Friends and Traditions

Image Credit:  Mainly the marvellous Pixabay, but also a big thanks to Debz Brown, Paula Readman, and Dawn Kentish Knox for kind permission to use their images of the Bridge House Publishing Celebration Event.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I discuss Friends and Traditions in this week’s CFT post. I think the image below from Pixabay may well prove to be a favourite. Just love the thinking behind it.

It is with great pleasure I look back at the Bridge House Publishing/Cafelit/Chapeltown Celebration Event which was held at St. John’s, Waterloo, last Saturday.

I must say a big thank you to Dawn Kentish Knox, Paula Readman, and Debz Brown for kind permission to use some of their pictures. The big problem with taking part in an event is not being able to take pictures of yourself doing so! If you ever want to know how to help a writer friend out, do consider taking pics for them!

I also look at what traditions writers could have. Hope you enjoy.

Captions as ever over on the CFT link.

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What kind of picture prompts do you find most useful for generating story ideas?

I prefer “open-ended” images which give me ideas for settings and then I work out what characters would live in those places. I don’t want specifics. I want to be able to fill in some gaps for myself.

I also find quirky pictures don’t work well. They tend to dicate the mood of your story (which inevitably will also be quirky and while I LOVE quirky fiction and write it, I don’t want to write it all the time).

And forget cute pictures of kittens etc. Lovely to look at but dreadful for inspiring story ideas. (I know, that’s not the purpose of cute kitten pics, but whenever I do see a photo, if a story idea is triggered, I see it as very welcome input. You just can’t do that with a cute kitten pic!😀).

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I’m looking at Friends and Traditions for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

I look back at the Bridge House Publishing celebration event held last weekend. I’ll also be looking at how writers can make their own “traditions” by figuring out what works best for them when it comes to settling down and getting the words out.

I also celebrate my lovely celebration of meeting up with other writers. I always come back from doing that with a real “buzz”. Encouragement is contagious! Link up on Friday. Next week I’ll be looking at what makes for a good story. I suspect I’ll have to put a strict word count limit on that one!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction can take many forms. I’ve written acrostic stories which can work well and, of course, you can write a story in a poetic form. A lot of the Christmas carols do this. Think of The First Nowell for example. You have the telling of the Christmas story in one carol there. Good King Wenceslas is also a great story told in song.

But the point remains, whatever the length or format of your flash fiction story, there has to be one central theme to focus upon. Everything else hangs off that, of course, but there is no room for sub-plots (and those are wonderful for the longer short stories, novellas, and novels. I love the fact that every aspect of writing has a purpose and a joy of its own).

I’ve found it helpful to sum up my stories in a line, especially for flash, as that becomes the “peg” I write the story to!

(Oh and one other Christmas tradition I’ve happily upheld tonight is watching The Muppet Christmas Carol. Easily the best film they made and a classic telling of a brilliant story).

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Am listening to a hilarious version of The Twelve Days of Christmas on Classic FM narrated by Joanna Lumley (as at 12th December!). Could well count as a flash fiction story though likely to be towards the upper end of the spectrum. Do check the piece out. It is very funny. (Oh and the writer of this piece has stuck to the “golden rule” of flash fiction by not having too many named characters!).

And talking of Christmas related flash fiction, I hope you enjoy this one.

AN UNEXPECTED STOP
‘You do know at what speed you were travelling, sir?’
‘Er… no… officer, I’m afraid I was concentrating on getting to my next destination. I have to cover everyone on my list, you see, and I don’t have much time. Was it important?’
‘I’ll say so, sir. You will cause chaos flying at that speed. If everyone did that there’d be accidents galore.’
‘But, officer, it’s Christmas Eve, I’m Santa Claus, there’s nobody up here except us and I’d love to know how YOU got here.’

ENDS
Allison Symes

 

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Do I ever feel frustrated by word count limits imposed by flash fiction?

No. If a character has a longer story to tell, then I tell it and it goes on to be a competition entry for, say, a 1500 to 2000 word market.

If I can’t enter a 100-worder flash competition, I can always enter a longer piece for a 250 or sub-500 words kind. I do like that kind of flexibility.

The really important thing is getting the story right and if it works better at 150 words rather than 100, you are better off sticking to the longer word count. There will be a home for it somewhere out there.

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Fairytales With Bite – A to Z of Fairytale “Rules” – Part 4

Final section with some tricky letters to tackle but here goes!

