Journeys in Fiction – and For Real!

Image Credit: All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Some photos taken by me, Allison Symes, from the Scottish Association of Writers Conference.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share Journeys in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Am sharing from Scotland!☺

I hope to report back on the Scottish Association of Writers Conference next week.

But journeys can take many forms including internal journeys. I discuss this and more in my CFT post this week.

It’s double blog today for me as my latest Authors Electric post is out today. This time I talk about Coming Up with Ideas. Hope you find it useful.

Am on my way up to Scotland for the weekend conference of the Scottish Association of Writers. Looking forward to being on LNER again for the leg up to Edinburgh Waverley.

Meanwhile, am enjoying seeing the Hampshire countryside. And of course train journeys are the perfect opportunity for a spot of discreet people watching! I have used odd snippets of conversation overheard on train journeys to trigger ideas for characters and their tales. Waste nothing!

I was talking on Zoom last night about random generators and while preparing for that discovered new ones I know I can use. Win-win there! 

One was a historic events generator – could be useful if you use settings as your way into a story. The other was a world building generator with many separate elements also available as generators. Think character names, geographic elements to pick and choose etc.

The nice thing with all generators is you pick your parameters and adapt these based on what you know you need to know to start drafting a story. I find choosing two or three random things to generate at a time works best for me. Something amongst those items will trigger an idea and away I go. Limits encourage creativity.

I don’t know how I manage it but I always seem to time having a haircut with soggy weather! It’s the kind of talent nobody wants but someone gets… in this case, me!

Am looking forward to travelling north tomorrow for the Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference. Hope to get plenty of writing done on the train via Evernote. I usually manage to draft some stories, blog posts etc – all useful stuff I know I can use later.

My posts here will be at different times over the next few days but my Chandler’s Ford Today post will be up as normal on Friday. Aptly I’m talking about Journeys in Fiction.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy Waiting – the story at least!☺

Looking forward to giving my flash fiction workshop at the Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference this weekend.

Am currently heading north at a rapid speed enjoying the countryside en route.Finding your way in to writing a story or blog or article is vital. With my workshop I look at a couple of different ways to find that way in.

Shortly going to be chatting about random generators to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group via Zoom. Have a web search and see how many there are out there. There are more than you think and I found one new to me for the talk I’m about to give too. Hope to share more here later. 

Fairytales With Bite – Is the Best Help Always Magical?

Given magical power, as with any other kind of power, is open to abuse, I would say the answer to this one is a definite “no”! It’s also not the only answer to a problem.

Despite Gandalf’s magical powers in The Lord of the Rings, the others still have to fight Sauron etc. And it wasn’t entirely magical help that got Frodo to where he needed to be either. He and Sam still had to walk, still had to work out whether to trust Gollum or not etc.

And even in the classic fairytales when the fairy godmother turns up (albeit often somewhat belatedly in my view) to help the lead character, that same lead character has had to show themselves to be worthy of that help coming their way. Those fairy godmothers don’t get their wands out for just anyone, you know.

So self-help, the help of loyal friends etc is every bit as important as magical help – and I think that is how it should be too. You don’t want a story to hinge on a magic wand funnily enough. You want it to contribute but not be the be all and end all.

If a story can be solved by magical help alone, where is the story? Where is the depth of characterisation? You can show the latter through the friends coming to our hero’s aid. 

This World and Others – Resolving Conflicts

This kind of topic will always be topical, unfortunately, but for fiction purposes how are conflicts resolved in your created worlds? Is there such a thing as our conciliation services, the United Nations etc? Or are conflicts always fought out, literally?

Someone in your stories has to have the courage to be the peacemaker (or at least be the one who tries to bring about peace. It isn’t up to them whether that attempt is successful). What makes that someone set themselves up for, at best, being moaned at by both sides in an attempt to make them see reason?

Peacemakers and those who call out wars are not always the most popular people on the planet. What drives them to try to resolve conflicts? What conflicts form part of your back story and drives your characters here?And when conflicts are resolved,  how long does it take your people to settle back to normal lives again?

Now not everything will be back to normal again. There will be losses. So what are these and how do people cope with them? How do your characters resolve their own inner conflicts?

When conflicts are resolved, amongst the huge sense of loss there often is, what happens to your characters’ sense of hope etc? How and where does the future look brighter? There should be hope somewhere otherwise there is no “proper” resolution to your story – and without hope,  your characters and your readers will only feel despair that things haven’t been resolved properly. 

An Electric Author and Podcast News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Wendy H Jones, podcaster extraordinaire, kindly supplied by her.

