The Joy of Photos – and Finding My Feet

Now there’s a post heading I hadn’t expected to write! All will be explained below…

Image Credit:

  • All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
  • Images from Scotland were taken by me for my Chandler’s Ford Today this week bar one. That was the one with me in it taken by Adrian Symes.
  • Images of me reading at Bridge House and Swanwick events taken by Dawn Kentish Knox and Penny Blackburn respectively.
  • Image of me signing a copy of From Light to Dark and Back Again for the talented and lovely Scottish crime writer, Val Penny, was taken by Jennifer C Wilson at Swanwick. We all missed Swanwick this year, cancelled due to Covid.
  • There! I think I’ve credited everyone I need to now! And a big thank you to all for the pictures. Appropriately my CFT post this week touches on the importance of photos!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Double bubble from me this evening. Firstly I talk about The Joy of Photos in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. The great thing with this post is I had no trouble sourcing images for this one at all! I share a few of my favourites, some of which naturally involve Lady, but also discuss the impact of photos on writers.

Not only is there the author pic we all need to have so people know who we are, but then there are the book cover images, book trailers etc. Without still images, there would have been no moving ones either. So photos are definitely something to celebrate.

Hope you enjoy the post! (Oh and I was thrilled to find the Feature Image for this post. Pixabay, my darling people, you came up trumps here!).

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Second post tonight and publication news. My humorous story, Finding My Feet, is now up on Cafelit. Hope you enjoy and that it makes you smile. Great fun to write and one of my favourite kind of tale – that of the fairytale told from a minor character’s viewpoint. It always makes for an interesting perspective! (Teaser below but do follow the link for the whole story).

Screenshot_2020-10-30 Finding My FeetFLASH - Ideas will spark others, something else I love flash fiction for - Pixabay

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers

Well, they say you should write about what you know so I did! I talk about prep work for a cyberlaunch in my blog spot this month for More Than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers’ blog.

There is no ONE correct way to have any kind of launch, online or otherwise, but whatever you decide to do here, preparation is key. It really does pay off. See the post for more.

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As well as my story page on Cafelit, there is also a page for each of many of the regular writers here. I’ve just updated mine to include an update on my website details and naturally my book list!

And I’ll have a new story on Cafelit on Friday so am looking forward to sharing that (see above!). My CFT post about The Joy of Photos is also out on Friday. (Nice thing for that post is I sourced most of the pics from the ones I’ve taken earlier this year and I discuss why I like them. I also look at how photos play a big part in most writers’ lives).

I talk about preparation for a cyberlaunch in my More Than Writers blog for the Association of Christian Writers and will share the link for that tomorrow. Hope it will prove useful. (Again see above).

Idea for a writing prompt: take the same opening line, change just ONE word in it, and then use the line for TWO stories! I’ve done this in Tripping The Flash Fantastic with my tales, Mishaps and Jumping Time.

My opening lines here?

1. Going back in time had its drawbacks.

2. Going forward in time had its drawbacks.

I had a great deal of fun with this and I used the same lead character in both stories. I hope to write more linked flash fiction like this.

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From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to have another funny flash tale on Cafelit this evening. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Cinderella story as this tale will also show!

But surely the story of Cinderella is so well known, it can’t bear any more re-tellings?

Hmmm…. no!

I love writing from the perspective of minor characters, indeed it is how I got into print with Bridge House Publishing over a decade ago now. And it opens up a host of new story possibilities simply because you can (a) invent your own minor character or (b) use one that is already in the canon of the story so to speak.

Have fun with these people. It is their turn to shine!

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Story time! Well, mostly. One thing I’ve been active with this year has been producing videos of me reading from my work and sharing a little of how I came to write the stories.

This is from my winning entry for 2020’s Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition. I was one of the winners and this is an extract from my tale, Books and the Barbarians. Great fun to write. Hope you enjoy!

Video for Books and the Barbarians by Allison Symes. Copyright 2020.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/iqeepkzyud5u7l9/Waterloo%20Art%20Festival%202020%20-%20Allison%20Symes%20Video.mp4?dl=0

As well as my two collections, From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I have a number of flash and other stories in various anthologies. See my Amazon Author Central page for more. See
See my next post tonight for one of my winning stories from one of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competitions (see above and hope you enjoy the video!).

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For my flash fiction writing, as it has to be character led, I focus on getting the character right before I plunge into the tale itself. So my outlining is focussed on working out who my character is and their traits, for good or ill, will play a major part in the story I’m about to write.

That’s because if a character is arrogant, for example, you can bet that arrogance is going to land them right in it during the tale. Indeed, it ought to! What I need to decide then is whether the story is going to be a funny or serious one.

I like to know what makes my character tick before I write them. They do still sometimes surprise me and that’s fine. If the surprise proves to be better than what I originally outlined, I go with the surprise every time!

Fairytales With Bite – Never Ignore the Underdog!

One of the early lessons I learned from reading fairytales is to look out for the underdog! The fairy godmother will be turning up to help them for one thing. You learn quickly that the underdog is likely to turn out to be the hero or heroine. Nor do they let the circumstances in which they’ve become the underdog grind them down.

Also the underdog is generally the nicest character by far. What makes your underdog “worthy” of being helped? What can they do to help themselves improve their situation? Does magic help or hinder their progress?

The underdog never gets the happy ever after ending straight away either. They do have to go through difficult times to get to that point. They usually learn something which helps them develop as a character directly due to the difficult times they’ve been through.

So let’s hear it for the underdog then, albeit they won’t get their just deserts immediately! (Meaning the other qualities they must have are patience and endurance!).

This World and Others – What Convinces a Reader Your Created World is “real enough” to Read about?

I’m convinced by the reality of a fictional world by the little details. Yes, I love a good fantasy map (all hail The Lord of The Rings for that), but I also like to know how a place is governed.

I need an idea of the species that live in the fictional world and whether they get on or not. Politics plays a part too. After all fictional worlds still have to be governed by someone and they are bound to have opposition (whether that’s justified or not).

So a sense of how ordinary life is lived is crucial, as well as reading about the inevitable extraordinary changes your characters will be facing in your story. Those little details help give your creation a solid foundation.

I know they help me visualise things better and that in turn draws me even further into the tale. A character swearing about the dreadful weather will be understandable to everyone even if their species is the most bizarre it is possible to imagine!

And characterisation is of the utmost importance. Your characters may have sky blue pink skin tone and have three heads, but we still need to know what makes them tick, what their motivations are and so on.

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Twitter Highlights

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Learning From Stories

Image Credit: All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General

Hope your Tuesday has been okay. Lady and I got a soaking this morning. She dried out quicker than I did. Hey hum…

Lots coming up on CFT in November – two fab interviews I’m looking forward to sharing and naturally I’ll be flagging up the Brechin/Angus Book Fest which I’ll be taking part in. Am also going to be using November to make a breakthrough on my non-fiction project so will not be short of things to do. But that’s always good!

Must admit I’ve not adjusted to the clock change well this time. Keep feeling really tired about 9 instead of about 10. My subsconcious clearly hasn’t been fooled by the change!

I suppose the good thing about the darker evenings is that it does encourage you to stay in, get to your desk and ignore what is going on in the mad, mad world, and focus on what your characters are getting up to instead!

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Pleased to say I’ll have more publication news later this week (Cafelit) and I was delighted to see a friend and fellow Chandler’s Ford Today writer, Mike Sedgwick, on Cafelit too recently.

There is a wonderfully eclectic mix of stories on Cafelit so do check the site out. See http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/ and the idea is the stories here are long enough to have a drink to (and ideally a bit of cake too. Where would the world be without cake?!).

Great start to the week with another fab review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. All reviews much appreciated.

Plenty on my To Do list right now but am looking forward to sharing my CFT post this week too. I’ll be talking about the joy of photos and even for fiction writers photos make a huge difference. After all we rely on being able to share book cover images, screenshots of fab reviews etc!

And photos can make great story prompts too.

 

Screenshot_2020-10-26 Tripping the Flash Fantastic Amazon co uk Symes, Allison 9781910542583 Books

Have started subbing stories again and looking forward to getting on with writing more. Have a lovely interview to write up for CFT and am looking forward to that.

Plus will be doing some prep work this week on my non-fiction project ahead of doing a massive stint on this during November. (I am basically looking to complete a first draft if I can. I have written some of the material already but I know it needs reorganising and more material to be added to it).

