Finding Ideas, Themes and Judging a Book by its Cover Part 3

Image Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Many thanks to my guests for Part 3 of my Judging a Book by its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Author and book cover pics were supplied by Amanda Huggins, Dawn Knox (with Colin Payn), Gail Aldwin, Alyson Rhodes (who writes as Alyson Faye), Jim Bates, and Paula R.C. Readman.

A huge thanks to all of my guests over the last three weeks. It has been a joy to discuss and share book cover thoughts! Hope you have all had a good week. Looking forward to giving another talk about flash fiction via Zoom next week.

Oh and my author newsletter goes out tomorrow, 1st May. Do sign up at my landing page – https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – for more details.


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share the final part of my Judging a Book by its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Many thanks to all of my guests over the last three weeks for their fabulous contributions. For this post, I chat to guests from Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books.

Also a shout out goes to #WendyHJones as a comment from her gave me the spark for the idea for this series. As I mentioned for the More Than Writers blog spot I shared yesterday about Finding Ideas (see below), ideas are there. The trick is to spot them and yes they can come from comments from other writers or things you overhear. The clever bit is gathering those ideas up and running with them! (It is also why it is a good idea to keep a notebook on you as we slowly go out and about in the world once again. Never rely on your memory to record a good idea. You do forget!).

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Bonus Post – My Interview by Francesca Tyer for the Authors Reach website

A little while ago I was interviewed by Francesca Tyer for the Authors Reach website. Francesca has been a guest on Chandler’s Ford Today too.

Delighted to now be able to share the link to that interview. Hope you enjoy it and a huge thank you to Francesca and Authors Reach for hosting me.

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

Pleased to share my latest blog on More Than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. I discuss Finding Ideas and hope you find it useful. I share a few thoughts on how I find ideas.

Earlier this week I came up with another useful method which was to use a random word generator to come up with a random word and then use that as a topic for the picture site, Pixabay. I then used a random picture from them based on that topic to inspire me to write a story to fit the theme. Good fun and I hope to use that method again.

For my MTW blog, I also take a quick peek at how I find ideas for blogs. Well, that is useful to find ON a blog, yes?!

Hope you enjoy.

Hope you have had a good day. (Lady went bonkers, in a good way, with her girlfriends, Khaya and Coco, in the park today. Wish I had half their energy but there you go).

Have a new ACW blog post to share tomorrow and the final part of my Judging a Book By Its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday.

Submitted my flash piece to the Bridport Prize. Glad to get that done well ahead of the deadline (end of May so there is still time to enter if you’re interested. There are other categories too including short stories and poetry).

I chatted over on #Val’sBookBundle earlier about whether poor proofreading would put you off reading the story afflicted by it. It wouldn’t necessarily put me off. It hasn’t put me off the book I’ve just read which had so many poor word end splits. But I was itching to get my red pen out. And that is never a good sign.

What is important to remember though is, while books do get out there with this kind of thing happening, we still need to get our books and stories out there and ensure they are at the highest standards possible. We owe it to our wonderful stories to make them the best we can make them so they have the best chance of attracting readers. So take your time over your own proofreading.

For short stories and flash fiction, check them several times before you submit them everywhere.

For a novel, you do need an independent editor here.

The big problem every writer has is we are far too close to our own work to always spot things that need correcting. So it is a question of accepting that and being prepared to invest in our work.

The dream ticket here is having a writer who has got their work polished as much as possible before it goes to an editor. That editor will see what the writer has done, will understand the story, but will pick up the things and ask questions the writer may not have thought of but which, when answered, will strengthen that book and give it a better chance out there.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Will be sharing my author newsletter tomorrow. I issue this once a month on the 1st and I share exclusive flash fiction tales here. I hope later on to gather some of those into a further collection but you do get to have the first read! For more do go to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

It is hard to say what I love most about flash fiction. Yes, I am always going to have a very soft spot for the form given it was my way in to having books published with my name on them (and on the front cover too!). But I’ve always loved inventing people. That, to me, has been the big thing about stories so getting to do this all the time for various flash fiction tales is a win-win for me.

