CafeLit, Authors Electric, and Good Endings

Image Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

It has been a busy few days but plenty to share here including a new CafeLit story and blog post on Authors Electric.

IMPACT - Blogging. Pixabay

Facebook – General

Thrilled to be back on CafeLit with my story, Eyes Opened. What Liza wants, what she really really wants, is some appreciation but does she find any? Find out here!

Screenshot 2021-09-21 at 16-52-45 Eyes Opened


Am making good progress on presentations for use later in the year and sent off another story to #FridayFlashFiction for this week. Am compiling my next newsletter too. I send these out on the first of the month and share exclusive videos here as well as news and writing tips. If you want to find out more head over to my website (landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Have got blogs to work on this week and my two major projects to crack on with.

I had a check-up earlier today and I was asked what I do so I said I was a writer. It triggered a lot of questions including the classic what do you write? (Naturally I waved the flag for flash fiction here). Next time I’ll take the business card I think!

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Hope you have had a good weekend. Really feeling the change of the season now. Not that I mind. I like autumn. (And raking up our oak leaves every year is a very good workout!).

I’ll be talking about anniversaries for Chandler’s Ford Today this week and sharing some of my happy writing ones. I also look at why anniversaries matter and I leave you in no doubt about my views on “tat”. I look forward to sharing the link for the post on Friday.

Many thanks for the comments already in on Making Amends, my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. If you haven’t had chance to check this out, do see the link below. And I am encouraged to see writing pals having work on here regularly too. More power to your imaginations, everyone!

 

Glad to say it’s my turn on the Authors Electric blog. This time I’m looking at fiction and non-fiction. I’ve loved the former for as long as I can remember (and that does go a long way back!). Non-fiction is a reasonably recent but very welcome development for me in terms of reading it and writing it.

Can you name a non-fiction book as a “must read”? (I’d nominate On Writing by Stephen King by the way though most of my non-fiction reading is history). I also ask if non-fiction is still seen as the poor relation to fiction. (I would hope not).

Screenshot 2021-09-21 at 20-54-41 Fiction or Non-Fiction by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s lovely to be back on CafeLit with my story, Eyes Opened.

I’ll be talking about Anniversaries in my Chandler’s Ford Today post later this week and I do celebrate some of my writing ones, including naturally being published in flash fiction. That is a major writing anniversary for me!

With my blogging hat on, I also write a monthly post for Authors Electric and my most recent one was about fiction and non-fiction. See link (and post above). The nice thing now is there is such a thing as flash non-fiction (generally up to 500 words) and that strikes me as an interesting form to try at some point.

And a nice job for me in next day or so is to proofread my story which will be in the Bridge House Publishing anthology later this year. Always nice having to do something like that!


It’s Monday. We’re heading rapidly to the end of the day (at least here in the UK) and it’s story time again! Delighted to share Messages, my latest YouTube video. Hope you enjoy it.


I don’t always name my characters but I do make them intriguing enough to read about. (Else there is no point in writing their stories up!). I do use names to indicate likely social class sometimes. Names can also be a good indicator of age. There aren’t many twenty year olds named Gertrude, for example.

Where I do use names, it is to try to convey information about the character’s likely background without my having to spell it out another way later on in the story.

What would you make of someone called Helena as opposed to Ellen, say? I think you’d assume Helena to be of a higher social class than Ellen for one thing. And that can give an early pointer as to the likely setting Helena would be in. Saves a lot on the word count implying that!

Books of names still have their uses then. Classic names tend to come around in cycles too so a writer could use that to their advantage. My own name is very much of the 1960s/70s (in the UK at least) so I could use that if I wanted to write a story about an Allison either set back in that time or to show her age in a story with a contemporary setting.

 

Many thanks for the comments already coming in for my Making Amends on #FridayFlashFiction. Much appreciated.

Will be drafting more stories hopefully tomorrow. Though you can always check out my story videos over at my Youtube channel. See link below. Am having a non-fiction night tonight. Though I noted with interest from the latest Writing Magazine (and its enclosed competitions guide) there are competitions for flash non-fiction too. A welcome development and maybe something to try out at a later date.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

 

Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes A Good Ending in a Book for You

I know – so much depends on the book you’re reading, right?

What matters for me is that the ending is appropriate to the characters and story. I do like happy endings but also appreciate that does not suit every tale told). Sometimes it is apt for a character to reach a point of understanding where you can sense if they carry on with what they have come to understand, they will eventually get their happy ending but for now this is the point where they’re at. And that is a worthwhile journey in and of itself.

Fairytales are often not the happy ever after fest they can sometimes seem to be. The original versions of The Snow Queen and The Little Mermaid have violence in them. Certainly Disney could not have filmed the latter as Hans Christen Andersen wrote it. Yet the stories as originally written show well thought out characters, the situations they’re in are reasonable for the world in which they live, and the ending for The Little Mermaid is poignant to say the least. It was my wake-up call to the fact not all stories necessarily end happily as we would understand the term, though I like to think the mermaid at last found some peace in her life.

