All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
It has been an odd week – starting with my birthday and my first Covid jab and ending with moving a metric tonne of pea shingle… it’s a long story! But the advice on the keyboard below is worth following!
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Facebook – and Chandler’s Ford Today
Delighted to share my Talking About Writing piece for Chandler’s Ford Today. The last few weeks have been a good learning curve for me as I prepared for a WI talk, an international writing summit, and a radio interview!
I share some thoughts about the prep work I did for all of this (and good prep work always pays off even if you don’t end up using all of the material. I found it boosted my confidence no end just knowing I had material to hand I could use if I needed the extra. And material is recyclable! I am sure I will use at least some of this material in other talks and presentations in due course).
The link to my interview by #HannahKate is in my CFT post and am posting the link here too. Do have a listen. It was good fun and I think that sense of fun comes across in the interview.
Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. This week my post is Talking About Writing and looks back at various events I’ve taken part in recently where I have done a lot of this! I also share how I prepared for the writing summit, radio interview and WI talk. Allowing enough time for good prep work is vital.
For me, I have to write down what I think I’m going to say. Other writers may just write down a few bullet points. What matters is recognizing what you need as prep and then follow through on that. (The other advantage of writing things down is you can take those notes and turn them into articles or material for other talks etc).
This post also gives me another chance to share the Share Your Story Writing summit and the poster for it. Now this will probably make me sound like a big kid, okay an old big kid (I know!), but I was so excited to see myself on the advertising materials for this event. It was something that hadn’t even occurred to me might happen when I started writing, My focus was on just becoming published and then seeing if I could do it again and then again etc.
I also share the link to my interview with the lovely #HannahKate. If you haven’t had chance to hear this you can tune in via my link in the post tomorrow (though I will add in a quick thank you now to all who’ve given me great feedback on this).
Hope you have had a good Wednesday. I post on #Val’s Book Bundle most Wednesdays and this morning I was looking at the diary format for books. This is partly because I’ve always loved things like The Diary of Adrian Mole and am currently reading a fabulous book by #RuthLeigh (The Diary of Isabella M Smugge – #doyourselfafavour, #checkitout – those who’ve read the book will know why I’ve put the hashtags in!).
I’ve used the diary format myself in flash fiction. Yes, it is possible! In my Losing Myself in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, I use this though I needed pretty much the whole 1000 words allowed in flash to do it. Good fun though and I’d happily use this format again.
This story was interesting to do as I get my narrator to write her diary for the person she wants to read it so it is addressed to that other character. As the diary goes on, you find out more about my narrator and her nemesis, a third character. And I managed to get a twist in the end too – so lots of wins for me there.
This was a story where I knew the beginning and how it needed to end pretty much from the start. It was filling in the gaps for this one where the work was needed but this was where outlining my character helped enormously. What I outlined acted as stepping stones and they are a lifeline!
Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again
I sometimes set out to write a 100 word story (aka a drabble) but it doesn’t always meet that target. Sometimes a story simply does work better at 50 words or 500, say, and I know now to leave such stories be and submit them to different markets. I then have another crack at the 100 worder!
The story has to be the appropriate word count length for the story. (You’re not going to write a quest tale in flash fiction, though you could do it as a series of flash fiction pieces and end up with a novella-in-flash).
When I’m looking back at my “finished” piece, I ask myself if the story has the impact I thought it would have and has it said everything I want it to say?
If the answers to those is yes, I submit the story to the appropriate market.
If the answer to either is no, I have more work to do on that tale before it goes anywhere!
The ultimate question here I think is whether the story is at the best I can make it. If it is, off it goes.
Word count is obviously important in flash but the impact of the story is a more important consideration because you want to “wow” your reader. What you don’t want is a sense of anything being watered down because you’re trying to meet a set word count. The jigsaw pieces do have to fit properly! No squeezing the story to make it fit. It will lose resonance and impact.
The “oomph” moment in a flash fiction story can take different forms and be in varying places in the tale. The whole mood of my story Calling the Doctor (see book trailer below!) changes on the very last word. This is why it is one of my own favourite pieces.
One of the challenges of flash is to find the right “oomph” moment for your character and to place it in exactly the right place in the story. In this case, had I placed that particular word earlier in the story, the impact of the story would have been severely diluted.
But sometimes I start a story with a powerful moment where you know from that point onwards, something has got to change and quickly. The fun of those stories is in finding out what that change is and what its consequences are – and there are always some! – and it is just as much fun finding that out when you’re writing the tales!
Comparisons are a useful device in stories. I use this in Rewards in my From Light to Dark and Back Again where I get my narrator to compare herself to a woman she has come to loathe. You can also save on the word count here.
For example, one line in this story reads “Her blue eyes didn’t sparkle”. That tells you the other character must have blue eyes and hers do sparkle! So I’ve managed to get good description in for two characters in one line and you can tell a lot about the attitude of one of those characters from the way that sentence reads. Someone is clearly not a happy bunny!
Also the fact someone is marking comparisons usually indicates that same someone may well have a self-esteem issue. Why would you want to compare with someone else after all? How else could that insecurity manifest itself in your story? So, though flash has to be short, you can still get in some useful unconscious revelations from your main character.
Fairytales with Bite – Where do your characters go for advice?
Nobody can know it all. Everyone has problems that are beyond them at times. This equally applies to your characters regardless of how magical they are or how fantastical your setting for them might be. So where would your characters go for help or advice? Who would they turn to?
If they would turn to a wizard, say, why have they gone to them? Is that wizard reliable? What is their track record? Have they ever let people down, deliberately or otherwise?
Is the society your characters live in open to their people getting help when needed? Or does it despise such characters for being “weak”?
If it is a wizard needing advice, where would they go to? What hierarchy exists in your setting? Does it work? Can people fall between the gaps?
Once your characters have got their help or advice, do they act on it? What are the consequences?
Plenty of story ideas there, I think!
This World and Others – How Open Is Your World?
Tying in with Fairytales With Bite above, just how open is your world in terms of characters being able to admit to weaknesses? Is it open to other species or is it a monoculture?
If the majority are magical, how do they treat those who are not? (An interesting idea to explore here is where the magical ones need the non-magical ones for something vital that cannot be produced magically. Who would be the servant in that servant-master relationship? Would it cause resentment?).
Has your world become open, having learned from its mistakes in the past? What were those mistakes? Are there ramifications coming through from those in the current day?
If your world feels threatened, how does it react? Does it stay open or does it become less welcoming? How do the characters react to the changes? (Another interesting idea here can be when the government is open but the people are not. How does the government react to that?).
I could see some interesting short stories coming from answers to these. There is potential for longer works too, Happy writing!
Talking About Writing https://t.co/OKTqKS0tJf I look back at recent writing events I've taken part in and discuss the prep work behind them. Getting used to talking about what you write is all part of the author's marketing. Hope you enjoy. pic.twitter.com/H6YxhOOXC9— Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) March 26, 2021