I suppose the foundation of all storytelling (and this can apply to non-fiction too) is to have a curiosity about what makes others tick. There has to be a certain amount of curiosity to make you want to find out what happens to the characters or what the writer of the non-fiction piece comes up with as a conclusion.

So my job as a writer is to try to make my characters as intriguing as possible so others will want to read about what happens to them. If I’m intrigued by the characters, others will be too.

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Do you have favourite themes for stories? I’m fond of the “underdog” winning through kind of tale (and you can set those in any environment. A lot of fairytales are based on this). I also like to see justice being done stories (again fairytales often have this as a theme, though not always. You could argue there wasn’t any for The Little Match Girl by Hans Christen Andersen).

I also like characters who are not all they appear to be and the great thing with that is you can take this in two directions. Make the character turn out to be a villain or a hero. You can have great fun going with either of those options. Though I would add there should be some indication early on this character is not all they’re cracked up to be otherwise a reader may feel cheated.

I love it when I read a story like this as I look back at it to see where it was the author planted the first clue to flag up to me as reader I really should look out for what this character is going to do and be. I can learn from that for my own writing and I love that too.


A huge thank you to the wonderful response to my story, Hidden Gems, yesterday. This story came about as a result of using the sixth random word to come up on a random generator. That gave me a topic. I then put that topic into the Pixabay search bar and used the sixth image that came up. I then based the story around that image.

I will certainly use the random word and random image idea again. It made me think outside the box and that is always a good thing.

Am looking forward to sending out my next author newsletter (1st May) and I often share exclusive flash fiction stories here as well as useful tips. If you would like to know more please sign up at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com and you will receive a welcome email with a link to a giveaway too.

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Fairytales With Bite – Defining Happy Ever After

Do your characters have a happy ever after or just a happy for now? And how do you define what happy is anyway? So much depends on what your characters want and whether they achieve that (or something better).

Also does one character’s happy ever after mean ruin for others?

That usually is the case with fairytales. Cinderella is a classic case in point but there is no question that the wicked stepmother and the Ugly Sisters had that ruin “coming”. But you are not told that. You see the “coming to ruin” play out as the story goes on and the attitudes and actions of the characters show you whether or not said characters deserve to be brought down.

So we need to set up our characters so a happy ever after or happy for now is seen to be merited. You want the reader to root for their success. (Wishy-washy characters simply don’t do that for me which is why I dislike Miss Price from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park).

Likewise the characters deserving to be brought down – they too need to be fully rounded individuals, who by their actions and attitudes, show the reader they’re not going to be redeemed. And again you get the reader rooting for these folk to get their well deserved comeuppance.

All stories focus on actions and consequences, conflicts and resolutions so a happy ever after or happy for now has to be the logical resolution to what comes before.

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This World and Others – Making Your Characters Stand Out

How do your characters stand out? What is special about them? I feel it is vital for the author to be totally committed to their characters to be able to write their stories up effectively. Therefore something about the character has to grab the author. That same something is likely to be the element which grips a reader.

So ask yourself what is it about characters you yourself love to read about? Can you apply that to your own characters? If you like characters who are feisty but with hearts of gold, those are the kind of characters you want to write because you will write from the heart because you yourself love these.

It may help to list qualities you want to find in a character (and don’t forget the villains here. You need to give plenty of thought to them too. Your hero/heroine has to have an opponent who will test them, bring out the best in them and so on). Then work out ways in which you can show those qualities.

For example, if you love honesty in a character, then you can use that honesty to land that character in trouble. (This could make a great comic piece). They are bound to say things that, with hindsight, might have been better expressed and with less bluntness, for example. That will have consequences.

