Best Friends 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. Image of Lady and myself taken by my other half, Adrian Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good week. This week has ended well as a still poorly Lady is now a lot, lot better and back playing with her pals in the park again.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share Best Friends in Fiction, my latest blog for Chandler’s Ford Today. I take a look at the role of the best friend/sidekick character and nominate the one I think is the best fictional friend of all time. Take a look at the post and see if you agree with me. Nominations for your own candidate would be very welcome in the CFT comments box!

I also discuss why some stories simply wouldn’t work without the best friend character (and I am sure you can think of loads of examples. To name only one could you really imagine Wooster without Jeeves? I know I can’t. And while I know Jeeves is Wooster’s “gentleman’s personal gentleman” there is no question that the advice and help he gives Bertie is the kind of advice the very best kind of best friend character would give.)

Hope you enjoy the post.

Best Friends in Fiction

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Had a lovely time at the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group meeting on Zoom last night. We were chatting about writing prompts and random generators amongst other things, both of which I love and use a lot. I like to mix up the kinds of prompt I use as that keeps me on my toes.

And if you are looking for ideas for prompts, I will flag up Prompts 2020, Prompts 2021, and Prompts 2022, all of which were produced by Gill James and with contributions from many Bridge House Publishing authors including yours truly. The link takes you to the Bridgetown Cafe Bookshop page. But having a book of prompts to hand is a good idea as is using the different kinds of random generators. It all helps inspire the imagination.

 

Hope you have had a good day. Lovely highlight for me today was having a long overdue catch-up chat over a cup of tea with my editor at Chandler’s Ford Today, Janet Williams. (As ever, Lady thought any visitor has to be for her. It is difficult to convince a dog otherwise).

I’ll be talking about Best Friends in Fiction for CFT on Friday. So much wonderful fiction relies on the best friend/sidekick character and, as well as looking at what the best friend’s role is for, I nominate whom I think is the best ever friend in fiction in my post. Looking forward to sharing that. See link above.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s the end of the standard working week (at least here in the UK) and it’s story time again. Am pleased to share Someone Like Her, my latest piece on Friday Flash Fiction. This story is a little unusual for me in that it is the first time where I have deliberately repeated a whole line. It is appropriate to do so for the tale and I think gives the piece a good rhythm.

Normally I would consider a repetition like that a waste of words, especially in such a tight word count. I would normally seek to say something similar in a different way if I needed some repetition for emphasis, say. But here I think the repetition works well. Comments always welcome here and on the Friday Flash Fiction page under my story.

Screenshot 2022-01-21 at 19-08-10 Someone Like Her, by Allison Symes

One huge benefit to flash fiction writing is, if you are pushed for time (and how many of us are not at times?), you still have a form of writing where you could produce something in ten minutes, say. Okay it will need editing later but all forms of writing need that so that’s fine.

I must admit I find it satisfying to produce a piece and not have to wait too long for a pay-off from it (and even when that pay-off is a turn down, I can edit the piece again and re-submit it somewhere). I’ve found it useful to save small pockets of time to draft future stories.

When I have more time, I can come back to those and polish them up, ready to submit somewhere. But it is so nice knowing I can use those pockets of time for something useful (and which helps me make the most of those longer writing sessions later on).

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What do I want a flash fiction story to achieve? Well, a lot depends on the story’s mood of course but whether I am trying to make a reader laugh, cry, or scream, it is all about the impact. My characters must make my readers care about what happens to them. There has to be impact. I want a reader to enjoy my flash pieces and feel that not a word could be added or taken away.

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Fairytales With Bite – Three Is Magical

The number three crops up in fairytales often. Three wishes. The youngest son (out of three) is the one to do well. And then there are the titles – The Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, etc. In any story where something happens, then that same or very similar something happens again, I am expecting the something to be resolved on the third “go”. The Rule of Three is something we take in all the time while being usually unaware of it.

And there are good reasons for this. The first “occasion” sets up a situation, the second one repeats it where the character clearly hasn’t learned the lesson they’re supposed to have learned, but on the third time they have changed what needs to be changed so the situation is resolved, usually happily. The structure works.

A fourth “go” and the story would seem to drag on for too long. Resolving the situation in two “goes” would not seem realistic either given characters (and us!) need time to realise they’ve got something wrong, work out how to put something right, try something, it still doesn’t quite work out, but on the third attempt they’re there.

So three is a magical figure for fiction telling then. With fairytales, you can always arrange for your character to have three magical objects (naturally the last of these will be the most powerful). What matters here is how your character uses these things. Do they use the first one wastefully or greedily? Does this backfire so they are less greedy or wasteful when it comes to using the second object but are still not quite using magic honourably?

By the time they’re ready to use the third, have they stopped being greedy or wasteful and use the last object in a sensible way? Scene – action – reaction. Scene – action – reaction. Scene – positive action – positive resolution.

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This World and Others – Who Tells The Stories?

What form(s) do stories take in your created world? Is there a written/printed story tradition or is it oral only? Is technology used for storytelling or are there bards and the like telling stories the old-fashioned way? Are stories valued and accessible to all?

Or does your world prefer facts only and the stories told are those of past battles won etc? (It can be an interesting reflection on a place where it celebrates its victories but ignores its defeats. For that sort of world, I would expect there to be oppression, no freedom of the press etc).

Who tells the stories is an interesting question in another way. Who tells the storytellers what they can say? Does the narrative ever change? Does the narrative get challenged? And what would happen if your created world was made up to face up to the fact that one of their so-called great victories was actually a defeat and there has been an almighty cover-up?

Are there libraries and who can access these? If books are banned in your creation, which ones and why? Also is there a black market for the banned books (there often is for this kind of thing)?

Whose voices are represented by the stories being told? Whose stories are ignored or treated with contempt?

Answering questions like these will help give you a clearer picture of what your world is and its attitudes. It should then show you your characters’ reactions to those attitudes. Do they just accept it as it has always been that way or do they seek to change it?

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Animals 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. Many thanks to Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn for shots taken of me at Open Prose Mic Nights at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. (Looking forward to being back there again!).
Hope you have had a good week. I think I’ve had the best comment ever on any post I’ve written in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. See further down for more on this.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am delighted to share Animals in Fiction, my post for Chandler’s Ford Today for this week. I look at favourite animal characters as well as explore their use in stories. I also look at writing from the viewpoint of an animal, which is something I’ve done from time to time.

And I am thrilled comments are coming in on this one already, including one that I think may well prove to be the best comment I’ve ever had on a CFT post (and possibly on any blog post!). Once you’ve read the post, scroll down and check out what one of my readers’ dogs made of the theme for Jaws! My sympathy is with the dog.

Also, do send in your own comments on the CFT post about your favourite animals in fiction.

Animals in Fiction

 

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Good news – Lady got to see her best buddy briefly today. Latter is much better and the two dogs were delighted to see each other, especially since today is not one of the days they usually meet.

I’ll be sharing my Animals in Fiction post for Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. Looking forward to sharing that. I loved animal characters when I was a kid. I have a soft spot for them still (helped no end by being a dog owner I suspect). Give some thought as to the ones you loved in books. Comments are always welcome over on the CFT page – link up tomorrow – would love to hear your thoughts on this topic over on that page then.

