Story Types

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Deeply sorry to hear of the death of HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh today – 9th April 2021. His marriage to the Queen is a truly great love story.

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


So sorry to hear of the passing of HRH Prince Philip today. The story of his early life is an amazing tale in itself.

Pleased to share Story Types, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. Hope you enjoy it. I discuss why I mix up the type of thing I read and share what reading widely does for me as a writer. If you ever wanted to know why every writer under the sun tells you to read widely and well, my post is a good place to start to find out why.

Looking forward to my new series which starts next Friday. One good thing about a series on book covers is that I’m not going to have any problems at all in finding pictures to use for this! A huge thanks in advance to the authors who are taking part in this series with me and I will share more on this next week.

Story Types

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Glad to say my new Chandler’s Ford Today post is up tomorrow. This week I’m talking Story Types. I look at the type of stories I like to read (as well as write) and share some thoughts about how mixing up what you read gives concrete benefits to what you write. I look at flash fiction and short stories, as well as novels, and share thoughts on how my reading feeds directly into what I write. It can be forgotten we take in more than we think when we read. For one thing, we unconsciously take in that this is how a book should look etc. Link up tomorrow.

From 16th April, I begin a three part series called Judging a Book by its Cover. Really looking forward to sharing that. I do share my own (of course) but plenty of guest contributors share theirs and what they hope a reader would take from them. Some fascinating insights here. So plenty to look forward to here for the rest of April.

Am so glad there wasn’t any snow today but it’s still cold! More irritated today by the temporary traffic lights just down the road from me were stuck on red in both directions. You can imagine the chaos. Any sign of workmen? What do you think?!

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Another cold day (and yes a little bit more snow today). Brrr…

I was chatting earlier today over at #Val’sBookBundle about book collections you either still have or remember treasuring as a child. And some great memories were shared. I love the whole idea of collections – what a great way to encourage you to keep on reading. (It’s why I also understand and enjoy series novels).

But short story and flash collections encourage you to keep on reading too – just in a different way. I like to read through to see if there are links throughout the book. Even when there are no links, I want to find out what the next story or flash piece is all about. And then I like to work out which of the various characters I liked the most and why. (I can always learn from that).

The important thing then is to keep reading but I am preaching to the converted here, I hope!

My current read is The Diary of Isabella M Smugge by #RuthLeigh (and the hashtag is so apt here, just trust me on that one, or better still, check the book out and find out why).

Am moving on to the first Richard Osman one shortly after that so plenty to look forward to, reading wise. (Don’t watch nearly as much TV as I used to. To be honest, I don’t miss it. The time I would’ve spent watching the box I now spend writing and I feel bereft if I haven’t managed to have my usual creative session here. Anything special that comes on, I tend to record and watch while ironing etc. The glamorous writing life? Err… perhaps not! But it’s still fun and I can’t imagine my life without the writing and that’s a good thing).

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Each flash story I write is the important moment in a character’s life. That is what I want to highlight. You can imply back story but you don’t have much room in which to do it. So how I do this?

I sometimes get a character to remember something.

In my story Enough Is Enough, from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I show you the character’s back story as it leads directly into the action she is going to take.

Sometimes I get the character to relate some of their back story to another character. I do this in The Terrified Dragon where my hero reveals something of his past to the angry villagers surrounding him.

So there are ways in which to do it but, as ever with flash, it is best to be brief! Readers do pick up on things that are inferred and I must admit I love doing this myself whether I’m reading a flash story or a novel. I don’t want the author to tell me everything. I do want to work out some things for myself. I just need the relevant information for me to be able to do that.

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As well as picking appropriate names for your characters and their settings/eras, give some thought to place names. Especially for fantasy and science fiction, these should still be easy for your readers to pronounce. No Mxzyoriaquantian here, thank you!

Whatever you write, it pays to read your work out loud. For novels, a section at a time is good. (I know. I have it easier here writing flash fiction!). But the thing to remember is if you trip over what you read out loud, so will your reader. You don’t want anything getting in the way of their having a fabulous reading experience as they read your latest wonderful prose.

Names should be tested this way. I’d also flag up dialogue or thoughts too. What looks good written down doesn’t always read so well and testing this by reading work out loud will flag up what you may need to simplify. No reader is ever going to moan about having an easy, seamless read. They will moan (and worse stop reading) if you make life unintentionally difficult here.


When I pick names for my flash characters, I obviously try to make the name suit the story genre. For example, in Losing Myself in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, one of the characters referred to is Graxia. That is meant to conjure up an alternative, probably magical, world setting – and the story does take place in one.

In Identity I had an older man as the main character so I went for an older man’s name here – Walter. (That also happens to be the name of one of my grandparents but no my fictional Walter is not based on my granddad! But the name is appropriate to conjure up a sense of age given Walter is not a younger person’s name).

In Being Yourself I thought the name Jane Stephens would give an idea of a lady probably in her late twenties or early thirties and who you wouldn’t be surprised to find working in a library where the story is set.

Keeping an eye out on names prevalent now (as well as using older books of names) is not a bad idea if you need a hand in coming up with suitable names for your people. But always bear in mind your story setting. Does the character name suit that?

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Fairytales with Bite – The Villain

So what would be your definition of a “good” villain? For me, it would be someone (or something!) who is a worthy opponent to your hero and who has understandable reasons for doing what they are/being what they are. Okay, you don’t have to agree with those reasons, far from it, but you should be able to see where the villain is coming from here and what drives them to take the actions they are taking.

It is just as important for the villain to be as well rounded a character as your hero. You need them both to make a great story. No conflict otherwise. And the needs of the villain and the hero should be diametrically opposed. In The Lord of the Rings Frodo Baggins wants to destroy the Ring, Sauron wants to get it back and use its powers. No compromise possible there. There has to be an outcome too.

So thinking about what your villain and hero want and ensuring they are at cross purposes also helps gives structure to your story as there can only be one winner and one ending (happy or otherwise).

A good way of working out what your villain wants is to have a closer look at their background. If a villain, say, comes from a background where the only way out is to be more powerful than everyone else around them, well there’s a pretty powerful motive for you. It would also keep them going. The fear of falling back into being “weak” again would also kick in here.

As with any kind of characterisation, work out what you think you need to know about your people (alternative beings are available!). Work out what drives them. Work out what could get in their way. As you do all that, story ideas will kick in and a good structure along with it. What’s not to like about that?!

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This World and Others – What Helps Your Villains to Thrive?

Is there anything about your created world that encourages villains to thrive? In The Lord of the Rings, Mordor is such a suitable setting for Sauron. (Good question here – does the darkness of Mordor come from him or does he make Mordor dark or is it both?).

Is there anything about your setting that encourages your characters to turn to evil to make their lives better, regardless of what that does to anyone else? What kind of politics exist in your setting that would lead to someone wanting to do whatever it takes to get to the top of the political tree? (And how do they achieve that?).

In a magical setting, do your villains use magic themselves, are they aided by it, or is it something they reject and they obtain power another way?

What is it about your setting that makes it difficult for the hero to beat the villain? If a people have been used to tyrannical leaders for centuries, would they suddenly take to a hero who wants to usher in a more democratic system or would they reject the hero and enable the villain to continue? (There would be a fair amount of fear of change coming in here, another obstacle for your hero to overcome, but does the setting itself contribute to that?).

The obvious use of setting almost as a character in its own right is, for me, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis where it is always winter but never Christmas. That is a powerful image and made me wonder whether that could ever change. Of course, that is the whole point of the story – something has to change and here it is a question of reading on to find out how.

Could you use your setting in a similar way? Does it seem to hinder the hero?

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Snow, Subverting Expectations, and Traffic Rivals

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

A nice mix of topics tonight I think!

My latest story video coming up further in the post.

 

Facebook – General

More snow flurries today. Central heating back on. Thick cardigans etc not being packed away just yet.

Glad to report my new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Judging a Book by Its Cover, will follow on from my Story Types post this Friday and will run for the remaining three weeks in April. Looking forward to sharing this week’s post and the series in due course.

Enjoyed listening to a poetry special on Hannah’s Bookshelf earlier today (I do love catch up listening!) and the imagery created was fantastic. Particularly enjoyed the lines from two poets. One was “thick as a Bible” (I have images of an old family Bible we had that was huge) and, in a separate poem, “Van Gogh stars”. Both just fantastic word portraits. Great examples of two poets making every word punch its weight.

This is one similiarity between poetry and flash fiction. I was not surprised to hear that some of Hannah’s guest poets had also taken part in her flash fiction shows. I don’t know how many flash fiction writers go on to be poets. Is there a correlation there, I wonder?

I do know that when I read the poetry columns in things like Writing Magazine, I pay particular attention to how the words are used and the tips for making every word count. That kind of information is useful no matter what you write.

It’s all about the impact on the reader.

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Brrr… it has been cold today! Had the odd snow flurry too (and yes odd is an appropriate word given I was just getting used to spring being here and then wham the snow turns up again!). Despite all of that, I hope you have had an enjoyable Easter Monday.

Managed to sub another flash fiction tale over the weekend to #FridayFlashFiction. There have been some wonderful comments on my two stories on the site so far so a big thank you for those. Made good progress on my third flash fiction collection too.

