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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Stories and The Joys of Working with the Indie Press


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.
I hope you had a happy Easter, if you celebrate it as I do. The weather was lovely and it actually felt spring-like! After the bizarre weather of the last month or so that was welcome.

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Am catching up with some flash fiction reading at the moment then I’m on to non-fiction books again. I do like a good mix.

Writing wise, this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post will be Names In Fiction. Sorry my Originality in Fiction will be out for CFT on the 29th April. I got ahead of myself by a week there! (I blame the bank holidays and the clock change – so there! Having said that, I hope you enjoy both posts when they come out over the next two Fridays!).

I schedule blogs and tweets I write every so often for the Association of Christian Writers as much as I can. It saves time and it means I don’t forget things but it does mean I can occasionally put myself out of sync with myself as I did over the weekend!

Blogging wasn’t really a “thing” when I started writing seriously. I am glad it is now though. I love blogs and have learned so much from them myself over the years.

Am looking forward to going out with my CFT editor, Janet Williams, next week to see the Chameleon Theatre Group’s production of The Dragon of Wantley. This panto was deferred from January but I’m looking forward to seeing it The Chameleon pantos are always great fun and I do plan to break my In Fiction series to write a review in due course.

Authors Electric Blog

Pleased to share The Joys of Working with the Indie Press for Authors Electric this month. It was a joy to write this one up as it continues to be a joy working with said indie press! I love the way the indie press has given so many writers, including me, more options for getting work out there.

Screenshot 2022-04-18 at 17-12-31 The Joys of Working with the Indie Press by Allison Symes

17th April

Happy Easter Sunday!

I’m chatting about The Joys of Working with the Indie Press for my Authors Electric blog tomorrow. Looking forward to sharing that link. See above.

A big thank you for the wonderful comments continuing to come in on my A Timely Reveal for Friday Flash Fiction. Much appreciated and I am loving writing the 100-worders again. You can pack quite a punch with the short form of fiction – and it is great for the twist ending.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post will be about Originality in Fiction. Looking forward to sharing that link on Friday. Oops! Post will actually be Names in Fiction for this week though Originality in Fiction will follow on 29th April. The dangers of getting ahead of yourself are illustrated here!

Have a good week (and those who are not working, I hope you enjoy the rest of your Easter break).

Screenshot 2022-04-15 at 12-35-32 A Timely Reveal by Allison Symes

S = Short forms of fiction are great fun to write and read.
T = Telling tales in fewer words is the best way I know to tighten up writing skills.
O = Original short stories and flash fiction can stay in the memory longer precisely because they are short.
R = Remember all forms of writing need editing and honing – the short form is no different.
I = Imagination is focused in the shorter stories and therefore impact is more intense.
E = Every word has to punch its weight to justify being included – there is no spare room here.
S = Stunning stories can be submitted to markets, competitions or compiled for a collection.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I mentioned yesterday that I used the random scenario generator again yesterday for my YouTube story, Strange Room. I took the theme of waking up in a strange room and wrote a different story which I hope will make it on to Friday Flash Fiction this week. And that’s the thing. You can take a great prompt, write two different stories for it and send said stories off to two different markets. Win-win there I think!

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It has been a Bank Holiday here in the UK but that doesn’t stop it being story time once again. My latest YouTube video is called Strange Room and is based on another prompt from a random scenario generator. The prompt was to write about waking up in a strange room. Hope you enjoy it.


17th April

Happy Easter Sunday!

Am looking forward to watching Doctor Who later on. (It was great!). It is one of the few things I will watch as “live” telly.

Writing wise, all is going well on my workshop material and I am pleased with how my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today is panning out. Do see the direct link to my page here for more.

Just to finish by saying there are offers on Amazon on the paperbacks of From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Do see the link for more information. Hope you enjoy a good read!

I love mixing up the moods in my stories and a flash collection is a great way to have a great mix of tales reflecting this. Just as life isn’t all laughter and sunshine, neither are my tales. Equally, life isn’t all grim and darkness (despite what the news is saying) and again my stories reflect that. There needs to be room in fiction as in life, for laughter and tears, comedy and tragedy – we experience all of these things.

Fiction should reflect it all too. Then it is up to the reader to decide what they want to read in terms of mood. The lovely things with collections is you can get a good range within one book cover! I think that’s a great idea. And the indie press does take collections so short story writers and flash fiction authors, be aware – there are opportunities here.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Odd Books

I suspect, like me, you have a good range of books on your shelves and most of them you can put into categories. I have a significant amount of crime novels, a whole section of humour (Wodehouse and Pratchett), and many others besides. With my writing guides, those have their own sub-categories as some cover short story writing while others look at novels etc.

But I do have odd books I can’t put into a section. Some of these are reference books as some stand alone because they cover a particular topic. So I group these in my “odd corner”. These are the kind of books which would have gone out of print long ago but which are a fascinating read and great for dipping into. My odd books tend to be non-fiction and I have found that many a fiction story idea is inspired by something I’ve read in a non-fiction book. So this is another good reason to ensure I know where to find my odd books!

I’ve not yet got back to going to charity markets etc where you will often find odd but interesting books on offer. It is something I hope to resume but what I would say is even if you are the most die-hard fiction writer, do have a good selection of non-fiction books in. They are great reads in and of themselves and do use them to inspire your own story ideas. When you are at charity markets have a good rummage and see what you can find. You may end up being glad you got those odd books in!

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Hooks, Simple Ideas, and Character Attitudes


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.
What does snow, ice-cream chimes, and simple ideas  have in common? They all appear in this post – and I discuss character attitudes too.

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Glad to report there is an offer on Amazon on both of my flash fiction collections – see link for more. Go on, pick up a bargain!

I see there is a film about to come out called Operation Mincemeat based on the book of the same name by Ben Macintyre. Loved the book. Film looks promising – hoping they’re faithful to said book.

Looking forward to sharing Laughter in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. I love writing all of my posts but there are some which are sheer fun and this is one of them. Mind you, the topic helps!

I forgot to mention this last month but I am so pleased to be a member of the Authors’ Licensing and Collection Society. I have free membership of this thanks to being a member of the Society of Authors. I was really pleased with my pay-out from ALCS last month, which was up from last year. Definitely worth looking into to if you have books out there. And updating the online form when you have new works out is easy too.