It will also imply they have got to come up against another character who doesn’t appreciate that honesty. And the second character has to have good reasons not to appreciate it so work out what those reasons could be. Perhaps they dislike being spoken to like that because it reminds them of a family member who used to do so and it caused great upset. Perhaps they don’t like the main character speaking out because the second one is up to no good and they’re concerned they’ll be found out.

Have fun playing with ideas here. But think about the one thing that will make each of your characters stand out. What is it they are best known for? How does that play out in your story? What makes your characters deserve to be written up?

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Writing Joys, Podcast News, and Launches in Lockdown 2

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Thanks to #RichardHardie, #FrancescaTyer, and #TeresaBassett for supplying images used below too.

A huge thank you to #MaressaMortimer, #FranHill, and #WendyHJones for their images and book cover photos for my Chandler’s Ford Today Launches In Lockdown series this week.

And I am delighted to say I was on Wendy’s The Writing and Marketing Show earlier this week. Will share link further down. I talk about writing regular columns for online magazines.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today – Launches in Lockdown Part 2

What a busy day it has been as there are two posts on here from me tonight!

For this post, I want to say what a pleasure it has been to write the Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. I think if I can make a claim to write a zeitgeist series, this one is it!

Part 2 tonight shares wonderful insights from three authors from the Association of Christian Writers (I’m the Membership Secretary). #MaressaMortimer, #FranHill, and #WendyHJones have all had books out in the very recent past and have plenty of useful tips and thoughts to share in this week’s post.

Hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

Next week I’ll be chatting to writers from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

 

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers

It is very much an Association of Christian Writers weekend for me as I am at an online Committee meeting tonight and tomorrow. Much will be said. Much will be done. All thanks to Zoom!

And it is my turn on the ACW More Than Writers blog too. This month, I use my spot to talk about Writing Joys. I can’t stress enough how important it is to love what you write. (Okay you won’t all the time, nobody does, but you should be looking forward to your writing sessions and what you’re working on most of the time. It is that love for the work which drives you and can help keep you going during the tougher writing times which happen to us all).

Delighted to say my interview with Richard Hardie recently on Chandler’s Ford Today is now up on the Authors Reach website (very much with my blessing!). Authors Reach is Richard’s publishing company and I was chatting to him about the challenges he has faced as an author and publisher during the pandemic. The AR link is https://www.authorsreach.co.uk/post/richard-hardie-authors-reach-and-lockdown – well worth another read!

And tomorrow sees Part 2 of my CFT series, Launches in Lockdown, go live. This week I’ll be chatting to three lovely writers from the Association of Christian Writers – #MaressaMortimer, #FranHill, and #WendyHJones. One of them has also come up with the funniest book title of 2020 in my view. You’ll have to wait for the post tomorrow to find out who the author is and whether you agree with me or not! (Trouble with doing a blog round up in reverse date order is you will already have spotted the answer to this one!!).

PODCAST NEWS –

WENDY H JONES CHATS TO ALLISON SYMES

Am thrilled to share the link to my interview by Wendy H Jones for her podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show. I talk about writing a regular column (for Chandler’s Ford Today), how I find ideas (and keep coming up with them) and the joys of an online magazine.

With more of us using technology to read (smartphones, I-pads etc), it makes a huge amount of sense to have intelligent, interesting, and entertaining content available for that technology. And online magazines do need writers to provide it. Hope you enjoy. And many thanks, Wendy, for hosting me again. It was such fun to do!

Podcast News:  https://www.stitcher.com/show/the-writing-and-marketing-show/episode/writing-a-newspaper-column-81142120

Screenshot_2021-01-27 The Writing and Marketing Show - Writing a Newspaper Column on Stitcher

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A huge thanks to everyone for the great responses so far to my CFT series, Launches in Lockdown. Whether you’ve been launching flash fiction collections (as I have) or longer works, I think it is fair to say the last 12 months have been difficult. But social media and Zoom have helped.