A big thanks to Wendy H. Jones who updated the #ClubhouseBookshop header today to include book cover images of some of the authors involved in this FB group. (And do check the group out – it will give you fab ideas for Christmas book presents for one thing!).

I’ll give you one guess precisely as to why I was pleased with what Wendy came up with!😂

Screenshot_2020-10-25 Clubhouse Bookshop Facebook

Delighted to have an unexpected guest blog appearance on #MaressaMortimer’s blog (and another review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic on Amazon). See the blog link.

And best of all, I am in very good company with Scottish crime writer #WendyHJones (and her DI Shona McKenzie series) and #LizCarter who has recently released her poetry and short story collection, Treasure in Dark Places.

If you need somewhere to start with your Christmas book buying wish list, folks, you could start here!

Despite the awful weather in the UK right now (and I hope everyone has kept as warm and dry as possible), it has been a lovely day as I’ve had the great pleasure of signing another book and getting that ready to post early next week. I love tasks like that!

Writing wise, I am busy preparing for another blog appearance and for an interview I’m looking forward to carrying out for Chandler’s Ford Today in due course. And I am about to get back to my non-fiction project which I hope to make great steps forward with during November.

Who needs to go outside and get wet then? Oh yes…. Lady but thankfully her walkies are finished for today and even she appreciates cosy time of an evening!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One of the things I enjoyed most for the cyberlaunch of Tripping The Flash Fantastic was in creating some videos where I read a couple of stories. I then talked a bit about what led me to the write the stories in the way that I have.

I hope to be doing more of that in due course but for now my top tip is, after you’ve got the first draft down, DO take time to think back on why you’ve written the story the way you have. Ask yourself if the story DOES achieve what you hoped it would.

You are going to see the flaws of course. Don’t worry about that. This is a draft after all but if your key point was to show a character overcoming adversity, well check they actually do so and in a way that is realistic to them and to your reader.

A character using magic to help them get out of a situation is okay where your story is clearly set in a world where that is possible. It’s not okay in the middle of a suburban High Street with no previous hint of magic being a possibility. (That scenario is likely to cause unfavourable comment! Mind you, I suppose there could be comic possibilities there! The general point remains though. If magic is a possibility, then it should be flagged up early in the story. You don’t want to risk your reader feeling cheated).

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What do you learn most from stories?

Well, you learn what you love and loathe. But it pays to look carefully at a story that didn’t grab you and ask yourself why that was. There usually is something (for me it’s usually characterisation that didn’t convince me) and then you can take that and hopefully avoid making the same mistake in your own work.

For a story you love, look at what DID grab you and explore why that was. If it’s sparkling dialogue say, look at how the writer has written their wonderful prose. What can you learn from that?

I love playing the guessing game with stories new to me. I do try to guess how the characters will end up. I’ve mentioned before that I love being wrong-footed by authors here but, on the assumption this happens to you too, go back and look at where you think the writer “mis-led” you.

Almost inevitably you will find clues in the story you should’ve picked up on but didn’t on the first read through. And again you can learn from that for your own storytelling.

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Sent off a flash tale today so pleased with that. Hope to be back to writing flash more regularly now though obviously marketing for TTFF will be ongoing.

I am trying to do something on that most days and see it as a long term thing. This is the good thing with marketing. It doesn’t all have to be done by a specific time period. After all I will want to talk about both of my flash collections, do what I can to promote them, for a VERY long time.

The best marketing is in itself creative so I see it as part of the whole writing “package”.

Hope you have a good writing and reading week and I hope you enjoyed The Perfect System yesterday.  Follows below so yes story time!

You know I have a fondness for random generators. Well I was exploring a random verb generator today and came up with the words ride, file, and cling. As ever with these things, you choose how many words you want to generate. You can also set the first and last letter. I tend to just choose the number of words I want. So what can I do with these three then? Let’s have a go…

The Perfect System
‘Your timing is not wonderful, Inspector. I wanted to complete my filing,’ the old lady peered up at her unwelcome visitor. But given she was only 3’10, she peered up at almost everyone. ‘Couldn’t this wait? All I want is to get myself organised and all I get are visitors turning up at all times. Most inconsiderate I call it.’
‘No, Ma’am.This can’t wait. And I’m sorry to disturb you but even in a magical world such as ours, the law won’t wait for anyone and, with yet another disappearance, I must talk to you now. You were the last one to see Draganna alive.’
‘Draganna.. Draganna…oh yes, the tiny fairy who thinks she knows better than everyone else. That is who you mean, Inspector?’
The Inspector coughed. ‘I have heard tale the lady could be bossy, Ma’am, but she didn’t deserve to die.’
‘May I know what happened to her?’
‘Draganna was last seen going for a ride on a dragon. Goodness knows why. The government warn people often enough dragon riding is dangerous. You can cling on as much as you want but if the dragon gets fed up, it just turns its head and either eats you whole or flames you. They are not meant to be used as taxi rides.’
The old lady tutted and went to her filing cabinet. She took out a manilla folder and opened it. Inside was a picture of a girl, a dragon, and a one page report. ‘Is this of any use to you, Inspector?’
The Inspector gasped. ‘That’s Draganna. That’s the dragon. And this page “predicts” Draganna will die by dragon. This is dated a year ago.’
‘And Draganna died when?’
‘Today, Ma’am. Look how…’
‘I want to know, Inspector, why my predictor filing system is out of sync. I will complain to the manufacturers. They don’t make things the way they used to do. I pride myself on my accuracy and I will not stand for my timing system to be out and by a year at that!’
‘Ma’am, that is not the point. You predicted this girl’s death and the way it would happen and it has turned out that way. I think you need to come with me to the station for a chat.’
‘Very well, Inspector, if you insist but may I first go and get my coat?’
‘Of course.’
Out in the hallway the old lady put on her coat, having first had a quick look at the manilla file inside it. It read “Inspector Know It All. Death by enraged elder fairy godmother. Thirty seconds after he escorts her out of the house.’
The old lady smiled. Her timing might be out but her predictions always came true.

Ends
Allison Symes – 24th October 2020

Hope you enjoy!

PS I was so thrilled to find this pic on Pixabay. It tied in beautifully with my story Time for Some Peace on the book trailer for Tripping the Flash Fantastic and it works well again here!  But so you can have another story, I will simply put the book trailer in again! The picture I refer to is the one of the dragon who looks as if she is congratulating herself after a spectacular burst of flame… as you would.

  Book Trailer – Tripping The Flash Fantastic

Goodreads Author Blog – What Drew You Into Reading?

I owe my love of reading to my late mother. I loved reading from an early age and never got out of the habit. I’m phenomenally grateful for what I see as presents – the gift of literacy, the gift of wanting to read, and the gift of enjoying stories of most kinds. Those gifts are priceless I think.

So what drew you into reading? Were you encouraged to read early? Did you discover a wonderful book and wanted to read more by the author? (I was like that with the wonderful works of Terry Pratchett. I first read Jingo and then absolutely had to read the rest of the Discworld series).

What matters is we keep on reading. It’s important not to get out of the habit even if you don’t have as much time for reading as you might like. This is where short story collections play a wonderful role as they are great for dipping into and I would say that even if I didn’t have work appearing in them, honest!

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Swanwick Memories – see below!

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This tweet came up again on a friend’s Twitter feed (hello, #ValPenny!) but it’s a great picture from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and great to share again. I can safely say all of us in this picture are very much looking forward to Swanwick 2021, having missed the cancelled Swanwick 2020 enormously.

Sweet Dreams and Reading Acrostics

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay/Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General – and Publication News:  Cafelit

Weather cooler again today – yippee! (Dog pleased too). Easier to concentrate and write too. Am preparing some blog pieces to send to various places in due course. As with the flash fiction, those are lovely to write during those pockets of time when I can only write for short bursts.

I forgot to share on this page the link for my latest Cafelit story, Sweet Dreams, (though I did share it on my book page). Hope you enjoy! This was a prompt from #GailAldwin in Gill James’ Prompts Book and it was good fun to write.

Now, without giving too much away, a favourite chocolate bar comes into this story. You’ll have to read it to find out why!

But it is useful to consider favourite and loathed things that your characters might have. Not only can you use those to add depth to your characterisation, you might be able to get short stories out of these things in and of themselves, as I’ve done here, thanks to Gail’s excellent prompt.

