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.

 

This World and Others –

Do You Have Favourite Characters?

So do you have favourite characters of your own making and, if so, should you?

I must admit I can’t see how any writer can avoid having favourites amongst their characters. There are bound to be creations we prefer over others, simply for things such as we like Character A’s sense of irony, which Character B, noble as they are, simply doesn’t have. What DOES matter is that we are scrupulous about how we create our characters.

By this I mean when planning out characters, we should ensure each and every one of them has flaws and virtues. Each and every one of them must have good reasons for acting the way they are. Each and every one of them should feel real to a reader. No cardboard cut-outs here!

You, as the writer, have got to know what makes them all tick. You need to know what drives them, what would frustrate them, what would tempt them away from the path they’re supposed to be on, and how they handle weakness in themselves, yet alone in others.

A good sign of a “proper” favourite character is knowing you’ve created a character that for many reasons you dislike (e.g. you disagree with their attitudes) but have brought them to life in such a way your reader will be intrigued by them and there will be no sign of your antipathy towards them either. Good luck!

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Competitions, Reading, and Publication News

Image Credit:  As ever, unless otherwise stated, the images are from Pixabay or Pexels.

Facebook – General

Every so often, I go through my list of potential competitions and whittle them down. I inevitably don’t get to enter all of them (time!) but I like to have a shortlist of contenders to pick from and I always go for the themes that appeal to me most. I do go in for open theme competitions too but actually prefer the set themes. I like to have a framework to work towards.

I wish I could say tidying the paperwork up immediately triggered inspiration for the Best Writing Idea Ever but I think I’d need the Writing Fairy to make a special appearance for that one to happen! 😆😆 I’ll let you know if she ever shows up….

 

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Have been slowly getting back into reading again via the Kindle.

I talked about how I’ve not read that much since the lockdown began in my CFT post last week so I am pleased the drought is beginning to clear.

I have had patches of not reading much before, mainly at times of great upset/stress etc., but also know that those patches pass so it is a relief to be slowly coming out of this one. (The last time was around the time I lost my dad, just over three years ago and I didn’t start reading properly again until a week after the funeral).

And yes I’m reading humour. It is always what I turn to first to kickstart my reading “diet” again.

And if you find you’re not writing or reading so much (or both), go easy on yourself. See this as a temporary stage only. It is!

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Managed to do a fair bit of editing over the weekend so am pleased with that. My CFT post this week will be looking at books on the radio and will feature YA author, Richard Hardie, as well as yours truly. More on that later in the week.

I must admit one advantage of writing mainly in the evenings is not having the heat browbeat me down! (I never work that well in very hot weather. Mind you, does anyone apart from the ice cream sellers?!😆).

I’ve long found creative writing to be therapeutic. I suppose it is because finding a form of artistic expression that suits me is so relaxing. I see writing as my wind-down time. I like to feel at the end of a session I used the time productively even if I “only” produced two flash fiction stories, say. I want to feel happy with what I’ve written even at first draft stage (because I know the work will only get better after that).

For longer term projects, I want to feel as I’ve made progress and I can see where I’ve got to go next.

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Facebook – General – and Publication News

Bonus post tonight. My story Breaking Out is now on Cafelit. Hope you enjoy.

The opening line comes from a prompt I contributed to the Prompts book produced by Gill James (see picture below). Do check it out in the usual places. You won’t run out of writing prompts!

 

Prompts 2020 by [Gill James]

Facebook – General

As you know, when I’m planning out a character I focus on their major trait(s) and there usually is more than one. After all, someone isn’t just brave, say. They may well be honest, charitable, compassionate and so on as well. It is the combination of traits that sparks a character (and therefore the story).

A character who is generally honest but is forced to lie to protect people they love is going to be a character I want to read about. I will want to find out what happens as a result of that lie but also how the character deals with their internal conflict here. While they’ll be happy to protect loved ones, they won’t be happy to have had to lie so how do they handle that?

 

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Facebook –

From Light to Dark and Back Again – Story Time!

Story time again. Random question generator time again. Hope you enjoy.

The question was what are the two things you would do if you woke up to find you were invisible? My answers? Panic and wonder whether I’d ever “come back”! But I thought it would be fun to write a story on this.

IN TIME

I knew something was up the moment the alarm woke me. Oh it was set for the usual time – 5.40 am – but when I realised I couldn’t see my hand as I went to switch the wretched thing off, I began to panic. I thought at first I’d lost my sight but then realised I was looking at where my hand should be and I could see my wardrobe in one corner of my room. Opposite was my chair.

I got up and went towards the full length mirror which was something I’d inherited from my gran. There was nothing in the mirror. Now I know I’m not a vampire and you’ll just have to take my word for it on that. This is when my panic settings went from mild to through the roof and up into the stratosphere territory. Well, you just would panic, wouldn’t you?

And then I remembered. I was rushing home from work and bumped into a scatter brained old lady who stepped in front of me in such a way I had no time to stop. I shouted at her to look where she was going, was she blind or something, and yes I know I was bloody rude and I am sorry about that. I’d had a horrendous day at work and I just wanted to get home. I know – no excuses but I want you to know I’m not normally rude.

Anyway she called out that she would teach me to look and I just laughed at that and thought nothing of it. I laughed even more when she got a big stick from her handbag and waved it in my direction. Who did she think she was – a fairy godmother or something?

I don’t know what to do. Will this wear off? She did call out I’d have to come and grovel to her soon. I laughed at that too.
Trouble is, it doesn’t seem so damned funny now.

I’ll be off. I’ll get my coat. If I’ve got to grovel, I’d rather get it over and done with.

