Looking Back

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. In what has been a historic week, I take the opportunity to look back, share a new story, and prepare to embrace the new season. It has taken an autumnal turn here!

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Facebook – General and – Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share Looking Back, my new post for Chandler’s Ford Today. At the end of the week which began with Her Majesty’s funeral, I thought I’d look back at some of the events I recall over the last few decades and set them against some of the major royal events which were in the news at the time. I look at the importance of taking time out to reflect too.

Long term, I believe it does you good. We need time to process things and taking time out gives you some of that at least. There is a time for looking back, even enjoying some nostalgia but the important thing I think it not to wallow in this but to learn from our past and move on. But you need to take time out to reflect and then move on. It is in the reflecting we learn.

Looking Back

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Lady got to play with her pal, Coco, today. Lovely time had by both dogs. Always nice to see dogs playing.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is about Looking Back, which to me seemed an apt topic in the week of the late Queen’s funeral. Given Her Majesty was the only monarch I’d known, I’ve taken a look back at the decades I’ve been on the planet and shared some of my highlights against the backdrop of major events in her long reign. (Naturally I could not cover all of those). I also reflect on why I feel it is important to reflect. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Many thanks to those who came to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group on Zoom last night. It was great fun and I hope we all produce stories from it. We at least have got a head start on some! (And it was the tonic I needed after a frustrating day thanks to the Case of the Non-Appearing Washing Machine Engineer! See below!).

I’m giving another Zoom talk next week on flash fiction and am looking forward to that.

 

Hope you have had a good day. Has been a bit of a frustrating one here – have been waiting in for an engineer to visit. No engineer! Ring the company up and “apparently” they rang me late last week to say the part needed wasn’t in. They didn’t. I did point out that they didn’t call and also they could’ve emailed me (they have to have my email address). Not impressed. It’s a lesson of how NOT to do customer service. Did manage to walk Lady though – she’s had the better day!

It will be especially nice to be at the Association of Christian Writers Flash Group meeting tonight. It will be fun and great to see everyone especially after a frustrating day. I suspect an awkward customer service person may end up in a flash piece of mine at some point – writing can be so therapeutic at times!

Always a joy to talk or write about flash fiction

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s Friday night and time for another story of mine which appeared on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy Good for Something – my writer character has fears about their upcoming book signing.

Screenshot 2022-09-23 at 08-55-01 Good For Something by Allison Symes

Am looking forward to sharing my flash fiction workshop to some lovely Scottish writers next week. This is where Zoom is a blessing!

What I love about flash is especially on those days where I’m tired or just too busy, I can still write something. I can still create something. And that makes me feel so much better.

Unless I am on holiday, or ill, where I expect not to write much, if at all, I have to have my fix of daily creative writing. Am a grouch without it – you heard it here first!

Flash is a wonderful outlet for small pieces you wouldn’t otherwise do something with so I love it for that too.

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Feeling very autumnal at the moment. Not that I mind. I think autumn is a lovely season. But as the days grow shorter and the nights longer, can that be made use of in a story? A crime flash piece is perhaps the obvious use for that but you could also do reflective pieces where the characters are tune into the mood of the season to share something important with us.

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Fairytales with Bite – A New Beginning

The classic fairytales often end with “and they lived happily ever after”. It’s what we expect. But for me that line heralds the start of a new beginning for the characters involved. Where could their story take them next?

Many an additional fairytale has come from writers asking and answering that question. It is along those lines I got into print for the first time back in 2009 with A Helping Hand from Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing). I looked at the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of the youngest step-sister and explored if there could be a new beginning for her.

Screenshot 2022-09-23 at 20-17-54 Allison Symes

You can take the idea of a new beginning for characters who have solved one crisis and have to learn to live with their new situation in which they find themselves. How would they adjust? Do they need additional support? Do they get it? And when a character has literally moved on, how do those left behind cope with their new beginning? Is it a good thing for them or something they are not looking forward to having to cope with?

A new beginning can be a threat to a character as well as holding out a promise. How will you make your characters face and deal with their new beginnings and what triggers such things? Have your characters known this was coming?

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This World and Others – Continuity

Many of us like continuity in our lives. We like to know certain things will happen at certain times. We like to know we are going to be able to do the things we need to do to survive and so on. Some of us like a routine. (I do. It’s how I get my writing done). So we can apply this directly to characters too.

Think about how they would react if that continuity was threatened or even taken away for a while. How would they cope? Do they get the natural rhythm of their lives back again or do they have to face up to change they didn’t seek and set up a new kind of continuity?

Are there other characters who thrive on chaos? What happens when they disrupt the community continuity and how do characters react to that disruption?

What community leaders does your setting have and how do they react to threats to their authority? It is not likely to be a good reaction but are they measured in how they put things right (in their eyes) or do they take extreme measures? Are they prepared to do anything to get that continuity back?

Definite story ideas there!

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Hooks, Colours, and The Queue

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. I’ve been watching the various ceremonies for our late Queen and am amazed at how beautiful a building Westminster Hall is. I’ve been to the Abbey but not to that so this is something to make amends for, I think.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Loved a tweet I came across earlier which felt we had reached peak Britishness re The Queue (definitely capitals needed there) and it now having regular weather updates. All that was needed was for the tea to come out (and I am sure someone has organised that!). We do queues well. We organise well. We have organised a queue – a very special one. Yes, I’d say we’d reached peak Britishness all right!

Am pleased to share my Chandler’s Ford Today post about Hooks. Hope you find it useful. I look at different kinds and why it matters that the author plays fair with their readers. We do have to deliver on our hooks.

I love a good hook and enjoy it when I guess how the story will pan out. I like it even more when the writer wrong foots me. I then go back through the story and look for the clues I missed on my first reading. You learn a lot from doing this, much of which you can apply to your own writing.

Hooks

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The flowers around Buckingham Palace, Sandringham, Balmoral etc are so very lovely.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow will be about Hooks. I’ll be looking at some of the ones I use most often, discuss the importance of playing fair with your readers, and I’ll ask if you can have too many hooks. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Hooks are useful for non-fiction as well as stories of course. They just differ a bit in type. A hook for a non-fiction piece would be for me to share some indication this post or article is going to tell me something I need to know. (Sometimes something I didn’t know I needed to know too!).

The important point though, whether for fiction or non-fiction, is the hook does have to deliver on its promise.

Non fiction can have hooks too - useful information

The service for the late Queen at Westminster Hall today was lovely. It is a beautiful building but I was struck by the vivid colours of those taking part, on the coffin itself, and down the Mall and Horseguards. I thought it apt too given Her Majesty loved her own vivid colours.

I sometimes use colours as a a distinguishing feature for my characters. For example, rather than say Character X had a moth-eaten coat, I’ll show you they had a red moth-eaten one. The addition of colour makes the information given here more pertinent and I think much easier to visualise.

And you can tell something about characters from the kinds of colours they choose to wear – red is vivid, dark blue less so. I would expect the character’s personality to match that. (Incidentally that can be twisted. A shy character can wear red to try to give themselves more confidence but the story should make it clear that is what they’re doing and I would then expect to find out whether the character succeeded in their aim here or not).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I sometimes write flash stories in the form of a letter and I’ve done so for my piece on Friday Flash Fiction this week. Hope you enjoy Times Past.
Screenshot 2022-09-16 at 09-34-16 Times Past by Allison Symes

When you write, do you have anything on in the background? I listen to classical music as it helps me relax and when I’m relaxed, I find I get “into” writing that much more easily.