So what I really want then is a “good” ending which wraps the story up well. Perhaps it is up to us as readers to recognise “happy” doesn’t always equate to “good” here.

Screenshot 2021-09-21 at 21-11-37 What Makes a Good Ending in a Book For You

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Writing Humour, Reviews, and Discretion

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. A huge thank you to Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh for taking part in a fabulous two part Chandler’s Ford Today interview about Writing Humour. Book covers and author pics supplied by Fran and Ruth for the interview. Ruth also supplied images from her garden. Isabella would be at home there!

I love the mix in my title this week! It has been a busy week on the blogging front…

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am delighted to share Part 2 of Writing Humour, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. Here #FranHill and #RuthLeigh discuss the joys and challenges of writing funny material. Fran writes memoir. Ruth is a novelist who has used a diary format for her book. So different styles of book then but the problems and joys of writing humour are the same for both writers.

This week the ladies share with me whether or not they outline, given funny material has to arise naturally from the characters they portray. They also share their favourite one-liners and discuss marketing funny books. They also look at how their writing has developed and I ask the “killer” question. Given we all have to edit our work many times before sending it anywhere, is there a risk the humour wears thin for them on repeated reading of their own material? Check out the post to see how they respond to that.

And many thanks to Fran and Ruth for a wonderful two-part and very in-depth interview which sheds a spotlight on a form of writing which is difficult to get right. Tastes in humour vary for a start but when a funny book is “done” well, the impact of it can be tremendous. Think what a poorer literary world it would be without Austen, Wodehouse, and Pratchett.

After the last year or so with the pandemic, I think the world needs more funny books and material. Not that I’m dropping a hint to Fran and Ruth or anything…!

Part 2 – The Joys and Perils of Writing Humour – Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh

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Hope you have had a good Thursday. This time last week was my last full day at Swanwick 2021. Has this week at home been strange getting back into the usual routine? Yes, but you need time back at home to process all you have taken in and work out what you are going to do with all those lovely ideas you came up with while in the wonderful company of inspiring writers. Inspiration breeds inspiration.

I’ll be sharing Part 2 of Writing Humour where I chat to #FranHill and #RuthLeigh about the trials and joys of writing what is a difficult form to get right. See link above. Humour is subjective after all. Link up for that tomorrow. (And I am looking forward to reviewing my week at Swanwick for Chandler’s Ford Today on the following Friday. Lovely pics to follow with that one too).

Still can’t get over the weather. It is bizarre for August. Very murky and autumnal almost out there. (Lady doesn’t care. She’s happy to have me home again!).


It’s my turn on the Authors Electric blog and this month I am talking about reviews. Do you love them or loathe them? How easy or otherwise do you find getting reviews for your books and stories? Do you have a review policy for other writers and their works? I discuss all of these in the blog but can’t stress enough how useful a review, no matter how brief, can be for a writer. Other than buying our books of course, reviewing them is probably the next best way a reader can support their favourite authors.


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My latest flash piece on #FridayFlashFiction is called Discretion. I return to my hapless Sarah, the magical being on Earth who has been sent on a mission to get humans to believe in magic again without performing any to prove its existence that way. How does she fare this time when told to produce something in front of a human yet still not use obvious magic? Hope you enjoy finding out!

Screenshot 2021-08-20 at 19-19-31 Discretion by Allison Symes

I’ve had the pleasure of judging some flash competitions (and hope to do more in the future) and what I can say from that perspective is the title definitely matters! It is the first hook to lure your readers in to discover what your story is all about. And most flash competitions don’t include the title as part of the overall word count allowed so make the most of that. (Some do include it so always double check the rules but the majority I’ve come across do not).

You can use the title to set the mood and genre of the story without then having to spell that out in the tale itself. Open titles, that is anything which could be taken in more than one direction, are my favourites as those entice the reader in to find out which direction you have taken with it. (I love these as a reader. I enjoy it when I guess right but am more impressed when the author betters me here!).

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I discussed alliteration yesterday (see below) but I do like to mix up how I approach finding titles for my stories, as well as for the way in which I write the tales up. I often use proverbs and well known sayings for titles but I sometimes change one word to bring a unique twist I can make good use of for my story.

When I have brainstorming sessions, I often jot down ideas for titles only. Later I will come back to these and work out story possibilities from there. (This is where spider diagrams or flowcharts are useful as I can easily see where the different ideas are taking me. I always go for the one that makes the most impact on me as that will be the idea I will write up with the most conviction. It’s coming from the heart because it has had that impact on me. Also if it appeals to me, it is likely to appeal to others).

I keep titles short. (Generally one to three words. The most I go to is about seven. I want my titles to be easy to remember and when I do go for longer ones it is because I am using a proverb I need to quote in full – e.g. Time Waits For No Man – or where the title wouldn’t make sense without the “extra words – e.g. Time Is For Others to Worry About).

