Settings and Simplicity in Fiction

 

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good week. Have enjoyed what I’ve seen of the Platinum Jubilee events (and plan to catch up on the rest next week. Why then? Because I’m off to a Golden Jubilee weekend for the Association of Christian Writers, where I’ll be running a flash fiction workshop. No Jubilees for ages and then two at once!).

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share Settings and Simplicity in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today. I look at how settings can act like characters. I also wonder whether some authors came up with their settings first and then knew what characters had to be in them or if they came up with the characters first and then had to find the most appropriate setting for them.

I also look at how simple writing takes work and crafting but it is a joy to read and the reader has nothing clunky getting in their way. It makes a huge difference to the reading experience for them. I often wonder when I come across over-complicated prose, as I do sometimes, just what the writer was trying to hide or show off here. For me the joy of writing is about communicating with a reader and I want to be as direct as possible on that. I don’t see the point of doing anything else.

Settings and Simplicity in Fiction

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2nd June – Queen’s Coronation Day Anniversary

Loved watching Trooping the Colour and the flypast today. Fabulous weather. Great crowds too. I plan to catch up with the other events once I am back from the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend. Am off on my travels for that tomorrow.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow is all about Settings and Simplicity In Fiction. I look at how settings can act like characters and why simple writing isn’t as easy as it (a) looks and (b) sounds. One benefit from flash fiction writing is it has taught me how to spot my wasted words, what doesn’t add anything to my story, so I know to ruthlessly cut all of that on my edit.

And I have publication news too – I am pleased to say my story has been accepted for the Bridge House Publishing anthology due out later this year. More news as and when – am delighted to be included again. Congratulations to everyone else who received this lovely news too!

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Two days to go to the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend. So looking forward to seeing everyone.

Next trip after that will be to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Looking forward to that too! Am getting good use out of my railcard this year. This is nice because I was the woman who bought a railcard two weeks before the first lockdown started in 2020 when nobody was going anywhere. Oops! Making up for lost time now though.

I will be putting my posts up as normal over the weekend but they will be at different times. Will be pretty busy during the day and evening so expect the posts to go up late. I do hope to write up about the weekend (and my time with the lovely people at the London Jesuit Centre recently) for a CFT post before long as well.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

So pleased to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy On The Doorstep. This was a joy to write and I was rooting for my character, Mabel, all the way through. This is good. The first person to care about a character should be their creator!

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/on-the-doorstep-by-allison-symes

Screenshot 2022-06-02 at 20-42-56 Friday Flash Fiction

One reason I outline before writing a story is to avoid the old saggy middle problem. Yes, it can happen in flash fiction too. I’ve found knowing my start and end points is a good way of avoiding that issue. I know where I’m heading so off I go!

How much to outline is up to each writer. I don’t fill in each and every detail as I want to give my imagination manoeuvre room, as I’ve mentioned before, but I do need the “pillars” of the story in place so I know from the start the structure is going to be okay. (Maybe without a good structure in place, that encourages the saggy middle to happen – just a thought).

I think it is a question of working out what you need to know before writing a story and that will differ from writer to writer as well.

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Looking forward to sharing the joys of flash fiction at the ACW Golden Jubilee at the weekend. Talking about talking…! One good thing about flash is when you do use dialogue, you’ve got to keep it focused. I must admit I do enjoy getting characters chatting but conversational ping-pong is not the idea!

What I look for dialogue to do (including internal dialogue) is for it to move the story on in some way. If it does, fab; it stays in. If not, out comes the old editing pen. It has helped to be aware though that I do like conversational ping-pong. I love to hear my characters speak because to me that proves they are “real”.

But the overriding concern has to be does it help the story develop? That is my guiding light as to whether something stays in a tale or not, regardless ot the story length.

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Fairytales with Bite – Clothes in a Magical World

When the thought for this topic came to me. I thought of two stories immediately. The obvious one was Cinderella – the rags being turned into that wonderful dress.

I also thought of the fairytale The Elves and the Shoemaker – I do count shoes as clothes (well, if you’re going out somewhere, you need something on your feet!, but also because of how this story ends with the shoemaker’s wife sewing clothes for the elves in return for their kindness to her husband and herself. I also like this story because you get to see the elves being cobblers (and not just using magic to make the shoes etc) and you also see the wife sewing.

I could have thought of The Emperor’s New Clothes too but that is really a story about a pair of successful con artists when all is said and done!

So in your created world, what do your characters wear? What are the differences between species and/or classes here? How are the items made? Is there a manufacturing industry as such or does everyone make their own? Or are skills bartered? What equipment is used? I’ll take spinning wheels as a given!

In your stories, you almost certainly won’t need to go into a lot of detail here but the odd line here or there about who wears what, where they get clothes etc from will help your world seem more real to a reader. Having a character go to a shop (or your world’s equivalent) would be enough to show a reader how this works. I love little details in stories. They help me picture things and I won’t be the only reader who thinks that.

This World and Others – Material Matters

Tying in with Fairytales with Bite , where does your fictional world get its materials from, whether for clothing, shoe making or anything else? Can it produce its own or does it have to import some or all of what it needs? Where would it import from and have there ever been trade wars etc or have two societies been able to trade successfully?