You could also think about what makes your characters relax and why they might need that. What has stressed them out that they need their comfort of choice? Again, especially for flash, it’s the telling detail which is needed here. I could get my character to make themselves a huge mug of hot chocolate and put on Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata for instance. That character will be different to someone who pours themselves a large double whisky and puts on a hard rock track.

Think about why your characters have the tastes they do. How do these indicate their personality, especially that which they keep hidden from other characters in your story? Also what are they hiding and why? Are they successful in hiding it?

May be an image of text that says "Some writers need to use visualisation to literally picture their characters. Others need to hear the voices of the characters."


I like to use specific details about a character to help bring them to life for potential readers. Specifics are easiest to visualise and you can infer a lot from them too – saves on the word count too! The nice thing here is you have a wide range of things to choose from here. You can use colours, a character’s tastes in music, food, the senses, their favourite book and so on.

A reader will take different things from a character loving Winnie The Pooh in adult life compared with someone who likes the latest horror instead, for example.

And you can always use a random generator (objects, pictures etc) to help you work out what those specific things could be!

May be an image of text that says "What Who Where When How Why find using random question generators a great way to build up my character profile. These questions are pretty good τσσ."

Fairytales with Bite – When an Era Ends

I’m writing this in the week after the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. The mood in the UK generally is sombre and sad, as you would expect. The Queen was just a constant presence and it is odd to think she has gone, despite her great age.

Now when it comes to your fiction, who rules in your story world and what happens when there is a change of leader? Is that done peacefully or not? What rules are there in your setting to allow for changeovers? And if you are writing about immortal characters, are they only allowed to serve for so long? This is also where time comes into play. How does that work in your setting? Do your characters age? Is there a natural time for leadership etc to come to an end?

How do the people cope with the end of an era, especially if it has been a long one? If some cope better than others, there could be interesting stories there as to why that is, especially if that triggers resentment in the ones not coping so well.

Going into a new era, are people optimistic or fearful? What is behind the way they feel? Does the world’s history give them good grounds for fear, say?

And just what does the new era usher in for your characters? What are the likely positives and negatives here? Also, will anyone try to get in the way of the one likely to succeed as the new leader?

 

This World and Others – Changes

Changes in life are inevitable though not always welcome of course. Do your characters embrace changes or try to resist them? Do changes come in thanks to advances in technology and the like or through the way life is lived in your setting?

Are there certain types of changes your characters take in their stride or do they struggle with any kind of change?

Changes can also be seen as opportunities. What kind of changes have led to improvements in the way your characters live/their health/their quality of life etc?

Are our characters the kind to bring in changes for the benefit of others (or are they power hungry and the changes they seek are not in the general good)?

Any kind of story from the shortest piece of flash fiction to the most epic novel has to have change in it. Something happens to a character. The chraracter reacts – there are consequences and conflicts which have to be resolved in some way.

But the joy of characterisation I think is inventing different people who react to these things in different ways and I want to find out what happens to them. If you’re intrigued by how your characters handle changes in their circumstances, then your readers will be intrigued too.

And we all know what it is to have changes we don’t like thrust on us. We know we have to find a way of coping with things. That’s where empathy for characters come in because they can live through things we don’t have to and we can learn from how they do handle things.

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A Sad Week

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.

THE DEATH OF HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH THE SECOND

ON 8TH SEPTEMBER 2022

It has been an odd couple of days since the news broke of Her Majesty’s death. My posts below reflect that. There is a collective sense of loss even though we all knew that at some point this day would have to come.

I believe it to be a remarkable tribute that the sense of loss is palpable given she was the only monarch most of us had known and she was a constant presence even for those of us who never met the late Queen.

Constancy and consistency matter (as Her Majesty proved by her devotion to duty) and I feel that is only brought home by events like this.

My late father was a child during World War Two and was, at first, too young to be evacuated. Later he recalled often seeing the late Queen’s parents in the bombed out areas of the East End of London. I am absolutely sure the late King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother as she became, would be very proud of their daughter. We are.

May you rest in peace and rise in Glory, Ma’am.

God save the King!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

There was really nothing I could add to my Facebook post yesterday. See below. Her Majesty will be much missed. I thought the King’s speech was wonderful.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is Good Interviews and I look at the topic from using interview techniques to get to know your characters better before writing their stories up. I also share some thoughts on how writers can prepare for interviews and what I think makes for a good interview.

Hope you find it useful.

Good Interviews

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8th September 2022
So deeply saddened to learn of the death of Her Majesty the Queen. She has been a constant presence and will be much missed.

God save the King.

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Hope today has been okay. Have enjoyed listening to the 30th birthday celebrations of Classic FM today. I’m a fairly late convert to the joys of classical music. This is very much a case of better late than never.

Now talking of well known sayings, how can you use them in story telling without falling into the great big cliche trap?

One way is to use the saying as the title. It also gives your readers the theme immediately. It is then a question of you delivering something special on that well known saying – no pressure then! – but it can be done. The big hook for any story for me (and I won’t be the only one) is the lead character. Get me interested in them and I will read on.

Also think about ways you can prove the well known saying to be right or wrong in the case of your character. Maybe for your person, it really isn’t a question of being late than never. Never would’ve been the better option etc. You could have fun with that.

I’ve subverted sayings for titles but you could do it for the story itself too. Your character would have to establish fairly early on they are different enough to be able to do that as it is unlikely a meek and mild character would subvert anything much!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Today has been a strange day, as you can imagine, though I thought His Majesty’s speech hit the right note and was beautifully done. I’ve been listening to various recollections of people meeting the late Queen on Classic FM today. Personal stories matter and they were all deeply touching.

I love stories as they can be a form of escapism and just sometimes that is exactly what is needed.

My latest story on Friday Flash Fiction is called On That Day, which is about what happens when Bella finds a travel machine conveniently left open. Hope you enjoy it. Definitely on the light side this one.

Screenshot 2022-09-09 at 09-12-26 On That Day by Allison Symes

8th September 2022

Today is a historic day. The late Queen’s devotion to duty was legendary. You will be much missed, Ma’am.

God save the King.

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One quick way into a character outline for a flash story is to ask five quick questions about them.

1. Your name?
2. Your major trait?
3. Your tastes in music, food, film etc.
4. What you like/loathe the most?
5. Name one thing you would never do.

The great thing with the last one is your story would have them facing up to that one thing they’d never do. When push came to shove, would they still really not do it or cave in? A great way to ratchet up the tension and there would have to be a conclusion – which way would your character go and why?

Asking and answering questions sets up a structure for your piece of work

Fairytales with Bite – By Hook or by Crook

Which way of doing things do your characters prefer? Do you have characters who couldn’t be honest if their life depended on it and would do anything to get their way? What obstacles do they come up against and do they change their tune?

What would be fun here, I think, is having a character who does things the right way – they hook support in legitimately – up against someone who will take every crooked turn available and then watch the sparks fly! Only one of those characters can win by the end of your story. Will the judicious use of the right “hook” be enough to save the day?

How honest, or otherwise, is your main setting and its government? Do your characters moan about their leaders the way we moan about ours and, if so, what are the consequences, especially in a magical world?
What kind of crook does exist in your setting? Is there crime as we know it? If there’s magical crime, what form does that take and what are the consequences for those caught using it?

