Interviews and Characters

Image Credit:  As ever, unless otherwise stated, all images are from Pixabay.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

For my CFT post this week, I look at why writer interviews are so useful. I also share news of an interview I’ve taken part in, more details on that next week, and share memories of an interview that went wrong and another that involved an Emu! Anyone growing up in 1970s Britain will remember the latter!

I look at what I think makes for a good interview too and share my thoughts on interview etiquette. I also share a little of how I go about interviewing authors for Chandler’s Ford Today (and I hope there will be many more of those later this year).

I discuss the art of interviews as part of my Interviews post on Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Good preparation for an interview is important for both parties to it, of course. But it is just as important for writers, as well as interviewers and interviewees, to think of good questions. (In the latter’s case, anticipating questions that are likely to come up gives you time to prepare your answers).

For fiction writers, you may well want to interview your characters to find out more about them and what makes them tick before you write their stories. (I do this as part of my outlining process. I have to ask what the character thinks makes them tick. They don’t have to be right! Other characters may have completely different ideas as to how Character A really ticks!).

For non-fiction writers, it’s a question of working out what research you need to do for your project and there you ask yourself what you think you need to know. As you start working on your project, other questions will inevitably crop up but, having already decided where and how you will research and found answers to those initial questions, you will know where to look to deal with the other ones as they come up!

I often find this to be the case for my CFT posts. I know a thread I need to look into initially to help me write on my topic. Inevitably there will be threads from those initial ones I need to check out to see if they are relevant to what I want to write about. Sometimes they are. Not always. It is important not to be sidetracked but this is where asking yourself what you really need to know first can help. It helps to keep you focussed.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How well do you know your characters before you start writing your stories?

Particularly for flash fiction, I outline what I need to know about my character before I work out what their story is.

A character who is a loud mouth is going to need a tale that will show this trait in action and the resultant consequences. This could easily be a funny story or a tragic one.

A quiet mouse of a character is going to need a tale that will either show when that trait saves the day or they get so fed up of being treated as a doormat, they rebel. Then you can go into the consequences…

I’m a great believer in getting the character right. Then it is a question of deciding what kind of story they WOULD naturally be at home in and whether that shows them at their best or their worst. Either can be a great deal of fun!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My CFT post this week will be about interviews and what I think constitutes a good one. It’s a timely post for me as you’ll see when I put the link up on Friday! (I also hope to be sharing more interviews later in the year on CFT too).

Moving on, let’s think of a wish list for writers. My top three wishes would be:-

1. Time expands so you can do all the writing you want and the boring things of life (e.g. housework) somehow magically go away. I do see that as one wish, so there!

2. There are never any tech issues. Computer batteries won’t go too flat. You’ll never get a power cut at any awkward moment (if only!). You’ll always be able to connect to the net. I’m sure you can think of loads to add to that one!

3. Never running out of ideas and enthuasism for writing (again I see that as one wish on the grounds the first bit is no good whatsoever without the second part as well).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I see a novel as akin to seeing a beautiful tapestry on a wall. You step back and literally see the whole thing. You are rightly taken in by its scale and how much it covers. There are so many wonderful threads to follow and your breath is taken away wondering at the mastery in putting such a thing together. You are immersed in the whole world portrayed.

A novella is like seeing one half of the tapestry, complete in and of itself, with plenty of stunning details to take in but simply not as much as the full novel, which is fair enough. But there is more than enough to capture your interest, plenty of threads to follow, again just not so many as the novel, but exactly the right amount for what you want to take in and enjoy. (I’m very pleased to see the form is back. Why? Well, people have all kinds of tastes in reading, not just in genre, but in length of story that they want too. There is plenty of scope for the novella).

A short story is like seeing one quarter of the tapestry. There is still plenty of detail. There are interesting threads to follow but obviously not so many as for a novella or a novel. You are taking in a world in minature and that’s fine. Maybe you want to enjoy some of these before taking in the whole of the tapestry again. (I often read flash fiction and/or short story collections in between reading novels).

Flash fiction is like focusing on one section of that quarter of the tapestry. You can’t see the whole picture. You are literally too close to it. Everything else around that section is blocked from your view. What you DO do is find those wonderful moments of sheer detail that those looking for the bigger picture will overlook as they have so much to take in and follow. They are standing too far back to spot what you are looking at. You are focusing on the ONE most important thing and can tease out every vital detail from that. You will pick up on things missed by the longer forms of creative writing.

And I love them all! (Whatever your preference is here enjoy! Writing and reading are two of the most wonderful things in life).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Story time again. Hope you enjoy.

Putting My Face On

If I can fake this, I’ve got it made.

I’ve only got to go and meet John at 3. I don’t want to go but it will be the acid test. If I can keep my act together when I meet him, I can keep it together for anyone. Anyone, I tell you.

So if a bit of lippy and rouge are what I need to cover how I feel, so be it.

Well, I say I’ll meet him. It’s really a question of seeing him.

