Plans, Flash Fiction and Guest Blog Posts

Image Credit:  As ever, the marvellous Pixabay, unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General

Many thanks to #PatriciaMOsborne for inviting me on to her blog. I always relish an opportunity to talk about flash fiction and it was also great fun to take part in her 100-word challenge earlier this year.

Do check out the other 100-worders on here. There is a wonderful mixture of styles and moods. (My guest spot includes a link to the story I sent in for this earlier in the year).

I share how I became a flash fiction writer at all and some of the things I love most about the form.

 

cropped-20190622_151100.jpg

One writing tip I DON’T follow, because I know it just wouldn’t work for me, is the one that recommends keeping a notebook by your bed. The thought here is you can jot down any ideas that occur to you as you drop off to sleep/wake up early with the Best Idea of All Time etc etc. (It always is meant to be the Best Idea of All Time).

There are several reasons why this tip isn’t for me:-

1. My reading pile is by my bed. There is no room for a notebook! Yes, it is a seriously impressive reading pile. (I LOVE being surrounded by books).

2. I read to unwind before sleeping and really don’t want to be writing at all at that point.

3. I often don’t dream at all. Once I’m asleep that’s it.

4. When I DO dream, the images are so confused and bizarre, there is no way a story idea is coming out of them. (And before you ask I never eat cheese late in the evening or partake of any other substances that might induce such daft dreams).

5. I have never, ever, woken up with the Best Idea of All Time running through my mind. I haven’t even had the Second Best Idea of All Time. Not sure whether to be sorry or relieved, to be honest. I appreciate my sleep, that’s all I’m saying!

 

I’m looking forward to sharing my CFT post later on in the week as I’m going to be sharing some Rules That Need to Exist!

Posts like this are fun to write. I don’t write many “opinion” pieces but I like to throw one in every so often. What I like to do with these is make them fun so no politicial arguing on these ones but hopefully they’ll generate some good comments back again.

I’m also pleased to say I shall be a guest on a fellow Swanwicker’s blog later this week (see earlier – and many thanks again to Patricia M Osborne) and look forward to sharing the link later. And later in the month I shall be popping up on another Swanwicker’s blog too.

So yes I’ve been doing a lot of blogging! There should be a term for that… what do you think? A brace of blogging?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Looking forward to sharing a new series on CFT in October. More details nearer the time. I’m also editing a series for CFT on local history which, again, I’ll share details about nearer the time. So the red pen is being kept busy at the moment… plus I’m editing my novel. (These things ALWAYS take longer than you think they will).

The only aspect to editing I don’t like is when I know I’ve gone through a piece of work on screen and on paper and STILL miss an error, which I pick up later. The phrase “why the hell did I miss that” springs to mind. If anyone knows a surefire way to avoid that, they’ll probably end up wealthy, as I know I’m not alone on this one.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Loved taking part in the Tuesday guest spot on the blog page of #PatriciaMOsborne. Many thanks, Patricia, for hosting me.

I shared my love of flash fiction (briefly, honest!) and how I got into the form at all. Flash fiction was a happy accident for me. I could do with more happy accidents like that!

Now, is there anything about flash fiction I dislike? I think it is fair to follow up with that question.

Yes, there is one thing, and that can be other people’s reaction to it. I know, I know. How can anyone not be IN to flash fiction at all?

I think a lot of this is due to misunderstanding what the form is – flash fiction has to be a complete story in and of itself. It isn’t truncated prose.

Still, we can but spread the word – literally!

34889c89ed2c7f0164fbf25826dd9ac9.0.jpg

Many thanks to Penny Blackburn for taking this image of me at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic. Patricia and I both adore Swanwick and have made many friends there, including each other!

I was talking on my author page about a writing tip I deliberately don’t follow because I know it just wouldn’t work for me. So here I thought I’d share the ones I can’t live without.

1. Always edit on paper and not on screen. Your mind “fills in” missing words on screen. Really annoying that!

2. Read work out loud, particularly dialogue, to literally hear if it flows as well as you think it does. You may be surprised! If you trip over something, your readers will do too.

3. Write first, edit later. Never worry about a first draft being rubbish. Nobody writes a perfect first draft. You’re not going to change the universe there. Neither am I.

4. When entering competitions, take AT LEAST a week off the official deadline to give yourself a little extra time to make sure you have followed the rules to the letter, formatting is as they want it, there are no last minute typos etc to trip you up. I always aim to submit a story with several days to spare before the deadline.

5. Outlining your thoughts for your main character and the story they’re going to be in can save so much time (and you going off at unhelpful tangents). How much of an outline you want to do is up to you but I find them to be like a road map and they do help keep me on track.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I like to start my flash fiction stories by “hitting the ground running”. Often this means I take you straight into the head of my character so you see their attitudes and thoughts (and from that try and work out just how far in the mire they’re going to drop themselves!).

Sometimes I set a scene with a time. (My Pressing the Flesh starts with “It was 3 am. The neighbours were sleeping”. Well, yes they would be, but it is important for my character here to have been certain they WERE sleeping! And that tells you at once said character is unlikely to be doing something wholesome! The title is a clue here too).