Oh and it’s a definite thumbs-up for writing to prompts set by others. They do make you think outside of your own writing box and that’s a good way to stretch yourself and what you can come up with as a result.

Happy writing!

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Hope you have had a good weekend and that the week to come is a productive and fun one. I did enjoy using the random noun generator (yes, there is such a thing!) to create a new flash story for my From Light to Dark and Back Again FB page yesterday. I will be using the noun generator again. NB.  The story I created, Misunderstood, will appear further down under the FLTDBA again section. Hope you enjoy it!

You can set as many nouns as you want and even choose the opening and finishing letters. I just went for two nouns at random and the great thing with that is you could use these as a title, the theme, or just work them into the story somehow.

I see all of the random generators I’ve used (word, phrase, question, noun, and even number!) as an alternative method of finding story prompts. And the great thing here? You’ve got an endless supply!

Give them a go and have fun. See what you can create. Playing with words and having fun in this manner is a wonderful trigger for creativity. And I’ve always found once you’ve got a creative spark going, you want to keep it going and you end up being more productive than you might have been otherwise.

Also the stories you draft here can be polished and edited and submitted later.

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I outline my characters as I’ve discussed before. What do I look for in said characters?

1. Basically a good reason for me to tell their story.
2. Go back to 1!

So what would count as a good reason then?

1. They have the qualities to overcome adversity even if they themselves don’t realise that to start with (and the best characters usually don’t). They don’t easily give up. They take good advice. They have the ability to recognise good advice when they hear it.

2. They are usually from a background that would make others consider them to be the underdog. I do love underdog winning through type stories and they are a mainstay of the classic fairytales too.

3. They have a moment of change they have got to see through, ensuring their lives can never be the same again. Stories like that are always fascinating.

4. They will often experience internal conflict as well as the obvious external type. Really gripping characters will have moments of self doubt (as we do) and that is what readers will identify with. It is then how the characters overcome that which will keep the readers reading!

 

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I’d thought I’d share some favourite moments in writing (and as ever this is not the be all and end all of lists. Am sure you can think of some things to add here).

1. Knowing I’ve picked exactly the right word for whatever it is I’m putting my poor characters through. I’m even more pleased if this is in dialogue. Good dialogue has emotional “whoomph” and shows a reader how the character is feeling.

2. Knowing my first draft is completed and I now have something to work with. This is where the work begins for me. It IS all in the edit(s) – and yes, there is always more than one! Sometimes considerably more than one!

3. Knowing my first edit has significantly improved my original story and I am getting glimmers of how it can be improved further. Out comes the trusted red pen and away I go…

4. Reviews for From Light to Dark and Back Again (and a big thanks to all who have reviewed it).

5. Having positive feedback on my Chandler’s Ford Today posts as that shows the piece has engaged with readers well.

So over to you then. What are some of your favourite writing moments?

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Well, the weather certainly lived up to “from light to dark and back again” yesterday! There was one storm but it was cleared by about 6 pm with drizzle for the evening. Having said that, it has been a lot cooler today for which I am most thankful (as is the dog).

LOVED meeting via Facetime some of my Swanwick pals yesterday evening. Great fun. Better still will be when we can meet in person at Swanwick, God willing, next year. (I’ve never been one to take things for granted anyway, life can have a habit of getting in the way at times, but if there is one HUGE life lesson to come out of 2020, that is it I think).

One thing I did forget to do yesterday, but which gives me great pleasure to do now, is to share my latest flash fiction story, Sweet Dreams. This appeared on Cafelit yesterday afternoon but I hope you enjoy! A story to finish the working week with is always a good idea, is it not?!

I loved writing this. It was a result of a prompt idea in the Prompts book by Gill James with the prompt itself coming from #GailAldwin.

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I’ve found a new random generator! I’ve sometimes used random word, phrase, question, and even number generators to trigger story ideas. And now I’ve found a random noun generator which could be fun. Let’s see what can be done.

I set the generator to trigger two random nouns for me. Nouns generated were “foundation” and “actor”. (Incidentally as well as choosing how many to generate, you can set the first and last letter of each noun as well if you wanted to but I like to keep things simple).

Now the nice thing with the generators is you can use what comes up as the theme of your story, the title, or ensure you use the words that are triggered in that story at some point. Or you can combine any/all of that. The important thing is to have fun with this!

So what can I do with foundation and actor then?

MISUNDERSTOOD
The actor frowned as he dug out the foundation for the new amateur theatre building. He’d been promised an audience. Sure he had one. They were all yelling unspeakable things along the lines of this being the hardest they’d ever seen HIM work. Not what he’d expected at all.

He expected the finest foundation all right. He expected it to be applied to his face as he gave the starring performance of his life, which naturally would then receive glowing reviews all over the country, and lead to bigger, better roles.

He guessed it served him right for daring to mention Macbeth on stage last week. HIs fellow actors told him it would bring him bad luck.

He’d laughed then. They laughed now.

Allison Symes – 15th August 2020

Hope you enjoyed that. I loved writing it.

 

Really loved using the random noun generator yesterday. Will definitely add that to my list of story prompt generators. You can never have too many of those! Okay, you need the time to write up all the ideas, I grant you that, but this is a dilemma every writer faces and has to find their own way of tackling.

Flash is an ideal vehicle for those lovely story ideas that are best shown quickly. My story yesterday, Misunderstood, worked best as a quick tale only. I often find my humorous tales work better that way. If flash has taught me anything (and it has taught me loads!), it is to never, ever pad your story out. If it works better at 100 words, keep it there. If it works best at 1000, keep it there and so on.

Have a good writing week!

 

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You’d think a flash fiction writer would have no problems coming up with the blurb for the cover of their book, wouldn’t you?!

Now, okay, the word count is not an issue for me here. What can be tricky is choosing what HAS to be on the cover and what would be nice to have but is not the end of the world if it doesn’t make it. Inevitably it won’t! Why?

As with the fiction itself, only the crucial details can go on. You want every word to hook in potential readers so there can be no preamble, waffle etc. You have to be realistic with yourself as to what could be seen as waffle and cut, cut, cut.

I change the way I lead into a story as this keeps things interesting for me (and I hope in due time readers as well!).

Sometimes I will use a character’s thoughts. At other times I will show you the character doing something.

I try to get into the scene quickly so a reader picks up where they are nigh on immediately and there must be something about the character to draw their interest to ensure they read on and find out what happens to them.

In She Did It Her Way, Kind Of, I start with the line “Jane Westbrook knew it was too late to do anything.” Now that sounds like it might kill a story right from the start but what I planned here was that readers would want to find out why she thought this and whether she was right or wrong.

Curiosity about a character is a really good hook and one I enjoy using.

 

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Goodreads Author Blog –Reading Acrostics

R = Riveting
E = Entertaining
A = Alternative Worlds
D = Drama and Dialogue
I = Imagination
N = Narrative
G = Genre Fulfilling/Crossing

All of the above are what I look for in a good read.

Regardless of genre (and I have a soft spot for those books which cross genres), I want the book to be riveting, entertaining, and for the drama and dialogue to keep me gripped until I reach The End.

I want to be amazed (in a good way!) by the author’s imagination. There can’t be a dull moment in the narrative either.

And yet some people still think writing is easy!!

G = Gripping
E = Educational
N = Nuanced
R = Readability
E = Enchanting

And again, regardless of genres, I want whatever I read to be capable of the above. Yes, fiction can be educational. You can learn from the mistakes the characters make for a start!

For me, nuanced means the characters have to be balanced. Nobody is all evil or all good. The only over the top characters I accept are Mr Toad in The Wind of The Willows and Cruella de Ville in 101 Dalmatians but they are written specifically that way and their characters wouldn’t work any other way. But those are rare exceptions to the general rule. Characters should be balanced.

At the end of a book I want to have experienced an enchanting time reading said book. I want something about it to transport me to its setting and to regret leaving it at the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Why

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. A huge thank you to Wendy H Jones for supplying images for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is a real pleasure to welcome Scottish crime writer, Wendy H. Jones, back to Chandler’s Ford Today and for something very special indeed.

Wendy is the only UK author involved with The Power of Why, an inspirational book featuring 23 women who started their own businesses.

G capital

Wendy shares why the question of why matters. Below is a short extract from the blurb for The Power of Why.

The Power of Why

If you are not starting your business by asking yourself “Why?”, then you are starting in the wrong place.