John’s in the Chapel of Rest at the local undertakers.

I put him there.

ENDS

Allison Symes – 6th February 2020

Now this is one of those tales where I knew my lead wasn’t looking forward to meeting John but I then had to work out why. So I did! Could’ve taken this in all sorts of directions but that is the joy of flash. It is open to genre and I fancied this one being a crime tale.

The irony is I can change the mood of the story completely by adding a few words to the ending.

If I added “I put him there – and so wished I hadn’t” – the mood of the story completely changes. Yes, there could still be a crime element but tragedy becomes the lead genre here instead.

So have fun with your flash fiction. Think about what impact you want your character and story to have on a reader.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The story I shared yesterday, Putting My Face On, was something I came up with while out on a walk with my dog, Lady. I mentioned yesterday I could’ve changed the mood of the story by adding a few words. That is one of the arts of flash fiction if you like. You can change mood with a judiciously placed word here and there. The fun bit for you as the writer is working out what mood it is you want to go with!

The story on the book trailer for FLTDBA is one of my favourites. Part of the reason for that is the whole mood of the story turns on the very last word of Calling The Doctor. Do check the trailer out and you’ll see what I mean.

One thing I make sure of is that whenever the twist of moods comes in the story, it IS something that could reasonably be expected from the rest of the tale based on the information given.

Calling The Doctor does this because the conversational style of my narrator here is (a) consistent and (b) ties in with the mental image you will form of the character especially their age and such a conversational style would be appropriate for them and their age. The story leads up to … but that would be telling now, wouldn’t it! But the denouement is appropriate given the facts already stated by my narrator.

And very conveniently here is the book trailer with Calling the Doctor for you to check out!

Fairytales with Bite – Favourite Character Types

We all have our favourite kinds of characters, the ones we instantly gel with when we come across them on the page/on audio/on video etc. Some of mine include:-

  1.  The underdog. I always look out for the character who is bullied, despised, overlooked etc. I am never surprised when this character beats all the odds and has transformed their life by the end of the story. I adore stories like that.
  2. The fairy godmother. I love these. They are the agents through which cruelty and neglect will be put right. (Think Cinderella especially). Sadly we only know cruelty and neglect are so often not put right and even as a kid I remember being aware of that. Fairytales are comforting in that in those you know things will be rectified. I think we all need that comfort sometimes.
  3. The one who sees the error of their ways. Firstly, they too can be used to transform the story. Secondly, I like anyone who can see the error of their ways in life as well as in fiction! I am also very fond of redemption stories. I like to see characters being redeemed (it gives hope for us all!) but it has to be done in a way that makes sense. This is why I think gradual realisation of said errors is far more realistic.

Whatever your favourite kinds of characters, happy reading!

This World and Others – 

What I Like to See in Created Worlds

  1. I like to get a picture of the overall world. This is partly because I’m nosey (!) and partly because I like to be convinced the writer really has thought it through.
  2. I like to see a system of government, even if it is a basic one. A world does have to have someone leading it after all. (Best one here: Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Lord Vetinari from the Discworld series).
  3. I like to know how people live. I love the Middle Earth/Shire scenes in The Lord of the Rings. Okay, I could probably make myself very cosy and comfortable living in a hobbit hole as I’m not tall (that’s my example of understatement for this week!). More importantly, again it convinces me the author has thought this through and recognised different species will have different kinds of home and so on.
  4. A sense of how the different species get on, assuming they do. Where there are conflicts, and I would expect some, I want to see how these originated. Both sides in the conflict should have good reasons for holding the views they do, even if they are only good to them and their people. It should be something a reader can understand.

Merry Christmas, Everyone

Image Credit:  Pixabay, unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General

Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope you have lots of lovely books as presents and plenty of time in which to read them. Now if that’s not a good wish, I don’t know what is!

Hang on, I can think of another. If you’re a writer, may you be inspired by plenty of excellent ideas and have lovely stationery as gifts to jot down those thoughts, which will surely become works of genius in years to come.

Yes, I think that counts as a good wish too. Not quite sure how Santa can deliver that one exactly but I am sure the great man will think of something!

Have a wonderful time. Will be back online in a few days.  NB:  I don’t know if I’ll be posting on Friday as, if I do, it will only be a link to my CFT post and I may save that until next Tuesday.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Whether you write books or read them or ideally do both, I hope you find plenty of fascinating new material to be enjoying in 2020.

Not sure what my plans writing wise are for the rest of this week but I am planning a CFT post which will be a review of my writing year. I will also be sharing a few timeless wishes. Link up later in the week.

There is a surge of reading at this time of year for obvious reasons but I do hope that leads to a surge of reviews in the usual places in the New Year! As a certain supermarket would say, every little bit helps!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was reminded of the power of words and music to move the human spirit at the Carols by Candlelight Service I went to this evening.