The key to my opening line is to try to intrigue. With any fiction, you have to hook a reader in quickly. With flash fiction, I say you’ve got to do so immediately.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog – Choosing What to Read Next

How do you choose what to read next?

If I’m reading a series, fine – problem solved. I carry on until I finish said series. But what about when I reach that point?

I often don’t feel like reading another series immediately, This is where stand-alone books come into their own, of course.

I’ve mentioned before a lot hinges on my mood when reading. If I’ve just finished reading a dark novel, I’ll inevitably got for something lighter just to balance things up a bit.

If I’ve been reading lots of novels, I’ll switch to short story and flash fiction collections for while.

If I’ve been reading books, I’ll switch to magazine reading for a time too.

The good thing with all of this?

I’m never going to run out of good things to read – and neither are you!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Blogging and Facebook Author Page Likes

Many thanks to Val Penny for hosting a spot from me on her book reviews site.  More in a moment on that…

Facebook – General

Many thanks to Val Penny for hosting me on her book reviews site. It was huge fun to write! Hope you enjoy reading. I chat about my flash fiction (and what I love about flash fiction in general) and Chandler’s Ford Today

Looking forward to catching up with Val at Swanwick next month!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My CFT post is very close to home this week. There are some lovely places to walk in my area, whether I’m with the dog or not, and I share some of those, along with some gorgeous pics of a wildflower meadow. Link up tomorrow.

I don’t tend to think about stories etc while out and about. I’m too busy (a) watching out for what Lady is doing or sniffing (!) and (b) appreciating the local fauna and flora.

The benefit from the writing point of view is having that break away from the desk or household chores (or both) and coming back tired but refreshed. (Lady sees to the tired bit, she comes home and sleeps during the afternoon, lucky girl!).

Many thanks to all who have liked my author page. It is lovely to have 50 of you on board now, thanks to you all!

thank you text on black and brown board

Indeed! Image via Pexels

beautiful beautiful flowers bouquet color

And you can also say it with flowers! No hayfever either! Image via Pexels

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Always nice to guest blog so many thanks to Val Penny for hosting me today.

I suppose in a way flash fiction and blogging are good “bedfellows” since you’ve got to watch the word count with both of them! For flash, you’ve got room for usually one character. For blogging, it pays to stick to one topic per post. (Ironically with my Word Press site, I can’t really do that as it is meant to be a round up of what I write where, but for things like this post, it pays to stick to one theme).

Have you got a favourite theme for your stories? Was it one that emerged naturally as you wrote or did you plan it from the start? There are a lot of poetic justice stories in From Light to Dark and Back Again. In my case, the theme emerged.

How about you? Comments welcome.

I love the flexibility of flash fiction. There is some flexibility with word count, ironically. I’ve often found what I thought might be a 100-word story works better as a 500-word one, but that’s fine.

You can be flexible with genre of the specific tale. I’ve written historical fiction as flash fiction, likewise fantasy, crime, light horror, ghost stories etc.

You can also go back or forward in time. Your characters can be human or other worldly. You can write in first or third person. (I do both, though not in the same story!). You can write dialogue alone, though I think all stories, regardless of type, work best with a mixture of narrative and conversation/thoughts.

Flash fiction is a style of writing to have a lot of fun with!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Blog (and some stories in a sentence!)

An apt title as my main focus in the last few days has been blogging on different sites.  All good fun, hope you enjoy.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post is Part 1 of a 2 part series called Why I Blog. Many thanks to my guest writers for sharing their thoughts too.

I blog for a variety of reasons – from marketing to self expression to the fact it is simple and fun to do! Who says you have to have one reason?!

See what you think and do post your comments in the CFT comments box.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Looking forward to sharing the Why I Blog post on CFT tomorrow (with part 2 next week). Many thanks to my fellow writers for their thoughts on the topic.

I often use blogging as a warm up “writing exercise” before I tackle my fiction. I suppose I find that useful because blogging is immediate, I can get a few hundred words under my belt fairly quickly, and then I am right into the “zone” so to speak.

My ACW post is due up on site tomorrow as well as the CFT one. Another Goodreads one is due from me soon too. Writing for the different audiences is also useful – it makes you think about your material more and that is never a bad thing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My favourite way of getting started on a new piece of flash fiction is to take a well known saying and see what I can do with it. Sometimes the results are funny, other times the results are much darker, but I find it a great way to start.

I find I need something to “peg” my idea to so must have a title. It also challenges me to ensure my story fits that title but not in a blatantly obvious way, there still has to be room to surprise the reader, and the first reader I have to surprise is me! What I always love is when, as I am writing the story, I can kind of “feel” the tale coming together and I know then that the piece will work. It is then a question of finding the right home for it but that’s another story, so to speak.

I sometimes have fun writing stories in one sentence. Usually I go on to expand these a bit so they become either flash fiction pieces circa the 100 words mark or standard length short stories. However, occasionally, it is fun to leave them as they are. After all, Ernest Hemingway did this with his For Sale: one pair baby shoes.

1. After the latest foul-tasing meat scandal, the dragon decided it was time to go veggie.

2. Jemma knew monsters existed, the monsters knew they existed, so why did everyone else scoff at the idea and then end up eaten by the things?

