Podcasting, Flash Fiction, and Spring

Now there’s a right mix for you!

Image Credit:  As ever, unless stated, images are from Pixabay.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today x 2!

CFT – Part 1 –

The Writing and Marketing Show – Podcast by Wendy H. Jones

The post below is an amalgamation of the FB posts I shared on my author page and book page during the week.

I thought I’d start by sharing the link to my Local Author News page on Chandler’s Ford Today earlier this week where my news is the podcast interview of yours truly by Scottish crime writer, Wendy H Jones, on my favourite topic, flash fiction. I also share the link to the episode I appear in (and I repeat the link below too).

I was delighted to take part in The Writing and Marketing Show, which is Wendy’s new podcast. It does what it says on the tin, folks! I’m on Episode 4 – How to Write Flash Fiction. Well, I wasn’t going to turn down an opportunity to talk about my great writing love now, was I?

As well as discussing flash fiction, I share some tips, particularly on nailing those crucial opening lines. I also discuss what you can do with cliches – now, now… tune in the show and find out exactly what it is I DO do with them!

Every so often CFT puts up Local Author News posts when local writers have book events etc. It is lovely to put such a post up for myself! (And a huge thanks to Janet Williams, CFT’s very supportive editor who is great at encouraging sharing news like this. It is appreciated and not just by me).

I also want to say a big thank you to Wendy H. Jones for inviting me on to her show. It was huge fun to take part – and do check out the other episodes too. Episodes are released on a Wednesday. Well worth making a note in your diary for especially if you are keen to have insights into the wonderful world of writing.

Episode 4 – How to Write Flash Fiction

CFT – Part 2 – Spring Approaches

It’s always a pleasure to write posts like the above which celebrate something positive. Despite Storm Dennis being on its way, there are still signs of spring out there and I’ve already noted the daylight lasting that little bit longer each evening.

I also look at spring in the terms of new life/new developments. What new developments, as a writer, are you hoping for this year? (The podcast with #WendyHJones earlier this week was a new development for me and so much fun to do). Comments as ever welcome over on the CFT page.

Feature Image - Spring Approaches

As part of my Spring Approaches post for Chandler’s Ford Today this week, I look ahead to the Chameleon Theatre Group’s next production. This has the charming name of Spring Quartet. Love the sound of that. I am hoping throughout the next few months to put up additional posts featuring members of the Chameleons. More details as and when.

Do you find writing easier or harder to do when the weather gets better (it will eventually, honestly!)? I have no real preference here though I can understand the lure of getting out and about when perhaps I should be at my desk writing.

Mind you, when I do go out and about, there is always part of me which sees these trips as great opportunities for “research”.

Now that can be anything from picking up inspiration for characters (e.g. overhearing odd snippets of conversation I know I could use in totally different contexts for a tale or two) to going to a specific place and learning from it. What I learn then ends up in a story.

It’s a great excuse and I’m sticking to it!

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Many thanks, everyone, for the lovely feedback on the podcast interview for those of you who tuned in when the link was shared on Wednesday this week. For those of you who haven’t, do check out the episode via the link above. It was a joy to talk flash fiction with #WendyHJones. (And do check out the other episodes too. The link to all episodes is in the top left corner).

My usual CFT post will be up tomorrow and it is called Spring Approaches. Now I know Storm Dennis is due (named after Dennis the Menace, do you think?) but, hang on in there folks, spring really is on its way.

There are already signs of it out there. Tonight I managed to walk the dog with my better half and we only needed a torch for the last 15 minutes. That figure will reduce week on week too and I love that. Two weeks or so ago, we needed the torch for 25 to 30 minutes so those lighter evenings are slowly coming in! (On a personal note, I find the increased light helps with my writing productivity too and I bet I’m not the only one who finds that).

My post celebrates the approach of spring then but also looks at how, given we rightly associate spring with new life, what that can mean for us. A new life can mean new starts or developments. (Being interviewed for a podcast was a new and enjoyable development for me!).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

F = Fun to write
L = Length of story can vary but should not go over 1000 words.
A = Alliteration can be effective in titles but best to use sparingly (otherwise readers will tire of it. You don’t want anything to seem “faddy”).
S = Story should focus on ONE important point only as you won’t have room for more, particularly in a sub-500 words tale.
H = Have fun mixing up which genres you write your flash fiction in as the good news is you don’t have to stick to one!

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When you want to mix up your flash fiction writing, how do you go about that?

Some of my favourite ways to mix things up include:-

1. Work out an ending to a story and work backwards to the start instead of working linearly. (If you usually start this way, simply reverse the process and start at the beginning!).

2. Try writing a flash fiction story in a genre or format you’ve not tried before. If it doesn’t work out, why worry? You were playing with words. I would suspect also some of what you write you would probably be able to use elsewhere. Equally if you discover a new way of writing flash, even better. This is how I started writing historical flash fiction pieces. Until fairly recently, it wasn’t an area I had explored.

3. Write to different word counts. While my natural home is between the 100 to 250 word count limit, I do write much shorter than that. I also go up to the top end of the scale for flash at 1000 words.

And why mix things up at all?

Firstly it keeps things interesting for you. You really don’t want to become bored with what you do.

Secondly, a variety of stories, whether it’s in genre or word count or both, means you have a wider selection of markets and competitions to aim those tales at! Good luck.

Fairytales With Bite – 

When the Magic Wand Isn’t Enough

One of my favourite things about fantasy fiction is when magic is limited in some way. That is a character can only do so much with their powers and no more. Or if they go beyond that, then there is a dreadful price to pay.

What is fascinating there is finding out how the characters get around this. When you can’t or dare not use your special skills, what do you do?

Likewise if two magical characters have the same kind of powers, then you know they’re going to cancel each other out effectively. What does each of them do to try to get the upper hand on the other?

I believe more of the real personality of the characters comes out when they can’t just rely on magic to get them out of trouble (and even more when they know using it will exacerbate their problems).

I love stories which show the downside of using magic and where characters have to use their wit and intelligence to overcome problems. My favourite of all here has to be Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series given, when in doubt, she goes to the library to look things up! What’s not to like about that?!

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This World and Others – 

What Do Your Characters Make Of Their World?

Asking yourself this as you outline your fictional world is useful as:-

(a) it will show you insights into what your characters really think revealing more of their attitudes which should prove useful later and;

(b) it will show you what your characters think is the most important aspect of their world. It might not be what you originally thought!

I would then probe further as to why that is. If you thought the most important thing was your created world’s fantastic lakes but your character thinks the best thing since sliced bread is the mountain behind their village, look at why. Have they got a fear of water, say? Have they got a famous ancestor who was the first to climb that mountain? Could that come into your story at some point?

How do your characters react to their world during the course of the story? What aspects of it get in their way on whatever their mission is? What aspects help them? Does the transportation make their mission easier to carry out or more difficult? How easy is it for them to get provisions? What do other characters think of their mission? What and/or whom gets in their way?

If your character is trying to save their world, are they doing so out of love for that world or knowing that whatever the world is facing is too dreadful to contemplate allowing to happen so has got to be stopped no matter what else they think? Is the world around them grateful for their efforts?

Above all, what changes have to happen in and to the characters to make them want to carry out their mission? It is not uncommon for the hero/heroine to be reluctant to take on their quest and they have to be persuaded into it. So who does the persuading? What makes the character “bite”?

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Interviews and Characters

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

For my CFT post this week, I look at why writer interviews are so useful. I also share news of an interview I’ve taken part in, more details on that next week, and share memories of an interview that went wrong and another that involved an Emu! Anyone growing up in 1970s Britain will remember the latter!

I look at what I think makes for a good interview too and share my thoughts on interview etiquette. I also share a little of how I go about interviewing authors for Chandler’s Ford Today (and I hope there will be many more of those later this year).