Ends

Allison Symes – 23rd May 2020

 

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Hope you enjoyed my story, In Time, yesterday. This is the first time I’ve used the random question generator as the theme of the story, rather than as the title, opening or closing line. So yet another use for the generators then!

I’ve sometimes come across writing prompts that I would like to have a go at but I’m not happy with the ideas I come up with so I will bear using the prompt as a theme instead. I think that will give more flexibility.

What I would be inclined to do here is save such stories generated this way for open competitions where you set the theme anyway.

It means an idea could well produce something for you that you might otherwise have written off if you weren’t happy with something you’ve prepared with a specific theme-set competition in mind.

I’ve always found it best to submit the very best stories I can produce. Anything I’m not happy with for any reason doesn’t get binned. Neither does it get submitted. I save it and see if I can salvage something from it later and usually I can. Okay it can’t go in for that competition but that’s fine. If the author’s not happy with the story, the competition judge won’t be either!

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What would you say are your favourite kinds of stories and why?

I love:-

Humorous prose, especially fantasy, as I enjoy a good laugh.

Crime(though not the very violent type) as I enjoy the puzzle and seeing justice being done.

History – fiction and non-fiction. I learn from both. A well told historical fiction story does seem to transport me back to the era it is set in. (Music can do this too. I love Ralph Vaughan-Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis for that reason). A good non-fiction book will show me aspects of a historical character I’d not considered before.

Fairytales –first love, storywise. Always enjoy seeing the deserving get what they deserve (and this is even more true for the villains!).

And what I love most about flash fiction is the form is open enough for you to write in those genres and many more. All you need worry about is the word count and even there you have flexibility from the very short to the right on the 1,000 words limit. There are competitions and markets to suit the entire range too.

 

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I mix up how I approach writing flash fiction in terms of word count. There are times I know I want to write to a specific count (usually 75 or 100 words) for a chosen market and/or competition.

At other times, having outlined my story and character(s), I write it and then work out what word count it works best at. I then keep that story one side until a suitable market/competitiion comes up.

If a story works best at 250 words, I keep it there and won’t try and edit it down to get to a sub-200 word competition.

And how do I judge where a story works best?

It’s always about the impact of the character for me. The next thing I ask myself is whether there is anything I could add to or take out of the story which would improve the tale and its impact. When the answer is no, I’m there!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Events

One of the things I miss most as a writer at the moment is the ability to go to book events.

Much as I do deeply appreciate what is available online, and it is a lifeline, I miss going into libraries and bookshops.

I also miss going to author events and I look forward to being able to do all of these things again in due course.

The Waterloo Arts Festival is going to be online this year. I’ll be taking part in that as one of the winners of their writing competition and I made a video for this.

It was good fun to do but oh I shall miss meeting up in person with my fellow writers. (We will all miss the pub lunch beforehand too!).

But the good news is books can still be celebrated and they should be. Of all the times to need books for escapism, it is now, isn’t it?

Whatever you’re reading, I hope you have a wonderful time “between the covers” and, whoever it is you’re reading, do consider leaving a review in the usual places including here. It really does help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P’s and Q’s = Publication News and Questions

Image Credit:  As ever, all images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General

What have I learned from books I couldn’t finish?

Thankfully these are few but even these can help a writer. How? What I’ve learned from these includes:-

1. What doesn’t appeal in a character (to me at least). From that I can work out how to avoid this in the characters I create.

2. What kind of dialogue switches me off. This is almost always dialogue that goes on for too long and/or doesn’t tell me or show me anything useful.

3. What kind of description switches me off. Again, it is almost always description that goes on for too long. I want to get to the core of what is happening and long descriptive passages slow the pace down. Not only that, if they go for too long, they irritate! What I am after is the telling detail I really do need to know.

On a more positive note:-

What have I learned from books I’ve loved?

1. What DOES appeal in a character.

2. What kind of dialogue makes me glad to be “eavesdropping” on the conversation between characters.

3. What kind of description helps me to visualise something beautifully and the turn of phrase that takes my breath away in a good way.

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Publication News

A big thanks to fellow Swanwicker #PatriciaMOsborne for hosting me on her blog again today. I have been on before with her sub-100 words story challenge and am on there again today with my tale, Danger of Not Listening. I suspect this may resonate with many of you!

Please see link below.

The story was great fun to write and I hope you enjoy reading it. A big thanks to Patricia for having the flash fiction challenge. It’s good fun to take part in and to read the stories coming in!

 

classic close up draw expensive

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Facebook – General

Have picked another competition to have a go at for a short story. Also drafted more flash fiction over the weekend. Homes to be found in due course!

Favourite part of writing though remains that moment when I’ve got that first draft down and have something to work with. Even after all these years of writing, I still feel a sense of relief to have got to that point!

I like editing. I see it as giving my story or blog posts that “oomph” factor as well as taking out errors, repetitions etc.

When I started out writing, my goal was to prove to myself I could write stories. After that I aimed to be published. Then I aimed to keep on being published. Now my goal is to keep that going but to stretch myself with my writing (especially on the flash fiction), try competitions new to me, and explore my non-fiction side more.

The writing journey should be a fun one after all! It has its frustrations of course but generally you should be enjoying what you write. That enjoyment can make all the difference as to whether you keep going or not.

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I’ll have another story up on Cafelit next week and look forward to sharing the link. It’s definitely what I call fairytale with bite!

My CFT post this week will be Part 3 in the mini-series where our local amateur theatre company, The Chameleon Theatre Group, share insights into life behind the stage. This week they’ll be looking at some of their favourite performances and sharing the reasons why they’ve picked these. Link up on Friday.