3. Just for once, the fairy was going to grant her own wish and the authorities could go hang.

Allison Symes – 29th June 2018

 

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – What Does Reading Do For You?

Well, what DOES reading do for you?

In my case, it depends on the book. I read for:-

1. Entertainment – whether it makes me laugh, cry or scream.

2. Escapism – nearly always fantasy/fairytales for grown-ups so I enter another world for a while as I read.

3. To learn (especially from non-fiction) – I read a fair amount of history and am currently enjoying London by Peter Ackroyd and Double Cross by Ben Macintyre. Different “storytelling” techniques used here but both brilliant.

4. To relish what I know from past experience is masterly prose – Terry Pratchett, Jane Austen, P.G. Wodehouse for me here.

5. To experience something different from what I usually read and/or write. I like to read in my genre, flash fiction, but it is refreshing to read longer short stories, novels etc.

Reading takes me out of myself and into other places for a while. You see things from other perspectives. You identify with characters, whether you like them or not. Reading makes you think. (No wonder one of the first actions of any dictatorship is to try to limit or ban books and/or journalism).

Reading, like the arts, is good for the soul. It feeds the mind, even if the fare you prefer is lighthearted, humorous, not intended to be taken seriously etc. I do know I feel much poorer in myself during those times when things get in the way of my reading time. When life is stressful, turning to a good book won’t resolve the crisis, but gives you time out from it for a while. Sometimes that is all that is needed. At other times, the break is useful for you.

So happy reading!

More than Writers – Association of Christian Writers blog – Should You Resemble your Characters?

I can think of several colleagues who would take one glance at that question and say “no way”. Some may express that more forcibly!

I can think of several of my own characters whom I would never want to meet in life, yet alone resemble, and for all sorts of reasons.

So why ask? Well, so much depends on the character, doesn’t it? If a character shows grit, determination, honour etc, we probably wouldn’t mind emulating them. If a character shows horrible traits, we’d pass, thank you. How many of us want to be a coward for example?

In outlining our stories, we have to create our “people” based on what we know about human nature and behaviour. We know we need our characters to be believable so that means no goody-goody heroes of whatever gender. It also means no cardboard cut out villains. They’ve got to have some redeeming quality or a motive which is understandable. Often writers do both of course.

Redemption, of course, is possible, as is a good character going astray. What makes us choose which way they go? A wish to show that if this character was us, this is how we’d be? Or do we opt for the choice of this is how the character would be and I wouldn’t be like this in a zillion years?

In creating our characters, we have to be honest in their portrayal (or readers will see straight through it and switch off). So maybe I should have rephrased the question to read do we resemble our characters? I suspect there would be some interesting answers to that!

Truth is stranger than fiction but good fiction can reveal something of what humans are capable of, even if we use fantastical creatures to represent us in some way. Sometimes good fiction can be  prophetic and I am thinking of George Orwell’s 1984 here especially.  Whatever would he have made of social media? I can imagine his harsh criticism of it.

And what is the great thing about honest character portrayal? Simply, I’ve found both as a reader and writer, that honesty comes through, and I am engaged with those characters and their stories as a result. It is, for me, honestly portrayed characters, whether they’re goodies or baddies, that grip me and keep me reading.  I identify with the truth behind their portrayal.

Even in flash fiction, my genre, the moment I have what my character is like outlined, I am away, happily scribbling the story down. After all, if I’m not engaged with my people, why should anyone else be?

So it’s off to write characters that intrigue me then. The great thing is I don’t have to like them, yet alone resemble them. Just as well really. Fiction would suffer without the characters we dislike. Story is conflict and it is the dubious characters that get that conflict going. We need to see the Ebenezer Scrooges before their transformation to be able to appreciate that transformation when it happens. Now just how human is that?!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fairytales with Bite – What Makes a Great Fairytale Character?

A great fairytale character will:-

1.  Be easy to identify with.  I love Tinkerbell in J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan for “wanting to get at those who didn’t clap” when the children had been told clapping would restore her.  You can just imagine the annoyness and irritation there, can’t you?

2.  Sometimes arouse your pity, other times your anger.  Fairytales are strong on right and wrong (which I think is why kids love them so much.  I remember at a very young age already knowing the world wasn’t fair so stories which put “things to rights” very much appealed).  The Little Mermaid always generates pity in me.  The vileness of the cruel characters in fairytales riles me but all of the characters make you feel something.

3.  Be on some journey or quest and you just HAVE to find out how it goes.  This can be anything from finding out whether Cinderella will go to the ball or not to discovering if Frodo will complete his mission in the right way in The Lord of the Rings.

This World and Others – Populating Your World

How do you populate your fictional worlds?

A lot will depend on genre, of course. (One great reason for loving fantasy and sci-fi is the huge scope for creating your own peoples and civilisations).

However, one fundamental here is that there will be a major people/alien being group and minorities around it. Of course there are a lot of stories to be had in showing how the major group treats the minorities and do they rebel against ill treatment etc? But even where there are no direct clashes on the grounds of racism etc, what do your peoples need to survive and how do they get this? Is there a have and have-not society going on?