Five main questions should be answered when contemplating starting a business – What, Why, How, When and Where? Often women entrepreneurs do not give thought to the order of these, yet research by top universities shows the most important is Why?

Compiled by Purvi Tantia, this book tells the stories of 23 powerful women from around the world, who share the fears and aspirations which led to their Why. This book should be the starting point for any woman wanting to understand the Power of Why in her life.

Wow! Now that is quite a statement but check out the interview for much, much more. You won’t look at “Why” in quite the same way again, I think.

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Despite not being at Swanwick as I should’ve been, today has been nice.

Firstly, I had my first swim since the lockdown. It was lovely and, yes, I was slow! Second question – correct, I don’t care! I will improve…! But it was so nice to be back and the centre I go to had laid everything out perfectly and the one-way system was easy to use.

Secondly, I was delighted at #PaulaReadman‘s post earlier about her excitement at discovering her single author collection, Days Pass Like a Shadow, is on Waterstones website. Huge congratulations to her. I thought I’d put my own name in the search bar and see below for what emerged!

SCREENSHOT - Allison Books on Waterstones online

Absolutely thrilled at this. Many thanks to Paula as, without her post, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to look. So this came as a nice surprise. Alternative Renditions, the other book shown, is where I had my first story in print published – A Helping Hand. I will always have a very soft spot for that particular tale!

I know that Paula and I would want to give a huge shout-out to our fantastic publisher, #GillJames, for all of her support at Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books.

Oh and finally the temperature has come down a bit in Hampshire. Thunder and rain this afternoon though it looks like there is more to come.

And I’ll be meeting up with some fab Swanwick ladies online shortly so, all in all, a great Thursday! Hope yours was a good one too. (It was so good to chat online with #ValPenny, #BeatriceFishback, #JenWilson,#JuneWebber, and #PennyBlackburn. See you good ladies another time!).

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My CFT post this week will be a wonderful interview with Scottish crime writer, #WendyHJones. She’ll be talking about a very special anthology called The Power of Why and showing why matters, especially to women. Very much looking forward to sharing the link for that on Friday.

(Oh and kudos alert: Wendy is the ONLY UK author featured in this book. Find out more about her involvement with this later in the week).

One of the joys of interviews is being able to set questions in such a way they encourage a discussion. The best author interviews I love reading always do that. What you want to avoid are the straight Yes/No answers so I try to never ask questions where that could be given as a response.

Now here’s a thought for the fiction writers. I outline my characters and work out what I need to know about them before I write “their” story.

So when quizzing your characters to find out more about them and what drives them, use some techniques from non-fiction interviews here.

Again avoid having a character be able to tell you a simple yes/no answer. You want to know why! The answer to why is where you’ll get the “gold” to work with in your story. That is what will show you what makes your characters “tick”.

I said why was important. And Wendy will confirm this on Friday! (Images of The Power of Why and Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by Wendy, all others from Pixabay).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Publication News – Cafelit – Flash Fiction

Well, the weather certainly lived up to “from light to dark and back again” yesterday! There was one storm but it was cleared by about 6 pm with drizzle for the evening. Having said that, it has been a lot cooler today for which I am most thankful (as is the dog).

LOVED meeting via Facetime some of my Swanwick pals yesterday evening. Great fun. Better still will be when we can meet in person at Swanwick, God willing, next year. (I’ve never been one to take things for granted anyway, life can have a habit of getting in the way at times, but if there is one HUGE life lesson to come out of 2020, that is it I think).

One thing I did forget to do yesterday, but which gives me great pleasure to do now, is to share my latest flash fiction story, Sweet Dreams. This appeared on Cafelit yesterday afternoon but I hope you enjoy! A story to finish the working week with is always a good idea, is it not?!

I loved writing this. It was a result of a prompt idea in the Prompts book by Gill James with the prompt itself coming from #GailAldwin.

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An appropriate image to go with my flash fiction tale, Sweet Dreams, on Cafelit. Pixabay image.

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Delighted to discover FLTDBA is on the Waterstones website. See the link. Nice to say you can get my book at Waterstones. Most authors dream of being able to say that… I know I have.

I found this out thanks to #PaulaReadman spotting her single author collection, Days Pass Like a Shadow (Chapeltown Books), was on there and I thought I’d just put my name in the search bar and see what happened. So glad I did.

I guess it shows another aspect to making writing friends. They can and do show you aspects to this business you might not have thought of. No one author can know it all after all. And that is something I learned a long time ago!

Mind you, the upside to that and it is a HUGE upside, is that there is always something to learn in writing, whether it is on the creative and/or marketing sides. This in turn keeps you on your toes and that is good.

Well, you wouldn’t want to become stale now, would you?

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Delighted to see this on the Waterstones site. Looking forward to seeing Tripping the Flash Fantastic on there too!

Alternative Renditions Small

A very special book in my memory! My first printed story, A Helping Hand, was in here!

Allison Symes - Published Works

Yours truly and some of my collected works! Image by Adrian Symes

What I love to see in flash fiction:-

1. Characters that intrigue me.

2. Characters I could see working well in other flash tales.

3. A punchy funny ending which makes me laugh (where appropriate of course).

4. A “killer” finishing line which wraps up the story and you just know it was the perfect ending for that tale.

5. An equally “killer” opening line which means you just HAVE to read on and until you’ve finished the story (which at least with flash is not going to take too long!).

6. A fabulous twist which I can either see coming (but I am looking for it to be delivered WELL here) OR one where I am wrongfooted by the author. (Always a good hat tip to anyone who can do that to me!).

7. A moment of illumination and reflection in quieter stories which have an impact long after that initial first reading. It is often this type of story I come back to again later when I want reading to soothe or reassure me.

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Fairytales With Bite – Fantastic Settings

No matter where your story is set, or how outlandish your fictional world is, it still has to be populated by characters whom we can understand and either root for, or love to hate. They must generate an emotional reaction in us. Their motives must be ones we can understand.

The setting should also be one we can get behind. After all, we know how our planet works/is run. How is this done in your fictional setting? Are there corrupt politicians for example? (I refuse to believe that could just be on Earth!).

Especially in a fantasy world, some ideas of what it looks like, how the species live, what kind of wildlife is there etc deepen your characterisation of the setting itself. (Setting can often be a character in its own right and I don’t think it’s a bad idea to treat it as one. It means you think it out for a start!).

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This World and Others – 

What Matters to Your Character(s) and Why

Answering that one phrase gives you THE reason for writing the character’s story! From a world building viewpoint, what matters to your character is not the same as what the reader needs to know.

For example, if your character lives on a world where they don’t breathe oxygen but something else entirely, early on in the story the reader will need to know that.

The trick here is not to “tell” the reader this but to show them so they draw their own conclusions.

Yes, you can use description to show the point but an even better way is to have someone else observe it. The main character will not mention they’re breathing Gas X because they do it all the time, obviously, and so why would they draw attention to it?

An outside observer could do so. Say your character is being visited by someone who lives on a different part of the planet. Maybe the quality of their Gas X at home is not as good as it is here. They could comment on that to your main character. Job done. You can also show something of your character’s attitude by how they respond to their visitor.

Regardless of how strange the created world is, what matters to your character is something we should all be able to identify with and sympathise over. All species will need the basics – food, shelter, etc – but think beyond that too.

What is driving your character? Why does their story matter? Why should a reader want to find out? Don’t be afraid to dig deep. Your character has to be emotionally invested in the outcome of the story for your reader to care.

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Final Thoughts on The Writing Game

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels. A HUGE thank you to my fabulous guest authors for their pics, including book cover ones, for the Chandler’s Ford Today series, The Writing Game – and What to Watch For.

FINAL PART OF THE WRITING GAME – AND WHAT TO WATCH FOR TONIGHT.  Hope you find it useful and enjoyable.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m thrilled to share the final part of The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. HUGE thanks to all of my fabulous guests for the wonderful advice they’ve shared in this three-parter.  Do take a bow, everyone!

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Today my guests are from the world of independent publishing, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and Association of Christian Writers. Some of them cross more than one category!

 

Feature Image - Part 3 - The Writing Game and What to Watch For

Many, many thanks to all of my fabulous guest authors for taking part in The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. This is one of those series for Chandler’s Ford Today I should’ve written a long time ago!

Hope you enjoy this and find it useful.

Mind you, I can speak for all of my guests in that if this series stops one person going down the vanity press route, with all the heartache and expense that causes, we would be well pleased.

