Walkies and Interviews!

Image Credit:  As ever Pixabay or Pexels unless otherwise stated. The ones of Hiltingbury Flower Meadow were taken by me!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post is called Walkies and I look at the joys of local walking and living with collies. I am also pleased to share pictures taken by me this week of our beautiful wildflower meadow at the Hiltingbury Recreation Ground. It is absolutely stunning and it always cheers me to see such brightness. See if you can spot the poppy by the way!

I also look at how walking dogs has helped me. I did think I would get loads of ideas for stories and blog posts when I was out walking a dog. My sum total of ideas that have come to me doing this is precisely zero!

I’m too busy keeping an eye on the dog, particularly my young mischief, Lady, but walking her (and my previous two) relaxes me, gets me out into the fresh air, and I come back, refreshed, having had a break from the writing desk. That is important. Tiredness is the biggest factor, I think, in stifling any kind of creativity.

Hope you enjoy the post.

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Many thanks to fellow Swanwicker, Val Penny, for hosting me on her blog today (9th July 2020). It was great fun to take part! Hope you enjoy.

Amongst other topics, I talk about my writing routine and share some tips I’ve found useful over the years. I also talk about how I got into flash fiction writing. It wasn’t something I anticipated when I first started out but it is easily my happiest “writing accident”!’

I also talk about what I like and dislike about marketing. See what you think – do you agree with my choices?

Transforming Communities Full

My CFT post this week will be called Walkies! I share the joys of walking with Lady during lockdown, the latest pics of our beautiful wildflower meadow, which is looking stunning right now, and share how walking has helped me. Link up on Friday.

I did think when I first became a dog owner 15 years ago, I would be able to think up ideas for stories while out walking Gracie, then Mabel, and now Lady. Not a bit of it! Haven’t thought of one story idea at all walking them!

Mind you, I have made many wonderful dog owner pals and Lady especially has made a few four-legged friends too.

What walking the dog does do though is enable me to unwind. Ideas for stories are far more likely to come to me when I’m in a relaxed state after getting back home again. And of course there are plenty of opportunities for practising observational skills. A particular colour of a front door might strike me as nice for Character A’s cloak in a flash fiction story – that kind of thing.

Never despise the little details! They may come in handy in a story one day.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It has been a good week with another flash piece up on Cafelit (Rotten Day) and my interview on Val Penny’s blog post (see next piece down for the link to this).

Oh and a bit of promotional news – From Light to Dark and Back Again is currently on offer on Amazon. So if you fancy quirky fiction at a discounted price, do check the link out. Reviews are always welcome too.

My favourite story in FLTDBA? Hmm… tricky one though I do have a very soft spot for Calling the Doctor which you can check out for free on the book trailer. (See below!).

Whatever you read or write this weekend, have a good one!


A big thanks to Val Penny for interviewing me on her blog today. (9th July 2020). See link for more but one of the topics I discuss here is how I got into flash fiction writing at all.

Let’s just say it wasn’t planned! Let’s also say I am very pleased with how it has turned out and hope to keep going with it for as long as possible!

On a side note, interviews like this really make you think about what you’re doing and why and where your writing journey has brought you to date. That’s no bad thing. And interviewing your characters can make you as their creator think about what they’re doing in your story and why. It’s a good way to see who is really necessary to your tale and who isn’t.


Much as I love listening to classical music when writing, I haven’t used it in my stories. The only time I use it is when trying to pick something what would work well in book trailers or when I am creating videos of flash tales to put on my website.

Music can set mood of course and I think I would rather my characters did that directly through what they say and do. (And isn’t it always more interesting when what they do goes against what they say?! Hypocrites are always good fun to write stories for!).

 

Fairytales with Bite – Fairytale Acrostic

F = Fantastic has to come into it somewhere, usually in the form of magic being performed, usually to help the deserving.
A = Animals often play a crucial role and sometimes at least prove to be more intelligent than the humans in the story.
I = Inventiveness can come into the stories – you wouldn’t usually think of turning a pumpkin into a coach would you?!
R = Realism? Well maybe. Fairytales can show a great deal of truth about human nature, not all of it is pleasant either, but it is accurate.
Y = Your fairy godmother awaIts… hmm… not necessarily. The character often doesn’t know they’ve got one until they show up. Best not to assume here!
T = Tension between the forces of good and evil is a given in this world.
A = Animated versions of the tale are generally good but some of them can’t be as originally written given the latter are often more violent!
L = Love and its importance is a key theme. Not just the romantic kind either. Think of Hansel and Gretel and their care for one another. Also I thought Gerta was a magnificent character in The Snow Queen with her commitment to rescuing Kay. (And I so loved the idea that the girl was rescuing the boy here).
E = Elephants! Have always had a very soft spot for Dumbo. Always will do. I see it as a classic film fairytale.
S = Stories. The classic fairytales have very strong storylines behind them. Wrong is righted. Evil is confronted. Good prevails. Not always a happy ending though. And I love fairytales for all of those reasons.

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This World and Others –

Questions to Ask Your Characters

One great thing about this topic is that it is a timeless one! (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?

What do you really want and why?

What stops you getting what you really want?

Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?

How are you going to achieve your objectives?

Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?

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. 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?).

What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?

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?).

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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May Memories

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay and Pexels supplied the images unless stated otherwise. I am glad to say I’ve contributed some pictures to the CFT post this week!

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

May is one of my favourite months of the year for many reasons. My CFT post, May Memories, takes a look at that and I also share memories of my grandmother who was also called May. I also share what is likely to remain the strangest deep memory recall I’ve had.

I give a round-up of my writing news as well this month and take great pleasure in sharing some gorgeous pics from Pixabay celebrating May (photos of roses always do that for me!). Some of the photos are from my garden too.

Hope you enjoy.

 

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I always enjoy writing my CFT posts but May Memories this week is one with personal recollections in it. I have very fond memories of my grandmother May and I’ve always liked it as both a name and a month. I also liked the old TV comedy series From May to December starring Anton Rodgers. Anyone remember that?

TV funnily enough has not yet sparked a story idea off in me. I tend to get my ideas from writing exercise prompts, proverbs (which give me a theme and often a title), thoughts about characters I could give a life to and so on and what would I do with them if I did write them up etc.

 

I’ll be sharing May Memories in my CFT post this week. It is one of my favourite months of the year for many reasons. (THE favourite is March, my birthday month so there!)😀

I share some personal recollections, a spooky (to me at least) deep memory recall experience – both of which are connected with my grandmother May – and a round up of my writing news for the month. We’re just coming up to the halfway point and it has been quite a busy month already!