Last not not least, what is the hook for your story and characters? What will draw readers in? It helps to draw yourself into the story and view it as if someone else had written it. What do you make of this tale if it was written by someone else?

This World and Others – On Whose Order?

Orders can be given by all manner of people. The kind of order given matches the importance or otherwise, of those giving the order, so who do you have in your stories barking out commands to all and sundry? How well does this go down the the other characters? Potential set up for comedy and/or tragedy here I suspect.

It can also led to interesting story ideas if you look at how someone got into a position of authority ad what they’ve had to do to stay there. On whose orders are the orders given out? Are the orders ever disobeyed? Can anyone question an order to prevent it being carried out?

Is your society structured in such a way everyone knows their place and everyone knows whose orders are being belted out to people and why? If you have a stranger in town, so to speak, how do they pick up what they need to know?

Are orders backed up by the use of force ore are people generally obedient?

Best question of all, who challenges the status quo? Many a fine story has been told using that premise. Also just because orders are given it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re followed properly.

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Regular Writing and What Makes a Good Read

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 had a good weekend. Starting to get rain, thunder etc here. Lady okay with it but does not like being woken up by it. Can’t say I blame her.

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Not bad here and I managed to get some swimming in as well so that’s good. Managed to duck most of the showers as well – definitely a good day. Lady and I have had plenty of soakings in our time so any time we miss out on that, we feel we have won!

Just to flag up there’s an offer on the paperback on Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See the link at https://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic

Writing Tip 9002.5 or thereabouts: Regular writing is important. So is life. If life does get in the way, don’t feel bad about what you can’t do. Focus on what you can.

If it means you need to have another writing session some when else, then fine, so be it. The writing journey is a marathon and not a sprint. Pacing yourself helps a lot.

I must admit I know there are some nights of the week I know I’m not going to get a lot done so I focus on blogging (just adding a few paragraphs sometimes) or I draft a flash story. It gives me something to work on when I do have more time.

 

Am grateful Lady isn’t fazed by thunder and lightning as we had some in my part of the world at about 11 last night. Her policy here is the same as mine – the sensible one of sleeping through it and letting the weather carry on without you. It’s not as if it needs our help!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be about Good Interviews. I’ll be looking at what writers can do to help themselves prepare for these as well as looking at interviewing your characters to find out more about them ahead of writing their stories up. Link up on Friday. (And I’m interviewing two great writers for CFT before long – more news nearer the time – so I plan to be practicing what I preach here!).

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)Comments welcome for CFT


Changeable weather today with rain forecast this week. Won’t be that sorry, though it will mean Lady and I will probably get a bit wet. The trees here are shedding leaves early to conserve water so the rain is needed. And Lady and I are used to being “drips” anyway so that’s okay!

Many thanks for the comments in on Fitting In, my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. In case you missed it, you can find it here.

Now this story is loosely based on fact. I did have a dog called Gracie and I did fall for her immediately. Inspiration for story ideas can and does come from incidents in life but also from what I read and sometimes an overheard bit of conversation which intrigues me. (Train journeys are great for that by the way).

It’s being open to the possibility you might get a story from something that is important I think. The more you read, the more you are open to being inspired too.Screenshot 2022-09-02 at 09-11-55 The Arrangement by Allison Symes

Hope you have a happy weekend.

Any autumn plans you’re looking forward to? Any books you’re planning on reading this season? I mentioned the other day I’m currently reading Churchill’s Wizards on Kindle (having just finished the excellent Regal Retribution by Jennifer C Wilson).

It’s a lovely contrast in reading material – non-fiction -v- contemporary fiction (historical crossed with ghost). But I love to mix up my reading and ideas for stories come from both sides of my reading diet. I’ll read something and the cogs get whirring and I jot down ideas for another flash story or blog post. Reading feeds the imagination and it pays all writers to keep theirs topped up.

Best of all, it is fun to do!

And talking of reading, why not check out the latest edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads? It is free to download, has a wealth of articles, photos, stories and, of course, my flash fiction column.

This time I’m talking about Questions and Answers in Flash Fiction. I love questions as they give you a great story structure from the word go. Your story has to answer the question set. Your question draws the reader in – they know there will have to be an answer by the end of the story. Do also check out the flash fiction pieces that came in as a result of my challenge – there are wonderful stories here.

Screenshot 2022-09-03 at 20-32-31 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine September 2022

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Don’t forget I often post flash fiction videos to my YouTube channel. New subscribers are always welcome (and the current ones treasured!). You can find my channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

Screenshot 2022-09-06 at 20-23-13 Allison Symes

 

It’s Monday. It’s time for a story I think. Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTubeThe Right Number. No prizes for guessing which random generator I used to trigger the idea for this one!

 

Does geography come into your fiction at all? It sometimes ventures into mine. For example in A Day Out from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I refer to Earth Mark Two. I didn’t have the room in this story to say more than that but you immediately know you’re in an alien environment loosely based on what we know here.

More importantly, I didn’t need to say more than that. As ever it is the telling detail which matters here. You can bring the senses in here too.

For example, if you say Character X was standing by the blood red waterfall, you can deduce they must be on a foreign planet even if you don’t give the name of it.

Also think about how geography might impact your story (the quest tale is the obvious one here but it can be done for the smaller flash stories). If your character is on a mission to deliver cakes, (quite possibly to Grandma’s house), how could the geography get in their way and what do they do to bypass that? There’s the story. Readers will want to know if those cakes did get delivered. There’s your structure.

The geography is what causes conflict and challenge for your character and they will have to resolve it as best as they can to be able to do what they are meant to do. Usually failure is not an option (and you can increase the hazards for your character here by making it clear what will happen if they do fail).

May be an image of ‎tree and ‎text that says "‎Just give your readers what they need to know to picture your world. Everything else they will هll in from what they have read/seen on film.‎"‎‎

I often refer to some of my stories as “fairytales with bite” because they often have a twist and they’re not aimed at children. They often see characters getting their comeuppance. I also like to look at stories from the viewpoint of alternative characters to the well known ones.

Indeed my first story in print was A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions. My story looked at an aspect of the Cinderella story from the youngest step-sister’s viewpoint. Great fun to do.

The original fairytales are anything but twee as I’ve mentioned before. They can work so well as in flash fiction format, especially if you want a succinct story focusing on one incident in a character’s life.

My The Poison Pen from From Light to Dark and Back Again looks at the Snow White story from the viewpoint of the crone before the King marries Snow White’s mother and shows early indications of what the crone is like.

This kind of tale can add to the world of the well known fairytales I think. But you need to think about what character you’re going to use for this and work out what you can do with them. In this story’s case, I am showing the crone was like this years prior to the original Snow White story. In other words, she’s got form!

My flash collections are available in Kindle and paperback

Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes You Read?

Leading question, hmm? What makes me read is curiosity first and foremost. I have to find out what happens to the characters in the story. Or I have to find out what an expert is imparting to me via their non-fiction work. I read to escape worries and cares for while. I read because I love stories and finding out things. I read because it is a privilege and pleasure to be able to do so.

Reading fuels the imagination and that is why I think all writers should read widely and regularly, inside and outside of their chosen genre. I’ve had story ideas come to me from reading non-fiction. Occasionally a blog idea will occur to me from reading something in a story. I also see reading as supporting the industry I am part of – makes great sense to me.

