Flash Flexibility, Writing Workshops, and Supporting Other Writers

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. 
Hope you have had a good few days. Summery weather at last which Lady and I have loved. I have publication news too so it’s a good start to the week in that department too.

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Facebook – General

Lovely day today and Lady is very happy because she got to “boop” her best mate, the lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback. Usually the Ridgeback boops Lady. For dogs, it really is the little things in life that bring them the most joy (oh and dinner of course!).

Delighted to say I can now reveal I will have another story on Cafelit on 27th June. Looking forward to sharing the link on that then. The piece comes from a homework exercise I set for members of the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group.

Will be off to the theatre again in July with my lovely editor from Chandler’s Ford Today, Janet Williams, Looking forward to seeing the latest production from The Chameleon Theatre Group. Will review in due course. I should’ve finished my In Fiction series for CFT by then – wish me luck finding something suitable for the letters V and X! I hope my years of Scrabble paying might help here!

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Hope your Monday has been okay. Busy as ever here though the weather was lovely. Glad to say I’ll have further publication news to share soon so that’s a smashing start to the week.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is about Underlining In Fiction. I’ll be looking at how to stress points to a reader without needless boring repetition and talking about planting the right clues. Link up on Friday.

Amazon currently has offers on the paperback of both From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See the link.

Writing Tip Number 3,004 or something like that but one I’ve found incredibly useful: time away from a piece of work is crucial. You do need the distance in terms of time away from it so you can see where it has strengths and, more importantly, where it hasn’t!

With my judge’s hat on, I can spot those stories where an author has clearly given themselves enough time away from their story as they have then edited it effectively too.

The trouble with editing a story immediately is there tends to be two responses to it – this is a work of utter genius, no work needs to be done to this deathless prose, or this is a work which I really shouldn’t have bothered with, everyone will loathe it. Neither are true. The truth is your story will have promise but needs polishing up and sharpening to show bring its potential out.

Screenshot 2022-06-20 at 20-11-22 Amazon.co.uk Allison Symes

Many thanks for the comments in on Time Off, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Some smashing feedback, all appreciated.

Going back to my Authors Electric post yesterday on Writing Workshops, I can’t stress enough how important it is to support other writers (something Friday Flash Fiction does very well, as does CafeLit). Nobody produces a perfect bit of work immediately (and is there any such thing anyway? I can look back at my earlier stories and see immediately how they could be bettered but they were where I was at during that time of my writing life).

We all have to start somewhere. We can all improve on what we do. It takes time and practice. There are no shortcuts for anyone.And people remember those who support them. They also remember those who were unsupportive. Which would you rather be known as – a supportive writer or not? I know what camp I want to be in! (That thought is assisted by the old saying make your words sweet as you never know when you’ve got to eat them!).

18th June – Authors Electric
It’s my turn on the Authors Electric blog and this month I’m talking about Writing Workshops. I discuss what I love about these, whether I run them or go to them, and look at how old school pen and paper can come into their own at these things. Hope you enjoy (and I’m looking forward to running another workshop at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash has more flexibility than you might think. Yes, there is the word count issue but I’ve written stories in the first person, the third, as diary extracts, as well as setting my characters backwards and forwards in time. I’ve written fairytales with bite, crime tales, the odd ghost flash piece etc.

What influences all of this are the kinds of story I’ve loved reading over the years and which I continue to love and read. It really has paid off for me to read reasonably well and widely (I don’t think anyone can claim to be perfect here. Why would you want to be anyway? You want there to be other books and genres to discover after all!).

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Many thanks for the views on my YouTube tale last week (or should that be tail?) – The Unexpected. But it is Monday once again and time for another video. Hope you like this one – The True Picture. I used a random verb generator which triggered the word picture and here is what I came up with for that prompt.

Sometimes I have an idea for what I think will be a flash piece but the story really does deserve a larger word count. So I simply write that piece for the short story market instead (and my stories tend to come in at 1500 to 2000 words for that). Sometimes what I think could make a good short story really does work better as a shorter, tighter flash piece. And that’s all fine.

It’s why it has paid me to ensure I have a foot in both camps when it comes to short form storytelling. What matters is the story is right for the character (and vice versa) and the story has a proper beginning, middle, and end. The story ends with a proper resolution to the dilemma the story is about and sometimes that will come in at a longer or shorter word count that you might have originally anticipated.

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I’m chatting about Writing Workshops for Authors Electric this month (see my author page on this – https://www.facebook.com/allison.symes.50) and one advantage to flash fiction here is these are easy to share when you want to discuss elements of story writing. They don’t take too long. They also demonstrate the points you’re trying to make. (And it’s another way of spreading the word about flash fiction so win-win there!).

I’ve found flash pieces are especially useful for demonstrating the old advice of show, not tell. Precisely because I don’t have the word count room for description, I do have to get my characters to show the readers what matters. And showing a point gets things across more clearly I find. I’ve been on the receiving end of that benefit many a time from workshops I’ve been to and have always appreciated that.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Covers

For a book to grip me, I have to be gripped by its characters, but the right book cover is what is going to get me to look at the blurb, the opening page, and then go on to buy said book. I want the cover to show me something of the mood/genre of the book, to be attractive, and to intrigue me enough so I do pick the book up in the first place. Not asking much. Hmm…. No wonder book covers are so difficult to get spot on.