But that is an encouragement to (a) keep going and (b) see what else I can get out there/get published etc. I’ve found that whenever I have anything published, it spurs me on to see what else I can do. When I have things rejected (or just not placed in a competition), that spurs me on to look at the story again and see what I can do to improve its chances when I sent it out into the big, bad world again. As I do.

Link up for CFT tomorrow.

PS As you will no doubt tell from the picture below, I can’t wait until I can get to the hairdressers again!

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Yesterday, I got to make my first video. It’s in connection with the Waterloo Arts Festival and I hope to be able to share it (or the link) later on after the Zoom WAF this year.

It was good fun to do and got me out of my comfort zone for a bit. Later, I also hope to put this up on my website and maybe do a couple of others where I narrate some of my flash fiction. Flash is great for this kind of thing. Doesn’t take long. Makes for good download times too!

I prepared notes. There was no way I could do something like this off the top of my head. Even if I could, I don’t think it would be a good idea anyway. I’ve long found preparation is key for so much in writing, even if you don’t always use all of the material you’ve drafted. (Some of it may come in handy as website material later).

Now on to my CFT post and this week I’ll be sharing some May Memories including writing news from me. Link up on Friday.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring writing wise!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction is a great vehicle for reading out loud precisely because it cannot take too long to do! Having made a video for the Waterloo Arts Festival event, I hope at some point to do more to put on my website as it occurred to me this would be another way of sharing stories online.

And I must admit I still love being read TO in the form of audio books. Much as I love reading to myself, there is something special about someone else telling you a story. So if you’re wondering what to read next, maybe it should be a case of what you’re going to listen to next?

Oh and a big thanks to Ana Coelho for the pic of me reading from my The Professional at last year’s Waterloo Arts Festival. (And also to Paula Readman for the Cafelit 8/Nativity shot, which is one of my favourite photos. Hey, I’m not going to pretend to be unbiased here!).

 

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Does classical music influence what I write at all?

No! What it does do is relax me and when I’m relaxed, I’m more productive so win-win here.

I have found in the past other types of music can alter my mood and therefore what I write and that can be used knowingly and deliberately but you do have to be aware of it happening. I once tried to write a murder scene in a longer short story when a cute love song came on. Threw me completely!

So classical it is and will remain!

 

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I chose Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens as the music for the FLTDBA book trailer. I’ve always loved the piece (I got to know it through the Jonathan Creek detective series which used it as the theme) and I wanted quirky music to go with my quirky fiction!

The music also reflected the theme of From Light to Dark and Back Again pretty well too. The lovely thing is I am a great fan of classical music and I’m sure I can think of something suitable for Tripping the Flash Fantastic in due course. It’s not as if I’m going to run out of composers or anything…!

 

Fairytales with Bite – Three Words

For fiction writing, you could look at catchphrases for your characters.

Catchphrases have to be memorable to work, also you need not to get tired of them (and that’s even more true for your reader!), and so are best kept short to help achieve those points. I would opt for a three-worder here.

If your characters were limited to three words as their pet phrase, what would they be and why? (I suspect the most famous one here would be I’ll Be Back from The Terminator). But what would you choose for your creations?

Would your pet phrase match your character? That is, if they’re a feisty character, would their phrase reflect that? Or would they downplay that side of things a bit (especially if they wanted to put off an enemy)? Would they be sarcastic or would their phrase be a cover for what they are really like?

Food for thought, I hope. The important point is to know who your characters are, how they would speak and sound (to a reader) and, if a catchphrase would be appropriate for your characters, to choose one that fits them well.

 

This World and Others –

Questions to Ask your Characters

This is by no means a definitive list. I’m sure you’ll think of other questions to ask!

One great thing about this topic is that it is a timeless one! (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?

What do you really want and why?

What stops you getting what you really want?

Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?

How are you going to achieve your objectives?

Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?

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. 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?).

What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?

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?).

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!).

Does fear of or respect for others hold you back from achieving your objectives? How do you feel about this?

What are you like under pressure?
Now if answering those questions doesn’t generate story ideas, I’d be very surprised!

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Celebrating Writing

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

A very big thank you to Paula Readman, Debz Brown, and Dawn Kentish Knox for kind permission to use their photos which were taken during the Bridge House Publishing celebration event.

Facebook – General

On my way to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event as I draft this post at 7.30 am on Saturday, 7th December 2019. Not going to see much of the lovely Hampshire countryside this time – it’s pitch black still and will be again on the way home.

Am happily ensconced in a comfy seat plugged in and listening to Classic FM as I write. Generally I find classical music soothing unless they put on the 1812 Overture when I have to resist the urge to use my stylus as a conductor’s baton! You’ve heard of air guitar. This is my equivalent!😀

When I get to read my stories publicly, I like to pick a mixture of tales in terms of length and mood. For today’s event I’ve picked short humorous (which can also be used as a description for yours truly!), a mid-range fantasy with a twist, and a crime tale. Hope they go down well. Will be writing the event up for CFT for next Friday.

What I am looking forward to most is meeting up with my fellow writers. It will be fun!

And the pics below prove it was fun!

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Loved the Bridge House event yesterday. Got home shattered but happy – always a sign of a good event, that! Many thanks to Paula Readman and Russell for the group pic of us holding up the books we were in this year. It’s a smashing photo. And this gives me the perfect excuse to repeat showing it!

Was very happy with my work during the day too. Drafted my FB and Goodreads blogs on the way up to London, posted them on the way home. Drafted two new flash fiction stories and wrote a reasonable section for a non-fiction book I’m working on as well. On getting home I started drafting my CFT post for this week so plenty of writing done I’m pleased to say. Naturally I came home with books to read too…

I do love Evernote and a smartphone! Even better was being on a train where I could keep my phone charged up as I actually had a power socket! (I know, I know, writers can be pleased by strange things indeed but I’ve been on too many trains where there is no power socket for phone charging or, worse, where there were some and they’ve been blanked out so I don’t take this kind of thing for granted!).

It was also lovely to chat to different people during the speed “dating” exercise at the event yesterday. Books, whether writing or reading them (or both), are a great conversational ice breaker. (Many thanks also to Dawn Kentish Knox for the pic of me reading from From Light to Dark and Back Again).

Oh and the Christmas tree at Waterloo was lovely. More pics in my CFT post later in the week.

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Am enjoying singing along with the carols on Classic FM. Lady doesn’t really know what to make of it all though… 😀😀 – mind you, she does love Christmas. For a household with a collie in it, there is no such thing as left over turkey! And we get to go on post-Christmas walkies, which always goes down well – with Lady at least.

One of the nice things about coming back from events like the Bridge House one on Saturday is I can be sure of being “mugged” by the dog (demanding a big cuddle, how dare you go away, Mum!) on my return home! (Lady has almost followed me on to the train to Swanwick before now!).