I joined the Society of Authors years ago after receiving invaluable advice from them over a publishing contact I’d been offered. It was from a vanity publisher. I turned the contract down, got my manuscript back, and joined the Society. Never regretted any of that!

Screenshot 2022-04-04 at 19-51-16 ALCS

Cold but no snow today so I count that as a win! See post further down for why I say this! Hope you have had a good Sunday. Much as I dislike the clock changes twice a year, I must admit it is nice having the lighter evenings. It means Lady gets a longer evening walk for one thing and she is happy about that.

Regardless of the length of story I write, I do like a good hook in the opening line. I am a great believer in the “hit the ground running” approach.

Sometimes I do this by getting a character to do something. Sometimes I will open with an intriguing line of dialogue. I also open with a set up that has to be followed through in some way and the only way a reader is going to find out is by reading the story through.

And yes I deliberately mix up the approach I take here. It keeps things interesting for me and I hope that comes through to readers too.

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Bizarre weather again today. I was doing some gardening, (”doing” being the operative word as I am no expert!), when snow fell again and at the same time I heard the charming chimes of an ice cream van! (I passed on that).

Many thanks for the wonderful comments coming in on The Way Time Smells, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Using the senses is encouraged in fiction as they all help readers “picture” things, they also make characters seem more real to me, and I was glad to get in a scent I have fond memories of as a child into this story.

I’m looking at Laughter in Fiction for my Chandler’s Ford Today post next week and look forward to sharing that in due course.

One positive thing about the cold weather is it makes it even more easy to stay indoors and get on with the writing!

Screenshot 2022-04-01 at 09-18-31 The Way Time Smells by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was talking yesterday about how I came up with the idea for my latest YouTube video, Away. Link below. It was based on a simple premise and, especially for such a short form as flash fiction, it pays off to keep the idea simple. Flash is not the place for the convoluted idea and again this is another example of the form of flash ensuring you do have to stick to the point.

I’ve also found, naturally, a simple idea is easier to deliver on (and stick to the word count with). There’s an old saying about not “over-egging the pudding” and that comes into play with flash fiction writing too. Just because an idea is simple, it doesn’t mean the story is simple. You can still show a wealth of emotion via the simple tale of one character telling another just what a hellish time they’ve had of it lately. Basic plot right there.

And the other character’s reaction whether it is sympathetic or not can show a reader just how caring or not that other character is and, to an extent, whether the first character deserves that sympathy or not. Yet that all stems from a simple idea.

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It has been another hectic Monday. Time to slow down and enjoy a story then. Hope you enjoy Away, my latest tale on my YouTube channel. I used a random picture generator to come up with the idea for a story based around chairs in a park and thought about who might have put them there.


I’ve talked before about how I sometimes write a punchline or a twist ending first and then use spider diagrams to help me work out how I could get to that closing line. The other advantage of this is this approach usually gives me a good idea of how long my story is likely to be.

If my spider diagram produces a result where I am likely to need more than one character in the story (as opposed to one or more being referred to – a kind of “being offstage” scenario), then I know my tale is likely to be between the 500 and 1000 words mark for flash. For short stories, I’m definitely looking at 1500 to 2000. That then gives me a good idea of where I’m likely to find a home for the finished tale.

What I don’t do is decide on the word count and then work out the story from there. I always go for the spider diagram option that resonates the most with me because it will do the same for a reader. The one that resonates most with me is one I’m going to love writing up because already that idea has triggered me and I will be itching to write it up.

The only times the word count is almost (!) the most important factor for me is when I am writing to a market which calls for a specific word count such as Paragraph Planet or Friday Flash Fiction. And even there I jot down ideas and still go for the one that makes the most impact on me. I am putting myself in my readers’ shoes here and asking myself what would they like from this idea. Then I go for it!

Having your reader in mind from the start is a good idea. It helps you keep on track too.

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Every now and then I write a story where the sentences open with the same words. In my The Wish List from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, all but the last sentence starts with the words I wish.

The advantage of doing this is that it creates a kind of rhythm to my story and, in this case, the “I wish”in each and every sentence ratchets up the tension and that in turn builds up to a conclusion.

It is not something I would wish to do all the time (the I wish being a deliberate choice of phrase there!) because I wouldn’t want it to come across as gimmicky and I fear frequent use of something like this would do precisely that. It does make a refreshing change every now and then though.

Goodreads Author Blog – Character Attitudes

What hooks you into following a character’s story though to those magic words The End? Something about the character has to draw you in and, for me, it is usually to do with their attitudes towards other characters, themselves, and life in general.

One of my favourite characters is Sam Vimes from Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Discworld series. Not only do I like following Sam through one novel I have loved watching that character develop over the series of Discworld novels he stars in – and boy does he develop. That is a sign of a truly great character. They’re never static! And his attitude varies depending on who is dealing with but there’s never any doubt about him wanting to see justice done. (And doing his level best to ensure it is).

I also like characters who acknowledge their own shortcomings but overcome them. (Pride and Prejudice, anyone?). A character who isn’t willing to change when it is clear change would bring them (a) happiness and (b) make them an all round better person is not a character that’s going to hold my interest for long.

Characters reflect us and what we know about life so a character’s attitude generally is something we will need to have understanding of, even if we don’t entirely agree with it.

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Kindness and Killing in Fiction – and Snow!


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. My CFT post this week has the most unusual title I’ve ever written to but I show there are plenty of examples of kindness and killing in fiction and not just in the usual genres. It’s good to be back on Friday Flash Fiction as well though I could have done without the snow coming back! But then that’s April in the UK for you!

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Facebook – General

Two posts from me for 1st April 2022 – not an April Fools Day joke, honestly!

The first of the month is a busy time! Am delighted to share the link for the April edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads. As ever, the magazine is packed full of articles, photos, and, of course, stories!

My column this time talked about Dialogue and there was a fabulous response to my challenge to create an all-dialogue piece of flash fiction with a maximum word count of 300 words. Do check the column and stories out – as well as the rest of the magazine. You’ll be in for a great read but don’t just take my word for it – there is only one way to find out, isn’t there?!

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Second post!
Okay – not so much sleet and snow today. Lady ran around like a mad thing this morning so almost certainly was unaware of just how cold it is right now. I got my gloves and scarf out! Hmm… I thought I had finished with them for a few months but never mind.

