Effects, Impact, and Hidden Gems

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you have had a good week. Lady, so far, has had a brilliant one though she wasn’t impressed at my signing copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic! Image taken by Adrian Symes.

Lady looks distinctly unimpressed! Image by Adrian Symes

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Hope you have had a good day. Lady played with her “gentleman friend”, Bear, today. Bear is a lovely tri-coloured Aussie Shepherd. Lady generally prefers to play with her girl friends (and she got to do that again today with the smashing Coco) but Bear is one male dog Lady does have a soft spot for. And boy can they both run! Took home a tired but very happy dog.

Looking forward to giving a talk about flash fiction on Zoom next week.

For my Facebook book page a couple of days ago, I suggested a new way of finding ideas for a story (using a random word generator and Pixabay) and mentioned I would have a go at this myself. I duly did so and I will be posting the results on my From Light to Dark and Back Again page shortly. (Also see below in my From Light to Dark and Back Again section here – the image below is the image I’ve chosen for my flash story idea).

Always good to keep ways of finding story ideas fresh and challenging. Mixing up ways of approaching a story I find makes things interesting for me (and hopefully for a reader). The one thing that does not change, whichever method I use, is ensuring I do know the character well enough first. For me, that is the only way to be sure the character is “worthy” of having a story told about them! Well, they are the leading character. They’ve got to be up to the role!


Lady had a great time playing with her pals over the park today. Came back tired out but happy. And it takes a lot to tire out a collie!

Looking forward to sharing the final part of my Chandler’s Ford Today series, Judging a Book by its Cover, on Friday. This week I’ll be talking covers with guests from CafeLit, Bridge House Publishing, and Chapeltown Books. This has been a great little series. Many thanks to all who have taken part so far and who will be joining me in Friday’s post.

Loving listening to Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams on Classic FM as I type this. It is one of my favourites, I voted for it again in the Classic FM Hall of Fame, and was pleased to see it went up to No. 3. I love this music because it seems to take you right back in time and that is such a wonderful effect to create.

Of course as writers the effects we create are with words but positioning of words, thinking of strongest impact possible on a reader etc., all have a part to play in making sure what we create is exactly what we mean to create. Flash fiction writing, where you are honing your word count right down, encourages the creation of effects via the minimal amount of language so every word I do use really does have to punch its weight to justify being in the story at all.

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Hope you have had a good weekend. It is nice coming back from a long walk with Lady without having to clean all the mud off her! (And you should see where she can get the mud. She also believes in sharing it around – but at least it is only mud!).

Do you remember the first characters who made a huge impact on you at the time of discovering their stories? Mine mostly come from books but there are some TV characters who made a huge impact on me too – mainly because they were girls who did things (Including writing!) and didn’t just hang around waiting to be rescued. I became tired of that very quickly, even as a kid.

My favourite characters include Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), George (The Famous Five), Jo March (Little Women), Lady Penelope (Thunderbirds), Sarah Jane Smith (Doctor Who).

As for my own characters, unless they do something useful, they’re not making it into any of my stories! After all the whole point of a story is to find out what happens and you need your characters to make things happen.

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Glorious sunny day today. This is more like it! Great to have a Zoom chat with writer pals yesterday – always a great “pick me up”. Looking forward to when we can get together for actual live events again.

Do you find it hard to get motivated to start writing sometimes? I find that is more of a problem if I am really tired so I just go easy on myself. Just draft something useful I can turn into a blog or short story later on. I always feel better for having done something creatively and that in turn helps me for the next writing session. I am encouraged to go on with the thought well maybe I can do something with what I drafted yesterday and if I could write something useful then, I can do it again now.

It is important to be kind to yourself. If you can only manage five minutes writing, for whatever reason, then go with that. Don’t despise small pockets of writing time like that. They build up over time.

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I mentioned a new way of creating a story using Pixabay and a random word generator the other day. (See post further down). I selected my sixth random word and the sixth image I found on Pixabay relating to my topic. The topic I chose was raindrops. And here is the result! Hope you enjoy.