When it comes to producing its own, what can it produce? Are crops (such as cotton) grown? What kind of people in your society would do things like that? Are they looked down on for doing manual work or held in high esteem? Attitudes to others have repercussions!

What does your fictional world value? We obviously value things like gold and silver but do they? In a world where that is common place, it might be treated with contempt. You don’t tend to notice the “every day” stuff.

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Twitter Corner

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Pleased to share latest CFT post. I look at settings acting like characters and why simple writing isn’t easy writing. It is vital for good prose though!<a href=”https://t.co/llXyQpHphi“>https://t.co/llXyQpHphi</a></p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1532659454084251648?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw“>June 3, 2022</a></blockquote> http://a%20href=

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Hope you enjoy my latest drabble on Friday Flash Fiction. I was rooting for my character, Mabel. Hope you do too.<a href=”https://t.co/Q7WjxPCo5T“>https://t.co/Q7WjxPCo5T</a></p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1532659994797154304?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw“>June 3, 2022</a></blockquote> http://a%20href=

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Kindness and Killing in Fiction – and Snow!


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. My CFT post this week has the most unusual title I’ve ever written to but I show there are plenty of examples of kindness and killing in fiction and not just in the usual genres. It’s good to be back on Friday Flash Fiction as well though I could have done without the snow coming back! But then that’s April in the UK for you!

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Facebook – General

Two posts from me for 1st April 2022 – not an April Fools Day joke, honestly!

The first of the month is a busy time! Am delighted to share the link for the April edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads. As ever, the magazine is packed full of articles, photos, and, of course, stories!

My column this time talked about Dialogue and there was a fabulous response to my challenge to create an all-dialogue piece of flash fiction with a maximum word count of 300 words. Do check the column and stories out – as well as the rest of the magazine. You’ll be in for a great read but don’t just take my word for it – there is only one way to find out, isn’t there?!

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Second post!
Okay – not so much sleet and snow today. Lady ran around like a mad thing this morning so almost certainly was unaware of just how cold it is right now. I got my gloves and scarf out! Hmm… I thought I had finished with them for a few months but never mind.

Author newsletter out this morning. Many thanks to those who have opened it so far. Hope you find it useful and informative.

My latest Chandler’s Ford Today post is called Kindness and Killing in Fiction, which is probably the oddest contrast I’ve ever written about. The funny thing is though there are plenty of examples of both across the fictional world and not just in the “obvious genres”.

Screenshot 2022-04-01 at 09-18-41 Kindness and Killing in Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

I take a look at why characters must have a good reason (or reasons) for their actions and attitudes, though it doesn’t mean the author and/or their readers have to agree with them. We do need to see where the characters are coming from though – that is where realism comes in I think.

I also share my thoughts on why we read crime/horror when the world is the way it is and discuss signs of strength (kindness for me is one of them) and the role of justice in these stories. As ever, comments are welcome on the CFT page.

Kindness and Killing in Fiction

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Am still not impressed with the weather – have had sleet, hail, snow today. I thought March was supposed to come in like a lion and go out as a lamb. No sign of that happening today. Lady literally shakes it all off though she can have little “snow mountains” on her back until she decides to shake it off. She does this with rain too. I’ve learned to side step her when she does that! Having an extending lead is useful…

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Writing wise, I’m getting on with various blogs and I’m planning to get back to actual flash writing at the weekend. By the end of a week, as long as I have managed to get a good mixture of fiction and non-fiction writing done, I’m happy.

And odd moments of time I use to draft a flash tale or brainstorm ideas which I can use as I see fit. Sometimes I will have a specific brainstorming session where I focus on ideas for future blogs. These sessions always pay off because I have things to come back to later when I’m not feeling so inspired.

And you learn to recognize every writer gets periods like that (and in my case I know it can be fuelled if I’m feeling especially tired). Having a notebook stuffed with ideas though is a great thing to fall back on!

When I haven't much writing time

Hope you have had a good day. Not impressed with the weather suddenly turning cold though it was lovely seeing Lady having a riotous time with her best buddies, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback and Hungarian Vizler. (Good rule here is to stand back and enjoy the show. You don’t want any of the three dogs cannoning into you!).

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I’m talking about Kindness and Killing In Fiction this time. The whole crime genre has a major focus on the latter, of course, as a good whodunnit depend on there having been a crime to solve but kindness turns up more often than you might think.

A huge thank you to all who commented on my More Than Writers blog about Spring-like Writing yesterday.

My author newsletter goes out again on Friday. I enjoy putting these together and I hope you make good use of the tips and prompts shared.

One thing I’ve found useful to remember when rejections/no hears happen is to recall every writer goes through this and there’s nothing to stop you revisiting a story, polishing it some more, and sending it out elsewhere. I’ve had work published doing that. Good luck!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am delighted to be back on Friday Flash Fiction with my The Way Time Smells and a huge thanks to all the who have sent in fabulous comments on this already. This story is loosely based on fact and I evoke how a particular scent takes my character back in time. The scent I use here is one that does take me back in time in a similar way. Hope you enjoy it.