Author newsletter out this morning. Many thanks to those who have opened it so far. Hope you find it useful and informative.

My latest Chandler’s Ford Today post is called Kindness and Killing in Fiction, which is probably the oddest contrast I’ve ever written about. The funny thing is though there are plenty of examples of both across the fictional world and not just in the “obvious genres”.

Screenshot 2022-04-01 at 09-18-41 Kindness and Killing in Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

I take a look at why characters must have a good reason (or reasons) for their actions and attitudes, though it doesn’t mean the author and/or their readers have to agree with them. We do need to see where the characters are coming from though – that is where realism comes in I think.

I also share my thoughts on why we read crime/horror when the world is the way it is and discuss signs of strength (kindness for me is one of them) and the role of justice in these stories. As ever, comments are welcome on the CFT page.

Kindness and Killing in Fiction

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Am still not impressed with the weather – have had sleet, hail, snow today. I thought March was supposed to come in like a lion and go out as a lamb. No sign of that happening today. Lady literally shakes it all off though she can have little “snow mountains” on her back until she decides to shake it off. She does this with rain too. I’ve learned to side step her when she does that! Having an extending lead is useful…

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Writing wise, I’m getting on with various blogs and I’m planning to get back to actual flash writing at the weekend. By the end of a week, as long as I have managed to get a good mixture of fiction and non-fiction writing done, I’m happy.

And odd moments of time I use to draft a flash tale or brainstorm ideas which I can use as I see fit. Sometimes I will have a specific brainstorming session where I focus on ideas for future blogs. These sessions always pay off because I have things to come back to later when I’m not feeling so inspired.

And you learn to recognize every writer gets periods like that (and in my case I know it can be fuelled if I’m feeling especially tired). Having a notebook stuffed with ideas though is a great thing to fall back on!

When I haven't much writing time

Hope you have had a good day. Not impressed with the weather suddenly turning cold though it was lovely seeing Lady having a riotous time with her best buddies, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback and Hungarian Vizler. (Good rule here is to stand back and enjoy the show. You don’t want any of the three dogs cannoning into you!).

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I’m talking about Kindness and Killing In Fiction this time. The whole crime genre has a major focus on the latter, of course, as a good whodunnit depend on there having been a crime to solve but kindness turns up more often than you might think.

A huge thank you to all who commented on my More Than Writers blog about Spring-like Writing yesterday.

My author newsletter goes out again on Friday. I enjoy putting these together and I hope you make good use of the tips and prompts shared.

One thing I’ve found useful to remember when rejections/no hears happen is to recall every writer goes through this and there’s nothing to stop you revisiting a story, polishing it some more, and sending it out elsewhere. I’ve had work published doing that. Good luck!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am delighted to be back on Friday Flash Fiction with my The Way Time Smells and a huge thanks to all the who have sent in fabulous comments on this already. This story is loosely based on fact and I evoke how a particular scent takes my character back in time. The scent I use here is one that does take me back in time in a similar way. Hope you enjoy it.

I had the idea for this one because the title came to me quickly and I know I would then need a scent to “latch on to” and why someone would link a scent with something in their past.. I’ve found before when the titles come first that tends to also give me a story structure from the start and I find that really useful. That was the case here.

Screenshot 2022-04-01 at 09-18-31 The Way Time Smells by Allison Symes

I’ve mentioned reading your work out loud before to hear how it sounds and the nice thing with flash is of course that doesn’t take long. The other reason I do it (and record myself to play back later) is to work out a kind of “set” for Open Prose Mic Nights. I like to have a balance of different moods of story, vary the word counts I read to, vary whether I use a first or third person narrator etc. I hope that makes things more interesting for an audience. I know it does for me!

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For humorous flash pieces, such as my Bypassing The System in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I write my punchline down first and then work out different ways as to how I could logically get to that point. I do the same for twist in the tale stories. To me it makes sense to write down what I know I want to be in the story and then work out everything else around it.

Occasionally I have had a go at competitions where they give you a line they want you to put in the middle of the story. That’s a tough call but the way I’ve tackled this is to work out what must lead from the middle line to get to the end.

Having got two-thirds of the story down, I then figure out what the beginning has to be. Sounds a bit convoluted I know but it does mean that I have completed the “brief” and what leads to the middle makes sense as does what comes out from it to the end. I find with these stories knowing what the ending is, again, helps me to sort out the beginning.

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Fairytales with Bite – Time for a Spell?

I’ve long believed that Cinderella’s fairy godmother was somewhat late for the party when she did finally turn up. Where was she when poor old Cinders was having such a hard time of it being ill-treated by her stepmother and her daughters? Cinders could have done with earlier intervention I think – it would’ve limited the misery for one thing.

That said, when is the right time for a magical being to intervene to help someone? Is there a case for leaving intervention as late as possible to (a) give the character to chance to help themselves and (b) to ensure all other options are exhausted first? (Not a lot of comfort for poor Cinders there!).

Whenever you get your characters to intervene magically, ensure there is a good reason for that intervention and that magic is the only option available at this point in the story. Set something up earlier in the story to show magical intervention is a distinct possibility to avoid any disbelief on the part of a reader.

And if you can get a character on the receiving end of such help to do something to help the process, even If it is only by just fetching possible “ingredients”, then so much the better. They are at least contributing to their own positive outcome here.

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This World and Others – Recollections

Memories matter. They matter to individuals. They matter to countries. They matter to a world, fictional or otherwise. Culture is built up (or destroyed) by what people choose to remember. And what is chosen here will reflect a great deal on the nature of the character or culture doing the reflecting.

We, for example, remember the fallen in world wars etc for Remembrance in November. Others may see remembering the fallen as something they simply do not do – they only recall the heroes, the ones who survived.

For your fiction, you can pick elements like that to show the nature of your fictional world overall. A world that celebrates war is going to be very different from one that remembers and honours more peaceful ways of living. A culture that remembers its failures as well as its triumphs is likely to be a better one in which to live simply because it has learned to be honest with itself about its failures.

So what will your characters recollect? What is officially chosen to be remembered? What is remembered but talked about very quietly for fear of the authorities?

