Using Story Cubes, Workshop News, and Writing Exercises

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated with many created in Book Brush. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as was my photo of my much missed Bearded/Border collie cross, Gracie, my first dog.
Hope you have had a good week. Mine has started with an interview (to go out later this week) and Lady has been getting to play with her best friends, so she’s happy too! Hope all well with you. Lovely to see signs of spring in my part of the world – does give a good lift to the spirit.

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Hope you have had a good day. Despite it being bitter out again, Lady had a lovely time running around with her Aussie Shepherd gentleman friend today. Both dogs had a fabulous time. Definition of a gentleman here? Simple! A dog that doesn’t pinch another dog’s ball even when said dog easily could – Lady appreciates touches like that! She was also thrilled to see her pal, Coco.

Looking forward to sending our my author newsletter tomorrow. I do enjoy putting these together.

Delighted to say I’ll be running another Zoom workshop later in May and am looking forward to that too. Always love to spread the word about flash fiction.

I’ve talked before about using those odd pockets of time we all get to help your writing along. I like to mix up how I do this. Sometimes I’ll jot down title ideas. Sometimes I’ll note down promising opening or closing lines. Other times, I’ll start drafting a flash fiction tale I’ve already got in mind. I like variety here too.

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Busy start to the week as usual but it has been a reasonable Monday. Hope your day has been good too.

Loved the catch up interview with Hannah Kate – the broadcast goes out on Saturday, 4th March. More details and a link when I get it. Looking forward to sharing that.

Have been using the story cubes again for ideas for this week’s submissions to Friday Flash Fiction and for my YouTube channel. Great fun to use. This week I only used one of them. I’ll be sharing the results for my new video over on my book page shortly. See below.

But I wanted to say I love mixing up the way I approach finding ideas for stories. I think it stretches me and I also know that if one particular way isn’t doing something for me during any one week, then another way will, and I find it reassuring to have that kind of safety net. It is why I like practicing writing to different kind of prompts. Stands you in good stead!

Why not consider putting your own spin on writing prompts to generate more ideas




Hope you have had a good day. Am looking forward to being interviewed by Hannah Kate from North Manchester FM later today. That interview will form part of her show next Saturday, 4th March. Will share the link to the show once I have it.

I’ll be looking at Deadlines – How to Make the Most of Them for Chandler’s Ford Today next week so look out for that on Friday, 3rd March.

And before that, on Wednesday, 1st March, I’ll be sending out my latest author newsletter full of news, tips, and story links. Please sign up if interested at

Have a great (writing/reading) week.

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There is an environmental theme for my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction though that hadn’t been my intention when writing the story. The basic idea came for this one from a story cube showing a cute picture of a bee! Hope you enjoy Buzzing Around though I will confess I prefer bees to wasps.

My first dog, Gracie, one got a bee into her mouth. Thankfully she opened her mouth and a rather soggy bee came out and flew off. Not sure who was more relieved – the bee or me! I never trusted Gracie anywhere near insects after that!

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Looking forward to running another Zoom workshop in May. Do let me know via my website at if you think this might be of interest for your writing group. Zoom has made more things possible for writers and I’ve appreciated this directly. (Flash works especially well for a workshop like this given it is is easy to share examples – and it makes for a great way to advertise what flash can do and be).

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It’s Monday once more. But I managed to do the evening dog walk without having to use my torch – hooray! – for the first time since at least November! It is the little victories which mean so much! This is another story which has come about as a result of using story cubes, in this case just one of them. Hope you enjoy L-Plates.

I’m planning to use the story cubes again to generate story ideas for YouTube and Friday Flash Fiction this coming week. Last time I just used three of them and picked the images from there. Today I’m probably just going to use one.

It’s another way of changing your parameters! I do this all the time when using the online random generators. I find setting limits encourages creativity. It makes you think laterally. But you can mix up how many you set and I find doing that useful too. Keeps me on my toes. Keeps things interesting. If it’s interesting for me, it should be for readers too.

May be a cartoon of text that says "Story cubes and random generators are excellent ways to generate ideas. However, it is a good idea NOT to have your posture like this though when writing! 一"

What is your attitude to writing exercises, especially when you’re set them at workshops, writing events etc? I love them. I see them as a challenge to rise to but I never expect what I come up with to be perfect straight away. This is my chance to get a first very rough draft down on something which I can polish up later.

If you get the chance to share some of what you’ve written do so. Nobody is going to judge you. Nobody is expecting the perfect bit of prose “straight out of the traps” so to speak. But feedback can be really useful and get you off to a head start when you do get to sit down and polish up what you’ve come up with here.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books as Presents

Do you prefer people to buy you books as presents or would you rather choose your own? I like to do both. Yes, I know, wouldn’t everyone?

What I do for birthdays etc is give people a list (two or three books) but because I know others will give me money or book tokens I get to use the latter to pick my own choices not on that list. Seems like a great arrangement to me. (And I am so thrilled book tokens have not gone the way of the dodo. Support these, folks. Get book tokens for the ones you love who love books. Keep these wonderful things going!)