Snowy garden image taken by me, Allison Symes, on the rare event of a decent amount of snowfall in Southern England.

And where will your writing and reading take you this week? Some possibilities below!

It's amazing what worlds can be created on paper - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General

Thoroughly enjoyed being quizzed by Wendy H Jones this afternoon for her podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show. We were chatting about writing regular columns, as I do for Chandler’s Ford Today. Plan to share the link tomorrow when the podcast goes out.

Lady was pretty good throughout though she did let out one bark towards the end – our postman was later than normal! And you can’t expect a dog not to woof at a postie… especially one she knows!

Good to see a quick report earlier to say book sales have reached an eight year high. Not too surprised. Books are a wonderful form of escapism, regardless of what format you pick. Hope the upward turn continues. Though I must admit I would love to be able to browse in a bookshop again… it’s funny the things you miss.

My Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today continues with contributions from authors from the Association of Christian Writers this week. More details later in the week and link up on Friday.


Wendy H Jones, author and podcaster

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)

Plenty going on so far this week (yes, I know it’s only Monday!).

Firstly, I now have an About the Author spot on the Authors Electric website. Many thanks to #DebbieBennett for ensuring this ended up in the right place. I use Blogger for a few things I write but I’m not an admin on it so am just used to posting on the posts “bit”.

Having said that, I am looking forward to sharing my first post here on 18th February. It’s also great to see some familiar faces on this site and I am relishing reading more of the posts. (Tip: to make sure you don’t miss any, subscribe to the blog itself. I know it sounds obvious but it is easy to forget to do this. Let’s just say it’s not a mistake I make now! Incidentally because I do blog, I like to keep up to date with what is out there in my field and while it is impossible to keep up with everything, I do follow as well as contribute to blogs. I see both the reading and writing of blogs as vital research).

Secondly, I am being interviewed by Wendy H Jones tomorrow afternoon for her podcast due “out” on Wednesday. I have two sides to my writing life (I know – as if one wasn’t enough but in fairness it often isn’t for writers!), and last time I was on Wendy’s The Writing and Marketing Show I talked about flash fiction. This time I’ll be talking about my blogging work and generating ideas for a weekly column.

I’ve written a weekly column for online magazine, Chandler’s Ford Today, for some time now and one great thing about doing this is it keeps me on my toes. I have to write something every week and to a deadline. I’m looking forward to talking more about this with Wendy and to sharing the link on Wednesday.

And if you pop over to my From Light to Dark and Back Again Facebook page in a moment, I have further news! Phew… I think it is going to be one of those fun but mightily busy weeks!  (See below for this!).

The snow did turn up! The view below is taken by yours truly from my back window and, before you ask, Lady does love the snow. It’s only the second time she has been able to play in some. On the plus side it did mean I didn’t have to take her water bottle out with me today – I knew she’d eat the snow. Is there any dog that doesn’t do that? (I will pretend I am not hearing all of my cat owning friends laughing at this point, given this is an issue they’re unlikely to face!).

News: I’ve been invited to take part in a monthly blog for Authors Electric. Excited about this and looking forward to sharing my first post on the 18th. Brief: blog has to be book/story/writing related in some way. Yes, I tick the boxes there well enough!

I prepare my blogs in advance (trust me, it pays!) and when I can I draft “spares” and save them for those times when I’m away or struck down with the dreaded lurgy (not that one, to date at least, thankfully) so I can just schedule these and that’s all done.

I love scheduling. Aside from Scrivener, it is probably one of the most useful things I’ve finally worked out how to do properly! I sometimes use it for Twitter too and I need to make more use of that. You may have noticed I often put a Twitter Corner spot in my twice weekly blog spot for my website. This is to encourage me to make more use of Twitter and the use of graphics with my tweets makes a nice addition to my blog round-up as well. I like a good balance of text and graphics and it seems to go down well with my followers here (thank you, everyone).

Snow View as at 24th January 2021

Brrr…. a cold one today. No snow where I am in Hampshire though some is forecast tomorrow. We’ll see. (I did – see above! Murphy’s Law is working well – had I not said anything, would there have been the teeniest, weeniest snowflake? Course not!).

At least I’m not going anywhere other than by foot (which in turn is powered by sturdy walking boot with a decent grip!)!

Many thanks for the great response to Part 1 of my Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. I learn so much from chatting to other authors and it always a pleasure to interview them here. Hopefully the series will prove to be encouraging to those who are wondering what they should do with their launches this year, given this will still be an issue for some time. Even when normality does return, it is highly unlikely to be “all at once” (and it wouldn’t be a good idea I think even if that did somehow prove possible).