Am putting the finishing touches to a new series on Chandler’s Ford Today to be called Judging a Book By Its Cover. Looking forward to sharing this and the wonderful contributions from my guests for this too. Meanwhile, this week my CFT post will be about Story Types.

What was nice was over the weekend CFT’s lovely editor, #JanetWilliams, sent an email to the regular contributors that she had received from a fan of the site. That was lovely and I know the feedback was appreciated and not just by me. (Ties in with my post last week about Reviews nicely too – constructive feedback is invaluable).

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4th April – Easter Sunday

Happy Easter!

Delighted to see this came up on my timeline as a memory today – from four years ago.

My, how the time flies. From my first book launch for From Light to Dark and Back Again. (See photo below of the notebook and pen).

Look what came up on my timeline – a memory from 2017.


So much has changed in that time! I hadn’t heard of Zoom or Facebook Live when my first flash collection was launched. I hadn’t envisaged having my own Youtube channel, being interviewed on the radio, talking to a WI group, or taking part in an international writing summit either!

Memories like this remind me the writing journey is a continuous one. Sure, there will be times when you feel you are going nowhere or have headed straight into a cul-de-sac. But there are those wonderful moments when you know you are progressing. Progress can be anything from having something published to simply getting more work out there over the course of a year than you’ve done before or trying a new market and seeing what happens.

What matters I think is enjoying as much of the journey as possible and developing what you do in a way that you love doing. You are your own first reader so it is crucial you enjoy what you write.

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Hope you have had good Holy Saturday.

Many thanks for the positive comments, tweets etc about my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week called Reviews. I’m not too surprised this one has struck a chord! I can’t say I review every book I read but I do review the majority. I also find reviews useful for anything from books to my groceries. The range of reviews usually gives a pretty good idea of whether I’m likely to like something or not.

A big thanks also for the lovely comments on my two stories on #FridayFlashFiction.

Enjoying listening to the Hall of Fame countdown on Classic FM. That’s my listening for the weekend sorted. I often pick classical/classic like pieces when I’m creating my story videos for Youtube. They have an impressive audio library and often I’m looking for a particular mood when creating my video. Can’t say I’m too surprised it is the classic section I head most often to look for the right mood music.

Looking forward to sharing details of a new Chandler’s Ford Today series soon too.


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A big thanks for the wonderful response to my story video, Traffic Rivals, yesterday. (Video below). I adore writing the very short flash tale, especially quirky ones like this, and story videos are a great way to share said mini tales.

Lady and I were not impressed with the snow today. The weather’s being quirky too.

It pays to mix up how you come up with story ideas. For one thing, it will keep things interesting for you.

With Traffic Rivals, it was a case of working out why a witch would take action against a speed camera. After all it wasn’t as if someone was going to dare book her for speeding, was it?! So I then came up with the answer to why she might care about the thing and the story took off from there. Even for a two-line tale, some initial thinking about who, what, why always pays off.


Delighted to see more subscribers to my Youtube channel. Welcome everybody! And I’m pleased to share my latest short story video which is about a witch’s attitude to a fellow witch and speed cameras. Hope you enjoy!

 

 

4th April – Easter Sunday

I’ve talked about wasted words in flash fiction before and one of mine is the word “very”. Why do I consider it to be a wasted word? Simply, it is because it adds nothing of value to a story. Something either is or isn’t something.
The very in front of a word doesn’t strengthen impact.

For example, “I was very cold” is a statement of fact but “I was freezing” shows you how the narrator is feeling. By cutting out words you don’t need, you will have a tighter writing pace and there will be a more immediate feel to it too. Freezing is also a stronger image. You can picture it. “Very cold” can mean different things to different people after all.

Photo by Immortal shots on Pexels.com


Many thanks for the great response to my post yesterday about using intriguing titles to get me started on a new flash fiction story. The Terrified Dragon is not the only time I “subvert” an expectation in my titles. Well, you wouldn’t expect a dragon to be scared, would you?

I use the technique again for Punish the Innocent in my From Light to Dark and Back Again. Have fun brainstorming title ideas that would draw you in. Then and only then work out what stories could come from them and write up the one you like the most, the one that makes you react the most. It will have the same effect on a reader.

You can also do this with well known proverbs and phrases. Change one word in these and see what you can do. I often use a notebook and pen for brainstorming. That just works for me but it also means if I’ve only got a couple of minutes before, say, I have to go out (I know – possibly not right now but bear with me on this!), I can jot down some ideas to work up later. Well worth trying.


Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes a Book Special For You?

It’s always good to start with a leading question, isn’t it?

Okay then, maybe starting with two of them is then!

Seriously, what does make a book special for you? For me, it is always about the characters. I have to want to know them and come to love or loathe them as the case may be but they’ve got to intrigue me enough to make me want to read their stories.

I’ve got to understand their needs and motivations, though I don’t necessarily have to like or agree with them.

And if at the end of the story, I feel sorry that I am “leaving” the characters behind, that is a good sign. Those characters really have got to me – the way they should do.

The characters don’t have to be human. I can understand the rabbits in Watership Down. Their needs, their quest is an understandable one. But there absolutely has to be something I can latch on to about whoever leads the story. It is their journey I’m following after all.

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Reviews, Book Covers, and Publication News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her.

Hope you have had a good week.

To those who celebrate Easter (as I do), may you have a blessed one.

Writing wise, not a bad week and there’s another story of mine up on Friday Flash Fiction. This site is a great way to encourage me to write a drabble (a 100-worder) every week! More below.

Always fun to find out what happens next, writing wise!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today – Good Friday – 2nd April 2021

Delighted to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post which is on a topic close to many a writer’s heart – Reviews!

I look at why authors need them, my policy on reviewing (including when I review National Theatre Live productions and shows put on by our wonderful local amateur dramatic company, The Chameleons). I also discuss hatchet jobs and share my thoughts about those (!). I also share why paid-for reviews are, for me, a huge no-no.

Like so much in writing, building up reviews does take time and it has to be done the right way to avoid running into difficulties with Amazon especially. Even ignoring that, the policy of paying for a review does make my blood run cold. It just doesn’t seem ethical to me. I want reviews to be honest and with thought put into them.

The old saying goes that he who pays the piper calls the tune but for a review, I want that “tune” to be an honestly considered one and not “bought in”. You really don’t want to be muddying the waters here, to use another old phrase.

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Pleased to share a More Than Writers blog from #WendyHJones tonight. More Than Writers is the blog of the Association of Christian Writers. Wendy’s post this time is all about book covers and, as well as discussing her latest cover reveal (for the lovely Bertie The Buffalo), she invited some fellow ACW members to share their latest book cover and a few words about it.

Many thanks, Wendy, for inviting me to take part in this. And do have a good look – there are wonderful covers here.

(Oh and my CFT post is up tomorrow).


My CFT post this week is all about a subject close to many a writer’s heart – reviews!

I talk about why they are useful, my policy for giving reviews, and share a few thoughts on how to write a review that will be useful to an author.

I also chat about my policy when I review stage productions, National Theatre Live plays etc (and I am so looking forward to being able to go to these things again and review them once more! It has been a long year and even more so for our great local am dram company, The Chameleon Theatre Group).

I also discuss hatchet jobs. Now the big question is do I manage that without carrying out a hatchet job myself? Well, you’ll have to find out tomorrow when I put the link up!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again Good Friday – 2nd April 2021

I sometimes start a flash piece by coming up with an intriguing title. For example, in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, one of my stories is called The Terrified Dragon. I had great fun working out what on earth could possibly terrify a creature that is renowned for causing fear in every other creature that is not a dragon!

I do sometimes use a simple flowchart or spider diagram to work out different possibilities and I then go with the one that I like the most. That choice is nearly always determined by the impact the idea has on me. If the idea makes me laugh the most, or makes me cringe in terror, then it will have the same effect on other readers. I am always thinking about potential impact on a reader and that’s a good thing. I want to write with a potential audience in mind, always.

And good news, I have another story up on #FridayFlashFiction. Nice way to end a week! Hope you enjoy this one. Called Mustn’t Tell. I do like an “open” title which hopefully draws people in!


My latest author newsletter went out earlier today including an exclusive flash fiction story. If you would like to sign up just go to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

As well as sharing exclusive stories here, I share writing tips and news, most of which is related to flash of course. This time around I’ve also shared a writing challenge and set a 250 word count for it.

It wasn’t something I planned but the 100 to 500 word mark does seem to be my natural home for flash stories. I gravitate to that word length almost as if I’m on auto pilot. (I’m not by the way! If possible I would save auto pilot abilities for boring tasks such as the housework!).

A screenshot from my latest author newsletter. I also share tips and writing prompts here amongst other things.



There will be a new flash fiction story from me in my new author newsletter, which will be going out tomorrow, 1st April. If you would like to sign up for this, please go to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Have submitted another drabble to #FridayFlashFiction.

Am working on material for a third flash collection too so plenty going on to keep me out of mischief!

I’ve found the basic ingredients for a flash fiction story, regardless of length, are:-

  • A character (doesn’t have to be human!).
  • An action (sometimes a refusal to act can be the action).
  • Something indicating the story has to go on.

Get those lined up and you’re well on your way to producing a promising first draft!

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Fairytales with Bite – What Would Your Characters Wish For and Why?