I’ll be writing about Friends and Traditions for my CFT post this week. The Bridge House event has become a tradition for me and it involves lots of friends so win-win there! Link up on Friday. (I’ll also be looking at the benefits of meeting up with other writers).

Oh and I was delighted to find one fellow Bridge House author, #LindaPayne, is a fellow fan of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Another instant topic of conversation right there!

I remember being a very nervous newbie when I went to my first writing event aeons ago. Now, I can hardly wait for my favourites to come around. What has helped here? Why, making writer friends of course. It makes a huge difference. And I’ve always found that when you meet up again, you continue your conversations as if there hadn’t been a break of months or what have you since you last spoke directly.

There is so much much to enjoy about writing and this is one aspect of that. All hugely encouraging too and we all need encouragement on a regular basis.

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A very wet day (as Lady would testify if she could) and I spent a lot of it fervently wishing my glasses came with mini windscreen wipers!

I don’t tend to use the weather much in my stories as, if I wish to add atmosphere to a story, I can usually do it in some other way. If I want to show my characters under stress, there are usually better ways of doing it.

I tend to save the weather for when the story wouldn’t make sense if it wasn’t brought in. That way I can avoid parody (“it was a dark and stormy night”, anyone?) and any description of the weather is kept to the minimum I need to achieve my objective.

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction lends itself well to being read publicly and also gives an instant demonstration of what flash is. Its brevity is its strongest selling point. Not got enough time to read?

Well, you can read a 50 or 100 worder quickly enough! See it as a great way to enjoy a fiction fix! A good friend has described it as a bus stop read, which is a great way of summing it up as well as suggesting where you can read it!

I love to read shorter fiction in between novels too. Flash fiction is the story form you can enjoy between “meals” of longer works without ruining your appetite for long or short fiction! Anyone else out there who remembers the old Milky Way advert?!

 

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A story comes to life for me when the lead character comes to life. For flash fiction, that has pretty much got to happen in the opening couple of lines. I try to do this by:-

1. Giving an intriguing situation the character has to solve and you want to find out how the character does it.

2. Take you inside the character’s head immediately and something about their attitude/thoughts will make you want to read on.

3. In my Punish the Innocent, I use a letter format to show my lead character addressing “their” reader and by opening with powerful lines. “Dear Sarah, They say the perfect crime is where the criminal doesn’t get caught. Wrong.” Again I’m seeking to intrigue a reader here into wanting to find out if my letter writer is right or not and if THEY’VE committed the perfect crime as their line clearly implies they think they have. It is the “got to know what happens here” scenario and if there was a kind of holy grail for writers, I would say that was it.

So basically then my way into a story is via an intriguing character or intriguing situation. The ideal, of course, is to have both but often (and I’ve found this in works I’ve read by other writers too), you don’t always realise how intriguing a character is until you have got to end of the story.

After all, if you take A Christmas Carol, you would hardly warm to Scrooge if you only read the first page or two, would you? There has to be something to make you want to read on and it is only at the end of that Christmas classic, you have got to see the depths of the real Ebenezer. In flash fiction, you have to do that much more quickly but it is a fun challenge!

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I sometimes write one liner flash fiction stories. (These are great for the 25 words and under competitions/markets). One of the stories I drafted in London on Saturday was one of these. I saw the potential for expanding it and did so! I’ve got work to do on it but the character comes across better in the longer version so I will stick with that.

The flexibility of flash here is one of its strengths I think. If I want to I can still submit the one line version but to a different, appropriate market for that word count.

At other times I will look at my one line stories again and realise they are best left as they are. But this is added reason to put work aside for a while before coming back to it. You need distance to be able to assess whether something would work at a longer word count than the version you originally came up with.

The deciding factors are whether the character is strong enough for their story to be expanded at all and does that character benefit from this.

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Thought it would be nice to share a story tonight. Hope you enjoy it.

WHAT THE NEIGHBOURS THINK
Had the neighbours seen the appearance of a witch in the huge chestnut tree?
Mary fervently hoped not. She also hoped they hadn’t seen her frantically wave at the witch indicating exactly where she could go. Back into the sky on that dodgy looking broomstick and away from Mary.
What is it about me that attracts the oddballs?
Mary poured herself a cup of tea and added a decent amount of brandy to it. She felt in need of it.
Even by her standards, the appearance of a witch was unusual. Annoyingly it was nowhere near Halloween so Mary couldn’t pretend it was one of the neighbourhood kids taking a prank that bit too far.
Looking again out of her kitchen window, Mary sighed with relief. The witch had gone. Mary turned back to her tea only to discover she now had company in her kitchen.
‘Well, aren’t you going to make me a cup of tea then, sister?’
Mary grimaced. She now knew where the witch was.

ENDS.
Allison Symes

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Goodreads Author Blog – What Reading Does For Me

Hmmm….where to start on this one!

1. Reading helps me escape. It doesn’t matter if the day is a good one or not – when I get to read I get to switch off.

2. Reading shows me worlds, real and fantastical, and expands my horizons. You can’t know everything, no one person could, but books are a brilliant way of expanding your knowledge. They can help you develop new interests too.

3. Reading inspires my own writing. I see what other authors do with their characters and think well I would have written them this way instead because… and off I go with my own tales.

4. Reading non-fiction expands your general knowledge. Handy if you like quizzes!

5. Reading expands your vocabulary. Handy if you love word games as It do.

6. People will never run out of present ideas for the book lovers in their lives!

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Summer Reports/Flash Fiction Tips

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Writing my CFT post this week about Summer Reports brought back many memories. I can report that when I left school, they then went and closed it! Hmm…

Also, do you remember having to put your chair on your desk as the picture shows? (As ever most of the images in this post are from Pixabay, captions on the CFT post). (And yes I do remember the days of school milk. It was either horribly luke warm or ice cold and not in a good way).

Summer is a good time to take stock as there is still enough time left in the year to set a few goals and have a good attempt at achieving them. And that doesn’t just apply to writers either.

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Am finding the muggy weather a bit of a trial as is Lady. Doesn’t slow the writing down, though it DOES slow me down! This is where I’m glad writing is not a sport in any way, shape or form! Currently at desk with French window open, listening to classical music. Bliss!

I used to write in total silence, then I moved to music (pop and rock) but found the mood of the songs could affect what I wrote (which was fine when I wanted that and a pain when not).

I don’t know quite what it is about classical but it doesn’t have that effect. It just soothes me and once in a relaxed state of mind, off I go and write and drop my characters into some enjoyable mayhem. (Well, enjoyable to me that is. Definitely not for them but they’re not meant to enjoy it! Nobody said the life of a character in a story had to be easy, far from it. Where is the drama in that?!).