I had the idea for this one because the title came to me quickly and I know I would then need a scent to “latch on to” and why someone would link a scent with something in their past.. I’ve found before when the titles come first that tends to also give me a story structure from the start and I find that really useful. That was the case here.

Screenshot 2022-04-01 at 09-18-31 The Way Time Smells by Allison Symes

I’ve mentioned reading your work out loud before to hear how it sounds and the nice thing with flash is of course that doesn’t take long. The other reason I do it (and record myself to play back later) is to work out a kind of “set” for Open Prose Mic Nights. I like to have a balance of different moods of story, vary the word counts I read to, vary whether I use a first or third person narrator etc. I hope that makes things more interesting for an audience. I know it does for me!

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For humorous flash pieces, such as my Bypassing The System in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I write my punchline down first and then work out different ways as to how I could logically get to that point. I do the same for twist in the tale stories. To me it makes sense to write down what I know I want to be in the story and then work out everything else around it.

Occasionally I have had a go at competitions where they give you a line they want you to put in the middle of the story. That’s a tough call but the way I’ve tackled this is to work out what must lead from the middle line to get to the end.

Having got two-thirds of the story down, I then figure out what the beginning has to be. Sounds a bit convoluted I know but it does mean that I have completed the “brief” and what leads to the middle makes sense as does what comes out from it to the end. I find with these stories knowing what the ending is, again, helps me to sort out the beginning.

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Fairytales with Bite – Time for a Spell?

I’ve long believed that Cinderella’s fairy godmother was somewhat late for the party when she did finally turn up. Where was she when poor old Cinders was having such a hard time of it being ill-treated by her stepmother and her daughters? Cinders could have done with earlier intervention I think – it would’ve limited the misery for one thing.

That said, when is the right time for a magical being to intervene to help someone? Is there a case for leaving intervention as late as possible to (a) give the character to chance to help themselves and (b) to ensure all other options are exhausted first? (Not a lot of comfort for poor Cinders there!).

Whenever you get your characters to intervene magically, ensure there is a good reason for that intervention and that magic is the only option available at this point in the story. Set something up earlier in the story to show magical intervention is a distinct possibility to avoid any disbelief on the part of a reader.

And if you can get a character on the receiving end of such help to do something to help the process, even If it is only by just fetching possible “ingredients”, then so much the better. They are at least contributing to their own positive outcome here.

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This World and Others – Recollections

Memories matter. They matter to individuals. They matter to countries. They matter to a world, fictional or otherwise. Culture is built up (or destroyed) by what people choose to remember. And what is chosen here will reflect a great deal on the nature of the character or culture doing the reflecting.

We, for example, remember the fallen in world wars etc for Remembrance in November. Others may see remembering the fallen as something they simply do not do – they only recall the heroes, the ones who survived.

For your fiction, you can pick elements like that to show the nature of your fictional world overall. A world that celebrates war is going to be very different from one that remembers and honours more peaceful ways of living. A culture that remembers its failures as well as its triumphs is likely to be a better one in which to live simply because it has learned to be honest with itself about its failures.

So what will your characters recollect? What is officially chosen to be remembered? What is remembered but talked about very quietly for fear of the authorities?

What would your characters do if they come across something that has to be told or recollected in some way yet goes against their world’s policy on what is remembered? Will they dare to cross the line here and what would the outcomes be if so? I would suspect there would be more than one outcome. There would be the obvious one of the authorities punishing the character but what would happen if the words had “got out” and others had got to hear the forbidden truth? What could be the outcome from that?

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Starting and Finishing and Creativity


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you had a good weekend. Nice quiet one here but lots of exciting news to report this time plus I hope a useful blog I prepared for the Association of Christian Writers on Starting and Finishing.

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Facebook – General

You know how sometimes there is no news and then all of a sudden there is loads to share – well today is one of those days for me.

Delighted to say my new author newsletter is now out there (for more do see https://mailchi.mp/22ec1b09a6da/allison-symes-february-2022-newsletter).

Many thanks also for the comments in on Tears Before Lunch, my most recent Friday Flash Fiction story. See https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/tears-before-lunch-by-allison-symes for more.

And I’m delighted to share the link to the brand new edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads which is free. See https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2022/02/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-february-2022/ – the range of articles in here is amazing. Do check it out.

Has also been a good day for another reason – I’ve booked my place for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Can’t wait to go and there is plenty to look forward to before then.

I’ll be at the Scottish Association of Writers conference in March and running a workshop on flash fiction there. So looking forward to that – https://www.scottishassociationofwriters.com/workshops-speakers/

 

Hope Monday hasn’t been too trying. Newsletter out tomorrow, new story video out (will share link on my book page shortly), and pleased to have submitted a new story to Friday Flash Fiction. I’ll be discussing Dialogue in Fiction for my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday.

I use more dialogue in my short stories (1500 words plus) than in flash though I am counting thoughts as internal dialogue and I do use that a lot in flash. It’s a great way of taking you straight into a character’s head and showing you their thoughts and attitudes. You see things as they see them and I think it a good way of developing character empathy. Okay you may not always agree with them but that’s another matter! You at least see where they are coming from.