What would your characters do if they come across something that has to be told or recollected in some way yet goes against their world’s policy on what is remembered? Will they dare to cross the line here and what would the outcomes be if so? I would suspect there would be more than one outcome. There would be the obvious one of the authorities punishing the character but what would happen if the words had “got out” and others had got to hear the forbidden truth? What could be the outcome from that?

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Dialogue in Fiction

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good week. I hope to be on a train on my way to Derbyshire by the time this goes out (and it will be lovely to meet up with members of the Association of Christian Writers Committee once again, I’m their Membership Secretary). I’ll be at The Hayes, Swanwick – and I got to book my place for that in August this week so it has not been a bad week at all!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I look at Dialogue in Fiction for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. I also include internal dialogue (aka thoughts in this and discuss the use of dialect. I also share my policy on whether a character should swear and list what I think the functions of dialogue should be in any kind of fiction. Hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

Dialogue in Fiction

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Hope you have had a good day. Has been a bit mad here. Glad things are winding down a little. Posts from me over the next couple of days will be at differing times as I am away on Association of Christian Writers business for a couple of days.

Before you ask, Lady isn’t coming but she will be spoiled rotten while I’m away. She always is! She’ll sulk a little when she knows I’ve gone (she tends to look around my side of the bed just to double check I’ve not sneaked back during the middle of the night) but will mug me for all she is worth when I do get back.

Now what is it that you like best about books? Yes, I know. It’s a question of where to start on this one, isn’t it? For me, it’s where I’ve got to the point in the story where I’m rooting for the character to succeed or fail because I know the book has now gripped me and I will just have to read on to find out what happens. And it doesn’t matter whether I’m reading a flash piece or an epic fantasy trilogy, that point doesn’t change for me.

My next favourite bit is getting to the end of the tale and finding the author has made good on their promise – the character has succeeded or failed, as is appropriate for them and the story they’re in. I must admit I do feel so disappointed if I’ve read a story with promising and interesting characters and then find the ending falls flat. But the best ending in the world won’t work for me if I’m not gripped by the characters in the first place.

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Many thanks for the views on No B Gratitude, my latest YouTube story. This is a short and fun tale and I manage to get a pun in on the choice of music for this too. I’m off at an ACW Committee Retreat soon so I may well be putting up a video later than usual next week. Will just have to see how things go. Likewise for getting a piece in to Friday Flash Fiction but I am really enjoying producing something for both of these things once a week. Keeps me on my toes and I am finding more uses for the random generators I love so win win!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I hope by the time you read this I will be in lovely Derbyshire on Association of Christian Writers business for a couple of days. (I’m their Membership Secretary). But right now it is the end of the week and time for my weekly drabble. Glad to share my latest on Friday Flash Fiction and this one is called Timing. Again I used a random generator for this and the question behind it was what was the most recent silly thing you did? So I got my character here to answer that one! All great fun and I hope you enjoy it.

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/timing-by-allison-symes

Screenshot 2022-02-04 at 08-57-53 Timing, by Allison Symes

Screenshot 2022-02-03 at 21-31-38 Friday Flash Fiction

 

Your first audience for any story you writer is, of course, you. If you’re not gripped by the characters and the situation they’re in, nobody else will be. This is why I outline my character so I can get a “feel” for who they are, what they’re capable of, and as a result I can determine whether they really do have a story in them that should be told.

With flash fiction I reach that “yes, got to write this character up” stage very quickly indeed and you get better over time (and with practice) at spotting promising characters earlier. I don’t always know the length of the story at this point unless I am writing to a specific word count market such as Friday Flash Fiction, but I don’t let that worry me. I get the story down. I edit it. I leave it for a bit and then look at it again and read it as a reader would. I ask myself tough questions particularly of the “do I really need this in here” variety! That question is useful because you have to be able to say an emphatic “yes” to that one.

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Hope you have had a good day. Lady got to play with her best pal, the Rhodesian Ridgeback today. Two tired and happy dogs went home again. I do sometimes write flash pieces based around dogs. One of them is Jumping Through Hoops from From Light to Dark and Back Again. Let’s just say I am very much on the side of the poor dog in this one!

Fairytales with Bite – Dreams and Nightmares

Most of the classic fairytale characters go through a nightmare stage before their dreams come true (though it is always useful if you have a kindly fairy godmother turn up armed with a large wand and bigger pumpkin!).

In your fictional world, are your characters able to make their dreams come true and is this dependent on magic (whether it’s their own or someone else intervening to help them)? What would count as a nightmare situation for your characters and how do they overcome that?

Of course one person’s nightmare could be someone else’s dream – the villain wants their schemes to succeed, it would be their dream come true. How can you ratchet up the tension between Character A trying to make those schemes succeed and Character B who desperately needs them to fail? There should be plenty at stake here – just what do your characters have to lose or gain?

In a magical world, is the meaning of dreams taken seriously? Who interprets them? Do they do this honestly and do your characters act on what they have been told? What are the consequences of that?

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This World and Others – Interactions

Fiction is dependent on interactions between characters. Story is dependent on conflict and resolution (even if the latter is not a happy one) so there has to be a case of a character wanting something and something/someone else getting in the way of them obtaining that.

Sometimes the conflict can be an internal one – the character wants to change some aspect of themselves and struggles to do so. You see glimpses of this with Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. There are times Frodo’s more positive attitude towards Gollum seems to be paying off and other times when Sam’s cynical view of Gollum is justified.

So yes a character can interact with themselves and Gollum does that a lot. Not necessarily to his own benefit either. For the record, I see Gollum as a tragic, evil character whereas Sauron is just evil. There is a huge difference here. I don’t like Gollum but the possibility of redemption is there – whether he takes it or not is another matter.

How do interactions between your characters play out? Does on character always seem to get the upper hand or is there more of a balance? The problem with dominant characters, as with dominant people full stop, can be they cause resentment (and rebellion) in others. Interactions matter – they fuel the conflict which is the heart of any story.

So give thought to what you want your characters to do and why they are the way they are. With Gollum, you can see what led him to become the creature he became. Your readers need to do that with your characters – and indeed with mine!