I discuss the art of interviews as part of my Interviews post on Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Good preparation for an interview is important for both parties to it, of course. But it is just as important for writers, as well as interviewers and interviewees, to think of good questions. (In the latter’s case, anticipating questions that are likely to come up gives you time to prepare your answers).

For fiction writers, you may well want to interview your characters to find out more about them and what makes them tick before you write their stories. (I do this as part of my outlining process. I have to ask what the character thinks makes them tick. They don’t have to be right! Other characters may have completely different ideas as to how Character A really ticks!).

For non-fiction writers, it’s a question of working out what research you need to do for your project and there you ask yourself what you think you need to know. As you start working on your project, other questions will inevitably crop up but, having already decided where and how you will research and found answers to those initial questions, you will know where to look to deal with the other ones as they come up!

I often find this to be the case for my CFT posts. I know a thread I need to look into initially to help me write on my topic. Inevitably there will be threads from those initial ones I need to check out to see if they are relevant to what I want to write about. Sometimes they are. Not always. It is important not to be sidetracked but this is where asking yourself what you really need to know first can help. It helps to keep you focussed.

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How well do you know your characters before you start writing your stories?

Particularly for flash fiction, I outline what I need to know about my character before I work out what their story is.

A character who is a loud mouth is going to need a tale that will show this trait in action and the resultant consequences. This could easily be a funny story or a tragic one.

A quiet mouse of a character is going to need a tale that will either show when that trait saves the day or they get so fed up of being treated as a doormat, they rebel. Then you can go into the consequences…

I’m a great believer in getting the character right. Then it is a question of deciding what kind of story they WOULD naturally be at home in and whether that shows them at their best or their worst. Either can be a great deal of fun!

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My CFT post this week will be about interviews and what I think constitutes a good one. It’s a timely post for me as you’ll see when I put the link up on Friday! (I also hope to be sharing more interviews later in the year on CFT too).

Moving on, let’s think of a wish list for writers. My top three wishes would be:-

1. Time expands so you can do all the writing you want and the boring things of life (e.g. housework) somehow magically go away. I do see that as one wish, so there!

2. There are never any tech issues. Computer batteries won’t go too flat. You’ll never get a power cut at any awkward moment (if only!). You’ll always be able to connect to the net. I’m sure you can think of loads to add to that one!

3. Never running out of ideas and enthuasism for writing (again I see that as one wish on the grounds the first bit is no good whatsoever without the second part as well).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I see a novel as akin to seeing a beautiful tapestry on a wall. You step back and literally see the whole thing. You are rightly taken in by its scale and how much it covers. There are so many wonderful threads to follow and your breath is taken away wondering at the mastery in putting such a thing together. You are immersed in the whole world portrayed.

A novella is like seeing one half of the tapestry, complete in and of itself, with plenty of stunning details to take in but simply not as much as the full novel, which is fair enough. But there is more than enough to capture your interest, plenty of threads to follow, again just not so many as the novel, but exactly the right amount for what you want to take in and enjoy. (I’m very pleased to see the form is back. Why? Well, people have all kinds of tastes in reading, not just in genre, but in length of story that they want too. There is plenty of scope for the novella).

A short story is like seeing one quarter of the tapestry. There is still plenty of detail. There are interesting threads to follow but obviously not so many as for a novella or a novel. You are taking in a world in minature and that’s fine. Maybe you want to enjoy some of these before taking in the whole of the tapestry again. (I often read flash fiction and/or short story collections in between reading novels).

Flash fiction is like focusing on one section of that quarter of the tapestry. You can’t see the whole picture. You are literally too close to it. Everything else around that section is blocked from your view. What you DO do is find those wonderful moments of sheer detail that those looking for the bigger picture will overlook as they have so much to take in and follow. They are standing too far back to spot what you are looking at. You are focusing on the ONE most important thing and can tease out every vital detail from that. You will pick up on things missed by the longer forms of creative writing.

And I love them all! (Whatever your preference is here enjoy! Writing and reading are two of the most wonderful things in life).

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Story time again. Hope you enjoy.

Putting My Face On

If I can fake this, I’ve got it made.

I’ve only got to go and meet John at 3. I don’t want to go but it will be the acid test. If I can keep my act together when I meet him, I can keep it together for anyone. Anyone, I tell you.

So if a bit of lippy and rouge are what I need to cover how I feel, so be it.

Well, I say I’ll meet him. It’s really a question of seeing him.

John’s in the Chapel of Rest at the local undertakers.

I put him there.

ENDS

Allison Symes – 6th February 2020

Now this is one of those tales where I knew my lead wasn’t looking forward to meeting John but I then had to work out why. So I did! Could’ve taken this in all sorts of directions but that is the joy of flash. It is open to genre and I fancied this one being a crime tale.

The irony is I can change the mood of the story completely by adding a few words to the ending.

If I added “I put him there – and so wished I hadn’t” – the mood of the story completely changes. Yes, there could still be a crime element but tragedy becomes the lead genre here instead.

So have fun with your flash fiction. Think about what impact you want your character and story to have on a reader.

 

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The story I shared yesterday, Putting My Face On, was something I came up with while out on a walk with my dog, Lady. I mentioned yesterday I could’ve changed the mood of the story by adding a few words. That is one of the arts of flash fiction if you like. You can change mood with a judiciously placed word here and there. The fun bit for you as the writer is working out what mood it is you want to go with!

The story on the book trailer for FLTDBA is one of my favourites. Part of the reason for that is the whole mood of the story turns on the very last word of Calling The Doctor. Do check the trailer out and you’ll see what I mean.

One thing I make sure of is that whenever the twist of moods comes in the story, it IS something that could reasonably be expected from the rest of the tale based on the information given.

Calling The Doctor does this because the conversational style of my narrator here is (a) consistent and (b) ties in with the mental image you will form of the character especially their age and such a conversational style would be appropriate for them and their age. The story leads up to … but that would be telling now, wouldn’t it! But the denouement is appropriate given the facts already stated by my narrator.

And very conveniently here is the book trailer with Calling the Doctor for you to check out!

Fairytales with Bite – Favourite Character Types

We all have our favourite kinds of characters, the ones we instantly gel with when we come across them on the page/on audio/on video etc. Some of mine include:-

  1.  The underdog. I always look out for the character who is bullied, despised, overlooked etc. I am never surprised when this character beats all the odds and has transformed their life by the end of the story. I adore stories like that.
  2. The fairy godmother. I love these. They are the agents through which cruelty and neglect will be put right. (Think Cinderella especially). Sadly we only know cruelty and neglect are so often not put right and even as a kid I remember being aware of that. Fairytales are comforting in that in those you know things will be rectified. I think we all need that comfort sometimes.
  3. The one who sees the error of their ways. Firstly, they too can be used to transform the story. Secondly, I like anyone who can see the error of their ways in life as well as in fiction! I am also very fond of redemption stories. I like to see characters being redeemed (it gives hope for us all!) but it has to be done in a way that makes sense. This is why I think gradual realisation of said errors is far more realistic.

Whatever your favourite kinds of characters, happy reading!

This World and Others – 

What I Like to See in Created Worlds

  1. I like to get a picture of the overall world. This is partly because I’m nosey (!) and partly because I like to be convinced the writer really has thought it through.
  2. I like to see a system of government, even if it is a basic one. A world does have to have someone leading it after all. (Best one here: Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Lord Vetinari from the Discworld series).
  3. I like to know how people live. I love the Middle Earth/Shire scenes in The Lord of the Rings. Okay, I could probably make myself very cosy and comfortable living in a hobbit hole as I’m not tall (that’s my example of understatement for this week!). More importantly, again it convinces me the author has thought this through and recognised different species will have different kinds of home and so on.
  4. A sense of how the different species get on, assuming they do. Where there are conflicts, and I would expect some, I want to see how these originated. Both sides in the conflict should have good reasons for holding the views they do, even if they are only good to them and their people. It should be something a reader can understand.