Have started fleshing out ideas for another competition. I like this stage of working out possibilities. The nice thing with this is the ones I discard I may return to at a later date. It is a case of the best fit for the competition. The other ideas may well prove to be useful for other markets/competitions later on.

I find the Scrivener templates very useful for outlining. I start with my lead character and as their major traits and what they want come to me, so often so does the story. Or at least an idea of what the story is likely to be.

But you can set up your own template. My top tip always would be to focus on getting the character(s) right. Work out what it is about them that intrigues you (as it will intrigue a reader too).

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Finally got my story submitted today. Found one tiny error on my final read through, sorted it, checked it again, all okay, and send! I always do edit my stories on paper.

When editing on screen I think your brain fills in the gaps. It doesn’t seem to do it on paper. I’m sure there is some clever reason why that happens. All I know is it does and I’d never be without a paper edit and the old red pen!

Now to find another competition to have a go at …. and have got one! Not flash this time, a standard length short story, but I do like to keep my hand in there too!

Am continuing to draft flash from the Prompts book and hope to get those out to different places throughout the year.

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It was great fun to be part of #PatriciaMOsborne‘s sub-100 words challenge again today. Link below.

I do have a very soft spot indeed for the drabble (100-words story). It forces you to focus on what matters in your tale but there is room for that lovely telling detail on which many a wonderful twist depends.

I would also recommend having a go at writing 100-words tales as a form of writing exercise. It is a good way to warm up your “writing muscles” and the great thing is there is now a big market for flash fiction, both in publications and competitions. So those writing exercises, once honed and polished, can find a home somewhere and add to your writing CV if they get published.

What’s NOT to like about that?

 

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I’ve been known to interview my characters from time to time. For flash fiction, where I generally only have one to two characters, this can still be done but I do this in abbreviated form (appropriately enough).

Whatever I write fiction wise, I need to know the character’s major trait and what it is they want. Answering those two things alone will give you a lot of the drive for you to write your story.

If you know your character’s major trait is a desire for peace and quiet and they want to get rid of their very noisy neighbour… well all sorts of things can come from that.

I would see those two questions as the foundations of a character outline. Then think of what else YOU need to know about your character so you can visualise them, hear them, know how they would act and react. Yes, they can surprise you but the surprise should arise naturally out of your outline.

In the example above, the character would do all the legal things to try to get the noisy neighbour to stop being so loud but what if that all failed? Could the character become angry enough to commit murder?

Or do they believe revenge is a dish best served cold and find another way to get their own back on the neighbour? I would then need to know why that character longs for peace and quiet so much. (Noisy childhood? Prone to migraines? Desperate to have their own little haven? Having worked so hard for it, they’re not going to see this snatched away from them etc). But once I knew what was behind their major trait, I could then work out what they were capable of. There is always a reason! And the storyline comes together nicely having thought this all through.

 

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As well as interviewing your characters prior to writing their story, a writer can always ask questions of their “stars” as they get the first draft down. It’s useful to check every so often that your characters are “up to the job” of being in your story.

Putting your characters through the emotional wringer is a lot of fun (for the writer naturally) but it is a good way of finding out what it is your people are capable of and whether they can surprise you.

If you envisaged Character A as being timid, quiet, unassuming etc., what would a dramatic event do to them? Would it change their personality for good and if so, how? Would having to say, come to the rescue of someone else, bring them out of their shell?

All worth thinking about. The point of change is not just about the dramatic events in the story. It is about the point of change in the characters too.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books for Difficult Times

Have your reading choices changed during this difficult period?

I must admit I’m not really in the mood for any kind of dystopian story when we seem to be living right in one!

For me, I’m reading short story collections, non-fiction on writing, and lighter works. I don’t need the “heavy” books in terms of mood right now.

One of the roles of a book, for me, is to provide entertainment, escapism, and uplift. So especially in difficult times, I don’t want difficult books to stretch me. I need to be in the right frame of mind for that.

I have found I’ve not had any problems writing stories during the lockdown. I have struggled to read. I can only assume my subconscious is fine with one creative activity but not more than that!

This is a pain but I know it will pass. If I become particularly tired, I find the same happens. When I am more rested, I’m away with reading again.

Have you found the desire to read increases or decreases with your mood? What do you do to overcome that?

For comfort reading, and there is a good role for that at the moment, I have to turn to cosy crime, short stories by Wodehouse, and usually favourite books I’ve read many times. I want the comfort of familiar material. Once I’m feeling better, then that is the time to try something new.

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Brainstorming and Rainbows

Image Credit:  All images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless stated.

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I’ve mentioned before that every so often I brainstorm ideas but I do this for non-fiction, as well as for flash fiction and short stories. I jot down thoughts for future Chandler’s Ford Today articles, note ideas for future blog posts for different places including for the Association of Christian Writers, and material for use on my website.

This is a great use of odd five minutes of time which build up every now and then and means I’ve always got ideas to work on. It is usually these ideas I work on further when I’m travelling by train anywhere, though that’s not going to be happening for a while!

The point though is if you’re not sure what to work on, jot down possible ideas. Even if you don’t work on them immediately, it means you’ve got a store of ideas to turn to later on and that is a good thing.

 

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Thought the Queen’s speech tonight was spot on (Sunday, 5th April 2020). Hope it encourages people. I know it did me. Encouragement is needed (and too often undervalued).

Now on to writing matters. Encouragement can come into our stories too. I think the best example is Sam Gamgee’s role in The Lord of the Rings. He literally carries Frodo at times. So how can we show encouragement in our stories? Well, pretty much the same way we show encouragement to each other.

I know a kindly and timely word does me the world of good especially in stressful times. Getting a character to do the same for your “lead” should have an inspirational effect. I also think it important to show our leads under stress, needing help from others, as that adds realism to our characterisation too.