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Hope you have had a good weekend. Lovely to catch up with writing friends on Zoom last night. Always such a morale boost. Am getting my next author newsletter up together ready for sending out next week. If you would like to sign up for tips, prompts, news, stories etc., head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

What would you say was your favourite kind of story? I suppose mine comes from my life long love of fairytales in that I love to see wrong being righted and the underdog to do well. Mind you, that does open up a lot of possibilities for reading material as well as for writing stories. Wrong being righted is a common theme to crime stories after all. And the underdog aka the hero nobody expects to be a hero is a common theme in fantasy.

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I talk about Starting and Finishing for More Than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers, this month.

I discuss how I often get into starting a story by using a random generator and share why spider diagrams are so helpful too. As for the other end of the story, I look at how for twist in the tale stories, it is a good idea to write that twist down first and then look at what could lead to that point.

I also look at whether planning your work out kills off spontaneity.

Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The new edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is out and you can download it for free. See the link at https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2022/02/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-february-2022/ for more.

In my column this month (see Page 42), I talk about Creativity. I look at some of the different ways I use to trigger story ideas and fuel my own creativity (and I discuss picture prompts and random generators amongst other things. I hope to talk more about random generators for a future column as these are so useful). My theme for people to write to this time was What Creativity Means to Me and the responses to that were wonderful but don’t just take my word for it – go and treat yourself to a good and free read!

 

Hope you enjoy my new YouTube story – No B Gratitude. This story was inspired by something that came up on a random question generator – the question was what was the most recent silly thing you’ve done?
So I got my character to show you! (There’s also a pun in the choice of music chosen for this one – I was so pleased to find it available to use from YouTube’s comprehensive audio library which is the audio equivalent of Pixabay for photos).

Just to flag up there is an offer on From Light to Dark and Back Again at the moment over on Amazon.

What do I love most about reading flash fiction by other writers? Firstly I learn a lot from seeing what other people do with the format. Secondly, I love to see what writers do when writing to the same theme and word count.

The Waterloo Art Festival Writing Competitions held in the last few years were a great example of this – the fifteen winners for each year, including yours truly, all wrote to the same theme and word count yet the stories were so vastly different.

Last but not least, it encourages me to “up my game” and see what I can do better. Why is that a good thing? Because it fuels the old creativity “grey cells” and helps me produce (a) more work and (b) better work because I have tried to stretch myself a bit.

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Twist endings work beautifully in flash fiction precisely because you don’t have to wait long for the pay-off! I’ve always loved that aspect of things. And the nice thing here is you don’t have to limit twist endings to crime stories, though that is the obvious home for them.

Twist endings can also be punchlines so will work well for humorous tales. And a monologue can be enlivened by a surprise ending too. For this kind of tale, I always write the twist first and then work backwards to get to the start. It seems an odd way of doing things to begin with but you do get used to it. It also means you have a logical plot leading to that final twist. You don’t want your twist let down by a weak start or flabby middle.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books and Trains

Books and trains are a match made in heaven (especially publishing heaven!). As well as stories inspired by train (and my favourite here is Murder on the Orient Express – the ultimate train, yes?!), books are the best form of portable entertainment and a fabulous way of passing the time.

I must admit I wait to read until I know I am on the train I want otherwise there is the risk I will still be reading at the platform long after the train has gone! (It helps a lot if I know I’m going somewhere like London Waterloo which is the end of the line as I know I can’t miss my stop either!).

It is no coincidence that the major stations have bookshops on them. For me the perfect way to escape the cares of the world is to read, ideally while listening to classical music via my headphones. (If there’s a cup of tea or hot chocolate to hand, even better!) And if I’m not reading stories while travelling, I am writing my own so I love that too.

It probably helps that I write flash fiction which a dear friend described as a “bus stop read”. It works well on trains too!

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CafeLit Publication News and News of a Poorly Paw!

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And the great thing with books and stories? They can take you anywhere in space and time. You just need to enjoy the journey!

What inventions populate your fictional world - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General and Publication News

Delighted to receive the list of all who will be in The Best of Cafelit 10 later this year. It is a big list too! Always lovely to spot my name in said list!

Congratulations everyone and many thanks to all who voted for my two stories, Breaking Out and Taking Time Out of the Day Job, to be included. It will be lovely to be “between the CafeLit covers” with friends, old and new. And don’t forget you can always check out the previous CafeLit anthologies. They are a wonderful mixture of styles and moods with something to suit most.

And if you want to know more, I can do no better than take you to my Amazon Author Central page at http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent

I’ve had the joy of being published in several of these (the most recent being CafeLit 8 and 9). And they make perfect books for dipping into if you are between “big”reads and don’t know which will be your next one.

Give the short form collections a try!

Cafelit books - Book Brush mock up

Am not sorry to see the back of January. Goes on for far too long but in positive news, Lady is going from strength to strength (see poorly paw story further down!), and my snowdrops are in bloom in the garden. That’s a positive for any time but especially for a Monday I think.