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Celebrating with Bridge House Publishing

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
A huge thanks to Gill James for the YouTube clip in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Also thanks to Lynn Clement for her fab author-editor-publisher photo which is part of this post. Other photos in this post were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good week. Have been busy on the flash fiction front with stories submitted for competition as well as in my usual outlets. And I have news on another story of mine which will be broadcast soon.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m pleased to share the link to my latest post on Chandler’s Ford Today which is called Celebrating with Bridge House Publishing. I look back at the recent Zoom and in-person events and discuss why events like this matter. I also share some tips on writing to a theme in this post. This is relevant as BHP set the theme for the next anthology at the celebration event.

It was great to meet up with friends old and new at both the Zoom and in-person event though I am sure the Christmas tree at Waterloo Station by the world’s second most famous clock (after Big Ben, though I know that’s the bell rather than the clock!) has shrunk. Check the pictures out and see what you think!

Celebrating with Bridge House Publishing

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Have started on the Christmas cards! I guess it counts as writing…

I enjoy writing them but it is the getting started on them which can be tricky but now I am underway and know I will now finish them. It is exactly the same thing for me when it comes to writing flash fiction tales! Get me started and away I go!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be Celebrating with Bridge House Publishing where I take a look back at both the Zoom and in-person event. Always a lovely way to finish the writing year.

And apologies – I forgot to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction which came out last Friday. It’s a fun one too. Just what will Alison do with the witch who has crashed into her bungalow? Find out with my story The Best Remedy.

A huge thanks to all who have commented on this one already – it was a joy to reply. I do appreciate the feedback on this website. It is so helpful. Like most writers, so often you never hear back so to get thoughtful feedback is very much welcomed.

Screenshot 2021-12-09 at 19-43-00 The Best Remedy, by Allison Symes

BROADCAST NEWS

Hope you have had a good day. I now have a list of all the writers who will be taking part in Hannah Kate’s Three Minute Santas flash fiction show on North Manchester FM on 18th December between 2 and 4 pm. See screenshot below (and thanks to Hannah for putting this up). I plan to share a link to the show later too. Well done, all.

How do I go about writing a piece of festive flash fiction? Without giving anything away about my story for the show, I will say I decide on the character I am going to write about first, work out where they are set, and, often, putting those two things together gives me an idea as to what the story is here.

And you can have a lot of fun with the setting – for example with one of my flash pieces that ended up in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I started with the idea the story had to be set in Santa’s factory and the character had to be an assistant who was concerned about his boss. (That ended up being called The Help).

Really looking forward to listening to Hannah’s show and not just because I’m part of it, honest! I loved the mix of stories from last year and listening to the variety of tales was lovely so very much want to do that again!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Been a busy week on the flash fiction front. I’m going to share two stories from Friday Flash Fiction as I know I forgot to share one “properly” and you get the links to two stories in one go. Hope you enjoy them both. See links below.

Am thrilled my festive flash piece will be on Hannah Kate’s Three Minute Santas show on 18th December 2021 between 2 and 4 pm (UK time) on North Manchester FM. Will share the link later.

And I’ve sent in a piece this week for the Writing Magazine Grand Flash Prize competition. Fingers crossed time for that one.

There is still time to enter this competition – the deadline is 31st December. Maximum word count is 500 words. Fee for entry is £10.00 if you’re a WM subscriber, £15.00 if not. First prize is £1000, second prize is £250.00, third prize is £100.00. I’ve mentioned before I always check competition fees against the prize on offer. I would expect a higher entry fee for a higher prize and this one seems fair enough to me.

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/the-best-remedy-by-allison-symes
https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/specialist-subject-by-allison-symes

 

Don’t forget I regularly post flash fiction videos on my YouTube channel. Subscribers always welcome! I also have my two book trailers on here for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. These both include a story to give a flavour of what I write. Hope you enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

Screenshot 2021-12-10 at 19-22-29 Allison Symes - YouTube

F = Festive Flash Fiction is fun to write.
L = Light-hearted and not too long, ideal for a busy time of year.
A = Animals, workers in Santa’s factory, fairies, elves – there are all kinds of characters to write up.
S = Satisfying short stories that raise a smile – that is the point of festive flash I think.
H = Have fun writing it and reading/listening to it!

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Fairytales with Bite – Twists in Fairytales

Twists work so well in fairytales. The hero/heroine is probably going to be an unlikely one – for example, it’s not often you get a talking cat in footwear being the star of a story!

You know that the villain is going to get their comeuppance at some point, which for me that was one of the joys of fairytales when I was a kid. Even then I knew the world wasn’t fair. Somehow in fairytales things mainly are righted where they need to be. What you don’t know is how exactly that comeuppance is going to happen – and there is plenty of manoeuvre room for good twists there. It also keeps readers glued to the page – you have to find out how the villain gets stopped.

Even though you know magic is going to be involved somehow, the twist there is will it work as it is supposed to do or will another magical character thwart it (as happens in Sleeping Beauty).

So we can think about what twists we can put into our magical stories. Some thoughts here, which I hope inspire ideas, include:-

  • The magical element going wrong.
  • The supposed hero proving to be anything but and not worthy of magical help – how will they be taught a lesson? Will they learn and be redeemed or will someone else, more worthy, become the hero instead? The latter often comes into play when you have three characters in a story. It is usually the youngest son out of three brothers who proves to be the hero eventually.
  • Having your story set in a place where magic cannot happen so other ways of dealing with problems have to be found. That is going to be a problem for your average fairy godmother wanting to assist a client. How will they assist instead or will their client have to resolve their own problems?

Have fun with your twists, readers will pick up on that (I know I do when I read stories like that), but ensure the twist is logical for the story. The twist has to be something a reader can look back through the story and think yes, that could happen here.

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This World and Others – Characters and Their Motives

Motives make the character seem real to a reader. The motives don’t have to be good ones but a reader should be able to understand why your character has them. Basic motives won’t change much regardless of your setting. Sentient beings will need food, drink, shelter, security, the ability to reproduce etc, but where you can bring in variety is in how these things are achieved in your setting.

Let’s say your setting bans war, any kind of fighting (if only!), etc, how would characters with conflicting needs resolve this instead with one major way of resolving issues taken away from them?

Motives can change over time too so that is something which can be reflected in your setting and characters. The desire to reproduce lessens with age (as does the ability of course for example so your Character A can go from wanting this to not wanting it at all). How does the change of motive affect them and those they are closest to?

Conflict comes from two characters wanting different things but again there has to be good reasons for those characters wanting what they do and why they feel the other is wrong. Ideally your readers will be able to empathise with both characters (though will usually root for one in particular to succeed. I do this all the time!).