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My CFT post this week will be Summer Reports. I look back at my school reports (they closed my school after I left – am not kidding!), suggest what a good report should do, and give a writing report on myself too. (That alone should tell you I think it’s been a good year!). Link up on Friday.

I will add now though that a good report, as well as writing successes, should always spur you on to greater efforts!

So happy writing and good luck for future endeavours!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

How about an A to Z of flash fiction writing tips? I’ll be holding my breath seeing what I come up with for Q as well but here goes…

A – Alliteration in your titles can make them memorable. (Examples from me are Telling the Time and The Truth, though I haven’t consciously singled out the letter T for alliteration usage, honest!).

B – Backstory. Not a lot of room for this in flash fiction but what you can do is hint at it and leave readers to fill in the rest.

C – Characters. Couldn’t really be anything else. Characters drive the story, regardless of its length. It will be the characters readers remember and either love or love to loathe.

D – Dialogue. Again not a lot of room in flash fiction so keep it to the point. For any story dialogue has to earn its place by moving the story on or revealing information the reader needs to know (and it can be both). This is even more important in flash fiction.

E – Episodes. Yes, you can write linked flash fiction where either one character features in more than one story or they are referred to in another tale. I didn’t do this in From Light to Dark and Back Again but have played with this in my third flash fiction collection (currently in draft form) and it is good fun.

More next time…

Advantages to writing one line stories:-

1. They can be expanded later for a longer flash fiction story/standard short story (1500 words+).

2. Easy to share on a FB post or on Twitter!

3. Great practice in honing your editing skills.

4. They’re the ultimate proof, I think, people DO have time to read. Come on, how many people really can’t spare the time to read one line?

5. They can make a great introduction to the wider ranges of flash fiction formats.

6. They can “break up” longer flash stories in a collection. I like a mixture of word count flash stories in a book (no surprises there, I know!).

7. Playing with words is fun and coming up with different styles of stories keeps you on your toes as a writer. That includes varying your word count ranges. Varying your word count ranges will increase the number of competitions/markets you can try.

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Top tips for flash fiction writers:-

1. Read plenty of flash fiction yourself. You’ll get a feel for what you like and dislike and you see what is already out there. Where can your work fit in?

2. Engage with other flash fiction writers at writing conferences etc. No one person knows all the markets and competitions out there (and new ones spring up which may well be worth investigating).

3. It is lovely when YOU can pass the word on about a useful market/competition. What goes around does come around. I can’t stress enough that supporting other writers is not only a kind thing to do, it is a hugely sensible one. Partly because as mentioned in 2 above, others can tell you things you didn’t know (including on the scams that happen – it pays to be aware), which may help your own career but mainly because writing is a lonely profession. When all that seems to come in are rejections, you will be glad of the support of other writers who know exactly that this is like.

4. Experiment across the word count ranges and see what suits you best. You may find your niche at 250, 50, 1000, or pretty much in between.

5. Do send work into competitions regularly. It helps you hone your skills. As an aside to this, read winning entries, especially when accompanied by judge’s comments as you can learn so much from those.

6. Write, write, write. Edit, edit, edit!

Fairytales with Bite –

Ten Things I look for in a Good Story

I suspect there won’t be any great surprises here but each one should be a challenge to all of us to ensure we keep doing these!

  1. Characters I love or love to loathe. They’ve got to be memorable.

  2. Situations which are critical for the characters. They’ve got to strive for something important.

  3. A setting I would love to visit! (Anyone fancy a trip to The Shire in The Lord of  the Rings? Mordor, I’d be happy to miss!).

  4. Great pace.  Absolutely no boring bits!

  5. It’s a story I’d be happy to re-read at any time and enjoy it all over again.

  6. Humour, where apt for the story and the characters. I have a very soft spot for irony.

  7. Tragedy, when necessary as it often is, not to be overdone. (I think tragedy has much more of an impact when it does not become melodrama).

  8. Snappy dialogue.

  9. Catchphrases I can remember – and enjoy doing so.

  10. The story shows me something of the human condition which I’d either not considered before or reaffirms something. Funny stories can do this surprisingly well.

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This World and Others – Summer Reports

I look at Summer Reports in my CFT post this week and discuss, amongst other things, what a good report should do, irrespective of whether someone is academic or not. I also give a summer writing update for me!

But from a writing viewpoint, what reports could you write, for whom, and how could they help you?

1.  Character Reports
I use Scrivener and in their story template they have outlines for characters (and settings) which you can fill in with as much or little detail as you want.  You can of course create your own, but I have found these enormously useful in working out what my characters are really made of and, therefore, I write them with more conviction. I hope they come across that way too! So writing a report on  your characters can help you discover things about them, help you give depth to how you portray them and so on.

2. Report on your Story
I find it useful as part of the editing process to look at the story as if I hadn’t written it and was discovering it for the first time as a reader would. I look at what my overall impressions are, what I think worked well and, as importantly, what didn’t! The crucial thing is to be totally honest here, otherwise this idea won’t do anything for you.

Sometimes my “report” here is just a series of notes such as Character A comes across well, they’ve got great humour, but where do their flaws come in? Is Character A too perfect? Once you’ve made notes like this, put the story and the notes aside for a while. Re-read the story after a week. Look at your notes and see if you still think the same.

If you have trusted beta readers available, this is where they could be invaluable but total honesty about what works and what doesn’t is key here. Keep in mind you want to produce a story that is as good as you can make it. If several people tell you something doesn’t work, take this seriously. If one says that, then it could just be opinion and you will then need to decide if it has weight or not.

So reports then are useful to a writer but honesty is key. I can’t stress that enough.

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Bluebells, Beautiful Books, Ants, and Editing

Hmm… now there’s this week’s contender from me for Unique Blog Title!

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Bluebells out all over the place at the moment. It’s always great taking Lady out for her walks but this time of year is special. Not that she appreciates the local fauna. If it’s a convenient place for her to have a wee break, that’s precisely what she’ll do! (No. She hasn’t weed on the bluebells. Have had couple of close calls though).

I don’t tend to write much about nature partly because flash fiction is not the place for lots of lovely descriptions! I prefer to get my characters up and running quickly within their setting.

The weather, the nature of the area my characters are in are gaps for readers to fill in, though the clues are there. In my The Haunting my character is trying to get rid of a hated umbrella that somehow is managing NOT to be got rid of. The implication there is the weather must be reasonably okay. You don’t dump a brolly on a wet day generally. I don’t specifically spell that out but there’s no need to do so.