Panto, Numbers, and Publication News

A real mixed bag tonight but hope you enjoy!

Image Credits:-

Firstly, a huge thank you to the lovely people at The Chameleon Theatre Group for kind permission to use their photos as part of my review for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I’ve included a couple of photos I’ve taken but the majority are from them.

Secondly, all thanks to Pixabay as usual for the other images used. Thirdly, thank you to Penny Blackburn for the picture of me taking part in the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic Night last year. Great fun! Now down to business…

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my review of the excellently performed show, Atlantis – The Panto. Well done to all at The Chameleon Theatre Group. Also I look at why an eclectic mix of music and a decent villain are vital to a good pantomime. Both are as important ingredients to a successful show as having a convincing Dame is.

I was intrigued by this story as it is not one I knew. How does an underwater adventure work as a pantomime? Well I had to find out…  Captions as ever for the Chameleon photos over on the CFT link.

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I loved going to the panto by The Chameleon Theatre Group last week. (Oh no you didn’t, oh yes I did, oh no…etc etc!). I had no idea what Atlantis – The Panto would be given it is not one of the classic fairytales pantomimes are usually based on. All I knew was it would have to have an underwater setting and I was interested to find out how that would be conveyed. (Good use of suitable music, the right costumes, props etc is the simple answer to that).

For stories, especially flash fiction, inference and implication play a big part in scene setting. If I told you someone was wearing a red coat, that would conjure up possible images for you. (For me, it would conjure up memories of a favourite red coat I had as a kid). If I then add one hyphenated word “moth-eaten”, that image will change, as will the mood of the story. The person wearing said moth-eaten coat is going to be poor, possibly homeless, and that will set the tone of the story too.

Facebook – General – and Publication News – Cafelit

Glad to say I’m Bored by yours truly is now up on Cafelit. If you ever wanted to know the true story of what happened to Humpty Dumpty, now’s your chance! Hope you enjoy it.

Facebook – General

I’ll be reviewing Atlantis – The Panto as my CFT post this week. Definitely a new story for me but that’s one of the joys of going to see the productions put on by The Chameleon Theatre Group. There is such a variety of work staged by them and it always makes for a fantastic evening out. I’m a big fan of taking in stories using various formats and going to see a good show is just another and very enjoyable way to do that.

Link up tomorrow. I’ll be looking at the signs of a good panto, why music matters for shows like this, and why there has to be a decent villain for the audience to boo at! It IS as vital to get the villain right as it is for the Dame to be what audiences expect. I’ll also have a look at why the panto, in my view, is vital for theatre going overall.

All good fun…

 

Facebook – General – Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers – Numbers and Creative Writing

There are more links between numbers and fiction than you might think. Hope you enjoy my latest blog for the Association of Christian Writers’ More Than Writers blog spot, which discusses numbers and creative writing and there are plenty of links between the two. Mind you, my first love will always be words, glorious words!

I also share some thoughts on how to manage word counts and competition deadlines.

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Can one word make a difference to a story? Oh yes. I talked about this over on my author page tonight (Allison Symes Fairytale Lady – https://www.facebook.com/Allison.Symes.FairytaleLady/).

One word can turn a mood. One word can change how a story ends. I’ve long thought of flash fiction as precision writing and this is why. It’s also why if you’ve got a powerful story that works really well at, say, 250 words, leave it there! Don’t try and edit it down to get it into a 100 word competition or market. Impact on the reader is the most important thing, then the word count, and not the other way round.

Story matters. The format less so. I like to take in my stories via:-

Books, obviously.
Kindle.
Seeing them performed as plays, pantomimes etc. (I love the whole concept of National Theatre Live. Brilliant idea).
Audio books
Magazines
The vinyl version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds as produced by Jeff Wayne (which is just brilliant. Richard Burton was a wonderful narrator).
Hearing them on radio. (You can count TV drama obviously though I admit I’m watching less TV and I wasn’t impressed with what was on offer over Christmas).
Via film.

For flash fiction the top two have been the main outlets for me. It is a hope of mine that flash fiction can draw in the reluctant reader and if that has to be via electronic means, so be it. Get hooked on books. You know it makes sense!

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I’ve mentioned before I always feel a certain amount of relief when I get a first draft done of any writing. I feel like I’ve “nailed something down” to the screen or paper (I still occasionally write in longhand) and from there onwards the draft is going to get better. It is precisely what editing is all about!

I also like to have more than one project on the go as while I’m working on one, my subsconsious can mull over any issues I’m having with something else. It is almost inevitable an idea to resolve those issues WILL occur when I’m working on something else.

I’ve learned not to fight that and just go with it. It’s what a notebook and pen besides the laptop is for after all so those ideas that suddenly come to me don’t disappear into the author’s hell-hole called Lost Ideas That Were Brilliant But You Will Never Know Will You Because You Did Not Write Them Down At The Time! (Most of us HAVE been there and often more than once!).

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Fairytales With Bite – Keeping Fairytales Alive

As shown above, the pantomime is one great way to keep fairytales alive given most of them are based on the classic stories. Long may that fantastic tradition continue.

I am, of course, very fond of fairytales told from the viewpoints of different characters as my first published story, A Helping Hand, in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology, comes into that category. It is a popular theme and I’ve seen it used in other competitions and rightly so too. There are a wealth of stories (and therefore characters) you could do this for.

The Disney adaptations also play a part in keeping fairytales alive though I would always recommend going back to the original stories to compare and contrast what Disney kept in and, often, what they had to keep out to retain a Universal certificate for the cinema.

I also can’t see good old-fashioned reading fairytales to children stopping either. Children know what they like in stories and fairytales do tick the right boxes there. Then the likes of Roald Dahl and David Walliams could be considered to be modern fairytale tellers too.

Long live the fairytale!

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This World and Others – How the Other Half Lives…

While readers don’t need to know the ins and outs of your creative world, they have to be convinced that in some dimension somewhere, your world is realistically enough portrayed to have a chance of existing!

Basically this means your characters need to have shelter, be able to eat, drink and so on and therefore a society has to spring up around them so these needs are met. Some of those societies will be close to what we know here. Others will be different but readers will be able to pick up on how it works. (Can’t say I’d like living in Mordor – it’s the ultimate in grim!).

One of my favourite quotes on this topic is from the much missed Terry Pratchett, who referred to building his Discworld “from the bottom up”. That is, he worked out how waste was disposed of, how water was supplied etc.

You need to decide what you need to know here so you can write with conviction about your setting and the characters in it. I’ve focused on system of government for a longer project I’m working on. Whatever way you go in for this, it does have to be something readers can identify with. Good luck!

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Numbers Into Writing Will Go

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I look at the links between numbers and creative writing this week for CFT. There are more links than you might think. I’m not just talking about word counts either (though naturally that is a priority for my flash fiction writing).

The inspiration for the title comes from when I was taught to do division at school many, many moons ago. Three will go into six (twice), three will go into seven (twice with one left over) etc.

I also look at how numbers come into my online writing and I share some tips for managing word counts.

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My CFT post this week is Numbers into Writing Will Go, a title inspired by how I was taught division many moons (and then some!) ago. (That is 2 will go into 4 twice, 2 will go into 5 with 1 left over – anyone else remember that style of teaching?).

There are many links between numbers and creative writing funnily enough and my post will be looking at some of these. Link up on Friday.

Talking of numbers, it has been lovely to see more followers recently for my website. Welcome to you and thank you to those who have been following the site for some time.

I hope to continue to add to this site throughout the year and will post latest pages etc. One of my most recent additions was the Book Trailers page where all the book trailers for anthologies I’ve had work in, as well as the one From Light to Dark and Back Again, are included. (A big thank you to Chapeltown Books – they make some great trailers. Yes, I know, I’d be bound to say that, wouldn’t I, but go on. Check the page out!).