And I think this all shows the importance of networking too. Thanks to networking over the last few years, I have a lovely wide range of people to approach for CFT interviews, but it does also mean that same pool can be invited to my launches.

Naturally this is two-way traffic. I get invited to theirs and I go to as many as I can. You learn from what other writers do and they learn from you too. I love the give and take of the writing world here.

I guess also writing flash is excellent practice for writing short, pithy pieces for your online book launches too!

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Am thrilled to see a great number of views for my recent story video, Dress Sense. The thought of Red Riding Hood giving the Big Bad Wolf fashion tips has obviously gone down well! Many thanks, everyone. (Oh and I think she’s right by the way – see the link and see what you think!).

Dress Sense Video Link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVs_GEWh5To

Tripping The Flash Fantastic is on offer in paperback on Amazon at the moment. Go on, pick up a bargain! See http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent for more.

F = Fun to write
L = Lively character(s)
A = Action immediately
S = Stories great for ending with a twist
H = Heroes/heroines are dropped right in it from the start

F = Finite story length but you do have some choice
I = Imagination intense to make an intense story work
C = Character(s) has/have to grip you immediately.
T = Tension, yes there’s plenty of that and not a lot of space to resolve it.
I = Intensity can vary. Reflective pieces can work well but the character has to be compelling to make that successful.
O = Oh my… what is your flash tale’s ‘oh my’ moment?
N = Narrative take? I often favour first person.

Thought I’d share another story video here – hope you enjoy.

Fairytales with Bite – Magical Reading

What kind of books would your magical characters read? Would they read about uses of magic or do they want to get away from all of that? Well, it would make sense if they did. I know when I read I want to escape the every day world and its cares. In a magical world, the magic is the everyday world and its cares! Same old, same old, and all that!

Having said that, maybe they would want to carry out research and use it to improve their skills.
Some suggestions for possible research reading material then though I accept the titles could do with some work (and abbreviating!):-

Fairies – 10001 Things To Do With Your Wand Not Involving Turning People Into Frogs

Witches – How to Sabotage Fairy Spells So They Produce Useless Things Like Glass Slippers – A Beginner’s Guide.

Wizards – How to Produce the Perfect Smoke Ring Without Appearing to Use Magic To Do It

Elves – How To Be A Right Cobbler (see the story of The Elves and the Shoemaker here).

Dwarves – Gold and How To Find It (always of interest)

Dragons – Wing Technique for the Bigger Flying Animal and How To Get It Right and Surprise Your Prey (and I am assuming dragons are very intelligent creatures who can read, so there!).

And talking of dragons, let’s hear another story from their viewpoint.

 

This World and Others – Education, Education…..Er…. What Does Your Fictional World Consider to be Education?

So what would your created world consider to be a good standard of education? Is it just the ability to read and write? Would there be topics like history, geography, any of the sciences etc? And is the education open to all but only a few?

In an uneducated world (judging by our standards only), how would news be communicated to those who cannot read? Does the lack of an education hold people back or have they not known anything else? Is there any sense of people wanting to improve their situation here?

And if so, what or whom is stopping them and for what purposes? (Usually it is a question of being able to control people who don’t enough to question things but what if the ruler has genuine reasons for fearing what education could do? Are they right? What are those fears? How can those fears be misproved and the ruler shown a good standard of education would be beneficial?).

If there are schools, colleges etc., do they resemble what we have here? What are the differences?

And if education has always been around, how has it progressed or is it progressing during the course of your story?

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Twitter Corner

 

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Launches In Lockdown – New CFT Series

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. 

Author pics and book cover images kindly supplied by the authors themselves in my new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Launches in Lockdown.

Tonight’s images here are supplied by me, Allison Symes, (!), #TeresaBassett, and #FrancescaTyer.

And whatever you write, being creative with stories, non-fiction etc, is always a good thing!