I’ve found it useful when outlining to work out what the reader HAS to know, ensure that gets put into the story, and get on with the action of said tale. It is all down to selecting what is the most important thing(s) for the reader to know. Often in flash fiction there will be room for one or two things. The trick is to ensure what you can’t put in can be implied in other ways.

Bluebells in Knightwood

Bluebells on a local walk.  Stunning sight.  And this is just a short section of them too.  Image by Allison Symes

When do you know you’ve finished editing a piece?

When you’ve put it away for a while, come back to it and read it, and can’t think of a single thing to change. Also that it has the impact on you that you wanted it to achieve.

Does that always take longer to achieve than you originally hoped?

Oh yes!

Went for a wonderful walk with better half and Lady to round off Bank Holiday Monday. The bluebells were amazing (though frankly I was far more interested than the dog was. Lady didn’t wee on them tonight so I guess that is a plus!).

I remember thinking ages ago that I’d use walking time to work out ideas for stories/articles/blog posts etc. I haven’t done that once! This is partly due to being far too interested (aka nosey) in what is going on around me including, tonight, trying to spot the noisy woodpecker who was clearly doing some DIY. (How apt for a bank holiday weekend!). The other reason is, of course, Lady and the need to keep an eye on her though, if she thinks she needs attention, she’ll give you a nudge with her nose.

But a break away from the desk does refresh the mind and the spirit and that feeds into my writing, so that’s okay. Pleased to say I sent off some submissions over the weekend and made good progress on my novel. Onwards and upwards!

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Enjoyed listening to the new Hall of Fame on Classic FM over the weekend. Mixed bag of results from my votes.

Jupiter (The Planet Suite) – Holst – down 18

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis – Vaughan Williams – non-mover

BUT

Danse Macabre – Saint Saens – (the wonderful piece I use for my book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back again went up a whopping 50 places. It was also used as the theme to Jonathan Creek to great effect).

I love music which conjures up a mood or in the case of the VW piece seems to take you back in time. Perfect background music as I work out what to do with my next batch of flash fiction characters. Will they meet a horrid end? Will I put them in humorous set-ups? Ah! The joy of creating!


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Do you use spider diagrams for working out story ideas? I do sometimes. They can be useful for working out variations on the “what if” question so you can decide which is the strongest to write up.

I like to start with a potential character name and a bizarre situation (but then I love reading and writing quirky fiction). I work out how the character could’ve ended up being in that situation before going on to work out how they get out of it. The nice thing with this sort of planning is I just need rough ideas at this stage.

If Character X is going to end up on Mars with a limited oxygen supply, then logic dictates they’re either going to be rescued or die. For me, the story there is how they got dumped there and above all, why. So a spider diagram for that could be something like this:-

Character X brags, is pain in backside etc – demands lead position on next space exploration. (Motive here immediately)
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Character X has been driving Character Y mad for years without being aware of it. Character Y is a quiet soul and for once would like an uneventful space trip. (More motive here).
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Character Y pushes Character X out of the space capsule and heads off, knowing Character X would insist on leaving the capsule first. Character X would swear profusely at this point but realises the need to save as much energy and oxygen as possible.

That is very rough but you get the idea. Must admit though spider diagrams for me look better when drawn out on paper!

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Editing is a crucial skill whatever you write but writing flash fiction is a great way to improve what you do here.

I’ve found I’ve got into the mindset of looking at phrases to double check they make as much of an impact as possible in the fewest possible words once I’ve carried out an initial typo/grammatical error edit.

Often a tweak or two will (a) reduce the word count and (b) strengthen what it was I wanted to say. You never come out with the exact wording immediately. Well, I don’t anyway. Usually a stronger adjective than the one I’d originally chosen will increase the impact of that particular sentence.

It’s a great weight off my mind to know I don’t have to get it right on the first go!

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Managed to submit three flash fiction pieces over the weekend so pleased with that. Would like to try and get more out this coming weekend. I try to carve out a specific writing slot for sending submissions out and weekends tend to be my best time for this.

It always pays to double check submission requirements given these vary from market to market/competition to competition. There have been times I’ve been cross with myself for spotting a typo after I’ve submitted a piece. And that’s despite editing on paper, putting work aside for a while so I come back to the piece with fresh eyes etc The one comfort I take from things like that is this happens. It happens to a lot of writers at some point.

What I don’t want to ever happen is for a piece to fail because I missed something on the submission requirements. To date, it has never happened. So help me, it never will. It really does pay to take extra time to ensure you have got everything spot on here. Don’t rush this aspect.

I’ve found it useful to take at least a week off the official deadline of any competition etc to give me that breathing space I need to ensure everything is as perfect as I can make it. (I usually take two weeks off in fact). Give yourself time and space.

Time to have some fun with the random word generator again. I used a as the start letter and t as the final one and selected six words. These were:-

achievement
account
argument
ant
accept
announcement

Let’s see what can be done with these (and I won’t count the title as one of the words).

ACHIEVEMENT

The ant was of little account in the grand scheme of things. She was just one of thousands of worker ants whose greatest achievement would be to ensure the survival of their colony. There was no room for argument. Her role was her role and that was that. It was best to accept this. Everyone knew a sole ant would never survive long outside of the protection of the colony. For the colony to work, everyone had to fit in with their alloted roles. So when the announcement came the queen ant had died, there was consternation. There would be no more ants. No more worker ants like her. Not in this colony.

Ends

Allison Symes – 23rd April 2019

This is almost certainly the tiniest character I’ve created and is likely to remain so!

But have fun with random word generators and see where they take you. They can be great ways of triggering fresh story ideas.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Beautiful Books

I love books in all their different forms, of course, but I do appreciate the art in a really good book cover.

Difficult to say what my favourite cover is but I must say I love the children’s editions of the Harry Potter series and the original Discworld covers.

I don’t get the tendency to produce plainer covers for “grown ups”. Blow that. I want escapism in a good book and the cover has got to entice me in. A plain black or grey cover with sensible lettering just isn’t going to do it for yours truly.

I also appreciate beautiful bindings. I inherited my late mother’s collection of hardback Dickens (all in green with gold lettering) and they are a joy to look at. They are even more of a joy to read! I also have a fab Agatha Christie collection (red hardbacks with gold lettering). Great stories but my enjoyment is enhanced when I can appreciate the physicality of a book. (This is where the Kindle DOES lose out to “proper” books).

At the end of the day, it is the story which matters most of all, naturally. But I’m all for getting as much enjoyment out of a book as possible and beautiful covers and production standards can make books very special indeed.

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Story Changes

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Can a story change you? Yes. My view of Richard III was changed by Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time. I discovered the wonder of irony in fiction thanks to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

And this doesn’t just apply to books either. One of my favourite Doctor Who episodes is the Matt Smith one about Vincent Van Gogh. Beautifully done – and one of those Who stories you wish was true. Do check it out. I see there’s a thread elsewhere on FB today on this, which is what brought this topic to mind. The episode, Vincent, bears repeated viewing too and loses none of its emotional impact.