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Fairytales with Bite – Messages in Storytelling

One aspect to fairytales I especially love is that the classic stories get across timeless messages without preaching. For example, the classic message from The Ugly Duckling is to not judge by appearances. (That is also the message from Beauty and the Beast).

Another popular one through so many tales is that good will overcome evil, even if it does take its time doing so. Think The Snow Queen, Snow White, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel amongst many, may others.

You learn to look out for character types in fairytales too. I can’t remember what age I was but I did know early on that if a wizened character turns up, look out for them. They’re likely to be someone important in disguise. I don’t know how many stories I had to read and re-read to get that message but I did get it!

Likewise, you develop a kind of sixth sense as to which characters really are up to no good despite their fine words.

Best of all, the fairytales show us the messages and leave us to come to our own conclusions. And that is what we need to do for our tales. We need to think about our message, the characters who could deliver it, and then let the characters and the story unfold as the readers go on. Timeless messages are the ones that work best. When will there ever be a time when we don’t want to see evil overcome?

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This World and Others – Would You Live in your Created World?

Well, would you live in your fictional world? If not, why not? Think about the aspects of it you dislike. Why are they in your story? Are you reflecting your dislikes of things we know about here in your stories?

It’s absolutely fine doing that but it pays you to be honest with yourself about why you are writing these things the way you are. By understanding this, you will make sure you are getting across what you need to get across.

If, for example, I wrote a story about anti-bullying (I loathe bullying of all kinds), I could write this from the viewpoint of a victim (yes, I was once). I could easily show the horrors of bullying and the impact it can have on people. I could also write from the bully’s viewpoint (though I think I would find this far harder to do and I think I would probably have to go down the “it is part of expected culture” school of thought as it gives the bully a reason to do it. Indeed, if the bully was threatened for not wanting to do it, you could use that to generate some sympathy for them).

So you have to know why you’ve chosen things you dislike because it will help you to write those things up with more conviction. That does come through to a reader. I know I’ve read things where I instinctively feel yes, this author has been here or knows someone who has. It makes the story “live” for me.

An anti-bullying story would reflect my loathing of bullying but I need to have realistic characters and their behaviour to make sense, even if I dislike it. It has to feel real. My loathing of bullying is a good starting point but I need to move on from there to create a story readers would get behind.

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Talks, Flash, and the Character -v- Plot Debate

Image Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Images of Lady, of CafeLit 10 books, and my stories in it, and screenshots all taken by me, Allison Symes.

Summer weather, a mini heatwave, finally here in the UK. The dog and I are busy keeping cool.

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Facebook – General

Many thanks to the lovely people at #DundeeCityWriters for making me so welcome at last night’s Zoom talk. I spoke about short story writing as opposed to flash fiction this time. All great fun.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. It’s a local author news post this time about yours truly where I give an update on what has been happening/is going to happen over the summer for me. And I am glad to share news on both the fiction and non-fiction fronts for the first time here as well.

Lady, you’ll be glad to know, is keeping well and as cool as possible. She’s generally as daft as the proverbial brush but not when it comes to weather like this heatwave a lot of us in the UK are experiencing right now. (I know, it’s July, it is to be expected, but I have no way of telling the dog this!). She drinks plenty, stays in the shade, and enjoys gentler exercise sessions away from the main heat. She can go back to her usual athletic running about when the weather cools. And it will.

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Pleased to be speaking later tonight to the #DundeeCityWriters. Zoom is a wonderful thing!

Great to see so many lovely comments coming in on my #FridayFlashFiction story, The Unpaid Shift. Many thanks, all.

Working away also on my author newsletter. That will come out on 1st August. I share news, tips, writing prompts, and exclusive flash stories here amongst other things. If that sounds of interest, head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where you can sign up.

And if you head over to my From LIght to Dark and Back Again Facebook page shortly, you will find my latest YouTube video as well. See below!

(Lady keeping cool and drinking well. I’m drinking well but do feel as if I’m melting right now. But at least it is the kind of weather you expect for July!).

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Facebook – General – and Authors Electric

Pleased to share my post on Authors Electric this month. I talk about character -v- plot (and many thanks for the great comments which have come in so far).

I also look at a character I don’t care for much in this post even though I love the author. Mind you, this kind of thing is useful for me as I think about my characters. I do look at what I love and loathe about characters produced by other writers and I can learn so much from that. If a character is dire, I can examine why that is and try to avoid doing this for my own creations.

I also look at how a character makes me react and discuss series novels where a character can develop over time. I also name my favourite example of the latter as my top pick is a masterclass in how a character can develop over several books.