Well, what would your characters wish for and why? Just as interestingly, is there any chance at all of them getting their wish granted? What would the consequences be?

Action and reaction. Cause and consequence. The basic building blocks of all stories.

A character outline is a useful tool for working out what your characters are likely to want and why. (I ignore the basics of wanting food, shelter etc because you can take them as read. Everyone wants those things, understandably). What you want to go into here is deeper than that.

Character A wants a loving relationship because they have had loneliness foisted on them all their life and they want to change that. (Interesting story here: who foisted the loneliness on them and why? Why wait until now to change things?).

Your outline would go into who Character A is, who or what has got in their way (and what happened to them incidentally), what they are planning to do to change things. You won’t have every idea immediately but what you should have is a glimpse into who Character A is and, as a result of that, how they are likely to try to change things. A shy character is going to use more reserved methods compared to an extrovert, say.

Just knowing that will get you off to a good start with your story (and finding things out as you go along is (a) fun and (b) should confirm whether or not you know your character well enough to write their story up.

You may well find you will find out more about your character as you go along and that’s how it should be but you should also find your outline did nail the core elements you needed to know about them before you got started. I always find that aspect reassuring.

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This World and Others – Limitations

What limitations do your characters have? How do they overcome these? Can they overcome them?

If they can’t, do they have ways of getting advantages from their situation? What limitations does your setting have? Can your people only live above ground for certain time periods due to restricted oxygen (or other gas) availability the rest of the time?

I write flash fiction and find the word count restriction there (1000 words maximum) doesn’t stifle creativity. It fuels it. Why?

Because I have had to learn to think laterally to get the most out of every single word I put into my stories. And you can do this with limitations on your characters and settings too. If your characters can’t use magic without weakening themselves significantly, they will themselves limit their use of it (and probably save it for life and death moments. You just would, wouldn’t you?! So what would they do the rest of the time?).

If your setting has limited capacity for supporting life, how would that capacity be used? Who would control it? Would someone find ways of boosting that capacity so more people could live?

All interesting thoughts to explore.

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Talking About Writing

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

It has been an odd week – starting with my birthday and my first Covid jab and ending with moving a metric tonne of pea shingle… it’s a long story! But the advice on the keyboard below is worth following!

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Oh and don’t forget my author newsletter sign up can be found here.

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Facebook – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my Talking About Writing piece for Chandler’s Ford Today. The last few weeks have been a good learning curve for me as I prepared for a WI talk, an international writing summit, and a radio interview!

I share some thoughts about the prep work I did for all of this (and good prep work always pays off even if you don’t end up using all of the material. I found it boosted my confidence no end just knowing I had material to hand I could use if I needed the extra. And material is recyclable! I am sure I will use at least some of this material in other talks and presentations in due course).

The link to my interview by #HannahKate is in my CFT post and am posting the link here too. Do have a listen. It was good fun and I think that sense of fun comes across in the interview.

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Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. This week my post is Talking About Writing and looks back at various events I’ve taken part in recently where I have done a lot of this! I also share how I prepared for the writing summit, radio interview and WI talk. Allowing enough time for good prep work is vital.

For me, I have to write down what I think I’m going to say. Other writers may just write down a few bullet points. What matters is recognizing what you need as prep and then follow through on that. (The other advantage of writing things down is you can take those notes and turn them into articles or material for other talks etc).

This post also gives me another chance to share the Share Your Story Writing summit and the poster for it. Now this will probably make me sound like a big kid, okay an old big kid (I know!), but I was so excited to see myself on the advertising materials for this event. It was something that hadn’t even occurred to me might happen when I started writing, My focus was on just becoming published and then seeing if I could do it again and then again etc.

I also share the link to my interview with the lovely #HannahKate. If you haven’t had chance to hear this you can tune in via my link in the post tomorrow (though I will add in a quick thank you now to all who’ve given me great feedback on this).


Hope you have had a good Wednesday. I post on #Val’s Book Bundle most Wednesdays and this morning I was looking at the diary format for books. This is partly because I’ve always loved things like The Diary of Adrian Mole and am currently reading a fabulous book by #RuthLeigh (The Diary of Isabella M Smugge#doyourselfafavour, #checkitout – those who’ve read the book will know why I’ve put the hashtags in!).

I’ve used the diary format myself in flash fiction. Yes, it is possible! In my Losing Myself in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, I use this though I needed pretty much the whole 1000 words allowed in flash to do it. Good fun though and I’d happily use this format again.

This story was interesting to do as I get my narrator to write her diary for the person she wants to read it so it is addressed to that other character. As the diary goes on, you find out more about my narrator and her nemesis, a third character. And I managed to get a twist in the end too – so lots of wins for me there.

This was a story where I knew the beginning and how it needed to end pretty much from the start. It was filling in the gaps for this one where the work was needed but this was where outlining my character helped enormously. What I outlined acted as stepping stones and they are a lifeline!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


I sometimes set out to write a 100 word story (aka a drabble) but it doesn’t always meet that target. Sometimes a story simply does work better at 50 words or 500, say, and I know now to leave such stories be and submit them to different markets. I then have another crack at the 100 worder!

The story has to be the appropriate word count length for the story. (You’re not going to write a quest tale in flash fiction, though you could do it as a series of flash fiction pieces and end up with a novella-in-flash).

When I’m looking back at my “finished” piece, I ask myself if the story has the impact I thought it would have and has it said everything I want it to say?

If the answers to those is yes, I submit the story to the appropriate market.

If the answer to either is no, I have more work to do on that tale before it goes anywhere!

The ultimate question here I think is whether the story is at the best I can make it. If it is, off it goes.

Word count is obviously important in flash but the impact of the story is a more important consideration because you want to “wow” your reader. What you don’t want is a sense of anything being watered down because you’re trying to meet a set word count. The jigsaw pieces do have to fit properly! No squeezing the story to make it fit. It will lose resonance and impact.

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The “oomph” moment in a flash fiction story can take different forms and be in varying places in the tale. The whole mood of my story Calling the Doctor (see book trailer below!) changes on the very last word. This is why it is one of my own favourite pieces.

One of the challenges of flash is to find the right “oomph” moment for your character and to place it in exactly the right place in the story. In this case, had I placed that particular word earlier in the story, the impact of the story would have been severely diluted.

But sometimes I start a story with a powerful moment where you know from that point onwards, something has got to change and quickly. The fun of those stories is in finding out what that change is and what its consequences are – and there are always some! – and it is just as much fun finding that out when you’re writing the tales!

 

Comparisons are a useful device in stories. I use this in Rewards in my From Light to Dark and Back Again where I get my narrator to compare herself to a woman she has come to loathe. You can also save on the word count here.

For example, one line in this story reads “Her blue eyes didn’t sparkle”. That tells you the other character must have blue eyes and hers do sparkle! So I’ve managed to get good description in for two characters in one line and you can tell a lot about the attitude of one of those characters from the way that sentence reads. Someone is clearly not a happy bunny!

Also the fact someone is marking comparisons usually indicates that same someone may well have a self-esteem issue. Why would you want to compare with someone else after all? How else could that insecurity manifest itself in your story? So, though flash has to be short, you can still get in some useful unconscious revelations from your main character.

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Fairytales with Bite – Where do your characters go for advice?

Nobody can know it all. Everyone has problems that are beyond them at times. This equally applies to your characters regardless of how magical they are or how fantastical your setting for them might be. So where would your characters go for help or advice? Who would they turn to?

If they would turn to a wizard, say, why have they gone to them? Is that wizard reliable? What is their track record? Have they ever let people down, deliberately or otherwise?

Is the society your characters live in open to their people getting help when needed? Or does it despise such characters for being “weak”?

If it is a wizard needing advice, where would they go to? What hierarchy exists in your setting? Does it work? Can people fall between the gaps?

Once your characters have got their help or advice, do they act on it? What are the consequences?

Plenty of story ideas there, I think!

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This World and Others – How Open Is Your World?

Tying in with Fairytales With Bite above, just how open is your world in terms of characters being able to admit to weaknesses? Is it open to other species or is it a monoculture?

If the majority are magical, how do they treat those who are not? (An interesting idea to explore here is where the magical ones need the non-magical ones for something vital that cannot be produced magically. Who would be the servant in that servant-master relationship? Would it cause resentment?).

Has your world become open, having learned from its mistakes in the past? What were those mistakes? Are there ramifications coming through from those in the current day?

If your world feels threatened, how does it react? Does it stay open or does it become less welcoming? How do the characters react to the changes? (Another interesting idea here can be when the government is open but the people are not. How does the government react to that?).

I could see some interesting short stories coming from answers to these. There is potential for longer works too, Happy writing!

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Places to Go For Writing Advice/Radio Interview/Share Your Story Writing Summit

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images connected to the Share Your Story Writing Summit supplied by Creative U, the summit’s organisers. Images re Hannah Kate’s Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM come from her link and screenshots taken by me. (Am SO looking forward to sharing the link for the show itself. Will be doing that for the next post and on my Facebook page in the meantime).

A huge thanks to The Disparate Housewives WI affiliated group I spoke to on Wednesday, 17th March. Great fun! Oh and sharks came in re my talk to them about The Ups and Downs of Becoming An Author.

