A Sad Week

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

THE DEATH OF HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH THE SECOND

ON 8TH SEPTEMBER 2022

It has been an odd couple of days since the news broke of Her Majesty’s death. My posts below reflect that. There is a collective sense of loss even though we all knew that at some point this day would have to come.

I believe it to be a remarkable tribute that the sense of loss is palpable given she was the only monarch most of us had known and she was a constant presence even for those of us who never met the late Queen.

Constancy and consistency matter (as Her Majesty proved by her devotion to duty) and I feel that is only brought home by events like this.

My late father was a child during World War Two and was, at first, too young to be evacuated. Later he recalled often seeing the late Queen’s parents in the bombed out areas of the East End of London. I am absolutely sure the late King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother as she became, would be very proud of their daughter. We are.

May you rest in peace and rise in Glory, Ma’am.

God save the King!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

There was really nothing I could add to my Facebook post yesterday. See below. Her Majesty will be much missed. I thought the King’s speech was wonderful.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is Good Interviews and I look at the topic from using interview techniques to get to know your characters better before writing their stories up. I also share some thoughts on how writers can prepare for interviews and what I think makes for a good interview.

Hope you find it useful.

Good Interviews

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8th September 2022
So deeply saddened to learn of the death of Her Majesty the Queen. She has been a constant presence and will be much missed.

God save the King.

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Hope today has been okay. Have enjoyed listening to the 30th birthday celebrations of Classic FM today. I’m a fairly late convert to the joys of classical music. This is very much a case of better late than never.

Now talking of well known sayings, how can you use them in story telling without falling into the great big cliche trap?

One way is to use the saying as the title. It also gives your readers the theme immediately. It is then a question of you delivering something special on that well known saying – no pressure then! – but it can be done. The big hook for any story for me (and I won’t be the only one) is the lead character. Get me interested in them and I will read on.

Also think about ways you can prove the well known saying to be right or wrong in the case of your character. Maybe for your person, it really isn’t a question of being late than never. Never would’ve been the better option etc. You could have fun with that.

I’ve subverted sayings for titles but you could do it for the story itself too. Your character would have to establish fairly early on they are different enough to be able to do that as it is unlikely a meek and mild character would subvert anything much!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Today has been a strange day, as you can imagine, though I thought His Majesty’s speech hit the right note and was beautifully done. I’ve been listening to various recollections of people meeting the late Queen on Classic FM today. Personal stories matter and they were all deeply touching.

I love stories as they can be a form of escapism and just sometimes that is exactly what is needed.

My latest story on Friday Flash Fiction is called On That Day, which is about what happens when Bella finds a travel machine conveniently left open. Hope you enjoy it. Definitely on the light side this one.

Screenshot 2022-09-09 at 09-12-26 On That Day by Allison Symes

8th September 2022

Today is a historic day. The late Queen’s devotion to duty was legendary. You will be much missed, Ma’am.

God save the King.

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One quick way into a character outline for a flash story is to ask five quick questions about them.

1. Your name?
2. Your major trait?
3. Your tastes in music, food, film etc.
4. What you like/loathe the most?
5. Name one thing you would never do.

The great thing with the last one is your story would have them facing up to that one thing they’d never do. When push came to shove, would they still really not do it or cave in? A great way to ratchet up the tension and there would have to be a conclusion – which way would your character go and why?

Asking and answering questions sets up a structure for your piece of work

Fairytales with Bite – By Hook or by Crook

Which way of doing things do your characters prefer? Do you have characters who couldn’t be honest if their life depended on it and would do anything to get their way? What obstacles do they come up against and do they change their tune?

What would be fun here, I think, is having a character who does things the right way – they hook support in legitimately – up against someone who will take every crooked turn available and then watch the sparks fly! Only one of those characters can win by the end of your story. Will the judicious use of the right “hook” be enough to save the day?

How honest, or otherwise, is your main setting and its government? Do your characters moan about their leaders the way we moan about ours and, if so, what are the consequences, especially in a magical world?
What kind of crook does exist in your setting? Is there crime as we know it? If there’s magical crime, what form does that take and what are the consequences for those caught using it?

Last not not least, what is the hook for your story and characters? What will draw readers in? It helps to draw yourself into the story and view it as if someone else had written it. What do you make of this tale if it was written by someone else?

This World and Others – On Whose Order?

Orders can be given by all manner of people. The kind of order given matches the importance or otherwise, of those giving the order, so who do you have in your stories barking out commands to all and sundry? How well does this go down the the other characters? Potential set up for comedy and/or tragedy here I suspect.

It can also led to interesting story ideas if you look at how someone got into a position of authority ad what they’ve had to do to stay there. On whose orders are the orders given out? Are the orders ever disobeyed? Can anyone question an order to prevent it being carried out?

Is your society structured in such a way everyone knows their place and everyone knows whose orders are being belted out to people and why? If you have a stranger in town, so to speak, how do they pick up what they need to know?

Are orders backed up by the use of force ore are people generally obedient?

Best question of all, who challenges the status quo? Many a fine story has been told using that premise. Also just because orders are given it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re followed properly.

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Looking Back at Swanwick 2022

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Most images from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for my Chandler’s Ford Today post were taken by me, Allison Symes, as were any screenshots (and photos of Lady naturally).
A big thank you to Jennifer C Wilson and Penny Blackburn for images they took of me that I’ve used in my CFT post. Tricky to take pics of yourself when about to give a writing session! Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here and thankfully much cooler. Lady is pleased about that too.

 

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m thrilled to share Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. This post was a sheer joy to write. It was also lovely not having to worry about sourcing the photos – I took most of them and friends shared the rest. Many thanks to #ValPenny and #JenniferCWilson here!

(I generally do use Pixabay and then enhance images via Book Brush as you know but it is also nice to share pics I’ve taken from time to time).

This post shares a little of what it is like to be at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. I look at taking part in workshops and fun events such as the Open Prose Mic Night and share a little of the joys of being immersed in the world of writing for a week, especially when you are always made so welcome whether it is is your first visit or your 50th.

Hope you enjoy the post and maybe see you there for Swanwick 2023.

Looking Back at Swanwick 2022

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Hope you had a good Thursday. Many thanks to those who came to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group on Zoom last night. It was great fun and lovely to see familiar names popping up on online magazines who welcome flash fiction. Keep writing!

I’m so looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. I’ll be Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 and this post was a real labour of love to write. I love writing all of my posts but some always stand out as special and writing about Swanwick does that for me. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Have, after a bit of a break, got back to reading on Kindle again. Good to be back to that. Am so glad electronic book shelves can’t give way under the weight of all I’ve got on that!

My flash collections are available in Kindle and paperback

Strange day weather wise here in Hampshire – drizzle, cloudy etc and then boy did it warm up!

One of the joys of writing is you do have two interests in one here. Every writer I know has a serious addiction to books and stories of all kinds and loves to read in and out of their genre. I try to keep my reading “diet” mixed and interesting.

I catch up with things like Writing Magazine over lunch but I read books to help me with my writing, novels, ebooks, collections etc (using paperback and the Kindle for this) most nights before settling to sleep. It is only if I am already too tired I don’t do that. I make up for it the next night instead.

I love stories. I love writing them. I love reading them. Win-win here. And in making writer friends, I get to ensure I read contemporary fiction as well as the classics. I like to find out what friends are bringing out after all and I have a lovely collection of their signed books to me on my book shelves. I treasure that.