Whatever kind of writing you do, exercises help you improve what you do

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I have been so looking forward to writing and sharing this post. My new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Launches in Lockdown, starts now and will run for the next few weeks.

I talk to a wide variety of authors about their experiences launching a book in such trying conditions, what they did, what they felt worked well, what they learned from the kind of launch they were able to hold and so on.

Fascinating insights to come from writers from The Association of Christian Writers, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books.

But first up tonight are:-

1. Me! I share my experiences from launching Tripping The Flash Fantastic in 2020.
2. Writers from Authors Reach, Richard Hardie’s publishing company. You may recall I interviewed him last week about the challenges he has faced as a writer and as a publisher. Tonight, firmly from the writing desk, I chat to #TeresaBassett and #Francesca Tyer about how they fared as they launched The Time Crystals and The Firestone respectively.

A huge thank you to all of my guests over the next few weeks for taking part in this. If ever I could be said to have written a zeitgeist series, I think this is it! And everyone shares wonderful tips and advice so plenty to take in here.

But for now I hope you enjoy Part 1.

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Nice to have sunshine today after yesterday’s storms. Lady appreciated it too (and playing with one of her other pals, Coco). The mud levels over the park are something else, mind you! Am so glad of my boots and suspect I shall be living in these until March at the earliest.

When is your best time to write? I mainly write in the late afternoons and evenings though if I can sneak in extra time to write, I’ll do so. I just need to start writing and away I go.

Best time for reading is bedtime though I love catching up with various writing magazines over lunch (and it was a real pleasure to discover a mention for Chapeltown Books in Writing Magazine yesterday).

Had a lovely time joining in with #writingchat yesterday. The topics are always interesting and make me thing. Learn a lot from it too. It is the main writing group I’m involved with on Twitter.

And last not but not least just a quick reminder my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow is Part 1 of my Launches in Lockdown. (See above!). As well as sharing my experiences from last year, I talk to Authors Reach writers, Teresa Bassett and Francesca Tyer.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be talking to authors from the Association of Christian Writers, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books. Plenty of insights and thoughtful tips tomorrow and in the other posts to come. Looking forward to sharing them all.

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Delighted to read a wonderful piece about my publishers, Chapeltown Books, in this month’s Writing Magazine. Check out the Writers’ News section at the back and the UK Book Market piece. I do like having a quick look through the magazine when it comes in so I can play the “spot the person I know” game on the letters page, the competition winners and runners-up etc. It is a bad month if I spot less than four! I then read the articles at lunch so I’ve only just come to this bit! (CafeLit and Bridge House get a mention too).

I was right on one thing today – Lady and I did get a soaking this morning though it has eased off a bit since. Winds are still high though.

Am still reading London – The Biography by Peter Ackroyd. It is a fascinating read (though it is a long one. Let’s just say you don’t want to drop the paperback on your foot, yet alone the hardback!). All sorts of stories tucked into a wonderful work of non-fiction. It’s easy to take in information when it’s presented in an entertaining way as it is here – and that’s something for all writers to aspire to, whether we write fiction, non-fiction or both.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One thing I love about working with Chapeltown Books is being able to contribute to what appears on the book cover. That doesn’t always happen with publishers. I must admit I had a lot of fun picking suitable images from Pixabay for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic.

For FLTDBA I chose the rippling circles to indicate stories have impact. Even the smallest flash fiction tale has the impact to move a reader. Also many of my stories have characters who are not always are as they appear to be and the rippling circles to me indicated characters capable of being disturbing and causing ripples in life wherever they go.

For TTFF the castle with the lights on reflects the fact I have historical flash fiction pieces in this book. I also think there is a sense of mystery, the unknown, about that castle and who might live in it. Given I write a lot of fantasy/fairytale with bite type stories, that was an appropriate image for me to convey.