Allison Symes (1)sharks

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


My post this week is called Places to Go For Writing Advice and is exactly what I would have wanted to read when I first started writing seriously. The saying is to write what you know but sometimes that can include what you would have wanted to know when first starting out. It was when I had been writing and submitting work for a while I truly began to realise how big the publishing world is, how much I didn’t know, and began to get an inkling of the kind of things I would need to know (and pronto too!).

Any industry has its charlatans and sadly publishing isn’t exempt. Hope you find the post useful. Oh and the great thing about sharks? You don’t have to get in the water with them. You don’t have to get bitten by them! And the single piece of advice that has stood me in good stead is to always ask questions. My post will show you some places where you can get those questions answered.

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Facebook – General – and Authors Electric


My turn on the Authors Electric blog today. I chat about what I love about flash fiction and whether I really should start a Flash Fiction Writing Addicts Anonymous club.

I talk about Flash with A Dash and share what I love about flash fiction writing. If I had to name the top thing about writing flash fiction, it would be the need to invent characters – a lot of them – and to keep doing so! Inventing characters has always been my favourite aspect to storytelling and I get to do this all the time so win-win!

Also a huge thanks to the lovely Disparate Housewives WI group I spoke to last night via Teams. It was great fun (and another opportunity to share my love of flash fiction!). My topic was The Ups and Downs of Becoming an Author and my own journey here has been full of twists and turns.

This is an ongoing topic too as the writing life is a moving one, not static at all. Am I looking forward to what comes next in my own writing journey though right now I can’t know exactly what that will be? Oh yes! (Oh and in my Chandler’s Ford Today post coming up tomorrow I will be sharing thoughts on Places to Go For Writing Advice so plenty going on at the moment and I hope the CFT post will be especially useful. More on that tomorrow).


Am delighted to be #ValPenny’s guest on her blog today. I chat about my writing journey which has been full of ups and downs and a few near misses down some cul-de-sacs! I also share a couple of useful tips based on my experiences. (I’ll be talking about this to The Disparate Housewives WI group later tonight on Teams as well. Every writer has a unique writing journey but it is what you take from mistakes made along the way that matters. How you handle these matters and we all make them!).

A huge thank you to Val for hosting me and I hope it is not too long before we meet up again at the wonderful Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was delighted to discover a new (to me) flash fiction site as a result of a comment on my Authors Electric post on 18th March where I talked about Flash With a Dash. The site is Friday Flash Fiction and I hope to check this out more over the weekend. I certainly hope to submit to it in due course.

Now the wonderful thing with the take up in flash fiction writing is there are more competitions and markets available now. Definitely worth taking time out to explore these and see what might suit you. There is bound to be something! Happy drafting!
(Oh and it bears out my point about engaging with readers and other writers. As well as hopefully entertaining them with what you write, they can give you pointers as to useful markets to check out. Win-win here and I love that kind of scenario).

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The Share Your Story Writing Summit is now open so I hope you can come along and listen to the wide range of presenters on a great range of topics. My presentation is on tomorrow and I’m talking about Flash Fiction – Why I Love It and Why I Think Every Writer Should Try It.

The presentations are free for 24 hours but if you can’t make the time slot of your preferred talk or would like to keep the presentations so you can watch them as you wish, you need to go for one of two paid for options.

The price is $67 USD from now until 23rd March when the summit ends. You get access to everything immediately. From 24th March the price rises to $97 USD. Whichever option you go for, you do have full access to 23 workshops from 23 experienced writers. See the link for more details. There is an affiliate fee. If you sign up for either of the paid options via my link, I will earn some money from that.

See https://www.creativeu.ca/a/46030/yLSebqrq

And I am beyond thrilled to be taking part in this!

Screenshot_2021-03-18 Creative U

Am thrilled to share the link to #HannahKate for her show on North Manchester FM. I am on her show on Saturday talking about flash fiction and my blogging and I do hope you can tune in between 2 and 4 pm. I will be sharing the link to the show after it has been broadcast as well. (I must admit one of my favourite developments in radio is the Listen Again ability because I know I can’t always tune in for a live broadcast).

A huge thanks to Hannah for a wonderful interview and for questions that really made me think. (That is always a good thing!). It was such fun to do but I do wish I could’ve picked more than three books for the Apocalypse Books section. I can’t think of any writer who would willingly limit themselves to three books if they had the choice not to!
Screenshot_2021-03-17 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 20 March, 2-4pm - Hannah Kate(2)Screenshot_2021-03-17 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 20 March, 2-4pm - Hannah Kate(1)Screenshot_2021-03-17 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 20 March, 2-4pm - Hannah Kate

 

Fairytales with Bite – The ABC – Always Believable Characters

Your written world might be fantastical but it is the characters your readers need to react to, root for etc. And for that to happen your characters must be believable. It doesn’t matter what they are but a reader needs to understand what their needs and wants are and they should be ones most of us can identify with.

So how to create an Always Believable Character then?

  • They have to have flaws. We all have them. Instant identification factor for your reader.
  • They have to need something. This can be from the basics (food, drink, shelter etc) to more abstract things (a penchant for nice pictures perhaps). We can all understand these needs.
  • There has to be something or someone getting in their way.
  • They have to work out what they are going to do to overcome that because the point of the story will be they must overcome it to get what they want or need. And readers will want to know whether there is going to be a happy ending or not. (Incidentally if your character gets what they want but they are not as satisfied with that as they thought they would be, that too could be an interesting ending).
  • Where characters are magical, readers need to see how that works to the characters’ advantage and also how it can get in the way. In a setting where everyone is magical, being able to wave a wand about is not necessarily going to help your character much. They will have to find other methods to achieve their objective.
  • Equally where magic will make a significant difference, is there a price to pay for that so your character has to weigh up whether it really is worth them using it. If the use of magic shortens their life, that is going to add another dimension to your story and heighten the drama.

Think about characters you have read and loved. What makes them work for you? What can you learn from that to apply to your own stories?

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This World and Others – What Jobs do your Always Believable Characters do?

Following on from having Always Believable Characters, we also need to look behind the scenes a bit. What do they do to provide for themselves? Do they have employment as we would know the term or are they hunter gatherers? How do your characters manage? What rewards for service can they expect?

Do your characters feel the need to better themselves and, if so, how can they do that? Does that drive them to break out from their society and do something nobody has done before, for example? If someone wants to learn to read because they know their “betters” read and their “betters” have the control, what can they do to learn to read? Do they have to learn secretly and who would be willing to reach them?

Is your world capable of great technological change, which would affect what characters would do for jobs, or does any change come slowly?

If your character has to go on a quest (it’s amazing how often that happens!), what do they leave behind? Is it a wrench to leave it behind?

Now there are some interesting questions to trigger story ideas!

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Book Trailers and Story Videos

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some Pixabay images used via Book Brush to create captions within the picture. (Love that facility!).

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Busy week ahead with my WI talk happening mid-week and the Share Your Story Writing Summit starting on 18th March. Images from the Summit provided by the organisers, Creative U.

3. writers IG 2021

23 Presenters, 23 Writing Workshops, Join Now! (FREE for a limited period, paid options available so you can keep the presentations – link below. An affiliate link will apply so if you go for either of the paid for options, I will earn some money from that affiliate link).

Share Your Story Writing Summit Link https://www.creativeu.ca/a/46030/yLSebqrq

Facebook – General

Pleased to share my Book Trailers and Story Videos post for Chandler’s Ford Today. I look at how much has changed between my first book trailer (From Light to Dark and Back Again), which Chapeltown Books produced, and Tripping the Flash Fantastic, which I produced.

So much has changed in terms of software available to writers and this is wonderful. There are so many more ways we can be creative without it costing a fortune.

I also look at learning how to be creative in different ways, including learning to think laterally. I often have to do this with my blog posts, including for CFT, as some of my topics don’t lend themselves to obvious picture links but there is usually a theme I can peg to, so that’s okay. And I take a quick peek at getting the balance right between marketing and writing new material. It’s not an easy juggling act!

Hope your Thursday has gone well. Just a quick reminder my usual Chandler’s Ford Today post is up tomorrow and I’ll be talking about book trailer and story videos.

I’ll be sharing a few thoughts on my involvement with these and how they’ve helped me learn to think laterally. That in turn has helped fuel my creativity.

One interesting thing about the writing life is how so often one thing learns to another. For example, my first book trailer was produced by my publishers, Chapeltown Books. For Tripping The Flash Fantastic, I produced the trailer myself. Between the two I learned so much about how to do these things as I found I needed to be able to do this kind of thing to help with my marketing.

Nearly everything I have learned over the last five years especially were things I had not anticipated needing to know when I started out. In some cases the technology simply wasn’t available!

But the writing journey is not meant to be a static one after all so this is a good thing indeed!
Link up tomorrow. (Also nice to put this video up again!).


Have posted a bonus article on Chandler’s Ford Today about the Share Your Story Writing Summit. All the details you need are here.

As well as having the info in one handy place on CFT, I wanted to give at least a week before the summit starts so those who wish to can take advantage of the special discount if you decide you want to go for a paid version of the workshops (23 in all!).

The paid for versions do have the advantage of your being able to keep the presentations for ever and means you can refer to them whenever you wish, rather than have to be about on the day you want or for a limited time afterwards.