Many thanks for the wonderful responses to the Launches in Lockdown series so far on Chandler’s Ford Today. I’ll be sharing invaluable insights from two fab writers from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this Friday. What my guests and I all hope is that this series will be encouraging and helpful to those writers who are having their launches this year, when none of us can be certain about what will happen and when in terms of lockdown restrictions easing etc.

One thing I have learned as a writer of many years standing (and of course sitting!) is a little encouragement and good tips do go a very long way. I hope they do for you too.


Many thanks for your best wishes over Lady’s poorly paw. Am glad to report she is feeling much better and has cheered up considerably. The claw will grow back so the next time she might experience a little discomfort will be when that comes through again probably in a couple of weeks or so. (A bit like us with teeth really!).

Having said that, Lady is a young, highly active dog, and this is the kind of accident that does happen to dogs like her though Lady would be glad (as would I) if it didn’t happen again! The other good thing though is young active dogs do recover quickly which is a mercy.

Writing wise, I’m setting up interviews at the moment where I’m on the other side of the interview desk. Am looking forward to sharing more details as and when I can.

I’m also working on something else which will end up on my website right here (!) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com and again I look forward to sharing more details when I can. It’s been something I’ve been toying with doing for a while and something has cropped up that has told me, yes go for it, so I am!

The writing life is often like this. You make some developments, then you need to build on that so you end up doing more! But this is a good thing. The writing life is not meant to be static. What is lovely is looking back every so often and seeing where you’ve come from while looking ahead to further developments and seeing where they take you. And, as ever, the best thing is to enjoy the journey.

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Hope your Saturday has gone well. Now in dog news, I have to report Lady is recovering from a poorly paw.

Apologies in advance if you’re eating but she managed to rip a claw. Vet removed claw and sealed the wound. Claw will grow back. Not a great day yesterday, Lady understandably feeling sorry for herself, but much better today and is coming on leaps and bounds.

I just need to stop her doing literal leaps and bounds for a couple of days to make sure all is as well as it should be. Huge thanks to Lady’s bestie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and her human mum for the fuss and cuddles you gave Lady yesterday. It was the only bright spot in her day yesterday!

Okay that’s the kind of drama no dog owner ever wants to have (but inevitably gets every so often. It’s why you insure your pets!). How about the kind of drama writers want?

I must admit I don’t like melodrama. Never have. It’s always struck me as being over the top but what I do want to see is actions and reactions that arise naturally from the characters and the situation they’re in. (So no aliens landing at Mansfield Park for me. I don’t really get the mash-ups. I understand either genre – sci-fi and classic here – but not the pair together).

I want to be able to feel that yes, this character could do this because they have shown they can be silly so to be silly again is not unexpected and, as a result, the situation they find themselves in has the potential to become very silly indeed. But that all ties up and I guess that is the point.

Character = situation = one develops from the other. For me, the character always comes first. Get them set up correctly and the situations will arise naturally. Even in fantasy with magical elements, this applies. You’ve established your character is in a magical world and what abilities they have or lack so the situation will arise from that.

And the situation will always involve conflict. If a character wants more powers than they’ve got, what will they do to achieve more? Do it the proper way and learn their skills or try to cheat their way to the top? But get your character set up and you can take them where you want to and more importantly take your readers with you.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to say two of my flash tales, Breaking Out and Taking Time Out of The Day Job, will be in The Best of CafeLit 10 later this year. Nice start to February! Don’t forget to check out the Cafelit site for a wide range of stories, short and long, at https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/

You can find my page at https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/search/label/Allison%20Symes

And of course it is CafeLit I have to thank for introducing me to the wonders of flash fiction so I am definitely going to plug them whenever I can!

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Hope you enjoy my new story video – The Dragon and The Clock. These shorts are great fun to do and a marvellous way to share one and two line flash tales!

 

I’ve always loved writing and reading dialogue and hearing characters speak. (Also in reading between the lines of what they’re saying so you get a sense of the real character behind what they say).

When I’m reviewing stories, I try to listen to my characters, that the words I’ve given them I can “hear” them saying, and nothing is inappropriate or out of kilter for them. I often speak work out loud, especially dialogue (and the great thing with flash is this is easy to do and doesn’t take long!).

Speaking dialogue out loud is the sure way to pick up any thing that does not ring true or if what looks right written down is tricky to say out loud. If you find it tricky, so will your readers. I try to stick to the Keep It Simple principle for writing (and especially for dialogue). It works.

Now with my flash fiction, I often have stories with only one character. So yes, I do get them to speak out loud. You can, of course, get them to speak into a phone. But much of what applies to dialogue writing can also apply to writing internal thoughts. After all that is the character talking to themselves so again the style of thought, what they’re coming up with, should be apt for the character you’ve created.


I approach writing a flash fiction story in several ways.

  • I have a prepared character I want to put in a situation and see what happens.
  • I have a theme I want to write to (or one I’m having a crack at for a competition, say) so I know what I’m writing about from the get go. It’s a question of picking the right character for this kind of story.
  • I brain storm ideas for titles, pick a few I like and then work out what kind of characters would work for these and then go with the ones I like the most.
  • I know the ending to a story (and this is almost always a twist tale) and it is just a question of working out how the story would get to that point. That almost inevitably leads to the kind of character who would end up in a twist like that.