It did take me a while to work out a shortlist of suitable images but it is so worth taking time over. When your book finally reaches you and you take the first one out of your parcel, you want to be so proud of it. You want people to be drawn to and intrigued by your cover (and then hopefully by the contents too!).


Every so often I will write a flash tale in poetic form and some of these appeared in Tripping The Flash Fantastic. This is an interesting challenge as you need to get the story down and ensure it is a proper tale and then get the rhythm of the poem right. I am partial to rhyming poems (and even more so to a good limerick!) so I like that kind of pace in my verses, but I have learned that the language you use has to be natural to you and make sense to the story. Forced rhymes stand out.

But this kind of scrutinizing what you are writing and why and have I really chosen the best word to (a) suit the story and (b) suit the rhyming pattern I’ve set up does keep you on your toes and worth having a go at if you want to stretch yourself a bit.

The majority of my stories will always be in “straight” prose but a spot of variety every now and again does no harm! That is also why I sometimes write tales as acrostics. The nice thing with those is there is a visual element to them and so they work quite well for posts on Facebook, story videos and so on. Even better for the story videos are the one to two line flash stories as you don’t want anything to be too long here. Never give the reader/viewer a chance to lose interest!

Do I identify with my characters? Hmm… now there’s a leading question!

The answer is mostly! I know, I know, very helpful – not! So what do I mean by this?

Most of my characters I like. I can identify with them easily enough. But I don’t like all of them. I can think of a fair few I would not want to meet in life! So how I can write about characters like that convincingly?

I try to identify why my characters are the way they are and there is usually something I can latch on to there.

Understanding where your characters come from does not mean agreeing with their choices! Understanding where they come from means you will write their story with more conviction. I mean I can see how and why Gollum in The Lord of the Rings turned out the way he did. Do I agree with him? No!

Getting into your characters’ heads is not always a comfortable experience, indeed it often shouldn’t be (as my crime and horror writing colleagues would no doubt confirm!). Even with the characters you like, they can’t be goody-goody. You need to be able to see and understand what their flaws are and how those play out in your story.

You can have the most wonderful character but what will really make them come to life for your reader is when they fail or screw up in some way. Okay your character overcomes that and goes on to better things but it is that failure which drives that change to overcome and that is what fascinates a reader. I know it always fascinates me.

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Fairytales with Bite – The Problems with a Magical World

The major problem with a magical world is it is a magical world! Er… yes… but how come that is the issue? You want to write about a magical world after all!

True but the problems come in simply because if every character can just resolve problems by a wave of the old magic wand, either that world is going to come to a stalemate (as characters cancel other characters’ spells out) or it is going to blow itself apart with all that magic flying around. So there have to be some rules and that is where life gets more interesting. You as the author decide on what the rules will be and yes, that’s the fun bit! But you do need to be consistent with how you apply these.

If you decide certain species in your creation cannot do magic at all, that’s going to give them a major disadvantage against those you’ve decided can do magic. What’s to stop the latter from wiping the former out altogether? So every species then, whether magical or not, has to have something to ensure their survival.

Equally if everyone is going to be magical, what are the limits to ensure nobody can blow the world up by mistake?! Who sets the limits? Who polices them? Those with fewer powers will need to have some safeguards against those with much more (again to prevent them from being wiped out), so what will these be? Can magic, say, only be used in daylight hours? Can using magic drain people of energy so they have to be careful how much of it they use?

The other problem with a magical world is how is it going to treat neighbouring worlds/countries who are not magical? Will they treat them with contempt? Or will they ignore the non-magical kinds even when the latter could do with some assistance because they’re faced with, say, an illness devastating their people that they know the magical lot could help them overcome?

Plenty of food for thought there but I hope this highlights magic can cause as many problems as it seems to solve and that in turn can make for some interesting stories.

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This World and Others – Dilemmas to Solve when World Building

This post follows on from the Fairytales with Bite piece above. There are plenty of dilemmas to resolve when world building, including the use of magic as mentioned above. You also need to decide how much of the geography and history of the world your readers need to know to make sense of your story. Also how do you get that information across?