I know, looking back when I first started writing for publication seriously, the main problem is in NOT knowing what you DO need to know. As you start to make progress with your writing, you then REALISE you don’t know but your next issue is where do you turn to for advice? If you needed a really good reason to make writing buddies, this is it. And the best places to meet and make writing buddies?

Writing groups – online and otherwise. Creative writing conferences – day events and longer etc. At the moment so many of these have to be online via Zoom etc., but still take part in these things. You will get a lot from them.

Have a fab weekend!

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Facebook – General – and Publication News

Delighted to say the story I was working on inspired by a #GailAldwin prompt is going to be published on Cafelit later this month. Will share the link when I have it. I hope this will be next week.

It was great fun to write (and thanks to Gail for a great idea here. Given my love of chocolate, writing stories inspired by sweets could keep me busy for a while! Mind you I still have well over 200 prompts to work through in Gill James’ excellent Prompts book! Still they say slow and steady wins the race. If true, that means I’m in for a brilliant result!).😆😆😆

Fence news: have finished creosoting the wretched fence. Lady was most upset I would not allow her out to join me but I really didn’t fancy going back indoors with a Ronseal “Matured Oak” coloured border collie! (There is no way she would have kept her nose out of the tin either!). Not sorry to have this done ahead of the heatwave due this weekend – and yes, Lady will be kept nicely cool.

I’m looking forward to sharing the concluding part of my CFT series – The Writing Game – and What to Watch For – on Friday. My guests this week will be from the world of self publishing, the Association of Christian Writers, and Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Fabulous tips and advice to share once again. A big thank you to all of my great guests over this series.

Have been happily drafting a new flash fiction piece where the prompt was to write about a sweet. This was a prompt suggested by #GailAldwin in the Prompts Book by Gill James.

I’m slowing working my way through the prompts though it is going to take me well over a year to get through them all! I hope eventually to get another collection out of these pieces in time. I also hope to share some of them via Cafelit in due course too.

But what is lovely about writing like this is it means I can get a flash piece drafted in those short pockets of time which might otherwise be wasted.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The final part of my The Writing Game – and What to Watch For is now up on Chandler’s Ford Today. For the next couple of weeks, there will be some fab interviews with writers who are changing direction with their most recent publications. Looking forward to sharing those. Lots of interesting insights.

I love reading, as well as hosting, author interviews. There is always so much to learn. But that I think is one of the great things about writing. It spurs you on so. You take the view that “I’ve done this before, I can do it again, but can I do it better?”. The answer to that one is always yes, incidentally!

And that is the way it should be. You always want to strive. It is the striving that will make you the better writer. With flash fiction, I’ve had a lot of fun recently with haiku and hope to continue that. I’m sure there’ll be other kinds of flash to have a go at somewhen as well.

Have a fab weekend! (Must admit I am NOT looking forward to the heat. Lady and I will be doing all we can to stay cool).

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I’m aiming this year to have something submitted to Cafelit once a month. Am glad to report a story I was working on the last day or so will be on there later in August. Will share the link when I have it.

Submitting stories regularly helps give me focus. I can vary the length of story I send in and I sometimes use the Prompts book Gill James produced to trigger my submissions. (Many of the Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown authors contributed to the Prompts book including yours truly. Do check it out. It’s a fun book to work through – and you could play “lucky dip” with this too. Pick a page and write one or two of the ideas up from that etc. Pick an idea and write it to different word counts etc.).

 

Hope you have had a good Wednesday. I’ve been drafting some work from the Prompts book by Gill James, as I mentioned over on my author page here, but what are the advantages to working to prompts?

1. The prompt gives you a framework to write your story to and I’ve always found that so helpful. It is why I prefer a competition with a set theme rather than an open one as a rule. I’ve got something there immediately to have a crack at!

2. There’s nothing to stop you taking the prompt and writing one story, two stories, three tales from it. Why not take the theme in two or three different directions and see what you can do with it? If you get two or three different stories to submit, fabulous. If not, you pick the one you think is strongest and submit that one.

3. If you find you’ve written a story to a prompt and you really like the character, again why not write other fiction for them?

4. Writing to someone else’s prompt can “prompt” your own imagination to come up with ideas you might want to note down for future use. This happens a lot with me but that’s fine. It means I’ve got a good store of ideas to write up as and when I can.

Happy writing!

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Fairytales with Bite – 

Who Defines the Goodies in Fairytales?

Yes, I know, the writer does obviously BUT a lot depends on the reaction of the reader too. I can’t help but think of Alan Rickman’s wonderful portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The out-and-out villain almost had people rooting for him to win! Now that was not supposed to happen was it?!

And Shrek turns the idea of the ogre being the bad guy on its head. There is a lot of fun to be had writing fairytales from alternative character viewpoints. This is something I’ve done a lot and my first printed story, A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology, was written from the viewpoint of the youngest “ugly sister” to good old Cinders.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am rooting for the good folk in fairytales but bear in mind good can also encompass those who’ve been misunderstood. (I’ve not seen Maleificent but believe that is the crux of the plot there).

What makes a character good to me is that their actions and motivations are understandable and do not harm others. Courage in facing up to evil usually comes up to it somewhere too. (What is even more interesting is when a character realises the evil can lurk within themselves and takes steps to fight that).

So who are your good people in fairytales and why?

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This World and Others – Reflections

One of the joys of setting stories in alien worlds is they can often reflect on aspects of life right here on Planet Earth. The Lord of the Rings and The Narnia Chronicles both do that for me. What matters is being able to understand the characters and why they’re acting the way they are, no matter how outlandish their home planet is etc.

This can work both ways round of course. An outlandish setting could seem ridiculous to our eyes but you could write a story set here in such a way it actually makes what we know the daft option!

Fairytales have, for centuries, reflected aspects of human nature. They’re not flattering when it comes to showing what characters (and therefore us) could do. The motivations of the characters are all ones we know about too.

So how can you make your world and characters understandable to us?

No matter what your setting, your character has to be striving for something important and the readers have to care about the outcome. So outline what your character could need to do and what is in it for them if they succeed and, even more importantly, what would happen if they fail. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a life or death thing (though it could be) but it DOES have to matter and the reader should be able to pick up on that.

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Hair Cuts, Publication News, and Editing

Now there’s a combination for you!

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General

Big news in the Symes’ household is we all managed to get our hair cut this week – AND I’ve mowed the lawn so that’s trim too now. Absolutely nothing else here will need a cut for some time so that’s good. (Lady doesn’t need a trim, ever. Cleaning, yes, especially if she’s rolled in rabbit/deer poo again but a trim, no. Funnily enough, she tends to leave fox poo alone and yes I am grateful for that.).

I only wish I could say my writing never needs cutting but alas! Editing is what makes a story come to life for me. Why? Because the wasted words come out, anything that needs trampling does get trampled, and what I’m left with is the real story. I wish there was a quicker way to get to the “meat” of the story but I suspect every writer has wished that at some point before picking up the red pen and getting on with the edit!

 

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Reading widely and well helps fuel your own imagination. It is also a huge challenge to you as a writer. After all, if you read a story that makes you go “Wow”, your next response is probably going to be along the lines of “I want my stories to have the ‘Wow’ factor”.

How to achieve that? There is no one quick fix answer to that (given the wide differences in reading tastes etc), but for me character development is a major part of it. Why?

Because if a reader can follow how your character develops and changes during the course of a 100-word story, a 1500 worder, or a 100,000 words novel, then they are hooked. It is only by being hooked to the story you’re reading the author has any chance of generating that “Wow” factor at all.

And it is always, for me, the character that keeps me reading. I want to find out what happens to THEM rather than discover how clever the plot is (though the really great “Wow” stories achieve both and I can guess at the hard work that has gone into getting to that point).

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How has your Monday gone? As ever, mine went by in a whirl though the best bit by far was Lady having a great playtime with her best buddie, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback. Always lovely to watch them play.

There will be a new series coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today by yours truly towards the end of this month where I talk about useful tips for newbie writers to know. There are wonderful guest contributions and it should make a good insight for someone at the start of their writing journey. More details to be put up nearer the time.

And the great thing with series like this is, given there is always something for writers to learn and apply to their own writing, there will be something in this for the more experienced writer too.

No one writer knows everything but the sharing of knowledge and advice is invaluable. I know I’ve been most appreciative of the knowledge and advice that has come my way.