Realistic characters have the ring of truth to them and that makes the world of difference to readers sympathising with your “people” and “buying into” your story.

 

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I am sorry to hear Boris Johnson is so ill and hope and pray he recovers soon. Regardless of political or any other kind of belief, I wouldn’t wish coronavirus on anyone. (Nor should anyone else).

On a more positive note, and the reason I’m late on here tonight, was I was discovering the joys of video calling with friends from the Association of Christian Writers. I’ve “gone” to the odd webinar, had video calls one-to-one on things like What’s App with my sister etc., and am now “doing” Slimming World online via Zoom, but tonight was one of the single biggest online chats I’ve taken part in.

It was good fun and lovely to see everyone, albeit at a distance. We did look like we were contestants on the old quiz show, Celebrity Squares though. For anyone not growing up in the 1970s, it was a quiz show based on the old game of noughts and crosses and celebrities were in boxes of 3 x 3, which is why tonight’s video call reminded me of that.

On Sunday, we’ll be having a virtual Easter Day service with communion (we’ll be bringing our own bread and wine!).

So all very different but the need to stay in touch with our friends and family does not change. Nor should it.

And what can writers contribute?

Stories and articles to entertain – don’t underestimate the importance of entertainment. It can be a coping mechanism.

Stories and articles to cheer – and I think we could all do with that.

Stories and articles to inform.

Stories and articles to encourage other writers in their craft and readers. We don’t know what difficult journeys they might have but if a story or work of ours lifts spirits for a while, that’s good.

And other than walking the dog, I shall be only too glad to be at home tomorrow.

Take care everyone.❤️❤️❤️❤️

black and white laptop

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Pexels.com

 

I’ve had to change how I exercise Lady at the moment (though overall she is doing pretty well). It has been lovely spotting the rainbow pictures, whether they’re chalked on the ground, or on paper in people’s windows. Thanks all. They are cheery.

Question for you: What do you get if you have an upside down rainbow?

Answer: A multi-coloured smile! See below.

So whichever way up the rainbow is, it is always a good thing!

Whatever you are reading or writing, whatever creative work is your “thing”, I hope it makes you, and others smile. We could all do with that.

Facebook – General – and Publication News

Bonus post from me tonight.

Delighted to say I have a new story on Cafelit – Getting the Job Done.

Hope you enjoy.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

So what should a flash fiction piece aim to do? It should illuminate something of a character. It should produce a good response in a reader (whether to make them laugh or cry etc).

There should be a sense of there being nothing else to say and that the story works perfectly as it is – a mini form of fiction. It should never feel as if it has been artificially cropped to fit a word count requirement!

If a short story is a moment in time, then a flash piece could be described as a half moment, a blink if you like, but you can still take quite a bit in during that blink!

 

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How can flash fiction reflect deeper emotions and attitudes such as encouragement? You need another character to do that for the lead, surely, and that increases the word count?

Yes, of course, but this is where the beauty of flash comes in. It has a range of word counts up to the maximum of 1000 to play with. So if your story needs to be 750 words, with your lead person needing support and encouragement along the way, then so be it. Don’t lose vital characterisation for the sake of the word count.

Ask yourself always what is is the reader needs to know.

Ask yourself always what the character has to do and how they can achieve it.

Ask yourself always when the character needs help, how does that happen? Who assists them?

It is generally true in flash fiction you can’t have too many characters. But you can certainly have a couple of them. I also get some of my characters to refer to others who are “off stage” as this shows my character has a life outside of the world of the story I’ve put them in.

Also a character can recall words of encouragement so there are ways to get this kind of deeper characterisation into flash fiction and not exceed the maximum word count.

In darker times, do you prefer to read longer works or shorter ones?

I know regardless of what I read, I want the tone to be uplifting in some way. And flash fiction has a role to play here. Given its brevity, it is a perfect vehicle for the short funny story to cheer people up. I often finish a story with a punchline. Flash lends itself well to that.

For longer works, for me it is always Wodehouse or Pratchett that I tend to turn to first.

But take pleasure in your reading and writing. That’s always a good thing to do anyway but particularly now I think.

For a story to work properly as a story, there has to be a pivotal moment of change. In flash fiction, there isn’t much time to set that up of course. This is why I generally start with that moment and the story then shows the consequences.

(And even when I don’t, my opening is written in such a way as to signal to the reader the moment of change is coming soon and you have got to find out what is going to happen, haven’t you? You make the premise so promising, “no” is ruled out as an answer to that immediately!).

For short fiction, the pivotal moment has to be as close to the start as possible (otherwise why would a reader be interested?), so this, for me, is another side benefit to flash fiction. It means I know I have to hit the ground running! That’s no bad thing.

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Goodreads Author Blog –

Titles – What Is It About Them That You Like The Most?

What is it about a book title that encourages you to look inside the book itself?

I like titles (of stories, books or what have you) to give me some idea of the mood of the story and, where possible, its genre too.

My next flash fiction book will be called Tripping the Flash Fantastic which I think manages to do both. From Light to Dark and Back Again, my first flash collection, was specifically chosen to reflect the mood of the stories and the range of moods for the collection as a whole.

I like titles that sum up the book’s contents well. You can’t misunderstand The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection can you?! (Fabulous book too. Conan Doyle was a genius and I’m sure we owe the concept of the flawed detective to him. Certainly he can take the credit for popularising it at least. Holmes’ drug addiction would still be controversial now. As an aside, I wonder if that is why Conan Doyle chose that, believing drug use would never be uncontroversial. Just a thought).