I have written stories from the viewpoint of an animal though I mainly focus on humans/humanoids but every so often it is good to turn the tables. I can use animal stories to show what I think they might think of us!


How has Wednesday been? Lady’s had an okay day but she missed her best buddy today (and that’s because her pal isn’t feeling too well, poor thing. Very much keeping everything crossed, paws included, that all is well again soon). It is lovely to watch how dogs make friends with each other.

Talking of friends, how do your characters measure up here? Do they have plenty of them? Or do they believe in quality over quantity? Equally, how good a friend are they to others?

There are plenty of stories where friends come to the rescue but how about writing one where a friend lets someone down and then goes on later to make up for it? Could have a lovely emotional rollercoaster of a story there. Rebuilding trust is difficult though not impossible. How do your characters manage it?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to share Dodging by Numbers, my new story on Friday Flash Fiction. I used a random number generator to come up with the number 766 and you can find out how I worked that into a flash fiction piece here. Hope you enjoy it.

The more observant may have noticed I used the same number for my YouTube story this week, Lucky Number.

You know how coincidences don’t really work in fiction, right?

You know you have to plant clues for the readers so when your event happens they know it was within the realms of possibilities for your character so don’t feel cheated, right?

So the wise author never ever uses coincidences because they know they won’t be believed by a reader, right?

Well, there was no coincidence here either!).

Screenshot 2022-01-13 at 21-22-24 Random Number Generator

Screenshot 2022-01-14 at 19-00-29 Dodging by Numbers, by Allison Symes

 

I have a “stock” of stories for reading out at Open Prose Mic Nights. Flash fiction works brilliantly for this as you can’t go on for too long – and everyone likes that!

Naturally I mix up the mood of the flash tales I read out. I like to start and finish with an amusing piece and have something darker and/or more reflective in the middle section. And I do practice reading the stories out loud first at home. (For one thing I have found knowing I’ve done that helps steady the old nerves a bit!)

Delighted to say I’ll be giving a Zoom talk on flash fiction again soon. Always happy to spread the word about what a wonderful format it is!

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I must admit I do a lot of my reading in bed – it’s a wonderful way to unwind. But we all get stressful days when perhaps it is more of an effort to read. This is where I do turn to flash fiction and short story collections. I am still reading wonderfully crafted stories. I’m just going for the shorter form. I also deliberately read collections in between novels. I like to mix up what I read in terms of author, genre, and length of story too.

Writing flash fiction gives me a great opportunity to mix up what I write too in terms of word count, genre I write in (as I’ve written crime flash, historical flash, fantasy flash etc). And it is such fun to do especially if you like creating people as I do. I’ve found flash has helped me to develop my show and not tell technique as well (which can of course be applied to any length of fiction).

Writing short is also marvellous practice in preparing material for blogs, advertising, blurbs etc.

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Fairytales With Bite – Time

How is time measured in your fictional world? Does it have the same divisions? I’ve used time in my flash fiction stories (and in one crime story I had 1a clock as a murder weapon!).

Do you use Time as a character? I’m drafting a story with this in mind and am showing Time as a character who cannot be cheated. The fun here is in showing how another character tries to be the one who will finally achieve that. There is always someone who will try to do that which has not been done before and you could make that a comedy story or a tragedy.

What impact does time have on your characters? Are they ruled by the clock or other time measuring device? How does time affect the way in which they live? In your fictional world, is there anyone who can control time and how do they do this? I would expect there to be a heavy price to pay for that ability (with great power should go a sense of great responsibility and, if not, misusing the ability to control time should have consequences. Note I said should there!).

How does time affect what your characters can do and when? Do different characters appear at differing times of the day/week/year etc? Why do they only come out at certain times?

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This World and Others – Reacting to Time

How does your world measure time? Does it worry about keeping “tabs” on time? Or do your characters just go with the flow? Do your characters age, as we understand the term? If they get to one age and then stop at that point until, presumably, they die, why does time stop for them?

Time, of course, has a big impact on us all and governs so much – everything from when we get up to making the most of natural daylight before having to go inside for the night. We can’t keep going for 24/7 – sleep has to happen. Time tires and ages us. But when we are having a lovely time of it, don’t we want those times to last for ever?

Now think about your characters. What are their attitudes here? How do they react to time? Do they see it as kindly or as a cruel thing (and age would probably have a role here in how your characters respond to that)?

With time of course there comes the point when it has to stop. We’re mortal after all. How do your mortal characters handle this knowledge? Do they make the most of the time allotted to them?

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Getting Into Character Heads and New Stories

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. Images of me reading at Swanwick Open Prose Mic Nights taken by Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn. Image of me book signing at Swanwick was taken by Fiona Park. Many thanks, folks. Looking forward to seeing you again at Swanwick later this year hopefully!
Hope you enjoyed the weekend. Glad to be back to producing stories for YouTube and Friday Flash Fiction.

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Many thanks for the views coming in on Lucky Number, my latest YouTube video. It is always great fun putting these together. I adore using the Book Brush tool for videos here and being able to add a music track from YT’s library of free-to-use clips.

I don’t have a lucky number. I don’t believe in such things but characters can and do. How would their belief in a lucky number affect their behaviour? How would other characters respond to their behaviour? Equally what would their belief in an unlucky number cause them to do?

If you set your story in another world, what numbers would that world consider lucky or otherwise? Thirteen, for example, is often considered unlucky because there thirteen people at the Last Supper of Christ, including the traitor, Judas Iscariot. There usually is some reason why numbers have luck associated to them. Could you find interesting stories to tell about that?


Glad to get to my desk to sit and write for a while. Mondays are always horrendously busy for me. Is there a particular day of the week you find challenging? For me it is a relief to get to my desk on any day of the week but especially on Mondays. I find writing so therapeutic and I can feel myself relax as I start).

I don’t know quite what it is but getting into the heads of characters and bringing them to life is just wonderfully relaxing and a challenge. Responding to that challenge gets the old imaginative sparks flying and before I know it I am taken out of myself which I guess is the point! Characters should seem real to you for them to stand any chance of seeming real to a reader.

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Hope you have had a good weekend. Weather better but colder today.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is called Animals in Fiction and I am looking forward to sharing that on Friday. I share some of my childhood favourites here and what I think would be the downsides to writing animal characters. Mind you, this is from someone who wrote a story from the viewpoint of a mother dragon! See below.


Has been a blustery and wet day in soggy Hampshire. Hope things have been better with you (though given the power cut earlier this week I am just thankful to have got in from walking the dog to a nice cosy home!).

Do you find it harder to get your creative juices started at this time of year when it is dark and gloomy (in the UK at least) or does the time of year not matter? I find when I get started, I end up being on a roll. It can be the getting started which is tricky which is why I use a number of ways to help me begin a story. I’ll be talking more about that in my next column for Mom’s Favorite Reads but in the meantime there is always the January issue to enjoy.


Screenshot 2022-01-01 at 17-16-40 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine January 2022 eBook Publishing , Goylake , Howe, Hannah , S[...]