And, as ever, the impact of any story is all down to the character. They’ve got to be strong enough (even when they’re vulnerable and weak) to make us want to root for them.

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What do I like most about writing non-fiction such as my CFT posts?

It’s the creativity involved in it. Okay that creativity is based on research but I still need to present my posts in ways I hope will be entertaining to others. It’s a different challenge to fiction where I’ve got to make up characters that will hopefully convince readers these people are “real enough” for them to want to read on to find out what happens to them.

I like the mix of writing here. Keeps me on my toes and I’m never short of things to write!

Sent off my competition entry yesterday. It’s so nice being able to submit work online. I am from the days when everything had to go via the post and I can’t imagine the amount of post and time I’m saving in being able to send things in electronically now!

Where the post is still wonderful is when you receive your copies of your book through your door! Nothing beats that feeling. There, delivery online doesn’t have quite the same feel about it!

Am working on non-fiction projects and my next flash fiction collection so plenty to keep me occupied. My CFT post will be looking at playing with words and form. More on that later in the week.

What is it about your characters you like the most? For me it’s all about their approach to life. I’ve always had a soft spot for those awkward characters who will question authority, point out its faults, do something to rectify said faults, and land in trouble as a result. (They always do land in trouble).

I also love the characters that never give up, no matter what, and the ones determined to prove themselves. Fairytales are full of these kinds of characters and rightly so. They can be inspiring. (Sometimes they can act as a warning!).

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One useful way to reduce word count for your flash fiction is to use words with more than one meaning. Readers then pick up the meaning you want to use from the context of the rest of the story.

For example, the word “muppet” can be used as an insult as in ‘Oi, you muppet” or it can be used as a reference to Jim Henson’s wonderful creations, as in “my favourite muppet was Miss Piggy”. (Still is incidentally!).

A good double meaning word will lend itself to puns which can be great ways to end a story too.

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I love funny flash fiction as it makes its impact quickly and generates a good belly laugh as an instinctive reaction. Mind, that’s the kind of instinctive reaction you want!

The impact is nearly always down to the closing line and the challenge is to come up with a powerful punch to end the story.

But a lot of fun can be had in setting up an oddball situation and letting the humour come out of that. (The advantage here is the humour won’t feel forced. It really will arise naturally).

I loved choosing the music for the book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I went for Danse Macabre, which was also used as the theme to Jonathan Creek. Danse Macabre is quirky music, which suits my stories well, but I try not to be influenced by music while I write.

I’ve found classical just relaxes me. Rock and pop can and has affected my mood while writing. It’s difficult, I think, to write a tender love scene, say, when you’ve got Highway to Hell blasting out on the radio. (Good image though, yes?!).

So I think I’ll stick to Beethoven’s 5th or the 1812 Overture when I want something really loud that won’t affect what I write!

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Some of the most recent writing prompts in my diary have included:-

1. Writing about a pancake being tossed.

2. Writing about a spring flower (picture provided!).

3. Writing a description of Persephone leaving the underworld.

4. Writing about Demeter’s feelings as she watches Persephone return to the underworld.

And coming up soon will be the challenges to write about:-

1. An Easter egg hunt

2. Using a Shakespeare quote to get started on a piece.

3. Listing words describing a train journey and using all of the senses.

4. Listing favourite foods and using all the senses to describe preparing and eating them.

I’ve really enjoyed the prompts I’ve written to so far and looking forward to the others. What I like best is the real mix. And there’s nothing to stop you using your own photos to spark ideas here. The important thing is to have fun here!

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Goodreads Author BlogTitles

How important is a story title to you?

I have mixed feelings on this one. With my reader’s hat on, a good title will draw me in but it generally isn’t what makes me buy the book. That is down to whether I like the blurb and opening paragraph.

Sometimes it’s down to whether I’ve read the author before and know I am likely to enjoy the new one (though I always check the blurb and opening paragraph out.).

With my writer’s hat on, I’m looking for titles which will convey the mood of my story and draw readers in. This is particularly useful for my genre, flash fiction, where every word has to “punch its weight”. A good title here can save a lot of words in the overall count and let your readers know what to expect.

When writing, I usually start with the title as I need a peg to hang the story from but I have changed titles as and when I need to, given sometimes a better one comes to me as I write. I just need a starting point.

When reading, if a title is really good, by the end of the story it will be apparent as to how well it suits the tale. You won’t be able to imagine a better or different one. When a writer feels like that about their title, they’ve got the job done!

Oh and this applies to non-fiction books and articles just as much as fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INFLUENCES – AND A LIFE WELL LIVED

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There are some posts you really don’t want to write but know are coming and you write them as a way of expressing apprecation for a life well lived.

My tribute to Barbara Large, MBE, who founded the Winchester Writers’ Festival and Hampshire Writers’ Society, comes into that category.

I cannot think of anyone else who has done so much to support and encourage so many writers in our area. Barbara will be much missed.

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Glad to say I’ll be having a new story up on Cafelit in a couple of days’ time. Will share the link. Do drop by and visit the site. There’s a wonderful range of stories on there in terms of mood, setting etc.

I must admit one reason I’ve developed a real love for classical music is its breadth of style and mood. Am currently listening to The Planet Suite by Gustav Holst. Bliss! I find classical helps me relax and when I relax I write. I wonder though what inspired him to use the planets as inspiration for his music. What matters in the end though was that he did!

However you get your inspiration for story ideas, keep going! Try to produce something as special as you can. One of the great things about writing and reading is, regardless of anything else, it adds richness to your life.

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My CFT post this week will be an appreciation of Barbara Large, who founded the Winchester Writers’ Festival as it is now known. When I first went, it was under the name of Winchester Writers’ Conference. So many writers have learned so much here (and plenty have been published as a result too) and it is all down to Barbara’s vision and her drive to make that vision happen. Link up on Friday.

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Am currently drafting a 750 word story but also want to have another go at the 75 word ones!

I do love the freedom flash fiction gives you. Yes, there is a strict word count but you can choose what it is to a certain extent. There are markets for 75 words, 25 words, 100 words etc etc.

Have recently discovered a possible one to try which goes for 53 words, yes 53. New one on me but may well give it a go! Mixes things up nicely though. Now to find the time… (There are times I really could use Hermione Granger’s time turner device).

Tips for finding your character’s voice:-

1. Write a short scene and just dump the character in it. What is their FIRST reaction? It can be exactly how you’d react. It could be the exact opposite. But once you know what that reaction is, you will have a good idea of their general attitude and approach. You will have that in mind as you write your story.