For my flash fiction stories, especially for those competitions and markets where the title is included in the word count, I like to keep titles short. I’m also fond of alliteration every now and again. Well, let’s face it Pride and Prejudice is a much more memorable title than Jane Austen’s first idea, First Impressions. (To be fair that would’ve worked. It’s not a bad title. It is a question, I think, of working out what is better for your work and she certainly did that).

Some of my favourite book titles include:-

The Lord of The Rings. Doesn’t that make you want to find out who the Lord is and why the Rings matter?

Interesting Times (Pratchett). Again, doesn’t that make you want to discover what the interesting times are and who they are happening to?

Murder on the Orient Express. My favourite Christie novel for many reasons but the title is an instant attention grabber.

It is the book title that makes me want to read the book’s blurb and, from there, the opening paragraph or two.

Yes, a good cover will catch my eye and it is important but if the title intrigues me, then even if the cover isn’t as good as it could be, I’ll try the book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Landmarks, Flash Fiction, and Why Fairytales With Bite

Image Credit:  

As ever, unless otherwise stated, the images are from Pixabay.

 

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My CFT post this week is Landmarks With Meaning. I share some of those that have the most meaning for me but I admit some are a lot more scenic than others. I’ve found the landmarks which mean the most almost always tie in with special memories/family connections and that is how it should be I think.

I don’t just stay with my local area either and found an excellent example of photo editing involving an elephant and Big Ben but you’ll just have to look at the post (or the slideshow below!) to see that one for yourself! I share a few thoughts on cathedrals I’m particularly fond of too and one of them has close links to one of my favourite authors, Jane Austen.

Hope you enjoy the post and do share in the CFT comments box what your favourite landmarks are and why.

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What have I learned from the various stories I’ve read over the years (and there’s far too many of them to give you a number!)?

Firstly, you do take in how a story is laid out and that covers everything from punctuation usage to indenting (or not where appropriate). You get a feel for a publisher’s house style even if you’re not aware of it at the time. This is why it is important to read contemporary fiction as well as classic by the way. Styles change.

Secondly, over time, you work out what your tastes in fiction are and discover what you don’t like too. Funnily enough, the latter is useful. It tells you what you don’t want to happen with your own creative output. Work out what it was you didn’t like and why. Did the dialogue not ring true? Was it over complicated? Then work out what you would do about the piece if you had been writing it. What you pick up answering those questions will help you a lot when it comes to editing your own output.

Thirdly, you do discover what it is you like about the characters. I’ve always loved heroines who know their own mind (which covers a lot of ground, fortunately. I’m a big fan of Elizabeth Bennett, Jo March, George from the Famous Five, to name but a few). Work out what it is you like about your favourite people. What character traits would you want your people to have and why? When creating villains, give them good reasons to be the way they are.

There is always a back story. It may not make it into your main tale but you need to know why your characters are the way they are. You can also ask yourself questions about characters from your favourite authors. What made the writer develop them this way?
And you get a darned good read out of it all too!

 

I’m looking at landmarks with meaning for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. I share a few of my favourites and why they mean so much. Link up on Friday.

In other CFT news, I will be sharing a mini series over the next couple of months or so, spaced out at roughly three to four week intervals.

Our excellent amateur theatre company, The Chameleon Theatre Group, have been sharing a number of mini interviews which make for fascinating reading at life on the stage and behind it. First post up for that will be on Friday, 13th March. Looking forward to sharing that with you.

Am off to the Association of Christian Writers’ event in Birmingham on Saturday. The topic is Effective Public Speaking. Should be interesting and useful.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It was lovely having another flash story on Cafelit earlier this week (Taking Time Out From the Day Job). I am very fond of humorous stories.

The main point I have in mind when I’m writing these is that the humour must arise naturally out of the situation I’ve put my character in. That is the only way funny stories work for me whether I write them or read them. You can’t force humour on to a character or the story. It never works.

But I always love those moments when a good line emerges naturally from what my characters are saying or doing. I love those characters who I know can drop themselves right in it (so often a great cue for humour) because I’ve outlined them well enough to know what they are capable of doing/saying so they would drop themselves right in it. It all has to seem seamless to the reader.

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When I don’t have a lot of time to write, I will often jot down what I think will make promising opening or closing lines to flash fiction stories and then write them up at a later date.

Where possible I will also add in a quick note or two as to how I think the story will go. For example, a line like “The thief realised they would not get out alive” seems to be a dead end line (in every sense!). I could make a note here to say this will be a closing line, mood of story = sombre or poetic justice. I could then add in a note to ask what the thief was trying to steal – fire from the gods.

Hmm… that was never going to work out well, was it? It does mean though, when I’m next at my desk with more time to write, I’ve got the outlines of a story already there, just begging to be written up and away I go.

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How do I judge if my own flash fiction stories are ready for submission?

Obviously I check for typos, grammatical errors, and my hated wasted words. (I do feel a certain sense of satisfaction in erasing THOSE!). But I ask myself some questions:-

1. Does the story make the impact on me I thought it would? Usually the answer is yes and I’m happy but sometimes I have to go on and ask myself something else.

2. If the answer is no, is the impact I have created BETTER than my initial thoughts? Sometimes it can be. I’ve sometimes written a piece where I wanted the impact to be that I had made people sympathise with my character. All very nice and all that but if I can make myself feel like crying in sympathy with that character, this is even better. It means the impact is deeper than I originally planned. There is literally more feeling, I see that as a bonus, always. People remember stories for how they feel about them (which is why childhood stories are so often favourites for people throughout life).

3. Last but not least, I put the piece away for a while, re-read it at least one more time (and often twice) and again ask the impact questions. I also ask if I could improve the piece any further and if so, how? When I get to the point where I can’t think of anything here, I send the story off.