And the great thing about flash fiction in all of this? It proves an entertaining story can be 100 words long as well as the novels proving it at 100,000! I like that. To me there is a pleasing symmetry going on here.

May be an image of text that says "Regardless of genre and setting, all stories need a proper beginning, middle and ending."

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It is lovely to be back on Friday Flash Fiction after my break at Swanwick last week. Hope you enjoy my tale, Fitting In, which has a book-related theme. It also shows you can never be always sure of who your audience might be.

Screenshot 2022-08-26 at 09-20-17 Fitting In by Allison Symes

I like open titles for my stories, ones that have to provoke curiosity in a reader. Sometimes I subvert a title or phrase (as in my Punish the Innocent from From Light to Dark and Back Again).

Titles are your first hook to draw a reader in and I have judged competitions where there are no titles. I do think writers are missing a trick here. It pays to have a good title. I jot down an initial idea and then change if it I need to. I know what my story line is going to be (because I know who my character is) and that usually gives me a starting point for a title. Doesn’t mean I necessarily have to stick with it though. Again as with my story itself, I just need something to get me started.

I like alliterative titles but try to avoid using them all the time. They’re memorable but you don’t want to get sidelined into using only one kind of title. I’ve used proverbs. I’ve used phrases. I’ve used ideas thrown up by random generators. I like keeping my options, as well as my titles, open!

Questions are useful for themes and titles

Writing tip 7008 or thereabouts: Don’t worry about your flash word count immediately. Get your story written. Then rest it. Then look at it again with fresh eyes and get rid of wasted words, look at ways to improving your phrasing and so on.

I then find a story will be “settling” at the circa 100, 200 or 300 words mark. I then and only then think will I try to reduce the story down to the lower word count or leave it as it is? If I feel a reduction will take something away from the story as such how it flows, characterisation that adds depth to the tale, I leave the story at, say, 224 words and then find a market or competition looking for pieces under 250 or 300 words.

I ask myself questions during the editing process mainly along the lines of do I need this and, if so, why? That helps enormously in helping me to judge what really should stay in. You don’t want to lose the soul of the tale. Editing should always enhance this and bring the best out in your story.

The only thing to cut out is waffle – now if only politicians took the same view, yes?!

Simple writing equals no waffle

Fairytales With Bite – Character Profiling

I often use random generators to trigger story ideas but you can also use the random question one to help you get to know your characters better. I use https://faculty.washington.edu/ejslager/random-generator/index.html mainly because I have a soft spot for the duck on their page (go on, check it out, you know you want to!).

I generated the question What is your theme song? You could apply that to your character and find out more about them by then asking yourself why they chose that one. In a fantasy setting, you could also work out what kind of music they would have. Is it comparable with what we have here?

I find I have to know what my character traits are (because actions, thoughts, capabilities all stem from that) but the generators are a great way of getting into profiling your character quickly. No reason why you can’t use them for fairytale characters or others of a fantasy/magical ilk.

Screenshot 2022-08-21 at 20-35-24 Random Qs

This World and Others – Character Roles

What roles do your characters play in your stories? What roles are available to them? Are roles assigned by gender, ancestral heritage or anything like that? Do your characters like or resent their roles?

The role of women has changed considerably over time here – what would be the equivalent for your characters? Do things like war change what people are expected to do? How does technology change roles? Doles your world have the equivalent of the Luddites who went around smashing machinery to try to save their own jobs?

If your world has androids or any other kind of robot, what are their roles and could they break their programming? Do humanoid characters resent the role the robots do or are they relieved they don’t have to do this kind of work?

Characters can have roles they didn’t expect thrust on to them (Frodo Baggins, anyone?). So how do your people handle this? Is their new role the making of them?

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Zoom, Flash Fiction, and What Does a Book Give You?

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Full report on my week at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School coming up in my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. Meanwhile, I celebrate flash fiction and share some ways in which Zoom has been so useful to me. Plus I ask a leading question for my Goodreads post this time!

BookBrushImage-2022-8-23-20-2120Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Came back from my Slimming World group to discover only a teensy weensy gain from my week at Swanwick last week. Given what I had, I thought this was a brilliant result and am feeling chuffed and nicely surprised! Lady is not at all sorry the weather has cooled down somewhat. Neither am I.

Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group meeting on Zoom tomorrow. Zoom has made genre groups possible for us, given so many of our members live hundreds of miles apart and could never get to an in person meeting. Zoom is one of the few good things to emerge from the pandemic.

It is also useful as an editing tool. How? Well, you can record a meeting with yourself where you read out your short story or flash piece, end the meeting, and Zoom will turn the file into an mp4 for you to play back later.

I’ve picked up clunky dialogue this way. What looks good written down doesn’t always read out well. I also use Zoom to practice my Zoom talks and help me get my timings right. (And for those of us of a certain age, Zoom was also a great ice lolly! – at least here in the UK it was!).

Use Zoom to record your stories and then play them back to hear them as a reader would take them in


Nice to see some rain here in Hampshire today – drizzle rather than heavy rain for most of the day. Less likely to cause flooding and will still freshen things up a bit.

Back to the real world after a fantastic week at Swanwick. It’s going to be a long week…! Having said that it was lovely taking Lady back to the park today (there are some green bits on it now – not many but there are some!).

I’ll be sharing my Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 for Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. Looking forward to sharing that on Friday. I loved picking the pictures out for that one. I always take loads when at The Hayes.

My next event is likely to be the Bridge House Publishing one later in the year and it will be lovely to catch up with people there too.

What is nice though is this is where social media can come into its own – there are ways to stay in contact with writing friends throughout the year – and social media is at its best for this kind of thing.

Networking encourages your zest for writing


Hope you have had/are still having a lovely Sunday. Back to the writing desk and coming up later this week will be my Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 for Chandler’s Ford Today. Link up on Friday.

Looking forward to the ACW Flash Fiction Group Zoom meeting on Wednesday.

A big hello and welcome to the new subscribers to my author newsletter. The next one goes out on 1st September. Hard to believe we’re nearly three-quarters of the way through the year already. I share tips, story links, and news in my newsletter, especially relating to flash fiction. If you’d like to sign up, do head over to my website (landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Do I sign up to newsletters myself? Oh yes. They’re a great way of hearing the latest from your favourite authors, which is why I love reading the ones I’ve signed up for.

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Have caught up on some much needed sleep after a hectic and joyous and wonderful week at Swanwick.
Glad to share a link to the last flash fiction challenge I set for Mom’s Favorite Reads – and to one of the entries that came in as a result. Hope you enjoy.

Don’t forget MFR is free to download and there are wonderful articles and stories in there. Do check it out. (Glad to say a fellow Swanwicker, Maggie Cobbett, is in there too).

Screenshot 2022-08-23 at 20-03-59 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine August 2022 eBook Publishing Goylake Howe Hannah Smith Melanie Fae Sylva Jones Wendy H Macleod Sheena Symes Allison Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Trust you have had a good day. Looking forward to chatting about all things flash fiction related with the ACW Flash Fiction Group on Zoom tomorrow. And it was great to spread the word about it at Swanwick too.

Don’t forget Mom’s Favorite Reads has a flash fiction column every month, written by yours truly, and I also set a challenge here. Do check it out for FREE.

I was glad to pick up another anthology from the National Flash Fiction Day from the Swanwick Book Room last week. It is important to read in your genre as well as outside of it. You get a feel about what is out there in your field and I find it encourages the love of this form of writing even more. Win-win there.