Screenshot 2021-07-20 at 19-35-10 Character -v- Plot by Allison Symes

 

Hope you have had a good day. A huge thanks for the wonderful comments on my The Unpaid Shift currently on #FridayFlashFiction. So enjoying writing the drabbles again. If you missed it, see the link.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post next week which will be a Local Author News one from me where I have exciting updates to share.

Am also looking forward to sharing great author interviews later on in the summer. So plenty going on here.

But more immediately, I am looking forward to sharing my Authors Electric post tomorrow. This time I’m writing about the character -v- plot debate. Give some thought as to where you stand on that one and maybe pop a comment up when I share the post link tomorrow. See above.

Screenshot 2021-07-16 at 18-47-03 The Unpaid Shift, by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thanks for the lovely response to Self Defence, my latest YouTube video. These are great fun to write and produce. And they are a great way to use the mini-flash tales which are only a sentence or two. See below for video.

I was giving a Zoom talk to #DundeeCityWriters last night about short story writing but many of the techniques I use for flash I can and do use for the longer tales. For example, I have to have a rough template of what I am going to write and then off I go.

The main difference for a short story (anything over 1000 words) is I need to have some rough pointers for what happens in the central part of the tale so I avoid the dreaded saggy middle! (Not wanted in cakes. Not wanted in stories either!).

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Hope you enjoy my latest YouTube story video. It appears self defence can, in the right circumstances, apply to inanimate objects.


Thanks for the great response to my post yesterday about writing more in the first person for flash. I hadn’t anticipated doing this earlier in my writing career. I’m not sorry about the development as it had been a kind of writing I’d gone out of my way to avoid. Why?

Because all I could see were the limitations of it. You can only see through that one character’s eyes. Everything the character sees, hears, or could be reasonably expected to know is what you have to play with.

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What I hadn’t seen immediately was that kind of framework Is useful for stopping me head-hopping and in making me focus on the lead character. I can’t go off at a tangent here. That in turn encourages creativity as I work out what the lead character can see, hear, be reasonably expected to know etc.

I’ve also come to love the immediacy of the first person narrator.

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I’m writing more in the first person with my flash stories as it is a very easy way to “hit the ground running” with my character. I can literally take you right inside the “I” character’s head and show you their thoughts, actions, and reactions. I can’t “head-hop” either as I have to focus on just that one character.

But when I do have more than one character in a story (usually one of my 500+ word tales), I do work out who the lead character is and who the support will be. I still have to know whose story it is and why and what the role of the support will be. (Of course the support may do anything but support the main character but that’s fine. I just need a defined sense of who does what and why).

Goodreads Author Blog – Annuals

Did you use to get annuals when you were younger? Do you still get them?

I am fond of The Friendship Book (D.C. Thomson – those wonderful Dundee based publishers have produced this for decades). This is one of those books that is always on the present list at a certain time of year I won’t mention yet because we’re still in the summer. I refuse to think of the C word until the autumn at the earliest (and just wish the shops would do the same).

When my family was younger, they loved The Beano annual, and when we could get it, The Bash Street Kids one. They weren’t the only ones to read them either! I still have a soft spot for Minnie the Minx in particular. For anyone who might not know, The Beano is veritable institution amongst comics and again produced by D.C. Thomson and again going back decades. I think I’m right in saying it is well over 50 years old.

I’ve got no time for snobbery around comics, comic books, annuals etc. The important point here is they do get people reading (and the hope is of course they go on to read books with a higher text content later. My family did. What matters is getting that love of reading to develop and annuals and comics can be a great place to start).

I still like comics like The Beano. The world they take you into generally makes you laugh. And I count comics as much a part of the reading life as books.

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Brand Recognition and Why Reading Into Writing Will Go

Image Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her. Image of Joy Margetts kindly supplied by her.  Image of Maressa Mortimer kindly supplied by her. Images of me, Allison Symes, happily signing a contract taken by Adrian Symes. Think that covers everyone!

Hope you have had a good week. Busy on the blogging front today – more below. (And I have some exciting non-fiction publication news too).

IMPACT - Blogging. Pixabay

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post on Brand Recognition and Why It Matters. Years ago, any kind of marketing was done by publishers on behalf of their authors. That practice went out when Noah left the Ark…

Now every writer has to carry out at least some marketing to get their voice heard and books known about so it means we do all have to think about what “brand” we want to get across to potential readers. You want something so that people recognise yes, this is X’s kind of thing etc. In this post, I share some thoughts on creativity, persistence, accepting building a brand takes time, choosing a platform and so on.

Hope you find the post useful.

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Facebook – General – and Authors Electric

It’s a busy day on the blogging front for me. Am pleased to share my latest Authors Electric post – Reading Into Writing Will Go.

I think a love of reading is the biggest creative kickstart for writing there can be. A love of stories and storytelling has to come from somewhere after all.

I also share in this post how that love of reading, started by my late mother, was fuelled even further by excellent English teaching at school. What I wasn’t aware of at the time was the kind of teaching I had was going to come in so useful for writing my own stories so many years later.

