Hooks, Colours, and The Queue

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. I’ve been watching the various ceremonies for our late Queen and am amazed at how beautiful a building Westminster Hall is. I’ve been to the Abbey but not to that so this is something to make amends for, I think.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Loved a tweet I came across earlier which felt we had reached peak Britishness re The Queue (definitely capitals needed there) and it now having regular weather updates. All that was needed was for the tea to come out (and I am sure someone has organised that!). We do queues well. We organise well. We have organised a queue – a very special one. Yes, I’d say we’d reached peak Britishness all right!

Am pleased to share my Chandler’s Ford Today post about Hooks. Hope you find it useful. I look at different kinds and why it matters that the author plays fair with their readers. We do have to deliver on our hooks.

I love a good hook and enjoy it when I guess how the story will pan out. I like it even more when the writer wrong foots me. I then go back through the story and look for the clues I missed on my first reading. You learn a lot from doing this, much of which you can apply to your own writing.

Hooks

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The flowers around Buckingham Palace, Sandringham, Balmoral etc are so very lovely.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow will be about Hooks. I’ll be looking at some of the ones I use most often, discuss the importance of playing fair with your readers, and I’ll ask if you can have too many hooks. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Hooks are useful for non-fiction as well as stories of course. They just differ a bit in type. A hook for a non-fiction piece would be for me to share some indication this post or article is going to tell me something I need to know. (Sometimes something I didn’t know I needed to know too!).

The important point though, whether for fiction or non-fiction, is the hook does have to deliver on its promise.

Non fiction can have hooks too - useful information

The service for the late Queen at Westminster Hall today was lovely. It is a beautiful building but I was struck by the vivid colours of those taking part, on the coffin itself, and down the Mall and Horseguards. I thought it apt too given Her Majesty loved her own vivid colours.

I sometimes use colours as a a distinguishing feature for my characters. For example, rather than say Character X had a moth-eaten coat, I’ll show you they had a red moth-eaten one. The addition of colour makes the information given here more pertinent and I think much easier to visualise.

And you can tell something about characters from the kinds of colours they choose to wear – red is vivid, dark blue less so. I would expect the character’s personality to match that. (Incidentally that can be twisted. A shy character can wear red to try to give themselves more confidence but the story should make it clear that is what they’re doing and I would then expect to find out whether the character succeeded in their aim here or not).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I sometimes write flash stories in the form of a letter and I’ve done so for my piece on Friday Flash Fiction this week. Hope you enjoy Times Past.
Screenshot 2022-09-16 at 09-34-16 Times Past by Allison Symes

When you write, do you have anything on in the background? I listen to classical music as it helps me relax and when I’m relaxed, I find I get “into” writing that much more easily.

You could also think about what makes your characters relax and why they might need that. What has stressed them out that they need their comfort of choice? Again, especially for flash, it’s the telling detail which is needed here. I could get my character to make themselves a huge mug of hot chocolate and put on Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata for instance. That character will be different to someone who pours themselves a large double whisky and puts on a hard rock track.

Think about why your characters have the tastes they do. How do these indicate their personality, especially that which they keep hidden from other characters in your story? Also what are they hiding and why? Are they successful in hiding it?

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I like to use specific details about a character to help bring them to life for potential readers. Specifics are easiest to visualise and you can infer a lot from them too – saves on the word count too! The nice thing here is you have a wide range of things to choose from here. You can use colours, a character’s tastes in music, food, the senses, their favourite book and so on.

A reader will take different things from a character loving Winnie The Pooh in adult life compared with someone who likes the latest horror instead, for example.

And you can always use a random generator (objects, pictures etc) to help you work out what those specific things could be!

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Fairytales with Bite – When an Era Ends

I’m writing this in the week after the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. The mood in the UK generally is sombre and sad, as you would expect. The Queen was just a constant presence and it is odd to think she has gone, despite her great age.