It was a relief NOT to get a soaking while out with the dog today. Plenty of tree debris around but at least things are calming down here a bit. Mind you, our local park will continue to be a mud pit for some time to come!

Back to unhelpful writing advice that I was talking about in my last round-up on Tuesday.

1. Of course you can edit on screen… ahem. You do miss things this way. Print your work out and edit on paper. (It can help to change the font or the character size to make your work seem different when looking at it on screen BUT I still recommend printing it out. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve picked something up this way that I missed on screen).

2. It won’t matter if you get a competition entry in JUST after the deadline. Oh yes it will. It’s called being late and a judge would have to turn down late works as it is not fair on those who did get their entries in on time. My top tip here is to take a week to ten days off the official deadline and make that your OWN one. It gives you a few days in hand for final tweaks should you need it and you’ll then still submit the piece in good time.

3. If I send my work (especially if it’s a book) with fancy ribbon on it, it will make it stand out. Yes, it will but for all the wrong reasons. I’ve heard many agents and publishers at writing conferences say basically how irritating this kind of thing is – all you need to do is follow their guidelines to the letter and leave it at that.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What do I enjoy writing the most in a flash fiction tale?

When I come up with a “killer line” whether it is a punchline to end a humorous story or a twist to conclude the tale. I love that feeling you get when you know what you’ve come up with is absolutely right for that story. Gives me a very good buzz.

I also love that moment when writing the first draft and you know you have got the idea and characters spot on. It’s then a question of fine tuning the story and cutting out what doesn’t add to the tale but you know at this point that you’ve got something to work with and your editing will improve the story.

I almost always find I’m about halfway to two-thirds of the way through a first draft when I know yes this is going to work or it will work if I end the story this way instead. It’s a relief to get to that point too!

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I think it helps to have a fascination with what makes people tick when it comes to character creation. This is especially true for flash fiction writing where I’m coming up with so many different characters for my stories (though I am beginning to link a few stories. This is where I either use the same character in another story or Character A in Story 1 is referred to by Character B in Story 2. Good fun to do and this is something I hope to do more of in future).

I do find the Scrivener character templates enomously helpful for outlining “my people”. They make me think about why I’m creating the character the way that I am and that will add “oomph” to my story. When reading, a character gels with me far more if I sense there is depth to them, even if I don’t discover those depths for a while. With flash, I need to give hints as to how deep my characters can be and then show a reader what they need to know to make those connections to hidden depths for themselves.

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Themes I love in my stories include:-

1. Poetic justice. I do love giving a character who deserves it what they’ve got coming. It’s fun!

2. An underdog winning out in the end. (This is a huge theme in fairytales of course and I’ve always loved that idea).

3. Alternative character stories (my Getting It Right gives the wicked stepmother’s viewpoint on the Snow White tale).

4. Types of character I love – feisty ones (especially older female characters who can still show those far younger than them a thing or two about how to tackle problems); magical ones (especially those who’ve discovered the downside to magic and are fighting back against that).

5. Historical themes I love (and these will turn up in Tripping the Flash Fantastic too).

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Fairytales With Bite – Going Back in Time

Fairytales are some of the oldest stories in literature, of course. This is another reason why I don’t understand why some dismiss them as “twee tales for kids”. If they read the original stories, they’d know fairytales are anything but twee and their intended audiences were definitely not children!

I associate fairytales with many happy memories of enjoying The Reader’s Digest Complete Fairytales (two volumes, both beautifully illustrated), which was a childhood present. I still have those books though their spines are taped up to give them extra support. I read those books a lot when I was younger!

When I read I want to escape to another world for a while and fairytales for me have always been a great outlet for that. A really good story will make you feel as if you’ve escaped time for a while.

I’ve always found it fascinating that there are countless versions of our classic fairytales in different cultures (Cinderella especially). The themes are timeless and will remain so. Fairytales often do reflect on aspects of human nature and they don’t always present a pretty picture either.

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This World and Others – Your Historical World

Whatever your setting, it has to have a past. It may not play a major role in the story you’re telling but there should be inferences to it somewhere in your tale. Your characters’ actions and reactions are based on what? Being attacked by an enemy? Well who is the enemy and what is the personal history here?

How is your world governed? Who runs it? Is there any opposition? How does it get on with other worlds around it? What happened in its past to influence how it is run now? What kind of ceremonies and rituals does it have and does your lead character go along with these or rebel against them?

History is important to us. It helps shape us. It should do for your characters too, even if you imply what that history is. Information is best drip fed into a story in any case but readers do put two and two together. I love doing that in books I read. I get a complete picture of the fictional world doing that and it makes the story stronger for me, always.

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Winter Trips

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

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I look back at some of the trips taken post Christmas. Lady, naturally, went everywhere.Very fond of pic I managed to get of her for this piece. I don’t get many of her looking thoughtful!

I also share a pic of an advert seen on one of these trips that could have come straight out of 1970s comedy Are You Being Served? See if you can spot it.

And there’s a literary connection too. I walked part of the Harry Potter bridge on one of these trips. No sign of any eager looking students looking for a certain railway platform here though!

It was great fun going out and about with the family (including the four legged member of same) during the post Christmas/early New Year period.

Apologies for the first few seconds of my video below. It is far too easy to have the camera aiming at your foot instead of at the steam train!

This is from the Watercress Line, a well known tourist attraction. Terry Pratchett spent time here researching for his novel, Raising Steam, which brings the locomotive to the Discworld.

But Lady, while having a ball, is not sorry to be getting back to her usual routine, including having plays in the local park with her best pal who happens to be a Rhodesian Ridgeback. (Before you ask, you stand well back when the two of them play, otherwise you will be pistol whipped by one of their madly wagging tails!).

It is also back to my writing properly this week and I admit I did find the first couple of days tough going. News of Tripping the Flash Fantastic coming out of course boosted morale no end but it’s now onwards and upwards.

But I’ve found it useful in the past to be gentle on myself for the first couple of days after a break and gradually pick up my writing pace again. I then find I can keep that pace going until the next break comes along.

I’ve learned to accept that I don’t have to work at breakneck speed all the time (and indeed it is better that I don’t even try that. Writing has peaks and troughs and you kind of need to look after yourself to be able to cope with all that).

Oh and yes I am looking forward to trips out in the spring, the summer, the autumn etc etc.

All images for CFT this week were taken by Allison Symes. Captions over on CFT.

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Apparently today (9th January) is National Apricot Day (US) and National Static Electricity Day. Now there’s a combination of ideas I never expected to see! I also know which of the two I prefer. Bit of a challenge to get them into a story though…

Am fleshing out ideas for a couple of competitions I want to have a go at and working on an article idea too. I do like mixing up writing (and indeed reading) fiction and non-fiction.

I often find ideas for stories spark from non-fiction I’ve read. Mind you, if I get ideas for a weird story about a giant apricot powered by static electricity, I will think twice about writing those down. (The giant peach has been done by the marvellous Roald Dahl!).

I love quirky fiction but I have my limits!

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When choosing a book what is THE hook that draws you into buying it?

For me, the book cover attracts but it is the blurb that sells it to me.

Why? If the blurb has intrigued me enough to then want to have a look at the opening paragraph or so, then the purchase is as good as made.

It is a very rare occurrence when what I read on the opening page doesn’t grip me. I can’t remember the last time I felt let down by the promise of a blurb but the opening to the book let it down. And that’s a good thing. It’s also a challenge of course!

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I was out and about a fair bit during the post Christmas/early New Year period and had a great time, but one thing I forgot to do this time was jot down a few notes via Evernote and my phone. This is something I intend to rectify next time I’m away on any trip where I’m not driving. Notes on what exactly, you ask?

Well, what do trips out give you a chance to do? See new surroundings. See new people. Have brief conversations with people travelling with you. See things that amuse you. Any of those can provide sparks for story ideas. Those are always worth jotting down.

