A Questionable Choice, Spoilers, and Characterisation

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you had a good weekend. Weather continues to be strange for the time of year here. Oh and writing wise, one rejection and one acceptance this week!

The Writing Journey

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Enjoyed my first swim of the week today but it is the hardest one of the week to do! And I knew I’d tired Lady out this morning as she didn’t get off the sofa to come and greet me. It looked as if she’d just woken up as she looked at me as if to say “you’re back, then!”

What I love about writing (and I promise to keep this short, honest!):-

  • Inventing characters
  • Inventing things for them to say and do
  • Putting them in conflict with each other and/or their environment and enjoying the show as they battle it out! (I know, I know… I am a nice girl really, honest).
  • Editing my draft and almost feeling the story “tighten” up and be so much better than that first draft.
  • Submitting the finished story.
  • Being told it has been accepted or if I’m preparing a story for use on my website or Youtube channel, creating a video to go with it.

All great fun and now back to it!

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Hope you had a good weekend. Another blustery day in Hampshire today, Still feels like flaming March!

I found out yesterday the story I submitted for the annual Bridge House Publishing anthology didn’t make it. On the plus side a story I sent to CafeLit will be appearing next week! Will share the link when I have it.

I will at some point have another look at my BHP story and see if I can submit it somewhere else. I often can (and there is always the possibility of including it in a single author collection – nothing is wasted in writing. I’ve found I can recycle most things in some way and sometimes a story turned down in one place is accepted by another).

You never lose the buzz of being published so, yes, having a turn down is always disappointing but I’ve also been encouraged by all those times when I have been able to recycle a story elsewhere. So I know I can have a crack at that again. And there is always the next story to work on! There is always a next story!


My Chandler’s Ford Today post later this coming week will be on the theme of Understanding. (Couldn’t we all do with more of that in the world?). I look at how reading encourages empathy and why this is good for you. I also have a look at understanding how stories work. I’ve found learning this has helped me as I craft my flash and other stories. Look forward to sharing this on Friday.

Have discovered a one-star review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic but there’s no name or comment left with it. Does this mean I have “arrived”?! I know everyone gets them…! (I guess it gets my number of reviews up anyway! – Oh and yes please to anyone who hasn’t yet reviewed TTFF – reviews are always helpful. Thanks!).

Also a big hello to those newly signed up to my author newsletter. Good to have you aboard. Hope you enjoy the freebie (which you’ll find as a link in the welcome email). I share tips, flash stories, as well as news here on the 1st of each month – if you would like to sign up please head to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am working on a piece I hope to submit to an online magazine later this week – am loving writing it and reading back issues of the magazine too. Yes, I do always read copies of anything I am hoping to submit work to – how else will you get a feel for the style they want? And it is huge fun to do of course!

Hope you have had a good Saturday. Can’t believe the weather. More like March than May out there. Still Lady got to have an excellent run with a whippet, Milo, earlier today, and a good time was had by all. Lady can keep up with, and sometimes outrun, your average whippet. Yes, she is that fast. Equally fast at coming through for when she just knows it’s dinner time. Strange that.

One of the things I love about characterisation is when it is done well, you do feel as if you are inside that character’s head and can almost feel their pains, their joys etc. I’m currently reading a book for someone where they have got the narrative voice down so well, it almost takes my breath away and it is a sheer joy to read because of that.

A character that grips you is one that will grip the reader. Think about what kind of characters you like. What is it about them that appeals? Look for ways of reproducing that for when you plan out your characters.

If you like honesty as a trait, how will your lead character show that honesty? Is that honesty welcome or does it land them right in it? Think about the things that could come from that honesty – another character being honest back could tell your lead person truths about themselves they won’t like which could set off a chain of events.

If your characters don’t engage you, they won’t for anyone else. You do have to like your people, people (!), even if you loathe what they go on and do in your story.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Many thanks for the great responses to my story video, A Questionable Choice. Also thanks to those who put comments up on my Youtube channel. If you’d like to subscribe to this the link you need is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

I usually create a story on a Sunday and upload it for a Monday. This is a great way of sharing mini-tales!

Screenshot_2021-05-11 Allison Symes


Pleased to share my latest story video, A Questionable Choice, with you. Hope you enjoy. (And a big welcome to my most recent subscribers too). As ever, I created this one in Book Brush, uploaded it to Youtube, and added a free to use music track. (Youtube have a great audio library and a huge thank you to Dawn Kentish Knox for flagging that up).


I chatted about spoilers for my Goodreads blog this week but another advantage to flash fiction is you can’t really have them here! The form is too short to stand such things. By the time you’ve skim read the story to work out what the spoiler might be, you have in fact read the tale!