Now when it comes to your fiction, who rules in your story world and what happens when there is a change of leader? Is that done peacefully or not? What rules are there in your setting to allow for changeovers? And if you are writing about immortal characters, are they only allowed to serve for so long? This is also where time comes into play. How does that work in your setting? Do your characters age? Is there a natural time for leadership etc to come to an end?

How do the people cope with the end of an era, especially if it has been a long one? If some cope better than others, there could be interesting stories there as to why that is, especially if that triggers resentment in the ones not coping so well.

Going into a new era, are people optimistic or fearful? What is behind the way they feel? Does the world’s history give them good grounds for fear, say?

And just what does the new era usher in for your characters? What are the likely positives and negatives here? Also, will anyone try to get in the way of the one likely to succeed as the new leader?

 

This World and Others – Changes

Changes in life are inevitable though not always welcome of course. Do your characters embrace changes or try to resist them? Do changes come in thanks to advances in technology and the like or through the way life is lived in your setting?

Are there certain types of changes your characters take in their stride or do they struggle with any kind of change?

Changes can also be seen as opportunities. What kind of changes have led to improvements in the way your characters live/their health/their quality of life etc?

Are our characters the kind to bring in changes for the benefit of others (or are they power hungry and the changes they seek are not in the general good)?

Any kind of story from the shortest piece of flash fiction to the most epic novel has to have change in it. Something happens to a character. The chraracter reacts – there are consequences and conflicts which have to be resolved in some way.

But the joy of characterisation I think is inventing different people who react to these things in different ways and I want to find out what happens to them. If you’re intrigued by how your characters handle changes in their circumstances, then your readers will be intrigued too.

And we all know what it is to have changes we don’t like thrust on us. We know we have to find a way of coping with things. That’s where empathy for characters come in because they can live through things we don’t have to and we can learn from how they do handle things.

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Writing Prompts, Contract News, and An Artful Story

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images from the Share Your Story Writing Summit kindly supplied by the organisers. Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her.

Hope you have had a good week. Have had exciting contract news in the last couple of days which I share below. (Images of me signing said contract taken by Adrian Symes).

Thrilled to be taking part in a book about writing by Wendy H Jones

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share Writing Prompts, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. I share a few differing kinds, discuss why prompts are useful, and why it is a good idea to practice them. Hope you enjoy this and find it useful.

A number of my published stories started life as responses to writing prompts so you now know why I am fond of them!

Oh and I’ll get a quick plug in for my monthly author newsletter too as I share writing prompts there too. If you would like to sign up for this, please head over to my landing page right here at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

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Contract News!

Big news! Thrilled to say I have just signed a contract to produce a chapter on flash fiction for a book #WendyHJones is editing on writing. Look forward to sharing more as and when possible but meanwhile here are the pics of one very happy author!

Don’t forget my Chandler’s Ford Today post is up tomorrow and is all about Writing Prompts. Hope you find it useful. Link up tomorrow. (See above!).

(I couldn’t tell you how many writing prompts I’ve used in my time but they are a fantastic way to kickstart some writing and I have had published stories as a result of using them. What’s not to like about that?!).

Am also thrilled to bits that a dear friend of mine has a piece of flash fiction up on CafeLit. Do check this wonderful online magazine out. There is a wonderful mix of stories and styles here. Yes, yes, I know. I am biased, I write for CafeLit, yes, of course I’m biased but that’s not the same as being wrong! And I’m not here – go on, pop over and have a good read. You really will find several things to suit you here. 

Happy to sign a contract


Sun turned up today – hooray – and Lady got to play with many of her best buddies including the loveliest Rhodesian Ridgeback, a cute mini Jack Russell, a Hungarian Vizler, and a new chum, a lovely Whippet called Sky. Lady went home shattered but happy. Job done there then!

Questions to ask your characters. Bear in mind also if you’re writing non-fiction, if you are using a narrative voice, you can treat that voice as a character, so some of these questions at least may also be worth trying. So what to ask then as part of your outline?