All of this is why I like to outline my characters and know what their major traits are before I try to write them up into stories. I really do have to know where they are coming from so I can picture them and hear their voice. I’ve found it has paid me to work out what I need to know. Every writer will have differing ideas about what they need to know but it can be fun to experiment to find out what you need to know.

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Back From Brechin

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Many thanks to Sarah Archibald for Brechin/Angus Book Festival related material. Also a huge thanks to Wendy H Jones, Caroline Johnston, Tony Collins, Maressa Mortimer, Ruth Leigh, and Sarah Grace for their fab author and book cover photos for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week.  My book cover images are from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share Back from Brechin, my latest post on Chandler’s Ford Today. I look at how the event went, the benefits of events like this, discuss my talk and workshop here, and give a shout-out to the contingent from the Association of Christian Writers who went, especially Wendy H Jones, who hosted us and ferried us around. (A huge thanks also to Maressa Mortimer for her valuable taxi services too!).

There were eight of us all including me and we covered a wide range of writing between us – literally everything from children’s fiction to crime to flash fiction to memoir and narrative non-fiction and YA stories to historical novels and Christian chicklit.

The event was great fun and useful experience, as well as it being the first major book event I’ve taken part in since before lockdown. What with this, and the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School back in August, it is good to be out and about again. I love Zoom but getting together with people at in-person events has been something I’ve missed over the last year or so and it is good these are coming back.

Back From Brechin

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Brrr… back to the biting cold again. Not that Lady worried as she was too busy playing with Coco and Katima, two of her pals today. Mind you, Lady might have wondered why her owner insisted we kept walking around the park instead of staying still to watch her and her pals play. I was trying to get some life back into my feet!

Will be sharing my Back From Brechin post for Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. It was such useful experience and good fun taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Link above.

Now I’ve talked before about using a variety of methods to trigger ideas for my short stories and flash fiction pieces. I do much the same for my blog posts. Events I go to are obvious topics to write up but I also look at aspects of writing which intrigue me (and I won’t be the only one to be intrigued – what fascinates one writer will fascinate others) and I adore interviewing other writers. I always learn something interesting and interviews make a great way about sharing who you are and what you do in an entertaining way without being too “in your face” with the old “buy my book” routine.

I’ve learned over time to keep a watching brief out for topics I think might be of interest to others. And that is the point – it is vital to think of your audience, always, regardless of what you write. It is also vital that you enjoy what you write as that comes through. It also makes it easier for you to sustain your writing over time.

 

Today has been one of those days though the highlights were seeing Lady play with her best buddy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and Coco, the lovely Labradoodle. Even better their mutual pal, a very smiley Hungarian Vizler, came and joined in the fun. The other highlight was getting my hair done. But other than that…!

Sent my author newsletter out earlier. See link. Always good fun to put these together.

Looking forward to going to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event on Saturday. Will be lovely to catch up with friends. (Zoom and Facebook have been a lifeline but you can’t beat getting together in person where possible).

As you know I blog for a number of places and I can’t recommend drafting posts for future use highly enough. It has often proved a lifeline for me as it means I know I always have something which will be “good to go” as and when I need them. It pays to have a “stock” in of these and whenever I go out by train, I always draft blog posts like this once I’ve finished drafting some flash fiction of course!

Screenshot 2021-12-03 at 19-45-49 Allison Symes - December 2021 - Festive Flash and More

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My latest story on Friday Flash Fiction is called Specialist Subject where my heroine, Doreen, finds a way of dealing with the local bore. Find out how via the link. My sympathies are entirely with Doreen incidentally!


Screenshot 2021-12-03 at 17-08-27 Specialist Subject, by Allison Symes

Unless I am writing for a specific website such as Paragraph Planet or Friday Flash Fiction or Mom’s Favorite Reads, I don’t worry about the word count until I’ve got the story down. With the three sites I’ve mentioned, I know their word count, what it looks like on a page, and know what to aim for so away I go.

But if I’m not writing for a specific market, I want to write without having to worry about the word count too much. Once I’ve edited the story so I know it is as good as I can make it, I then think either where can I send this piece (and I will know of a few places, I can also research some) OR I save these for open competitions.

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Amongst the many random generators out there is a random object one. Having a quick look tonight, I set two items as my parameters and came up with the words balloon and box.

Now you could just find a way of getting these words into a story. You could get your character(s) to love or loathe these things and your story is about why they feel this way and what led them to that. In the case of loathing, you could also examine what happens if the character is forced to deal with these items again. They’re in a situation where they can’t avoid the things. How do they handle that?

And you could find a way of framing your title around the items too. Plus you could have two characters with opposing views on these objects. How do they resolve their differences? For the above example, what if one character wants their kid to have loads of balloons and boxes at their party, it’s what they always had, while the other believes these are wasteful and doesn’t want any of them?

I’ve found using the different generators enormously useful in (a) coming up with ideas and (b) making me think differently about how I approach writing a story. They’re fun too!

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Fairytales With Bite – Fairytales in the Christmas Season

Fairytales are a popular feature at Christmas of course thanks to pantomime in particular. (Think Cinderella, Babes in the Wood, Sleeping Beauty etc). I enjoy a pantomime where it is clear cast and audience are having lots of fun but overall I prefer reading the original stories.

What I hope the pantomime season does is encourage people to check out the original stories (even if the younger fans might be better off leaving that until they are a little older. Many of the original tales could not be staged as they were originally written).

Where I do enjoy my fairytales at Christmas even more is in certain films. I adore The Polar Express and consider that to be a fairytale (and one with an edge to it too). The same goes for Shrek where I love the way the ogre is the hero here. Fairytales have often been “subverted” and the Shrek films are great examples of that.

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This World and Others – Communal Celebrations

Does your fictional world have communal celebrations? If so, are they based on religion, on seasons of the year, or both? Does everyone take part in these? Are any celebrations from the past now banned and, if so, why was that done? How tolerant are your differing peoples of the celebrations of others?

Communal celebrations serve to bring people together and to lift the spirit (especially winter based events as these are often connected with celebrating light and foreshadowing the return of spring). Are these aims achieved in your fictional festivals? Do your characters join in with the events or choose to abstain? Is joining in compulsory?