Hidden Gems
‘Boring, Dad, this is so…’
‘I know, boring!’
I wish I could say I was surprised at Karen’s attitude but unless there was a decent shopping centre within a mile of her, she made it clear to the world at large she was hard done by. Why bring her to this wildflower meadow then?
I promised her mother I would try to get some love for the natural world into our daughter before she hit the terrible teens. Since losing Sarah to the Big C, all Karen wanted to do was shop, shop, shop.
Even the kingfisher in flight hadn’t impressed Karen mainly because I swore she missed seeing it, though I was amazed at that flash of brilliant blue.
‘There are hidden gems everywhere, Karen. Keep your eyes open.’
‘Yeah, Dad, right. I know Mum wanted you to bring me here but this is so boring. And it’s been raining.’
I knelt by a flower. ‘Isn’t this beautiful with the raindrops on it?’
Karen gave me the “you must be kidding me” look.
I sighed. ‘Okay, Karen, tell me, if this was a piece of artwork would you want it? Go on, get down and have a good look at the flower and see what you think.’
To my surprise, she did. And it started something special.
Karen is in her thirties now, just married and I hope at some point she and her chap, Stephen, will present me with a grandchild. But what does Karen now do for a living?
She’s not become a botanist or anything like that.
She’s a jeweller. She creates exquisite items based on inspiration from the natural world.
I guess it is one way of learning to appreciate the joys of our planet!
Her pieces sell well too.
She presented me with a smashing tie pin. It was in brilliant blue and in the shape of a kingfisher. On the card that came with it were the words ‘I didn’t miss the kingfisher, Dad. Is it really twenty years ago since we saw that?’
I smiled. Those words meant I kept my promise to Sarah after all.

Ends.
Allison Symes – 27th April 2021


Pleased to share my latest story video on Youtube with you. Hope you enjoy A Rotten Day. We all get days like these…

One of my nice tasks for the week is to create a story video and schedule it on Youtube. I look forward to sharing my next one with you tomorrow, having set one up today. (I do love scheduling!). But the images I use for my stories don’t always tie in with the tale itself so, as for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts, I have to think laterally. Sometimes I go for a relatively plain background image if there is no obvious link I can get to directly or laterally.

But it occurs to me there is nothing to stop you (or me for that matter) looking up random images on Pixabay and the like and using them as an inspiration for a flash tale. You could even use a random word generator to trigger words to put in the search bar for Pixabay and perhaps decide you will pick the sixth picture (or whatever number you decide) as the image you will use to generate your next flash tale.

Worth a go? Definitely. And I will give this a go myself and report back I hope later in the week. (See post above). I’ve selected the sixth random word and the sixth image on Pixabay for my topic. Hope to share a new flash tale based on this later in the week.

And do have fun with this!

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I chatted over on my author page about being kind to yourself when you’re finding it hard to start writing anything. Just write for five minutes and see this as something you can polish up later on. The great thing with flash of course is it is perfect for short periods of writing time and, once polished up, those little bits of work can become published stories and, eventually, make it into a collection.

Five minutes of writing time is always better than none and I must admit I always feel better in myself when I have written something. I also feel better knowing what I’ve drafted has the potential to become something that can be published and that spurs me on too.

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Disappointments

Are there any books that have disappointed you? I’m glad to say mine are few and far between and it is almost always because I’ve not been convinced by the characterisation. Something doesn’t quite ring true for me and that lets the whole story down.

The good thing about that is you can learn from it if you’re a writer. I do try to analyse what I liked or disliked about a story and its characters. I also look at how the author shows us what their characters are like. I want to see for myself that Character A is mean to their granny or what have you. I don’t want the author telling me. I want to work it out myself. And great stories and books always allow you to do just that.

After all, what do we look for in a good read? A story and characters that will take us away from our daily lives. Therefore the characters have to “take us with them” on their journeys and be such that we will want to go with them.

Even in the case of a villain, it will be a case of wanting to find out how they get their comeuppance but if you have got to the stage where you want that, the author has written their character well to get you to feel that way.

I must admit I resent book disappointments more now than I used to as I don’t want to waste time on reading something that is going to let me down and make me wish I’d been reading something else instead. Also I am only too aware there are so many wonderful books out there, so I don’t want duff stories getting in the way!

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Character Study

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Do your characters look back at their lives at all? (You should as their creator! Have they developed? If so, positively or negatively? How does this impact on the story?). If the characters do look back at their own lives, why are they doing it? Are they trying to learn from past mistakes and do they actually do so? How does that “look back” change their behaviour (for better or worse) and how does that change the direction in which they go?

Sometimes Character B can look back at Character A’s life and this can be because:-

1. They don’t like the changes in A’s life now (and they may be right to take that view!). By drawing A’s attention to this, B is hoping to get A back to where they used to be.

2. Character B is comparing themselves with A, especially if A has gone on to be really successful. (We all do this for real so why shouldn’t our characters do so?! What is interesting here is how does B respond? Are they jealous? Do they seek to improve themselves or try to “do A down”?).

3. Character B is delighted Character A has changed (and again they may well be right. Equally they may be pleased because A has worsened and it makes B look better! B does not have to have noble motives here!).

All three of these points could generate some fascinating stories.

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One thing to consider when creating your characters is to work out what impact they have on other characters. Naturally, this can be for good or evil. Equally, it can be a happy or sad impact. How would the death of a character affect your story world and its other residents?

There would have to be some impact made, even by a minor character (otherwise why are they in the story at all?). Is a character killed because the assassin(s) know the death will change the political situation in your story world (if so, how?) or it gets a rival out of the way? How did that character become a rival in the first place?