You will need the suppliers and the supplied-to. You will need the ruled and the rulers. Different peoples will have specific needs so how does your world cater to those needs? What are the belief systems? Do the peoples share common values/faith etc or not?

And, to add spice to the mix, there will always be those characters who defy their society’s expectations of/for them.

So have fun creating your peoples!

 

 

 

 

 

HOT AND BOTHERED AND BLOGGING!

Facebook – General

Does the hot weather affect your writing? In my case, not directly. I’m at my desk, everything is as comfortable as possible, and off I go.

What I do dislike is the lethargy that can set in so I find it harder to stay up and write, write, write. So, accepting that is how it is is, I just squeeze more writing into the time I know I can work with before I simply HAVE to go to sleep. Must admit this is where I loved the weather in Scotland – generally good, but a few degrees cooler. Lady loved that too.

I’ll be looking at blogging in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week and next. I’ll look at some of the joys of blogging and share some fantastic contributions from fellow writers and bloggers. Looking forward to that.

Hope to get some more flash fiction out to Cafelit before too long. Plus I hope to put more stories up on Scriggler, the US based site as well. I’ve got longer term plans for non-fiction writing, revamping my novel, as well as more flash fiction books so will be busy, busy, busy. All in a good way.

Must admit I am finding the heat a bit much (Lady is being pretty sensible about it to her credit for such a young dog). So the idea of sitting in the garden to write does not appeal. I’m definitely one for the shade!

What is the best thing about a story, regardless of genre? Is it the tale being written well enough to make you forget your cares for while?

Or is it that the characters are so well drawn you sympathise with them and can see why they are acting the way they are? The best stories contain elements of both, of course, but I don’t think it is something the writer can set out to do deliberately.

What we can do deliberately is give the most honest portrayal of our characters as we can and then it is up to the reader whether they identify with them or not. A really good story will leave you with no choice but to do so!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One thing I mentioned in my talk on flash fiction on Saturday at Hursley Park was the fact I love the way flash forces you to fill in the gaps. For example, if I give you a story about a time travelling alien, you fill in how/what it looks like as I get on with the important bit of showing you what happens to said alien in the story. There is no room for anything else.

The great thing here is your experience of time travelling aliens will be down to how much sci-fi you read or watch, whether you’re a fan of Doctor Who or not, and so on. You will fill in the gaps in description based on what YOU think a time travelling alien should look like. My interpretation will be different (even allowing for some overlaps). And that is where flash can be such fun.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My favourite ending for a flash fiction story, whether I write them or read them, is easily the twist one.

This is partly because I like to guess ahead and then see if I guessed correctly (and all kudos where it is due to flash fiction writers who wrongfoot me!).

I also like to see a twist that really works well and makes me go back into the story to look for the clues I know the writer will have planted there. There is always lots to learn from reading other fiction, whether it is in your own genre or not. If you needed an excuse to read more, please use that one!

Flash fiction encourages readers to fill in the gaps, given there isn’t room for much in the way of world building. I love that, both as a reader and writer.

You can infer so much more with flash too, indeed inference is a major tool in the “kit” to write it. It is true that with any story, you have to give the reader what they need to know to make sense of it, but with flash, that is fine tuned to the nth degree.

Write what you need to write and then get out is a useful guiding principle. Another is to check each line and ask myself, well why do I need this? The answer has got to be strong enough to justify that line’s inclusion in the story. Any hesitation on your part and at best you need to rewrite that line, at worst cut it.

 

 

 

PUBLICATION/EVENT NEWS AND ROUND UP

I was so pleased I managed to schedule Facebook, Chandler’s Ford Today posts etc, that I forgot to schedule something for here and also on my Goodreads blog!  Sorry, folks, but a round up of recent posts to follow.  Hope to put up a Goodreads blog in next day or so. Firstly, though:-

PUBLICATION AND EVENT NEWS

I am thrilled that my flash fiction story, Progressing, was one of the 16 winning entries to the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition.  The ebook, To Be…To Become, is now available (reviews would be very welcome!) and I must admit I love a title that also tells you the theme!  Many of my fellow winners took part in the Festival last week and read out from their winning entries.  I was only sorry to miss it being in the beautiful far North of Scotland at the time!  (The link takes you to the Amazon page for the ebook incidentally – no surprises there!).

My latest published story, Progressing, is in here.  A splendid mix of stories – do try them out!  Image via Bridge House Publishing (the sponsor of the writing competition).

 

View from near where I was staying in Scotland. You wouldn't want to rush away from this. Image by Allison Symes

View from near where I was staying in Scotland. You wouldn’t want to rush away from this. Image by Allison Symes

Event News – Hursley Park Book Fair – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I am delighted to be taking part in the above Fair this coming weekend.  The whole event is on 23rd and 24th June but I can only be there for the Saturday, unfortunately.  This is the inaugural Hursley Park Book Fair and everyone taking part (over 40 authors) is hoping this will become a regular event.