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ll be looking at Animals in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I sometimes have animal characters in my flash fiction but I prefer writing human/humanoid characters. It is easier to give them thoughts and dialogue!

But animals can (and have been used to) represent human behaviour, especially in fables. Many of those would fall within the flash fiction category thanks to their word count. The best fables are kept short. They’re easier to remember this way and especially in the days before print that mattered.

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Pleased to share Lucky Number, which is my latest YouTube story.  See link further up. I used a random number generator to come up with 766, the “lucky” number in this tale. It isn’t usually a number associated with luck, good or otherwise, so why is it considered lucky by my character, Denise? Check out the video – hope you enjoy.
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One of the joys of flash is being able to capture those moments which would not sustain a full standard length short story of 1500 words or more, yet is still a complete tale in and of itself. It means nothing is wasted here.

So if you have a writing exercise jotted down which won’t come to more than 1000 words, why not review it and see if you can turn it into a piece of flash fiction? It doesn’t just have to sit in your notebook!

And given there are more competitions and markets for flash now (especially the indie press), there’s every reason to try and get it published too. Good luck!

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Many thanks for the comments coming in on New Start, my first story of the New Year for Friday Flash Fiction.

Am looking forward to the ACW Flash Group Meeting later on in the month too. That took a break for Christmas and it will be lovely to see everyone again, even if we are in a Zoom box!

When choosing pieces of flash to read out, I usually focus on the 100-worders. They’re to the point and are effective at showing what flash is quickly. If I’m reading at an Open Prose Mic Night, I usually start and finish with a 100-word tale and then have something a little longer in the middle.

Even then I tend to go for the 250-300 words and no more. These stories still have the “oomph” effect of flash but also show you can put in a little more, relevant, detail which adds detail and information that you can’t do in the drabbles.

And it is fun to mix up the word counts I write to – give it a go! There will be markets and competitions for the differing lengths of story.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Why Reviews Matter

Every writer with a book out longs for reviews but they can be difficult to come by. I’ve never really understood why. Reviews don’t have to be long. Indeed the short one or two liners often work better.

And, aside from buying the book itself, leaving a review is one of the best ways you can support authors.

What I like to see in a review (and try to do when I give them) is for the reviewer to give a flavour of what the book is about without giving too much away.

I like to see mention of characters that have grabbed the reviewer’s attention and, in flash and short story collections, which were the “stand out” tales.

Reviews obviously help raise an author’s profile. The author can quote from them on their website, Facebook and social media posts etc. And they really don’t take long to write.

My policy here is to review a book as soon as I have finished reading it. It ensures I don’t forget to do it. Maybe that is where the problem lies. Any thoughts?

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J is for January (and power cuts!)

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 start to your New Year. Bit of an “iffy” one here given a major power cut took me offline for several hours on a very cold night this week. Mind you, when power was restored, I found I really appreciated lighting, heating, being able to have hot drinks etc again!
Onwards and upwards though and I am glad to share my first CFT post and Friday Flash Fiction story for the New Year here.

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am delighted to share my first post for Chandler’s Ford Today for 2022. J is for January looks at what I like and dislike about the month, shares some amusing “national” days associated with the month, and I discuss its usefulness for planning out what you would like to achieve, writing wise, for the year to come. I also flag up using historical events for story and article inspiration and share a useful link, naturally for events linked to January!

Screenshot 2022-01-07 at 19-28-56 J is for January - Chandler's Ford Today

Hope you enjoy the post. It is such a relief not to be writing by torchlight and tea light. See below for more on this – it has been one of those weeks! It has not been the best of starts to a New Year but do I appreciate my lighting, heating, being able to write properly etc now after that power cut? You bet!

J is for January

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5th and 6th January

Sorry not able to post on Wednesday as major power cut in my area went on several hours. I remember the Three Day Week back in the 1970s when power often went off and this reminded me of that. Not a good reminder either!

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What I had hoped to post is below.

Came home from the dentists today (went okay) to then have the house plunged into darkness thanks to a power cut! I am typing this by torch light. Have no idea when power will be back on though the powers that be say to allow 3 hours. (Update: It wasn’t. Closer to 12 hours!).

On the plus side Lady got to play with her best friend, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and her other pals, a lovely Hungarian Vizler and Labradoodle respectively, and a marvellous time was had by all. There was another Ridgeback out, a lovely gent of a dog, and it is quite some show when two Ridgebacks decide to have a play fight! Given they weigh 100 kilos between them, you stand back and watch the show! Even Lady does…

Writing wise, I’m working on a talk I’ll be giving in February and looking forward to sharing my J is for January post for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. I am also brainstorming ideas for a short story I want to write up.

Now you know I’m a big fan of characters. For me they make the story, they drive the story, they are the story. When we think of books we’ve loved it is, for me at least, the characters I recall. So what is it about characters that will make them work for me?

They have to be believable, even if they are set in an incredible setting. I have to be able to see where they are coming from and to understand their objective even if I disagree with it. I either have to root for them to succeed or for them to fail, depending on whether I agree with their objective or not. I have to care about what happens to them.

And that is the challenge for me as a writer. To come up with characters readers will care about.

And it is not just a challenge, it is great fun!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It is a joy to be sending stories in for Friday Flash Fiction once again. Am pleased to share my first for the New Year. Appropriately it is called New Start and I hope you enjoy it.
Screenshot 2022-01-07 at 15-13-01 New Start, by Allison Symes

5th and 6th January

Sorry not able to post on Wednesday due to major power cut. My part of the world was without power for several hours on a very cold night – no happy bunnies around here I can tell you! What I had hoped to post is below. (I couldn’t even sync on Evernote – needs net connection for that!)

Have to admit typing by tealight and mini torch thanks to a major power cut is not fun. I guess it shows that (a) the smallest of lights helps against the darkness and (b) extending that out, the short form of story can show something of human nature just as much as the longer forms can. Indeed the short form can be more intense.

Flash light illuminates then. So does flash fiction! It can be a question of asking what reaction you want to bring about in your reader as a result of their having read your story. So what do you want to illuminate – the dark or lighter sides of human nature?

I like to write both (though there is a limit to how dark I go due to personal taste and my faith). I suppose it is because we all know life is not a laugh a minute and I guess I like my fiction to reflect that. Yes, there are laughs but not always.

BookBrushImage-2022-1-6-20-1432fromlighttodark_medium-2Tripping the Flash Fantastic Small.jpgreflection-is-a-major-part-of-lifeWRITERS DAYS - Try to give your writing an uplift

Fairytales With Bite – Attitudes

What are the prevailing attitudes of the characters in your fairytales? I have a very soft spot indeed for feisty aka take no nonsense heroines. I have no time at all for those who seem to be helpless but whom you know if they put some thought in it could help themselves (if only by avoiding the obviously stupid things).

What are the attitudes of those in authority in your setting? Do they lord it over everyone or do they seek to serve? Is there a democracy or a benevolent dictatorship? What are the attitudes of the people to those who rule over them?

What is the general attitude towards magic? Is it seen as just one of those things and taken for granted or is its power, and those who wield it, feared, resented even? What problems could those attitudes cause for your characters?

Attitudes affect actions. A belligerent character could be useful in a situation where toughness, determination to see something through matters. They could be a complete pain in the neck where you need diplomacy and levelheadedness to see your characters through!