It’s Monday. I’m back to the day to day tasks after a fabulous week at Swanwick. It’s definitely time for a story. Hope you enjoy my latest on my YouTube channel – Send a Secret.

 

The lovely thing about flash fiction is you can mix up the mood of your stories in a collection. I like to write a mixture of lighthearted tales and those on the darker side, encompassing everything from historical flash to crime ones to twist in the tale to ghost stories.

The word count for flash is limited but you don’t have to be with your characters and settings. I love that aspect. When it comes to putting a collection together, I try to group my tales so you literally do go From Light to Dark and Back Again, I do like to finish on a lightish note.

I usually focus on my character for my stories and then ask myself where would this character best be placed. Sometimes I know I want to write a historical flash immediately so it is then a question of who can I use to serve my tale.

But the character has to suit which is why I ensure I know them well enough by asking myself some pointed questions. It is about working out what you need to know or so I’ve found and then I can get on and draft my tale.

How do characters see themselves

The weekend after Swanwick is useful as it gives me a chance to catch up on sleep and time to start processing ideas etc which came from the courses and workshops. I was glad to spread the word about flash fiction too. I sometimes run a workshop on why flash fiction is useful for all writers, regardless of what else people do.

I hope to resume writing stories for Friday Flash Fiction and my YouTube channel from this week. Sunday is often when I draft those and it means I get two new flash pieces written a week. Does writing more encourage further ideas? I find it does – and the random generators are a great blessing here too. I know where to go to trigger other ideas I would not have thought of alone. They are so useful for that.

AE - Jan 2022 - Random question generators

Goodreads Author Blog – What Does a Book Give You?

This is a leading question is it not? Where to start! Well what does a book give me?

Books give me escapism, entertainment, educate me, and show me things I had not realised I needed to know. Books can and do encourage empathy with characters. I can see where characters come from and why even if I still disagree with the actions they’ve chosen to do. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is something you get to do all the time when reading fiction, regardless of story length.

Books take me away from my problems for a while – and sometimes that break is all which is needed for me to work out solutions to whatever I’m facing. Even when that’s impossible, just having the break away does my mental health the world of good. And I get to discover worlds and situations I would never face for real but that in turn leads me to wonder what I would do in those situations and why.

Books do act like a kind of portal then. And it was the classic fairytales that showed me girls could be heroes too (see The Snow Queen by Hans Christen Andersen for this).

Above all books and stories encourage you to keep on reading. That in turn fuelled in me the desire to write stories and books myself. I see it as a kind of giving back to the wonderful world of books.

Screenshot 2022-08-23 at 08-34-12 What Does a Book Give You

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Interview – Val Penny – and Swanwick Part 2

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Many thanks to Val Penny for supplying the book and author photos for my interview with her on Chandler’s Ford Today. Photos from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, including one of Val about to give her excellent Promoting Your Work talk (see CFT post), were all taken by me, Allison Symes. You do know who to blame! And a HUGE thank you to Jennifer C Wilson for taking the photos of me about to lead my session at Swanwick and of me signing my books. It is SO hard to take that kind of shot yourself!! Another lovely thing about Swanwick is we all happily do this for each other – the sharing and kindness here is amazing.

Feature Image - Val Penny - The Hunter Wilson Series and Blog Tours20220818_130622
Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Safely back home after a fabulous time at Swanwick, I hope to report more on that for Chandler’s Ford Today next week.

Today though I share a great interview with Scottish crime writer, Val Penny, a fellow Swanwicker. Val shares news of her recent book release and we have a fab chat about blog tours, keeping notes about your characters’ main characteristics, marketing and other topics. Hope you enjoy it and it was lovely to catch up with Val again in person this last week. Until next year, Val!

Val Penny: The Hunter Wilson Series and Blog Tours

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Am pleased to share my latest blog on Authors Electric. Aptly I talk about Holiday Reading and Writing.

The four part course on Creative Non-Fiction ended today. So useful. I then went on to the Writing Comedy short course led by Rob Gee.

Later this afternoon, it will be time for the Swanwick Annual General Meeting. The main event on the last full day is the famous Swanwick Farewell and Awards evening which is always great fun. It was too!

Am I planning to be back next year? Oh yes!

Screenshot 2022-08-18 at 13-48-54 Holiday Reading and Writing by Allison Symes

Well, the temperature has cooled here in Derbyshire. We have had rain! Nobody sorry about that.
I resumed the Creative Non-Fiction specialist course led by Simon Whaley and then went on to the Historical Fiction course led by Jennifer C Wilson. I write some historical fiction flash stories and it is an area I would like to write more in – the scope is huge!

I’m planning to finish my afternoon by going to the Cracking the Cryptic Crossword one hour workshop led by Vivien Brown. I love crosswords. I can’t get cryptics so I thought this could be useful for when I want to unwind with word games, as I often do. It was great fun and an eye-opener.

There’s a fancy dress evening later. Am not really into that myself but it will be fun seeing what costumes people come up with for the theme of Another Night at the Movies.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

So back at home and back to the writing routine. (I have to have one to get any writing done at all). I hope to resume writing for Friday Flash Fiction and my YouTube channel from next week.

Swanwick set a competition for us while we’re there. I did send in a 150 word story. It didn’t get placed but I loved writing it, will look at it again and see where else I can submit it – I do know there will be somewhere!

I’ve sometimes gone on to have work published that way. And I’m fine with the sometimes by the way, simply because nobody hits a perfect 100% hit rate in writing/being published/being placed.

Delighted to sign Tripping the Flash Fantastic for fellow authors while at Swanwick. It is always a special thing. When I first started writing anything seriously, I knew nobody in the writing world. It is now a great joy to have many writing friends, some of whom I’ve met in person and others I’ve met just online.

I’ve learned so much chatting to other writers, including finding out about flash fiction and I’ve never regretted discovering that!

 

My week at the fantastic Swanwick Writers’ Summer School went by in a flash. It always does. Fabulous fun, caught up with old friends, got chatting to people new to Swanwick, learned so much from the courses and workshops, and enjoyed taking part.

I did take part again in the Open Prose Mic Night. Again fun to do and flash fiction works well for this. Loved listening to the Open Poetry Mic Night too.

For the prose night, I picked my linked flash tales – Mishaps and Jumping Time from Tripping the Flash Fantastic this time. Pleased to say they did get laugh but then my hapless time travelling alien in these stories does have that coming. Honest!

 

One thing I’ve learned over the years is to not rush a submission to a short story or flash competition. You always do need more editing time than you think. So I factor this in to my schedule and aim to submit my work about a fortnight before the deadline, having carried out all editing necessary including that important final check to ensure you have got all the typos out etc.

Can a judge tell if a competition entry has been rushed?
Oh yes.

What you want is for your work to be so polished the judge knows you haven’t rushed at all and you’ve given yourself plenty of time to ensure all is as good as you can make it. The little details matter here too.

Planning does not have to kill spontaneity - just work out what you need to know, you don't need to plan everything

Fairytales with Bite – The Creative Arts

What kind of creative arts would your fairytale world have? Would it be an area where magic was banned? I can’t see how much fun it would be if you were allowed to whip out your magic wand, say a quick spell and, hey presto, you’ve produced a stunning picture or a brilliant book. I would want things to be created “properly”, else where is the joy of the creative process?