My favourite quote on the topic comes from the wonderful P.G. Wodehouse who, in a letter to a friend, said “God may forgive Herbert Jenkins Limited for the cover of……… But I never shall!” Book title deleted here to protect the guilty. I highly recommend the Wodehouse books of letters by the way – there is a wonderful one edited by Frances Donaldson (Yours Plum, the Letters of P.G.Wodehouse which is where I came across this quote) and another which was edited by Sophie Ratcliffe (Wodehouse: A Life in Letters). Both are fascinating reads.

It is some comfort to me as a writer that even the big names didn’t/haven’t always liked the book covers they’ve been “given”. I’ve been fortunate here in that my small indie publisher has ensured I have had some input into my covers which is something I’ve appreciated.

The author ought to have some idea of themes etc that their book cover could draw on though, rightly, the publisher should have the final say given they know what has worked for them already and can drawn on that kind of knowledge one author is simply not going to have.

So then what works for you with book covers? I don’t like over-complicated ones. Indeed my Agatha Christie collection (good old Odhams Publishers) are simply red hardbacks with gold lettering – simple but effective. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has Gandalf striding out in bad weather and again works well (I know immediately this has to be a fantasy quest).

Screenshot 2022-06-18 at 20-24-23 Book Covers

 

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Questions in Fiction

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good few days. I ‘fess up to one of the downsides of scheduling this week! Let’s just say I think most schedulers get caught out this way at some point and this week it was my turn!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Now I’ve talked before about the virtues of scheduling blog posts etc. It is a useful thing to do but one slight downside is it can mean you get ahead of yourself a bit and I’ve realised I’ve just done that for Chandler’s Ford Today.

My post this week is actually called Questions in Fiction where I talk about using questions as a structure, as inspiration for themes and titles, and I look at questions for characters too.

Screenshot 2022-05-20 at 09-54-18 Questions In Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

My Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions post will be on CFT next Friday, 27th May and will I hope to prove to be equally useful as I discuss why reading matters so much to writers. I will also look at rhythms in stories and how resolutions have to be suitable, even if not happy ones.

Apologies for the mix up but as ever comments on all of my CFT posts are welcome over on the website. (It has been a long week! That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!).

Questions In Fiction

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Hope you have had a good day. Nice to see some decent weather. Other half and I enjoyed our evening meal al fresco which was lovely and not something we get to do that often.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow covers Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions in Fiction. Err… no! See above! As ever comments are welcome in the CFT box. This is always true though!

Talking of comments, many thanks for the comments in on my Authors Electric post yesterday. See below. I was talking about Why I Love the Short Fictional Forms. I love novels, novellas, short story anthologies, and flash fiction collections though I must admit I would like the latter two to have as much “status” as novels.

What every short form writer will hear at some point includes the following:-

1. When are you going to write a proper book?

2. Can you only do short stories then?

3. You must be belting out short stories all the time then because they can’t take you long!

4. Are short stories only for children?

5. Is there really a market for short stories?

Answers (possibly given to stop the writer from gnashing their teeth at the questioner):-

1. A short story or flash collection is a proper book. It still takes time to compile, edit, and proof-read.

2. No but I love short stories so that’s what I write.

3. I do write a fair few but each story needs editing and crafting and that takes longer than you might think.

4. No! Best example here is the original story of The Birds by Daphne du Maurier, which Alfred Hitchcock then turned into a film. Definitely not for kids!

5. Yes. It’s a question of knowing where to look. There are the magazines, including the online ones. There are the competitions. And then there is the indie press who are open to collections.

I feel better for getting that off my mind!

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18th May – Authors Electric
It’s always a joy to blog for Authors Electric, especially when it’s on a topic close to my heart. This month I talk about Why I Love The Shorter Fictional Forms. I celebrate the wonders of the short story and flash fiction formats here.

One great aspect to them is you get the “payback” from a twist in the tale story, to name one example. that much more quickly. And I love going on from story to story in a collection too. In one book I can read a variety of moods and genres. Why should mixed assortments only be for chocolates?!

Screenshot 2022-05-18 at 08-51-06 Why I Love the Short Fictional Forms by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

20th May 2002 – Bonus Post – Mom’s Favorite Reads
Pleased to share a bonus post tonight. Here is an example of a column I write on flash fiction for Mom’s Favorite Reads. The magazine is FREE to download and, as well as the column, I set a writing challenge each month. Why not take a look, have a good read, and give the challenge a go?

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I like to start the working week with a story (YouTube) and I like to end it with one (Friday Flash Fiction). Seems like a good arrangement to me! Hope you enjoy my latest tale on FFF called Another Birthday.
Screenshot 2022-05-20 at 09-54-32 Another Birthday by Allison Symes

Titles can carry a lot of “weight” for flash fiction but I’ve found they work best when kept short. I like to use my titles to either indicate the mood of the story to come or to be open to interpretation so someone has to read the story to find out which direction I have taken it in. I sometimes subvert well known phrases (my Punish the Innocent is an example of that).

I also like using one word titles such as Expecting – the idea there is to raise questions in the reader’s mind. Who is expecting what? Are they going to be disappointed or thrilled?

So I do give some thought as to what I want my title to be/to do. For flash this is useful as in many cases, the title does not count as part of your overall word count so a writer can use that to good effect.

However, a ten word title to indicate mood etc isn’t going to work. As with the story itself, you want to have an impact on the reader and that works best when kept short. A long title will dilute the effect (and be harder for readers to remember).

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I love slipping in humorous one-liners into my flash stories sometimes. For example in my story, Rewards, from From Light to Dark and Back Again, I have the line “The mocking face of blue-eyed brunette, Gemma Alderson, who was endowed with a bosom that could knock someone out if deployed as a weapon”.