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Goodreads Author Blog – What I Like to See In A Book

Hmm… this is a good statement, isn’t it? I could give chapter and verse here, appropriately, but for me one thing only is key to whether a book is good or not.

It’s all down to the characters. Do they grip me? Do they get me rooting for them to succeed or fail? (Funnily enough, either is fine, and I do love to see a “good” villain get their comeuppance eventually. I blame my love of fairytales for that one).

If a character does not grip me, I switch off. I love Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennett is a fabulous character and ahead of her time. She says what she thinks and I love that.

Conversely, I am not gripped by Mansfield Park as I think the heroine there is dull and, to my mind, not worth of being a heroine. Her happy ending does depend on the misfortunes of others, in my view, but Elizabeth had to work for hers and it was by no means certain it would happen until close to the end.

I wanted to see Miss Price do so much more to “earn” her happy ending but there you go. (I guess it’s a kind of warning to all writers that even the best can come up with characters who don’t engage with their readers and I know there are those who love Mansfield Park but it has never done anything for me because of this).

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Twitter Corner

 

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Radio News and Preparation

Image Credit:  As ever, images are from Pixabay or Pexels if I’ve not said otherwise.

RADIO NEWS

RADIO NEWS: I’m thrilled to say I’ll be on Chat and Spin Radio tonight at about 9.35 pm TONIGHT (UK time) – 19th May 2020 – talking about my great writing love – flash fiction. See www.chatandspinradio.com

AND if you like their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/chatandspin, you’re in with a chance of winning a £20 shopping voucher too.

I’ll be talking more about this later in the week, especially when I have a link to share!

Now for actors you say “break a leg” as a kind of good luck thing (though I know it sounds anything but!). What do you say for this? Don’t lose your voice, I guess!😀

I hope to share the link to the show in my next blog on Friday this week.

Image from Chat and Spin Radio

The above ties in with my next post too!

Facebook – General

Preparation is key for so much in writing. For my stories, as you know I outline my characters. It helps me work out whether the character I’ve planned really does suit the story I’ve got in the back of my head.

A feisty character needs the material to suit! A usually gentle character needs to show what she is made of when push comes to shove.

Preparation includes getting the story down and specifically allowing enough time away from it to be able to edit it properly. This is particularly relevant as I’ll shortly be working on final edits for Tripping the Flash Fantastic but the time away from it will help me take in and process my editor’s comments the way they need to be processed!

It also means allowing enough time for final polishing before still getting a story in ahead of a final deadline. I got into the habit of taking about a week off any official deadline for a competition and making MY date the day by which I’d get my tale off. This comes from the days of sending everything in by good old snail mail but it is still a good habit to develop now email submissions are the norm.

I’ve found it pays to plan ahead a bit. Knowing roughly what I’m doing when and why has helped me get more done.

Oh and the don’t give up advice below is something I’ve found useful though I do wish the picture came with an extra bit. It IS okay to change direction if you want to – after all that is how I discovered flash fiction!

 

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Always plenty of space to fill!  Pixabay

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Most of my dialogue writing is for my longer flash fiction tales (i.e. those over 750 words usually) and short stories (1500 to 1700 or thereabouts). I do enjoy writing dialogue. What I have to watch is not writing conversational “ping-pong” just because I can and I love doing it. It all has to be relevant to moving the story on. I always find editing dialogue the hardest to do but my golden rule is that it has to be so important the story can’t work without it.

I love the moment when I know I’ve got my characters right as it is then that I know instinctively the dialogue they’re coming out with is exactly what someone like them would say. It’s a good feeling. And when the words are really flowing it can feel a bit like taking dictation.

Now where’s my notepad?😆😆

 

 

Will have further publication news to share fairly soon so looking forward to that. Over the course of a week, I try to ensure I’ve got at least one story written, one resting, and I like to know what I’m going to be writing next too. I like to mix up the flash fiction and short story writing too.

My favourite part of writing? Difficult to say but I do love it when the characters come to life and the story just flows out. Mind you, I am always relieved to have a first draft done. It proves to me there WAS a story there. The editing refines and sharpens that story and I do like that element. I always overwrite but that’s okay. All unnecessary elements are ruthlessly struck out later.

But I learned a long time ago that, for me, I’ve got to write the story first and edit it later. I can’t edit as I go. I’ve got to know there is something there to edit first.

 

HONOURABLE MENTION!

Many thanks to Lance Greenfield, a fellow Swanwicker, for his honourable mention of yours truly on his blog, Write to Inspire. To find out more, follow the link and his post for 18th May 2020! All images of Swanwick were taken by me last year.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am delighted to be talking about flash fiction on Chat and Spin Radio later this evening. Will talk more about this later in the week when I have a link back to share. If you can tune in live, I’m on at about 9.35 pm. Links up above and I hope to share the link for the show itself in my next post here on Friday.

And yes I am always pleased to wave the flag for flash fiction as a writing form!