And don’t underestimate the importance of having some down time every now and again to recharge your batteries (including your imaginative ones).❤️❤️

PS Lady, on one of our days out, is wondering where we’re off to next. (Mind you, right now as I type this at 9.25 pm, she’s off in the Land of Nod on the sofa!).

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When I’m thinking of a story, the first thing I consider is the voice of my character. Are they a feisty soul? Are they humorous? What bugs them? What happens when they are forced to deal with said bugs?

Just asking and answering a few questions like that gives you a good outline with which to get started on your story. For me story is all about the characters. I’ve got to get behind them (and sometimes it IS to boo them – we all love a “good” villain!).

Another tip is to think of what would be your character’s worse nightmare and then make them face it. (Nobody said a writer has to be nice to their characters. It’s just as well really. Crime writers would have a tough time of it if they HAD to be nice to their characters. Nobody would be bumped off in prose ever again! It’s also hard to imagine a “nice” Dracula!).

 

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Story time, I think! Hope you enjoy this one.

RETIREMENT

When a witch decides to hang up her broom, it is best she does so quietly and disappears. Else she will find she is disappeared and her broom stolen. And nobody was doing that to Griselda. She knew the horror stories.

And she’d sent those two brats packing with as much sweet stuff as the greedy pair could handle. There was no way Griselda was being shoved in an oven for anyone. Besides it would help her good friend, Labelle the Tooth Fairy, out. Her rounds had been quiet of late. Hansel and Gretel would soon put that right if Griselda was any judge. And if she wasn’t anymore, maybe it was time to go after all.

But she would exit in a way she thought fitting. Reports of a dragon sighting were all over the news and as Griselda checked her monster slaying kit (every good witch had one), she realised, for the first time ever, she had nothing to lose.

Beat the beast and she’d still be useful and prove those who scoffed at her age wrong. Lose and she’d die quickly and be remembered for a heroic but tragic failure.

She slipped on her cloak and pointed hat. It was time to go.

Ends
Allison Symes – 8th January 2020

(Definitely time for a story mid-way through the first full week back after Christmas, I feel!)

 

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Fairytales With Bite – What Do Fairytales Mean to You?

Now there’s a leading question if ever there was one but to be fair I’ll have a crack at answering it myself. This is by no means a comprehensive list!

Fairytales are to me:-

1.  Something I’ll always be grateful for as they introduced me to the world of books and stories.

2. They’re entertaining (and yes I like the Disney adaptations by and large too but you can’t beat reading the stories themselves).

3.  You know in the fairytale world right will be done in the end. (The one exception I’d say was The Little Mermaid as told by Hans Christen Andersen as opposed to the one produced by Disney, though I understand why they did that. Even there that particular story opened my eyes to the idea there wasn’t always a happy ever after – and his The Little Match Girl took that idea further).

4. Bring back very good childhood memories and I still have my two classic fairytale volumes.

5. Something I’ll be grateful for as looking at stories from alternative viewpoints led to my first published story, A Helping Hand, in Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing).

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This World and Others – Settings

What settings are important for you as you create your stories? I admit I don’t think about them that much, though they can become characters in their own right to an extent. Think about Mordor in The Lord of the Rings. I swear you could almost feel the evil emanating from it every time I read about it/saw it in the film.

I always focus on character creation as you know and I find the setting from there. I think about who my character is, what their traits are, what their situation is and from there I can work out how and where they live and so on. I like my characters to run the story rather than the setting though I always make settings appropriate to my people (and other beings!).

 

 

 

Beginnings

Image Credit:  As ever, all images are from Pixabay unless otherwise stated. Think I’ve finally nailed the “have an appropriate title for the start of a New Year for your blog post” game!

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Well, Beginnings is an appropriate topic for the start of 2020! I look at why beginnings are so important for any creative art (especially storytelling), share some of my favourite story openings, and discuss New Year’s Resolutions. Talking of which, Happy New Year!

As my CFT post on Beginnings mentions, I see the end of the old year as the time to take stock of where I am writing wise, so I am raring to go again as soon as possible writing wise after the festive season.

My initial goals are to continue to try to get more work in more anthologies and to develop professionally in other ways too. I hope to share more of the latter as I go throughout the year.

I am aiming to submit two of my big projects by the spring and see how I go with those. I’d like to finish another project by the end of the summer if possible and see if I can be submitting that by the autumn.

I’m also hoping to pitch more non-fiction articles too.

I don’t set specific dates ever because life can and does get in the way and no writer should feel bad about that. My deadlines are only set for my CFT posts and competitions and I work to those fine but it is lovely having longer projects to work on too. I like a good writing mix and am loving all of the writing I do. I hope that comes through in what I write.

So onwards then. Happy New Year and happy writing and reading!

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Sent off my two short stories yesterday so that gets 2020 off to a promising beginning! I’m also working on some writing prompt exercises and those are proving to be good fun. Hope to resume my major projects over the weekend.

Appropriately my CFT post this week is on Beginnings. As well as sharing what I think of New Year Resolutions, I discuss why beginnings are so important to get right for any creative piece of work. I also share a couple of my favourite beginnings. Link up tomorrow as normal. I am SO grateful to CFT, especially this week. It means I know tomorrow is Friday!! (On weeks like this one, having a good writing routine helps so much!).

(Oh and the pictures of fireworks below, courtesy of Pixabay, are the only place I like to see such things. Lady agrees with me on that one).

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Wow! Absolutely adored Doctor Who tonight (shown in the UK on New Year’s Day) and can’t wait to see Part 2. Cracking storyline and am intrigued to see how it pans out.

Getting off to a reasonably good start as I have two stories I’m planning to submit this week. I then have two competitions to prepare material for plus, at the weekend, I hope to get back to my longer projects.

Have been out and about with other half and Lady in the New Forest today. I hope all the exercise will prove to be refreshing to the imagination as well as much needed after the Christmas festivities! (Lady had a great time at the festivities and on the walks!).

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Plans for 2020 include submitting to even more competitions (flash fiction and short stories). I am pleased I did enter more last year though nothing happened with the tales themselves. Still, that is material I can edit and resubmit elsewhere.

Little is wasted in writing especially if you can take a step back, analyse your story and be prepared to change things to make the tale stronger if it is needed.

Bear in mind sometimes a story not “making it” can be because the competition organisers/publishers have already chosen a story using the same theme you have. Sometimes, even when they want the same theme, someone else’s tale has just got a bit more bite to it which has clinched things for them. I’ve found it helps to see this as a challenge to me to “up my game”. That aspect of writing keeps me on my toes and I think that’s a good thing. Never take anything for granted!

Look at work that hasn’t been accepted in the cold light of day. Still can’t see any changes needed? Try submitting the story elsewhere. If you can get feedback on it, even better. And good luck with your writing plans for 2020.

I’m having fun at the moment coming up with linked stories based on the same character but set at different word lengths. Worth a go! (And a big thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for the tip). Will definitely be trying this again.

One huge advantage to writing prompts (which is where the above idea comes from) is they make you mix up how you approach writing a story. That keeps you on your toes, I’ve found it keeps writing interesting for me (and hopefully that comes through to a reader), and differing approaches can encourage you to try different styles. Well, you never know what you like here until you try it! I DO know you don’t want to get stuck in any kind of rut with your writing,

See Prompts by #GillJames on Amazon. Highly recommend.

 

Prompts 2020 by [James, Gill] Image by Gill James

Lovely afternoon walking in the New Forest with other half and Lady (New Year’s Day). Was eerie the way the mist suddenly appeared though. Of course the problem with having any kind of imagination at all is being able to visualise what kind of monsters that mist could be hiding!! Fortunately, only the New Forest ponies were company for us (and Lady looks at them curiously. We think she thinks they’re some kind of very big dog!).