Of course meantime, I’m also drafting other stories so I always have something to work on. I love drafting stories while I’m “resting” others. It helps with work flow rates no end!

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Fairytales With Bite – Why The Bite?

I came up with the title Fairytales With Bite as a way of showing that yes, I write fairytales but they are not twee. The original fairytales are anything but twee of course, indeed many of them act as warnings (beware the Big Bad Wolf being just one of them!), but a good fairytale should have bite to it.

I’ve always loved the fact most fairytales ensure evil does not triumph. Even as a kid, I was deeply aware the world is so often unfair. Fairytales were and remain a great way to escape that for a bit but they can still get a powerful message across, while being an entertaining story.

The Little Match Girl from Hans Christen Andersen is a stinging indictment on poverty and homelessness, which hit me hard when I first read it (and it it still does). But it is a phenomenally good tale. A good story, whatever its genre, should have the power to move readers, whether it is to make them laugh, cry, or scream, or what have you.

That’s where the bite comes in – and the good thing is you don’t have to include vampires in your story to get that bite in!

 

 

This World and Others – Stories In Other Worlds

What do I love most about reading stories set in other worlds? Well, they can reflect on aspects of our life here (which can be illuminating at times!). The way an alien society is run can reflect well or badly on how we do things here on Earth.

What should come through in such stories, and the ones we write, is being able to understand the characters in those stories and worlds, their actions and motivations and so on. Those basic elements don’t change much. Every species needs food, shelter, to be able to reproduce itself etc. We can understand what characters are capable of doing to ensure they have those things.

Societies need to be governed in some way so how would yours differ from what we know here? Why have you chosen those differences? Would you want to visit if you could?

Now I’m sure there could be some interesting answers to that last poser! If the answer is no by the way, do look at why. You may well be right to not want to visit the world you’ve created. What is the “message” behind that? If your created world is a heavily polluted one, say, you wouldn’t want to visit but look at why it is worse than what we know? How did it get to that state? Is anyone trying to do something about it? What obstacles are in their way?

There should be some cracking story ideas there. Happy writing!

 

 

 

 

Writing Prompts and Publication News

Image Credit

As ever, images are from the fantastic Pixabay, unless otherwise stated.

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Association of Christian Writers  – More Than Writers

My turn on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog spot, More Than Writers.

I’m on the 29th so that means I get every three Februaries off! 😆😆

Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful. Mixing up how you write stories is fun and keeps you on your toes too!

I talked about writing prompts in my monthly slot for the Association of Christian Writers today. As well as sharing some tips, I share a story I produced using one of the tips. Annoyed librarians may well like it… hmm… go on have a look then!😊

What I’ll add here is that I’ve found it useful to mix up how I approach writing a story. It keeps things interesting for me. It keeps me on my literary toes too.

By mixing up the methods, I avoid the dangers of becoming formulaic too. I don’t want any of my stories to sound the same to a reader after all. What I do want is someone to read my stories and spot my voice through them all, but to also enjoy each tale for its uniqueness. My characters are very different people after all. The way I tell their stories should reflect those differences too.

 

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Loved the finale to Doctor Who but that’s all I’m saying about that. It is nigh on impossible to say anything else without unwittingly revealing a spoiler so best not, I think. Give it a week and then I should be all right on that!

Well portrayed characters, for good or evil, will keep you glued, whether they’re on the page or on the screen. The challenge as a writer is to ensure the characters you create have that quality to keep a reader hooked. How do you make the readers care about what happens to your people?

Firstly, YOU’VE got to care what happens! Thankfully this happens rarely but I have come across instances where I’m bored with a character portrayal and I suspect the author became bored too.

Secondly, your character has got to have a problem that must be resolved somehow. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a life or death problem, though that is obviously a great one for winding up the tension in a tale, but the issue your character HAS to resolve must be something they can’t run away from. Their situation won’t improve until they DO do something etc.

Thirdly, your character mustn’t give up easily. When their initial attempt(s) to get out of their situation fail, how do they react? Do they learn from their failures? What gives them the break through to success?

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Facebook – General and From Light to Dark and Back Again and Publication News

Story time again. Hope you enjoy. A little humour at the end of a busy Monday is never a bad thing!

Taking Time Out From the Day Job is my latest tale on Cafelit. (I’ve written flash fiction tales with fewer words than the title for this one in my time but there you go!). I have every sympathy for my lead in this one.

It’s lovely having one of my humorous fairytales with bite up on Cafelit.

Taking Time Out From the Day Job shows what happens when a fairy decides to do just that.

Hope you enjoy reading it. I loved writing it but then I do adore characters like this one.

It is a real contrast in mood from my recent linked stories on Cafelit but now you know why my collection is called From Light to Dark and Back Again. It sums up what I write!

Just to say that #ParagraphPlanet archive stories at the end of each month and the February 2020 “lot” are now available. See the link.My Time Is Everything is amongst the collection here. #flashfiction #amwriting #75wordstories

Is it easier to write to a specific word count or write the story first and then work out what the word count would suit it best?

Hmm… I’ve done both. The discipline of working to a specified word count is a great one and keeps you on your toes. It really does force you to check that each and every word has to be included in your tale. If there’s anything that doesn’t carry its weight, out it goes.

When I am working to a theme or title (often generated by random word generators), I write the story first. I see what I have, edit it, and then decide on whether it would work better at 100 words or 200, for example.

However you write, have fun!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Conflict in stories can take many forms of course but some of my favourite tales are the ones where a character is in conflict with themselves.