Besides, as we go into autumn in my part of the world, what is better than curling up with a hot chocolate and a good book or something fascinating on your Kindle?

Screenshot 2022-09-03 at 20-47-58 What Makes You Read

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Looking Back at Swanwick 2022

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Most images from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for my Chandler’s Ford Today post were taken by me, Allison Symes, as were any screenshots (and photos of Lady naturally).
A big thank you to Jennifer C Wilson and Penny Blackburn for images they took of me that I’ve used in my CFT post. Tricky to take pics of yourself when about to give a writing session! Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here and thankfully much cooler. Lady is pleased about that too.

 

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m thrilled to share Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. This post was a sheer joy to write. It was also lovely not having to worry about sourcing the photos – I took most of them and friends shared the rest. Many thanks to #ValPenny and #JenniferCWilson here!

(I generally do use Pixabay and then enhance images via Book Brush as you know but it is also nice to share pics I’ve taken from time to time).

This post shares a little of what it is like to be at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. I look at taking part in workshops and fun events such as the Open Prose Mic Night and share a little of the joys of being immersed in the world of writing for a week, especially when you are always made so welcome whether it is is your first visit or your 50th.

Hope you enjoy the post and maybe see you there for Swanwick 2023.

Looking Back at Swanwick 2022

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Hope you had a good Thursday. Many thanks to those who came to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group on Zoom last night. It was great fun and lovely to see familiar names popping up on online magazines who welcome flash fiction. Keep writing!

I’m so looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. I’ll be Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 and this post was a real labour of love to write. I love writing all of my posts but some always stand out as special and writing about Swanwick does that for me. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Have, after a bit of a break, got back to reading on Kindle again. Good to be back to that. Am so glad electronic book shelves can’t give way under the weight of all I’ve got on that!

My flash collections are available in Kindle and paperback

Strange day weather wise here in Hampshire – drizzle, cloudy etc and then boy did it warm up!

One of the joys of writing is you do have two interests in one here. Every writer I know has a serious addiction to books and stories of all kinds and loves to read in and out of their genre. I try to keep my reading “diet” mixed and interesting.

I catch up with things like Writing Magazine over lunch but I read books to help me with my writing, novels, ebooks, collections etc (using paperback and the Kindle for this) most nights before settling to sleep. It is only if I am already too tired I don’t do that. I make up for it the next night instead.

I love stories. I love writing them. I love reading them. Win-win here. And in making writer friends, I get to ensure I read contemporary fiction as well as the classics. I like to find out what friends are bringing out after all and I have a lovely collection of their signed books to me on my book shelves. I treasure that.

And the great thing about flash fiction in all of this? It proves an entertaining story can be 100 words long as well as the novels proving it at 100,000! I like that. To me there is a pleasing symmetry going on here.

May be an image of text that says "Regardless of genre and setting, all stories need a proper beginning, middle and ending."

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It is lovely to be back on Friday Flash Fiction after my break at Swanwick last week. Hope you enjoy my tale, Fitting In, which has a book-related theme. It also shows you can never be always sure of who your audience might be.

Screenshot 2022-08-26 at 09-20-17 Fitting In by Allison Symes

I like open titles for my stories, ones that have to provoke curiosity in a reader. Sometimes I subvert a title or phrase (as in my Punish the Innocent from From Light to Dark and Back Again).

Titles are your first hook to draw a reader in and I have judged competitions where there are no titles. I do think writers are missing a trick here. It pays to have a good title. I jot down an initial idea and then change if it I need to. I know what my story line is going to be (because I know who my character is) and that usually gives me a starting point for a title. Doesn’t mean I necessarily have to stick with it though. Again as with my story itself, I just need something to get me started.

I like alliterative titles but try to avoid using them all the time. They’re memorable but you don’t want to get sidelined into using only one kind of title. I’ve used proverbs. I’ve used phrases. I’ve used ideas thrown up by random generators. I like keeping my options, as well as my titles, open!

Questions are useful for themes and titles

Writing tip 7008 or thereabouts: Don’t worry about your flash word count immediately. Get your story written. Then rest it. Then look at it again with fresh eyes and get rid of wasted words, look at ways to improving your phrasing and so on.

I then find a story will be “settling” at the circa 100, 200 or 300 words mark. I then and only then think will I try to reduce the story down to the lower word count or leave it as it is? If I feel a reduction will take something away from the story as such how it flows, characterisation that adds depth to the tale, I leave the story at, say, 224 words and then find a market or competition looking for pieces under 250 or 300 words.

I ask myself questions during the editing process mainly along the lines of do I need this and, if so, why? That helps enormously in helping me to judge what really should stay in. You don’t want to lose the soul of the tale. Editing should always enhance this and bring the best out in your story.

The only thing to cut out is waffle – now if only politicians took the same view, yes?!

Simple writing equals no waffle

Fairytales With Bite – Character Profiling

I often use random generators to trigger story ideas but you can also use the random question one to help you get to know your characters better. I use https://faculty.washington.edu/ejslager/random-generator/index.html mainly because I have a soft spot for the duck on their page (go on, check it out, you know you want to!).

I generated the question What is your theme song? You could apply that to your character and find out more about them by then asking yourself why they chose that one. In a fantasy setting, you could also work out what kind of music they would have. Is it comparable with what we have here?

I find I have to know what my character traits are (because actions, thoughts, capabilities all stem from that) but the generators are a great way of getting into profiling your character quickly. No reason why you can’t use them for fairytale characters or others of a fantasy/magical ilk.

Screenshot 2022-08-21 at 20-35-24 Random Qs

This World and Others – Character Roles

What roles do your characters play in your stories? What roles are available to them? Are roles assigned by gender, ancestral heritage or anything like that? Do your characters like or resent their roles?

The role of women has changed considerably over time here – what would be the equivalent for your characters? Do things like war change what people are expected to do? How does technology change roles? Doles your world have the equivalent of the Luddites who went around smashing machinery to try to save their own jobs?

If your world has androids or any other kind of robot, what are their roles and could they break their programming? Do humanoid characters resent the role the robots do or are they relieved they don’t have to do this kind of work?

Characters can have roles they didn’t expect thrust on to them (Frodo Baggins, anyone?). So how do your people handle this? Is their new role the making of them?

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Interview – Val Penny – and Swanwick Part 2

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Many thanks to Val Penny for supplying the book and author photos for my interview with her on Chandler’s Ford Today. Photos from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, including one of Val about to give her excellent Promoting Your Work talk (see CFT post), were all taken by me, Allison Symes. You do know who to blame! And a HUGE thank you to Jennifer C Wilson for taking the photos of me about to lead my session at Swanwick and of me signing my books. It is SO hard to take that kind of shot yourself!! Another lovely thing about Swanwick is we all happily do this for each other – the sharing and kindness here is amazing.

Feature Image - Val Penny - The Hunter Wilson Series and Blog Tours20220818_130622
Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Safely back home after a fabulous time at Swanwick, I hope to report more on that for Chandler’s Ford Today next week.

Today though I share a great interview with Scottish crime writer, Val Penny, a fellow Swanwicker. Val shares news of her recent book release and we have a fab chat about blog tours, keeping notes about your characters’ main characteristics, marketing and other topics. Hope you enjoy it and it was lovely to catch up with Val again in person this last week. Until next year, Val!