As ever with these things, the earlier you book in for a paid version, the greater the discount. There is an affiliate fee so I will earn some money if you go for any of the paid for versions using the link in the post itself.

Am looking forward to taking part in this and to catching up with the other presentations. There will be much to learn!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the responses to my post yesterday and in particular to my opening line from My Life (which you can find in From Light to Dark and Back Again).

Hooks for a reader have to include an enticing book cover, a promising blurb, and an interesting title but, for all forms of writing, the opening line is essential to get right. It is that one line which will lead your reader on to read the next one, the one after that, or not as the case may be!

My favourite hooks for opening lines are to intrigue a reader with a setting or a character who is about to do something odd or which will grab the reader’s attention in some other way. I also love promising dialogue (who doesn’t like “eavesdropping” a conversation between interesting characters? I refuse to believe that is just me!).

But I do know that if the opening line doesn’t grab me, well… time to scrap it and come up with something much better. It won’t grab anyone else. You are your own first reader (so if you’re not grabbed by the line, why should anyone else be?) and it helps, after you’ve set aside the piece for a while, to come back to it and read it as a reader would.

You’ve almost got to pretend you haven’t written it to be able to do that but it does help you look at the work from a different perspective. I ask myself if I would like a story of mine if it had been written by someone else and I’ve found that a good technique to use. And yes, to quote that famous writing phrase, I do kill my darlings on a regular basis!

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What I love about flash fiction is how a few well chosen words can take you straight into a setting. For example, in My Life in From Light to Dark and Back Again, I start with “It is all white dresses, lace, and flowers now but I hated him when I first saw him”.

No prizes for guessing the setting here or the genre of the tale. The pivotal word here is “but” of course. I love “but” used like this as you know something is about to happen or be revealed. And you’ll hopefully want to find out what happened so the “white dresses, laces, and flowers” bit makes sense. All ways of drawing your reader in, which is what you want.

Flash fiction does make you think carefully about what description you have to show (and it is a case of showing the reader here, so win-win there too). It makes you focus on what the reader has to know and that is a good thing, regardless of what else you write.

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I’m currently leafing through the latest edition of Writing Magazine, which has its phenomenally useful writing competition guide with it. Am impressed to see a huge number of flash fiction competitions (and am sure this is up on last year too). Must go through with a red pen and circle some to have a go at myself!

One nice thing to look out for here is some of these are ongoing rolling competitions, so if you miss one deadline, you can get a piece ready for the next one. Must make a note of a few of those in my diary too.

And good luck if you are entering competitions.

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Fairytales With Bite – Mood Music for Fairytales

Music is wonderful for soothing the soul (especially classical) but it can also inspire and somehow “suit you”. So what music would suit certain fairytale characters then?

Cinderella – I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass – can imagine her the moment Cinders was able to smash those wretched glass slippers. I find it hard to believe they would have been comfortable.

Snow White – Poison Apples – Snow White should have heard this before her stepmother came to visit.

The Little Mermaid – Under the Sea – what else?

Okay so let’s flip this and look at music in general that would suit a magical world.

One obvious one stands out – Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens – to reflect the quirky nature of the magical world. Also a good one if you have Death as a character (though for me nothing will ever beat the wonderful creation of Terry Pratchett here)

Another obvious one is The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. I’ve never seen Fantasia in full but always have images of Mickey Mouse when this music comes on Classic FM. But this is a great track for almost any magical setting.


Thinking about your own stories, what music would suit it and why? Can you think of any anthems that would suit your characters? This kind of thing is just for fun but what you work out here will help you get further insight into your characters’ personalities and that is always useful to know.

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This World and Others – Promotions and Demotions

What kind of careers exist in your created world? Are all jobs manual, magical, or a mixture of both? Can people/beings/what have you (!) work their way up the career ladder? Could they also come tumbling down it and, if so, what would the consequences be? I would suspect in some settings losing a job would be nothing compared to what else a character would lose!

So how do promotions and demotions work? Are rewards made in money or magical gifts? Is there corruption in your setting and do people accept it or rebel against it?

What are the careers people could follow? Do certain backgrounds mean those folk from them can only do certain jobs? What would happen if someone decided to break out from that?

Is work compulsory for all or are certain groups exempt? Do other groups resent them for that?

What political links are there to career advancement (or otherwise)? Who controls those links and can that control be broken or opposed?

Lots of interesting story ideas to come from answering these, I think!

Happy writing!

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Editing, Author Newsletter, and Cherished Childhood Books

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And, here in the UK, spring is finally on its way! Have been delighted to see plenty of crocuses already out when walking Lady.

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Saw first lot of blossom out earlier when I was walking the dog. It did nothing for Lady, she is far more interested in sticks and/or squirrels, but it did cheer me up. (Lady was cheered up when she saw a Persian blue cat. Looked lovely. Lady is always curious about cats, wants to play with them, but can never understand why they don’t return the feeling).

Right, writing wise, I’m planning ahead for a couple of my CFT posts. Talking about Musical Connections this week is a real joy as I can share some of my favourite pieces and how I came to discover them. More on Friday. I plan to be writing a couple of useful posts for the two weeks after that which will be of interest, I hope, to newish writers. More nearer the time.

Am also looking forward to sharing more details about the international writing summit soon.

Prep work for my WI talk is going well and am loving getting that ready. Just hope they enjoy it too though I should add it is a good sign when a writer enjoys their work. Why? Well, you are your own first audience to a certain extent and if you don’t like what you’re doing, why should anyone else? BUT it does pay to put some distance in time between what you write and when you evaluate it, otherwise you won’t judge it objectively enough.

You’ll either think this is the best thing since Shakespeare or it’s total rubbish, whatever made me think I could write etc. Neither is true.

What will be true is you’ve got something with promise that needs a darned good edit or two before you submit it anywhere. Now where did I put my red pen?!

Thrilled to bits to send out my first author newsletter today. All went well (much to my relief). If you want to know more do see (the landing page of) my website – I plan to keep the newsletters to monthly only.

I’m using Mailchimp and am discovering new things about it which I know I’m going to find useful. The writing journey is one where you learn all the time and that is a good thing. It is how you make progress after all.

Am busy preparing for a talk I’ll be giving via Zoom next month and that is a lot of fun. Learning how to present material in an entertaining way and thinking about audience needs again is keeping me on my toes but it is all part of the writing life. You need to engage readers with your stories so seeking to engage with a talk is merely an extension to that.

I’m going to be talking about Musical Connections in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week and look forward to sharing that on Friday.

And I’m starting work on a third flash fiction collection too. I hope to have it ready for submission by the end of the year but know it will almost certainly take me that long!

I’ll be editing my non-fiction project fairly soon and hope to be submitting proposals for that during the summer. Normally with non-fiction you would prepare the proposal first but I wanted to prove to myself that I could write the book so I have got a first draft down. Not sorry about that but am always ready for changes! It is what the editing process is for after all.

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Hope your weekend has been a good one. Mine has been quiet but relaxing and lovely. Do you have any days of the week when you know your writing is going to be “down”?

My bad day here is Monday and I know it is because I am busy doing various things, so by the time I get to my desk, I’m pretty tired. So I focus on getting “little” writing tasks done and it is good to tick those off my list for the week. As the week goes on I have more time to write so can use those sessions for longer “creative sprints” – and I do.

So another reason to be glad when Monday is behind me I guess!

It has taken me ages to learn how to use my writing sessions In the most productive way I can but it’s a good thing to be able to do. Overall, you will get more done. Even if you don’t plan out your stories or what have you, planning how best to use your writing time is a good idea.

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NOT a lifelike representation of my writing desk. This one is far tidier!

And she doesn’t look like she’s had a hectic Monday either! Pixabay image


It is lovely to be enjoying some almost spring-like weather in my part of the world right now. It is semi-official as Lady enjoyed her first roll on the grass, upside down, “pedalling” her back legs for all she was worth and having a high old time of it, earlier this afternoon. It is the simple pleasures….! (Oh and before you ask she wasn’t rolling in fox poo or the like as dogs, bless them, are wont to do. I am lucky with Lady there. She doesn’t do it! I know, I know, famous last words and all that!).

Had a lovely couple of Zoom sessions with writing chums from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and the Association of Christian Writers last night. Great start to a weekend and a real tonic. Many thanks, all!

Just a quick reminder to say I’m launching my author newsletter on Monday, 1st March. When you sign up to my email list, you receive a welcome email and in that is a link to a free giveaway containing free stories and thoughts on flash fiction amongst other things. See the landing page for more.

Am currently drafting a flash piece which is making me laugh so that’s a good sign. The story is meant to be funny! It’s not such a good sign when the piece is meant to be serious…!

Am looking forward to sharing more about the writing summit very soon too.

Have a fab weekend!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the great response to my story video, Discovery, yesterday. (Video link below). I plan to chat a little bit about producing story videos and book trailers in a future Chandler’s Ford Today post. Will share more details nearer the time of that.

Writing stretches you in so many ways and it is good for you! I never envisaged writing flash fiction when I started out, I discovered the form thanks to a happy CafeLit accident. As for book trailers etc., they really weren’t about when I began writing seriously. (I’ve run the gauntlet of using manual typewriters to 486s and the modern laptop so I’ve been about for a while and trust me so much has changed! But generally all to the good. I can’t imagine my life without flash fiction now for one thing!).