U = Unique. Your fairy godmother will always come up with a unique way to help you. Pumpkins are often involved and she seems to have a bit of a thing for extremely uncomfortable footwear (for you that is) but she means well so bear with her. Her unique approach will work out.

V = Variety.  Where the fairy godmother will demonstate variety is in the number of ways they transform errant beings into hideous beasts and so on. Naturally there will be a need for someone to set said errant beings free from their horrendous transformation. Naturally the errant being needs to have learned enough humility to recognise they need to be set free. There is no room or point in continued arrogance here. It is that which led to the horrendous transformation in the first place.

W = Wands. A magical being will have their wands on them at all times of course. Fairy godmothers will still have the star on the end. Tradition is a big thing in the magical world and also the end client expects to see something of that nature. Letting people down is not what a fairy godmother does!

X = X-Ray Vision. A fairy godmother won’t “do” a Superman here. Where her vision is at her sharpest is in assessing character. Let’s just say when a being gets transformed into something hideous, there’s always a good reason for it. Nobody has been wrongly transformed to date. So when it comes to reading a character’s soul, your average fairy godmother has wonderful X-ray vision and will not be fooled. (Indeed trying to pretend you’re something you’re not is even more likely to encourage her to ensure you are next on her “to bring down several pegs or so” list).

Y = Yarns. Not wool! What your average magical being likes is a good story. Sometimes they like being the star of said yarn but it naturally has to have a happy ending and make them look good (even if they don’t do so at the beginning).

Z = Zest. Every magical being is expected to be full of zest. Nobody wants a bedraggled and tired looking fairy godmother turning up to help out. Magical beings are expected to keep themselves looking and feeling good, no matter what it takes to do so. (This may explain Snow White’s stepmother’s attitude towards her own looks).

discovery-space-shuttle-1757098_640Even in a fantasy world, the author will share some of its history to make the world seem more real to the readerEven in time travel stories there is a history involved

The best books take you right into their world - it's a painless procedure

Books take you into other worlds.

The perfect way to end a day - with a good book - Pixabay

Fab end to a day I think. Pixabay.

This World and Others – What Is A Good Fictional World

For me a good fictional world has to have the following attributes.

  1. I’ve got to be able to see it in my mind’s eye and either wish to live there or avoid it like the proverbial plague. Sounds like a contradiction, right? What matters here is being able to visualise that world so well it will trigger either reaction in you. That world has drawn you in – job done!
  2. A good fictional world will reflect the lives of different species/classes/genders within it. There generally isn’t one species/class/gender etc. Okay, the story may focus on only one but you should be able to see how that one reacts and acts to the others living in that same world. (They’ll often be the source of conflict driving the story or will be supporting your hero/heroine in some way).
  3. A good fictional world will give some details on its virtues and shortcomings. What do your characters love and loathe about being where they are?

 

 

Achievements and Descriptions

Facebook – General

When you write descriptions, do you just focus on what a character can see? Do you bring in what they can feel/touch/taste etc? Also an interesting perspective can be to take what is a normal everyday object but show it from the viewpoint of someone who has never seen it before. (The reasons why they haven’t seen it would be interesting too).

In flash fiction, of course, you can’t be overly descriptive. You simply haven’t got the word room. In my Telling the Time I refer to an object as a “beautiful grandfather clock”, leaving it to the reader to imagine what THEY would think such a thing would look like. In my Rewards, I do bring in a thick red carpet but that purpose is to show my character, Becky, pacing around on it!

Description then, like any other element of a story, has to serve a purpose. If it doesn’t, it really shouldn’t be there even if you are writing an epic saga and word count isn’t an issue!

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What do you want to achieve most with your writing?

For me, it is knowing I’ve created a piece of work (of whatever word count) that entertains others. Course I wouldn’t object to being a bestselling author etc but then who would?!

But given there are no guarantees the latter will ever happen, it is far better to focus on writing because you love it and to do so to the best of your abilities. Then put it out into the market and see what happens!

You also have to accept from the outset I think that you are in for the long haul and adapt expectations accordingly. Persistence pays only when you put in the work to get your MSS up to publication standard and that takes time and more effort than non-writers realise.

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What made you decide to write and why? Did you find what you wanted to write immediately or did you have to try short stories/novels etc before finally settling on what you really want to do?

The fascinating thing here is no two writers have exactly the same journey, even if a lot of their paths cross.