It was great fun writing that but I needed it to have a purpose too – I wanted to send out a specific image (and I so do there!). I could’ve just said that Gemma was big-busted and saved a fair number of words in doing that but it wouldn’t have been so much fun to read or to write.

So yes there is a time when you need more words rather than less in flash fiction but there should always be a specific purpose behind it. Here it was to raise a smile! Good enough reason for me!

Fairytales With Bite – Making the Most of Tropes

For my flash fiction, I can make the most of tropes to help me get the most out of my word count.

If I’ve got a fairy godmother character, I needn’t go into details about the magical equipment she uses, say. You will expect there to be a magic wand, probably a spell book, maybe some pre-prepared potions and so on. You will bring to the story what you know from other fairytales you have read. You will know what to expect. What you don’t want is for something to spill over into cliche.

Yet a fairy godmother character who turns up without a magic wand would seem odd to a reader. So you can use the conventions to your advantage here. You can work out what you don’t need to explain and what you can leave to your readers as they fill in the gaps.

And, yes, things like magic wands can act as a kind of a shorthand. Saves a lot of explaining on your part. Pick your “things readers could reasonably expect” carefully.

If you want to bring in a twist on your trope, such as my fairy godmother character hitting someone with her wand rather than aiming it at them, do explain why. Better still, get your characters to do it. There must be a good reason for the trope being used in a strange way.

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This World and Others – World Building Acrostic

W = Work out whether you’re going to show the whole of your world in a story or just part of it.

O = Originality – what makes your world stand out? How is it different from ours?

R = Realistic characters are always vital. Just bear in mind in a strange setting, those characters can still be realistic even if, say, they are e a great big dragon! Their behaviour and attitudes should be reasonable for the world you’re in.

L = Limits are a good idea, funnily enough. Limit what your powerful characters can do and make them think of alternative solutions to problems.

D = Dreams – what do your characters want and what stops them getting it? Are their dreams/ambitions etc constrained by the type of world they’re living in?

 

B = Build in contrasts. Comparisons with things on earth bring home this is a alien type story.

U = Under your world – what lies there? All sorts of things are being discovered in our seas so what could be beneath current knowledge in your world? Could that have a major impact on them later.

I = Imagination. Have plenty of it! Use the right telling details to help us conjure up what you’ve created.

L= Lunches and leisure – how does your creative world affect them? Does everyone have to stop at a certain time? If so, what would happen on the odd occasion they couldn’t turn up?

D = Dig deep into your characters’ lives but also in to why this setting rather than one other.

I = Intensify the conflicts between certain people groups on your home planet.Look at how these developed. Then ideally come across people from both who will try to put things right. great drama there!

N = New scene, new paragraph. Keep things nice and tight. Drip feed information in throughout the story. Don’t go for big blocks of explaining. Those will be what readers skip.

G = Go for it! Have fun. Think about what you need to know to be able to write the world and characters up.

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Stories and The Joys of Working with the Indie Press


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
I hope you had a happy Easter, if you celebrate it as I do. The weather was lovely and it actually felt spring-like! After the bizarre weather of the last month or so that was welcome.

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Am catching up with some flash fiction reading at the moment then I’m on to non-fiction books again. I do like a good mix.

Writing wise, this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post will be Names In Fiction. Sorry my Originality in Fiction will be out for CFT on the 29th April. I got ahead of myself by a week there! (I blame the bank holidays and the clock change – so there! Having said that, I hope you enjoy both posts when they come out over the next two Fridays!).

I schedule blogs and tweets I write every so often for the Association of Christian Writers as much as I can. It saves time and it means I don’t forget things but it does mean I can occasionally put myself out of sync with myself as I did over the weekend!

Blogging wasn’t really a “thing” when I started writing seriously. I am glad it is now though. I love blogs and have learned so much from them myself over the years.

Am looking forward to going out with my CFT editor, Janet Williams, next week to see the Chameleon Theatre Group’s production of The Dragon of Wantley. This panto was deferred from January but I’m looking forward to seeing it The Chameleon pantos are always great fun and I do plan to break my In Fiction series to write a review in due course.

Authors Electric Blog

Pleased to share The Joys of Working with the Indie Press for Authors Electric this month. It was a joy to write this one up as it continues to be a joy working with said indie press! I love the way the indie press has given so many writers, including me, more options for getting work out there.

Screenshot 2022-04-18 at 17-12-31 The Joys of Working with the Indie Press by Allison Symes

17th April

Happy Easter Sunday!

I’m chatting about The Joys of Working with the Indie Press for my Authors Electric blog tomorrow. Looking forward to sharing that link. See above.

A big thank you for the wonderful comments continuing to come in on my A Timely Reveal for Friday Flash Fiction. Much appreciated and I am loving writing the 100-worders again. You can pack quite a punch with the short form of fiction – and it is great for the twist ending.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post will be about Originality in Fiction. Looking forward to sharing that link on Friday. Oops! Post will actually be Names in Fiction for this week though Originality in Fiction will follow on 29th April. The dangers of getting ahead of yourself are illustrated here!

Have a good week (and those who are not working, I hope you enjoy the rest of your Easter break).

Screenshot 2022-04-15 at 12-35-32 A Timely Reveal by Allison Symes

S = Short forms of fiction are great fun to write and read.
T = Telling tales in fewer words is the best way I know to tighten up writing skills.
O = Original short stories and flash fiction can stay in the memory longer precisely because they are short.
R = Remember all forms of writing need editing and honing – the short form is no different.
I = Imagination is focused in the shorter stories and therefore impact is more intense.
E = Every word has to punch its weight to justify being included – there is no spare room here.
S = Stunning stories can be submitted to markets, competitions or compiled for a collection.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I mentioned yesterday that I used the random scenario generator again yesterday for my YouTube story, Strange Room. I took the theme of waking up in a strange room and wrote a different story which I hope will make it on to Friday Flash Fiction this week. And that’s the thing. You can take a great prompt, write two different stories for it and send said stories off to two different markets. Win-win there I think!