Naturally I think of stories and books first for the arts world, followed by music, especially classical, as my two big art interests are there. What are your arts interests and could you bring them in somehow to the world you’re creating in your stories? What would be different in your magical world in this sphere?

Often we think of fairytales as those stories we read as children/had read to us. What would your magical world’s equivalent be? Do they tell tales about dodgy humans getting their comeuppance thanks to a heroic magical character, say?

Life is made up of the basic necessity to survive naturally, but what about the other elements of a well rounded life, which include the creative arts? How are those represented in your stories?

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This World and Others – Values

What values does your fictional world have in common with this one? Which ones are literally alien and why have these values been established? (That may well shed a great deal of light on the characters of your aliens – do they agree with these values or not?).

Values get established over time so how long did it take your world to come up with the ones it has? Are there sections of the community which don’t hold with these values at all and what do they do about this? Passive resistance or something much more active? Are they right to take the view they do?

Bear in mind your characters, wherever they are set, do not need to share your values. I’ve written pieces where I am at odds with my characters and that’s fine. But you still do need to understand why your characters, of whatever species, hold the values they do. There will be reasons for this. Okay, they may not be great ones but they will make sense to your fictional world and characters.

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Quizzes and Word Games

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Photos of The Hayes, Swanwick, were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good week. Mine started with a petulant goose but has ended without one (it has literally waddled off) much to Lady’s relief. Best of all, my copies of The Best of CafeLit 11 arrived. Always lovely to open something like that.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share a lighthearted post for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I‘m looking at Quizzes and Word Games, favourite things of many a writer, including yours truly. I have a soft spot for Scrabble in particular.

What are your favourite word games? Do share your thoughts on the CFT comments page.

Next week I am interviewing the lovely crime writer, Val Penny and looking forward to sharing that.

And the goose continues to keep away so Lady is well pleased. From her viewpoint, an odd week has ended well, especially as she got to play with her best buddy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback this morning.!).

Quizzes and Word Games

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One thing I never tire of… drum roll, please… is opening up my new arrival of books! Pleased to say my copies of The Best of CafeLit 11 arrived today. I was especially pleased as I wasn’t expecting these until next week so that was nice.

Nice and quiet here without the hissing goose.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is a fun one on Quizzes and Word Games. Apt for writers. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Has playing word games helped my vocabulary? Oh yes. Especially playing Scrabble. Have any of the words I’ve learned made it into a flash fiction story or blog post from me yet? No. Give it time!

In breaking news… NO goose turned up today. I have a much happier dog! A much happier me come to that. I haven’t checked what my broom feels about it but it too has had a quieter, less eventful day.
Now that goose was clearly a bit out of place so how about a writing prompt to come from this?

Have your character out of place. There has to be a good reason for it. Show how they got into that state and how they got out of it again. Good potential for funny or sad pieces here I think. I may well have a go at this myself later on in the week. Will keep you posted. Have fun with it.

Characters have to have good reasons for their actions, even if they’re the only ones who think so. Your readers should be able to see where your characters come from but they don’t have to agree. I often disagree with my characters but that’s fine. I know where they’re coming from. I just don’t want to be there with them! And if they get poetic justice, as often happens in my stories, I relish writing every word of it!

The writing life can be great fun at times… I’m just glad there isn’t a Character Protection From Their Own Authors Society. I can think of several of mine who would want severe words with me.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to share my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction which is Age Is Just a Number. A huge thank you for the comments coming in on this one already. I suspect I may have hit a nerve or something here.

Screenshot 2022-08-05 at 09-15-22 Age Is Just A Number by Allison Symes

Hope you have had a good day. My copies of The Best of CafeLit 11 arrived, the goose has gone, and I’m settling down to an evening of what I love most – writing – so it’s been a good day here.

Looking forward to going to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in just over a week’s time. Will be so wonderful catching up with friends and being immersed in the world of writing full time for a week.

I’m running a one hour course there on Editing – Both Sides of the Fence and taking part in Lift Up Your Pens (early morning writing) and Lift Up Your Hearts (the latter is a short Christian devotional). Naturally I shall be waving the flag for flash fiction as well.

There is something about being with other writers that encourages and inspires. I am glad Zoom helps here too and it is also a great medium for sharing the joys of the mini stories.

Now a couple of years back a writing exercise I did at Swanwick as part of a course ended up becoming a published story online (CafeLit). I wouldn’t mind that happening again!

 

Hope Wednesday has passed off well. No hissing goose here today so Lady and I think the day has gone well!

Writing Prompt for you: What is the one thing what would make your character think a day has gone well and why? Think that could make a nice piece of flash fiction, say 300 to 500 words. Good luck.

I also followed my own advice here. The prompt idea came about as a result of my preparing this blog post so I jotted it down immediately and realised there would be a story prompt here. So something to add to this blog post too!

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Fairytales With Bite – The Purpose of Fairytales

I love stories that “just” entertain. To me, there’s nothing “just” about it though I do wish some would not look down on genre fiction and indeed fairytales for doing that. They’re doing their job!

Fairytales do serve another purpose – they serve as warnings about behaviour affecting outcome. There are consequences for rotten behaviour in fairytales. The baddies generally do not get away with it.

Fairytales also show there can be poetic justice (and sometimes rough justice). They warn against arrogance. Also to not look down on the poor. And given so often in fairytales, the Rule of Three crops up, the important points are emphasized to ensure they stick in the memory. That was vital when most could not read or write.

Fairytales can be enjoyed by most ages and are usually the way into stories as a whole for children. They were for me. I still have my Reader’s Digest collection of fairytales, a huge two volume set of books with beautiful illustrations.

They’re a great way of getting a message across without being preachy. Readers/listeners pick up the message from the story. From a writing viewpoint, they show characters in action and how to get a story across without the tale itself necessarily being a long one. Lots to learn from that, especially if you go into flash fiction with its restricted word count, as I have done.

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This World and Others – Characters Seeking a Purpose

All characters in any story should have a purpose to justify them being included but of course they themselves may need to find out what their purpose is as the tale progresses. Do other characters enlighten them? Do they find clues? Do circumstances force them to find out what their purpose is?

Most heroes in stories don’t set out to be a hero – they are pushed into it – it is a do it and survive or not as the case may be! When faced with that kind of choice, you’re going to get on and be a hero, aren’t you?

How do your characters react when they find out what their purpose is? Do they handle it well or badly? Not everyone would take well to suddenly discovering they’re a royal, a wizard, a fairy godmother or what have you.

Do the characters go on to accept their purpose or do they reject it and try to get their life back to “normal” (or what they thought of as normal anyway)? Even if they accept their purpose, what do those closest to them make of it? What further complications could that put in your lead character’s way?

Characters seeking a purpose may find the one they end up with is definitely not one they would have chosen! What does this do for them/to them? Do they find they’re better as people because of it? Can resentment from friends and family erode that purpose, even lead to the lead character failing?

A story can be about a purpose that does not work out and the consequences of that failure (though it would be difficult to have an upbeat ending here).

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Your Lead Character In Fiction

Image Credits:- 
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Weather has cooled down somewhat as the week went on, much to the relief of both Lady and me. Trust all well with you. Glad to share an exclusive new story from me for this blog – see further down under Fairytales with Bite. Hope you enjoy it. Plan to include it in my third flash fiction collection which I’m working on at the moment.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today – Your Lead Character In Fiction. I set a mini quiz as part of this to show how important characters are – see how you do. I also look at qualities of the lead character and whether it is necessary to always root for them or not. See what you think and do leave comments over on the CFT page. I go on to discuss what a writer needs to know about their lead character and share some different ways in working this out. Hope you find the post useful.

