Time Pockets and Titles

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Managed to draft a little non-fiction whilst out and about today. I love Evernote and my smartphone! Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers’ Day on 20th October. As well as hearing inspiring speakers and learning so much there, the train journey to and from is also very useful for getting some more work done!

I learned a long time ago it pays to use whatever pockets of time you have to write. Those pockets mount up literally over time and I’ve learned to adapt. If I’ve got 10 minutes, say, I’ll use that period to brainstorm ideas for stories and CFT posts. If I’ve 30 minutes, I’ll draft a couple of flash fiction stories (though I will edit separately later).

Favourite things about titles? I love titles that can carry more than one meaning or take the reader in more than one direction. (It also has the advantage of being a wonderful shortcut when writing flash fiction – think of all those words saved!).

I love titles that can conjure up the mood of the story to come (and usually it ends up conjuring up the genre too). I like those titles where an author has taken a well known saying or proverb and twisted it to suit their purposes. (I do this too). That triggers instant curiosity in me to find out whether the story delivers on the promise of that title. I’m glad to say the vast majority do.

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I sometimes use spider diagrams to help me work out the best ideas for a story. This technique is most useful when I’ve got a promising title to work with but want to work out all possible options coming from it. (I want to make sure I don’t miss any and also not to go with the most obvious option).

There is something about seeing a diagram that encourages lateral thinking. Also flowcharts could work well too.

Sometimes photos can inspire story ideas. If you have a family portrait, who are they, is there anyone missing from the picture (and if so who and why), and what led up to the portrait being taken. Was everyone happy to take part or is the portrait a picture of a group hiding secrets and resentments? Plenty of food for thought there I think!

Many thanks to Peter Hitchen and the Hampshire Writers’ Society for an excellent summary of last Tuesday’s event.

What was fascinating from my viewpoint was that with flash fiction, you have to leave gaps for the reader to fill in with rheir imaginations. You give them the telling details, the what they need to know, and they do the rest. You could call it interactive fiction.

This tied in beautifully with Ian’s fascinating talk given ruthless editing and leaving the gaps is crucial to games writing too.

Again, many thanks. It was a great evening.

POSTER SHOWING ALLISON AS GUEST SPEAKER AT HWS OCTOBER 2018

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Many thanks to the Hampshire Writers’ Society for the image and to Peter Hitchen for the great write-up.

Hampshire Writers’ Society have kindly put up a great summary of last Tuesday’s meeting where Ian Thomas, games writer, and I were speaking. Many thanks to them!

My CFT post this week will be part 2 of The Joys and Challenges of Writing Series Novels. Once again, thanks to my guests, #JenniferCWilson, #ValPenny, #AnneWan, #WendyHJones and #RichardHardie. More great insights here which we all hope will be encouraging to other writers. Link up on Friday.

Making good progress on my third collection of flash fiction, though I think it is the way of things that progress is never as quick as writers would like! Have edited a novel I wrote ages ago and need to put those amendments in, so hope to get on with that soon too. Any chance to get bored? Not a bit of it and that’s just how it should be!

 

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Flash fiction may be short but it should still reveal character and, with that, something about the human condition.

What makes you hiss the villains in stories or cheer on the heroes/heroines? Their characters, as well as their actions, have you reading on and on to find out what happens. One of the things I love about fairytales is generally justice will be done in some way by the end of the story. We all know that so often doesn’t happen in life.

Ultimately, a story should leave you wondering whether YOU would do as the lead(s) did in the tale if you were facing those circumstances or if your actions would be somewhat different. (And what WOULD you do instead? A story to be written there perhaps).

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I’ve occasionally used alliteration in my story titles (Telling the Time in FLTDBA) but don’t use this method much. Not sure why other than that I absolutely love using well known sayings, proverbs etc as my source of inspiration for titles. (Often make great themes for the stories too of course).

I suspect though that alliteration is probably best treated a bit like chilli powder. Use alliteration to attract attention to your story, it can and SHOULD liven things up, (and ensure your tale delivers on the promise given by the title).

However, too much of it and you will regret it (and this comes from someone who DID put too much chilli in a con carne once. Once done never forgotten, trust me on that!). From a writing viewpoint, I suspect too much alliteration will simply become tiresome and would look gimmicky, definitely things to avoid.