One thing you can do with flash though is analyse your stories. Now you may argue surely the form is too short for that but I’ve found this isn’t the case. I still need to ask myself does this character work? Do they convince me? I also look at whether I’ve placed the lines (in some cases individual words – see my post from yesterday on this) in the right places to trigger the most impact on a reader.

I also analyse stories I read, of any length, to work out what made these work for me. I can then learn from that and apply it to my own fiction. I can do the same with non-fiction pieces and learn from that for my Chandler’s Ford Today, Authors Electric, More Than Writers posts etc.

Writing is good for you not just because it stretches you creatively, it encourages you to learn. Every writer learns from those who have gone before us and our contemporaries. What that should do is encourage us to “up our game” and produce even better stories, articles etc.

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If I have one favourite flash tale of mine, it has to be Calling the Doctor. See book trailer below! The reason I like it is because I change the whole mood of the story with the last word. And you can have great fun placing your words at the right places to create maximum impact on your readers. Had I used that last word for this story earlier on, it would simply have become a spoiler. (No spoilers here, thank you!).

This is one of those tales where I did know the ending first and worked backwards to get to a logical starting point. For those stories with twist endings and punchlines, I do think that is the best approach to writing them. It works for me!


Goodreads Author Blog – Spoilers

I have a simple attitude towards book/story/film spoilers – I avoid them! But almost inevitably there are times when, despite everything, you come across the wretched things.

Now do these stop you reading the book/story or watching the film? They don’t for me. I tend to then read/watch to find out if the spoiler did reveal everything or whether there were bits left unrevealed for me to discover.

When writing my flash collections, I need to give enough information away to hopefully get readers to want to check my books out but without telling them everything. It’s not an easy balancing act to get right.

So how much is too much information?

I don’t want to find out the endings, I really do want to find out for myself. I don’t mind being told something like there are plenty of surprises, one of the major characters doesn’t make it (because I then have to read or watch to find out who that was), but I don’t want name drops or to be told the ending is a miserable one. If the story has to end miserably, I want to find out myself and see that the ending is appropriate.

And if the ending isn’t appropriate for the characters and the story being told, I consider that a spoiler. A writer has to deliver on the promise of their story after all.

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Twists, Trailers, and Judging Your Own Work

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Lovely night out at a local pub/restaurant. Good opportunities for people watching! (You never know when something said or what someone wears will strike you as a good idea for your own characters).

Have earned my first royalties on my published works, many thanks to #GillJames and Chapeltown Books for such hard work here. Glad to say will need to put in an order for From Light to Dark and Back Again before too long.

Have confirmed I will be going to a big Book Fair later in the year. More details later but am looking forward to this.

 

 

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Book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again.

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I’ve put up the book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again on my main writing page as I was thinking of my choices in this year’s Hall of Fame that Classic FM put on at the Easter weekend.

Danse Macabre by Saint Saens was one of them. I came across it when I watched the TV series Jonathan Creek but it struck me as being the perfect piece for my book trailer. Quirky music for quirky fiction!

I nearly always do have classical on when writing. It relaxes me and I write better when in a good state of mind. It also has the huge advantage of using up zero calories (sadly, the odd glass of prosecco and bar of chocolate cannot claim that! Sighs…. there really is some fantasy that is unlikely to be realised!😁).

 

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Why do I like twist ending stories so much? For one thing, I like guessing at the ending. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m not.

A really good twist tale will make me admire the way it was set up and carried out (even if I did guess the outcome). An even better one not only surprises me with the way it turns out, but makes me go back through the story to look for the clues I clearly missed in the first place. I then berate myself for having missed them!

 

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When do you know your story, of whatever length, has really “taken off”? For me, it is when the characters come to life. You know (though almost certainly won’t say in the story) what they have for breakfast, what their major traits are, and what they’d be like in a fight – just to name a few random examples!

I find outlining a character before I write “for” them really helpful (and this is one reason I love Scrivener. The character and setting outlines in the fiction – short story option are amazing. The great thing is you can adapt them with anything you feel you want to jot down before you write the story itself).

For my flash tales, I prepare a brief outline (appropriately!) but I just need to know what my character is really like. Sometimes “awkward but brave” is enough to get me started on a character.

 

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction takes at least as much crafting as any other type of story because of the need to get the story across in as few words as possible. There is a balance to be struck here between the needs of the writer getting their story down and the editor ensuring the story comes in at the right word count.

I’ve found that it never pays to do the two writing tasks together. I get the story down and worry about editing later.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve talked about classical music on my main writing page tonight and why I used Danse Macabre for my book trailer theme for From Light to Dark and Back Again.