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Pleased to share my new story video, Discovery, which I created via Book Brush and then uploaded to Youtube.This is probably the nearest I’ll get to a dystopian story. Hope you enjoy!

 

Do you find it easy to come up with ideas for stories of any length? I use a variety of methods to keep this aspect of things fresh to me and to encourage me to think in new ways when coming up with new characters and situations. From random generators to flicking through books of proverbs, ideas will start to form.

What you read/have read has an influence too and this is the key reason why everyone encourages writers to read, read, read, and then read some more. But bear in mind this reading can take many forms. What matters is taking in the stories. So I read books, I read on the Kindle, I listen to audio books, I read short stories, I read flash, I read novels, I read non-fiction and occasionally some poetry. So the wider you read, the deeper the pool you can fish from for ideas. Besides which it’s fun!

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Well, that’s February almost done and dusted. I like February as the early spring flowers are emerging and give us a hint of what is to come when spring is with us fully.

A good flash fiction story shows you what you need to know for a character in a moment but there should still be hints as to what the character is capable of outside of the story limits. For example, in my story Why Stop Now from From Light to Dark and Back Again, the character there is probably the creepiest one I’ve written. But you see through the narrative how that creepiness has built up.

Flash does have depths to it, despite its word count limit. I will often re-read flash tales to pick up on the hidden depths and in truly great pieces, I find plenty of those. And yes it is a challenge to me to make sure I do the same but that’s no bad thing. Writing should keep us on our toes. I want to find better ways of showing my characters, better ways of coming up with stories and so on. The writing journey is not a static one after all!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Cherished Childhood Books

I owe my late mother a huge debt. She encouraged my love of books and stories from an early age and she was thrilled to see my first story in print, A Helping Hand, in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology way back in 2009. Sadly, Mum didn’t get to see either of my two flash fiction collections (From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic) though my Dad did see the first one.

But thinking about them, and in particular, Mum, led me to recall some of my cherished childhood books. To name a few:-

Black Beauty
Heidi
The Famous Five – I had most of the set (close to about 20 books or so).
The Reader’s Digest Collection of Classic Fairytales – a huge two volume set beautifully illustrated too.

And then there were various Ladybird books as well. And I used to collect the old I-Spy books which were themed on topics and you scored points for everything you observed on that topic when out on walks etc.

The best gift that comes from having an early love of reading?

Well it’s a gift that doesn’t leave you and you keep on reading. What you read changes of course according to age and taste but there is a reading journey as well as a writing one. What matters is to ensure you thoroughly enjoy your reading journey (and if you have one the writing one as well).

 

Twitter Corner

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Characters, Podcast, Interview, Summit and Talk News – Yes, it has been a busy week!

Image Credit:- All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images of Wendy H Jones were kindly supplied by her.

Many thanks to Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn for the images of me reading at Open Prose Mic Nights at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School (pre-2020 obviously!).

Image of me signing Tripping the Flash Fantastic in front of a distinctly unimpressed Lady was taken by Adrian Symes.

And I think the above will be my longest blog post title ever! 

ANNOUNCEMENT:  I launch my author newsletter on Monday, 1st March 2021 and there is a giveaway with it (which you link to in the Welcome to my Newsletter email you receive on signing up). Sign up page here

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

After what has been a busy, fun, and especially creative week, I’m delighted to share my Chandler’s Ford Today post which shares some of what I’ve been up to (!) and looks ahead to what is to come.

I’m thrilled to share here the link to #WendyJJones’ podcast, the fabulous The Writing and Marketing Show, where I was her guest back in late January talking about writing a regular column.

I discussed with Wendy, amongst other things, how to find ideas and to keep on finding them. Naturally Chandler’s Ford Today was well plugged here and I should stress that though it is an online community magazine, many of the articles go beyond local.

My posts here are aimed, mainly, at writers and I specifically aim to write posts that will prove timeless and therefore useful to people for longer. So do go and have a look!

I also discuss a little about what is coming up including when my interview with #HannahKate will be broadcast, about the international writing summit I’m taking part in, and about a WI talk I’m currently working on for delivery in mid-March.

See https://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/local-author-news-allison-symes-summits-talks-and-interviews/ for more.

And a big thanks to Wendy once again for hosting me on her podcast. Also thanks for her contribution, and to all of my other guests for theirs, to the recent CFT series Launches in Lockdown.

Feedback on that has been good (many thanks, folks!) and I hope it proves useful for anyone planning their launch this year. What was particularly positive about that series was the range of ideas people had for overcoming the obvious difficulties in trying to have launches during a pandemic. I was also encouraged to see though that, despite all the miseries of the last year, book sales went up considerably. Now that is always good news!

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When I first started out as a writer (the last T-Rex had just left the planet to give you a rough idea of time scales!), the thought of talking about my work or networking would have brought me out in a cold sweat (and did. Thank goodness for deodorant!). Now, it’s fine. Why the change?

I cheered up about the thought of networking when I realised it often meant chatting with another writer about my work over a cup or glass of something lovely. They’d ask me about my work. I’d ask them about theirs. Before I knew it, a good conversation was being had and I made new writing pals. So win-win.

(I’ve only ever come across the odd one or two who only wanted to talk about their work and I learned from that this is not the way to make writing pals. It is no coincidence the best writing pals are the ones who take an interest in what you do and of course you take an interest in what they do. I’ve learned something useful from every writer I’ve ever chatted to, regardless of their genre, and it is true that to have writing pals you need to be one yourself first and foremost.).

But I realised before going to my first writing conference all those eons ago that I would have to think of something to say to introduce myself and what I did then writing wise. So I drafted something. The old pen and paper came in handy here, I drafted something useful and it made sure I didn’t forget anything either and it gave me that little bit more confidence when I went to that first conference as I rehearsed it to myself too and I knew I at least had something to say!

I was very nervous but I quickly found writers are a friendly and welcoming bunch and before I knew it I was chatting away as if I’d known these good people for ages. And that’s the way it should be and one of the major things I love about the writing community.

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It was a joy to be interviewed by #HannahKate for her Hannah’s Bookshelf show on North Manchester FM today. I look forward to sharing the links later but it was a real pleasure to talk about flash fiction and blogging. It is a funny thing I fell into both of those things by accident but the writing journey is unique to each writer. We all face our twists and turns but sometimes those twists turn out to be smashing ones!

In other news, my Chandler’s Ford Today post is going to be a summary of my recent news, including mention of the interview with Hannah, but also includes the link to #WendyHJones’ The Writing and Marketing Show podcast where I was a guest a little while back talking about writing a regular column. (I didn’t want to interrupt the Launches in Lockdown series, otherwise I would have shared this sooner). I’ll also be sharing a little about what is happening in March as it is going to be a busy month with most of the prep work done for it this month!

It is often the way with the writing life things come in batches and then nothing for ages. You do get used to it!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve found mixing up the way I approach writing flash fiction interesting and useful. It keeps me on my toes for a start! I always start by knowing who my character is but I don’t necessarily write from A to B until I reach The End. Sometimes I write from B to A (and this is a specially good technique for twist in the tales. You know what the twist is and then work back logically to where the start should be).

Sometimes I know the mood of the story I want to write. For example, let’s say I feel like writing a funny story that will make people smile and, better still, laugh. I then think about the kind of character who would serve that kind of tale well.

And I do the same if I want to write a tale that makes you shudder. What kind of character could produce that kind of reaction?

I’m sure you can see from all of that why I think characters are what makes a great story (or not. A promising story can fail miserably if the star performers, your characters, are “not up to the job”. I’ve only ever abandoned a couple of stories in my time and both times it was for the same reason. Weak characters, a story that didn’t grip me precisely because those characters were weak. And my conclusion? It was all my own fault for not getting to know these characters well enough before writing them up. I try hard not to make that mistake now!).


One of the things I’ve found when talking to people about what flash fiction is all about is that demonstrating it by reading one or two of my 100-word stories goes down a treat and does the job nicely! In the days when we could still have live events (hopefully soon to come back again!), I made sales doing that!

And it shows the impact of the very short form in the best way imaginable too.

When taking part in Open Prose Mic Nights, such as the ones at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, it is a great way of finding out whether the impact you think the story has really does have that.

Gauging audience reaction is not just useful for the story you’ve read out but it can guide you as to how approach writing others, especially if the reaction is not quite what you thought it would be (and that happens). Mind you, it is wonderful and appreciated by me when a story does produce the reactions I’d hoped for and people do laugh when I wanted the story to produce that.


I write a mixture of flash tales – ghost stories, historical, crime, fantasy, humorous, slice of life etc – which is why I sometimes describe my collections as “mixed assortments”. They don’t just work for chocolates! But each type of flash I write has its own challenge in that I have to convey the type and setting without using too many words to do so.

With a historical piece, I use the character to take you back in time. That saves a wealth of description for one thing but I can also show you the world that character lives in through their eyes. And what they see tells you the story is set in the past.

With crime, I often show it is one with the last line as twist in the tale endings work so well for this. I also use an interesting first line sometimes to indicate a crime has either just happened or is about to happen.

For fantasy, I often show this via the character. For example in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my story Where The Wild Wind Blows starts with the two words “The Witch” so that shows you immediately this has to be a fantasy setting (as opposed to your local High Street, unless it is a very odd High Street!).