There is something special about picking your own books. There is something just as special about giving people a list and looking forward to finding out what they picked for you. Either way you get books out of it! There is plenty to love about that!
Now if you could give one book to a fictional or historical character, what would it be and why?

My nomination?

My historical character? Richard III.
The book I’d give him? The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey so he can find out for himself not everybody believes he was a villain.

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March 2023 edition out very soon.

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Plus many other books, including my flash fiction collections.


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Making the Most of a Zoom Workshop

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated with many created in Book Brush. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good week. Mine has been very busy but am looking forward to being interviewed over the weekend via Skype. That will be fun. More to come on the results of that next week I hope.


Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s Friday once again and time for my Chandler’s Ford Today post. This week I’m looking at Making the Most of a Zoom Workshop. I discuss the importance of preparation, rehearsing your material, and focus. I also look at mixing up your material (in terms of having text, pictures, other items so it is not one huge block of text if you’re using things like PowerPoint). Hope you find the post useful.

Making the Most of a Zoom Workshop

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I’ll be talking about Making the Most of a Zoom Workshop for Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. Link up then. See above.

Do I find it useful having a day of the week to stick to for my posts here? Oh yes. I can plan my writing week around it, which is useful. It also helps with my focus as I get my CFT post done and then work everything else around that.

Lovely to see everyone at the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group on Zoom last night. We were talking about the long and the short with regard to flash fiction. Lovely time had by all.

And the other lovely thing about Zoom? It’s a great word to get out in Scrabble if you can! I’ve only managed it once!

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Hope you’ve had a good day. Now I’ve mentioned before I like to know my characters well enough to write their stories up. What matters here is working out what you need to know. This will vary from writer to writer. Some will need to know what a character looks like. I don’t.

I do need to know their traits (and from that I will often work out physical description though I must admit for a lot of my tales this aspect doesn’t matter much at all, I focus on attitude and action). I often ask my characters a few pertinent questions. You could also name some of the things they like/dislike and work out why they feel this way about these things. That is a great way to often get to the bottom of what makes someone tick.

May be an image of text that says "9.. Understanding what makes US tick is crucial for understanding what makes your characters tick."

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It’s great to be back on Friday Flash Fiction with my tale Buzzing Around. This one has a sting in its tale, aptly.
Screenshot 2023-02-24 at 09-24-27 Buzzing Around by Allison Symes

When it comes to competitions (flash and short story ones), I like the open theme ones but my preference is for a set theme. Why? I find a set theme gets my brain whirring as to the different possibilities I could do with that theme. I also like to rise to the challenge of writing to that theme. What I do like the set theme to be is open to interpretation though.

I’ve just set a theme for the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group (and before you ask it is Things You Miss – have fun with this, I intend to!). I like a theme which I could take in different directions and yet still meet its requirements. The challenge there is to come up with something which stands out (which is why it is a good idea to write down ideas, at least six of them, before you pick one to write up. It will be the ones which are further down on your list which are likely to be unique).

May be an image of text that says "Jot down ideas based on a theme. Jot down several and discount the first two or three. Those will be the 'obvious" ideas."
I write my story first and then worry about the word count as a general rule. When I know I’m writing to a specific count for a specific market, I will often write my closing line first and then work backwards to get to the start. I also know now roughly what 100 words is going to look like on page or screen so I then focus on what I really have to get across to my reader for this tale.

May be an image of outdoors and text that says "Storytelling shows us so much about ourselves good and bad. It is also so therapeutic."

Fairytales with Bite – Calendars

I know I’d be lost without my calendar/diary. But do your characters take the same view? Does your fairy godmother book in her clients or does she turn up “on the fly”, so to speak? (I’m certain she did the latter for Cinderella – that poor kid had suffered for years before said fairy godmother deigned to turn up).

If your characters do plan their appointments, do they do this on the basis of magical urgency? I’ve often wondered what Cinder’s fairy godmother was getting up to before she did arrive – I suspect there are stories there!

How does your magical setting base its calendar – on a system similar to our own? If not, how do they organise their time structures – do they have days, weeks, months etc?

Also, can anyone book an appointment with a magical being in your setting? Or can only certain people qualify and what would be the criteria here?


This World and Others – Special Appointments

Special appointments could be a great honour. Equally they could be a sign your character is in real trouble. Who would make the special appointments and why? If you’re about to be summoned to see your world’s most powerful magical being, this may not be good news. Who could be on the receiving end of that and how have they ended up here? Could be comic potential here too.

But even the most powerful magical being will have a weakness somewhere – could they end up having a “special appointment” with someone who knows what this is and can exploit it?

Now here in the UK manufacturers can have a “By Royal Appointment” status otherwise known as the Royal Warrant. In your fictional world, is there an equivalent to that?

What special appointments would your characters welcome and which would they dread? Working that out can show you great insights as to what your characters are made of and where that comes from. All useful for characterisation.


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