Have fun with flash fiction and experiment with the form. It can be written poetically. It can be all dialogue. It can be all narrrative (though I think all dialogue is easier to do and easier to get a good pace continuing throughout).

Then there are the one line stories, the one paragraph tales and so on. Have fun experimenting with the mood of the story too. As with any story, your characters are going on a journey. It’s just that in flash it’s an abrupt one!

Set your stories in the present day, in the past, in the future. Set them in this world or in something made up. Have characters you love and those you loathe.

Above all, enjoy your writing. There really should not be a dull minute!

 

 

When a writer creates a world, you usually think of epic stories (such as sagas, fantasy etc) where that creation runs to several tens of thousands of words! Not the case in flash fiction where you might have tens of words at best and that’s it! Quite a difference…

So what are the telling details then that can conjure up a world in such few worlds? I’ve found that showing something of the lead character’s attitude to their world can be revealing. (Said character usually goes on to reveal why they love or loathe it – there’s rarely any middle ground here).

Getting the character to have a “quick look around” and summarise what they see is another good method to conjure up pictures quickly.

Getting a character to query something odd (to them) is also handy. Why is it odd? Do we know what the item is?

In all of these methods, you are following the old maxim of showing and not telling too.

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Images and Stories

Can you think of one image that conjures up a story so much so that when you see these images you can’t stop yourself recalling the tale? Some of mine are:-

1. A wardrobe. (Narnia). (Can make life awkward when walking past a furniture shop. I walk past, see the wardrobes and smile, though really I am a bit disappointed if I see someone open said wardrobe, and there are no pine trees, a lamp post, or lots of snow to be seen anywhere! I accept this may just be me).
2. A phone box (Dr. Who – and do check out the novels. They’re great).
3. A block of marble. (King Arthur). (Sometimes get to see these when visiting historical buildings, cathedrals etc).
4. A bow and arrow (Robin Hood – and I still love the Disney version of that).
5. A bonnet. (I instantly think of Pride and Prejudice, though I usually only see said bonnet if going to some sort of exhibition).
6. A cigar. (Hamlet – yes I know! I AM old enough to remember the advert for Hamlet cigars but these days I see the product and think of the wonderful production of Hamlet I saw with Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. I have at least gone upmarket a bit!).
7. A typewriter. I think of P.G. Wodehouse and his wonderful Jeeves and Wooster and Blandings stories in particular here.
8. White and red roses. I think of The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey which is a wonderful read and made me change my view on Richard III.
9. Daffodils. Yes, Wordsworth’s poem comes immediately to mind. A story captures a moment in time for a character but poems can as well even if the “character” is the poet and you are sharing with them one of their life experiences.
10. A picnic. Conjures up images of the Famous Five by Enid Blyton – and yes I’m partial to ginger beer too.

 

 

 

 

 

View from near where I was staying in Scotland. You wouldn't want to rush away from this. Image by Allison Symes

WHAT I’VE LEARNED SO FAR AS A WRITER

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Back to the A-Z of characters and I’m at L.

L = Love. Okay there’s the obvious romantic leads, and as long as they’re interesting characters, fine, but I love (aptly!) those characters who show love beyond that. For example, the love of someone caring for a parent or spouse with dementia etc. That kind of love, for me, is deeper and more meaningful. The stresses and tensions in that kind of character should make for a great story.

M = Mentors. Do you have any in your stories? If so, do they accept being a mentor or has that, like greatness, been thrust upon them? How do they manage?

N = Nobility. Again, as with love, you can have the obvious and direct noble characters. I prefer characters like Sam Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings who are truly noble (and brave with it) in character. Are your characters truly noble like that? What brought this about?

All ideas worth exploring as you develop your characters.

 

If there is anything I have learned as a writer, it is to be open to (a) opportunities and (b) not to be afraid to try something different. That was how I discovered the joys of flash fiction after all. It is also how I got into blogging.

I’m currently preparing a post about Why I Blog for Chandler’s Ford Today with contributions from many writer friends. Blogging is really the modern equivalent of journal keeping – at least that is how I see it – but it is fun to do and I find it useful as a way into writing before I get on to further fiction work.