And reading so well gives you an almost subconscious method of spotting how a book should look, how dialogue should be set out and so on. So let’s hear it for reading!

PUBLICATION NEWS


Am thrilled to announce I am taking part in a non-fiction book produced by #WendyHJones. What I can say now is the book will be called Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing and I will be “between the covers” with the following lovely people, as well as with Wendy herself.

Kirsten Bett
Lorraine Smith
Allison Symes (I have heard she’s okay – honest).
Nanette Fairley
Jennifer Ngulube
Andrew Chamberlain
Maressa Mortimer
Elizabeth Power
Janet Wilson
Fay Rowland
Joy Margetts

Looking forward to sharing more as and when I can. What I can also say now is this book will be the third in Wendy’s Writing Matters series (and it so does!). Very excited about this as it will be my first venture in print with the non-fiction side of what I do. Yay!

(And yes I am rather chuffed about it all as you may be able to tell).


Hope you are all well. A tad cooler today though storms are predicted later. Thankfully Lady is not fazed by thunder. My other two collies were terrified of it. Lady is not fazed by fireworks eit- ther though she does get annoyed thanks to the idiot near me who sets off the very loud ones late at night (and they really do sound like a bomb going off). You can hear Lady’s annoyance in her bark. Very much a “would you shut the hell up” kind of bark. No prizes for guessing where my sympathies lie.

Where do you go for publishing advice if you’re new to the business? There are two major ports of call as far as I’m concerned.

Firstly, the Society of Authors saved me a small fortune by pointing out what was wrong with a very dodgy contract I’d been offered. Beware the vanity press!

Secondly, the Alliance of Independent Authors is an umbrella group designed for indie authors and the self published so do check them out.

Thirdly, do regularly look at the Writer Beware! website. While US-based, the advice given is sound and boundaries are meaning less here as scammers will always seek to scam in more than one market if they possibly can!

Always check things out before signing up to anything.

You can (and should) walk away from anything you’re not happy about (I did and I had no sign of being published anywhere else at the time but I have never regretted doing this).

Never sign anything you have not had checked out by reputable sources.

Do check out the writing forums. People do share their experiences of publishing companies and services here and you can learn a great deal here.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to share my latest tale from #FridayFlashFiction – this one is called Security. It is not easy being a leprechaun charged with not allowing anyone or anything to steal the gold. See how he gets on in my latest 100-word drabble.

Screenshot 2021-06-18 at 11-42-11 Security, by Allison Symes


One of my favourite tricks of the trade is to stamp on adjectives. I know, I know. There ought to be a campaign against cruelty to adjectives but there isn’t so really tough luck. (See what I did there).

To be serious for a moment, I no longer worry about cutting words like this out. Why?

Compare the following:-

She ran quickly up the hill.
She raced up the hill.

For my money, the latter is by far the stronger image. You have a sense of speed and determination with that word “raced”, even a sense of urgency and that is conveyed in one word. Running quickly is far weaker. What is quick after all? That can vary so I would say this was not specific enough. It does not give you the sense of speed, determination, and urgency either.

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Many thanks for the great response to my WordPress blog round up on my https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com site yesterday. I issue these every Tuesday and Friday. I like to see them as a kind of magazine style round up (and it makes a great place to share videos and flash stories in one place). And this is it, of course, but I was particularly pleased with the response on Facebook for when I shared the link for Tuesday’s post. It was a good one!

Flash is a great vehicle for sharing on social media. I sometimes take part on Twitter in those posts which put up a picture and ask you to submit a six words or fewer story in response to it. All good fun.

The biggest overall benefit for writing flash though has been to sharpen up my writing across the board including for my non-fiction. It is an ongoing benefit too! It has taught me to look for where I can tighten my writing. There always is something. But that’s what the editing process is for after all.

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Fairytales with Bite – Top Ten – What Not To Do In a Magical World

  • Annoy anyone who looks as if they could wave a wand about menacingly. It’s never a good move.
  • Judge beings by their appearance. Best to assume even the most unlikely looking being is more powerful magically than you are. You won’t offend. They won’t curse you.
  • Assume just because you can read, you can make a spell book work for you. Things will go horribly wrong.
  • Gaze into a complete stranger’s crystal ball. What you will see will not be pleasant. Any sensible owner of such things will put something horrible over it to prevent what we would know as hacking.
  • Eat or drink anything where you don’t know what the ingredients are. This is a good move in non-magical worlds too.
  • Call for a republic when you’re in the Fairy Kingdom. It’s not going to go down well.
  • Despise the youngest of three – they usually turn out to be the hero/heroine. You will want them to remember you, be kind to you, and maybe help you get home again.
  • Refer to dragons as great, big ugly brutes. Not only do they want to be treated with respect, they have remarkable powers so assume your comments would be overheard. They would want revenge though it would be quick one.
  • Eat a complete stranger’s porridge, break their chair etc. It’s been done and it didn’t bode well for the culprit last time.
  • Buy cheap looking building materials from anyone wearing what looks like a very hairy suit. If you want to build a house to live in, always go for brick. The one in the hairy suit has motives of their own for selling you shoddy materials (though he does have a dinner date in mind. A one-sided one but it would be a dinner date).