Now on to another favourite topic. Story time! Did you have such a thing at school? I did at primary school (roughly aged 5 to 7 years). It was for about the last 15 or 20 minutes before going home and I found it then a great way to unwind and relax. I still do though my own story time these days tends to be at bedtime!

I much preferred school story time to the free milk we used to get in the third-of-a-pint bottles. I love milk, don’t get me wrong, but the bottles were either left by the radiators and I just can’t stand warm/hot milk or, especially at this time of year, the milk in the bottles had frozen and nobody was going to risk breaking their teeth trying to drink it! Oh and you can imagine what it was like during a hot summer… Funnily enough, I do love yogurt now!

At junior school level (roughly ages 8 to 11), we used to have something called SRA cards where there was a story on one side and questions about the story on the others. These were colour coded and you worked your way through the system. Adored that. (Often used when the English teacher wanted to catch up with marking. Excellent idea all around I think!).

At secondary school level (ages about 11 to 16), if you wanted to read a book, you did it on your own, unless in English Literature, but the school library was a good one so I spent a lot of time in there.

Encouraging people of all ages to read though remains a very good thing indeed. And great storytelling which draws people in is a great way to achieve that. No pressure then! Back off to the writing!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One form of flash writing is to base it on the Twitter character count. Gill James has done with this with her 140 x 140 flash fiction collection. I suspect my one-line stories, the type I often use for my videos, would probably count for this though I ought to give it a go “officially” at some point and put these on my Twitter feed. That’s a good thing to put on my To Do List and another way of writing and advertising flash fiction! (Ernest Hemingway with his famous For Sale: One Pair of Baby Shoes would be well under the character count here!).

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One ongoing thing for most writers with books out is to try and get reviews (and please do review, it helps more than you know. Also a one or two line review is absolutely fine – five minutes and you’re done). Anyway, while I was working on this, I discovered something I had not known. It is possible to put videos on your Goodreads Author Profile page.

Now I expect I’m late to the party here (I can hear you going “yeah, yeah, yeah, knew that ages ago”) but I was pleased to discover it. Naturally I’ve added the book trailers for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic to my page. See the link. Worth doing I think if you’ve not done this already.

Screenshot_2021-01-26 Allison Symes


Delighted to share another story video with you. Dress Sense shows Red Riding Hood’s attitude to life and the big bad wolf beautifully I think! Fans of quirky tales will like this one. Hope you enjoy.

Dress Sense Video Link

There is no such thing as the perfect character so it is a question of getting the character “perfect” from your, the writer’s, viewpoint. If you need your character to be a pain in the neck, then have you created the perfect example? Do all aspects of that character fit in to create that type?

The “perfect” character then has to be fit for the purpose you’ve created them for. Are they portrayed strongly enough to carry out what you want them to do? The reader has to believe the character is at least capable of behaving the way you’ve set them out to do without there being any “jarring notes” that would make that open to question.

The way the character speaks, even the way they dress, their minor traits etc should all add up to create a composite picture and it should be the one you want to show. Have your characters ever surprised you with what they’ve come up with? Mine have!

It’s a good thing – it shows there is life to them but it can also show you needed to get to know them better before writing for/about them! This is why I now I do spend some time outlining a character as well as their story so I can be sure I know my person really well. It saves time later on in the editing too.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reading/Writing Guides

Do you find reading and/or writing guides helpful? For reading, I still like the BBC’s Big Read Book of Books compilation of books that made it into their top 100. They produced a series of programmes to discuss the books chosen too and if I remember correctly there was a celebrity who would champion a particular book or author. (Some authors have more than one entry here. I’m not giving away anything major by saying Dickens was amongst these!).

The compilation book is beautifully illustrated, gives you a precis of what each book is about, and details about the author. Lovely book and a good way to fill in gaps in your knowledge and add to your TBR list of course! The latter of course was the whole idea behind the Big Read.

Maybe it is time for an update? I would welcome one. Would much change? We’d still have the classics in there (and rightly so, they’re classics for a reason) but the contemporary novels would change and it would be interesting to compare what would come in now as opposed to when this programme and book first came out in the early 2000s.

For writing guides, I like those which are down to earth and full of practical advice. My favourite here is On Writing by Stephen King but I am also fond of books such as Scrivener for Dummies by Gwen Hernandez. Lots of practical tips and I love the layout too. (You also can’t beat a good index for books like this so let’s hear it for the indexers!).

Naturally I like The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and the Mslexia Indie Press Guide. Information all in one place – let’s hear it for the well thought out book! And the good news? There will always be plenty of room on the bookshelves for books like this.

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