But I love mixing up the kind of flash tales I create and again it keeps me on my toes as I have to work out what is the right approach to them and no two stories are exactly the same here.

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Fairytales With Bite – Who are Your Minor Characters?

For longer works, I like spotting the minor characters who end up playing a major role in the overall story. I try to guess at the start of the tale which of these will end up with a kind of starring role.(For The Lord of the Rings for example, I would put Merry and Pippin in this category. They’re not so important as Sam but they will still play an important role that contributes to the overall plot).

The main thing to make sure of, naturally, is such minor characters really do serve a purpose and are not just there for decoration or to make up the numbers. (Writing flash fiction means I can’t do that. I have to focus only on what serves the story but it is a great technique to develop for all forms of writing, including non-fiction).

So who are your minor characters? What roles do they play? Do the major characters realise the contribution from the minor ones?

I also wouldn’t kill of a minor character for the sake of it. There has to be a good reason for them to go, otherwise the reader will see straight through it. Everything and everyone in the story has to serve a useful purpose, otherwise out they go!

I outline my characters so I know who they are before I write their story up (and I like to think of it as being their story and not mine. That also helps me make sure my author’s voice does not come into it). I do this by asking a series of questions.

For minor characters, you won’t need to know so much but you do have to be crystal clear that they are necessary to your tale and why.

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This World and Others –

What I Like to see in a Fictional World

I could write chapter and verse (appropriately!) on this one so it is a question of working out what is the most important and I think of that in terms of what I think the reader will consider most important. So my suggestions?

Interesting Characters – no story without these. I want to see fully formed characters who intrigue me enough to make me want to find out what their story is going to be. (I also have a soft spot for quirky characters but there has to be a good reason for them to be quirky and in your story).

A Sense of Their World – I don’t need every detail. Nor do your readers, otherwise you run the risk of sending them to sleep with too much description etc. I do need to know where the characters live, how they provide for themselves, and what kind of government they live under (as that gives me a feel for what liberties they have, or don’t have, as the case may be). Even here a broad overview is fine. And you can build up what you “feed” readers, a bit at a time. Think about the “need to know” basis, it’s a good guideline. You as the writer will always need to know more than the reader but not all of that necessarily has to go into the story.

Level of Education – This can be shown by how the characters speak. Readers will deduce what is normal, what is not from context. Also references to books (or not) can indicate whether the society is a literate one or not. It can also be shown by how the characters communicate. If it is an oral tradition, there will be no written records, as we would know them for example.

Conflict – No conflict = no story. Even when the character struggles with themselves, there is conflict. And the conflict should be based on what readers find out about your fictional world from what you choose to show them. We should be able to see Country A hates Country B because…

Resolution – As ever with any kind of story, this doesn’t have to be a happy one but it should be appropriate for what has gone before.

Writing Joys, Podcast News, and Launches in Lockdown 2

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Thanks to #RichardHardie, #FrancescaTyer, and #TeresaBassett for supplying images used below too.

A huge thank you to #MaressaMortimer, #FranHill, and #WendyHJones for their images and book cover photos for my Chandler’s Ford Today Launches In Lockdown series this week.

And I am delighted to say I was on Wendy’s The Writing and Marketing Show earlier this week. Will share link further down. I talk about writing regular columns for online magazines.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today – Launches in Lockdown Part 2

What a busy day it has been as there are two posts on here from me tonight!

For this post, I want to say what a pleasure it has been to write the Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. I think if I can make a claim to write a zeitgeist series, this one is it!

Part 2 tonight shares wonderful insights from three authors from the Association of Christian Writers (I’m the Membership Secretary). #MaressaMortimer, #FranHill, and #WendyHJones have all had books out in the very recent past and have plenty of useful tips and thoughts to share in this week’s post.

Hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

Next week I’ll be chatting to writers from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

 

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers

It is very much an Association of Christian Writers weekend for me as I am at an online Committee meeting tonight and tomorrow. Much will be said. Much will be done. All thanks to Zoom!

And it is my turn on the ACW More Than Writers blog too. This month, I use my spot to talk about Writing Joys. I can’t stress enough how important it is to love what you write. (Okay you won’t all the time, nobody does, but you should be looking forward to your writing sessions and what you’re working on most of the time. It is that love for the work which drives you and can help keep you going during the tougher writing times which happen to us all).

Delighted to say my interview with Richard Hardie recently on Chandler’s Ford Today is now up on the Authors Reach website (very much with my blessing!). Authors Reach is Richard’s publishing company and I was chatting to him about the challenges he has faced as an author and publisher during the pandemic. The AR link is https://www.authorsreach.co.uk/post/richard-hardie-authors-reach-and-lockdown – well worth another read!

And tomorrow sees Part 2 of my CFT series, Launches in Lockdown, go live. This week I’ll be chatting to three lovely writers from the Association of Christian Writers – #MaressaMortimer, #FranHill, and #WendyHJones. One of them has also come up with the funniest book title of 2020 in my view. You’ll have to wait for the post tomorrow to find out who the author is and whether you agree with me or not! (Trouble with doing a blog round up in reverse date order is you will already have spotted the answer to this one!!).

PODCAST NEWS –

WENDY H JONES CHATS TO ALLISON SYMES

Am thrilled to share the link to my interview by Wendy H Jones for her podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show. I talk about writing a regular column (for Chandler’s Ford Today), how I find ideas (and keep coming up with them) and the joys of an online magazine.

With more of us using technology to read (smartphones, I-pads etc), it makes a huge amount of sense to have intelligent, interesting, and entertaining content available for that technology. And online magazines do need writers to provide it. Hope you enjoy. And many thanks, Wendy, for hosting me again. It was such fun to do!

Podcast News:  https://www.stitcher.com/show/the-writing-and-marketing-show/episode/writing-a-newspaper-column-81142120

Screenshot_2021-01-27 The Writing and Marketing Show - Writing a Newspaper Column on Stitcher

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A huge thanks to everyone for the great responses so far to my CFT series, Launches in Lockdown. Whether you’ve been launching flash fiction collections (as I have) or longer works, I think it is fair to say the last 12 months have been difficult. But social media and Zoom have helped.

And I think this all shows the importance of networking too. Thanks to networking over the last few years, I have a lovely wide range of people to approach for CFT interviews, but it does also mean that same pool can be invited to my launches.

Naturally this is two-way traffic. I get invited to theirs and I go to as many as I can. You learn from what other writers do and they learn from you too. I love the give and take of the writing world here.

I guess also writing flash is excellent practice for writing short, pithy pieces for your online book launches too!

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Am thrilled to see a great number of views for my recent story video, Dress Sense. The thought of Red Riding Hood giving the Big Bad Wolf fashion tips has obviously gone down well! Many thanks, everyone. (Oh and I think she’s right by the way – see the link and see what you think!).

Dress Sense Video Link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVs_GEWh5To

Tripping The Flash Fantastic is on offer in paperback on Amazon at the moment. Go on, pick up a bargain! See http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent for more.

F = Fun to write
L = Lively character(s)
A = Action immediately
S = Stories great for ending with a twist
H = Heroes/heroines are dropped right in it from the start

F = Finite story length but you do have some choice
I = Imagination intense to make an intense story work
C = Character(s) has/have to grip you immediately.
T = Tension, yes there’s plenty of that and not a lot of space to resolve it.
I = Intensity can vary. Reflective pieces can work well but the character has to be compelling to make that successful.
O = Oh my… what is your flash tale’s ‘oh my’ moment?
N = Narrative take? I often favour first person.

Thought I’d share another story video here – hope you enjoy.

Fairytales with Bite – Magical Reading

What kind of books would your magical characters read? Would they read about uses of magic or do they want to get away from all of that? Well, it would make sense if they did. I know when I read I want to escape the every day world and its cares. In a magical world, the magic is the everyday world and its cares! Same old, same old, and all that!

Having said that, maybe they would want to carry out research and use it to improve their skills.
Some suggestions for possible research reading material then though I accept the titles could do with some work (and abbreviating!):-

Fairies – 10001 Things To Do With Your Wand Not Involving Turning People Into Frogs

Witches – How to Sabotage Fairy Spells So They Produce Useless Things Like Glass Slippers – A Beginner’s Guide.

Wizards – How to Produce the Perfect Smoke Ring Without Appearing to Use Magic To Do It

Elves – How To Be A Right Cobbler (see the story of The Elves and the Shoemaker here).

Dwarves – Gold and How To Find It (always of interest)

Dragons – Wing Technique for the Bigger Flying Animal and How To Get It Right and Surprise Your Prey (and I am assuming dragons are very intelligent creatures who can read, so there!).

And talking of dragons, let’s hear another story from their viewpoint.

 

This World and Others – Education, Education…..Er…. What Does Your Fictional World Consider to be Education?

So what would your created world consider to be a good standard of education? Is it just the ability to read and write? Would there be topics like history, geography, any of the sciences etc? And is the education open to all but only a few?

In an uneducated world (judging by our standards only), how would news be communicated to those who cannot read? Does the lack of an education hold people back or have they not known anything else? Is there any sense of people wanting to improve their situation here?