2. Ask yourself questions about your character. For example, what are their political beliefs? If they don’t have any, what do they believe in and why? Get your character to explain themselves to you! Interviewing your character can be a great way of producing an outline for the story and helping you discover hidden depths to your people. Most of that may not go into your story but you will write with more conviction because YOU know what your people are really like.

I suspect one of the major reasons for the increasing popularity of flash fiction is due to how easy it is to read on a screen, regardless of the latter’s size. The drive in technology, especially mobiles, tablets etc, has helped flash fiction spread. Naturally I’m all for that.

My hope is reluctant readers will be tempted in by an easy read on a screen and then go on to read longer works later. I was saddened though by a recent FB cartoon showing people poking and prodding at a book, not knowing what it was. I only wish I could be certain that would never happen!

But online markets give writers more opportunities to get their work out there. I would far rather people read online than not read at all.

Talking of online reading, I’ll have a new story up on Cafelit on 16th March. Will share the link once I have it. Keep reading!

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Fairytales With Bite – Influences and a Life Well Lived

My CFT post this week pays tribute to the late Barbara Large, MBE, who founded the Winchester Writers’ Festival (as it is now known) and the Hampshire Writers’ Society. I cannot think of anyone else who has done so much to help so many writers over so many years.  She will be much missed.  I first met Barbara many years ago and her encouragement made a huge difference.  So many writers will say the same (including the children’s author, Anne Wan, whom I’ve also interviewed for CFT).

Influences matter to a writer and can make all the difference to whether someone keeps going or gives up.  This applies to our characters too.  What influences are your characters under or swayed by?  Are they positive ones?  If there are negative influences about, what do your characters do to fight that?

Barbara’s life was very much a life well lived and that is something we should all aspire to do.

As for our characters, what do you want your people to aspire to be?  What drives them?  What gets in their way?  Answer those questions and you have the very essence of a good, drama driven story.  And isn’t that what we all want for our books and stories?

Image Credit:  A big thank you to children’s author, Anne Wan, for supplying the images of Barbara Large.  It has been a real pleasure to interview both ladies for CFT at varying points.

This World and Others – The A to Z of Story Essentials

The great thing with an A to Z post is it gives you an instant framework! So my A to Z of story essentials (to be shared over the next couple of weeks or so) includes the following.

A = Action – without this there is no story.  Something has to happen!

B = Belief – this can be the belief of the character, the beliefs held by the world in which they’re set or both of course.  The lead character has to have belief in what they are doing to be able to follow it through.

C = Credible Characters – there has to be characters a reader can get behind, whether it is to cheer them on, or hope said characters fail.  (It is cathartic to boo on the villain!).  We should be able to understand why your characters are the way they are/acting the way they are even if we don’t necessarily agree with them.

D = Dialogue – also has to be convincing.  Accents and dialects are best used sparingly.  The odd word will give enough of a flavour of the relevant accent/dialect without overdoing it.  Dialogue in characters should sound natural (read it out loud to see if it does flow well.  If not, edit!)

E = Editing – this is the writer’s friend, honestly.  Nobody produces a perfect draft first go.  Shakespeare didn’t.  Dickens didn’t.  We’re not going to either.  But put work aside for a while so you can come back to it and look at it with a fresh eye.  Remember editing is not just about spotting the typos and grammatical errors.  There should be structural and story edits to ensure the structure and the story holds together and works the way they should.

More next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twists, Trailers, and Judging Your Own Work

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Lovely night out at a local pub/restaurant. Good opportunities for people watching! (You never know when something said or what someone wears will strike you as a good idea for your own characters).

Have earned my first royalties on my published works, many thanks to #GillJames and Chapeltown Books for such hard work here. Glad to say will need to put in an order for From Light to Dark and Back Again before too long.

Have confirmed I will be going to a big Book Fair later in the year. More details later but am looking forward to this.

 

 

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Book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAllison.Symes.FairytaleLady%2Fvideos%2F1236887723080871%2F&show_text=0&width=560

I’ve put up the book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again on my main writing page as I was thinking of my choices in this year’s Hall of Fame that Classic FM put on at the Easter weekend.

Danse Macabre by Saint Saens was one of them. I came across it when I watched the TV series Jonathan Creek but it struck me as being the perfect piece for my book trailer. Quirky music for quirky fiction!

I nearly always do have classical on when writing. It relaxes me and I write better when in a good state of mind. It also has the huge advantage of using up zero calories (sadly, the odd glass of prosecco and bar of chocolate cannot claim that! Sighs…. there really is some fantasy that is unlikely to be realised!😁).

 

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Why do I like twist ending stories so much? For one thing, I like guessing at the ending. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m not.

A really good twist tale will make me admire the way it was set up and carried out (even if I did guess the outcome). An even better one not only surprises me with the way it turns out, but makes me go back through the story to look for the clues I clearly missed in the first place. I then berate myself for having missed them!

 

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When do you know your story, of whatever length, has really “taken off”? For me, it is when the characters come to life. You know (though almost certainly won’t say in the story) what they have for breakfast, what their major traits are, and what they’d be like in a fight – just to name a few random examples!

I find outlining a character before I write “for” them really helpful (and this is one reason I love Scrivener. The character and setting outlines in the fiction – short story option are amazing. The great thing is you can adapt them with anything you feel you want to jot down before you write the story itself).

For my flash tales, I prepare a brief outline (appropriately!) but I just need to know what my character is really like. Sometimes “awkward but brave” is enough to get me started on a character.

 

 

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Flash fiction takes at least as much crafting as any other type of story because of the need to get the story across in as few words as possible. There is a balance to be struck here between the needs of the writer getting their story down and the editor ensuring the story comes in at the right word count.

I’ve found that it never pays to do the two writing tasks together. I get the story down and worry about editing later.

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I’ve talked about classical music on my main writing page tonight and why I used Danse Macabre for my book trailer theme for From Light to Dark and Back Again.

Do I have music in my mind when I write my stories? No, but I can often think along the lines that Character X would be a huge fan of rock or Character Y would love opera and so on. Thinking about what a character’s tastes would be is a great way of helping you to bring them to life on the page and, from a reader viewpoint, a very easy way to tell characters apart.

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Sometimes you’re not always the best judge of your own work, but it is always good to know you are not alone here.

Spoiler alert!

I’ve been listening to Classic FM’s Hall of Fame and the 1812 Overture is the new No.1. Listening to it now in fact. Love the piece. Its composer,Tchaikovsky, however thought it had no artistic merit. Well, how wrong can you be? Quite a bit as it turns out!