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It has been a Bank Holiday here in the UK but that doesn’t stop it being story time once again. My latest YouTube video is called Strange Room and is based on another prompt from a random scenario generator. The prompt was to write about waking up in a strange room. Hope you enjoy it.


17th April

Happy Easter Sunday!

Am looking forward to watching Doctor Who later on. (It was great!). It is one of the few things I will watch as “live” telly.

Writing wise, all is going well on my workshop material and I am pleased with how my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today is panning out. Do see the direct link to my page here for more.

Just to finish by saying there are offers on Amazon on the paperbacks of From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Do see the link for more information. Hope you enjoy a good read!

I love mixing up the moods in my stories and a flash collection is a great way to have a great mix of tales reflecting this. Just as life isn’t all laughter and sunshine, neither are my tales. Equally, life isn’t all grim and darkness (despite what the news is saying) and again my stories reflect that. There needs to be room in fiction as in life, for laughter and tears, comedy and tragedy – we experience all of these things.

Fiction should reflect it all too. Then it is up to the reader to decide what they want to read in terms of mood. The lovely things with collections is you can get a good range within one book cover! I think that’s a great idea. And the indie press does take collections so short story writers and flash fiction authors, be aware – there are opportunities here.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Odd Books

I suspect, like me, you have a good range of books on your shelves and most of them you can put into categories. I have a significant amount of crime novels, a whole section of humour (Wodehouse and Pratchett), and many others besides. With my writing guides, those have their own sub-categories as some cover short story writing while others look at novels etc.

But I do have odd books I can’t put into a section. Some of these are reference books as some stand alone because they cover a particular topic. So I group these in my “odd corner”. These are the kind of books which would have gone out of print long ago but which are a fascinating read and great for dipping into. My odd books tend to be non-fiction and I have found that many a fiction story idea is inspired by something I’ve read in a non-fiction book. So this is another good reason to ensure I know where to find my odd books!

I’ve not yet got back to going to charity markets etc where you will often find odd but interesting books on offer. It is something I hope to resume but what I would say is even if you are the most die-hard fiction writer, do have a good selection of non-fiction books in. They are great reads in and of themselves and do use them to inspire your own story ideas. When you are at charity markets have a good rummage and see what you can find. You may end up being glad you got those odd books in!

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In Fiction – Frameworks and Animals – and A Good Cause


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

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

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

Chandler’s Ford Today

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

Frameworks in Fiction

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Fairytales With Bite – Happily Ever After?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This World and Others – Living In Peace

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

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

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

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

 

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Firing Up The Imagination


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you had a good weekend. Mixed bag here – my dog, Lady, wasn’t well though she is a lot better now, thankfully and getting on with plenty of writing (which always cheers me up).

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Facebook – General

I talk about random generators for my Authors Electric post on Firing Up the Imagination this month. I use a variety of these to trigger story ideas, title ideas, theme ideas and so on. I’ve even used a number generator to trigger numbers I either use as countdowns in my tales or house addresses where the action take space. Why not give them a go? They’re great fun to use and you can set your own parameters on them too.

Towards the end of last week, Lady came down with the same bug her best buddy, the Ridgeback, had. Glad to say both girls are now a lot better and were so pleased to see each other this morning.

Sent in another story for Friday Flash Fiction over the weekend and am looking forward to taking part in the ACW Flash Fiction group Zoom meeting on Wednesday. For my FFF story, I did something a little unusual – I repeated a whole line deliberately. I hope to be able to share the link on Friday but the reason for the repetition was that it added “oomph” to the storyline and to my lead character’s portrayal.

With the flash fiction word count being what it is (and 100 words for FFF) I would normally see repetition as a waste of words and I would usually find a different way of saying the same thing if that was justified. Often that kind of thing brings emphasis to a point without the need to repeat. But for this story the direct repetition was the correct way to go. I look forward to sharing the link later in the week and you can see what you think.

What matters is why you’re doing something like this and the reason has to be strong enough to justify it.

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Hope you have had a nice weekend. It was lovely catching up with two lovely writer friends on Zoom last night.

I’ll be talking about Best Friends in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Link up on Friday. And I’ll be taking a briefer look at Animals in Fiction again for Authors Electric on Tuesday. Link above.

Many thanks for the comments coming in on Dodging by Numbers, my latest piece on Friday Flash Fiction.

I must admit, especially given what my story is about, I prefer painting by numbers, which is something I did as a kid. I also used to like I-Spy as a kid, both the game and the books on different topics where you got points for specific things observed.

Topics included things like birds, cars, butterflies, on a train journey etc., and I understand the books are still going strong. The idea of course was to encourage observation (and it kept kids quiet on a journey! I know as I was one of those kids!). Also it encouraged kids to collect books, another good thing!

But being observant is excellent prep work for creative writing. You spot things and story ideas occur.

Your observations encourage you to ask questions such as the classic “what if” and that is probably my favourite trigger question for a story. You can do so much with that one but it helps enormously to have an observant, inquiring nature as you’re more likely to ask the question and want to answer it. I can’t honestly say what impact the I-Spy books had on me for developing curiosity about the world around me but triggering interest is key to learning anything I think.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. It has been pretty cold again here but on the plus side, my winter jasmine is out, and I am beginning to see some signs spring is on its way. Won’t be long I hope before I see the first snowdrop.