Oh and I am preparing this with just under an hour to go before I’m on. Nervous and looking forward to it all at the same time!

 

It was fun writing yesterday’s post about one-liners for well known characters (see below and see this as a bit of a tease!), but it is not a bad idea to be able to sum up your people succinctly.

When I’m planning characters for new flash fiction, I know what their major trait is and how that is going to help them or, even more often, land them right in the proverbial mire.

So I will think of something like rebellious fairy, has soft spot for kittens, and that soft spot is exploited by her boss in an attempt to get said rebellious fairy to do as she is told for once. So that makes for a good one line summary of the story.

Character summary? Rebellious fairy, soft spot for kittens.

And away I go.

 

 

 

Just for some fun, how about some one-liners for well known characters?

Cinderella – I could really do with a trip to the shoe shop.

Dracula – I have the devil’s own job getting an appointment at the dentists, can’t imagine why.

Snow White – I’ve gone right off apples for some reason.

Hansel and Gretel – well, yes, okay, maybe we should have got a sat nav.

I love using one-liners in flash fiction and often end a story with them. They’re great for humorous tales and are a fab way of ending a story on an upbeat “oomph” moment.

 

I don’t use a lot of dialogue in my flash fiction. That’s partly due to word count but mainly because I tend to focus a lot on telling you one character’s story. For that, I prefer to show you their thoughts and attitudes as “they” narrate the story.

I do use dialogue more in the short story competitions (1500 words or so) as there is more room and it is lovely being able to have more characters in the tale.

But I do love the pithy, precise nature of flash fiction writing. For me it is apt that my characters are direct to the reader in “their” commentary.

 

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Goodreads Author Blog –

What I Look For In A Good Book

Regardless of genre, what I look for first in a good book is a gripping lead character. I don’t necessarily have to like them (!) but I do need to be intrigued by them enough to make me want to read their story.

This applies to non-fiction too if you accept the “narrative voice” of the text is a kind of character too. Does that voice grip me enough to keep on reading or does it send me to sleep? (Never a good sign that!).

Once I’ve finished the book, is it going to be one of those I enjoyed reading but won’t read again? Or will it reach the dizzy heights of being one of those absolute favourites I happily turn to time and again when I need them back in my life for a bit?

I don’t know about you but I do like light reading anyway and I especially like it now. I am not going to be reading the doom and gloom merchants (I can get that from watching the news).

I know the reality of what is out there but it doesn’t mean I have to read about it.

My reading is about entertainment and escapism and those things shouldn’t be despised.

So my criteria for what is a good book does boil down to its entertainment value and that is down to the character portrayal.

Oh and many thanks to #JimBates for a great conversation on this post! See the Goodreads link itself for that.

 

 

 

Looking Forward

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

Facebook – General

On days when I don’t have much time to write, I focus on drafting blog posts for future use and/or flash fiction stories. Ironically it can often feel like I’ve got far more done because I’ve written 3 or 4 posts and a couple of 100-word stories. But that’s fine. I don’t mind that at all.

What can feel tough is when you’re on a longer project and it feels like you haven’t got much done. Hang on in there. You have. You’ve written a chapter (fiction or non-fiction) for a book. You’ve drafted a longer story (say 2,500 words plus). You’ve edited a lot of work. You are achieving. It just doesn’t show up so well that’s all.

 

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Loved Part 1 of the Doctor Who series finale, looking forward to Part 2 next week, and that’s all I’ll say there!

A good story makes you wonder, especially on your first read (or viewing come to that). The characters you’ve become attached to? Well, what WILL happen to them? I find I start trying to anticipate how the story will pan out. Sometimes I’m right but I love it even more when I’m wrong and the writer has wrongfooted me.

Of course flash fiction is a great vehicle for twist in the tale stories. The twist has to make sense – none of the “it was all a dream” nonsense, the last author who used that with any conviction WAS Lewis Carroll. This is why, for twist tales, I often know what the twist is first and then work backwards to get to several reasonable starts. I then pick the one I like best. Good fun that!

 

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I can’t recall when books and writing were absent from my life. Nor do I wish to!

I do know they mean a great deal to me, even when the writing is a struggle or I’m not getting as much time as I’d like for them.

Incidentally with the former, it is usually just a question of being dog-tired (sorry, Lady!) and a good night’s sleep restores me and my imagination.

Don’t undervalue the importance of getting enough sleep. People focus on the health benefits of it but it is also true good sleep will help with your creative side. (At least you won’t have tiredness dragging it and you down).

A good writing day is when I head off to the Land of Nod happy with what I’ve written/edited/both and am anticipating another good writing session the next day.

A bad one is when I struggle to get anything down and am fighting to keep my eyes open. Time to give up and just get an early night. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way.

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Looking forward to going to #TheChameleonTheatreGroup‘s Spring Quartet production in April aka the Chandler’s Ford Today works outing, given my lovely CFT editor will be there too. A good time will be had by all though, unlike with TCTG’s last production, there will be no cries of “It’s behind you!” to contend with – well, not unless something goes horribly wrong… 😆😆

More immediately, am looking forward to sharing this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post which will be an interview with #PaulaReadman. Link up on Friday. Don’t miss it. Some fab insights as to what books and writing mean to her.