I’ve had one of those lovely tasks to do – choose a book cover pic for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Job done. Really enjoyed doing that and can’t wait to share it with you in due course.

Meanwhile, with feet back firmly on the ground, I’ve plenty of editing and writing to be getting on with. Mind you, another task I’ve loved so far this week has been to put the finishing touches on my CFT post for Friday. I’ll be looking at certain favourites covering lots of different categories and there are a few reminiscent Youtube clips with this post too.

Looking forward to taking part in a Zoom workshop tomorrow afternoon. That should be good fun and keep me on my toes. (Just hope Lady keeps quiet while it is on! I guess she could run a Woof workshop if it came to it…!).

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction may be quicker to write due to the reduced word count but it takes as much craft as its longer cousins in getting the stories ready for submission.

You still need to edit and check that every word you leave in adds to the story and that the tale would lose something important if you take it out. (That “something important” can be anything from character development to the story not making grammatical sense without it).

I’ve mentioned before that I often read stories aloud to literally hear for myself how the tale sounds. What looks good on paper doesn’t always read well so out comes the editing pen.

The huge advantage of flash fiction here is that this reading out loud process is quicker to do – not so much to read out loud for a start! But I think because flash has to make a powerful impact due to its reduced word count, even more care has to be taken to ensure that every word you leave in punches its weight and contributes.

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Pleased to say I’ll have another flash fiction piece on Cafelit soon. Will say more later in the week and share the link in due course.

I do love writing and reading the very short form. I suppose what I like most is there isn’t long to wait until the pay-off! It also means even when pressed for time, I can make time for the two minutes read!

Do I prefer stories that deliver on the premise or the ones that wrongfoot me? I love both.

It can be fun to try and guess at the ending of a tale (though this is harder to do for a 100-worder. Why? Because the 100-word form is roughly a paragraph so it would be very easy to read the whole thing before remembering you were going to try and guess what the ending was!).

I’ve talked about titles before but some tips I’ve found particularly helpful include:-

1. Keep your title short. It makes it more memorable and saves on word count.

2. Impact of title is more important than word count (but that’s true for the story too!).

3. Does your title idea reflect the mood of the story or can it be open to interpretation? I am very fond of the latter as it gives so much flexibility but there are times I want to set the mood so I choose an appropriate title accordingly.

4. Alliteration Always An Idea but Don’t Overuse It!

5. Never be afraid to change a title if the one you first came up with really isn’t working for you. I find I need a title to work “to” when drafting but have changed it when a better idea comes up and it often does as you’re writing that first draft.

Put yourself in a potential reader’s shoes and ask yourself if your title “grabs” you the way it should do. This is again where time away from the story helps. I recommend at least a week away from it (and ideally a fortnight). Time away makes all the difference in terms of the fresh perspective you have on the story when you re-read it.

 

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Nice day today working with the book cover designer on Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Look forward to revealing more later.

This, of course, is the lovely side to writing where you can see your work almost ready to be out there in the big, bad world. What isn’t seen is the writing, rewriting, editing etc that goes on to get the stories into shape for a collection like this.

It is so true that overnight success usually takes years!

 

Goodreads Author Blog –

The Short Read or the Three Volume Epic?

Okay, so what would be your first choice? I must admit I’m torn as I love both.

A lot would depend on time available and I love reading, as well as writing, the short forms of fiction. I love the idea of crystallising a whole world in a few hundred words or so.

Short story and flash fiction collections have the huge advantage of giving you a chance to taste an author’s work and see if you like it before you read their longer works. From a writing viewpoint, it is lovely to be able to write and submit short stories and flash tales to different markets and competitions while working on longer term, bigger projects in the background.

But for the creation of a huge world it’s hard to beat the three volume epic and The Lord of the Rings is the definitive version of that for me. (Just don’t drop the book on your foot!).

It is a little ironic that, as a flash fiction writer, I veer between the quick read and the very long one! But then maybe that is why. There are times I need to read the exact opposite of what I do.

Hmm… I guess that means I ought to get around to War and Peace then!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storylines, Dialogue, and Publication News

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General – and Publication News:  Cafelit

Am pleased to share one of my humorous fairytales with bite, Rotten Day, which is now up on Cafelit.

See http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/…/07/rotten-day.html – hope you enjoy!

This kind of story is always great fun to write!

This story came about as a result of an idea suggested in the Prompts book by Gill James. I am slowly working my way through the ideas in here, some of which I contributed.

Is it odd I’m writing a story to my own initial prompt? A bit but still good fun. And I didn’t make my opening lines, my favourite form of prompt, too easy either! There’s no fun in that. You have to rise to the challenge of the prompt but that means it does have to be challenging!

Oh and before you ask I deliberately sent the prompts in without having written the stories for them first. I wanted to come to these prompts “fresh” and tackle them as if they had been written by someone else.

Now that’s not a bad idea for those odd times when you’ve got a few minutes. Jot down ideas. Put them away for a while. Come back to them later and then see what you can do with them. Above all, have fun!

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Hope you’ve had a good weekend. Blustery here, most unseasonable, but Lady’s had plenty of exercise and is now napping on the sofa. I know… ahhh….

I was watching one of my favourite films earlier – The Ladykillers with Alec Guinness and a very young Peter Sellers in it. (Possibly his first movie too as this came out in 1955). It is a masterclass in tight storywriting and seamless editing. The storyline is excellent and there is a lovely twist at the end. All of my favourite ingredients in a story basically.

Important point: not a word out of place. No scene felt unnecessary either. And that I can apply to whatever writing I do too.

So I’m not going to call it taking time out to watch a film. I’m going to call it visual research into storytelling techniques – and that IS my story and I’m sticking to it!😆😆

(I took the image of Lady, of course, the rest are from Pixabay).

 

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Lady played with her best pal, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, this morning so both of them got their Mondays off to a great start! Why is it when dogs play together they feel the absolute need to run into their owners when they’ve got all the space of the park around them? Answers on a postcard…

You do develop quick reflexes to dart out of the way though!

Writing wise, I’m working on material I will need for later on but can’t say any more than that at the moment.

I’m looking forward to sharing a new CFT series later in the month which will, I hope, prove particularly useful to writers, especially those starting out on their writing journey. More details later in the month though I will say a big thank you now to those authors who’ve already sent wonderful contributions for this. I’m looking forward to putting this together in due course.

I try to write a couple of series a year for CFT where I invite guest contributions, alongside author interviews etc. I find there is always something to learn from these.

One of the great aspects of writing that I love is, no matter where you are in your journey, that learning process is ongoing. You don’t want to stop developing as a writer. There is never a point where you can feel “well, that’s it now”. What you aim for is to be the best you can be in what you do and seek to refine and hone your skills in those areas.

What do you like about writing dialogue the most?

I love it when I’ve got two characters talking and it is apparent to me that, other than the odd he said/she said tag every now and then, it is clear who is speaking and what their attitude is!

To me this shows this is a “live” dialogue and, while it will need editing later (everything does!), it will have the benefit of not being clunky or awkward to read out loud.

When you know how your characters would speak, what kind of words they would use, which phrases they would never use and so on, that’s great. It means you know your characters well and I’ve found when I’ve outlined mine properly, when they are in “conversation”, it almost feels as if I’m taking dictation from them.

Moments like that are lovely because it nearly always means I can’t get the words down quickly enough and my characters and I are on a roll!

I occasionally give a character a pet phrase though I prefer to get them to use a particular word and repeat that every so often. It flags up to the reader when there are no tags this must be Character A speaking because they’ve used the word carbuncle again or what have you! Not that I’ve used carbuncle in a story yet…

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A new flash fiction story, Rotten Day, is now up on Cafelit. See http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/…/07/rotten-day.html – hope you pop over and enjoy the tale. Let’s just say I think many of us may identify with the way my lead character feels in the closing line! I know I’ve felt this way especially when particularly busy.

Now the problem with any kind of humorous writing is it has to be subjective. People’s sense of humour varies of course. So I am more than happy if a tale like Rotten Day makes one person laugh and another one smile broadly. Absolutely fine with me, that!

What I do when writing these is ensure that the humour arises naturally out of the situation I’ve dumped my character in. That is far more likely to make people smile. It also won’t come across as forced humour, which I loathe.

If someone tells me I have to laugh at this, well often I don’t. I decide what I find funny, thanks very much!