Hope to get back to flash fiction writing shortly (though my immediate plans are to submit a couple of standard length short stories). I must admit the break has been great but the lovely thing about writing is I always look forward to getting back to it again.

Onwards and upwards! Or maybe for flash fiction that really should be onwards and downwards (with the word count!😀).

Fairytales With Bite – Starts

So many of the classic fairytale characters have awful starts to their stories but, of course, the real tale is in how they overcome those things (with or without the help of a fairy godmother).

This is why Hans Christen Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is such a revelation. It was the first fairytale/story I’d come across where there isn’t a classic happy ever after ending (well not for her anyway. Do check out the original tale and you’ll soon see why Disney couldn’t film it as true to the original. Well not and keep their All Ages certificate anyway!).

How do you start your stories off? I like to set up an intriguing situation and/or characters quickly (it usually is both together) and then I happily dump my characters in it. I have fun in finding out how my characters sink or swim and I hope if I have fun in writing that, readers will also have fun in discovering the same thing for themselves.

I nearly always have to chop the start of a story when I go back and edit it. It can be tricky to work out where a story should start but what matters is getting that draft down. Then you can see, after time away from the tale to give you some distance to be able to be objective, where the opening should be. But you do need to get  started on a tale and I’ve learned never to worry that an awful lot will be chopped later. That’s okay. It is a case of looking for the nugget of the story and ensuring that shines through. Anything not helping that nugget to shine gets cut.

Happy editing!

This World and Others – Celebrating

I hope you had a wonderful time celebrating Christmas and the New Year. When it comes to our fictional worlds, what kind of celebrations do they have? What is the history behind those celebrations? You almost certainly won’t put all of that into a story.

I’ve found it useful to work details like this out and then select those a reader needs to know. I’ve found working things out gives me the confidence to write the story and I think something of that confidence comes through. (It can also be useful to have this material to hand for use on your website as additional information for readers. I know I love reading material like that on favourite author websites. Little is wasted in writing. It is a question of finding an appropriate use for material at times!).

If your world does not celebrate anything, why is that? Was there a time when it did? What went wrong? There should be some interesting story thoughts there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s That Time of Year Again

Welcome to a bumper edition of my blogs round up. As ever, all pictures are from Pixabay unless otherwise stated.

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It really is that time of year again! I look back at my writing year, anticipate the one to come, and share why networking with other authors is such a good idea. (And that’s besides it being enormous fun, which is the best reason of all to do it!).

I set short, medium, and long terms goals for my writing. Do share in the CFT comments box as to how you go about this kind of thing. The lovely thing with chatting with other authors is you can learn so much from each other. I’ve picked up useful hints and tips and hope I’ve shared some too. I’m a big believer in paying it forward and backwards.

I also share some wishes I know we can all second.

Incidentally, there will be no Collected Works round up from me tonight but I am planning a bumper edition next Tuesday. As well as the link to this CFT post, I’ll be sharing my ACW blog link (due on Sunday), my Goodreads post (due tomorrow) and all FB posts from today. I’ll be back in the writing “saddle” properly from tomorrow but have relished catching up with some reading over the Christmas period.

I hope you had a lovely Christmas and more power to our pens/PCs for the year to come. Creativity is a good thing and worth celebrating on its own account!

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What are your favourite openings to a book or film?

I love the opening sequence to the first LOTR film which shows how Sauron lost the Ring of Power. There is a real sense of an opportunity lost to get rid of the thing for once and all then. You know then the rest of the story has to be about what happened to the ring, did anyone find it, and was it destroyed eventually?

It is a classic example of setting your theme and building a sense of anticipation from the start.

Another favourite of mine is the opening to Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal. It says a lot for the story that it starts with the hero being hanged and goes on from there. Yet I am really not giving much away when I say that!

Again you have a tremendous sense of expectation that the story and its hero will somehow deliver despite what must surely be a disastrous start! Do read it if you haven’t already. Even if you have, re-read it.

Great stories stand up to repeated reading and I find I always pick up on something new.

Reading is such a wonderful thing to do anyway and as a bonus, as a writer you will always learn something from what you read.

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Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers – Christmas Angles

My monthly spot on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog looks at Christmas angles (yes, angles!) and why I like the telling details.

I looked at the little details that mean the most to me in my blog for More Than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers’ blog, this month. What was crucial was the Bible story only gives what it considers to be the vital details. Now there’s a lesson for a flash fiction writer right there!

What can be tricky is working out what ARE the vital details and I never get this right on a first draft either. But that’s not what a first draft is for. I’ve always loved Terry Pratchett’s take on first drafts when he said “first drafts are just you telling yourself the story”.

So let that thought take the pressure off. You don’t have to get it right at the first go – nobody does!

 

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I’ll be looking at Beginnings appropriately enough for this week’s CFT post. I’ll be sharing some of my favourite beginnings, have a look at why they’re so important to the success of a story or film, and discuss why I DON’T go in for New Year’s Resolutions. Link up on Friday (3rd January 2020).

I’ll be including LAST week’s CFT post (my end of year review) in tomorrow’s WP round up, which will be a bumper edition as it will also include a link to yesterday’s post for ACW on Christmas Angles. (I had to work hard here to make sure I DIDN’T put the word “angels” in. That’s the problem with words that are right in and of themselves. I’ve found grammatical aids do not pick up on context so it is still possible to come up with total nonsense, albeit it beautifully spelled and gramatically correct so beware!).

I’m editing two short stories for competitions and hope to have them submitted by the end of this week too. Whatever your week holds in store (writing wise or otherwise), I hope it’s a good one!

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Am drafting this via my phone and Evernote enroute to West Bay, Dorset. This is one of my post Christmas traditions.

Having enjoyed the feasting, now comes the time to do the walking it off! Lady will be having a particularly good time today. She loves the beach.

Do your characters have favourite places to go? What makes these places special? How often can your characters get to go there?

Also, do they have special places from their past which they can’t visit now but which have special memories for them?

How do those memories affect their behaviour in the here and now?

I suspect some good stories can be generated from answering those points. Good luck!

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I’ll be back in the writing “saddle” properly from tomorrow (Saturday, 28th December) but wanted to pop by to say I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I managed to catch up on some reading which is always a fab thing to do!

My next Collected Works round up won’t be tonight but I am planning to post a bumper edition on Tuesday. I take a look back at my writing year on Chandler’s Ford Today which is now live.

http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/its-that-time-of-year-again/

I hope the coming year brings you much joy whether you write stories, read them, or do both!

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Some thoughts for as we rapidly approach 2020:-

F = Find new competitions to enter but check out credentials first.
L = Love writing, love reading.
A = Always have stories to read and write.
S = Submit work regularly so you have plenty of material “out there”.
H = Have plenty of writing prompts to hand so you’re never short of ideas to work on.

And talking of which:-

I’m glad to say #GillJames has put together this book of prompts which were written by authors published by Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown etc. I’ve got a few prompts in there too and I am very much looking forward to working my way through this book in the New Year. Hope you have as much fun with this as I intend to!!

Prompts 2020 by [James, Gill] Image by Gill James

The biggest challenge for flash fiction writers is continually coming up with interesting characters to write about (though that for me is what I love most about it).

I have, in the collection I’m working on, linked a few flash stories where either characters carry on into another story or two or where they are referred to by others. I’ve liked that and will continue to do it but I do relish inventing new people.

I also love taking known settings and looking at a story from the viewpoint of an alternative character. For example, I have a flash piece called The Craftsman in this quarter’s edition of Christian Writer, the magazine produced by the Association of Christian Writers. I took as my lead character the man who makes Jesus’s cross.

What alternative/minor characters could you get to tell a flash fiction story? What would their outlook be on an event we know well? It’s an interesting angle to work with.

 

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Well, have you got your writing diary on stand by? I’ve gone for the same type as last year with lots of prompts to work my way through. (What with that and the book Gill James has produced – see below – I’m not going to be short of things to work on. Oh good!).