Many thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for the shout-out on her Knox Box of Miscellany. It is also a pleasure to highlight Prompts by #GillJames as well. It is a fab book and I’m looking forward to writing up many more of the story ideas.

So lots of looking forward going on tonight but given Lady and I got caught in a downpour earlier today, I think looking forward, especially to spring, is a very good idea indeed!

Prompts 2020 by [James, Gill] Image by Gill James

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I tend to “hit the ground running” with my flash fiction stories. I want to get a reader into the story as quickly as possible (and of course out again at the end of the tale).

I mix up the way I do this as it keeps things interesting for me (and I hope for readers). I sometimes take a reader straight into my character’s thoughts. Sometimes I ask a question I hope will provoke curiosity – the must find out the answer type.

Sometimes I will start with a character action, again the type that will trigger the where will this go reaction (and there is only ever one answer to that – read on!).

I mix up using the first and third person for my stories (though I love the immediacy the first person gives you).

I also mix up my settings. My first love is the humorous fairytale with a sting in the tale but I adore writing crime and historical ones too. That is the thing I love most about flash fiction – its flexibility with setting. It is just the word count I have to watch – and even there I have choice. If something works better at 200 words than 100 so be it. It just go in for a 100-word (aka drabble) competition or market, that’s all.

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What I like with character creation:-

1. The sheer joy of coming up with a fully rounded person you as writer can have fun telling what to do and dropping right in the mire when it suits you!

2. When the character comes alive and, for me, that moment is when I know how they’d react in ANY circumstance. I usually know things such as what kind of music they’d listen to and so on. When I started out writing, I used to find it a little unnerving to hear a piece of music and think oh yes, Character X would like that. Now, I see that as a good sign.

3. When the character makes you laugh, terrifies you etc., just as you want them to do to a reader. If there’s no reaction from you, their creator, there won’t be from a reader either.

4. The challenge of coming up with different characters. Their voices must be different. I don’t want to write “all the same person” any more than a reader would want to read that. So getting the variety in keeps me on my toes.

5. When someone tells you they really loved or disliked a character but that is the reaction which is meant to happen!

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What I like about writing dialogue:-

1. When the dialogue flows, I know for certain I’ve got into the head of my character properly. It can feel almost as if I’m taking dictation from my characters but that’s a good sign.

2. I can get my characters to say things I’d love to say but wouldn’t dare! Now that’s got you wondering, hasn’t it? Best left there I think. Well, imagination is not fun if you give EVERYTHING away now, is it?

3. For my longer stories, I love getting two characters to spark off each other via their dialogue. My danger point there is to make sure everything is relevant to the story and I’m not just writing it because I love my characters and what they’re saying (though I do!). This is where the edit comes in and I do cut out anything that does not move the story on. I really do kill my darlings, darlings.

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Further to my mini-series so far, what I like about writing in general:-

1. Writing is fun and can be amazingly therapeutic. It is not a cure-all, nor is it meant to be, I think, but just escaping into your created world for a bit I’ve found to be very helpful and relaxing. Sometimes just that is all you need, regardless of what happens to the piece of writing itself. Of course, if you submit it and it is published/wins a competition etc., even better!

2. It is a challenge to do but it stretches you and that, I think, is a good thing.

3. You will expand your knowledge. I’ve looked into all manners of topics for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts, but research comes into fiction writing too. (If you are also a quiz fan, this could be really useful for that too!).

4. You can try all sorts of writing to work out which one suits you best. Nor do you have to stick at one either.

5. The challenge to begin with is to see if you can create a story, then, for me at least, it was to try and be published, and since then to see if I can be published more often. That challenge continues. It combines with wanting to make your storytelling better as you learn from what you write as you go along too.

Whatever you write, enjoy!

Goodreads Author Blog – Sneaking In Reading Time

My main reading time is in bed but the snag with that, of course, is if you’re really tired, you’re going to be lucky to get to the end of a page before your head hits the pillow and the book drops to the floor!

Having said that, there is nothing to beat being nicely cosy and comfortable and settling down for a chapter or so before sleeping. (To my mind this is not the time to read Stephen King though, especially if you dislike clowns!).

So I’ve managed to find little pockets of time during the day when I can sneak in some extra reading time. Five minutes here, five minutes there, and it’s lovely.

At the moment I’m using these pockets of time to catch up with my magazine reading but that’s great. Reading is reading when all is said and done, whether you read magazines, books, graphic novels etc.

When I use the train, I tend to focus on writing. I will occasionally read but I do feel the need to be “doing” something so out comes the smartphone, Evernote, and my stylus and I either draft some flash fiction or blog posts like this one.

So how do you sneak in extra reading time? I realised long ago there is never enough time in the world to do all the reading you would like to do so it’s a question of compromise.

What must I read next? What must I read now? How can I break the book I’ve chosen into manageable reading chunks?

I am grateful for the time I have though and it is a question of trying to make the most of what you can do here. (Same applies for creative writing). Any thoughts and comments on how to sneak in even more reading time are welcomed!

 

 

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