Later in August, I’ll be sharing a fabulous interview with a great crime writer for whom their lead character is especially important! Well, when you write a series you do have to have someone to lead that series…! More details nearer the time.

Your Lead Character In Fiction

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Glad the weather is continuing to be cooler. I much prefer it at about 23/24ºC and so does Lady.
Have booked my tickets for the Bridge House Publishing event in December. Will be good to see friends old and new there. And I hope to catch up with writing pals at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School which is rapidly approaching (next month – yippee!).

Will be sharing a brand new “fairytales with bite” story in my round up blog post which will also go out tomorrow via my website – see https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – new subscribers always welcome. I will be sharing the link to this post via Facebook tomorrow too. You can also sign up for my author newsletter here – the next one of those will go out on 1st August. Story further down.

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Much needed cooler weather today (though the forecast looks like this might be a temporary reprieve). Lady and I made the most of the cooler weather. Both of us were much happier for it!

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I’ll be talking about Your Lead Character In Fiction. There will be a mini quiz as part of this and I’ll be looking at whether it is necessary to always write likeable characters or not amongst other things. See link above.

I have a soft spot for those characters who back the lead up and without whom the lead cannot succeed in their story. My favourite here is Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings. Even Gollum knew not to underestimate Samwise!

Whatever position your character has in a story in terms of importance, there should be a definite role for them. If your story would work without them, they shouldn’t be in there.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s Friday once more and time for some flash fiction. My latest story on Friday Flash Fiction is simply called Tomorrow. Hope you like it.

Screenshot 2022-07-22 at 09-05-01 Tomorrow by Allison Symes


Hope you have had a good day. Can’t believe we’re rapidly approaching the end of July already.

Now I sometimes use time in my stories, with characters going forwards and backwards in it and with dubious results. See Tripping the Flash Fantastic for that (Mishaps and Jumping Time). I have great fun with these kind of tales as they give me opportunities to drop my characters right in it. There is no clause anywhere which says an author has to be nice to their characters. I checked, okay.

But you can take time and use it for more sombre stories too. I did that with The Pink Rose which shows the ravages of time.

So time can be a useful device as a a setting, it can be used as a character, and you can have reflective pieces on it too. How will you use time in your stories?

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… and breath! Thankfully cooler today. Lady and I made the most of it too.

I sometimes start my story with a question in its opening line. In my The Truth, from From Light to Dark and Back Again, I use this and I finish the tale with my character’s thoughts connected to it though the question itself is not directly answered. This is because I’ve used a metaphorical question and my character is aware of that (at a subliminal level at least) They also know they’re not going to change attitudes here. Sometimes your character is the only one to see through something. See The Emperor’s New Clothes for more on this – the kid there was right!

With metaphorical questions, your character is unlikely to be able to answer it fully but their conclusion should be a reasonable one based on the premise of the story.

Flash with Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Fairytales With Bite – A Fairytale by Allison Symes

Thought it might be nice to have an example of what I call a fairytale with bite this week. Hope you enjoy it.

 

Once a Rat by Allison Symes

I can’t remember all the details to be honest. I was happily being a pain in the neck to all and sundry. I was king of the pickpockets, see. Made a good living at it until I managed to annoy some biddy who happened to be a fairy godmother, and the next thing I know I was zapped and became a rat. I remember her speaking over me.

‘Since you are a rat in human form, you can be a rat in rat’s form and save everyone the bother of having to avoid you. They’ll do so willingly. Most folk hate rats.’

How I survived I don’t know. Even other rats avoided me. I’m sure they knew what I was really. Just a shame every fox I met tried to eat me but I always did have a good turn of speed. Came in handy I can tell you.

And then I lost concentration for a moment and ended up in a rat trap. This girl came to fetch me indoors and then I saw her again. That wretched fairy godmother. Boy, did she laugh when she saw me. Said she never forgot a client.

I never knew such fear as when I saw her take out that magic wand of hers again. What would she turn me into this time?

I couldn’t believe it when I saw I was now a coachman, kitted out in a decent uniform too. I was to take the girl to the Palace for the grand ball. First time in my life I had a job. A proper one too.

The godmother whispered to me not to wreck things this time. I could keep the job if I did well. The pay was good and food and lodgings were thrown in. I might even meet someone nice in the Palace staff. I did too. Mary and I have been married thirty years this year. Got three kids and six grandchildren. It’s been a good life. A funny one too. And she does know about my past. Always ensures I get a decent amount of cheese – bless her.

How long have I been serving Cinderella and Prince Charming now?

Oh, it must be a good thirty years now. Their kids are okay too.

The one thing I can’t resist though is setting the caught rats free when the other staff here aren’t looking. Well, it could be someone I once knew in my past life or one of their offspring.

I got a second chance. Maybe they should too. A rat isn’t always just a rat – and I should know!

Ends
20th July 2022 – Allison Symes

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This World and Others – Poetic Justice

Hope you enjoyed the story. One of the things I’ve always loved about fairytales is they have a strong sense of right and wrong about them and almost always justice is seen to be done in some way. There is usually a chance for redemption too. Love all of that. Always have done.

Is there such a thing as poetic justice in your created world? How does it manifest itself? If magic is involved, is it used to correct a problem initially caused by someone else’s magic for example? (Best known example of that is the fairy godmother modifying the spell for Sleeping Beauty so she doesn’t die but just falls asleep).

Is there any character in your work who deals with justice overall? Does an underdog character come through to ensure justice is done by the end of your story?

What about the characters who deserve to have poetic justice done to them? What did they do? Did they irk someone they really should not have done as my character did?

Now this can be a great vehicle for a humorous tale (and it is where I generally use it) but how will you take the idea of poetic justice and use it?

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Characters, Conversation, and Chandler’s Ford Today


Image Credits:  All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Photo below taken by Adrian Symes (though Lady still has work to do on her literary appreciation techniques!). Hope you had a good weekend and an equally good start to the working week. Lady is in good spirits as she has met up with her favourite dog pals this week already.

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

Facebook – General

For Chandler’s Ford Today this week, I’ll be looking at Writing Techniques in Fiction. Now that could cover several books but I’ll be taking a brief overview at things like show, don’t tell and speech tags amongst other things. It took me a while to get my head around the show, don’t tell one. Writing flash fiction helped me enormously there (and of course still does). Link up on Friday. (I think I’ve found a topic for the letter X but I’ll post on that next week!).

Am looking forward to resuming author interviews on CFT again later in the summer. More details nearer the time.

Will be off on another CFT works outing with my lovely editor, Janet Williams, when we go to see The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production Hoovering the Edge, which we’ll be seeing later this month.

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)Hope you have had a good start to the working week. I wrote two flash pieces over the weekend which have specific times in them. Yes, there is such as thing as a random clock time generator! I’ll be sharing one of these on my Facebook book page (From Light to Dark and Back Again) shortly with the YouTube link. See further down. I hope to share the other one later on in the week. Good fun to do this. And as with all of the generators I use, you can set the parameters that suit you. Will be using this one again at some point.