But a situation where I can see the predicament the character is in and empathise with them, then I am much more likely to cry, laugh, scream, or whatever the appropriate response to the story is and which the author intended to be the reaction.

Nothing forced about that at all and that is exactly how I like it in stories whether I read them or write them.

Stamping on an adverb until it is dead is not the problem it once was for me. Turning to flash fiction writing cured me of any addiction to these. If it can be cut out, I cut it. Just as well I didn’t go into medicine I think!😊

Wanting to achieve the maximum impact on a reader has also helped me with editing my own work. It IS a question of cutting to the chase here. Ironically I was going to put in the word “really” in that last sentence but cut it as it wasn’t going to add any extra to what I was trying to say.

And that’s the whole point. I’ve learned over time to not add words which don’t serve a purpose and/or to cut them when editing. Nobody writes the perfect first draft but adverbs are amongst the first things I look for when I’m brandishing my red pen.

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Some of the tips I’ve found most useful for writing flash fiction include:-

  1. Keep a dictionary and thesaurus handy. I use the Compact Oxford which covers both nicely. You will want alternative words and to check on meanings, especially if you’re writing humorous tales, which are often dependent on double meanings to work.
  2. Learn what words can be hyphenated. They count as one word for flash fiction! I’m sure you can make good use of that!
  3. Always think about impact on your reader. You want them to respond to your story, whether it is to make them laugh, cry, scream, or what have you. When you read your story through after a break away from it, ask yourself what impact the tale has on you? Is it what you intended?

I love flash fiction collections, not just because I write them (honest!), but I’ve always been a big fan of books where I can dip into stories as and when I want to. I can read those stories individually, as well as read the whole collection reasonably quickly. Just love having that flexibility.

I also like reading short forms in between reading novels. I like to think of this as the equivalent of having an appetiser before enjoying the main course! There is much to be said for appetisers like that. They can make a meal. Sometimes they can be the best bit of it!

So what do I want my flash fiction appetisers to do then?

I’d say whet a reader’s appetite so they look forward to the next collection but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?! But it is a good thing to aim for. Always leave your audience wanting more and then they’ll be pleased to see you again!

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reactions to Stories

How do you react to stories? I know, I know, what kind of question is that? So much depends on the story you’re reading, right?

Yes, fair comment and all that, but what I am getting at here is do you react to a story in the way the author intended?

Now I must admit if someone tells me “oh, Allison, you’ve got to laugh at this”, a lot of the time I won’t! I want to decide what I find funny, thanks!

But it is true that in whatever story I read, if the situation and the characters come across as natural to me, I am much more likely to react in the way the author wants.

Puppet on a string here? Perhaps. But I want the author to put in the work to set up a situation and character so I will want to react the appropriate way. I see that as part of the “deal”.

The author has set up a funny situation (though it often isn’t to the character, which makes a situation even more funny a lot of the time) and I will react to it. What I don’t want is something coming across as forced.

Even in the most fantastical worlds and situations, there has to be something that I as a reader can empathise with and react to – as the author would want, of course!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Word Games

Image Credit: As ever Pixabay/Pexels, unless I say otherwise.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I set some anagrams and other word puzzles in this week’s CFT post, Book Games.

I also share some memories of word games played on car journeys when I was a kid (and most of them you could still do now, once we’re out and about again).

I also look at why word games can be helpful to a writer. Having fun with the language is a good thing! And for flash fiction writers like myself where I often want more than one meaning to words for punchline endings and the like, playing with words and exploiting those meanings is vital.

I’ll be putting up the answers mid-next week. No prizes but kudos to anyone getting them all.

Hope you enjoy.

Feature Image - Book Games

It was great fun setting some word puzzles for this week’s CFT post. I used to invent word searches for the church magazine when I was in my teens. (The last T-Rex had just left the planet. You get the idea of how long ago it was!).

I love playing with words and will often unwind by playing these after a writing session. Of course with the likes of Scrabble, you can get a side benefit of improving your vocabulary as you look up what those strange two and three letter words that ARE valid actually mean!

Looking forward to sharing a new Cafelit story from me which is due on site tomorrow. Have just submitted a short story to a competition. Need to pick on another one to have a crack at. I like writing to themes set by others. It’s a good discipline and makes me up my game here, which is never a bad thing.

Am also looking ahead with prepping material I know I’m going to need later in the year so busy, busy.

Whatever you’re doing this weekend writing/reading/both wise, have fun! Writing is hard work but it should be fun, most of the time anyway.

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W = Wonderful characters created by you.
R = Realistic or fantastical worlds? It’s entirely up to you.
I = Imagination stretched – yours and your readers!
T = Tension increasing as all manner of obstacles get in your lead character’s way but it is fun to drop them right in it!
I = Inventiveness is a great trait in your lead character(s) as they overcome what you’ve thrown at them.
N = Nearing the end of the story, the tension should not let up. There must be a proper and satisfactory resolution. It doesn’t have to be a happy one necessarily!
G = Genre – there are so many of these to write in but what will you choose and why?

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I’m sharing some anagrams and book title puzzles in my CFT post this week. I’ll also be looking at word games in general, how they’ve long been a part of my life, and why I think they’re good for writers. Link up on Friday. (Will post the answers in the comments box on this post at about this time next week. No prizes but plenty of kudos if you get them all).

Lady had a lovely day playing with a border collie lad and then went on to have a “girlie” party in the park with her best buddie, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, and a golden retriever friend. Fab time had by all. It was great to watch them “at work”. None of them were sorry the temperature has dropped! Must admit though it felt more like autumn at times out there today.

Do you find it easier to write in the summer months or when the nights draw in? I try to be fairly consistent but it is easier to focus at your desk when there isn’t the temptation to stay outdoors so I guess that says something positive about autumnal like weather after all!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve been talking about word games this week in CFT. So how do they help me when I write flash fiction?

Firstly, for my punchline ending tales, I’m often reliant on a humorous one-liner and for those to work best, double meanins of words come into their own. So I have to know ALL of the meanings of the particular words to come up with something suitable for my character/story.

Secondly, I’ve found that playing around with words via crosswords, Scrabble etc., can trigger story ideas and I’m never sorry to have plenty of those to work with!

 

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A = Always think of flash as being focused on the most important character, the most important situation they have to face.
C = Characters make a story so what is special about yours?
R = Reactions to your flash tale – what are you seeking to achieve here? Think about impact on your readers. What would be appropriate for this character and this situation?
O = Originality – it is said there are seven basic plots but what you bring to the mix which is unique is your writing voice. The more you write, the sooner you will discover what that voice is and then you can use it to great effect.
S = Story, story, story. What will keep your readers with you to the end of your flash tales?
T = Tension is even more important in flash fiction. You have ground to cover in fewer words. How can you use these to maximum effect? The tension should not let up until the resolution.
I = Imagination. As flash needs to be character led, flesh out your characters a bit before you write their stories. Make sure you know what they’re capable of and then have fun putting them in situations they have to resolve. Do or die? Literally maybe but not always. There are other ways a character has to overcome something and it is still absolutely vital. What can you explore here?
C = Change. Stories are about the most significant point of change in your character’s life. That literally is their story. So what matters to your character? What has to change and why? Does your character react well to that?

Happy writing!

 

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I suppose the biggest thing getting in the way of writing for me is if I’m really tired. One thing I do when I’m “buzzing and raring to go” is draft blog posts and flash fiction pieces so I have something to post fairly quickly. It makes me feel better (which in itself can help lift some of the tiredness. Feeling down because you’re shattered – well, it doesn’t help).

On days when I’ve been particularly busy, it’s a case of being kind to myself and not expecting too much. This is where having material good to go helps. A bit of polishing finishes the material off nicely and I feel as if I have done something positive. And THAT is always a good thing.

 

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Fairytales With Bite – 

What Triggered Your Love of Fairytales?

I have the nagging feeling I really should have asked this question a long time ago!
For me, the trigger for my life-long love of fairytales comes from The Reader’s Digest Collection of Fairytales which came in two volumes. Both are hefty hardbacks and you wouldn’t want to drop them on your foot!

I loved the stories and beautiful illustrations. These books were given to me by my late parents. I still have the books. The spine on Volume 1 in particular has been bound up by tape! I’m probably going to leave the building long before these books do!