How does personal history impact on the characters themselves? Family background and circumstances usually do impact somewhere. Are they running away from something? Trying to better/prove themselves? Do they succeed?

The history of the story world and the general setting should have an impact on your characters. Someone being brought up in the country will have a different perspective on rural life than someone who has always lived in a town or city and does not know anything about rural life except what they see on the media.

So let your characters have an impact and be impacted upon. Both of these points should generate wonderful tensions within your story and drive the plot along beautifully.

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What do you look for when it comes to the ending of a story?

I don’t necessarily look for a happy ending. What I like to see (and indeed write) is an ending that is appropriate for the characters and the situations they are in. It is so important the ending doesn’t feel forced or “runs out of steam” because you, the writer, were getting to the word count limit!

You also want the ending to wrap up the story with impact. No damp squibs here, thank you!

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I’m taking a shortish break from my 101 Things to Put into Room 101 on Chandler’s Ford Today. This week I’ll be looking at some of the frustrations of publishing and then lead into a two-part feature where I interview a fellow Chapeltown author. More details later.

Some great insights to come from the interview and I suspect most of you will have had direct experience of the frustrations of publishing I will be talking about this week. This aspect of the writing life deserves a whole section in Room 101’s vaults! (It was easier to write about them separately though!).

Will return to the Room 101 series later (and look forward to doing so too. Is there any one of us who doesn’t like a good moan every now and again?!

Books invite you into their world - image via Pixabay

Books invite you into their world. Image via Pixabay

Baubles Medium

My story Helping Out is in Baubles, the Bridge House anthology for 2016

Good advice here - all writers need to fail better - image via Pixabay

Good advice. Image via Pixabay.

Humans are immensely creative - image via Pixabay

Let those ideas flow! Image via Pixabay,

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I love walking by water – so calming. Can also inspire how you create your own world. Image by Allison Symes

Use review questions to find out more about your characters, image via Pixabay

Use personal reviews to help you generate characters and story outlines. Image via Pixabay.

I'm not arguing with this - image via Pixabay

I’m not arguing with this one! Image via Pixabay.

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Do you have fun with your characters? There should be the initial fun of creating them, of course, but for me, I think the most fun comes when they develop and mature and truly take on a life of their own. You can look back at the earlier stages of their development and literally see how far they have come.

I also enjoy dropping my characters right in it when appropriate to do so but that probably says more about me than them. I will claim dramatic licence though! So yes you should have fun with your characters, especially for novel writing, you will be living with them for a long time. Even in flash fiction writing, while you will generally go from one character to another for each story, you should still know what makes that character tick and enjoy working out how best to get that across to your readers.

If you become tired of your characters, it does show through in your writing so love them, love to hate them, enjoy writing for them, enjoy putting them through the emotional wringer etc! It will help your writing flow and sparkle. Characters written like this always draw me to a story. I think it is the characters, more than anything, that makes a story unforgettable.

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There are certain ways of knowing your created world works. These are:-

You can picture in your head everything from how the world is run politically to who the beings are the world depends on to get anything done.

You can visualise the societies of your world – there are class systems everywhere – and how they interact or, conversely, why they don’t.

You can plan out what the history of the world was, how that affects the current situation you’re writing about in that world, and whether there’s an official version and/or revisionist one.

You can see how towns, villages etc are run and the life that goes on in them regardless of what your story is actually about. (The life of towns/villages etc is bound to affect at least some of your characters – are they rebelling against it? Does it inspire them? Are they acting heroically to defend it?).

You can ask yourself questions about your world and answer them!

And it doesn’t matter if you are “just” writing flash fiction, you still need to know where your characters come from, what drives them etc. How their world operates and how it affects them will have a direct impact on that so you still need to know enough about your setting so you can write about your characters with conviction. That in depth knowledge does show through in what you write.

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One good thing about flash fiction is that there is nothing to stop you taking characters you enjoyed writing about in this form and then writing longer stories for them. I have done this occasionally (though I find I am so focused on the next idea, the next story, that I don’t do this as often as perhaps I could and should do, but it is something to bear in mind.). Also, a flash piece can be turned into a longer one (so you have two stories on your hands then!).

Another thing you could do is if you have a character in mind for a longer story but are not sure whether they have the capacity to carry the tale, then try them out in a flash piece first. If the character is strong enough to make a good impact in a form that demands a tight word count, no waffle, and getting the story down quickly, then they should have the strength to star in a longer work.

How do you define “good impact”? For me, the characters have to stay with me long after the story has ended. I have to find myself wondering what else they might get up to and so on.

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I wear two writing hats (and often at the same time!). One hat is the flash fiction and the other is my non-fiction work – in particular, my writing for Chandler’s FordToday. But the great thing has been that skills I’ve learned for CFT (especially writing to a deadline and a word count) have been really useful for my fictional side.

So does it pay to expand on what kind of writing you do? I think so!