So attitudes matter. It pays to give thought as to why your characters have the ones that they do and how these are going to shape your story because they will. They kind of have to as characters make the story and attitudes make the characters.

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This World and Others – The Role of Magic

Is magic a major asset or hazard in your created world? The answer to that will depend on the attitude of your characters. Do they use magic or have they been used by it? Is magic in the hands of the elite or is magic controlled by someone else the elite answer to? Who would that be? How have they come to wield the power that they have?

Also, have there been any kind of magical accidents which have impacted on the landscape of your created world (politically, geographically or both)? I would expect here people to be wary of magic due to that but what happens when magic has to be used? How are fears overcome so magic is used in a safe way?

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Out With The Old?


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 an enjoyable Christmas break. Happy New Year!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Firstly, may I wish you a very Happy New Year.

Secondly, I’m pleased to share Out with the Old?, my new post on Chandler’s Ford Today. Hope you enjoy it. I talk about whether you should necessarily discard everything that is old about your writing (old markets, old work which has been turned down, old ways of doing things) and about appreciating the new.

I also look at how this time of year is a great opportunity to assess where you are writing wise and maybe set some plans for the coming twelve months. And I also include a timely reminder that it is a normal part of the writing life to have to take the rough with the smooth, which gives added reason to celebrate the positives in writing when they happen.

Out with the Old?

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One of my post Christmas treats is to have a day trip to Dorset with better half and Lady. Cobwebs well and truly blown away. Lovely time had by all. Big walks are not where I find story inspiration funnily enough. What they do achieve is being something where I chill out. It’s being in that state of mind which does achieve kickstarting the old imagination.

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Posting early today but am pleased to share my latest post for More Than Writers, the blog spot from the Association of Christian Writers.

This time I talk about Aspects of Writing. I look at what I need to know before writing and why it helps to accept a first draft is not meant to be perfect, far from it!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Will be sending out author newsletter tomorrow. I share tips, prompts, links to stories and videos I’ve created etc, as well as news. To sign up head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Given flash is brief, and newsletters work better when they’re kept fairly short, a flash fiction based newsletter is a good match up I think! (And Tripping the Flash Fantastic is still on offer over at Amazon – see screenshot).

Happy New Year!

Screenshot 2021-12-31 at 20-21-21 Tripping the Flash Fantastic Amazon co uk Symes, Allison 9781910542583 Books

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Looking forward to resuming drafting drabbles at the weekend. The 100 worder is a great form to practice as there are plenty of competitions and markets for it. Check out the Writing Magazine Competition Guide or do a web search. And if you can write to that tight a word count, it will help you draft your blurb and synopsis for longer works.

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Lovely warm and sunny day for the time of year though Lady did manage to find all the mud in the park this morning!

As I write this on route to see family, I get glimpses of people, houses etc. Now any of these could spark ideas for flash fiction pieces. Who is that person? Why do they live where they do? Have they always lived there? If not, what or whom made them move? All story ideas there.

Anything that triggers you asking questions, start wondering “what if” etc, will have good flash potential to it. And people watching is a great one – just be discreet. Nobody should be able to guess what or whom inspired your story unless you tell them.

Fairytales With Bite – New Beginnings

This is an apt topic as we rapidly approach 2022. Do your characters see a new calendar year as a chance to have a new beginning or is this not something which would occur to them perhaps because their world does not celebrate the passing of time like this? If the latter is the case, what would make your character decide now was the time to begin again and which aspect of their life needs them to have a new start?

You could argue that a new beginning for a fairytale character should start after the “happily ever after” bit because your character(s) would be making a new life for themselves. And there are stories to be told here. How well did Cinders, Snow White etc adjust to married, royal life for example?

I should stress that does not need to be a negative story. They could adjust very well indeed but it would be likely they would need time to adjust, they would make mistakes, and it would be there that the stories could be told. How do they overcome all of that?

How supportive are their spouses? What mistakes would they make as they adjust to married life themselves? Certainly there would be space for good romance stories there – and probably humorous ones too, if the couples overcame the issues in a humorous way.

New beginnings, for me at least, would be positive stories and there is no reason why that can’t happen in a fairytale world. For me, here, the stories would be more interesting if the fairy godmother was not called in to sort things out and the couples had to sort things out themselves, probably making a bit of a hash of it along the way but overcoming that too. (Don’t we all do that at times?!).

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This World and Others – A Brand New World

I don’t know about you but the New Year period can feel a little like we’re about to enter a brand new world. There is (usually) more optimism and hope around for the start of the next twelve months. Okay, at the end of the year, we tend to look back and review whether the year was as good as we’d hoped for or not. In the case of 2020, with the onset of Covid, I suspect it could be named the Year Everyone Wants to Forget. (And I suspect 2021 is not going to score too highly in the Best Year of All Time Awards either!).

How do your characters respond to a new time in their lives? Are there the equivalent of New Year celebrations? If so, how are these celebrated and do your characters join in with this? What is societal expectation here? If not, how is the passing of time marked in your fictional setting instead? Why is it different from what we know? What would make your characters feel like they were about to enter a brand new world? Are they right to feel that way?

Taking your setting and characters a whole, what is the prevailing mood? Is it optimistic or pessimistic and why? For example if your world is generally optimistic because it is at peace, most people have all needs met etc., what would it take to change that mood? What would make it become a brand new world in a negative way? (And you can swap that round too – what would make a negative world positive? In either case, are the changes permanent?).

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SEASONS IN WRITING - When life gets in the way be kind to yourselfWriting Routines varyTime awayGood advice whatever your walk of life

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Christmas Plans and Writing Across the Genres

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 had a good weekend, the last before Christmas. Have not finished my preparations for Christmas but am getting there!

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Am enjoying listening to the carol concerts on Classic FM as I write. Soothing and I can join in with the carols – win-win as I love a good sing. (Of course whether anyone else appreciates me having a good sing is a completely different matter!).

I’ll be taking a couple of days off over Christmas but there will be another blog round up on Christmas Eve. And my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday will be sharing some festive flash fiction. I will probably “pop up” over the period between Christmas and New Year but I don’t anticipate “normal service” being resumed until after 1st January. Whatever you do for Christmas, I hope it proves to be a blessed time for you.

I did manage to get a story submitted for the Writing Magazine Grand Flash Prize. There is still time to enter that one if you’re interested – deadline is 31st December.

There will be a Chandler’s Ford Today post on New Year’s Eve where I will be talking about Out with the Old?

I will take the chance to say a big thank you now to those authors I’ve interviewed for CFT over the last year. I very much hope there will be further interviews to come in 2022.

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A big thanks for all the lovely comments coming in on All In the Blend, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Much appreciated (and it gives me another excuse to have another read of the wonderful collection of tales on there so win-win!). It is good to be back writing the 100-worders regularly again.

What do I enjoy most? Usually on my draft, I end up at anything between 150 and 200 words initially. What I love is the honing and pruning to get the story to 100 words without losing anything of value. That is where the challenge lies and I find it to be great fun.