  1. What do you really want and why?
  2. What stops you getting what you really want?
  3. Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?
  4. How are you going to achieve your objectives?
  5. Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?
  6. Are you making your life unnecessarily complicated? (Worth asking this one – any complications getting in the way of your character achieving what they want should be those that arise naturally out of the plot. There should be nothing that seems “faked” to increase the tension in the story. The tension should be genuine, the obstacles real and so on.
  7. For a non-fictional narrator, a good question to ask instead of this one is are you communicating as clearly as possible (i.e. go for clarity, not gobbledegook, don’t make your narration unnecessarily complicated? Are you conveying the facts reasonably? Are you backing the facts up with evidence? What are your sources?).
  8. What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?
  9. What if you’re wrong? (How would your character handle that? That could make for a really interesting story).
    Are there limits you won’t cross (and if so what are these? What is your thinking behind this?).
  10. Are there rules you are prepared to break? What would the consequences be? How are you going to limit your risk (or are you not worried about that? Some characters aren’t!).

Now if answering those questions doesn’t generate story ideas, I’d be very surprised!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to say I have another 100-word story on #FridayFlashFiction.
Assumptions is about Mary who thinks she is good at art but is she? Hope you like it.

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I have very good cause to appreciate flash fiction. It has led to me having two books to my name (From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic). It has led to me taking part in an international summit (the Share Your Story Writing Summit back in March).

It has led to me giving Zoom talks to a WI group and writing groups. It led to me having a book signing in a railway station (yes, really and obviously before You Know What).

It has led to me being on internet radion and being interviewed by the lovely #HannahKate for her Hannah’s Bookshelf show on North Manchester FM.

Then there is the podcast appearance on #WendyHJones’ The Writing and Marketing Show. I’ve also judged flash fiction writing.

Talking of Wendy though, the latest big news is I will be contributing a chapter to her book on writing and naturally I’ll be writing about flash fiction. Am thrilled to bits. Will share more news as and when I can but meanwhile here are the very happy author pics!

(I don’t know whether it is a case of my finding flash fiction or flash fiction finding me but I am truly not sorry for a form of writing I discovered by accident thanks to CafeLit!).

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I sometimes have flash pieces published in the CafeLit anthologies and my Humourless is an example of this in the current book, The Best of CafeLit 9.

It is especially nice to have a flash story published here given CafeLit introduced me to flash fiction in the first place (and I am looking forward to sharing details of The Best of CafeLit 10 later on in the year where again I will have work published).

Do check out the CafeLit site. CafeLit are great in publishing a wide range of fiction, flash and otherwise, and from a diverse group of authors. It is always a joy to see friends’ work on here too.

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Fairytales with Bite – Changes

No world or character should stay static. A story revolves around change. The character does this, then that happens, this is what happens after that and so on. Of course, some changes are far more welcome than others and interesting tales can be generated by working out how your characters would handle the less welcome developments.

But changes shouldn’t be something that come out of nowhere. For example, if your change is where your character faces a magical disaster of some kind, there should be some hint early on in the story that magical disasters are a possibility here. For example if the build up of spare magical capacity can trigger earthquakes, your created world should have that as part of its history. Perhaps your story can then revolve around people not taking the necessary steps to prevent the disaster happening again. This means when your disaster happens your reader will not feel cheated. They know the possibility exists. The possibility happened.

Once the change has happened, there should be change in the characters too. Nobody remains unmoved by changes and that applies to characters too.

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This World and Others – Environments

What kind of environment is your story set in? Is it comparable to what we know here or something beyond the capabilities of our little planet?

Do your characters care about the environment they live in and how does that manifest itself?

Also think micro-environments – the immediate world around your characters. How does that impact on them? What are the threats they face? What are the nice things about their world they love?

Then there are things like political environments – dictatorships or democracy? How do your characters survive or thrive in these? Again, what is similar to here? It will be those things readers will latch on to – it is literally what we know and understand.

What dilemmas do your characters face as a result of their environment? The classic theme is survival in a hostile to life environment where the overall dilemma is to survive but there can be others. For example, if your character has to survive in their environment by killing something or someone, will they and how do they build themselves up to actually do that?

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