I’ve found when looking through my stories, I’ve got to allow some time to pass between writing them and editing. I’ve got to come back to the pieces as if I’d not seen them before. It’s the only way I know to be objective about what I’ve written.

And it’s nice to know sometimes you can be wrong about your own work when you’re negative about it and others like it!

Classic music can make a classic filmMusic, whether writing it or playing it or both, is just one form of creativity - image via PixabayWriting, whether it is fiction or otherwise, is a wonderful way to create something new - image via Pixabayonce-upon-a-time-via PixabayOne joy of blogging is ease of publication via Pixabay

 

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Flash fiction can be great for brief character sketches which give you a glimpse into that character’s life. My Pen Portrait is an example of this. What I’ve revealed in this tells you all you need to know about my heroine, Mary. The final line also shows something of her nature.

So what would you convey in a flash fiction piece like this given you haven’t the room for backstory as such? Just enough information to tell you what you need to know (in Pen Portrait you need to know what Mary’s job is) and leave enough “space” for your readers to fill in the gaps. In Pen Portrait, Mary has found a way of avoiding causing embarrassment to one of her neighbours but I don’t tell you why this is important to her. That’s for you to figure out!

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I love listening to classical music as I write my flash fiction. So what has this got to do with books and stories generally?

Firstly, I find classical music relaxes me and so I write more easily. Secondly a great piece of music can help you envisage the world you create. If it is vivid for you, as it should be, it will be vivid for your reader.

Reading, however, whether it is my work or not, is carried out in silence. I don’t want music distracting me. Besides, my main reading time is just before I sleep! Definitely not time for something like the 1812 Overture (much as I love that!).

Music can convey so much. There have been some truly amazing film scores which can enhance the original story. I’m particularly thinking of the score for The Lord of the Rings trilogy here. Fabulous and fantastic story. The music for the film version reflected those aspects well, I thought.

Sometimes I can hear a piece of music and it will make me immediately think of a story. I hear Danse Macabre by Saint Saens and think of the stories in my From Light to Dark and Back Again as this great piece was used for my book trailer. I hear a Bond theme and I think of the film first but without the books by Fleming in the first place, there would be no movies.

It is quite nice to think that a creative work such a book leads to a film and in turn leads to wonderful music being created for that. What can the stories we read and write to lead to ultimately, I wonder? Well, it should be fun trying to find out!

BEING CREATIVE

There’s a definite theme tonight!  (Sometimes I don’t plan that, a theme emerges from the different things I’m writing but this theme was planned and is inspired by my wondering if, when you’ve been creating works such as stories for some time, do you still appreciate the joy of doing so?  Anyway, more to follow).

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This week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post talks about creativity being good for you. It is too!

Being creative has proven health benefits (mentally and physically) and my post talks about that and why creativity is a wonderful thing.

I do sometimes wonder if we appreciate it enough at times (which is my inspiration for writing this post). Whether you bake cakes, write stories, play music or what have you, if you have been doing this for a long time, can you end up taking the joy of creating these things for granted?

I think so and I hope my post helps to give us all a renewed sense of enjoyment about what we do creatively.

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My CFT post this week will be on the theme of creativity being good for you. And it is – mentally and physically. I feel much better once I’ve completed something creative during the day – whether it is flash fiction, a Facebook post (😀), or baking a cake.

The nice thing about creativity is anyone can join in and you can find your own level where you want to be. For those wanting to develop creative skills further, there are courses, online as well as the traditional evening classes/OU etc. I’ve found that though my major creative interest is in writing, I have a greater appreciation of all of the arts, music especially.

I also think if you are involved in one art form, you have an appreciation of the hard work that goes unseen behind others. I learned years ago that if a piece of writing looks easy to read then you can bet that author worked their socks off to get it to that point. (Other hosiery accessories are available!).

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What is the most helpful aspect of a book review? To be fair, there is more than one! There is obviously the publicity aspect but when people have said what they liked, or what they felt didn’t work so well, that has been what I’ve found most useful to know.

Okay nobody is going to please all of the people all of the time and there are many sound reasons not to even try doing that, but a general consensus does mean you are on the right lines (or not, as the case may be!).

Incidentally I can vouch for the fact Dawn, Paula and I do all appreciate the reviews we have had for books where our stories have appeared!

Paula Readman, Dawn Kentish Knox and Allison Symes and books - with kind permission from Paula Readman - Copy

Paula Readman, Dawn Knox and I at the recent Bridge House celebration event. Many thanks to Paula for the image.

Such appropriate decor for the Bridge House event in a pub room

This was part of the pub decor at the place where Bridge House had their event. Very apt! Image by Allison Symes

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At the back are some of the other books I’ve appeared in. Image by Allison Symes

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Am currently listening to the wonderful Planet Suite by Gustav Holst on Classic FM. Each piece of music within the suite tells its own story. (My favourite piece is Jupiter, the bringer of jollity. It also contains what many will know as the hymn tune for I Vow To Thee, My Country).

Holst used music to convey his thoughts. Writers of course use words. But the way you put them together (and the order) makes a huge difference to meaning. So are your words having the impact you actually mean them to have? Of course, this aspect can be “sent up” for comedic effect (hence the pun, the innuendo etc) but it is true you do have to know the rules before you break them!

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Why does editing always take longer than you think it will? Answers on the back of a postcard… Seriously though, I do give myself plenty of time for this and it STILL takes longer than anticipated. I think there must be an unknown Murphy’s Law for Writers happening here. Talking of which:-

1. You tell people you’re a writer, they suddenly need a pen for something, and you cannot find one on you for love or money. Cue one embarrassed writer!

2. Your printer cartridge always runs out halfway through the printing of the story or book you are desperate to get out to your publisher.

3. You know you have more printer cartridges, you remember ordering them, but you filed them somewhere safe and now cannot remember where that place is!

4. You have a power cut just as you are getting to the end of your story and you forgot to back up so you lose what you’ve just written and have to start again from where you HAD last backed up. You discover you have words in your vocabulary you make a mental note NOT to use in front of the vicar when they next call in.

Guess which of these have happened to me!

Contributions to the Murphy’s Law List for Writers very welcome!

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What is your favourite way to start a story? I must admit I don’t have one single way. And so much depends on whether I’m writing flash fiction or a standard length short story.

I am very fond of being right inside my main character’s head from the start. I like to think of this as hitting the ground running.

I also like to start with a brief sentence or two scene setting. Using a time as part of this can be handy as if the opening line says it is 4 am in mid-summer, you’ve got an immediate image of light levels, whether it is likely to be warm or not and so on. Setting place names can be great too. Mid-summer in the UK is vastly different to mid-summer in Australia, say.

I always look for the words that give me the strongest images whichever way I start th