Screenshot 2021-12-17 at 19-28-36 All In The Blend, by Allison Symes


Hope you have had a good Sunday. Finally got my Christmas cake iced. Am very late on it this year but it looks good and I shall look forward to having some next Saturday!

Will be slowly winding down as we head towards Christmas but I will be sharing a festive flash fiction post on Chandler’s Ford Today on Christmas Eve. As well as including the link to listen again to the Three Minute Santas flash fiction special hosted by Hannah Kate yesterday, I will also share another story and talk about the delights of writing festive pieces. Hope it will prove to be a very positive note to go into Christmas with!

I plan to do my usual blog round-ups on Tuesday and Friday this week but that will be about it for a few days. Am looking forward to my usual Christmas story intake of favourite films and books too.

My next author newsletter will go out at some point on 1st January though I cannot promise it will be particularly early!

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Delighted to share the first of two posts here tonight. It was a pleasure to have a festive flash piece on Three Minute Santas hosted by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM. Wonderful to listen to the collection of stories on here. Great start to the 7 day countdown to Christmas! Link below is to the listen again service and the show is divided into two halves – first hour and second hour. I’m on during the first hour with my tale The Night Before Christmas.

Listen Again Page on North Manchester FMScreenshot - Three Minute Santa pageScreenshot 2021-12-20 at 20-21-57 Hannah's Bookshelf pre-Christmas Christmas Special - 18 12 2021Lovely to be on North Manchester FM again

I look at Book Products for my post on Authors Electric this month. I look at what I like here and what I loathe. I also share what I would like to see on the market including a gizmo for ensuring I never lose a notebook or pen again! Now that would be a best seller!

Screenshot 2021-12-18 at 20-12-49 Book Products by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I like writing across the genres with my flash tales. It’s great fun and I see no reason to restrict myself here. The one restriction that counts for anything here is the 1000 word count limit for any individual flash story.

Given flash has to be character led, I may as well set my characters wherever and whenever I want and see what they come up with. This is where my love of reading over the years comes in as naturally that plays a major part in the kinds of story I love to read (and thus to go on and write myself as you write from the heart).

With my historical flash pieces, the one “conceit” I allow is in getting my characters to speak and think in a style of English we will understand. They are communicating their tales to us and it is a question of ensuring we understand them.

I also think using old English is a little like using accents and dialects in storytelling. You want a little of it to give a “flavour” of the era, perhaps, but not so much it “over-balances” the entire story. Nor do you want to make the story difficult to read (and Old English is difficult to read so again it makes sense to limit it!).

For my flash tales where my word count is restricted, every word has to work hard to justify its place to be in the story at all and, again, gives me a reason for not using old style language. It would, I feel, get in the way.

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It’s Monday. It has been a long day. It’s story time then! Hope you enjoy my poignant festive tale, Getting By.

 

I’ve always sided with character in the character -v- plot debate as I’ve mentioned here before, but flash fiction writing has made that call even easier to make. Why?

Simply because I haven’t got the word count room to give lots of lovely description and intricate plot points. I have got to focus on what my character thinks says, and does – and I absolutely love doing that!

But this is precisely why I need to know my character well enough first and why I find a simple template invaluable in getting to know that character. Think of it as interviewing your character. You do want your character to “say” I do like this, I don’t like that because…

The interesting bit here will be in the because as it will be the reason given which will show you even more aspects to your character. I’ve found that makes it easier to write them and their stories up as a result.

writing-advice707359_S.jpgImage - Allison Symes - Light and Dark - these questions can help you establish which applies most to your charactersCharacter Needs are everythingQuizzing my characters


It was a joy to be on the Hannah Kate show again today with my story The Night Before Christmas. I love the idea of a Three Minute Santas festive flash fiction special show. Flash works really well when read out and this show proves that.

The collection of stories is varied and each of them conjures up its own little world. I loved listening to it and I am all for things like this which promote flash and show what it can do and be. Perhaps flash comes into its own at this time of year when everyone is busy and reading might take a bit of a back seat for a while.

Well, you can still read/listen to flash! Hope you enjoy the stories on here.

Joy to hear stories as well as read them

Goodreads Author Blog – Books as Presents

I don’t know how many books are given as presents at Christmas but it must run into millions. Hardbacks, paperbacks, audio books, ebooks – a fabulous celebration of the written word, fictional and factual. I love that aspect. Yes, I’ve got books on my wish list this year – I always do – no surprises there.

I still have an annual (The Friendship Book which is still going strong after many decades and published by that marvellous publisher, D.C. Thomson of Dundee). I wonder how many kids got into reading thanks to having an annual every Christmas. Certainly they’re a great way to encourage reading.

Comics and comic books can serve the same purpose. Flash fiction, my genre, can do so too because these can tempt the reluctant reader in – you don’t have to read a brick of a novel (a) all at once and (b) as your way into reading. You cam start smaller and build up or read the brick a bit at a time.

The important thing is to read and I hope whatever book presents you receive this year, you have a fabulous time reading them!

 

The BHP book stall

Cafelit books - Book Brush mock upBridge House anthologiesHow many books will be on your wish listBooks as presents

people reading books in library

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FINDING IDEAS - The finest way I know to feed my imagination is to readWhere will your fiction take your readers and will it make them laugh

 

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Prep Work

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. Busy preparing for Christmas here but at least the cards have been sent! It all counts as writing…!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest post on Chandler’s Ford Today which is about Prep Work. Apt for this time of year of course! But I look at the topic from a writer’s viewpoint.

I share how prep work is an important part of my writing life, look at the benefits of it, and discuss how having a rough outline of what I plan to write when over the course of a week helps me stay on track and get more writing done overall.

Hope you find the post useful, especially if like me you are a planner rather than a pantser though I think some loose structure to a writing week would benefit most people. I know it has done wonders for my productivity.

Prep Work

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I’ll be discussing the usefulness of Prep Work in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Link up tomorrow.

Also looking forward to sharing the link to Three Minute Santas in due course.

Just to flag up there is an offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic on Amazon at the moment. Looking for a last minute present for someone who likes short stories, especially quirky ones? See the link for more details.

And don’t forget the one thing you can do for authors whose work you love – leave a review! Doesn’t have to be long (indeed keeping it short helps make it more memorable and effective) but a thoughtful review is appreciated by every author.

Screenshot 2021-12-17 at 20-23-22 Tripping the Flash Fantastic eBook Symes, Allison Amazon co uk Kindle Store

I was chatting about ideas yesterday and it is as I develop mine, I often remember books and stories which have influenced me. As I outline my characters, I know from books and stories I love the kind that work the best for me. (Not every book does this for me – I still dislike Miss Price from Mansfield Park and I love Jane Austen’s work as a rule but this case did show me what I don’t want in my characters so still useful!).

And I try to replicate what I like best in my “people”. I say people but then I have written flash pieces from the viewpoint of a mother dragon and responded to a challenge to write a piece about the inside of a ping-pong ball. My characters are definitely not all human but I still need to portray them in a way to either gain reader sympathy or to have readers happily root for them to fail, depending on whether they’re villainous or not.