Now what do your characters make of the seasons? Do they have a particular favourite? Are they at their best in one, say, and at their worst in another? How could that affect their behaviour and how the outcome of your story might play out?

If you have a character who loathes the long dark evenings of winter, what would it take to make them do something that needs doing as part of your plot? How would they make themselves face up to having to get on with the task in hand regardless?

This would be a good opportunity for your character to show grit and determination. It should also encourage reader sympathy. I have a lot of sympathy for characters who make themselves do what has to be done regardless of personal feelings, likes and dislikes.

Also working out what your characters like/dislike here gives you a chance to flesh them out more so you understand where they are coming from, even if some of this does not make it into your story. I have found the more I know my character, the better I can write up their story as I am writing about them from conviction. And I think some of that comes through to your reader.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One great way to get “into” a story is to come up with a cracking opening line which gives your character a “do or die” scenario you know has to be resolved one way or the other by the end of the tale.

In my Decisions from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my opening line reads “He could watch the world end or jump on to the alien spaceship that encourages visitors.”. Decision time right there and then, consequences will have to follow whichever choice is made, and hopefully your reader is hooked to want to find out more.

And it is great fun, and a good use of time, to draft opening lines like that and come back to them later to write the stories up. You give yourself thinking time for one thing. Also if you find that promising opening line isn’t as good as you thought, and that is where the break away will help you come back and judge it objectively, change it to something you want to write up.

When I have moments like that, I then write up the new idea pretty much straight away fuelled by my own enthusiasm for the new idea that has occurred to me believing it will be better than the original one. Most of the time it is but I needed to get the original idea down first to help clear my imagination to come up with the better one! The old brain can be a bit funny like that but it does mean when you jot down ideas, you are “clearing the decks” ready for your subconscious to get to work.

Screenshot 2022-01-18 at 21-12-32 Tripping the Flash Fantastic Amazon co uk Symes, Allison 9781910542583 Books

It’s Monday (Blue Monday too). It has been a long day. It is story time then! Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTube – The End Is Nigh. (And if you, like me, find Monday especially tiring and busy, then the thought it is almost the end is nigh for this particular Monday is a good thing too!).

I discussed Reading as Therapy in my Goodreads blog this week but reading is, of course, so much more than that. See link here and further down.

Reading is vital to anyone wanting to write whether it is flash fiction pieces or a three volume epic because:-

  • What you read inspires what you write. I love fairytales. So I like to write my own. I don’t want to write my version of Cinderella but I have written twists on that classic story. I like to write from a fairy godmother’s viewpoint etc but I needed to know the fairytales and how they work to be able to do that.
  • You take in subconsciously how stories work, how dialogue is laid out etc so that helps you when it comes to writing your own tales.
  • You literally see who the publishers are and what they are producing. Some authors credit their agents in books. So reading is a way of picking up information that might prove useful to you when it comes to submitting your own work.
  • I read in my field (I need to know what else is out there and I will always read genres I love, including those I write in), and out of it. I widen my sources of inspiration thanks to doing that.

I’ve mentioned before I also mix up the kinds of things I read. I read short and long form, fiction and non-fiction, books, and magazines. It all counts. Best of all it is fun!

Screenshot 2022-01-18 at 21-18-23 Reading as Therapy

It is good fun every now and then to have a writing session where I jot down promising opening lines. I come back to them at a later date and if they still grab me, I write them up. A really good opening line can be a complete flash fiction story in and of itself (though you can still go on and write a fuller version of the story later if you wanted to do so).

And when you only have short pockets of time to write, why not draft this kind of thing? You are doing something creative. And your subconscious can “brew” on the lines you’ve come up with (which will help you when it does come to writing the story up). You may not be able to get to your desk for a bit. Fine. Let your mind start thinking up possibilities for those opening lines. You are thinking possible stories out and that is never wasted time.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reading as Therapy

Now there are certain things I see as therapeutic – chocolate, classical music, my dog, and, naturally, a good book or several. When the news is grim (as it so often is these days), a good book can transport you back in time, forward in time, anywhere on Earth (other planets are available if you like sci-fi), and can chill you, thrill you or make you laugh.

Books are wonderful. Doesn’t matter what format they come in either.

And when my own mood is low, reading a cosy crime (Agatha Christie) or something by Wodehouse or Pratchett or Austen is the very thing to help lift it. Books cannot stop my problems, yet alone the ones we see in the news day in day out, but they can transport us “somewhere else” for a while and sometimes that is all you need.

So yes I see the act of reading as a therapeutic art in and of itself and one major reason why I would love to see everyone enjoy books and reading.

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Christmas Plans and Writing Across the Genres

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you had a good weekend, the last before Christmas. Have not finished my preparations for Christmas but am getting there!

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Am enjoying listening to the carol concerts on Classic FM as I write. Soothing and I can join in with the carols – win-win as I love a good sing. (Of course whether anyone else appreciates me having a good sing is a completely different matter!).

I’ll be taking a couple of days off over Christmas but there will be another blog round up on Christmas Eve. And my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday will be sharing some festive flash fiction. I will probably “pop up” over the period between Christmas and New Year but I don’t anticipate “normal service” being resumed until after 1st January. Whatever you do for Christmas, I hope it proves to be a blessed time for you.

I did manage to get a story submitted for the Writing Magazine Grand Flash Prize. There is still time to enter that one if you’re interested – deadline is 31st December.