I am giving a talk on flash fiction at 10.55 am on the 23rd and am looking forward to that.  Hursley Park is situated between Winchester and Romsey.  The event is free, there is plenty of parking, and a wealth of genres will be represented at the Fair.  So do come along if you can.  If you want to know what inspires our stories, what flash fiction is about etc, I will be pleased to see you.  There are workshops and many other talks, a book quiz, competitions for adults and children, so plenty going on so do drop by.

My post on CFT is naturally about this but gives more details and I am pleased to share some of the other local writers’ pictures and books who will also be at the Fair.  I’ve interviewed them all at some point too!

Book fair Flyer

Hursley Park Book Fair flyer. Image kindly supplied by Glenn Salter.

Chandler’s Ford Today – Graham MacLean Art Series

I occasionally edit a series on CFT and have had the great pleasure of editing Graham MacLean’s series on Art.  I’m sharing Part 2 of the series here, which has some slideshows of his fantastic artwork.  Part 1 was last week and Part 3 will be this Thursday.  If you have any interest in art, I would recommend taking a look.  (My favourite is Part 2 due to the slideshows!).

The Mekong River At Phnom Penh , Cambodia Oil painting.

The Mekong River At Phnom Penh , Cambodia Oil painting. Just one of Graham MacLean’s fantastic artworks. Look at that light! Image kindly supplied by Graham MacLean

Facebook – General

I will just round up all of my most recent posts in one long one here and will do the same for my book page too.  Hope you find plenty of interest.

It always pays to check over work before submitting it anywhere but there is nothing to stop you mixing up the formats you use.

For example, you’ve read through and edited your work on paper. Now have a look at it on screen. Read the piece out loud. Record your reading. Play it back. Literally hear how easily (or otherwise!) it is to read your dialogue.

When I’ve done this in the past, I’ve found that what I thought looked okay on the paper did not necessarily read well so made the necessary adjustments. I don’t use this method all the time, but if you want to check dialogue especially, I’d recommend it.

Old school writing - image via Pixabay

Old school writing. Image via Pixabay.

Always room for different kinds and formats of writing - image via Pixabay

Online writing -v- on a line writing! Image via Pixabay

home-laptop-tablet-lifestyle-163180.jpeg

What every writer needs. Image via Pexels.

Do you remember when you wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to “go for it”?

In my case I’d been writing for a while, was beginning to have acceptances, and took the attitude I would follow my dream here. Nothing ventured, nothing gained etc.

So what was the trigger point for you? Have you achieved what you initially set out to do? Has your writing journey taken a different direction from what you anticipated? I hadn’t heard of flash fiction when I began writing. Now I’m published in it. If there is a lesson here, it is to keep your options open!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What is your favourite piece of writing by another author? Is it what they usually do or something different from the norm?

I sometimes read poetry as that is completely outside what I do and generally read but must admit I tend to stick to the tried and tested classics. (Always a good place to start, at least.).

Given the choice between poetry and limericks, I always go for the latter, partly because I enjoy a good laugh!

What do your characters read? Are the characters in your creations fully literate or are there gaps in education we don’t face? How could you use education/the ability to read etc as (a) part of your story and (b) to give enough details so your reader can get a very good idea of what your world is like?

Writing can teach you many things if you let it. The obvious one is the value of patience given how long it can take to be published and prior to that, you despair as to whether publication is ever going to happen so your “hope muscle” gets a really good workout or several!

Tenacity, perseverance, and determination develop as you learn to handle rejection and improve your work. You also learn to turn a deaf ear to advice that really isn’t helpful for you (and sometimes it really isn’t). Your skin toughens up too coping with the rejections that come in.

But when the writing is going well, your latest has been accepted etc, relish it, see it as the progress it is. I do know I wish I could bottle that positive feeling and unleash it on myself for those days when writing etc does not grow well.

A surprise ending shouldn’t come as a total shock to the reader. There should be clues earlier on in the story that means the surprise ending is justified.

I must admit one of the great pleasures of reading for me is reading a story, guessing at who the bad guy is, and then finding out if I’m right or not!

I usually then go back through the story, especially if I guessed wrongly, to look for things that might be clues (and often get a bit cross with myself for not having spotted them in the first place. They are there, as they should be!).

My CFT post this week tells you all about the Hursley Park Book Fair, which is taking place on 23rd and 24th June at Hursley Park, the home of IBM, between Winchester and Romsey. The event is free, there is plenty of parking, and a wide range of authors are taking part. I’m there on the 23rd and will be talking about flash fiction at 10.55 am. Hope to see you there!

Who has the best reasons to thwart your characters’ plans? Do bear in mind that sometimes a character doesn’t need an enemy as such. Sometimes circumstances can thwart them. How do your characters react to that? When there is an enemy, how did they get to be that way? Is there enemity going on that new characters could help resolve? How do your characters response to life’s odd moments?

An A to Z of characters can start with:-

A = Ambition. Are your characters ambitious? What will they do to gain power and keep it?
B = Books. Are your characters well read? What do they read?
C = Creativity. Are your characters creative and, if so, in which field? Can they use their skills here in the story you’ve put them in?
D = Drive. What drives your characters? What can zap that drive and can they get it back again?
E = Education. This is a good one to use to show the standards in your creation. Are they high? Is education universal? Do your characters relish their education or did they hate it all?
F = Family. What are your characters’ families like? Do they support your hero/heroine as they continue their quest (sacred oir otherwise).