What foods and drinks are served and who prepares these? Is magic involved in the celebrations? Answering questions like these will help you to picture what your fictional world would do. If that makes things clearer for you, it will do the same for your readers.

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What Books Mean to Me, Bridge House Publishing, and Random Questions

Image Credit:- 
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as was the photo of one of my stories from The Best of CafeLit 10. I also took the photo of my books at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Not so cold today and Lady got to play with her pal, Coco, who is a very lovable Labradoodle.

Looking forward to sharing this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post. I’ll be writing about the recent Brechin/Angus Book Festival and sharing why events like this matter (and not just to the authors taking part either). Link up on Friday.

Am putting finishing touches to my author newsletter too and that goes out tomorrow, 1st December. Can hardly believe we’re almost at December already. (And I do hope you have a good number of books on your wish list!).

Also, I was delighted to come up with a new idea for a flash fiction story when I was taking part in the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction group recently. Have written it up, polished it, and submitted it. Now fingers crossed time!

It’s my turn once again on the More than Writers blog for the Association of Christian Writers. This time I talk about What Books Mean to Me and the challenge here was to keep to the 500 words limit!

Mind you, it is a topic every writer could go on about at length. We’re inspired by what we read. The more we read the bigger our “inspiration net” from which to fish. And we’re supporting the industry we want to be part of – win-win there I think.

Screenshot 2021-11-29 at 19-35-05 What Books Mean to Me by Allison Symes

Brr… another cold day here. Am grateful for thick clothes, big coat, long scarf, and gloves for walking the dog. Glamorous? Err… no!

I’ll be talking about What Books Mean to Me in my blog for the Association of Christian Writers tomorrow. See link above. The challenge there was keeping that topic to 500 words! You can see how I did tomorrow when I put the link up.

Pleased to see more comments coming in on Moving Along, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction.

Am working on material for another Zoom talk in February and I’m almost there with material for my third flash fiction collection. It will need robust editing before I submit it but I am hoping to get that off by the spring of next year, earlier if possible. I am happy with the material in and of itself but I know thorough editing will sharpen what’s there and I enjoy that process.

But it is also a relief to know I’ve got the book “down”, the stories are a good mix, and editing will improve them still further. What’s not to like there? Do I wish it was a quicker process? Sometimes. But I know I need a decent break between writing the stories and then going back and editing them. Taking the time there has helped me enormously in the past to see more clearly what is working and what doesn’t. It then gives me my best chance of submitting the best I can to a publisher.

Screenshot 2021-11-26 at 19-21-09 Moving Along, by Allison Symes

Hope everyone is okay. Very stormy conditions in the UK today. Hampshire saw snow, sleet, rain, bitter cold, and strong winds for a lot of Saturday. Even Lady wasn’t that impressed. She isn’t usually fazed by the weather.

Am busy getting my author newsletter ready for sending out on 1st December. I share tips, prompts, video links and all sorts here. Head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if this sounds of interest.

I’ll be talking about the recent Brechin/Angus Book Festival for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Many thanks once again to Lynn Clement for the recent two-part interview. It is always a joy to interview other writers for CFT as I always learn something interesting/useful to know (and often both).

The great thing with creative writing is that it is an ongoing process to find out what it is you like to write and then to try and get better at it. Good for the old imagination and the brain as a whole. And then there are all those competitions and markets to still try and crack… no excuse for becoming bored then!

Screenshot 2021-11-30 at 20-37-37 The Appeal of AnthologiesCreative writing is a joy

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am looking forward to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event on Saturday. It will be nice meeting up with Lynn Clement again, whose The City of Stories, has recently been published by Chapeltown Books. I recently interviewed Lynn to discuss flash fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today.

Flash is a wonderful format for sharing on social media. For something to entertain without taking up too much of anyone’s time, it can’t be beaten. And it is easy to share at in-person events too. In the busyness of life, it is great to take time out for a very quick read indeed!

I’ve found it pays me to just get the story written and worry about the editing and word count later. Some flash pieces genuinely do work better at 250 words rather than 100 words, for example. It is only by getting the whole story down and giving myself breathing space to look at it properly later, I can see that yes, this needs to be kept in and that doesn’t.

Over time, you do develop an instinct for what will work better at a slightly longer word count and I’ve learned to trust that instinct when it kicks in.

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Back to my normal slot for story time. Hope you enjoy Going On. This one came about as a result of a question from a random question generator (what can you talk about for hours?). I’ve used the same question as the basis for my story for Friday Flash Fiction this week too. Good fun to do.


Am glad to report there’s a special offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic on Amazon right now. See link below. And a big thank you to those who have picked up the Kindle version recently too. Much appreciated (and if you have time to leave a review, even better).

I’ve mentioned before I’m often using Sundays to produce new stories for YouTube and Friday Flash Fiction respectively and I often use the random generators to trigger my ideas here.

Having a quick look at a random question generator, the question that cropped up was “what can you talk about for hours”? I don’t know yet if I will use that for my stories tonight but the thought struck me it would be a good question to ask your characters as you outline them. You are sure to find out more about what makes them tick by getting “them” to answer that. It should highlight some of their overall attitudes to life too.

For example, if the answer is “military history”, say, you could then dig deeper to find out why your character is fascinated by that. What does that reveal about them? Could an opponent use this against them in some way? And there’s your story outline as you think about the answers to those questions. Using one question to trigger others works for story outlining.

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I often write festive flash fiction. My last Chandler’s Ford Today post of the year usually features some. And I have just written a piece and submitted it on a festive theme. Will report back it if it gets taken. I often share a festive dribble (50 words) or drabble (100) words on my Facebook pages too. (The 50 word ones also work well on Twitter).

I see it as a nice way to wrap up the old year and hopefully the tales will raise a smile or two. Naturally I keep the theme for thee stories light. I do avoid any kind of whimsy though. Even tales featuring Santa will have a bit of a bite to them (albeit a nice bite!).

And when I do write a fairytale kind of story, again apt for the rapidly approaching season, there will be a twist or a sense of irony in the story somewhere. Fairytales were never meant to be twee. I think stories with humour are often the best for getting any kind of message across anyway. It helps to make it palatable.

But what I want most for my festive fiction is for there to be a sense of fun about them. I certainly have fun writing them and I hope that comes across.