Do I have music in my mind when I write my stories? No, but I can often think along the lines that Character X would be a huge fan of rock or Character Y would love opera and so on. Thinking about what a character’s tastes would be is a great way of helping you to bring them to life on the page and, from a reader viewpoint, a very easy way to tell characters apart.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Sometimes you’re not always the best judge of your own work, but it is always good to know you are not alone here.

Spoiler alert!

I’ve been listening to Classic FM’s Hall of Fame and the 1812 Overture is the new No.1. Listening to it now in fact. Love the piece. Its composer,Tchaikovsky, however thought it had no artistic merit. Well, how wrong can you be? Quite a bit as it turns out!

I’ve found when looking through my stories, I’ve got to allow some time to pass between writing them and editing. I’ve got to come back to the pieces as if I’d not seen them before. It’s the only way I know to be objective about what I’ve written.

And it’s nice to know sometimes you can be wrong about your own work when you’re negative about it and others like it!

Classic music can make a classic filmMusic, whether writing it or playing it or both, is just one form of creativity - image via PixabayWriting, whether it is fiction or otherwise, is a wonderful way to create something new - image via Pixabayonce-upon-a-time-via PixabayOne joy of blogging is ease of publication via Pixabay

 

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Flash fiction can be great for brief character sketches which give you a glimpse into that character’s life. My Pen Portrait is an example of this. What I’ve revealed in this tells you all you need to know about my heroine, Mary. The final line also shows something of her nature.

So what would you convey in a flash fiction piece like this given you haven’t the room for backstory as such? Just enough information to tell you what you need to know (in Pen Portrait you need to know what Mary’s job is) and leave enough “space” for your readers to fill in the gaps. In Pen Portrait, Mary has found a way of avoiding causing embarrassment to one of her neighbours but I don’t tell you why this is important to her. That’s for you to figure out!

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog

I love listening to classical music as I write my flash fiction. So what has this got to do with books and stories generally?

Firstly, I find classical music relaxes me and so I write more easily. Secondly a great piece of music can help you envisage the world you create. If it is vivid for you, as it should be, it will be vivid for your reader.

Reading, however, whether it is my work or not, is carried out in silence. I don’t want music distracting me. Besides, my main reading time is just before I sleep! Definitely not time for something like the 1812 Overture (much as I love that!).

Music can convey so much. There have been some truly amazing film scores which can enhance the original story. I’m particularly thinking of the score for The Lord of the Rings trilogy here. Fabulous and fantastic story. The music for the film version reflected those aspects well, I thought.

Sometimes I can hear a piece of music and it will make me immediately think of a story. I hear Danse Macabre by Saint Saens and think of the stories in my From Light to Dark and Back Again as this great piece was used for my book trailer. I hear a Bond theme and I think of the film first but without the books by Fleming in the first place, there would be no movies.

It is quite nice to think that a creative work such a book leads to a film and in turn leads to wonderful music being created for that. What can the stories we read and write to lead to ultimately, I wonder? Well, it should be fun trying to find out!

ALL THE FUN OF THE HILTINGBURY EXTRAVAGANZA

Local Writers at Hiltingbury Extravaganza

Has been a busy weekend.  I’m sharing the post Janet Williams, Chandler’s Ford Today’s editor, has written summarising the Hiltingbury Extravaganza at the weekend.  There is a lovely “shout out” for the local writers’ stand, which we all appreciate!  Good photo too.  Thanks, Janet.

I wrote a couple of pieces on Facebook over the weekend which I share below.  If your local event supports the writers in your area or gives them a way to showcase what they do, go and support them.  We loved talking to people about (a) what we do, (b) sharing details of creative writing classes and writer get-togethers in our area, and (c) discovering people were pleasantly surprised to find there were more published writers around than they’d realised!

The huge advantage of a team approach to events like this is this kind of show is not something one of us would have done on our own but for a small group, it is ideal.  The costs are shared (mainly insurance and space “hire”, the main reasons you would not run this kind of event on your own) and you can cross-promote and support each other. It also meant a good range of books on our stand with everything from my flash fiction to YA fantasy/time travel to romantic comedy to short stories with settings in our area.

 

At the HE Book Stand

Part of the book stand at the Hiltingbury Extravaganza

 

 

Talking about Flash Fiction at the Extravaganza

Advantages of flash fiction include encouraging reluctant readers given you are not asking people to commit to too much in one go and it can also be a good way for readers to pick up your style of writing etc before reading longer works by you.

I also love the fact that, due to the restricted word count, I can’t spend too long in setting the scene. I’ve found this frees me to set my stories in any dimension and/or time and the tales are all character led. People remember characters rather than plots so this is no bad thing.

I think, based on chats I had with people at the Hiltingbury Extravaganza today, the word needs to be spread more about what flash fiction is and its virtues. Game on then!