Screenshot 2022-07-04 at 19-58-41 RANDOM.ORG - Clock Time Generator

What is it about a book or short story or piece of flash fiction that grabs you? As you know, for me it is always the character. I have to find out what they’re doing/going to do. What is it about non-fiction that grabs you given you don’t have a character as such? For me it is the narrative voice and a good opening hook. Questions are useful here as you know by the end of the piece some sort of answer has to be given and that is what keeps you reading. You don’t necessarily need to agree with the answer!

I’m a big fan of reading blogs as well as writing them and what I love most is the way you have a “compact” article in 500 words or so. Great way to take in useful information and tips quickly. For my CFT posts, I see these more as articles given I aim for 1000 to 1500 words a time (as any longer than that, it becomes a two or three part series. Beyond this word count it works better as a series and you can hopefully hook readers into wanting to read Part 2 etc).

Asking and answering questions sets up a structure for your piece of work

If you want a great read, why not download the latest issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads? You will find a great range of articles, including my monthly flash fiction column. This time I talk about Flexibility in Flash Fiction.

I discuss why flash is flexible with regard to word count (bar the the upper limit of 1000 of course), genre, and the use of first and third person. I’ve taken advantage of all of those things and created a wide range of stories as a result. You can too.

Best of all, the magazine is free! Time to put your feet up then, have a good read and have a decent beverage to hand I think. (For me that will always be tea!).

And check out the stories which came in as a result of my flash challenge – great tales all of them but don’t just take my word for it. Go on, it really is time for a read!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I sometimes write all dialogue flash stories which are fun to do. I love getting my characters to talk so this is a good format for me. I limit these stories to two characters only and I find most of my stories of this kind come in at the 200 words or under mark. The challenge here is to ensure the dialogue does tell a story and keeps the reader hooked. It can’t just be conversation for the sake of it.

The secret here is to have two strong characters with distinctive voices. Getting them to use certain types of words here can be a great way to tell them apart – one can use slang terms, the other doesn’t. One has a posher sounding name than the other (and I repeat names every so often as well).

Give it a go and have fun with it. You will find out quickly if your characters are strong enough to carry a tale of this type. If not then the conversation will fizzle out and there will be no story. If they are strong enough, you’ll have no trouble sharing their story in conversation.

A classic way in is to have one character want something and the other is stopping them but the conflict here still needs to be resolved via the dialogue only. So it would probably pay you to work out how that could be done first, then work out what leads up to it. The classic writing from B to A again which I use for twist and humorous endings too.

Dialogue resembles real speech but art has to be better than life for this

 

It’s Monday once again and time for another story. Hope you like my latest on YouTube. This one, called Deterrent, is based on clock times generated by a random clock time generator. Yes, really. Hope you enjoy it.

 

Flash fiction is a great format for those humorous pieces which stand alone well (but would not work if used to pad out a longer story. It would either seem like padding or would get “lost” in the overall story). My A Stitch in Time from Tripping the Flash Fantastic is an example of that.

This is another reason to love flash. It gives a vehicle for those tales which might not otherwise be told. For Open Prose Mic Nights, I like to have at least a couple of these funnier pieces in amongst the more serious stories. That in turn shows the range for flash – it can be funny, it can be tragic etc.

Whatever type of flash you write though, you do need to be able to get into your characters’ heads. Otherwise the reader won’t either. And it is the characters that readers want to find out about, whose story they want to read. You are your own first reader.

I like to keep an Ideal Reader in mind when I am going through my stories and to think about how this story would appeal, what would my Ideal Reader be likely to say to me about beefing it up where it is needed and so on. Having your audience in mind from the start has helped me not to go off on unhelpful tangents, which would only get cut out later anyway.

For the funnier tales, I have a fairly broad sense of humour so I try to aim my humorous tales to appeal to that kind of audience, someone like me with that kind of taste.

Laughter in fiction has a great range

Many thank for all the comments coming on on The Big Day, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Much appreciated. This tale came about as a result of my deciding to write a story centred around an anniversary or a birthday. I knew cake had to be involved!

I also mentioned about a week or so ago that birthdays, anniversaries and the like can make a great structure for stories. Something happens at these events. You can also look at how your characters react to them, whether the events go well or not, and so on. Anyway, I took my own advice here!

Screenshot 2022-07-01 at 09-21-26 The Big Day by Allison Symes

Goodreads Author Blog – Story Collections

One of the earliest books I had (and still have) are the Reader’s Digest Fairytale collections. These are two huge books full of the classic tales by Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christen Andersen, and so on. You don’t want to drop these books on your foot is what I am saying here!

I spent hours as a kid looking at the wonderful colour illustrations and later reading and re-reading the tales. I loved The Snow Queen. For the first time I came across a girl as the heroine, the one doing the “derring-do”, and I loved that (and still do).

What I deeply appreciate here is the way people collected these old tales so we still have them now. Invaluable. I also appreciate it from the viewpoint that short stories are worth collecting – they so are!

My late mother collected the works of Dickens, I collected the works of Agatha Christie. Both Mum and I used a book club for these. (Mine was via Odhams Publishers but they set up an Agatha Christie collection kind of club and naturally I wanted the lot. Never regretted getting those).

What story collections do you treasure and why?

Screenshot 2022-07-05 at 20-40-45 Story Collections

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Verbs and Verbosity in Fiction

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good week. I think I may have found my favourite title for a Chandler’s Ford Today post (see above and below!). Strange weather week here – had sun, gales, heavy rain and that was just by Wednesday. Welcome to the British summer!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share Verbs and Verbosity In Fiction, my latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today. Hope you find it useful.

I look at the crucial role verbs play in any fiction and look at whether verbosity could be useful. Natural instincts would say otherwise. Surely you want to keep to the point, especially if you’re writing to a right word count as is required by flash fiction?

Generally, yes, but there is a place for well thought out verbosity funnily enough. See the post for more. I also share how I specifically use verbs to trigger story ideas.

Verbs and Verbosity in Fiction

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Had a lovely time at the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group last night. Good to see everyone.

Writing wise this week, my Chandler’s Ford Today post will be about Verbs and Verbosity in Fiction. (Love it when I get some alliteration into a title!). Link above. Can verbosity be useful in fiction? Yes. Will share more about that in the post. Link up tomorrow. Also out tomorrow will be my author newsletter.

Writing Tip: I blog for various places as you know so I plan out what I’m blogging where and when. It’s a good idea to have a diary – great way to ensure I stay on track as well as helping me with that planning. I also aim to get a blog post up a few days before it is due out (earlier where and when possible) so I have time to go back in and do a final check on it.

For example, I will be carrying out a final check on my CFT post for this week shortly after I post this! Occasionally I pick up an odd error but at least I then have the time to amend it before the blog goes live. Did I pick up anything when doing this? Oh yes. And doing this gives me a final chance to check links etc are working properly.

29th June – More than Writers
It’s my turn once again on More than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. This time I talk about Working Out a Writing Schedule. I look at why I find these useful and why it is so important to build in flexibility.

Life does get in the way at times after all but I’ve found knowing what I’m going to be writing on any one day means I am more productive. I can get straight to my desk and get on with things and I like that.

Screenshot 2022-07-01 at 09-24-51 Working Out a Writing Schedule by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My latest story on Friday Flash Fiction is an upbeat one. Hope you enjoy The Big Day. I have every sympathy for my character, Janine, here. See what you think!

Screenshot 2022-07-01 at 09-21-26 The Big Day by Allison Symes

30th June
How is it the end of June already?! Time marches on (which makes a great theme for a piece of flash fiction!).