So continuing with the A to Z of characters, we are now at G.

G = Generosity. Are your characters generous or do they begrudge giving anyone money?
H = Helpfulness. Well, are your characters helpful or not? Can other characters rely on them?
I = Imagination. Do your characters have any? How do they use any they do possess – in writing, the creative arts, or in criminal activities, say?
J = Justice. Justice can be an emotive topic. Is justice truly upheld in your fictional world? Do the nasty (but cheap) and the loud (but knowledgeable) people exist in your fiction? What impact do they have on others?
K – Kindness. I like to see kind characters who are NOT doormats. They choose to be kind. Their attitude makes a difference. They’ve perhaps been shown great kindness and they are now kind of passing it on.

More next time…  (well, actually in a couple of days!).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was reading something earlier about using character names to tell you something about back story, about the character themselves and so on. Good idea! And in flash fiction it would be another great way of keeping the word count down!

Ironically, having given this a bit more thought, I often don’t name my flash characters at all as I use first person a lot. It is immediate, takes you straight into the character’s head and thoughts, and is phenomenally useful.

My only problem with the above idea is I would end up revealing some spoilers as some of my flash fiction revolves around a crime. Murderess Mary rather does give the plot away about what said Mary got up to!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I like writing flash stories which tell you quite a bit about relationships the main character has with others while getting on with whatever it is that is happening to them as the story.

My Making the Grade is a good example of this as the character is clearly taking exams but you find out a lot about her family and their attitudes in this.

It is also an example of first person usage and I think of this as the character talking directly to “camera” as Eric Morecambe used to do so frequently in the Morecambe and Wise shows. (Wonderful shows, they bring back many happy memories).

Flash fiction is a celebration of the joys of being brief! I think of it as the polar opposite to the epic novel…

I find flash really useful for those scenes which are a story in and of themselves, but are too short to be sent out to standard competitions etc. Waste not, want not! And I’ve always loved books I can read from cover to cover or dip in and out of as I choose. Flash fiction is ideal for that too.

I suppose you could also describe flash fiction as “moment” stories given you haven’t the word count to show much more of a character’s life.

The front cover of FLTDBA shows ripples in a body of water and when I was looking for something suitable to use for my book, this one leapt out at me. (Only metaphorically speaking!).

I liked the idea of the ripples spreading outwards and that for something (a splash!) which initially wouldn’t have seemed so important still managed to make its presence felt! I want my stories to have that kind of impact. A good story stays with you and I hope that with a reduced word count, people will find it easier to remember good flash fiction pieces.

The reason for a good title is to grab
The reader’s attention and hope
They’ll find flash anything but drab
And suddenly learn to say “nope”
To those saying flash isn’t worth the read
Because it’s so short and to truly feed
Your imagination you need the big book.
Of course you do but you need short stories too.

Allison Symes – June 2018

I sometimes schedule posts if I’m away, likely to be really busy and so on and find it quite useful. However, I do find it odd to write a few posts all in one hit so to speak. I am going to try scheduling more often to free up more writing time for other projects I’d like to work on. (It’s also a useful habit to get into as it can cover you for family emergencies, at least for a while).

I’m off on my travels again before long and am mapping out what I’d like to write on Evernote on my phone whilst on my way. I need to use that more for non-fiction posts, including mini blogs like this one. Still I am pleased with progress on my next collection and plan to write more of that up too!

What inspires your fiction? I’ve been inspired by crime stories, fantasy tales and so on. So the more you read, the more you can be inspired by!

If you are in Hampshire over the weekend of 23/24 June, why not pop along to the Hursley Park Book Fair at Hursley Park, home of IBM until 2014? There will be a range of authors (over 40 of us) and I am representing flash fiction writers. I’ll also be talking about the form and why I love it. It is very addictive.

The event is free, there will be a book quiz (with 3 prizes of book bundles in all, a copy of From Light to Dark and Back Again is part of one of the bundles), and car parking is free and plentiful. (Can’t often say that these days).

Children’s fiction will be represented more on the Sunday but why not go to both days and top up on books for all the family. Hope to see you there!

Because there isn’t room to world build in flash fiction, it is very easy to set your stories anywhere. You just put your character in a location, say London in Dickens’ time and for most readers that will instantly conjure up images (lots of fog especially!) that will add to the story for them without you having to spell it all out.

I love writing stories from the viewpoints of aliens as I can show you what they are like as characters. The details of their world in terms of how it is run, population types and sizes etc, are generally not relevant for my tales. (Though why they left can be…).

This can lead to a “mini series” if you really take to the character created. I love having fun with flash fiction and seeing what I can do with it. It all keeps the writing fresh.

I thought of my book’s title while I was away in the beautiful far North of Scotland last week. Only problem was I was reading by natural light up until about 11 pm most nights so by the time it did actually get dark, I was asleep! I am writing this now at just coming up to 11 pm in the South of England and it is pitch black out there. Oh what a difference latitude makes!