Local authors' books at Chandler's Ford railway station

Report from the Book Stand at the Extravaganza

Good turnout for the Hiltingbury Extravaganza. Many thanks to all who came to the book stand. Good to see you all. What was lovely was the number of people who were surprised (in a nice way) to find there were more authors in the area than they’d realized! It was also good to spread the word about the Hampshire Writers’ Society and local creative writing classes too. I hope if only in a small way we’ve encouraged the enjoyment of reading and creative writing this afternoon.

I also managed to have a good look at what was going on in the rest of the show too. Nice to say hello to the good people of Thornden Hall and the Chameleon Theatre Group. Had to have a look at the dog show. My Mabel would happily have rounded all the contestants up if she could so it was as well she wasn’t there. If ever they decide to award an All-Time Herder of Other Animals category, she’s in with an excellent chance of winning it. Likewise, if they offer a category called Dog with the Stare that Could Cut Diamond (what is it with collies here?!).

 

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The glorious Mabel.

 

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Loved listening to Danse Macabre by Camille Saint Saens on Classic FM requests earlier today. I had always known this to be the theme from Jonathan Creek (a series I loved) but now I think of my book trailer the moment I hear the opening note!

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Away from books and stories, my other great love is music (in a wide range of genres though I particularly love classical). So much music is used to tell stories (e.g. Romeo and Juliet), and a truly great film score adds to the movie in such a way you can’t imagine the film without it (e.g. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter).

I can’t imagine how someone can compose a piece of music (though I have had people tell me they can’t imagine how writers like myself come up with stories out of nothing so maybe this is an “across the arts” thing). All I do know is long may such composition continue! The arts are good for the soul…

Classic music can make a classic film

Hard at work - image via Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT IS A GOOD STORY?

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

In What is a Good Story? I list five pointers as to what every good story should have, regardless of genre, format or length.  I include strong characters, plot and a powerful opening amongst others.  Do you agree with my thoughts?  Is there anything I’ve left out?  Comments welcome…

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

One Line Stories shares some one-liners.  I love this kind of writing exercise.  I tend to use one-liners like this to start me off for flash fiction work.  (Occasionally I use the one-liners to end the story with).  But there’s no reason why these one-liners can’t be taken and worked into much longer tales.  Good luck and have fun with these (I intend to at some point!).

ASSOCIATION OF CHRISTIAN WRITERS – MORE THAN WRITERS

More than Writers is the blog for the Association of Christian Writers.  I blog on the 29th of each month and April’s post from me is about my favourite Easter characters, Thomas and Peter.

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY/FACEBOOK PAGE (GENERAL)

My topic for the Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is Great ThemesI take two approaches to themes for stories.  I do sometimes deliberately write to a theme.  Other times I focus on the character and what they come up with and the theme emerges from that.  I discuss themes for both stories and music and have the great joy of sharing some of my favourite songs here.  Everyone from Dave Edmunds to Maria Callas is included in this one!

FACEBOOK PAGE – FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN

Firstly, I hope to have news of a book signing soon.

Secondly, I shared both my CFT post and my Fairytales With Bite posts on here as the topics of themes and what makes a good story I thought were appropriate for my book’s Facebook page too.

Thirdly, I can’t resist sharing the trailer again!  Many thanks to all at Chapeltown Books for producing it.  Think it looks and sounds fabulous.

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LIVING IN A MAGICAL WORLD PART 1

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Welcome to the start of a new mini-series from me – Living in a Magical WorldPart I looks at a wide variety of pointers including the advisability (or otherwise) of showing off, where to buy magical equipment and to always beware of mysterious old ladies turning up, offering you bright red, shiny apples and the like.  For the visitor to the magical world, this information could be a life saver!  More tomorrow…

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

A longer post than normal from me to make up for being absent the last day or so!  Why I Write and What I love and loathe about it, again, is one of my titles that sums up the post.  What do you love and loathe about writing?  Comments welcome…

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY/FACEBOOK PAGE – GENERAL

My latest Chandler’s Ford Today post is based on a writing exercise I was set at Swanwick Summer Writers’ School last year.  Advice to my 20-Year-Old Self shares what I would tell my younger self if I could.  The first thing I thought of was to lighten up!  What would you tell your younger self?

FACEBOOK PAGE – FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN

I’ve shared a couple of posts on here tonight.  One shares my thoughts on reviews.  See what you think.

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In a second post, I share what I most like about writing stories.

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Just a note to say the Kindle version of the book is currently at 99p but the price will be going up soon.  About 50 stories for under £1 – what a bargain!  AND you can have a free taster too as one of my 100 word stories in the book appears in the book trailer.

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