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This World and Others – Classic Mistakes

Now a topic like this can cover classic mistakes made by characters or you, the writer. I’ll focus on the latter for this post as my Fairytales with Bite post above does indicate mistakes that can be made by characters.

Don’t feel you need to put in all the information you needed to create your world into your story. You need enough to convince yourself your world is real but the reader doesn’t necessarily need to know all of that. What a reader will pick up on is the writer’s confidence in their creation. Focus on showing your readers what they need to know to make sense of your world.

I love writing dialogue or even a character’s thoughts in my flash fiction and short stories. But it has to be relevant to your story and to keep it moving forward or it reveals crucial information. It is so tempting to keep an interesting conversation going between your people when it isn’t that important to the plot.

Don’t use too much of whatever language you’ve invented because readers will quickly become bored of it if they can’t work out what is meant from context. Use a little sparingly to give a flavour and that will work far better. I find reading Old English incredibly difficult, to name one example, and it is the story you want to get across to your readers, not the ins and outs of what you’ve invented to give them the story. (With The Lord of the Rings it is the overall story I’m interested in, not necessarily the appendices!). Keep it relevant Is a good motto.

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Acrostics and Focusing

Image Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshot of part of my latest story video was taken by me.

It has been a hot few days here but Lady, my collie cross, prefers to keep it cool. Image of Lady and me taken by Adrian Symes.

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

Facebook – General

A bit cooler today. Lady and I weren’t sorry about that.

I’m going to have two blog posts to share on Friday. My Chandler’s Ford Today one is on Brand Recognition and Why It Matters. This is so important for writers given we all have to do at least some marketing. So therefore it pays to think what brand we want to put “out there” that readers associate with us and will like.

I’ll also have a post out on Authors Electric, which is called Reading Into Writing Will Go. Those of you of a certain age will recognise the words “will go” from the way division used to be taught in Maths. So what has that got to do with writing or reading? I look forward to sharing the link on Friday when you can find out!

So look out for two Facebook posts from me on Friday with two links.

Meanwhile back in Hot Hampshire I am so glad I live in a property that faces north. It means more heating in the winter but it comes into its own right now – it is cool here! (It is quite nice that something is cool here because I do know I’m not!).


Baking day – outside that is! Lady had a reduced exercise session before it got too hot. Although she is usually as daft as a brush, she is sensible in warm weather, knows all the shady spots to head to, and is the first of my three collies who willingly drinks water! I rarely go out without water for her and, in these conditions, it is one of the first things I get ready to take with us.

I have a good spot on our patio area where I can do a pavement test (back of hand held down on said area for at least 15 seconds. Let’s just say if I can’t keep my hand there for the required time, Lady doesn’t go out. One issue with going out later in the day is the ground has had time to bake, literally, so please if you’re a dog owner, always carry water with you, and do the pavement test before you go. If in doubt, don’t go). (Lady has happily curled up in the shade for the rest of the day and has been enjoying snoozing and woofing at my shopping delivery man so she has had a great day!).

Writing wise, a huge thanks for all the fabulous comments on my New In Town on #FridayFlashFiction. Feedback always appreciated.

Do you find it harder to write in hot weather rather than cold? Makes no difference to me as I make sure I’m comfortable enough at the old desk but I can understand if concentration levels dip somewhat. (I swear there are times my laptop is cooler than I am!). I don’t use weather in my fiction at all partly because I don’t want to fall into the “dark and stormy night” cliche trap but also I can think of several more important things for a reader to need to know than what weather my character is experiencing. I can only see relevance here if you’re sending your character on a quest (and generally you need longer than a flash fiction piece to do that well!).

Looking forward to sharing my next Authors Electric piece later on in the week too.

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Another warm and sunny day in Hot Hampshire (and a sympathetic salute goes to all hayfever sufferers!).
Stories come in all shapes and sizes but this goes for non-fiction too funnily enough. Especially when I interview someone for Chandler’s Ford Today, I want that person’s story and love to get behind what led them to write the books or stories they have. I suppose this is because (a) I’m nosey and (b) I know no two writing journeys are the same and I find it fascinating and instructive to learn from others here.

For fiction taking a bit of time out to think about what makes your characters the way they are leads to better characterisation (you really have got a handle on your person here) and stronger plot lines. So looking for the story behind the story then is always a good idea. We’re encouraged to dig deeper and not just go for the obvious ideas for stories. Looking into what makes your characters tick in more depth is a great way to achieve that.


Hope you have had a good Saturday. Glorious weather here. Lady enjoying it – sensibly. Currently curled up behind me in a nice cool study.

Coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today in the next month or so will be a fascinating interview with someone I first met a few years back at the Hursley Park Book Fair, which I wrote about for CFT at the time. Very much small world syndrome here but a delightful one and the interview is a smashing one. I’ll also be sharing how I met this author again as it is a great advert for networking in person where you can and online anyway. Looking forward to sharing more on all of that in due course.

Coming up this Friday for CFT will be a piece called Brand Recognition and Why It Matters – so I combine writing with some marketing for that one! (I also share thoughts and tips here and look forward to sharing this later in the week).

Thrilled to bits my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction, New in Town, has had a wonderful response to it. Acrostic stories are good fun to write though I have found you want something (a) short and (b) open to interpretation for this kind of thing. In case you missed it, here’s the link for it. Oh and it has been a great joy responding to the comments on the site itself on this one. Thanks, everyone.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the response to my acrostic flash tale called Fiction yesterday. Good fun to write and create a video for. I have discovered the joy of animations on Book Brush and used a “pulse” one for Fiction. I use Book Brush a lot for my blog work as it is lovely putting captions into the pictures I use – and they look better I think. Only downside? It is too easy to lose a lot of time playing with Book Brush but there are worse writing problems to have!

But it is creative and part of the old marketing so that’s okay then! (And the videos are a simple way to share mini-flash tales – basically under 100 words or so).

Screenshot 2021-06-15 at 20-42-49 Allison Symes

For the rest of the story you’ll have to go to the link – see below.


Pleased to share my latest acrostic flash fiction story video with you. This one is called Fiction and many thanks for the comment that has come in on this already. Hope you enjoy. There is a time for dancing in the streets…and a time not to!


I’ve mentioned before that titles carry a lot of weight in flash fiction. They indicate mood/genre of the story, freeing up precious word count room for what matters – the story itself. But it pays to keep your title short to maximise the impact of it and to allow for the fact some markets and competitions count the title as part of their acceptable overall word count limit. Do watch out for that! Also shorter titles are more memorable and that’s important to your reader (and therefore potentially to you too). You want your readers to remember your titles and the books they appeared in!

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Glad my story New In Town went down so well yesterday. Acrostic flash tales are good fun to do but work best, as I mentioned on my author page on FB earlier, when kept short and if the word or words chosen can be taken in more than one way. Double meanings, as well as hyphenated words, are great assets to the flash fiction writer!

Twice the meaning for only one “lot” of words and hyphenated words mean you get two words for the price of one. So glad to have discovered that one especially as I have made good use of it in my time. (No. You can’t just hyphenate any words – that would be cheating!).

Misjudging people can be a great theme for any story but I have used it in flash. In Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my character, Walter, makes up his mind about the new postman in my story Identity. Can’t say more than that. The story is about whether Walter was right or wrong. But what was interesting here was I didn’t need to give you the postman’s backstory. You just see things from Walter’s point of view and then the story goes on to show you whether he was right or wrong.

I’ve mentioned before that with flash focusing on one character and one important incident is the way to go. Here it was a case of focusing on Walter’s viewpoint and then following it through to a conclusion. I could have brought in something from the postman’s viewpoint to indicate whether Walter was right or not. In not doing that, I’ve made the story more focused and, I think, it has greater impact.

Goodreads Author Blog – Kindles for Kinds of Books?

I love reading. Okay no big news there. I love reading in all kinds of formats and listening to audio books. Again no great breaking news story there. But I wondered if you save your Kindle or other e-reader for certain types of book. I do.

I use ebooks to test out authors new to me and for a lot of non-fiction (especially where the print version would be too big and bulky to handle. I can think of a few tomes here that would break your toes if you dropped the book on your foot – the Encyclopedia Britannica anyone?!).

I also use ebooks for short story and flash collections as these are ideal for reading on a screen.

The Kindle is one of the first things I pack whenever I get to go away (and that still won’t be for a while yet given Covid) and its finest “moment” is saving every avid reader from ever having to worry again about how many books they can fit into their suitcase. I appreciate my Kindle for that alone!

So do you save certain kinds of book for your e-reader and, if so, which?

 

 

 

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Stories, Audio Books, Reviews, and Unexpected Publication News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you enjoyed the weekend. I share two new stories below and publication news (which came about unexpectedly – see below for more. I don’t usually have unexpected publication news!).

The Writing Journey

Facebook – General

Pleased to share my blog for Authors Electric for this month. This time, I talk about the joy of audio books. What are your favourites? Do you “save” audio books for specific occasions? I listen to most of mine on long journeys (so now we can hopefully start getting out and about again, I can resume this particular pleasure!). Highly recommend the Terry Pratchett Discworld audio books read by Sir Tony Robinson. I adore those.

A right old mix of sunshine and heavy showers today. Still doesn’t feel like May. Am beginning to wonder if it ever will do! But I do know the thing to hopefully cheer us up a bit.