The stories are those collected by Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, as well as originals by Hans Christen Andersen etc. I remember the shock at discovering fairytales didn’t necessarily have to have happy endings when I first read The Little Mermaid.

My favourite overall fairytale is Cinderella. Mind, my first published story was A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology. I look at the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of the younger stepsister who is not best pleased with the fairy godmother turns up again. Great fun to write and, being my first published story, it will always have a special place in my heart. I still love writing fairytales from different viewpoints. It’s good fun!

Looking at why you love stories can help inspire you write your own (and do so better!).

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This World and Others – 

Putting a Fictional World Together

The basic building blocks for putting a fictional world together are, for me, as follows:-

Species – Who will live in this fictional world? One species, a couple, many? If more than one, how do they interact with each other and if they don’t interact at all, what is the reason for that? If you have only one species, how are they sub-divided? Do you have the majority of the species living in an area and a minority live elsewhere? What are the reasons behind this?

Government and Society – This ties in with 1. How are your species governed and by whom? Are they governed well or badly? Can governments be changed? How is society organised? What is expected of everyone and does that vary from species to species? If so, what are the differences and why do they exist? What happens to rebels? (You can pretty much guarantee there will be those who do not like the status quo and won’t accept it so what happens to those who do this?).

Survival – How do the species survive? What do they eat/drink? Is their world an agricultural one and what shape does this take? Do they farm crops as we would know them or farm something very different? Climate and weather and their impact can come into this category too. How much do your readers need to know?

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Genre Fiction

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay and Pexels unless otherwise stated.

REMINDER –

WATERLOO ART FESTIVAL – WRITING COMPETITION – LAUNCH OF TRANSFORMING COMMUNITIES EBOOK ON FRIDAY 12TH JUNE 2020 FROM 6.30 PM UK TIME.

Just a quick reminder that the writing side of the Waterloo Arts Festival is on this evening, 12th June, from 6.30 pm to about 8.00 pm.

The event has to be online this year but it is free. You do need a ticket for the event but the link is here.

The launch is for the ebook of Transforming Communities, the theme for this year’s WAF writing competition, and my story, Books and Barbarians, is part of that. I am delighted to be a winner here again and many congratulations to all of the other winners too.

There will be videos, extracts of stories, and you can get to meet, via Zoom, the writers and publishers.

Hope to see you!😊

Image from link above to the Festival.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is all about Genre Fiction.  I share what I love about it and why I loathe the snobbery that can exist around it. Genre fiction is the bread and butter for publishing houses and helps fund literary fiction.

That’s fine but I do wonder if some of the snobbery is a hangover from the old “penny dreadfuls”. Though I’d argue even those had their place. They got people reading! Anyway, check out the post and see what you think. Do share your favourite genre books too. It’s another way of building up a reading list!

I’m taking part in the online Waterloo Arts Festival – Writing Competition Ebook Launch later on this evening and hope to report back on that for my CFT post next week. I hope some of you can “pop along”.

Zoom has been a lifeline for many writing events and I hope the good from that continues once we are back to any kind of normality again. It will make events more accessible for more people I think and that’s a good thing always.

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Funny old day weather wise here. Sun, thunder, lightning, heavy rain, sun again. Still it IS only June…!

Stages of Storytelling for me:-

1. Get initial idea for a character and flesh that out.

2. Get initial idea for a situation to dump them in and flesh that out. Well, I’m not going to make their life easy for them. There’d be no story otherwise.

3. Write first draft and put aside.

4. Start thinking of other story ideas and making notes.

5. Back to story 1 after a suitable gap away from it and re-read it on paper. Immediately notice lots of ways to improve it and do so. Put aside again.

6. Start fleshing out story 2 following steps 1 and 2 above.

7. Re-read my story 1. Less to improve on this time but I can see the odd awkward phrase so reword that. I can see how a change of phrase will make the flow of the story more even so go with that. I finish correcting any typos and grammatical errors.

8. I write the first draft of story 2.

9. Final read through of story 1. I often read dialogue out loud to make sure a reader won’t stumble over it and make any final changes.

10. Knowing the story is as good as I can make it, I ensure I am following publisher/competition guidelines and submit the story, well ahead of the deadline.

And then back to story 2!

My CFT post this week is all about Genre Fiction and what I love about it. Great fun to write. Hope you’ll share some of your favourites in the comments box when the post goes live on Friday.

I’ll also be interviewing authors over the next few weeks and am on the receiving end of the questions for an interview I’ll be taking part in. So busy busy and that’s how I like it.

Looking forward to Waterloo Art Festival on Friday night. I will share the link again for where you can get a free ticket at some point during the day on Friday so do keep a look out for that.

I hope to report back via CFT on how everything went. The strange situation we’re all in pandemic wise has led to some creative thinking about how we do things and I hope the good from that continues long after the pandemic is over (or as over as it ever will be).

Facebook – General – and Book Cover Challenge

See previous post for Days 1 to 5!

Day 6

I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #FranHill who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse. Wonderfully funny.

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A wonderfully funny writer!

Day 7

I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #DawnKentishKnox who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett. I love the Discworld series and this has two of my favourite characters in it – Sam Vimes and Moist von Lipwig. It’s also about trains and I have a soft spot for them too! Great storyline.

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One of my favourite Discworld stories.

Facebook – From Light To Dark And Back Again

Where does the time go? I was looking through my Cafelit stories and came across my first 100-word tale on there. A Study In Magic appeared all the way back in 2013! This story made it into FLTDBA and I’m looking forward to sharing more details about Tripping the Flash Fantastic in due course.

I must admit I couldn’t imagine my writing life without flash fiction now.

Can I see how I could improve this first flash tale now?

Of course. I’m not saying how though! Why? Simply because you write to the best of your ability at the time you write. Hindsight is a rotten mistress!

What you do though is pick up on how you can improve things and apply that to the next story, the one after that and so on. The idea is to try to continually improve on what you do. Doing that stretches you and, for me, it makes writing more fun.

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Flash fiction has to be to the point but that’s a good thing regardless of word count. Any story needs to reveal what a reader needs to know to make sense of it but no more. Flash fiction forces you to cut the waffle and I know that has gone on to help me with my blogging, short story writing, etc.

I keep some questions in mind for when I’m editing a story and have found these useful. Hope you do too.

1. Does this contribute to the story in any way? (If no, cut immediately!).

2. If yes, how vital is it? Is it something a reader absolutely has to know? If yes, fine. It stays as it is.

3. If no but the information is important enough to add depth to the story, then note it. At the end of your first edit, prioritise what information the reader has to know. Is this particular piece STILL vital after all of that?

4. If yes, keep it in. If no, then look at whether you can get this information into the story another way so it IS vital. If that’s not possible, then the information almost certainly isn’t as crucial as you first thought!

5. Does everything in the story move it on to the conclusion? If there is anything in there that doesn’t move the story on, then I’d remove it.

Happy editing!

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Another advantage to flash fiction is when it comes to Open Prose Mic Nights, you know you’re not going to send your audience to sleep. You’re not on for long enough!😆😆😆

Joking aside, flash fiction does work really well for this. You haven’t long to keep the audience’s attention but you are only reading/performing a short piece so that helps.

And of course you can also make a story trailer/video for your website and use that as an advert for what you do, writing wise.

On my book trailers page on the website, there are videos for FLTDBA, Nativity, The Best of Cafelit 8, and I experimented with one of my stories, Job Satisfaction, from FLTDBA too and produced a trailer for that. I hope to do more of this. It’s good fun to do and helps add interest to your website.

 

Fairytales With Bite –

Top tips for the Aspiring Character

You are a character who wants to come to life on your creator’s page but they’re umming and ahhing about whether you are really the character they want to lead what they laughingly call their story. It is your story, naturally. They just haven’t realised it yet. So what can be done to make your writer give you your proper place in the tale? Top tips include:-

1. Ensure your personality is strong enough. Don’t be a doormat. Doormats not only get trodden on but, far worse, they’re forgotten. That must not happen to you.

2. You must have good turns of phrase so your conversation is unforgettable too. If you can be witty and come out with appropriate one-liners, so much the better. Readers remember those. Your writer should remember that.

3. Are you prepared for adventure? Are you happy for your writer to drop you right in it, several times if need be and usually from a great height? Yes? Good! They can do what they like with you then and they will like that.

Good luck! (And tell your writer to get a move on and get you in the story).

Let your writer charge up their batteries and give you the proper star billing in the story.