This is why I find Gollum from The Lord of the Rings an interesting character. You know you can’t trust him but I found on reading the tale for the first time, I desperately wanted him to somehow come good at the end. (And I’d say it’s open to interpretation whether he did or not. I am with Gandalf on this one when he says Gollum had his part to play in the history of the Ring and left it there).

In my story, Rewards, which is one of my longer flash tales, I use thoughts to show my lead character’s conflict. The reason this tale needed to be towards the upper end of the flash limit was because I needed some space to show those thoughts and then how my character acted on them.

But then that’s the joy of flash. You can go from the tiny tales in terms of word count to the longer ones but still have a limit you need to stick to. (I do find that a really good writing discipline. It’s why when I prepare my Chandler’s Ford Today posts I set my own word count and stick to it. I have to have parameters!).

The conflict a flash fiction writer has is deciding what word count will work best for their story. Sometimes you do have to go to the upper limit. Sometimes you can say all you need to in 100 words or less. Always think of the impact of the story on a reader. Don’t water it down by padding it out. If the conflict in the story is played out in 250 words, leave it there! But if you need 999, that’s fine too.

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Symbols have a great deal of meaning of course. Can they be used in flash fiction?

Yes, as long as readers are likely to know the meaning of the symbol or can get to the meaning from context. As with any writing, clarity is the important thing here.

Could you come up with your own symbols for your characters?

Yes but it would be useful to base them on what we already know.

For example, red roses are associated with love but what could black roses be associated with?

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Reviews are so important for any writer for a variety of reasons but the good news is they don’t have to be lengthy. One or two lines would be absolutely fine. A big thank you, while on topic, to all those who have been kind enough to review From Light to Dark and Back Again.

So if you’re looking for a way to support author friends, do review their books. The one caveat is reviews have to be honest for them to have any meaning. Honest reviews also aren’t usually at risk of being taken down!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/…/B07T…/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Story Openings

What is it about a story opening that makes you want to read on?

For me, either the character has to be “hitting the ground running” in such a way, I’ve got to find out what happens to them, or the set up is intriguing enough to make me want to read on.

Mind you, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the classic fairytale opening of “once upon a time”.

There is the wonderful association with happy childhood reading of those great stories. That opening just, for me, sets the tone for what is to follow.

I know to expect fairy godmothers turning up at surprisingly convenient moments. (I’ve always wondered why Cinderella didn’t berate hers for not coming to her aid a lot sooner but that’s another story).

I know to expect talking animals (and I should imagine the Three Bears had quite a bit to say about Goldilocks that was best kept off the page. I know how I’d feel if someone destroyed my chair and bed – though they’d be welcome to the porridge. I’ve never liked the stuff!).

I know to expect the villains to get their comeuppance. It’s just a question of finding out how and when.

And there is something wonderfully poetical about Charles Dickens’s opening to A Tale of Two Cities (which I confess I’ve not read but is on my To Be Read list), but even I love the sound of “It was the best of time, it was the worst of times” and the rest that follows. The rhythm of that opening paragraph is amazing.

So what I’m saying here is I want a story opening to take my breath away so I have to read on. Now there’s a challenge for any writer (including me!).

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The Long and The Short of It

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, all images are from Pixabay.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is The Long and the Short of It – Reading and is a celebration of literacy, in particular the joy of stories and books across genres and formats.

There really is a genre and format of story and book to suit everyone. I think this is something that is too easy to take for granted.

I look at the advantages and disadvantages of short and long fiction from both the reader’s and writer’s viewpoint. Hope you enjoy.

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Facebook – General – and Publication News

It has been a good week on the story front. Three linked stories of mine were up on Cafelit earlier this week and today I had a 75-word piece, Time Is Everything, on #ParagraphPlanet. I could do with more really productive weeks like this!

Time Is Everything was one of those stories when I did actually start with the opening line! I know, duh, every story starts with an opening line. True but sometimes I come up with a line which I know will make a cracking ending to a tale and I then work backwards to get to the beginning. This one I went from A to B rather than from B to A!

The Cafelit stories are three linked ones and are based on an idea from #DawnKentishKnox in the Prompts Book by Gill James. I picked some numbers and wrote stories to those numbers. I also used the numbers as a theme – in this case Time. Seven is for seven days in the week, Twenty Four is for the hours in a day and so on. The whole “package” is called Story by Number and I must thank #GillJames for picking such an appropriate drink to go with these tales. See the link for more! I usually select a drink to go with my Cafelit stories but, confession time, forgot this time.

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Hope to have more publication news to share tomorrow as well as the link to my CFT post.

For the latter, I’m looking at The Long and the Short of It – the It being a celebration of literacy. (Now there is a word you must make sure you spell correctly to spare your own blushes!).

I’ll be looking at the joys and challenges of long and short writing (yes, I include non-fiction). The problem with a post like this one is in keeping it down to one post! I do think literacy is something that is far too easy to take for granted. We are so fortunate having a wonderful wealth of materials to read and enjoy.

One wonderful thing about all of this is there is at least one genre and one format of writing/reading to suit you. And that goes for non-fiction too. Think of the wealth of topics there alone!

If you’re a writer you have the joy of creating said materials too.  Now off to work on more short fiction and non-fiction myself!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

 

How do I decide what IS the most important thing I have to get across in a flash fiction tale?

Sometimes it’s an obvious thing. I have an interesting character and I simply have to find out what happens to them. That is the single most important point. (That’s always a good sign when the writer is keen to find out what happens. I’m convinced some of that does get through to future readers).

Sometimes I know what the character is going to do to end the story so have to work out what has to happen for them to get to that point – the B to A approach so to speak. So again I’ve got the most important thing to focus on.

Sometimes the character has an attitude problem (!) and here I can go with either finding out what was behind that. There’s the point of the story. Alternatively, I can use the what are the consequences of that attitude approach. Both are fun to write.

