equally who better to sympathise with when rejections are all that seem to appear in your inbox?).

Further news. I had a fab time appearing on Wendy H Jones’ The Writing and Marketing Show last week. I’ll be writing a CFT piece about that and resharing the link once the Launches series has finished so that is my CFT diary full for February!

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One of joys of subscribing to Writing Magazine is opening it up and spotting your writer friends in there. This month it’s my turn! My February edition has just come in and I’m on the Subscribers’ News page, talking about my happy writing accident in discovering the joys of flash fiction writing. Naturally my website and Tripping the Flash Fantastic get a mention! (And It was fab my publishers Chapeltown Books had a good write-up last time).

Also delighted to see another 5 star rating come in for From Light to Dark and Back Again. A good day then!

Lady had her first proper but limited run today and loved it. Her paw is fine. The only thing we could have wished for was better weather but it is supposed to improve as the week goes on.

Looking forward to my first blog appearing on Authors Electric on the 18th. Meanwhile do check the excellent posts out there at https://authorselectric.blogspot.com/

Towards the end of this month is going to be a bit busy as I’ve lined an interview up amongst other things and I’m looking forward to all of that (and to being able to say more about the other things too).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve discussed titles before here but it is an important topic and they carry more weight in flash fiction stories than in other types of fiction. Why?

Firstly, the right title will set the mood and tone of the story in and of itself and that will save you on the word count for the tale itself.

Secondly, some websites and competitions do include the title as part of the word count (so always watch for that) so you want the title to do some of the “heavy lifting” for you.

Some other thoughts:-

  • Keep your title short. It makes it more memorable and saves on word count.
  • Impact of title is more important than word count (but that’s true for the story too!).
  • Does your title idea reflect the mood of the story or can it be open to interpretation? I am fond of the latter as it gives so much flexibility but there are times I want to set the mood so I choose an appropriate title accordingly.
  • Alliteration Always An Idea but Don’t Overuse It!
  • Never be afraid to change a title if the one you first came up with isn’t working for you. I find I need a title to work “to” when drafting but have changed it when a better idea comes up.

I’ve had the privilege of judging a flash fiction competition, which was interesting to do, but I was surprised to find some stories didn’t have titles with them. The really important thing to remember about a title is it is your story’s first “advert” to hook the reader in with and you want to make the most of that.

Remember only the Ten Commandments were set in stone so my advice would be to go with a working title and then change it later if you think of better (and that often does happen as you write the story. A better idea will “just come to you”. Note it and then examine it later in the cold light of day to see if it is as good as you thought and/or better than your initial idea. If it is, go for it!).

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I’ve often discussed, especially on my author FB page, the joy of outlining. I find it helpful to outline my characters. Now can you do all of that for a 50 or 100 word piece of flash fiction? Of course you can!

Like the story itself, the outline won’t be a long one, that is all. Less than a short paragraph like this usually does the job nicely – and I then get straight into writing the tale. Prep helps a lot! I’ve found it saves me a lot of time later as the outline has stopped me from going off at a tangent etc. Tangents are fun but are often not relevant to the character or plot so they shouldn’t go in. Everything has to be relevant!

So for a flash fiction outline (and especially for those tales which will be under 500 words), I ask myself a couple of questions.

  • Why do I want to write about this character? (In many ways it is for this character, it is their story I’m telling).
  • What mood is the story going to be? (This does affect the type of character I’m going to produce for the tale. If I want a funny tale, you don’t necessarily need a funny character to service it. What you do want are characters full of their own importance who need taking down a peg or several. That’s where the humour is, not necessarily directly in the character. Often a character who thinks they are funny are not and can often be tragic.).

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Publication News

Many thanks for the great response yesterday to my plug for CafeLit now the list of those appearing in The Best of CafeLit 10 is now known. (And yes this is another crafty way of getting another mention in for CafeLit and the book!). Yes, it does include me – see next post down. Sometimes a date order blog round up goes against you!!

For me the success of any story, regardless of its length, depends on the character(s). If they grip me, I’m reading the rest of the story, book or what you. If they don’t…. Well, life is just too short to perservere with something that just isn’t engaging me.

And that is the continuing challenge for me as a writer. Just how can I make my characters appeal to a reader (and especially one who may well not have come across my work before. There is a certain truth in the saying you only have the one chance to make a first impression and with my stories, I want my characters to hook readers in right from the start. You have got to have that “must find out what happens next” moment and to keep that going until you do reach the end).

One way I try to achieve this is to come up with characters readers can understand. They don’t have to like them but they do have to get where the character is from (and ideally ask themselves if I was this character, would I be doing this? If not, what would I be doing instead? If a reader is asking questions like that from a character, you know what character has intrigued them to keep on reading).

This is where outlining the character helps. And the great thing is you can pick the kind of outline that suits you. I don’t particularly need to know what my character looks like (that can come later) but I do need to know what their major traits are and what their flaws are. Think about what you would want to know from your character if you could interview them “for real” and use that as a basis for a useful outline template you can use over and over again.


Fairytales With Bite – When the Wand Isn’t Enough….

Okay, we’re in a magical world in our stories. How can a wand ever not be enough?

Well, firstly, if a wave of the old wand solves every problem, you haven’t got any stories to write. Where is the conflict in that? Problem A arises. Problem A gets resolved with said wave of magic wand. There’s no character development. And just reading problems being resolved like that will become boring so quickly! Readers want to find out what the characters do and how they react and it takes more than a wave of the magic wand to really show readers what the characters are truly made of. Are they sterling stuff or treacherous rats etc?

Also when everyone has a reasonable amount of magical power, there has to be a way of distinguishing between them (and it helps your readers to tell them apart too).

It is also a reasonable assumption to work on that some species will have more powers than others either by learning or by inheritance or both so what do the weaker species do to ensure they can survive? They’ve got to find ways of beating “their betters” without the use of magic (and that’s when stories can become really interesting. Characters are having to think on their feet here though of course you as the writer have planned this all out!).

So just as writers we shouldn’t rely on magic or coincidences getting our characters out of trouble, the characters themselves need more than the old magic wand waving too.

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This World and Others – What do Characters think of their Environment?

The answer to this question will also tell readers a fair bit about what your characters are like.

Do they care about the environment or are they oblivious to it?

If your created world has different climates and regions, are the characters you’re writing about aware of all of this or is there a certain amount of Here Be Dragons about their attitudes?

Here Be Dragons was something written on old maps where a map maker had literally got to the limits of where they were prepared to go to make their maps so anything unknown had this slogan added to it! They could get away with it because it was highly unlikely anyone was going to challenge them (and I’m sure they worked on the theory, well there could be dragons!). (Never get away with it now due to Google etc!).

How characters treat the world around them is likely to flag up to readers how they are likely to treat other characters. One of my own favourite characters in Losing Myself from Tripping The Flash Fantastic appears to be one who cares much more about the environment and natural world than any other of her own kind. That was an interesting story to write because it made me think deeply about what would make a character be or become that way.

And then there will the opposite – those who do not see or care about the environment around them. How did they get to be that way? And is there a point where they have to change their attitude?

So my lead question here can be a great way into some interesting story ideas.

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