Val Penny: The Hunter Wilson Series and Blog Tours

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Am pleased to share my latest blog on Authors Electric. Aptly I talk about Holiday Reading and Writing.

The four part course on Creative Non-Fiction ended today. So useful. I then went on to the Writing Comedy short course led by Rob Gee.

Later this afternoon, it will be time for the Swanwick Annual General Meeting. The main event on the last full day is the famous Swanwick Farewell and Awards evening which is always great fun. It was too!

Am I planning to be back next year? Oh yes!

Screenshot 2022-08-18 at 13-48-54 Holiday Reading and Writing by Allison Symes

Well, the temperature has cooled here in Derbyshire. We have had rain! Nobody sorry about that.
I resumed the Creative Non-Fiction specialist course led by Simon Whaley and then went on to the Historical Fiction course led by Jennifer C Wilson. I write some historical fiction flash stories and it is an area I would like to write more in – the scope is huge!

I’m planning to finish my afternoon by going to the Cracking the Cryptic Crossword one hour workshop led by Vivien Brown. I love crosswords. I can’t get cryptics so I thought this could be useful for when I want to unwind with word games, as I often do. It was great fun and an eye-opener.

There’s a fancy dress evening later. Am not really into that myself but it will be fun seeing what costumes people come up with for the theme of Another Night at the Movies.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

So back at home and back to the writing routine. (I have to have one to get any writing done at all). I hope to resume writing for Friday Flash Fiction and my YouTube channel from next week.

Swanwick set a competition for us while we’re there. I did send in a 150 word story. It didn’t get placed but I loved writing it, will look at it again and see where else I can submit it – I do know there will be somewhere!

I’ve sometimes gone on to have work published that way. And I’m fine with the sometimes by the way, simply because nobody hits a perfect 100% hit rate in writing/being published/being placed.

Delighted to sign Tripping the Flash Fantastic for fellow authors while at Swanwick. It is always a special thing. When I first started writing anything seriously, I knew nobody in the writing world. It is now a great joy to have many writing friends, some of whom I’ve met in person and others I’ve met just online.

I’ve learned so much chatting to other writers, including finding out about flash fiction and I’ve never regretted discovering that!

 

My week at the fantastic Swanwick Writers’ Summer School went by in a flash. It always does. Fabulous fun, caught up with old friends, got chatting to people new to Swanwick, learned so much from the courses and workshops, and enjoyed taking part.

I did take part again in the Open Prose Mic Night. Again fun to do and flash fiction works well for this. Loved listening to the Open Poetry Mic Night too.

For the prose night, I picked my linked flash tales – Mishaps and Jumping Time from Tripping the Flash Fantastic this time. Pleased to say they did get laugh but then my hapless time travelling alien in these stories does have that coming. Honest!

 

One thing I’ve learned over the years is to not rush a submission to a short story or flash competition. You always do need more editing time than you think. So I factor this in to my schedule and aim to submit my work about a fortnight before the deadline, having carried out all editing necessary including that important final check to ensure you have got all the typos out etc.

Can a judge tell if a competition entry has been rushed?
Oh yes.

What you want is for your work to be so polished the judge knows you haven’t rushed at all and you’ve given yourself plenty of time to ensure all is as good as you can make it. The little details matter here too.

Planning does not have to kill spontaneity - just work out what you need to know, you don't need to plan everything

Fairytales with Bite – The Creative Arts

What kind of creative arts would your fairytale world have? Would it be an area where magic was banned? I can’t see how much fun it would be if you were allowed to whip out your magic wand, say a quick spell and, hey presto, you’ve produced a stunning picture or a brilliant book. I would want things to be created “properly”, else where is the joy of the creative process?

Naturally I think of stories and books first for the arts world, followed by music, especially classical, as my two big art interests are there. What are your arts interests and could you bring them in somehow to the world you’re creating in your stories? What would be different in your magical world in this sphere?

Often we think of fairytales as those stories we read as children/had read to us. What would your magical world’s equivalent be? Do they tell tales about dodgy humans getting their comeuppance thanks to a heroic magical character, say?

Life is made up of the basic necessity to survive naturally, but what about the other elements of a well rounded life, which include the creative arts? How are those represented in your stories?

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This World and Others – Values

What values does your fictional world have in common with this one? Which ones are literally alien and why have these values been established? (That may well shed a great deal of light on the characters of your aliens – do they agree with these values or not?).

Values get established over time so how long did it take your world to come up with the ones it has? Are there sections of the community which don’t hold with these values at all and what do they do about this? Passive resistance or something much more active? Are they right to take the view they do?

Bear in mind your characters, wherever they are set, do not need to share your values. I’ve written pieces where I am at odds with my characters and that’s fine. But you still do need to understand why your characters, of whatever species, hold the values they do. There will be reasons for this. Okay, they may not be great ones but they will make sense to your fictional world and characters.

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Quizzes and Word Games

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Photos of The Hayes, Swanwick, were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good week. Mine started with a petulant goose but has ended without one (it has literally waddled off) much to Lady’s relief. Best of all, my copies of The Best of CafeLit 11 arrived. Always lovely to open something like that.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share a lighthearted post for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I‘m looking at Quizzes and Word Games, favourite things of many a writer, including yours truly. I have a soft spot for Scrabble in particular.

What are your favourite word games? Do share your thoughts on the CFT comments page.

Next week I am interviewing the lovely crime writer, Val Penny and looking forward to sharing that.

And the goose continues to keep away so Lady is well pleased. From her viewpoint, an odd week has ended well, especially as she got to play with her best buddy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback this morning.!).

Quizzes and Word Games

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One thing I never tire of… drum roll, please… is opening up my new arrival of books! Pleased to say my copies of The Best of CafeLit 11 arrived today. I was especially pleased as I wasn’t expecting these until next week so that was nice.

Nice and quiet here without the hissing goose.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is a fun one on Quizzes and Word Games. Apt for writers. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Has playing word games helped my vocabulary? Oh yes. Especially playing Scrabble. Have any of the words I’ve learned made it into a flash fiction story or blog post from me yet? No. Give it time!

In breaking news… NO goose turned up today. I have a much happier dog! A much happier me come to that. I haven’t checked what my broom feels about it but it too has had a quieter, less eventful day.
Now that goose was clearly a bit out of place so how about a writing prompt to come from this?

Have your character out of place. There has to be a good reason for it. Show how they got into that state and how they got out of it again. Good potential for funny or sad pieces here I think. I may well have a go at this myself later on in the week. Will keep you posted. Have fun with it.

Characters have to have good reasons for their actions, even if they’re the only ones who think so. Your readers should be able to see where your characters come from but they don’t have to agree. I often disagree with my characters but that’s fine. I know where they’re coming from. I just don’t want to be there with them! And if they get poetic justice, as often happens in my stories, I relish writing every word of it!

The writing life can be great fun at times… I’m just glad there isn’t a Character Protection From Their Own Authors Society. I can think of several of mine who would want severe words with me.

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Pleased to share my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction which is Age Is Just a Number. A huge thank you for the comments coming in on this one already. I suspect I may have hit a nerve or something here.

Screenshot 2022-08-05 at 09-15-22 Age Is Just A Number by Allison Symes

Hope you have had a good day. My copies of The Best of CafeLit 11 arrived, the goose has gone, and I’m settling down to an evening of what I love most – writing – so it’s been a good day here.