I like to get characters to show me things wherever possible so I make them look at things and show me what they think of what they are seeing. If I mention Character A takes a brief look at the ugly Civic Hall, you know they’re in a town, they don’t think much of the architecture, and are clearly looking for something of more interest to them and whatever their quest may be. All of that in one sentence too!

There will be certain things you need to spell out to a reader. For example, if your characters need oxygen masks to be able to go outside, you need to mention that early on (and the reason why – it might not be an obvious one!). As the story develops, readers will get used to “seeing” your characters with these masks on and you won’t need much if any description later.

But I think it is a question here of knowing broadly what your story is going to be and from that working out how much your readers need to know. From there you can work out how to dripfeed that information into the story so readers pick it up almost unconsciously. No need for reams of description which can put people off.

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Twitter Corner

 

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Richard Hardie, Authors Reach, and Lockdown

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Many thanks to Richard Hardie for supplying book cover images and his author photo for my CFT post this week.

And below, from the wonderful Pixabay, a great example of what fabulous books should do – draw you in!

Books invite you into their world - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share this week’s CFT post – Richard Hardie, Authors Reach, and Lockdown. Richard is a local (to me!) YA writer and Authors Reach is his publishing company. Richard and I chat about the challenges of lockdown he has faced both as an author and as a publisher.

Richard Hardie head profile-1

Richard Hardie. Image kindly supplied by him.

This post makes a wonderful lead-in to my Launches in Lockdown series which starts next Friday. I will be chatting to other Authors Reach authors, writers from the Association of Christian Writers, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and from Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books.

Naturally I’ll be talking about my experiences of launching a book during these strange times as well.

Today’s post with Richard, as well as the series to come, offer I hope thoughts and ideas as to what can be done despite all the current difficulties. It is also good to know you’re not alone out there!

I must admit though the post I would love to write would be the one where I talk about going to live events again and setting up some of my own!

As they say, watch this space!

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I’m currently drafting a flash story for a blog and this is an interesting combination of fiction with non-fiction. I’m sticking to a strict word count to meet the needs of the blog (though this is excellent for flash fiction writing anyway!) and I’m writing the story in the first person from the viewpoint of my lead character. I have a soft spot for them already! To be fair I do like most of my “people”.

Occasionally I write a story with a character I loathe but I still try to get inside their head and work out why they are the way they are.

Do I enjoy making them get their comeuppance? Oh yes! That is one of the perks of the writer’s job after all!

But the fascinating thing with characters is there are infinite varieties to them and, as a result, infinite storytelling possibilities. It is a case of us “digging for gold” here and finding those stories but the process should be a lot of fun.

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Murky and damp day today, not that Lady worried. If she can get to the park and play, she’s happy.

Glad to say I’ll be taking part in two interviews in due course. Have got the questions in for one, am waiting on the ones for the second. It is great fun being on the “other side of the fence” for interviews! I also love looking at the questions I’ve been set and think yes, that’s a great one, it will draw me out.

The best interview questions always do that. You want a writer to share something of themselves and their work and what inspires them. Questions that draw people out are far more likely to achieve that than those where someone could get away with a simple Yes/No answer. (I’ve never seen the point of those kind of questions – where’s the fun in that for either interviewer or interviewee?!).