And if so, what or whom is stopping them and for what purposes? (Usually it is a question of being able to control people who don’t enough to question things but what if the ruler has genuine reasons for fearing what education could do? Are they right? What are those fears? How can those fears be misproved and the ruler shown a good standard of education would be beneficial?).

If there are schools, colleges etc., do they resemble what we have here? What are the differences?

And if education has always been around, how has it progressed or is it progressing during the course of your story?

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Twitter Corner

 

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Launches In Lockdown – New CFT Series

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. 

Author pics and book cover images kindly supplied by the authors themselves in my new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Launches in Lockdown.

Tonight’s images here are supplied by me, Allison Symes, (!), #TeresaBassett, and #FrancescaTyer.

And whatever you write, being creative with stories, non-fiction etc, is always a good thing!

Whatever kind of writing you do, exercises help you improve what you do

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I have been so looking forward to writing and sharing this post. My new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Launches in Lockdown, starts now and will run for the next few weeks.

I talk to a wide variety of authors about their experiences launching a book in such trying conditions, what they did, what they felt worked well, what they learned from the kind of launch they were able to hold and so on.

Fascinating insights to come from writers from The Association of Christian Writers, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books.

But first up tonight are:-

1. Me! I share my experiences from launching Tripping The Flash Fantastic in 2020.
2. Writers from Authors Reach, Richard Hardie’s publishing company. You may recall I interviewed him last week about the challenges he has faced as a writer and as a publisher. Tonight, firmly from the writing desk, I chat to #TeresaBassett and #Francesca Tyer about how they fared as they launched The Time Crystals and The Firestone respectively.

A huge thank you to all of my guests over the next few weeks for taking part in this. If ever I could be said to have written a zeitgeist series, I think this is it! And everyone shares wonderful tips and advice so plenty to take in here.

But for now I hope you enjoy Part 1.

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Nice to have sunshine today after yesterday’s storms. Lady appreciated it too (and playing with one of her other pals, Coco). The mud levels over the park are something else, mind you! Am so glad of my boots and suspect I shall be living in these until March at the earliest.

When is your best time to write? I mainly write in the late afternoons and evenings though if I can sneak in extra time to write, I’ll do so. I just need to start writing and away I go.

Best time for reading is bedtime though I love catching up with various writing magazines over lunch (and it was a real pleasure to discover a mention for Chapeltown Books in Writing Magazine yesterday).

Had a lovely time joining in with #writingchat yesterday. The topics are always interesting and make me thing. Learn a lot from it too. It is the main writing group I’m involved with on Twitter.

And last not but not least just a quick reminder my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow is Part 1 of my Launches in Lockdown. (See above!). As well as sharing my experiences from last year, I talk to Authors Reach writers, Teresa Bassett and Francesca Tyer.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be talking to authors from the Association of Christian Writers, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books. Plenty of insights and thoughtful tips tomorrow and in the other posts to come. Looking forward to sharing them all.

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Delighted to read a wonderful piece about my publishers, Chapeltown Books, in this month’s Writing Magazine. Check out the Writers’ News section at the back and the UK Book Market piece. I do like having a quick look through the magazine when it comes in so I can play the “spot the person I know” game on the letters page, the competition winners and runners-up etc. It is a bad month if I spot less than four! I then read the articles at lunch so I’ve only just come to this bit! (CafeLit and Bridge House get a mention too).

I was right on one thing today – Lady and I did get a soaking this morning though it has eased off a bit since. Winds are still high though.

Am still reading London – The Biography by Peter Ackroyd. It is a fascinating read (though it is a long one. Let’s just say you don’t want to drop the paperback on your foot, yet alone the hardback!). All sorts of stories tucked into a wonderful work of non-fiction. It’s easy to take in information when it’s presented in an entertaining way as it is here – and that’s something for all writers to aspire to, whether we write fiction, non-fiction or both.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One thing I love about working with Chapeltown Books is being able to contribute to what appears on the book cover. That doesn’t always happen with publishers. I must admit I had a lot of fun picking suitable images from Pixabay for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic.

For FLTDBA I chose the rippling circles to indicate stories have impact. Even the smallest flash fiction tale has the impact to move a reader. Also many of my stories have characters who are not always are as they appear to be and the rippling circles to me indicated characters capable of being disturbing and causing ripples in life wherever they go.

For TTFF the castle with the lights on reflects the fact I have historical flash fiction pieces in this book. I also think there is a sense of mystery, the unknown, about that castle and who might live in it. Given I write a lot of fantasy/fairytale with bite type stories, that was an appropriate image for me to convey.

It did take me a while to work out a shortlist of suitable images but it is so worth taking time over. When your book finally reaches you and you take the first one out of your parcel, you want to be so proud of it. You want people to be drawn to and intrigued by your cover (and then hopefully by the contents too!).


Every so often I will write a flash tale in poetic form and some of these appeared in Tripping The Flash Fantastic. This is an interesting challenge as you need to get the story down and ensure it is a proper tale and then get the rhythm of the poem right. I am partial to rhyming poems (and even more so to a good limerick!) so I like that kind of pace in my verses, but I have learned that the language you use has to be natural to you and make sense to the story. Forced rhymes stand out.

But this kind of scrutinizing what you are writing and why and have I really chosen the best word to (a) suit the story and (b) suit the rhyming pattern I’ve set up does keep you on your toes and worth having a go at if you want to stretch yourself a bit.

The majority of my stories will always be in “straight” prose but a spot of variety every now and again does no harm! That is also why I sometimes write tales as acrostics. The nice thing with those is there is a visual element to them and so they work quite well for posts on Facebook, story videos and so on. Even better for the story videos are the one to two line flash stories as you don’t want anything to be too long here. Never give the reader/viewer a chance to lose interest!

Do I identify with my characters? Hmm… now there’s a leading question!

The answer is mostly! I know, I know, very helpful – not! So what do I mean by this?

Most of my characters I like. I can identify with them easily enough. But I don’t like all of them. I can think of a fair few I would not want to meet in life! So how I can write about characters like that convincingly?

I try to identify why my characters are the way they are and there is usually something I can latch on to there.

Understanding where your characters come from does not mean agreeing with their choices! Understanding where they come from means you will write their story with more conviction. I mean I can see how and why Gollum in The Lord of the Rings turned out the way he did. Do I agree with him? No!

Getting into your characters’ heads is not always a comfortable experience, indeed it often shouldn’t be (as my crime and horror writing colleagues would no doubt confirm!). Even with the characters you like, they can’t be goody-goody. You need to be able to see and understand what their flaws are and how those play out in your story.

You can have the most wonderful character but what will really make them come to life for your reader is when they fail or screw up in some way. Okay your character overcomes that and goes on to better things but it is that failure which drives that change to overcome and that is what fascinates a reader. I know it always fascinates me.

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Fairytales with Bite – The Problems with a Magical World

The major problem with a magical world is it is a magical world! Er… yes… but how come that is the issue? You want to write about a magical world after all!

True but the problems come in simply because if every character can just resolve problems by a wave of the old magic wand, either that world is going to come to a stalemate (as characters cancel other characters’ spells out) or it is going to blow itself apart with all that magic flying around. So there have to be some rules and that is where life gets more interesting. You as the author decide on what the rules will be and yes, that’s the fun bit! But you do need to be consistent with how you apply these.

If you decide certain species in your creation cannot do magic at all, that’s going to give them a major disadvantage against those you’ve decided can do magic. What’s to stop the latter from wiping the former out altogether? So every species then, whether magical or not, has to have something to ensure their survival.

Equally if everyone is going to be magical, what are the limits to ensure nobody can blow the world up by mistake?! Who sets the limits? Who polices them? Those with fewer powers will need to have some safeguards against those with much more (again to prevent them from being wiped out), so what will these be? Can magic, say, only be used in daylight hours? Can using magic drain people of energy so they have to be careful how much of it they use?

The other problem with a magical world is how is it going to treat neighbouring worlds/countries who are not magical? Will they treat them with contempt? Or will they ignore the non-magical kinds even when the latter could do with some assistance because they’re faced with, say, an illness devastating their people that they know the magical lot could help them overcome?

Plenty of food for thought there but I hope this highlights magic can cause as many problems as it seems to solve and that in turn can make for some interesting stories.

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This World and Others – Dilemmas to Solve when World Building

This post follows on from the Fairytales with Bite piece above. There are plenty of dilemmas to resolve when world building, including the use of magic as mentioned above. You also need to decide how much of the geography and history of the world your readers need to know to make sense of your story. Also how do you get that information across?

I like to get characters to show me things wherever possible so I make them look at things and show me what they think of what they are seeing. If I mention Character A takes a brief look at the ugly Civic Hall, you know they’re in a town, they don’t think much of the architecture, and are clearly looking for something of more interest to them and whatever their quest may be. All of that in one sentence too!

There will be certain things you need to spell out to a reader. For example, if your characters need oxygen masks to be able to go outside, you need to mention that early on (and the reason why – it might not be an obvious one!). As the story develops, readers will get used to “seeing” your characters with these masks on and you won’t need much if any description later.

But I think it is a question here of knowing broadly what your story is going to be and from that working out how much your readers need to know. From there you can work out how to dripfeed that information into the story so readers pick it up almost unconsciously. No need for reams of description which can put people off.

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Twitter Corner

 

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