One image that I really wish I’d managed to photo was from a previous holiday where there were hills behind where we were staying. I watched the sun go down on one side and the moon rise on the other and it was a beautiful sight. A little bit other worldly too and I suspect, had I managed to snap the image, it would have made a very good picture prompt for a story on those grounds.

Managed to use the journey to and from Scotland to get more flash fiction written (and indeed some non-fiction too) so was very pleased with that.

And I am delighted to say another flash fiction piece of mine called Progressing is one of the 16 winning entries to the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition. The ebook, To Be…To Become (title AND theme!), is now available from the usual outlets, as they say. (See at top of post for link and image).

Fairytales With Bite – All The Fun of the Fair

Am looking forward to taking part in the Hursley Park Book Fair on 23rd June. About 40 authors are taking part in this and it will be the biggest book event I’ve taken part in to date. I’ll also be giving a talk about flash fiction during this and, of course, I hope to sell some books!

Fairs generally go back a very long way in the UK in terms of history and were the highlights of medieval life in particular. They acted as a kind of holiday from the usual backbreaking toil which was the lot of the peasants.

In your fictional world, does your society have this kind of community event? If so, what form does it take, who can take part in it, and how often does it run? Is there a history to it? In a magical world, how do their Fairs differ from non-magical ones?

If there isn’t a Fair or something like that, what kind of recreational activities do the ordinary people of your world enjoy? If there’s nothing at all, how do the people cope with work, work, nothing but work? I would expect people to get ground down and tired and in need of some sort of break so what would happen in your world if that break doesn’t happen? I would expect friction, at least, and probably more than that. Someone is bound to rebel against their lot. And that’s where your story may well be!

This World and Others – Compare and Contrast

Comparing and contrasting what is on our world with what may or may not be on your fictional one is a great place to start when it comes to world building.  The “what if” card comes into play here and you can also use alternative versions of our history to create your own world.

I didn’t watch The Man in the High Castle but I heard very good things about it.  People I know who did watch it were gripped by the drama showing an alternative world to ours where Germany won World War Two and Hitler was a very old man. I don’t want to say more than that – no spoilers here! – but you can see how you could create your own timeline based on the opposite of what happened for real and create a whole new world and set of stories.

Another good starting point would be to take character traits you admire or loathe and get your characters, in a setting or time of your choice, to have the exact opposite!

For example, if you loved medieval life, what would the consequences be for, say, a knight who is a coward? (Okay, you could argue that knight would not live long and how did he get to be a knight in the first place with an attitude like that anyway?  I suspect there would be stories to be had answering that question!  Also, so much depends on perspective here.  The knight might not be a coward at all – it is how he is seen by others who might have their own agendas here.  So you can see there are story possibilities there as well).

So compare and contrast and have fun!

UPDATES AND BOOK SIGNING NEWS

UPDATE/BOOK SIGNING NEWS

Sorry for the big gap in posting.  This has been due to having my father’s funeral, then having a much needed holiday and, for writing reasons at least, I’ve been setting up my first book signing for From Light to Dark and Back Again.  This will be at Chandler’s Ford Railway Station on Saturday 8th July between 9.20 am and 12 noon.  Many thanks to the Three Rivers Rail Community Parrtnership for their support.  Given you can never know how these events will go in advance, I am both looking forward to it and feeling nervous all at the same time!

I m hoping later in the year to revamp my websites and how I blog but in the meantime I am planning to get back to more regular blogging.  I also hope to finally get a newsletter up and running but I will post news on that I hope as and when ready.

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

I recently interviewed local children’s author, Anne Wan., for Chandler’s Ford Today and one thing that came out from this was her love and loathing of editing.  What do you think of editing? I love the editing process and I share my thoughts in Why Love Editing?

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

In Updates, due to the big gap in posting, I thought it would be useful to write a “round robin” of a blog post and here I share my interview with Anne Wan (Parts 1 and 2).  I also share my most recent Chandler’s Ford Today post about my upcoming book signing.

ADVERT FOR RAILWAY SIGNING

Says it all really. Image via Pixabay.

MAKING HISTORY

Just want to say, as a tennis “nut”, I am thrilled Andy and Jamie Murray have ended the  year as world number one in the men’s singles and doubles.  Fantastic, historic achievement.  I’m also pleased to see hard work, persistence, not giving up etc paying dividends for them both.

Also glad to report issues I had yesterday with titles on my Weebly websites (especially This World and Others) appear to have been resolved.  Am now hoping that is not going to prove to be my famous last words!  I’ll know tomorrow…

FIREFOX ADD-ONS – ROAD TESTING!

Just to also add I have added Grammarly to my Firefox toolbar (it’s free) and am finding it very useful in picking up odd typos but mainly my grammatical weaknesses.  Have only been using it for a couple of days but you have a green icon appearing whenever you type something.  Get something wrong and that green icon becomes a red one.  Hover over it and you get a description of what you need to amend.  Very helpful so far.  I do occasionally test free add-ons like this.  The last one I added on was E-Pub Reader for Firefox and I find that useful too.