Looking forward to going to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in just over a week’s time. Will be so wonderful catching up with friends and being immersed in the world of writing full time for a week.

I’m running a one hour course there on Editing – Both Sides of the Fence and taking part in Lift Up Your Pens (early morning writing) and Lift Up Your Hearts (the latter is a short Christian devotional). Naturally I shall be waving the flag for flash fiction as well.

There is something about being with other writers that encourages and inspires. I am glad Zoom helps here too and it is also a great medium for sharing the joys of the mini stories.

Now a couple of years back a writing exercise I did at Swanwick as part of a course ended up becoming a published story online (CafeLit). I wouldn’t mind that happening again!

 

Hope Wednesday has passed off well. No hissing goose here today so Lady and I think the day has gone well!

Writing Prompt for you: What is the one thing what would make your character think a day has gone well and why? Think that could make a nice piece of flash fiction, say 300 to 500 words. Good luck.

I also followed my own advice here. The prompt idea came about as a result of my preparing this blog post so I jotted it down immediately and realised there would be a story prompt here. So something to add to this blog post too!

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Fairytales With Bite – The Purpose of Fairytales

I love stories that “just” entertain. To me, there’s nothing “just” about it though I do wish some would not look down on genre fiction and indeed fairytales for doing that. They’re doing their job!

Fairytales do serve another purpose – they serve as warnings about behaviour affecting outcome. There are consequences for rotten behaviour in fairytales. The baddies generally do not get away with it.

Fairytales also show there can be poetic justice (and sometimes rough justice). They warn against arrogance. Also to not look down on the poor. And given so often in fairytales, the Rule of Three crops up, the important points are emphasized to ensure they stick in the memory. That was vital when most could not read or write.

Fairytales can be enjoyed by most ages and are usually the way into stories as a whole for children. They were for me. I still have my Reader’s Digest collection of fairytales, a huge two volume set of books with beautiful illustrations.

They’re a great way of getting a message across without being preachy. Readers/listeners pick up the message from the story. From a writing viewpoint, they show characters in action and how to get a story across without the tale itself necessarily being a long one. Lots to learn from that, especially if you go into flash fiction with its restricted word count, as I have done.

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This World and Others – Characters Seeking a Purpose

All characters in any story should have a purpose to justify them being included but of course they themselves may need to find out what their purpose is as the tale progresses. Do other characters enlighten them? Do they find clues? Do circumstances force them to find out what their purpose is?

Most heroes in stories don’t set out to be a hero – they are pushed into it – it is a do it and survive or not as the case may be! When faced with that kind of choice, you’re going to get on and be a hero, aren’t you?

How do your characters react when they find out what their purpose is? Do they handle it well or badly? Not everyone would take well to suddenly discovering they’re a royal, a wizard, a fairy godmother or what have you.

Do the characters go on to accept their purpose or do they reject it and try to get their life back to “normal” (or what they thought of as normal anyway)? Even if they accept their purpose, what do those closest to them make of it? What further complications could that put in your lead character’s way?

Characters seeking a purpose may find the one they end up with is definitely not one they would have chosen! What does this do for them/to them? Do they find they’re better as people because of it? Can resentment from friends and family erode that purpose, even lead to the lead character failing?

A story can be about a purpose that does not work out and the consequences of that failure (though it would be difficult to have an upbeat ending here).

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Zest in Fiction, Advice to a New Writer and Publication News

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 are all okay. Great week here as I have further publication news to share. The buzz of being published never diminishes! Given the writing life is full of ups and downs, it is lovely when the “ups” arrive!

Facebook – General – Chandler’s Ford Today and More Than Writers

29th July 2022 – Chandler’s Ford Today
I don’t know where the last 26 weeks have gone but I wrap up my In Fiction series for CFT this week with Zest In Fiction. I celebrate the joys of zestful writing and look at ways we can keep our enthusiasm for writing going when all we seem to receive are the “pips” rather than the zest of creative writing itself. Every writer goes through it – and more than once too.

I also look at how the discipline or writing regularly can help with keeping that zestful spirit going. I know it sounds a bit of a contradiction but it isn’t. See the post for why.

Many thanks for the comments in already on this one.

Zest In Fiction

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29th July 2022 – More than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers

It’s a busy day on the blog spot today. My second post tonight is to share my latest blog post on More Than Writers. This month I talk about Advice to a New Writer.

Do you agree with my suggestions? What would you add to the list? I also think I’ve found the cutest ever teacup for this post – as you do. Head over and see what you think.
Screenshot 2022-07-29 at 09-15-25 Advice to a New Writer by Allison SymesTwo blogs out tomorrow – Chandler’s Ford Today where I’ll be looking at Zest In Fiction and More Than Writers where I’ll look at Advice to a New Writer. The latter is my monthly spot for the Association of Christian Writers. Links above.

Talking of whom, it was great fun on the ACW Flash Fiction group last night – many thanks to those who came to it.

Writing Tip: Don’t forget you can use things like the random theme and question generators to trigger ideas for non-fiction posts as well as for fiction.

Having a quick look at a random theme one, the topic of innocence came up.

For fiction, you an always write about a framed character or where someone’s innocence is questionable.

For non-fiction, you could look at how the idea of innocent until proven guilty underpins the criminal justice system and how that came about. You could also look at a historical figure’s innocence (Richard III is a key figure here, as is Anne Boleyn).

A quick search on the random question generator I use came up with the topic of What’s your favourite book?

Now that can make a direct non-fiction post as you look into why you’ve chosen the one you have (and a bit of history about the book itself would be a nice addition here).

For fiction, you could invent a book for your character to treasure and show how that affects their actions and reactions to events around them.

AE - March 2022 - random generators encourage you to ask questions about your characters

Hope you have had a good day. Am about to host the monthly meeting of the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group. Always good fun. Zoom is a wonderful thing!

Many thanks for the support shown with the announcement yesterday concerning The Best of CafeLit 11. It is good to be “between the covers” with friends once again!

Last not but least. Don’t forget I send out my monthly newsletter on the first of each month so another one is due soon. To sign up head over to my website (landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

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It’s Friday. It’s Friday Flash Fiction time. My latest story here is called Moving On. Hope you enjoy it. (Also fabulous to see some familiar names on here this week – well done, all!).

Screenshot 2022-07-29 at 09-28-29 Moving On by Allison Symes

Hope you have had a good day. Very pleasant with the French windows open and enjoying the evening sun.

How do you evoke atmosphere in a flash tale given you haven’t got the word count room to go into much detail? It is a question I think of choosing the one detail to focus on here. For example if I wanted to show a stormy night, I would probably show a character looking out of their house, moaning about the guttering overflowing while watching the trees swaying.

Specific details are more useful in painting the right image in your reader’s mind. Given my example above, I wouldn’t need to say that leaves were coming off the trees because people already know that happens when a storm brews up. They’d expect twigs, small branches etc to be flying about too.

The reader just needs to know the storm is happening and the guttering overflowing and the trees swaying are enough details to give them that picture.

So choose what you think a reader absolutely has to know and then consider what detail can best convey that. The rest can be implied (which is flash fiction’s great strength).

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Thrilled to be in print once again with The Best of CafeLit 11 out yesterday. Will have some nice admin to do on this such as ordering my copies, getting it added to my Amazon Author Central page, ALCS, Goodreads and so on.