Oh and before you ask. Yes I do interrogate my characters from time to time. I don’t let them get away with simple Yes/No answers either!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The challenges of flash I think are:-

  • Coming up with new ideas constantly for characters. (I’ve always found story ideas comes from the characters so as long as I know them well enough I will be able to write their tale).
  • Working out whether a 100-word story (or drabble), say, is the best way to tell my latest tale or whether I would be better having a shorter or longer piece to do the character(s) justice. I resolve this one by writing the story, putting it aside for a while, then cutting out my wasted words. I then look at what is left and ask myself line by line is this one really necessary? Does it serve the story? It can be amazing how much can be cut out doing that as only a firm “yes” to both of these questions is enough for me to keep the line(s) in the story. And that is how it should be.
  • Deciding whether to save the latest creation for a collection, or submit it for a competition, or save it for use as a blog post for me on my Facebook page, especially this one (!), or turn it into a story video and put in on Youtube. I sometimes deliberately leave a story as a text tale only for Facebook as I like to mix things up but must admit I have been having a lot of fun creating mini videos using Book Brush!

Still, those challenges mean I have no chance whatsoever of being bored and I like that!

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Looking forward to sharing my CFT post tomorrow. I will be talking to YA author, Richard Hardie, about the challenges of lockdown he has faced as both author and publisher. Richard’s publishing arm is Authors Reach and some of the writers from his stable will be taking part in my Launches in Lockdown series for CFT which will start on 22nd January.

This is going to be a five part series, one of the longest I’ve written, but all of my wonderful guests share great insights as to how they’ve launched books during what has been such a strange period of history. We all hope the series will be a source of encouragement, given, even as things get better overall, “normal” life clearly isn’t going to return all at once. So thoughts and tips about managing online events will always be useful especially given the lack of physical book events will go on for a while (though hopefully only for a short while!).

Writing wise, I am more on the non-fiction side right now with two interviews to prepare for though I have drafted a flash piece for submission to a blog spot later on. The latter was interesting to write. As ever, I found getting inside the head of the character was crucial. Once I hear their voice and see where they’re coming from, the story then flows. It is my character’s story after all!

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It came as a nice surprise to see a friend had shared my You Said story video the other day and there were fab responses in to it from that source. So many thanks, #JuneWebber, and to all who have kindly commented on this.

This poetic flash tale had to be written in the first person but I knew the voice of the narrator at once. Very much the voice of someone who has finally had enough of a situation. And I think I’ve conveyed that in this piece. Video up again below in case you missed it. It is good fun writing this kind of story video but I’ve found they work best when kept short.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_3E9H0Sk-M

Fairytales With Bite – What You Wish For

The well known saying “beware of what you wish for” is so true for us but it should be true for our characters too. It can be great fun making a character fall flat on their face when they so richly deserve it! But you do need to show the readers why the character deserves it so they can cheer along when the comeuppance happens!

Think about what your characters would wish for and why. Are their wishes reasonable? What stops them obtaining these? And where wishes come true, has that helped your character become a better person or has it ruined them? Getting all you want isn’t necessarily a great idea (and that’s equally true for us as well as our characters!).

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This World and Others – What Does Your World Lack?

Is your fictional world self-contained or does it need to trade with other worlds? If the latter, how is this done? What does your world lack that it needs to buy in and could this be used to hold your world to ransom by a hostile power?

Does your fictional world learn to grow/produce the things it needs or, if this is impossible, what can they do to ensure they can’t be held to ransom by said hostile power?

How does your fictional world get on with others around it even when it doesn’t need anything from anyone else? Does it look to create stable relationships, benefiting everyone, or does it take an insular view on things?

How do the attitudes shown here affect the people who live in your created world? If your creation is insular, does it stop its people from reaching out to other worlds in things like cultural exchanges etc?

If your story is set just in the one world, the question about what it lacks is still relevant. A world will have a climate and that will have its advantages and disadvantages. How do your characters cope with this?

What can your world produce? What can’t it produce? Has the climate changed in any way over time? Was your world once able to grow wheat say but can’t now and how has that impacted society? (It would do too – no bread etc so what would replace that as a staple food?).

Jotting down your thoughts to questions like this can help you visualise your world more clearly and that in turn will help you “get it across” to a reader more clearly. You may discover hidden elements that will help you add depth to your story. If your world was once able to grow wheat but can’t now, how do the people in your world react to that?