All great fun and even more reasons to keep reading. I see it as research and that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Looking forward to hearing wonderful festive flash fiction on Three Minute Santas hosted by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM tomorrow. I hope to share the link in due course. I also hope to include it in my Chandler’s Ford Today post for Christmas Eve which will be a festive flash post.

Lighthearted stories take as much care to hone and polish as the more serious kind and I think even more in fact.

Why? Because you know the effect you want to produce in the reader – you are aiming to amuse and/or cheer and everything you write for this story has to serve that purpose. Also what one reader will see as lighthearted others will dismiss as frivolous. You just accept there is no pleasing everybody and you go for what your Ideal Reader would like. That Ideal Reader won’t be just you, honest!

With a sad story, you know what would make you sad, what would make most people sad so you can use that in your storytelling. But humour is notoriously subjective which is why it is not as easy to write as it might appear. It is good fun though and well worth the effort!

BookBrushImage-2021-12-17-19-5235Screenshot 2021-12-08 at 16-07-14 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 18 December 2-4pm - Hannah Kate


Pleased to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy All In The Blend.


Screenshot 2021-12-17 at 19-28-36 All In The Blend, by Allison Symes

The nice thing with flash fiction is it has more scope than you might think. You can set your characters anywhere and everywhere, in the present day or the past or the future, and don’t forget you can vary the genre too. I’ve written historical flash pieces, crime flash, humorous stories and so on. You can also vary the word count as long as you don’t go above the 1000 words limit.

So if a piece works out better at 500 words rather than 100 then that’s fine. You just can’t submit that piece for a 100-word competition or market but there will be others where you can submit it. When I keep a story at 500 words, rather than reduce it down, it is because there are telling details in that story I feel make the tale more powerful and the character more memorable.

If I feel the story would lose something vital if I were to cut further, I don’t! I leave it as it is and find an alternative market for it.

The trick is in working out what is vital. If certain details help a character make more of an impact on the reader then those things stay in. But you do have to ask yourself honestly do I really need this? Does this detail give the reader something useful?

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Looking forward to the Three Minute Santas broadcast on Hannah Kate’s show on North Manchester FM on Saturday 18th December between 2 and 4 pm. My story, The Night Before Christmas, is on there and I am delighted to know other writing friends will also be having their tales on there. A great way to get into the festive mood.

I have a very soft spot for writing festive flash pieces. They’re light-hearted, just what you need I think at this time of the year, great to share on social (and other) media, and a bit of a reading pick-me-up. I will share the link to the show in due course if you can’t tune in on Saturday.

Oh and naturally I am going to love flash stories being shared in this way – it’s another method to get people into flash writing and reading I hope!

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Fairytales With Bite – Dressing Up

The most obvious example of dressing up is when the fairy godmother turned up to transform Cinder’s rags into a decent ballgown. But are there any opportunities in your stories for your characters to dress up? What events would they dress up for? And what would they actually wear? How is this different from day-to-day clothing?

Does your fictional world have tailors, clothes designers etc or is everything produced magically? If the latter, how does this work? Would your characters need to have some kind of currency to get a magical costume produced? And if they were poor, what would they have to “make do with”?

Occasions dictate costumes as well so what events would mean everyone, regardless of their means, has to dress up? How would the poorest manage this? And what elaborate costumes would the elite wear and why these? What is the history behind them?

Events usually commemorate something and, for everyone to have to join in, these would have to be of national importance. Can you link the history of your fictional world to what people are wearing now? As ever, with this kind of thing, there is always someone who will want to go against tradition – who, why, what are the consequences of them doing so? Does their choosing to dress differently inspire others to look at why they do things traditionally at all?

Clothing can indicate status too and you could use that as a shorthand way of showing how rich or otherwise your characters are.

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This World and Others – To Map or Not to Map?

Hands up time. I looked at the map in The Lord of the Rings once, maybe twice, on my first read of that wonderful trilogy. I was too engrossed in the story to want to go back to the map at all. So how useful do you find a map to be in fantasy works, especially the longer kind?

I can understand why the writer would need a map. Literally it is a visual aid to them to help them picture things and to thus write about their created world successfully. But do the readers need to see the map? Does film take away the need for such things now? Do feel free to comment!

I do know I couldn’t draw a map if paid to do so. I know I need an idea on setting for my flash and short stories though I find I need to know the characters much, much more. The characters will often dictate to me where they have to be set. I like that as it means I picture them and their location in one go.

And a lot of what I need to know about my characters doesn’t end up in the finished story. It doesn’t need to go in but I needed to know it to write that character up with conviction. Even if I could draw a map. I suspect the same would be true here!

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Ideas, Writing Journeys, and Characters Carrying Their Roles

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay images. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Has been a hectic couple of days. Hope all okay with you. Looking forward to hearing my festive flash piece broadcast on North Manchester FM later this week.

Screenshot 2021-12-08 at 16-07-14 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 18 December 2-4pm - Hannah Kate

Facebook – General

Looking forward to sharing my Prep Work post on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. Hope it proves to be useful. After that I’ll be sharing a festive flash fiction post and I hope to include a link to Hannah Kate’s Three Minute Santas show on North Manchester FM. Will be a nice way to wind down as we heard towards the end of the year. (If you want to listen live, the show will be broadcast this coming Saturday, 18th December between 2 and 4 pm).

Just heard we won’t be having our Carols by Candlelight services this year – will be much missed, as they were last year – but I am enjoying a good sing along to Christmas favourites when Classic FM play them. Favourite carol: In the Bleak Midwinter (the Holst version). (Naturally the dog likes Bach – sorry couldn’t resist).

Am getting a newsletter together for the beginning of 2022. I share tips, writing prompts, and all kinds of things here so please head over to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like to sign up.

Ideas are funny things. Some I can get to work on immediately. I can literally see where the idea is taking me. Other ideas I have to “mull over” for a while before seeing possibilities in them. But that is the way of it and the best ways I have found to encourage ideas are (a) to read widely and (b) get on and write.

Writing in itself I’ve found encourages other ideas. There is some truth in the thought the more you write, the more you will have to write about, but the nice thing about this is it includes all forms of writing.

Writing lots of small pieces as I do encourages me to think about what the next small piece could be and I try to get a momentum going. It’s also why it pays to have a notebook to hand. I come back to the ideas I’ve jotted down at a later date. If they still seem good, I then write them up.

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Hectic day today, Mondays often are for me, though a writing session at the end of my day always makes me feel better. There is something about the creative urge that does just do that for me. If I can’t write (as opposed to choosing not to when I have days off every now and then), well let’s just say I am not a happy bunny. And the nice thing with blogging and flash fiction is when time is tight, as it has been today, I can still write something and feel I’ve achieved something. That matters to me.

Having something already drafted ready for working on later helps me satisfy my creative urge too. If I’m not writing, I am editing and that too is a creative process.

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What has changed along your writing journey compared with how you started out? For me, it is the discovery of the wonderful worlds of flash fiction and blogging, neither of which I knew about when I began writing seriously.

Then there are the technological changes too. The laptop I’m writing this on is far more powerful and smaller than the first computer I used. And then there is the development of things like social media and graphic design programs like Book Brush, which have made it possible to create your own videos and share them on YouTube.