Don’t forget you can use time as a structure for your story (as well as a theme). How? Well, I’ve written the odd diary style story. (That one took me up to the 1000 words limit but that was fine. The story was great fun to do and you can find it in Tripping the Flash Fantastic – Losing Myself).

But you could also set a story which has to happen over a few hours and you put in time progression as the story goes on.

You could also show what happens to a character over a longer time period, which could work well as a series of linked flash stories. I’ve sometimes used Time as a character too.

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Am posting earlier than usual today as I’ll be leading the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction group on Zoom later on. Always good fun and much learned and shared. Always a joy to talk about flash fiction too!

My more reflective pieces (such as They Don’t Understand from From Light to Dark and Back Again or The Pink Rose from Tripping the Flash Fantastic) are hard stories to do. Why? Because I still have to ensure there is a story in there.

I have to ensure my character voice is strong enough to “carry” the tale so you want to read what they have to say. This is where planning out my character helps enormously because it means I’ve got to know them well enough to know where they are coming from and why they have got a story to tell. That in turn makes it easier to write said story.

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Fairytales with Bite – Where Fairytales DO Bite

It has always annoyed me fairytales are considered in some circles as twee little tales for the kiddies. It does tell me one thing immediately though – the person saying that has not read fairytales in ages. They certainly haven’t read the originals which are often violent. Disney has had to water them down for family viewing!

Fairytales are unflinching in showing cruelty up for what it is too and that justice is often on the rough side. Think of The Red Shoes. The wicked stepmother in that has to dance in those shoes until she drops down dead. The Big Bad Wolf is boiled alive in The Three Little Pigs.

Twee – definitely not then.

I do love their robust honesty about what human nature can be like though. Fairytales don’t pull their punches. And that is how it should be.

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This World and Others – Society Norms

Following on from Fairytales with Bite, I think fairytale reflected society norms (and can still do so). People were used to the idea of short lives and for their society to be often violent and unjust. Fairytales were a way of showing that justice could be done, even that too was rough at times.

Though, thankfully , we have moved on (at least in general terms – the UK no longer has the death penalty for example) there is still a deep down wish evil should not prevail. Injustice rightly angers us.

So when it comes to your own created world, what are the society norms there? Are people so used to the violence around them they just accept it? How do your characters seek to improve things (and I’m taking it as a given they are seeking to improve things – there’s a great story structure right there)?

What do they have to overcome? Who helps them? Is magic involved? What are the end results? How are society norms changed by what they do? And there should be change.

Story is all about change, conflict and resolution after all, regardless of genre.

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Paragraphs and Punctuation In Fiction

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good week. Off to run a workshop in London tomorrow. Submitted a story for a competition I always enter. Finished judging a flash fiction competition and sent results back to the organisers. Has been a reasonably productive week!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s that time of the week again. I’m pleased to share Paragraphs and Punctuation In Fiction, my latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today.

I discuss how both are invaluable aids to clarity in writing which in turn is going to increase your chances of acceptance by a publisher or getting a placing in a competition.

What you don’t want to do here is give them a reason to turn your work down and writing which is clunky thanks to bulky paragraphs and/or unclear punctuation (which can change the meaning of what you want to say) is a sure fire way to ensure your work is turned down.

My post looks at the Oxford comma, why size matters for paragraphs, and why keeping it simple for punctuation does pay off. I also recommend checking out house styles for publishers (and for competitions the guidelines the organizers are asking you to adhere to) and share my thoughts on why I treat writing and editing as two separate creative tasks.

Albeit editing is creative in a different way to writing that first draft but it is still creative. Honest. I find it immensely satisfying seeing how a work improves over various drafts before I finally send my piece out into the big, bad world.

Hope you find the post useful and, as ever, do add your comments in the box – it is always good to hear from people.

Paragraphs and Punctuation in Fiction

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What got you into reading for pleasure? Well, in my case, it was my late mother who read stories out to me and encouraged me to learn to read at a very early age. You do copy by example.

What got me into writing my own stories? Suddenly waking up to the idea after I hit a significant birthday and a life change (the birth of my son) and realizing if I wanted to be a writer, something that had been in the back of my mind for ages, I should get on and do something about it.

I wrote just to prove to myself I could do it but it was some time later before I went on to try and be published. I suspect lack of confidence was an issue there, but by then the writing bug had got me well and truly hooked and I wasn’t going to let rejections etc stand in the way, which helped against the lack of confidence dilemma!

For me, stories are all about the characters. I have to find out what happens to them. I have to care about the outcome. And that remains an enjoyable challenge for me as I write my stories, as well as giving me immense delight when I read stories by other writers where I am rooting for their “people” all the way through. I use the word “people” loosely there. After all, I was cheering on rabbits in Watership Down!

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Changeable day weather wise. Lady and her pals were not that impressed by it. Their owners were even less impressed. At least the dogs were running around! (Before you ask, there’s no chance of me doing that. Walk yes; run out of the question!).

Will be sharing my Paragraphs and Punctuation In Fiction on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. See above. I’ll be looking at this from the viewpoint of a writer but also from the viewpoint of a competition judge – me! I judge flash fiction and short story competitions every so often and am currently judging for Nottingham Writers’ Club. I also judged the Margaret McConnell Woman’s Short Story competition for the Scottish Association of Writers earlier this year. So I hope you will find the tips in my CFT post handy as both of these things can help make or break a story for being placed. Will explain more on that in my post.

Image on the right is one I took at the SAW conference earlier this year. They have a very impressive range of trophies for their competitions!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s Friday. Hope you have had a good week. I’m glad to say my story, Creation, is now on Friday Flash Fiction and I think any creative type will identify with my lead character in this one. Hope you enjoy the story.

Screenshot 2022-05-13 at 09-12-04 Creation by Allison Symes


Am currently judging a flash competition for the Nottingham Writers’ Club, which is a great pleasure to do. Does judging other people’s work make me think about what I do with my stories and why? Oh yes and that’s a very good thing.

It means I can take a more detached view of my own work for a start but I can also think about why a story works for me and apply that to what I’m writing. What will my readers make of this? Will my readers pick up on what I want them to pick up and so on?

The best tip I’ve ever had was (and continues to be) to put my work aside for a while before evaluating it. It does need that distance of time to help you to read the piece as a reader (or editor or judge) would do. That in turn opens your eyes to potential faults but you then have time to correct those.


Out in my garden at the moment is a laburnum in flower. Looks stunning. So what, you may think?

Well, this tree is an old one, it has lost major branches over the years, and every time there is a storm, we expect it to come crashing down. But it carries on and is a visual lesson in resilience and not giving up, I think. Now there’s an obvious parallel to the writing life in that but why not also think about this from a character viewpoint?

What kind of character could you create that battles on regardless and “blooms” again despite everyone around them having good reason to think they can’t? I think there could be some interesting story ideas from that.

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Fairytales with Bite – Magical Equipment

What springs to mind when you think of magical equipment? Wands? Crystal balls? Potions (and the ingredients for them)? Fair enough. These are the classic tools which spring up in countless fairytales. But I was wondering whether the magical world had its equivalent of Microsoft and they were always bringing out magical upgrades and so on. Perhaps someone’s wand wasn’t “healthy enough” to take Wand 11 Version 8.9 and so on.

What would your characters make of having to upgrade regularly? Would they be suspicious of the manufacturers doing this trying to make even greater profits? Would they make do with their old equipment for as long as possible? (I resisted switching to Windows 8 when that came out as I heard nothing but bad things about it from various sources. I basically wore my PC out still using Windows 7 and switched PCs only when Windows 10 was out).