Looking forward to the Hursley Park Book Fair at the weekend. Am giving a talk on flash fiction at 10.55. Am nervous and excited about it all at the same time but I guess a lot of writers feel that way!

I will be posting a shorter reminder post on Friday night on CFT about it but it is a pleasure to (a) share news about a book event, especially one I’m taking part in and (b) share news about an event which is FREE and has FREE PARKING! How often can you say that these days?

One great thing is there are lots of authors taking part across a wide range of genres so there is bound to be something to suit you. Come along and see! We’d all be pleased to see you.

Reasons to go?

 

1. Wide range of books to choose from.
2. Plenty of author talks.
3. There’s a book quiz (who doesn’t like a good quiz?).
4. The event is free and has free parking.
5. There are competitions aimed at adults and children.
6. There are also workshops.
7. You can meet the authors.
8. There will be readings.
9. There is a restaurant and bar on site.
10. Plenty of opportunities to discover writers new to you.

(Oh and if you do want to escape a certain sporting event, that’s point 11!).

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Really looking forward to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Always learn a lot and come away inspired and reinvigorated. I find by the late summer, I need inspiring and reinvigorating!

Wrote several new flash fiction stories while travelling to and from Scotland last week. I really do bless Evernote and my smartphone. One lovely thing about being a writer is boredom is a thing of the past. There is always something to write – whether it is flash fiction, ideas for future blog and CFT posts etc. Know it will come in handy later.

Am planning to write a lot while travelling to Swanwick too! (Images below by Allison Symes). The tent image is from a Medieval Weekend I went to and is the scrivener’s tent. They used to have some of the best accommodation, something I’ll bear in mind the next time I check in anywhere!

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I like to experiment a little with flash fiction. I have written some in poem format and, in the book I’m currently putting together, have written a few stories, told from the viewpoints of members of the same family. This is a first for me but it has proved great fun to do.

Given flash fiction really does have to be character led as there’s not much room for world building, the more interesting the character, the better the story.

Am putting finishing touches to my talk on flash fiction which I will be giving at the weekend at the Hursley Park Book Fair. I’m “on” at 10.55 am on Saturday 23rd June. I prepared a draft a while ago, but as with my fiction writing, I like to come back and look at my text with fresh eyes. There is always something to pick up and tweak so it comes across better etc. You really do need a gap between first preparing something and then editing it.

A sign of a good story, from the writer’s viewpoint, is when you can’t wait to write it. You get this with flash fiction too, but of course you don’t have so long to wait until you get to “the end”! 😁

Here, the trick is to look forward to writing the next one, the one after that, and so on. Manage that and you know you are on to something!

books tunnel school endless

The ultimate book tunnel? Image via Pexels

read under a tree signage hanging on branch tree

Unless in a thunder storm or high winds, this is a good idea! Image via Pexels

woman wearing grey spaghetti strap top

See! It is a good idea, weather permitting! Image via Pexels

brown clay pot on black and blue laptop

A nice clear desk (not mine!). Image via Pexels

Let creativity spill out - image via Pixabay

Let the creative process flow! Image via Pixabay

Writing directly to screen

What are the changes your characters seek to make? Are you showing your characters doing this rather than telling us? Image via Pixabay.

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I’ve not long got back from a wonderful break in the Far North of Scotland and I caught up with a lot of reading on my Kindle during this.

However, I also treated myself to three new paperbacks just before my break and I’m really enjoying those too, having deliberated “saved” them to start reading during my break. Why choose over an ebook or a “real” book? Be greedy, have both!

Am currently reading Peter Ackroyd’s Biography of London (fascinating way of showing a history of a city), Neil Gaiman’s View from the Cheap Seats (a collection of his non-fiction articles), and Ben Macintyres’ Double Cross. Good sized tomes all of them and a lovely read. Hope to review at a later date.

I like a good mix of things to read and am developing a real taste for well written non-fiction. Books can take you into other worlds. Sometimes the world they show you is this one but from an angle you’ve not considered before. For me, this is an acid test of a good read. A good read will enlighten you.

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