The hardest thing for me to adapt to is getting used to a single space after a full stop. Why? Because I am of the age where it had to be a double space. That harks back to the days when typewriter print wasn’t as clear as it is now so the extra space was needed for clarity. I know! Of all the things to have to get used to! Still Find and Replace is a useful function and Scrivener actually has a Convert Multiple Spaces to Space option. (Found under the Format menu – go to the Convert section and hey presto! This one has helped me a lot!).

I do not miss carbon copies. Cut and paste is so much easier to do in a word processing program too.

Zoom has helped me rediscover the joys of PowerPoint too, very useful for author talks.

Change then can be a good thing and I am grateful I can send in submissions by email rather than have to go and queue in a Post Office to get things weighed (especially at this time of year). There is a lot of time of my life I won’t get back there!

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Nice to have a quiet one after a fabulous day at the Bridge House Publishing event last week. Finished the Christmas cards so that’s one writing task completed today!

I’ll be discussing the value of prep work in my Chandler’s Ford Today post next Friday. I’m just not the “pantser” type but I will be looking at how a simple structure to my writing week pays dividends for me. And the principle of planning out what you write over the course of a week can be applied no matter what you write.

Ideas for my CFT posts especially will come out of other articles I’ve written. There is truth in the thought the more you write, the more ideas you will generate. I’ve certainly found that to be true for my blogging.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I use different ways to get “into” my flash fiction but the key one has to be knowing my character. I don’t need to know everything. I need to know what their major trait is as that will often determine the types of action they could be reasonably expected to do. Equally it will show up what they would not normally do.

A coward, for example, could become brave if and only if they had no other option to ensure their own survival. That should become apparent in the story. In this case, I would also like to know what made my character become a coward. Have they always been like that or is there a story to be told in showing how they got to be that way?

And yes you could have linked flash tales here. One showing what the coward faced to become that way, another could show them how they overcame it even if that was forced on them.

Motivation is a powerful reason for our own behaviour. Our characters should reflect that too. Asking your character “what is your motivation here” will also help you get a clearer picture of what they are like. Appearances, after all, can be deceptive.

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It’s Monday, it has been a hectic day, time to unwind with a story. Hope you enjoy my latest YouTube video, Getting the Mix Right. One lady really fancies the changes when it comes to ingredients for her friend’s recipe…


Pleased to say the December 2021 issue of Moms’ Favorite Reads is now up on Amazon for free. As ever, there is a wonderful wealth of features here. I talk about Festivities for my flash fiction column this time and I loved reading the stories that came in on this theme. Time for a cup of something nice and a good read I think!

Screenshot 2021-12-14 at 20-10-34 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine December 2021 eBook Publishing , Goylake , Howe, Hannah , [...]

I sometimes start my flash stories knowing I want to write a funny tale, say. It’s then a question of finding a suitable character who would be able to “carry” a funny role. They themselves need not be funny. Often they’re not. Often they don’t find the situation I’ve put them in funny at all.

It is for the readers to judge whether it is funny or not (though if it makes me smile, I think it will make others smile too. I always write with my Ideal Reader in mind. I ask myself what would they see in this story, this character?). It is all about reaching out to potential readers.

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Goodreads Authors Blog – Reading Acrostic

R= Romance
E = Epic Sagas
A = Adventures
D = Detective stories
I = Intergalatic tales
N = Novels, novellas or new flash/short story collections – the choice is yours.
G = Genre Fiction or literary – again the choice is yours.

Plenty of wonderful books to explore -paperback, hardback, audio, ebook.

Happy reading and I do hope there are plenty of book-shaped presents under your Christmas tree this year!


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Book Festivals, Inventing Characters, and Going Home

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Many thanks also to Sarah Archibald for the Brechin/Angus Book Festival materials – it is a joy to share them!

Facebook – General

Absolutely shattered last night after getting home from Scotland but it was an enjoyable trip and I have to say I liked LNER. I’ve not travelled with them before but liked the trains. Also impressed with very high standard of cleanliness – and a charging point at every seat. Great idea.

Am getting back to my usual writing routine (though whether I’ll get around to a YouTube video and/or submission to Friday Flash Fiction this week remains to be seen). I will be getting my author newsletter for December ready soon though (and you can sign up for that at my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com).

Looking forward to the next event – the Bridge House Publishing celebration on 4th December. Will be so good to meet up with friends again there too and catch up with what everyone has been doing.

Heading home from the Brechin/Angus Book Festival and enjoying great scenic views on the way as I travel through Scotland and a fair bit of England too. Had a lovely time.

It was great catching up with friends from the Association of Christian Writers and meeting new people. Some of us have a regular meet up on Zoom. This was the “live” version in many ways!

A huge thanks to Wendy H. Jones for being a fab hostess and organising all that needed to be organised, and to Sarah Archibald and her team behind the festival.

Looking forward now to being back at home with my family and Lady. Reports tell me she has been checking my side of the bed every night to see if I’d somehow sneaked back home while she was not looking! Not a chance even if I did have access to a portal etc. The postie only has to put one foot in the drive before she tells us about it!

In other news as they say, I look forward to sharing Part 2 of a great interview with Lynn Clement, whose The City of Stories was recently published by Chapeltown Books. This week we discuss the editing process – Chapeltown has a vigorous three stage plan for this. I had the privilege of editing Lynn on this and I look forward to sharing the link on Friday.

Had a lovely workshop session at the second day of the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. It was great to share ways into flash fiction and read some of my stories. That does two things – it shows what flash is and hopefully entertains the listener.

Later I gave a talk on The Ups and Downs of Becoming An Author where I talked about my circular route into becoming a published author. All good fun and many thanks to those who came to listen.

It has been particularly nice to meet new people and get chatting about books and stories.

Lovely to be at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. It’s wonderful to see lots of lovely books (and equally lovely authors) out and about again.  

There is a great contingent from the Association of Christian Writers here. So shout-out to Wendy H Jones, Maressa Mortimer, Ruth Leigh, Heather Flack, Tony Collins, and Sheila Robinson (writes as S.C. Skillman).

Also lovely to meet in person those I’ve only met on Facebook and/or Zoom

Have also taken part in my first professional photo shoot with the other authors. All of us held up our latest book with pride! Great fun. Will appear in The Angus Courier next Thursday.

Book stall all set up to go at The Northern Hotel, Brechin

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve mentioned before my love of using random generators to help trigger different story ideas. I’m convinced these work because they force you to think outside of your usual creative box. You are being set a prompt to work to after all by something that has not come from you.

But don’t forget you can get even more from these by changing the parameters for these things. For example, for the random word ones, I often choose to generate just two words but there’s no reason why I can’t pick far more than that.

I’ve found using two will often give me a title and, yes, it can be easier to fit two words into a story rather than ten or so but that’s precisely the reason to change the parameters! It encourages you to think about how you can get these ten words into the story so it makes sense, adds to the character or the plot in some way etc.

Stretching yourself like that is a good thing. I’ve come up with more stories as a result of experimenting with parameters like this.

It was a pleasure to read from my flash collections at my workshop and tallk over the weekend at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival.

Doing this shows what flash is and the impact it can have so effectively. I just tailor which stories I read to suit the audience. I also like a balance of tales to make people smile and others that trigger other responses (such as a twist ending for a crime story, say).