Also how many magical equipment manufacturers exist in your created world? Is there a monopoly? Can old equipment be recycled or can people still find a use for it? Does said equipment ever let your characters down at awkward moments and, if so, are the consequences tragic or even humorous? Some story ideas there I think!

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This World and Others – Engagement

How does your created world engage with (a) other worlds near it or (b) with different species within its own confines? Is engagement a positive thing or are your people suspicious of it?

How would national characteristics come into play? If one part of your world was aggressive, how would that impact on the rest of your created world and what would their reaction be? How would they engage with the aggressor to try and persuade them to stop?

Now there are obvious parallels with the war in Ukraine (and indeed with many wars throughout our history) but this is where knowing how we engage with others can make you think about how you would do this for your fictional people and worlds. Are they better than us? Are they worse?

Comparisons with what we know here to what could be in what you are drafting are useful. They give you a place to start as you world build. They can also be useful “echoes” for readers who recognize certain traits are what we do or are based on what we do/have done.

Even the most fantastical world has to have something readers can identify with – they need to engage with what you have come up with – so basing your concept on what we know here helps with that.

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Names in Fiction


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots and photo taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good week. Lady has been enjoying the sunshine and meeting up with her dog pals all week. I’m busy preparing workshops and looking forward to running them.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m pleased to share Names in Fiction, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. I don’t always know the names of my characters immediately. Often I will know their major trait and their situation and ideas for names will emerge from knowing those things.

Setting helps too as if I’m writing a historical piece as I do sometimes, I will want to make sure the name is suitable for that time period. Sometimes I will jot down a name but a better one will come to me as I’m drafting so I change it, but once I do have the right name for the right character in the right story, nothing is making me change it!

I share thoughts on useful sources to find names in my post, as well as looking at how names have meaning and how that can be used by writers. Surnames didn’t happen until after the 1066 Norman Conquest in England so that is something which has to be borne in mind by historical writers.

I’ve used names to indicate the likely age of a character without spelling the age out. For example, I named a character Walter. Not likely to be a young person with a name like that, right? Correct, he wasn’t.

Hope you find the post useful.

Names In Fiction

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I’m talking about Names in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Link up tomorrow. See above. I look at how writers can use names to add to their characterisation and how certain names have gone into the language. I’ll also be sharing tips on using names and good places to find them. (Don’t forget the old random name generators too).

Am looking forward to seeing The Dragon of Wantley, the panto being put on by the Chameleon Theatre Group, next Thursday. It’ll be lovely to catch up with Janet Williams, my lovely editor at CFT. I do see these evenings as “Chandler’s Ford Today works outings” when Janet and I both get to go! Review in due course. And it is so nice getting back to seeing live theatre again.

Do you find it hard to come up with names for your characters? Sometimes I know a name immediately. Sometimes I know who my character is going to be in terms of personality first and that in turn will give me ideas for names to suit that personality.

I don’t always worry about surnames and, where it is appropriate for the story, I stick to first person and just use I throughout. What matters I think is knowing how you are going to get “into” writing your story. I have to know the character’s major trait as so much comes from that. Some writers absolutely have to know the name first or to be able to visualise their people and that’s fine.

What I hope is my post on Friday will be a useful guide as to where you can find inspiration for names as there are various ways to find ideas here.

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It’s been another lovely day in Hampshire. Someone has enjoyed her time out and about – see pic.

Looking forward to taking part in the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction group on Zoom later this evening.

One thing to come out of the pandemic was the increasing use of Zoom and that has made many things possible. I can talk to family members in New Zealand easily for example. Genre group meetings like this one, where the people taking part live several hundreds of miles away from each other, is something else made possible.

Am busy getting my author newsletter ready for the beginning of May. Do head over to my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like to sign up.

Am putting finishing touches to various blogs I write for on a monthly basis – I like to keep ahead of myself here so when one has gone out online, fairly soon afterwards the next month’s one is up and scheduled. Gives me plenty of thinking time too and that is always a good thing.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am pleased to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. This one is called Where Am I? It is based on a prompt thrown up by a random scenario generator (which was about waking up in a strange room). Hope you enjoy it and a big thank you to all who have commented on this one already. Screenshot 2022-04-22 at 09-23-11 Where Am I by Allison Symes

Another lovely spring day in Hampshire. Dog was equally impressed.

I’ve been asked an interesting question about whether flash is necessarily about moral twists. Not necessarily. You can argue that Jesus’s parables in the New Testament and Aesop’s Fables are flash fiction given they are mainly within the word count for flash and yes they have a moral message and there can be twists to them. Whoever would expect a tortoise to win a race against a hare, for example?

But a lot of my stories don’t exactly have a moral message though, as with most fiction, you can learn a lot about what not to do or be thanks to following the exploits of the characters. You can “watch” as you read as the characters make mistakes that make you wince etc and think I’d never do that. That is one of the great joys or reading fiction!

Where I think flash does come into its own is having a powerful impact for such a small word count. You can get the “punch in the gut” effect that much more quickly and a writer can exploit that.

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Do you have a favourite kind of character to write stories around? I think most of us do. I have a soft spot for the feisty older woman character where you know there is more to her than meets the eye. I’ve always loved this kind of character in the fairytales. You know the kind – the old woman who suddenly turns out to be a powerful magical being and cuts some arrogant twerp down to size. (See Beauty and the Beast for more on that!).

I suppose behind this is a wish that older characters aren’t written off as being unimportant (and I wish that too for older people in general). What matters here is caring about the characters you dream up because only then can you write their stories up with any conviction. The first person to enjoy your story has to be you, the writer.

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Fairytales with Bite – The Older Magical Practitioner

I have a very soft spot for the older magical practitioner in fairytales. I love those wizened older people who turn out to be a powerful fairy godmother/wizard in disguise who then usually go on to teach some arrogant so-and-so a much needed lesson.

I know my love of this character type is partly due to my own wish that older people are not underestimated or dismissed for being old. I don’t want age to be a factor for my characters. Indeed, if anything, I want their years of experience to have beneficial outcomes in the stories I’m writing about them now. I want experience to count for something.

The ideal sweet spot for me is having a character like that teamed up with someone younger, faster etc but who is willing to learn from them. They could make a formidable team!

What uses do you put your older characters to in your stories? Yes, they can be invaluable sources of advice but I would want them to do practical things that the younger ones could not. I would want the younger ones to do the things the older characters could not. Genuine team work.

Ageism, for me, has no place in fiction (or indeed anywhere!). Yes, sure your older characters aren’t going to be able to do what they could easily do years ago but there should be other things they can do instead, tips and tricks they’ve learned along the way precisely because they can’t do the other stuff any more. So what do you get your characters to do? Are you limiting what they can do?

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This World and Others – Age

Going on from my Fairytales with Bite post, how does your fictional world react to age? Is it respected or despised? A lot will depend on the cultural background of your characters so how can you play on that to come up with interesting tales? You could get some nice tensions/conflicts between between those who respect age and those who do not. Here I would want the old ones to prove those who despise them wrong!

You can also write about age as an era and show how your fictional world has moved on (or not) from times past. What consequences would that have for your characters in the here and now?

Does age work in the same way it does here or is reverse aging possible? What conflicts could that cause? Also are only certain species/classes allowed to get to certain ages and beyond?

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