Wildflowers, Seasons in Writing, and Flash Moments

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. (I’m especially fond of the one I created below about the best lines, think the imagery works really well here).

All screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here and am looking forward to talking about flash fiction via Zoom to the Byre Writers on Saturday, 31st July.

The best lines conjure images

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I end the standard working week with a gentle post for Chandler’s Ford Today called Wildflowers. I am lucky to live near a nice recreation ground, where I exercise Lady, which has a stunning wildflower meadow as part of that. This post celebrates this year’s wildflower “blooming” and it is especially nice to do so as it has emerged late this year. Indeed, as you will see from my post, I had thought we weren’t going to have flowers out at all here this year.

Now the funny thing is the natural world does not inspire my writing at all. I know it can do for writers but not for me. What it does do is give me a refreshing break from my desk and it is that break which helps “fire” me up for writing on return to said desk.

Hope you enjoy the post – and the pictures. It is a joy to share pictures like this.

Wildflowers

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Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers

I’m posting early for once as I have the great delight of returning to watch live theatre this evening. My local amateur theatre company are exceptionally good and I am looking forward to tonight’s entertainment so much.

Meanwhile, I discuss Seasons in Writing for my More than Writers blog spot this time. Slower seasons may be just what we need at times to recover from intensive work and/or to develop ideas that need more time to come to fruition. I do know, whatever season of writing I am in, I need the support and encouragement of other writers. They in turn will appreciate that support and encouragement from you.

Hope you enjoy the post.


Hope you have had a good Wednesday. Got a bit of a soaking out with Lady and my better half this evening. Changeable weather again but Lady did get to play with her best buddie, the Ridgeback, again today so all is right with their world.

Favourite writing tips of mine include:-

1. Get the story out, edit later.

2. Worry about word count (especially for flash) only when you know you have got the story down and there will not be major changes.

3. Fire up your imagination by reading widely, in and out of your genre, and don’t forget the non-fiction. Ideas for stories can come from there.

4. Get the story out, put it aside, then edit it. You need to come back and read the story as a reader would to see where it works and where it could do with work! Only time away gives you the necessary distance.

5. Draft other stories while you’re resting others. I like to see this as a writing – resting – editing – submitting – writing virtuous circle. The idea being you will always have a story to draft and, when not doing that, you will have another one to edit and get ready for submission somewhere.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It was a joy to watch The Chameleons perform last night for the first time since their pantomime in December 2019. I was talking about flash moments in stories yesterday, including those stories produced for the stage. There were several in last night’s performance and I hope to write about some of those in my review for Chandler’s Ford Today next week.

And talking of flash, I’m pleased to share my latest drabble from #FridayFlashFiction. This one is called Oddity and is my take on the Demon Barber of Fleet Street story (aka Sweeney Todd). Hope you enjoy. (And yes always go to a barber you know you can trust!).
Screenshot 2021-07-30 at 18-42-48 Oddity, by Allison Symes

Am off to the theatre this evening for the first time in over a year to see our excellent amateur theatre company, The Chameleon Theatre Group, perform once again. This is why I am posting early. I usually post at around 7.30 to 8 pm UK time. For an evening out, my posts were up by 5 pm! But it was worth it. The performances were great and I’ll talk more about what I went to see in my CFT post next week.

I like stories in whatever form they come in – books, audio, and for something like this getting to watch the stories being brought to life. And yes, flash can pop up here too. How? It will be those one liners here and there that strike a chord with me that perhaps are too easy to overlook. It will be those lines that resonate with me the most. I like to think of those as flash moments.

(And of course different people will get different things from the performances they go to watch so will have different flash moments. But maybe, just maybe I will get ideas for stories of my own from those flash moments. Even when that doesn’t happen, I still get to see an excellent performance and discover plays new to me so win-win!).

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I write mainly in the evenings listening to Classic FM. Does that put me off my stride for writing flash stories, blogs etc? Not a bit of it. I find I relax and when I relax, I write and write and write. You get the picture.

A useful way of working out who your characters are would be to decide what their favourite music would be and why. If your character loves, say, Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens above anything else, does that mean they themselves have a quirky nature given the music is quirky? (See my book trailer for FLTDBA above as I use Danse Macabre as the music here if you don’t know the track. I swear you can hear the quirkiness in it and it is why I chose this piece for this trailer. You might also remember the music from the old TV series, Jonathan Creek). Book trailers below.

Of course, you can use almost anything (and not just music) to work out who your character is but it is down to you to decide what you need to know before you write their stories up. I’ve found a bit of time spent working my characters out has saved me a great deal of time later on and I usually find depths to my characters as I explore their personalities more, which in turn adds depth to my story.

Fairytales with Bite – The (Magical) Arts

What role is there for the arts, as we know them, in your magical world? Is there a place for, say, portrait painting when a quick wave of the old wand could produce a stunning picture without any physical effort at all? Do your magical characters turn to “old-fashioned” ways of producing art as a means to unwind?

Are those who do create works of art, as we would understand the process, looked down on or up to because they use “manual” rather than magical ways to do these things?

Also, what role is there for music? Is music created magically? Or does your created world import music it likes from other places, including from Earth?

Do you have characters who prize the arts and those who despise them? What kind of conflicts could that produce in your stories?

For me, our world would be a much poorer place without the arts. That could apply to a fictional world too. (I don’t like dystopian works much, especially after the last year or so with the Covid pandemic hitting us all so hard, but art would be looked down on in such settings at best I feel and that’s no coincidence. A world without art in some shape or form would always be pretty bleak to me).