There will be a Chandler’s Ford Today post on New Year’s Eve where I will be talking about Out with the Old?

I will take the chance to say a big thank you now to those authors I’ve interviewed for CFT over the last year. I very much hope there will be further interviews to come in 2022.

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A big thanks for all the lovely comments coming in on All In the Blend, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Much appreciated (and it gives me another excuse to have another read of the wonderful collection of tales on there so win-win!). It is good to be back writing the 100-worders regularly again.

What do I enjoy most? Usually on my draft, I end up at anything between 150 and 200 words initially. What I love is the honing and pruning to get the story to 100 words without losing anything of value. That is where the challenge lies and I find it to be great fun.

Screenshot 2021-12-17 at 19-28-36 All In The Blend, by Allison Symes


Hope you have had a good Sunday. Finally got my Christmas cake iced. Am very late on it this year but it looks good and I shall look forward to having some next Saturday!

Will be slowly winding down as we head towards Christmas but I will be sharing a festive flash fiction post on Chandler’s Ford Today on Christmas Eve. As well as including the link to listen again to the Three Minute Santas flash fiction special hosted by Hannah Kate yesterday, I will also share another story and talk about the delights of writing festive pieces. Hope it will prove to be a very positive note to go into Christmas with!

I plan to do my usual blog round-ups on Tuesday and Friday this week but that will be about it for a few days. Am looking forward to my usual Christmas story intake of favourite films and books too.

My next author newsletter will go out at some point on 1st January though I cannot promise it will be particularly early!

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Delighted to share the first of two posts here tonight. It was a pleasure to have a festive flash piece on Three Minute Santas hosted by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM. Wonderful to listen to the collection of stories on here. Great start to the 7 day countdown to Christmas! Link below is to the listen again service and the show is divided into two halves – first hour and second hour. I’m on during the first hour with my tale The Night Before Christmas.

Listen Again Page on North Manchester FMScreenshot - Three Minute Santa pageScreenshot 2021-12-20 at 20-21-57 Hannah's Bookshelf pre-Christmas Christmas Special - 18 12 2021Lovely to be on North Manchester FM again

I look at Book Products for my post on Authors Electric this month. I look at what I like here and what I loathe. I also share what I would like to see on the market including a gizmo for ensuring I never lose a notebook or pen again! Now that would be a best seller!

Screenshot 2021-12-18 at 20-12-49 Book Products by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I like writing across the genres with my flash tales. It’s great fun and I see no reason to restrict myself here. The one restriction that counts for anything here is the 1000 word count limit for any individual flash story.

Given flash has to be character led, I may as well set my characters wherever and whenever I want and see what they come up with. This is where my love of reading over the years comes in as naturally that plays a major part in the kinds of story I love to read (and thus to go on and write myself as you write from the heart).

With my historical flash pieces, the one “conceit” I allow is in getting my characters to speak and think in a style of English we will understand. They are communicating their tales to us and it is a question of ensuring we understand them.

I also think using old English is a little like using accents and dialects in storytelling. You want a little of it to give a “flavour” of the era, perhaps, but not so much it “over-balances” the entire story. Nor do you want to make the story difficult to read (and Old English is difficult to read so again it makes sense to limit it!).

For my flash tales where my word count is restricted, every word has to work hard to justify its place to be in the story at all and, again, gives me a reason for not using old style language. It would, I feel, get in the way.

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It’s Monday. It has been a long day. It’s story time then! Hope you enjoy my poignant festive tale, Getting By.

 

I’ve always sided with character in the character -v- plot debate as I’ve mentioned here before, but flash fiction writing has made that call even easier to make. Why?

Simply because I haven’t got the word count room to give lots of lovely description and intricate plot points. I have got to focus on what my character thinks says, and does – and I absolutely love doing that!

But this is precisely why I need to know my character well enough first and why I find a simple template invaluable in getting to know that character. Think of it as interviewing your character. You do want your character to “say” I do like this, I don’t like that because…

The interesting bit here will be in the because as it will be the reason given which will show you even more aspects to your character. I’ve found that makes it easier to write them and their stories up as a result.

writing-advice707359_S.jpgImage - Allison Symes - Light and Dark - these questions can help you establish which applies most to your charactersCharacter Needs are everythingQuizzing my characters


It was a joy to be on the Hannah Kate show again today with my story The Night Before Christmas. I love the idea of a Three Minute Santas festive flash fiction special show. Flash works really well when read out and this show proves that.

The collection of stories is varied and each of them conjures up its own little world. I loved listening to it and I am all for things like this which promote flash and show what it can do and be. Perhaps flash comes into its own at this time of year when everyone is busy and reading might take a bit of a back seat for a while.

Well, you can still read/listen to flash! Hope you enjoy the stories on here.

Joy to hear stories as well as read them

Goodreads Author Blog – Books as Presents

I don’t know how many books are given as presents at Christmas but it must run into millions. Hardbacks, paperbacks, audio books, ebooks – a fabulous celebration of the written word, fictional and factual. I love that aspect. Yes, I’ve got books on my wish list this year – I always do – no surprises there.

I still have an annual (The Friendship Book which is still going strong after many decades and published by that marvellous publisher, D.C. Thomson of Dundee). I wonder how many kids got into reading thanks to having an annual every Christmas. Certainly they’re a great way to encourage reading.

Comics and comic books can serve the same purpose. Flash fiction, my genre, can do so too because these can tempt the reluctant reader in – you don’t have to read a brick of a novel (a) all at once and (b) as your way into reading. You cam start smaller and build up or read the brick a bit at a time.

The important thing is to read and I hope whatever book presents you receive this year, you have a fabulous time reading them!