The Week That Was is my latest CafeLit story. I hope you’ll find it to be a lighthearted start to the week. (And lighthearted is always a good way to finish off a Monday, I find). Oh and if you pop over to my From Light to Dark and Back Again page in a moment or two, there’ll be another story for you there. It is story time! See below for that!

Screenshot_2021-05-17 The Week That Was

PS. Also looking forward to giving my flash fiction talk to the Byre Writers on 31st July. Many thanks for the invite, folks!

Screenshot_2021-05-17 (7) The Byre Writers Facebook(1)Screenshot_2021-05-17 (7) The Byre Writers Facebook

 

The heavens truly opened in soggy Hampshire today! It still doesn’t feel like May but maybe we’re moving on from it feeling like March to it feeling like April with unexpected showers etc. I guess it’s progress of a kind!

Glad to say I will have a new story up on CafeLit tomorrow which is one of my lighter tales. Looking forward to sharing that – hopefully it will prove to be an amusing start to a new working week. See above!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post later in the week will be on Reflections where I discuss reflection and the creative life. I’ll also have an Authors Electric post to share this week so plenty going on with the blogging side of my writing. See above for AE blog. Looking forward to sharing CFT on Friday.

And there is always the flash fiction to write… talking of which it’s time to be off and get on with some!

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Unexpected Publication News!

In one of those odd turn of events which happen sometimes, I am pleased to announce my story, Next Time, Maybe will be in the Bridge House Publishing anthology later this year after all. Will share more news about Resolutions (the anthology title) nearer the time.

Lovely to see more comments come in on #FridayFlashFiction for my story Got You! It’s the first time I’ve been inspired to write a flash or other piece thanks to a cartoon on Facebook. Just goes to show, I think, that inspiration and ideas can come from almost anywhere. It is working out the strongest ideas, the ones most likely to work that can be tricky.

Screenshot_2021-05-18 Got You by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Just to flag up there is currently an offer on Amazon for the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic for more details.

Hoped you enjoyed the CafeLit story shared on my author page yesterday (The Week That Was) (see above) and the story video here (Mistakes). (See below). Good to start the week with stories!

Flash is great to read out loud at events, easy to share on Zoom talks and the like, and can be easily shared on social media as part of an overall marketing plan. But having to invent loads of different characters is for me the most fun thing about writing flash and keeps me on my toes and out of mischief.

 


Pleased to share my latest story video with you. This one is Mistakes (and haven’t we all had several of those!). Hope you enjoy this one (oh and let this one be a warning to never get on the wrong side of a librarian).

PS. If you pop over to my author page on Facebook (Allison Symes), you’ll see another story from me – this time it’s my latest on CafeLit. Monday is story time day! Hope you enjoy The Week That Was. See above.

BookBrushImage-2021-4-13-19-4935
Flash fiction writing has shown me how to focus on what is important to a character, given there can often be more than one interesting thread to follow here. (Not a problem. You end up with two or three linked flash fiction stories using the same character or accept you probably would be writing up to the 1000 word count limit).

Learning to focus is an essential skill for whatever kind of writing you do. That, and not being afraid of editing any more, are two of the biggest things flash fiction writing has done for me.

Oh and a huge thank you for the wonderful comments on my story Got You! which appeared on #FridayFlashFiction this week. It is lovely getting feedback like this and so, so helpful. (Just in case you missed the tale you can see it here at https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/got-you-by-allison-symes). Link also shared above but, as well as plugging my stories, I am all for plugging sites like Friday Flash Fiction and CafeLit! They give authors a voice…

Choices



Glad to say I’ll be giving another author talk on flash fiction in July. Looking forward to that. I love discussing flash and what it has done for me as a writer. As well as the collections being out, flash fiction has taught me so much about showing and not telling. I’m also not afraid of editing any more. All of that is useful no matter what you write.

And Zoom of course has made these kind of talks easier to do. Hard to imagine life without it now. I often read examples of my works when giving a talk (as it is one of the best ways of demonstrating what flash fiction is) so I am getting some practice in for Open Mic Nights too!

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Reviews

Do you find book reviews useful?

Now, hands up time, as a writer, I obviously do. Reviews are a great way to get feedback on your work (even if sometimes it is not the feedback you really want – but there it pays to remember not everyone will like what you do anyway and that’s fine. Tastes are subjective after all).

Also I can flag up the reviews I have had as part of my overall marketing strategy.

BUT the review, whether it is long or short, HAS to tell me what the reader liked/disliked. Just leaving a star rating doesn’t tell the author much. The review also has to be honest and to give a reader a flavour of the book in question without giving out spoilers.

A review like that is far more likely to make me try out a new book and author than anything else. (I am guided by reviews for other things too incidentally. Usually there is a consensus of opinion and that can tell you a great deal).

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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!
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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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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.

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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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