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Story time again…

GUARANTEE

Genuine? Of course it is, Madam.
Unassuming but pretty little object, isn’t it?
And it can be all yours for £50.
Really, I’d be selling it cheap at twice the price.
Auntie Jo always said my kind heart would land me right in it, but you just have to go with your instincts sometimes, don’t you?
Nah, of course, I’m not conning you.
Tried it on with everyone else in the market today, have I – well, no actually, I really have saved this for you, Madam.
Ever since I was a nipper, I could match a face to a bargain and this one is designed for you.
Everlasting wish maker this is, okay so you know it as a magic lamp, but wouldn’t you say it goes rather nicely with that broom I saw you fly in on?

Allison Symes – 20th February 2020

I used a random word generator to come up with the trigger for this story. I don’t always use the first word that comes up. I look for a word that is open to interpretation. Ideally I’ll use a word that could be used in a funny or serious context. Then I can have some real fun with it!

Hope you enjoy.

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Am having one of those days where everything has run late. I may be a flash fiction writer but not everything I do can be said to be achieved in said flash! Oh well…

What do you do if you find that inspiration is hard to come by? I find a lot of the time when I feel “used up”, it is simply because I’m tired so I rectify that. I accept on those days I don’t write so much. I go to bed early, read, and wake up, hopefully refreshed, and ready to do much better on the writing front the following day.

Unless life gets in the way, as it can do, I usually do have a better “performing” writing day as a result. (One thing I’ve learned late is NOT to beat myself up if I can’t write much. I can and will make up for it. What matters is to enjoy writing as and when you can. If you’re not well or tired, it will affect what you do. Self care matters here too).

Another way to refresh the inspiration pot is of course to read. This is the time to try reading away from what you would usually go for. If you usually read fiction, try something from the non-fiction shelves and vice versa. I find reading longer forms of fiction is a great aid here too because it is different from what I usually work in. I think this mentally refreshes me.

Getting out and about for a good walk with the dog works wonders too though I won’t be sorry when the weather improves. That can’t come soon enough!

Fairytales with Bite – Once Upon A Time

Well, it is a classic opening, but what does it mean for you? For me, it means favourite fairytales, of course, but from a writing viewpoint I take it to be as follows.

Once – I pick the single most important moment to focus on in my character’s life for my flash fiction stories. Flash fiction illuminates briefly so it has to be the single most important thing for that character I then write up.

Upon – What am I going to make my character face? Is it going to test them enough? How will they cope?

A – What is the turning point in my story? There has to be one. Great stories can often change direction completely upon one word and even more where it is placed in the story. My Calling the Doctor is one of my favourite examples of where I’ve done this. Book trailer below but look to see how the final word of the story changes the mood completely of what has come before. I see the “A” word as that tiny moment which is the pivot for change in my character and/or their situation.

Time – When am I setting the story and why have I chosen it? Does the time chosen make sense for the story I am telling?

 

This World and Others – Once Upon a Time

I thought I’d follow on from Fairytales with Bite above with a look at the classic fairytale phrase and how it can be used when it comes to world creation.

Once – Decide what is the most important factor your readers needs to know about the world in which your characters live. Why do readers need to know this? How best can you show them this? For example, if the most imporant element, is the employment opportunities in your world, show what these are and why they matter.

Upon – What could happen to your created world that would have a direct impact on your character and the outcome of your story? Think weather conditions, climate, pollution, earthquakes etc.

A – Attitudes of your created world to other worlds or to countries within it. Are there power blocs? Who dominates? Is there democracy?

Time – Again decide what time is going to be the most appropriate for your story and think about what kind of development your world has got at this stage.

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Submissions, Reviews, and Publication News

Image Credit:  Thanks as ever to Pixabay for the images here.

Facebook – General

Good evening so far. Submitted a flash piece, pitched a couple of non-fiction ideas. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that.

Also sorted out my bedside cabinet and organised my reading piles (one for books, one for magazines before you ask!). Feel both productive AND virtuous and, trust me, that doesn’t happen often!

Hope the weather isn’t causing too much havoc where you are. Mainly tree debris where I am. Always sad to see trees down (though Lady will end up having more sticks to play with than she ever thought possible so there is that to it).

The other thing to be said about the weather is if you needed encouragement to stay cosy and warm and get on with writing at your desk, you’ve got it. Well, you’re not going to want to go out now, are you?

It WAS a dark and stormy night – and writers everywhere took one glimpse at the horrible weather, got on with their latest epics, only too glad to do so!😀😀

Happy writing, everyone!❤️⭐️

I’m looking forward to sharing two separate items of publication news later on in the week. It has been a good few days. I wish they were always like that but there you go!

Am almost there on a standard length short story I want to submit for a competition. I hope to get that submitted by the end of this week. And I’ve picked out the next competition I want to have a crack at so need to start thinking out some ideas for that.

I’m also going to be working on the edits for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, so have plenty in the pipeline.

But that’s how I like it – a nice mix of non-fiction writing (CFT particularly), sending stories out to hopefully good homes (!), and editing.

Reading wise, I’ve recently started London: The Biography. It’s an interesting concept for a historical book – a biography of a city – and I anticipate an enjoyable read. I love history – fiction and non-fiction. I won’t be sorry if story ideas spark from reading this book. (I’d be disappointed if I don’t get something. Non-fiction can be a great source of sparks for stories).

Hope the weather rapidly improves where you are. It is calmer here in Hampshire though there is some flooding. Lady gets a bit skittish in high winds (a bit like some young children can do) so it’ll be fun walking her tomorrow when said high winds are back. Still, at least it’s going to be dry.

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