 

The BHP book stall

Cafelit books - Book Brush mock upBridge House anthologiesHow many books will be on your wish listBooks as presents

people reading books in library

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FINDING IDEAS - The finest way I know to feed my imagination is to readWhere will your fiction take your readers and will it make them laugh

 

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The Joys of Flash Fiction and Heading North

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Many thanks to Lynn Clement for her author photo and book cover pic for my interview with her on Chandler’s Ford Today. Many thanks also to Sarah Archibald for the Brechin/Angus Book Festival materials – it is a joy to share them!
Just one of the events going on this weekend

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m delighted to welcome fellow flash fiction writer, Lynn Clement, to Chandler’s Ford Today. Her debut flash collection, The City of Stories, was recently published by Chapeltown Books. And a shared publisher is not the only link between Lynn and I. See the full story on CFT.

And I look forward to chatting with Lynn next week about how she found the editing process (Chapeltown Books has a vigorous three stage process here) and discussing why using song lyrics in fiction really is not a good idea unless you have written said song lyrics yourself.

https://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/introducing-lynn-clement-the-city-of-stories/

Lynn Clement and I share flash fiction in common but there is more.
Full story on CFT.

Am on the first leg of my train trip to the Brechin/Angus Book Festival as I draft this. So looking forward to taking part in this.

Meantime I’m pleased to share my latest blog post for Authors Electric. Naturally I’m talking about book festivals – well, they do say write what you know, right?!☺

Book festivals are a great way to celebrate books and my post takes a look at that aspect. Hope you enjoy.https://authorselectric.blogspot.com/2021/11/book-festivals-by-allison-symes.html

Plenty to look forward to at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival.

I’m packed ready to go to the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Well almost. I just need to pack up this laptop after this evening’s writing session but then I’m ready. 

Plenty of writing to get on with on the train journey up. And am looking forward to plenty of reading too. And am always glad to spread the word about flash fiction so this weekend should be fun there!

Looking forward to sharing Part 1 of a fab interview on Chandler’s Ford Today with Lynn Clement, whose debut flash fiction collection The City of Stories was recently published by Chapeltown Books. Link up on Friday (though my times of posting will vary over the next few days).

Will be busy getting my next author newsletter ready once I’m back from my travels. I share writing tips, prompts, news etc here and there’s a giveaway too.If you want to check things out do go to my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am pleased to share my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction – hope you enjoy Lucky. I think my lead character, Bert, here was sensible – see what you think.

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

Hope you enjoy my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction.

Will be spreading the word about flash fiction at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival this weekend. Am on my way up by train as I draft this.

I’ll be running a flash fiction workshop and will be looking at ways in to creating a story. I’m also giving a talk on The Ups and Downs of Becoming An Author and of course flash fiction is a major part of that. A hugely enjoyable part too!

And flash will be celebrated again tomorrow thanks to my Chandler’s Ford Today interview with Lynn Clement. Flash is a common link for us both. Link up tomorrow.

Celebrating flash fiction – one mini story at a time!😀

Looking forward to my flash fiction workshop as part of the Brechin/Angus Book Festival this weekend.

I’m “on” during the Sunday twice – firstly the workshop and then later in the day I’ll be talking about The Ups and Downs of Becoming An Author. This talk is especially apt given I discovered flash fiction by accident which has proved to be a definite “up”!

And you could argue my latest YouTube story is also an “up” given it is called Rocket!

Fairytales With Bite – Putting on the Glad Rags

Do your characters ever put on the glad rags and, if so, why? Do they achieve their objective in doing this? The obvious practitioner of this is, of course, Cinderella, though she did need fairy godmother help to get those glad rags in the first place.

Assuming magic is not involved here, what would your characters wear for daily life? What would they wear for special occasions? Are there dress codes?I save my own glad rags for special writing events but your characters could use doing this as a way to disguise how they really feel inside.

Putting on the glad rags can be like putting on a kind of armour especially when you want to put on a good “front” to someone/the world in general. Does putting this “front” on work? Does it help your character cope with a bad/sad situation?

Does it elicit sympathy from those closest to your character who know the glad rags business is just an act for your lead? Is there a situation when putting on the glad rags is the wrong thing to do? When perhaps your character would be better off coming out with how they really feel… plenty of story ideas to think about here I think.

Oh and one truth throughout most fairytales I think, is while magic can help a character, it doesn’t resolve the overall problem. Cinderella still had to get away from her awful stepmother, the Prince still had to find Cinders despite the use of magic to bring them together at the ball.

This World and Others – Cultural Events

What kind of culture exists in your fictional world? Is culture appreciated, a tourism magnet etc., or is it despised? 

Arts and the humanities are often not considered so valuable as, say, engineering, the sciences and so on. (All nonsense of course. All of these things are valuable and you can’t compare like with like anyway.

But what stance does your fictional world take? Has it ever changed its position and, if so, what made it do so? How do your characters react to their own culture? Are they an active part of it or do they leave the “arty” things to others?

If your fictional world does value culture, what kind is it? Is it “arty” or military based, say? Where would your characters best fit in? (You can find out more about what makes your characters tick here by looking at why they, say, prefer armed strength to the arts and so on. Are they compensating for their own weakness? Do they think they will become better, bigger people by showing a preference to the military side of things here?).

And can you develop characters who love the pomp and ceremony side of the military and the arts? How do they cope with others who prefer one or the other and consider the “opposition” something to be despised?

What sort of events does your world hold to commemorate historical events and is it compulsory for all citizens to take part? How does the culture of your fictional world affect the way it treats its own citizens and reacts to anyone/anything different?