Whatever your writing year holds in store, have fun! Writing should be fun. It is also hard work, frustrating at times etc., but it should be fun most of the time.

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Loved listening to Ravel’s Bolero on Classic FM when I drafted this post enroute to West Bay in Dorset earlier today.

Yes I do remember watching Torvill and Dean ice dancing to it in the 1984 Olympics. The other breath taking sporting moment for me was Murray winning Wimbledon in 2013. (Loved his second win too but the first was pretty special).

What breath taking moments have you created for your characters and why pick these to be special? Could you write a flash story solely based on something like that?

Hmm… now there’s a thought!

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Goodreads Author Blog –What Day of the Week Is It?

Do you find you lose all sense of what day of the week it is after Christmas and Boxing Days? I do.

Time only has meaning in that I get to do more reading at this time of year. And naturally all time and its meaning goes completely when you’re engrossed with a good book! (But that is exactly how it should be).

Also why is it when, having decided to have a good read in bed, you find you’re asleep in minutes?

Conversely, on the thankfully rare occasions I have insomnia, why is it reading does not send me to sleep then?!

I read during the day when I can, usually at lunchtime, but it always feels a little like I’m playing truant. It’s tricky trying to ignore all the things I should be doing but I usually manage it!

Reading and time available are never in the ratio I’d like though! Still there is always time for one more book, one more story etc. Now back to that To Be Read pile. The only decision to be taken is whether I’m going for the “real” book TBR pile or the Kindle one!

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Will resume Fairytales with Bite and This World and Others from my next post on Friday. 

Have a wonderful 2020 and many thanks for your support.

 

 

 

 

What Makes A Good Story

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

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I share what I think makes a good story and why. I also name some of my favourites and share my reading “diet”. I also invite you to share your favourite stories. Hope you enjoy – and that you have plenty of wonderful books and stories as Christmas presents this and every year!

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Two posts from me tonight. This second one also ties in with my CFT theme of What Makes a Good Story too.

Below is the book trailer for Nativity, this year’s Bridge House Publishing anthology. I’m delighted to have a humorous fairytale in here – What Goes Around.

Do check out the wonderful stories in here. There’s a lovely mixture of styles and moods but of course you don’t just need to take my word for it!

Boxing Day is my chance to catch up on some reading – books old and new – and I relish the opportunity to put my feet up for a bit and get my nose stuck into a good read!

Must admit to being a bit miffed Doctor Who has been pushed back to New Year’s Day. It always was the highlight of my Christmas Day viewing.

Have no idea what I’ll be watching this year. If nothing appeals, it’ll be back to the Morecambe and Wise box set. Can’t go wrong with that! The scripts were wonderfully written and brilliantly performed.

This is also where I particularly miss mum. She loved a good game or two of Scrabble. You knew word play had to come into this somewhere, right?

I’ll be taking a bit of time off from writing naturally but what is lovely about this is (a) a brief break does me good (and does for everyone) and (b) I’m raring to go again when it is time to start again. Gets the New Year off to a good new creative start and I love that.

Am I ready for Christmas yet? Umm…

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I’ll be asking What Makes a Good Story in my CFT post this week. I know – I could’ve gone on at length on that one. I haven’t, honestly (the link will be up on Friday so you can see for yourself!). I look at a good reading “diet” too and share a couple of festive flash fiction stories.

I can’t remember what the first book I read by myself was though the Reader’s Digest Fairytale Collections and Little Women have got to be strong contenders for that. What I do know is once I was hooked on stories, that was it.

What I like now is the range of ways in which you can take stories in – I love audio books for example and a great film adaptation can bring stories to life for many and may drive them to read the book too. The latter is one reason I love The Muppet Christmas Carol so much as The Great Gonzo aka Charles Dickens recommends reading the original book! (And very good advice that is too).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Good stories (my theme for Chandler’s Ford Today this week) come in so many varieties of style, mood, genre and, of course, word count length! The phrase “less is more” could have been invented for flash fiction writers. It wasn’t but it could have been!

Of course good stories for me are centred around the characters (as I discuss further in my CFT post) but the characters don’t have to be likeable. Well, Hannibal Lecter is memorable, is he not? Would you want to have dinner with him? I’d pass on that one… you’d never know who you would have having with the Chianti, would you? (I refuse to believe that’s a plot spoiler after all this time!).

So how do you make your characters memorable then? For me, they have to have a distinctive voice. This is one reason I use the first person a lot for my flash fiction. I can take you straight into the characters’ heads and show you their thoughts and attitudes. You then decide whether you like them or not!

A good story, whether it is a flash fiction piece or longer work, has to engage with a reader and the characters are, for me, the key to doing that.

As you know, I like a mixture of darker and lighter stories in my reading “diet”. I do find at this time of year when the nights draw in so early, I read more of the lighter side. I guess I’m trying to balance things out here! I know I need something to give me a bit of a lift reading wise and that’s why I head to the funny/amusing side of fiction first.

And, yes, as the light gradually increases, that’s when I turn to the darker stories for a good read.

Whatever your reading diet, I do hope the books you’ve asked for end up under your Christmas tree this year. The best things about winter by are having more time to read and hot chocolate!

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Flash fiction can be written in different styles as after all it is a very short story and tales can be told in varying ways as well as in a variety of word counts!

They’ve been told in many different ways for centuries – from the oral tradition to the printed word from stories told in letters, diaries (think Adrian Mole!) etc.

I’ve occasionally written limericks which tell their own story. Hope you like this one.

TAKING THE PEN AWAY

There was once a cracker joke writer
Whose puns made people curse the blighter
So when his pen was taken
He felt forlorn, forsaken
But the world felt oh so much brighter!

Ends
Allison Symes

I suspect there are many of us who could identify with this!😊

 

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Fairytales With Bite – Transformations

Fairytales often have transformation as a theme ranging from the changing of an arrogant prince into something ugly (Beauty and the Beast) to changing someone’s life completely (Cinderella).

In all of the stories there is justification for the transformation ranging from deserved punishment to rewarding virtue/delivering from a dreadful environment. So when you use transformation in your stories (especially if it is done courtesy of a helpful and handy to have around fairy godmother), ensure you have a good reason for it.

The actual transformation is a pivotal point of the story of course. The arrogant prince becomes the beast and his story after that point is in discovering whether someone will love him enough to free him from the curse. For Cinderella her life is turned upside down by the fairy godmother’s intervention. Think about how your characters could handle that. Not everybody would handle it well and there could be some interesting stories there.

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This World and Others – When Your World Works…

This is by no means a definitive list but useful pointers for gauging whether your fictional world works include:-

  1. You can imagine living there yourself.
  2. You can picture how the different species in your world could co-exist (whether they do so or not is then up to you!).
  3. You know where your characters fit into the overall picture. Not everyone can be a leader so who are the governed and who does the governing?
  4. You know how your characters live and what they do for housing, food, sanitation etc. You have to convince yourself your world could work if it existed somewhere. You may not need to put all of these details into your story. You just need to convey enough so a reader is convinced you know how your world works!
  5. You know what could threaten your world and its characters and why.

 

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Friends and Traditions

Image Credit:  Mainly the marvellous Pixabay, but also a big thanks to Debz Brown, Paula Readman, and Dawn Kentish Knox for kind permission to use their images of the Bridge House Publishing Celebration Event.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I discuss Friends and Traditions in this week’s CFT post. I think the image below from Pixabay may well prove to be a favourite. Just love the thinking behind it.

It is with great pleasure I look back at the Bridge House Publishing/Cafelit/Chapeltown Celebration Event which was held at St. John’s, Waterloo, last Saturday.

I must say a big thank you to Dawn Kentish Knox, Paula Readman, and Debz Brown for kind permission to use some of their pictures. The big problem with taking part in an event is not being able to take pictures of yourself doing so! If you ever want to know how to help a writer friend out, do consider taking pics for them!