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Making History refers to the Murray brothers’ excellent achievements this year but also discusses how our characters should make history.  The point of any story, regardless of genre, is to show moments of change (which lead to conflict and drama).  The point of any character is to contribute to that in some way (otherwise why write them in?  Even the most minor of characters must have a role they and only they can play in your tale).

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Boring Traits discusses why the virtues of persistence, patience and so on are vital, whether you want to achieve success as a sportsman or a writer or as a character in a story.  Even your villains must have determination, a clear aim, patience (nobody achieves all they want immediately) and so on.

FACEBOOK PAGE

Again I celebrate the Murrays’ achievements.  I suppose the thing I like most is that their persistence has paid off.  I love it when virtue gets it own reward.  It doesn’t always, sadly.  I also discuss how persistence is vital to a writer.  None of us can foresee how things will actually pan out.  I still haven’t published my novel but am thrilled to bits my first flash fiction collection will come out soon.  I didn’t foresee that!

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAllison.Symes.FairytaleLady%2Fposts%2F829459773823670&width=500

Never give up, work hard, be disciplined... all valuable traits for success, whether you're a tennis player, a writer or a character in a story! Image via Pixabay.

Never give up, work hard, be disciplined… all valuable traits for success, whether you’re a tennis player, a writer or a character in a story! Image via Pixabay.

 

 

Imagine the wealth of fairytales and other stories in here. Image via Pixabay.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT A FAIRYTALE

As well as being amongst the first stories I had read to me when I was a kid, fairytales have long been a favourite of mine for other reasons.  Some of these I list in tonight’s Fairytales With Bite post.

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

What I love about a fairytale lists some of the qualities that ended up attracting me to the idea of having a go at writing my own fairytales.  For a start, I love the fact that humans are not necessarily the smartest creatures in your average fairy story.  And the talking animals often make more sense too…  what’s not to like about that?

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Writing and Murphy’s Law lists some of the things that happen to most writers thanks to Murphy’s Law.  Do you recognise any of the items on my list as having happened to you?!

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

My post tomorrow will be about some events going on at Chandler’s Ford Library.  These include a discussion group on the Books of 2016 and ebook surgeries.  More info with links tomorrow.  Am cheered up by seeing the library reach out to different people with different events – long may it continue.

FACEBOOK PAGE

Tonight sees me share what I haven’t got around to writing up yet – my Christmas list!  I also reveal why authors are lovely to buy for – not one of us can resist, say, a brand net notebook!

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAllison.Symes.FairytaleLady%2Fposts%2F827014667401514&width=500

One way through to the magical world but is it all sunshine and flowers? I doubt it! Image via Pixabay

One way through to the magical world but is it all sunshine and flowers? I doubt it! Image via Pixabay

 

Fairies are definitely not twee and you do not want to come across one that has had a bad day due to Murphy's Law affecting her. She will take it out on s

MURPHY’S LAW FOR A FAIRY GODMOTHER

Sorry – shorter post tonight.  Weebly are carrying out essential maintenance works so have only been able to update my Fairytales with Bite website.  Still I hope you enjoy reading Murphy’s Law for a Fairy Godmother.  I love writing posts like this.

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Murphy’s Law for a Fairy Godmother actually lists five laws.  Can you add to this list?

FACEBOOK PAGE

I discuss why writers get more joy from reading other people’s stories than anyone else on the planet.  I discuss the “guess the influence” game and urge support for your local anthology writer(s).  The fact I am an anthology writer has EVERY bearing on this!

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fallison.symes.50%2Fposts%2F10154727674927053&width=500

What is a fairy godmother supposed to do when she turns up to support a client and there isn't a pumpkin in sight?! Fortunately NOT a problem here. Image via Pixabay.

What is a fairy godmother supposed to do when she turns up to support a client and there isn’t a pumpkin in sight?! Fortunately NOT a problem here. Image via Pixabay.

 

 

 

Blogging - a hugely enjoyable part of what I write. Image vix Pixabay.

QUESTIONS NOT TO ASK – OF A WRITER

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Questions Not to Ask – of a Writer lives up to its title and lists five bugbear questions any writer will hate being asked.  Okay, scrub that, make it four questions and one statement.  The latter is for my poet friends and I’d be very surprised if they’d not heard this particular comment in their time.  My pet hate is point 3!  See what you think…

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

You Know You’re a Writer When…. again lives up to its theme. I list 1o points of interest but amongst these are three different opportunities for writers to become insufferably smug if they so wish!  I put my hand up and plead guilty to points 3, 4 and 7 especially.  Which would you plead guilty to – there will be at least one?!

FACEBOOK PAGE

I talk about border collies (mine!), fireworks, and my border collie deliberately going out into the garden tonight to look for said fireworks even though she hates them.  Have no idea why!  Am glad the diffuser we got this year seems to be helping her.  I also discuss what’s coming up in my next Chandler’s Ford Today post (a review of a play I’ve recently seen) and plug a CFT writers’ get together this coming Saturday.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fallison.symes.50%2Fposts%2F10154708264222053&width=500

The lovely Mabel. Image taken by me! So much happier when there are no fireworks about - and that goes for Mabel too.

The lovely Mabel. Image taken by me! So much happier when there are no fireworks about – and that goes for Mabel too.