About to head off to run a flash fiction group for the Association of Christian Writers. Always fun and we all learn a lot from this. I especially encourage sharing market news given no one author can know it all so if you have the chance to take part in groups in your genre, go for it. You may well learn loads, and have lots of fun. Win-win. You get to write more flash as well for the flash group I lead.

 

Fairytales with Bite – Transformations

The fairytales have plenty of transformations from arrogant princes into beasts and suspiciously bright red applies into something nasty and so on. There is always a good reason behind them. In the first case, the arrogant prince needed cutting down to size. In the second, the wicked stepmother wanted to poison Snow White. Nobody said a transformation necessarily had to be for a good reason.

So with that in mind, think about what or whom you want to be transformed in your stories. What is the reason? How are the transformations going to happen? Does magic necessarily have to be involved? Can whatever is being transformed be restored to what they were again?

Where the transformation is a positive one, how does that go on to affect the character’s life? Do others around them welcome the change?

Not everyone would. Especially if someone has come out from someone else’s control, there will be one character definitely unhappy at the change! What would they try to to to reverse the situation and do they succeed? Or are they transformed too? If so how? What makes them see the error of their ways?

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This World and Others – Changing the Guard

In your setting, how would regime change happen? Revolution or reform? Who or what is the catalyst for this? I must admit I prefer reform generally because fewer people get hurt. Does your fictional world learn from its own history or does it make the same mistakes time and again?

The old saying about not throwing the baby out with the bath water comes into mind here. When it comes to changing the guard, are there aspects a new ruler or system of government would want to retain (or copy and adapt for its own use)? And how do the “ordinary” people take to the changes being imposed on them? They are rarely asked about these things in advance!

Where changing the guard is a good thing, what system of government or ruler had to go first? And does the change of regime delivery on its promises to make things better for the people?

Changing the guard can be a good or bad thing – so much depends on perspective. What would your character’s perspective be?

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Your Lead Character 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.
Weather has cooled down somewhat as the week went on, much to the relief of both Lady and me. Trust all well with you. Glad to share an exclusive new story from me for this blog – see further down under Fairytales with Bite. Hope you enjoy it. Plan to include it in my third flash fiction collection which I’m working on at the moment.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today – Your Lead Character In Fiction. I set a mini quiz as part of this to show how important characters are – see how you do. I also look at qualities of the lead character and whether it is necessary to always root for them or not. See what you think and do leave comments over on the CFT page. I go on to discuss what a writer needs to know about their lead character and share some different ways in working this out. Hope you find the post useful.

Later in August, I’ll be sharing a fabulous interview with a great crime writer for whom their lead character is especially important! Well, when you write a series you do have to have someone to lead that series…! More details nearer the time.

Your Lead Character In Fiction

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Glad the weather is continuing to be cooler. I much prefer it at about 23/24ºC and so does Lady.
Have booked my tickets for the Bridge House Publishing event in December. Will be good to see friends old and new there. And I hope to catch up with writing pals at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School which is rapidly approaching (next month – yippee!).

Will be sharing a brand new “fairytales with bite” story in my round up blog post which will also go out tomorrow via my website – see https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – new subscribers always welcome. I will be sharing the link to this post via Facebook tomorrow too. You can also sign up for my author newsletter here – the next one of those will go out on 1st August. Story further down.

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Much needed cooler weather today (though the forecast looks like this might be a temporary reprieve). Lady and I made the most of the cooler weather. Both of us were much happier for it!

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I’ll be talking about Your Lead Character In Fiction. There will be a mini quiz as part of this and I’ll be looking at whether it is necessary to always write likeable characters or not amongst other things. See link above.

I have a soft spot for those characters who back the lead up and without whom the lead cannot succeed in their story. My favourite here is Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings. Even Gollum knew not to underestimate Samwise!

Whatever position your character has in a story in terms of importance, there should be a definite role for them. If your story would work without them, they shouldn’t be in there.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s Friday once more and time for some flash fiction. My latest story on Friday Flash Fiction is simply called Tomorrow. Hope you like it.

Screenshot 2022-07-22 at 09-05-01 Tomorrow by Allison Symes


Hope you have had a good day. Can’t believe we’re rapidly approaching the end of July already.

Now I sometimes use time in my stories, with characters going forwards and backwards in it and with dubious results. See Tripping the Flash Fantastic for that (Mishaps and Jumping Time). I have great fun with these kind of tales as they give me opportunities to drop my characters right in it. There is no clause anywhere which says an author has to be nice to their characters. I checked, okay.

But you can take time and use it for more sombre stories too. I did that with The Pink Rose which shows the ravages of time.

So time can be a useful device as a a setting, it can be used as a character, and you can have reflective pieces on it too. How will you use time in your stories?

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… and breath! Thankfully cooler today. Lady and I made the most of it too.

I sometimes start my story with a question in its opening line. In my The Truth, from From Light to Dark and Back Again, I use this and I finish the tale with my character’s thoughts connected to it though the question itself is not directly answered. This is because I’ve used a metaphorical question and my character is aware of that (at a subliminal level at least) They also know they’re not going to change attitudes here. Sometimes your character is the only one to see through something. See The Emperor’s New Clothes for more on this – the kid there was right!

With metaphorical questions, your character is unlikely to be able to answer it fully but their conclusion should be a reasonable one based on the premise of the story.

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Fairytales With Bite – A Fairytale by Allison Symes

Thought it might be nice to have an example of what I call a fairytale with bite this week. Hope you enjoy it.

 

Once a Rat by Allison Symes

I can’t remember all the details to be honest. I was happily being a pain in the neck to all and sundry. I was king of the pickpockets, see. Made a good living at it until I managed to annoy some biddy who happened to be a fairy godmother, and the next thing I know I was zapped and became a rat. I remember her speaking over me.

‘Since you are a rat in human form, you can be a rat in rat’s form and save everyone the bother of having to avoid you. They’ll do so willingly. Most folk hate rats.’

How I survived I don’t know. Even other rats avoided me. I’m sure they knew what I was really. Just a shame every fox I met tried to eat me but I always did have a good turn of speed. Came in handy I can tell you.

And then I lost concentration for a moment and ended up in a rat trap. This girl came to fetch me indoors and then I saw her again. That wretched fairy godmother. Boy, did she laugh when she saw me. Said she never forgot a client.

I never knew such fear as when I saw her take out that magic wand of hers again. What would she turn me into this time?

I couldn’t believe it when I saw I was now a coachman, kitted out in a decent uniform too. I was to take the girl to the Palace for the grand ball. First time in my life I had a job. A proper one too.

The godmother whispered to me not to wreck things this time. I could keep the job if I did well. The pay was good and food and lodgings were thrown in. I might even meet someone nice in the Palace staff. I did too. Mary and I have been married thirty years this year. Got three kids and six grandchildren. It’s been a good life. A funny one too. And she does know about my past. Always ensures I get a decent amount of cheese – bless her.

How long have I been serving Cinderella and Prince Charming now?

Oh, it must be a good thirty years now. Their kids are okay too.

The one thing I can’t resist though is setting the caught rats free when the other staff here aren’t looking. Well, it could be someone I once knew in my past life or one of their offspring.

I got a second chance. Maybe they should too. A rat isn’t always just a rat – and I should know!