I also look at what traditions writers could have. Hope you enjoy.

Captions as ever over on the CFT link.

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What kind of picture prompts do you find most useful for generating story ideas?

I prefer “open-ended” images which give me ideas for settings and then I work out what characters would live in those places. I don’t want specifics. I want to be able to fill in some gaps for myself.

I also find quirky pictures don’t work well. They tend to dicate the mood of your story (which inevitably will also be quirky and while I LOVE quirky fiction and write it, I don’t want to write it all the time).

And forget cute pictures of kittens etc. Lovely to look at but dreadful for inspiring story ideas. (I know, that’s not the purpose of cute kitten pics, but whenever I do see a photo, if a story idea is triggered, I see it as very welcome input. You just can’t do that with a cute kitten pic!😀).

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I’m looking at Friends and Traditions for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

I look back at the Bridge House Publishing celebration event held last weekend. I’ll also be looking at how writers can make their own “traditions” by figuring out what works best for them when it comes to settling down and getting the words out.

I also celebrate my lovely celebration of meeting up with other writers. I always come back from doing that with a real “buzz”. Encouragement is contagious! Link up on Friday. Next week I’ll be looking at what makes for a good story. I suspect I’ll have to put a strict word count limit on that one!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction can take many forms. I’ve written acrostic stories which can work well and, of course, you can write a story in a poetic form. A lot of the Christmas carols do this. Think of The First Nowell for example. You have the telling of the Christmas story in one carol there. Good King Wenceslas is also a great story told in song.

But the point remains, whatever the length or format of your flash fiction story, there has to be one central theme to focus upon. Everything else hangs off that, of course, but there is no room for sub-plots (and those are wonderful for the longer short stories, novellas, and novels. I love the fact that every aspect of writing has a purpose and a joy of its own).

I’ve found it helpful to sum up my stories in a line, especially for flash, as that becomes the “peg” I write the story to!

(Oh and one other Christmas tradition I’ve happily upheld tonight is watching The Muppet Christmas Carol. Easily the best film they made and a classic telling of a brilliant story).

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Am listening to a hilarious version of The Twelve Days of Christmas on Classic FM narrated by Joanna Lumley (as at 12th December!). Could well count as a flash fiction story though likely to be towards the upper end of the spectrum. Do check the piece out. It is very funny. (Oh and the writer of this piece has stuck to the “golden rule” of flash fiction by not having too many named characters!).

And talking of Christmas related flash fiction, I hope you enjoy this one.

AN UNEXPECTED STOP
‘You do know at what speed you were travelling, sir?’
‘Er… no… officer, I’m afraid I was concentrating on getting to my next destination. I have to cover everyone on my list, you see, and I don’t have much time. Was it important?’
‘I’ll say so, sir. You will cause chaos flying at that speed. If everyone did that there’d be accidents galore.’
‘But, officer, it’s Christmas Eve, I’m Santa Claus, there’s nobody up here except us and I’d love to know how YOU got here.’

ENDS
Allison Symes

 

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Do I ever feel frustrated by word count limits imposed by flash fiction?

No. If a character has a longer story to tell, then I tell it and it goes on to be a competition entry for, say, a 1500 to 2000 word market.

If I can’t enter a 100-worder flash competition, I can always enter a longer piece for a 250 or sub-500 words kind. I do like that kind of flexibility.

The really important thing is getting the story right and if it works better at 150 words rather than 100, you are better off sticking to the longer word count. There will be a home for it somewhere out there.

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Fairytales With Bite – A to Z of Fairytale “Rules” – Part 4

Final section with some tricky letters to tackle but here goes!

U = Unique. Your fairy godmother will always come up with a unique way to help you. Pumpkins are often involved and she seems to have a bit of a thing for extremely uncomfortable footwear (for you that is) but she means well so bear with her. Her unique approach will work out.

V = Variety.  Where the fairy godmother will demonstate variety is in the number of ways they transform errant beings into hideous beasts and so on. Naturally there will be a need for someone to set said errant beings free from their horrendous transformation. Naturally the errant being needs to have learned enough humility to recognise they need to be set free. There is no room or point in continued arrogance here. It is that which led to the horrendous transformation in the first place.

W = Wands. A magical being will have their wands on them at all times of course. Fairy godmothers will still have the star on the end. Tradition is a big thing in the magical world and also the end client expects to see something of that nature. Letting people down is not what a fairy godmother does!

X = X-Ray Vision. A fairy godmother won’t “do” a Superman here. Where her vision is at her sharpest is in assessing character. Let’s just say when a being gets transformed into something hideous, there’s always a good reason for it. Nobody has been wrongly transformed to date. So when it comes to reading a character’s soul, your average fairy godmother has wonderful X-ray vision and will not be fooled. (Indeed trying to pretend you’re something you’re not is even more likely to encourage her to ensure you are next on her “to bring down several pegs or so” list).

Y = Yarns. Not wool! What your average magical being likes is a good story. Sometimes they like being the star of said yarn but it naturally has to have a happy ending and make them look good (even if they don’t do so at the beginning).

Z = Zest. Every magical being is expected to be full of zest. Nobody wants a bedraggled and tired looking fairy godmother turning up to help out. Magical beings are expected to keep themselves looking and feeling good, no matter what it takes to do so. (This may explain Snow White’s stepmother’s attitude towards her own looks).

discovery-space-shuttle-1757098_640Even in a fantasy world, the author will share some of its history to make the world seem more real to the readerEven in time travel stories there is a history involved

The best books take you right into their world - it's a painless procedure

Books take you into other worlds.

The perfect way to end a day - with a good book - Pixabay

Fab end to a day I think. Pixabay.

This World and Others – What Is A Good Fictional World

For me a good fictional world has to have the following attributes.

  1. I’ve got to be able to see it in my mind’s eye and either wish to live there or avoid it like the proverbial plague. Sounds like a contradiction, right? What matters here is being able to visualise that world so well it will trigger either reaction in you. That world has drawn you in – job done!
  2. A good fictional world will reflect the lives of different species/classes/genders within it. There generally isn’t one species/class/gender etc. Okay, the story may focus on only one but you should be able to see how that one reacts and acts to the others living in that same world. (They’ll often be the source of conflict driving the story or will be supporting your hero/heroine in some way).
  3. A good fictional world will give some details on its virtues and shortcomings. What do your characters love and loathe about being where they are?

 

 

Trains and Wish Lists for Writers

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It was a joy to write about trains for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. It is one of my favourite inventions. I share how it has affected my writing (in terms of how I use a train journey and writing events I get to) and share some links to some great places to visit connected with the train. All of this just ahead of my going to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event tomorrow. Naturally I’m travelling by train!

Yes, I did have a train set as a kid, shared with my sister, but you can’t beat going on the real thing and I’ve loved trips on the Fort William to Mallaig line (think Harry Potter) and the Watercress Line amongst others. (The latter has a Permanent Way sign on one of their engineering sheds as a tribute to Terry Pratchett. They also have an old advert for Nosegay tobacco – make of that what you will – see the post for the picture proving it!).

One thing I didn’t mention in the post was I love stories connected to trains too. I’ve always loved Agatha Christie’s 4.50 from Paddington (a Miss Marple story) – and who could forget Murder on the Orient Express? And I’ll always have fond memories of my book signing at my local railway station. That was good fun. (Many thanks to the Three Rivers Rail Community Partnership for their help there and I’m pleased to advertise their Mulled Wine and Mince Pie event coming up on 13th December. See the post for more).

Oh and my favourite Terry Pratchett story? Very hard to say but I do adore Raising Steam.  Captions over on the CFT post, as always, but I will say a big thank you to the Three Rivers Rail Community Partnership for their poster for their Mulled Wine and Mince Pie event.

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