I started off with an idea for a novel, wrote that book, it was longlisted for a competition years ago and then I wrote short stories and flash fiction. I am now revisiting that early novel given flash fiction has taught me so much about editing and I know applying that to the book will do it the world of good.

As for why I decided to write at all, it was one of those things I knew I would have to at least try. I’ve always loved working with/playing with words. My only regret here is not starting a lot sooner than I did. But what matters is starting and then keeping going.

Biggest joy of writing? Yes, being published, but making so many writer friends is right up there too.

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I’m looking at the highs and lows of the writing life in this week’s CFT. I hope it’ll be an eyeopener for readers, or indeed anyone who knows a writer, especially on why reviews and supporting writer events matters so much. Link up on Friday.

NB: This post definitely comes into the “write what you know” category!

Also pleased to say I’m in the Spring edition of Christian Writer talking about Making Your Characters Count.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

For the flash fiction collection I’m currently working on, I’ve had a great deal of fun with linked stories. That is I’ve used the same character(s) in a follow up tale.

I’ve also used a viewpoint of a character in one story and then flipped it to show the viewpoint of another character, who isn’t necessarily in agreement with the first one.

Plus there have been the acrostics, the one-line stories and so on. Flash fiction can be amazingly versatile and the fact you have to work to a word count is a good thing. It helps you write (and edit) with precision. You work to find exactly the right words to convey as much meaning as possible in as short a word count as possible. That discipline can and does spill over into other things you write, which is always a good thing.

When do you know if a flash fiction piece has real bite? When you read it again after a break from it (say a few days) and it still hits you hard, as you originally intended the piece should do.

When I’m editing, I’m always asking myself how the reader would see what I’ve written. CAN they fill in the gaps the way I intend they should? HAVE I given them what they need to know to do that (but no more)? IS the impact what I think it will be? Could what I intend be misconstrued? Is the language used appropriate for the piece? Do I still like or loathe my characters (as appropriate)?

I think it is vital to see editing as a totally separate job to the act of creation. Creation is the fun bit. Editing is the bit which makes sure your created work IS as fun as you meant it to be when read by a stranger. Without good editing, your story will not work as nobody can really claim to ever write a perfect first draft. Shakespeare didn’t so I think it’s safe to claim we won’t either. My attitude to editing changed entirely when I saw it as what would make the difference to my being published or not (and it does).

I was wondering when I had my first piece of flash fiction published on Cafelit. It turns out to be A Study in Magic way back in 2013. Wow! That six years has gone quickly. Well here’s to the next six! I still love the very short story form. It has a great deal of potential and can/should make a powerful impact.

When I analyse a flash fiction piece, what am I looking for?

1. Do the characters “grab” me? It doesn’t matter if I love or loathe them. Have they got my attention? Have I GOT to find out what happens to them?

2. Does the story have an impact on me? If it’s funny, did I laugh? If it’s a crime story, did my blood run suitably cold?

3. Are there stand-out lines which, when written by other authors, make me wish I’d written them? (I use that to spur me on incidentally, which is what great writing should do).

4. Is the start intriguing enough?

5. Does the story end with a suitable punch? When it’s twist in the tale, did I see that twist coming? I don’t mind if I do incidentally. Sometimes it’s nice to be right but I adore the ones where the author has wrong-footed me and come up with something really special. Again, I find this encourages me to “up my game”, something all writers should always seek to do.

Goodreads Author Blog – Encouraging Books

Yes, this could mean the self-help books and there is much to be said for those, but for me an encouraging book is one that makes me read further into the subject. This can apply to fiction as well as non-fiction.

For example, Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time is fiction based on Richard III and is one of my all time favourite books. It has also led me to read far more about Richard such as The Maligned King, The Last Days of Richard III and others.

For non-fiction, it is easier to go by topic of course when looking for books to encourage further reading.

For fiction, it is nearly always based on how well the main character comes across and the theme of their story that makes me look for similar themes in other tales.

When the character is based on a real person, and if the story has gripped me enough, I nearly always look up non-fiction material on that character as I did with Richard III.

And there is scope for a lot of crossover – fiction leading into non-fiction and vice versa. Book reading leading into magazine reading etc.

I don’t write historical fiction (though I do read some) but I should imagine one of the great joys of it is the research the writer has to do before starting. I should also imagine the big problem here, and one I know I’d have, is stopping the research and actually getting on with the writing!

So what books have encouraged you to read more on their character/theme etc?

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