Ends
20th July 2022 – Allison Symes

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This World and Others – Poetic Justice

Hope you enjoyed the story. One of the things I’ve always loved about fairytales is they have a strong sense of right and wrong about them and almost always justice is seen to be done in some way. There is usually a chance for redemption too. Love all of that. Always have done.

Is there such a thing as poetic justice in your created world? How does it manifest itself? If magic is involved, is it used to correct a problem initially caused by someone else’s magic for example? (Best known example of that is the fairy godmother modifying the spell for Sleeping Beauty so she doesn’t die but just falls asleep).

Is there any character in your work who deals with justice overall? Does an underdog character come through to ensure justice is done by the end of your story?

What about the characters who deserve to have poetic justice done to them? What did they do? Did they irk someone they really should not have done as my character did?

Now this can be a great vehicle for a humorous tale (and it is where I generally use it) but how will you take the idea of poetic justice and use it?

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(E)xcellence in Fiction

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated (though most are then put through Book Brush). Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Has been very hot here in my part of the UK with more to come. Lady staying cool. And I found a suitable topic for X in my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today. It has been a good week! Hope yours has been too.
Screenshot 2022-07-15 at 16-45-33 (E)xcellence in Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m pleased to share (E)xcellence in Fiction, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. Comments about what you think makes for excellence in fiction would be most welcome over on the post. As well as sharing my thoughts on the topic, I look at what writers can do to make their work as good as possible in the hope readers will find their work excellent. A good goal to strive for!

The writing journey is full of ups and downs but it should be a moving one. Sometimes it will be a case of changing direction. I did so with the switch to flash fiction and short form writing and then blogging. Also over time I want to get better at what I do. I should move on from where I started out as a flash fiction writer, say. Very much a case of continuing professional development then and I hope it leads to excellence in what I write.

I want to get each story I write as good as I possibly can and to always be open to the thought that, while no story is perfect, as it is written by fallible human beings, I should be able to see progress. Hopefully if I do, a reader will too. It is all about the reader, what they get from your work.

(E)xcellence in Fiction

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Looking forward to sharing (E)xcellence In Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. Relieved to find a reasonable topic for X in this series! I’ll be looking at what I think makes for excellent fiction (and it’s not genre dependent either) and what a writer can do to help things along here. See above.

Are you finding it easy or hard to write in this hot weather (for those parts of the UK with the high temperatures)? I’m writing as usual but find I am “flaking out” earlier than normally do come the evening. Am getting around that by trying to start my writing sessions earlier! It is nice writing with the French windows open though. Nice breeze this evening is refreshing. Won’t be doing this come November! Having said that, and to prove there can be a positive side to a lot of things, I won’t be peeling myself off my chair come November either – it’s an ill wind and all that!

Am looking forward to going to see The Chameleon Theatre Group‘s latest production, Hoovering the Edge, later this month. It will be lovely getting together with my great CFT editor, Janet Williams, for this too.

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How can I judge when I’ve got the flash fiction word count right for my story? It depends on whether I’m submitting a piece of work to a fixed word count competition or market. Obviously if I am, I stick to the rules. If it’s an “open”word count (but still up to 1000 maximum), I go by what I need the character to do to bring the story to a satisfactory conclusion. Sometimes that is at 300 words, sometimes I need the whole 1000.

What I love with Scrivener is I can set the word count I want to write to and watch the bar at the bottom of the screen go from red to amber to green as I type. I do love a simple visual! Over time I’ve learned to judge what roughly looks like 500 words, say. When I then do a “proper” word count to check where I am, I find I’m usually within about 50 words of my initial estimate. You do get better at judging these things over time and the more you write.

I don’t always set my word count bar deliberately. I always do use it for a fixed word count market. Where it is more open, I just write and then worry about the word count later on. I find this works for me.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to share my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. This one is called Cookie Surprise and I used a random noun generator to trigger a story idea. The words cookie and road came up and this tale is a result of putting those together. Hope you enjoy it.

Screenshot 2022-07-15 at 16-53-16 Cookie Surprise by Allison Symes

Intriguing a reader to want to read on is vital for all forms of storytelling. With flash you do have to hit the ground running given you have less room and time in which to do that intriguing. This is why I find knowing my character and their voice from the start helps a lot.

I know my character has got something worthwhile to share so I’ll let them “get on with it”. I don’t want my author voice getting in the way because that is all it will do. It is the character’s story. I love powerful opening lines which make me want to find out what happens next as I figure a lot of readers will react the same way.

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I love writing about characters who turn the tables on people (naturally said people deserve to have said tables turned on them!). What I need here is a character with a good reason to want to do this. There has to be something in their personality which flags up they are capable of turning those tables if they are pushed far enough. The fairytales show this kind of character time and time again – and I love them all.

What I don’t like are characters who are pushy, dominant, careless of the needs of others (precisely because they couldn’t care less) etc. If I write a character like that, you can be sure I will get another one to turn the tables on them. And that I will have written this with considerable relish!

Writing is so much fun. I once told my other half I had had an excellent day because I’d just finished bumping off a character and I’d got away with it! Fortunately by this time I’d been writing long enough for him to consider this as a normal day in my office… make of that what you will!

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Fairytales with Bite – Using the Tropes of Fairytales

Every genre has its tropes. I see them as useful shortcuts that readers will expect to see in the kinds of stories I write. For example, if I mention a magic wand, I’m not going into details about what it looks like because most people will have their own ideas. Disney and Pixar will also have helped people form those ideas I suspect.

Also people will expect for these things to turn up in fantasy tales/fairy stories. Neither do I spell out what my fairy godmother characters look like though I usually give some indication of likely age range. The story she is in will have some indicator showing her level of experience in fighting evil etc and that will flag up a likely idea of age.

The other trope is that justice is expected to be done in some way so I deliver on that. I’m not reinventing the wheel here. What I will do though is turn things on their head. My sweet little old lady of a character turns out to be fearsome when confronting the latest monster in her world and so on.

I can keep you in suspense here too as you wonder whether she will deliver on expectations or not. The way she tackles it will be unique to her too. But you just know that somehow this lady is going to deliver because you expect unassuming characters to be more powerful than they look in fairytales – another trope here.

Think about what you’re going to use in your stories and why you want to use them. I won’t bring in a magic wand or fairy godmother character unless I have got a definite role for them to play. Everything in your story has to earn its place in it. The shorter the form you write in the more important this is, as readers will query why something being in the story if there’s not a role for it and they will remember.
Tropes are there to be used but with care I think.

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This World and Others – Trips Out

In your fictional settings do your characters get to have days out for the sake of it? Or is travel restricted to only the high and mighty. What would happen if there was a public clamour for transportation to be opened up to everyone? Can people freely go from one village to another and have nobody think anything of it or does the approach of a stranger send everyone into mild panic and they get the government to intervene? Not everyone welcomes strangers after all.

If day trips and holidays are a thing in your setting, where would your characters go and why? What is the hospitality sector like? What would considered as a tourist trap in your setting? Do the locals welcome it or nor? And could one of your characters find out something important on a day trip that leads on to further things?

Also sometimes a stranger can see what a local does not precisely because the latter is too close to the situation in question. Would locals welcome having their eyes opened or not? Could that trip out for the stranger have unfortunate consequences?

Food (possibly takeaway!) for thought there!

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