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This World and Others – Fiction or Fact in Your World

Following on from my Fairytales with Bite post, what emphasis does your created world put on fiction and fact? Is one more heavily weighted than the other?

If, say, your world despises fiction (and the arts) and focuses on plain facts (the sciences, engineering etc as we would know them), what would happen if their “knowledge” is challenged by the discovery of something new? Or if a long cherished theory was debunked? Or if if was proven the world of the arts had health benefits science could not produce? Would your created world suppress these because of its disapproval of the arts rather than accept they got it wrong and there was place for fact and fiction?

There could be interesting character development here. If say Character A was a scientist open to new ideas, how would they react when Character B, their boss, who was anything but open, suppressed knowledge? Would Character A leak the knowledge somehow? What would the consequences be if they did?

If Character A was open to the arts but their boss wasn’t, again what would the consequences be if Character A was caught going to an exhibition or a concert?

Interesting story ideas to explore here I think.

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Swanwick, Set Backs, and Favourite Writing Tips

Facebook – General

Back to business then and I’m working on a short story that I hope will go in for a fairytale competition.

I drafted this on the train up to Swanwick (what ELSE are three hour train journeys for?!😁} but, for once, need to add to the story to get it to the required length. This won’t be a problem. There was one scene I had wanted to expand but hadn’t, because I was wary of the word count. So it looks at if I might to get have my cake and eat it here after all (though I expect the overall cake will still need a darned good edit once done!).

I’ve got other pieces to type up which I hope to do over the next few days and I’m happily reworking my novel too. So busy, busy, busy, and all of it fun and that’s a very nice position to be in. Am grateful for it too. Doesn’t always work that way.

 

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I read at the Prose Open Mic at Swanwick this year.  Great fun!  Many thanks to Geoff Parkes for the photo.

Ironically, for a week associated with stories, I didn’t get to read many while away at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. By the time I got back to my room most nights, I was far too tired to read much.

Buzzing with ideas and taking in so much from the different courses does that to you! So one of the things helping me with the “come back to earth again blues” is returning to my book pile, which includes some lovely new additions, thanks to the Swanwick Book Room!

How do your characters handle setbacks? Do they bring out the best or worst in your creations? Or do your characters need time out before coming to terms with what’s happened and then moving on? If they have a sidekick, do they react in the same way? Do differences of opinion here mean the end of the partnership or it going in a direction neither had anticipated at the start of the story?

Whatever you choose, have fun with it, but just as we’re prone to strops when life does not go our way, some of our characters at least should reflect that too.

Favourite writing tips I’ve learned so much from over the years:-

1. Edit on paper. You miss things on screen.

2. Read widely (in and out of your genre and include non-fiction too).

3. Put work aside for a while before editing it so you can read the piece with fresh eyes.

4. When facing a deadline (competitions etc), take away a week to ten days from the official date. That way you still have a few days to get your entry in if the piece takes longer than you think to complete. (And it often will).

5. Read work out loud. If necessary record yourself and play it back. This is really useful for hearing how dialogue sounds especially. Golden rule here: if you trip over it as you read it, so will your readers. Time for the red editing pen again!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Be open to finding sources of ideas for any kind of story in places you don’t expect to come across them.

The reason I mention that is because I had great fun with an exercise set in Simon Hall’s A to Z of Novel Writing at Swanwick recently and know I’m going to get a flash fiction piece from it.

Another exercise from the same course looks like it may become a longer short story and I am looking forward to writing these up soon.

Neither of these exercises were specifically set to generate flash fiction or a short story (as the course name suggests!!) but when you can see where you can adapt something for a form in which you are already writing, go for it. You have nothing to lose.

How do I know when a piece I’ve drafted will make a flash fiction story? It’s not just down to the word count. What I’m looking at is the impact of the story.

If I feel that impact will be strengthened by adding to it, then I will and often these pieces end up being standard length short stories (which I usually then put into competitions).

But often I will feel a piece has a powerful impact at a couple of hundred words and I will leave it at that. I focus on editing the piece then and fine tuning it so that impact is as powerful as I can make it. Then those pieces go on to Cafelit, the online magazine, and/or are put into the collection of flash fiction I’m currently working on. Sometimes I’ll put them up on my website too.

The nice thing about flash is it is easy to share on a site. It literally doesn’t take up too much room, is read easily on screen, and I’ve found before that the best way to describe flash fiction is to read some out/put some up for people to see for themselves.

One of my favourite techniques in writing flash fiction is to take a first person viewpoint and let them lead the reader up the garden path so to speak.

In Health and Safety I start with my character letting you know they road test products. By the end of the story, you find out that my narrator has glossed over their actions in an attempt to justify what happened as a result of them.

Not so much an unreliable narrator, more of an embarrassed one who wants to try to save some face! Good fun to write though…

I love writing stories from the viewpoint of characters who were “overlooked” for the starring role in the traditional fairytales. My first published story was A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology and told the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of the younger Ugly Sister. Great fun to write. Sympathetic to Cinders? What do you think?! But it is great to turn a tale on its head like that. Do give it a go.

I also love those minor characters in a story that can’t be the lead but who still have a vital role to play in it. From The Lord of the Rings you know from the outset the focus has to be on Frodo, but Merry and Peregrin are great fun and do come into their own much later on.

So how can you make your minor characters interesting and fun to follow? Humour is great here, especially if the lead role, as is the case with Frodo, have a burden to deal with and where light relief will be welcome. Get your minor characters right and you will create wonderful subplots, which add layers to your story. They give added reasons for your readers to keep reading, which after all is the objective of a good story!