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Time Generation and Must Have Books

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing images kindly supplied by Wendy H Jones. Many thanks to Fiona Park for the image of me signing books at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Other book photos taken by me.
Hope you have had a good weekend. Nice to have a quiet one after my London trip the week before. The dog wasn’t sorry to have me at home either! Image below taken by Adrian Symes.

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

Facebook – General

Glad to be able to share the Amazon link for the October issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads. Please note it IS a FREE magazine. Plenty of interesting articles to read. My column on flash fiction this time focuses on Light and Dark in Flash Fiction.


It’s my turn on the Authors Electric blog and this time I look at Drawing People into Reading. This post came about as a result of something I experienced at a Book Fair many moons ago. Why is reading considered as boring in some quarters when good books take you into fantasy worlds, science fiction, backwards and forwards in time? What can be done to correct that impression? Any thoughts welcome over on the AE page.

 

Have tried to make the most of nice autumnal weather this weekend given the rain is back next week. Lady had a wonderful surprise when she got to play with her Rhodesian Ridgeback best buddy today and then Lady’s “boyfriend”, a lovely Aussie Shepherd called Bear, also arrived. Three tired but happy dogs went home, feeling the day was well spent. It is quite a sight to see Lady play fighting with her Ridgeback pal. You stand back, stay out of the way, and enjoy the show! And who can herd the best – a Border Collie cross or an Aussie Shepherd? Hard to pick a winner but both of them ran beautifully, tails going nineteen to the dozen.

Am busy getting my author newsletter ready for November. Always a joy to put that together. Please head over to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like to sign up. As well as news, I share exclusive stories, prompt, and tips here. (I try to make my newsletter something I know I would want to read if I was on the receiving end and I take the same approach with my stories and blogging. It’s a good starting point because I am trying to see things as a reader would and am tailoring my work to what I think a reader would want. It also helps cut out any temptation to put in things that are not strictly needed).

A tip that I’ve found useful many a time when perhaps the week has been especially tiring is a simple one. Just write what you can when you can and don’t beat yourself up. It is important to enjoy what you do and I would rather have a ten minutes writing session that I loved every second of than to have three times that long and I struggle. And for short periods of writing time I take the chance to jot down ideas for future use or might to do some light editing, things I know I can do in the time and which will help me feel as if I have achieved something. That is important too.

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Lady had a Saturday bonus today in that she got to play with her Labradoodle pal, Coco, today. Both dogs went home tired out and happy. I managed to cut our lawn today. I suspect it will be the final cut of the year too.

Writing wise, I look forward to sharing my next CFT post where I’ll be discussing Good Writing Topics. I am also back on Authors Electric on 18th and my theme for that will be Drawing People Into Reading.

And don’t forget if you contribute to Mom’s Favorite Reads, the online magazine, my topic this month is Memories. What 300 word stories can you share on that theme? This edition will be the November 2021 issue. I’ll share the link as soon as I can after publication so you can have a good read (!) but I know some who follow my website are fellow contributors to the magazine.

I like to pick open themes (the reason for which is something I’ll discuss more on Friday for my CFT post) but an early lesson in writing taught me to go that way as I did make the classic writing mistake of boxing myself in on a story. Never again I hope!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Amazon currently have an offer on From Light to Dark and Back Again. See link.

Looking forward to sharing stories from that and Tripping the Flash Fantastic at the Brechin/Angus Book Fest during my flash fiction workshop. One of the best ways of demonstrating what flash fiction is and can be is to read some!

 

It’s a dark, damp, dire Monday in Hampshire so definitely time for story time I think. Hope you enjoy Scrabbled. What message would you spell out on the game board?


I’ve scheduled a new mini-flash tale for tomorrow on my YouTube channel and look forward to sharing the link then. See above!

I’ve also prepared a new story which I hope to submit to #FridayFlashFiction. And I used something different for this one.
I found a time generator! You can choose random times within parameters (which you can change). I chose five times within set hours (9 am and 5 pm). I will definitely do this again. The tale was great fun to write and it made me think about what my character would actively be doing as as well as when. Having specific times in a story meant I had to make my character focus and it gave a nice rhythm to the story too. Assuming FFF take the story, I’ll share the link when I have it.

Now if only I could have a “real life” time generator to help me get all the boring chores done so I had more time for writing and editing etc! Will let you know if my story makes it on to Friday Flash Fiction’s website this week.

Meanwhile you can check out my other videos at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

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I don’t write to the seasons as such though I do like some Christmassy flash fiction stories and have some in both From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. But there is no reason why you couldn’t take the seasons as a theme for a series of flash tales.

Likewise, the weather could be a “mood” for your story. Stormy has an obvious link to stormy characters and situations but how could you make “sunny” interesting enough for a reader to want to read on? I think my take on this would be to have a sunny character whose world is turned upside down. Do they find their sunny nature again or is that gone forever? Now there’s the story.

Goodreads Author Blog – Top Ten Must Have Books

Okay, no list is going to be perfect. I suspect some titles will drop out off any list in one year and come back on it again the next year etc but here is my list of Top Ten Must Have Books.

The Lord of the Rings
Pride and Prejudice
Murder on the Orient Express
Raising Steam (Terry Pratchett)
The Code of the Woosters
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Daughter of Time (Josephine Tey)
P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters. (Fabulous book and I love reading books of letters).
The History of Britain (Three volume set based on the TV series presented by Simon Schama some time ago but oh so worth reading).
A Christmas Carol

Which books would be on your list?

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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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