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Goodreads Author Blog – The Appeal of Anthologies

Naturally I am a bit biased here as I’m honoured to have several of my stories appear in various anthologies over the years. It’s a pleasure to write short stories for these and even more of a pleasure when said tales are accepted.

But, regardless of that, I have always had a soft spot for anthologies. Why? I like to see them as a reading “mixed assortment”. Who ever said that just worked for biscuits or chocolates?! It works for books too!

What I get most from anthologies is the wonderful range of talent on offer. I get to read authors I might not have come across otherwise and, when the anthology is to a set theme, it is fascinating to see how so many different writers bring their own take to that topic.

I deliberately read anthologies, including flash fiction ones, between novels. They do act almost like a “starter meal” for my next longer read. Indeed, if I’m not sure which novel to read next, by the time I’ve come to the end of an anthology, I know which mood (and therefore genre) of novel I want to read next.

So do check the anthologies out. (They’re also useful for seeing if you like the work of an author new to you. If you like their short work, it is highly likely you will like their longer books).

And happy reading – short and long form!

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Stories, Editing, and a Press Appearance

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Many thanks to Sarah Archibald for images related to the recent Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing (though the image of CafeLit 10 was my usual keen author opening their box of books shot!). It has been a strange week. I started the week in Dundee, after a lovely time at the Festival, and am now back at my desk, getting down to the nitty-gritty of the writing life (and loving that). Am very appreciative of the joy creative writing has given and continues to give me.

Creative writing is a joy

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am so pleased to welcome back Lynn Clement to Chandler’s Ford Today. This week we talk about editing. I had the pleasure of editing Lynn’s flash fiction collection, The City of Stories, recently. Lynn shares how she found the vigorous three stage editing process Chapeltown Books has and what her approach to editing is amongst other topics. Hope you enjoy the post and pick up useful thoughts here. I hope it is some consolation that editing is hard work but oh so worth it when you know your book is sharper, tighter, flows better than it did before. It is worth it, folks, honest!

And what is really nice is I am due to meet up with Lynn again in person at the Bridge House Publishing celebration event on 4th December. Looking forward to catching up with her and other Bridge House/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books authors then (and many of us write for all three!).

Introducing Lynn Clement – Part 2 – The Editing

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Pleased to share the following link kindly forwarded to be by Sarah Archibald – a lovely write up and pic of the authors taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Must admit the last time I sat in a group like this, I was at school! (Also first time I’ve been in a newspaper so feeling a bit chuffed I must say).

Success for Brechin/Angus Book Festival event

Screenshot 2021-11-26 at 20-29-20 Success for Brechin Angus Book Festival event Angus World

Hope you’ve had a good day. I’m in that “back to the office after a break” kind of routine and am trying to catch up with paperwork.

Had a lovely time on the Association of Christian Writers Flash Group meeting tonight. Groups like this are useful for sharing tips and advice, reading stories out and receiving feedback. We’re not meeting next month (I’ll leave you to guess why!) but look forward to meeting up with everyone again on Zoom in January. And that will be with us before we know it. (Oh and I did come up with an idea I hope to write up soon as a result of our discussions tonight – I always welcome things like that!).

PS. Since writing the above post, I did write up the idea I came up with during this meeting and have since submitted the story. Will let you know if it goes anywhere.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am pleased I managed to get a story in for Friday Flash Fiction this week after all. Hope you enjoy my latest here (and many thanks for the comments in on it already). What could possibly go wrong when a witch decides to have a house rebuild? Find out here!

Screenshot 2021-11-26 at 19-21-09 Moving Along, by Allison Symes


Firstly, had a lovely Zoom session last night with the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group. Plenty of feedback and tips shared. (Another advantage here is there is a lot of great advice for writing flash that can be taken to help you improve standard length short stories too).

Secondly, I’m pleased to share a link to flash fiction on Mom’s Favorite Reads. Don’t forget the magazine is free, has a wide range of articles and stories, and I will be setting the theme for the next edition soon. Always fun to do that!

Last but not least, I will be talking again with Lynn Clement on Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. I recently edited Lynn’s flash fiction collection, The City of Stories, for Chapeltown Books. Tomorrow Lynn and I will discuss the editing process. See link above.

 

Screenshot 2021-11-26 at 20-38-51 Flash Fiction


Pleased to share my latest YouTube story. Hope you enjoy A Turn Up For the Books. What happens when healthy eating impacts on the fairy world? Find out here!

Fairytales With Bite – Magical Livelihoods

What kind of jobs could exist in the magical world other than the obvious ones of wizard, fairy godmother etc? How about these?

Ingredient Fetcher – always out in the fresh air. Works for witches, wizards and those fairy godmothers who like to use wildlife in their spells. Must love amphibians (as eye of newt comes up a lot in this job).

Spell Book Translator – If you’ve ever read Old English, you will know how difficult it is to read (especially over a longer document). Old spell books are much the same. They need translating into more modern magical speech. And these things don’t happen as if by magic, oh no. Someone has to do them.

Food Preparer – Definitely not a cook. This job means taking the shiniest red apples the ingredient fetcher has brought you and selecting the very best to go through to the boss, who no doubt has something to add to them herself. And you dare not bring her anything less than the best. The boss won’t sack you if you do. She’ll just do a trial run of her special ingredient on the sub-standard apple you’ve brought her and make you eat it. Get it right though and there will be rewards (including getting to live for another day).

Cleaners – Always needed regardless of what world you live in. Use of magic to do the job strictly banned since that spot of bother with the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

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This World and Others – Employment Issues

What kind of employment opportunities exist in your fictional world? Do jobs match what we have here or are there work placements which could only exist in your fiction? Can anyone apply for jobs based on merit or is there a strict system where only those from a certain type of background can apply for certain types of work?

How does your society pay for goods and services? How are these things produced? Is magic allowed to be used? Is there such as thing as a working week? Are there employment laws protecting the workers? Can people better themselves through working hard etc?

What does your fictional world need in terms of employment and are those needs met? Does it need to import labour and/or services and, if so, where does it get these things from?

What does your lead character do for a living? How does that affect their outlook? And when they’re called up on to go on the adventure you’re sending them on, how easy do they find it to give up all they have known? After all, secure employment is a rarity wherever you go!

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