I don’t read the same tales at every event (though I do have my own favourites I will often use).

Last day of the Brechin/Angus Book Festival and it has been fabulous to talk about flash fiction, sharing what I love about the form. As I mentioned yesterday, it is the continual inventing of characters I find the most fun. It is also the most challenging but it keeps me on my toes!

Writing flash fiction has meant I get to do what I love most – invent characters. Even more fun can be had because those characters don’t have to be human.

Why do I love inventing characters? Simply because they are fun to “play with”.Characters give me ways in which to explore motivations and what anyone might do in any given situation when under duress or where normal expectations don’t exist or are challenged.

How a character reacts is something that fascinates me. And with flash I get to do this over and over again.The joy of my two collections – From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic – is I can reflect a number of scenarios and settings and that is also fun.

Goodreads Author Blog – Advertising Books

The best advertising for books is word-of-mouth. If someone I know tells me about a book I am more likely to sit up and take notice.

But getting awareness of available books out there is difficult.No author wants to come across as too pushy (instant turn-off for potential readers). But you equally can’t be too shy and retiring.

What I have found helps me is having a brief spiel prepared covering what flash fiction is (my main genre), why I love writing it, and then I go into my two collections. Often I’ll read from them too.

And readers do need to know the stories are out there. This is where book festivals and fairs can play a major role. So if you can support them, do. You will get to see potential good reads new to you and you support books in general as well as the authors.

Twitter Corner

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Book Events, Videos, and Inspiration

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Brechin/Angus Festival related images created by Sarah Archibald. All screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as were the photos of my copies of The Best of CafeLit 10 and the extract from my story in that. Photos of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic Night were taken by Geoff Parkes and Fiona Parks. (Great job done too, guys, thank you!).
Hope you have had a good week so far. Am busy getting ready for the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Will write more about that in due course, especially for Chandler’s Ford Today. Looking forward to catching up with writer friends here too (and making new ones!).

Brechin Poster

Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. I’ll be packing tomorrow for my trip northwards to the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Now apologies are due from yours truly. I forgot to share my latest YouTube video yesterday so am making up for that now. Hope you enjoy this one – Rocket.


Many thanks to the good folks behind Christmas Book Hub for featuring my Tripping The Flash Fantastic today. (15th November 2021 – see screenshot below). Much appreciated especially the link

Am away from Thursday for the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. I will be posting but at different times. I look forward to reporting back (via Chandler’s Ford Today in particular) about how the Festival went.

TTFF on Christmas Book Hub 2021

Not a bad weekend. Just asked Amazon Author Central to include Resolutions: An Anthology, the latest book from Bridge House Publishing, to my page. I’m one of the contributing authors with my story Next Time, Maybe. For all of the anthologies I’m in I have to ask Amazon to add it to my page and they usually do so within a day or two.

I take the opportunity while doing this kind of thing to ask the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) to add the book to my list with them. Why? Because I can earn some money from ALCS for all the books I either write or contribute to which are listed with them. (Can’t do ebooks as ALCS need an ISBN rather than an ASIN) but, as a certain supermarket would say, every little bit helps. It is always good to get more books added to the list!

Resolutions 3D

Hope you have had a good day. Glad to see the comments are still coming in for The Gift, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Thanks, everyone.

So looking forward to the Brechin/Angus Book Festival next week. I’m going up on the Thursday and hope to report back on the Festival for Chandler’s Ford Today later in November. It will be great catching up with writer friends at this Festival too. (And do bear in mind that book events are great places to start your Christmas shopping. Just saying and all that…!).

I plan to do plenty of writing on the train up to Scotland – flash fiction, blogs etc. The great thing with doing this is I know I will use all of what I draft even if I don’t do so immediately. And I find that the act of writing in itself can trigger other ideas to explore. There is truth in the saying the more you write, the more ideas you will have. It is as if you need to get started and then a creative spark kicks in and before you know it other ideas have occurred to you (which you jot down immediately to avoid forgetting them again).

Screenshot 2021-11-12 at 16-51-35 The Gift, by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Just a quick reminder that I often post flash fiction videos over on my YouTube channel. You can check it out at the link below. Latest story up is called Rocket. (Sorry meant to share this yesterday but forgot). Anyway hope you enjoy the videos. My sympathy on Rocket is definitely with the recipient here. See what you think.

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

 

Screenshot 2021-11-16 at 20-25-46 Allison Symes

A quick heads up for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. I am going to be discussing flash fiction with a fellow writer, Lynn Clement, in the first half of a two part interview. There is a lovely story behind how Lynn and I met and how we crossed paths again professionally recently. Lynn also has a splendid new book out called The City of Stories (published by Chapeltown Books). I look forward to sharing the link on Friday.

As I am away at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival from 18th to 22nd November, my postings will be at different times to my usual ones but thank goodness for Evernote, a smart phone, and a WIFI connection! They make postings possible! (I have to laugh at myself a bit here as I held out against a smart phone for ages. Can’t imagine my life without one now!).

 

Inspiration for my flash tales comes from all sorts of things – proverbs and phrases as I’ve mentioned before, but also personal tastes. In my Taking Time Out From the Day Job in The Best of CafeLit 10, my character’s secret sin is revealed to be chocolate bars, in particular Dairy Milk. Hmm… I didn’t have to look far for inspiration for that idea!

So you can take bits and pieces you like and loathe (either work) and see why your characters have these likings and loathings. Where a liking would not usually be a problem, put your character in a situation where it becomes one and see how they manage it. Good potential for comedy there. And what if a loathing for say travelling stops your character making progress in their career yet they want to advance in what they do and have to find a way around their travel phobia? What would they do? Again good story potential here.

CafeLit10 3D

 

One thing I’m looking forward to doing at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival I’m taking part in next week is reading out some of my flash fiction. It is a great way to both demonstrate what flash is and entertain your audience. Flash has the benefit too of its restricted word count – you can’t go on for too long! Everyone likes that!

I’m running a workshop on flash fiction and giving a separate author talk on The Ups and Downs of Becoming an Author. This topic is especially apt as I discovered flash fiction by accident but it is definitely one of the “ups”!

Goodreads Author Blog – All The Fun of the Book Event

Next week, I will be at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival where I will be running a workshop on flash fiction and giving an author talk on The Ups and Downs of Becoming An Author. Very much looking forward to this.

I always enjoy spreading the word about my genre, flash fiction, and it is my great hope that, as a format, it might be useful in drawing in the reluctant reader given I’m not asking them to commit to too much in one go. Once you have someone reading, who knows where that will take them?

Book events are great fun because there is a lot of camaraderie between the authors taking part, hopefully you sell books, and the event in and of itself is a celebration I think of the written word. That is always a good thing. And, especially at this time of year, they make great places to begin your Christmas shopping! Well, there must be someone you know who’d appreciate a good book!

Why not pop across to your next book event and see if you can tick some more items off your present shopping list?

Of course, I will get to see what other books are available at the event. What are the chances of me coming home again without having added to my To Be Read list?

That’s right – none whatsoever! (And I think that is the way it should be too).

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