Firstly, I heard the most beautiful rendition of O Holy Night I’ve ever heard (well done to the two ladies concerned) and it was one of the loveliest things I’ve heard EVER regardless of musical style etc. The congregation was deeply moved by it. I was close to tears (of the good variety).

Secondly, even without the familiar tunes, the carols are great poetry in and of themselves (and they all tell a story too so I’d love them for that reason alone).

I also read the poem Shepherd by Lisa Debney which was a great pleasure to do. It takes an unusual angle on the Christmas story – that of someone coming to terms with Jesus as a baby – and the words are so moving.

Words – and music – are wonderful things. Any of us working with either or both are so privileged. Enjoy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve created a book trailers page on my website. As well as the one for From Light to Dark and Back Again, there are trailers for Nativity and Transforming Being, both of which I have stories in. A big thank you to #GillJames for her wonderful work in creating these three.

I’ve also included a short video I created for Job Satisfaction which is in FLTDBA. I hope to add more trailers (and things I creat too) on this page every so often.

Meanwhile I hope you enjoy the new page!

Nativity Medium

FromLightToDark_medium-2

Image from Chapeltown Books

Transforming Being

Transforming Being. Image by Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Merry Christmas, everyone. I’ll be offline for a few days. I hope you all have a lovely break – and enjoy plenty of flash fiction, whether you’re reading or writing it (or both), of course.

To finish here are some of my micro Christmas stories. Hope you enjoy!

1. Scrooge grimaced as he walked home, having heard some youngster tell a snippet of a ghost story. Ghosts! Whatever next?

2. In the bleak midwinter, they could have done with a snow plough.

3. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer found that telling everyone he was suffering from a nasty cold stopped the awkward jokes about what he was adding to his water trough to generate said red nose.

4. Frosty the Snowman was the first to admit he really could not appreciate the benefits of central heating.

Allison Symes – 2019

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thought I’d share one of my flash fiction stories. Hope you enjoy it.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

She knew she had to stop it. It wasn’t doing her any good and any comfort she derived from it had vanished long ago.

She put on her huge black coat, it made her look slim, grabbed her cavernous bag and shook out the massive pork pie she stored in there. She grimaced at it, picked it up and, as she left her flat and walked out of the roadway, she dumped the pie in the community bin.

Today she would start again. Enough was enough. She took a deep breath and headed to where she knew the slimming group met. She’d put off going for ages. But today was different.

She was NOT going to be mistaken for a giant tomato on legs again by anyone. She would show the world she could do it.

And when she had she would get the most rotten tomatoes she could find, hide and hurl the things at those people who’d humiliated her tonight. She knew where they were. They did not know where she was. And it would stay that way.

A year later, the local papers appealed for help in tracking a mystery assailant going around pelting rotten veg at people coming off the 28 bus at different times.

She laughed.

ENDS

Have a wonderful, story filled Christmas and New Year!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There are certain things about the Christmas story I particularly love – and those are the telling details (which is highly appropriate for a flash fiction writer as only the most important nuggets of information are included in our stories. We have no room for anything else and readers have to fill in the gaps though, for me, that is the joy of flash. I love having to work things through like that and picking up on the implications etc).

One such nugget is the Bible story says Mary was perplexed by the angel’s greeting to her and wondered what kind of greeting this could be. Firstly, I can just picture that (!), and secondly, it makes Mary so real. It would’ve been very odd NOT to react that way I think.

When it comes to our own stories, our characters’ reactions MUST be realistic to the situations we’ve put them in. Readers should be able to think yes, I’d react like that or yes, I could see why they would react this way but I would have…

So when reviewing your stories look at how your characters react to something. Is that reaction reasonable? If a character goes “over the top”, can a reader understand why they might do that?

Happy writing!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I love the poem The Night Before Christmas. It’s a wonderful story told in rhyme. As is The Gruffalo. I admire hugely anyone who can tell a story in rhyme like that. It’s such a challenge NOT to go for slightly awkward phrasing just so you get the rhyme you want.

Flash fiction can be told in poetic form and I occasionally experiment with this. It’s an interesting challenge but not something I’d want to do regularly. If there’s an award for most difficult category of writing ever invented, I think it would have to go to poetry. So hats off to all poets out there!

But flash fiction writers can learn a lot from poets. DON’T go for awkward phrasing just so you can achieve a desired word count. Your phrasing has to read naturally. You don’t want anything to jar with a reader. You do pick up on “duff” notes in the rhythm of your prose and I know when I’ve come across it in something I’ve read, it throws me. The writing will have to be pretty special to make me keep reading after that.

I write a flash fiction piece, edit it until I’m happy with it, and THEN select the competition or market it is best suited for. When a competition comes up for, say, a 250 word piece, but my story works better at 300, I won’t crop it. I’ll save it for another competition.

Incidentally unless a competition or market specifically says otherwise, it is okay to come in UNDER the required word count. I’ve found though my work tends to come in at 20 or so words below whatever the limit is and that is deliberate on my part. It means I’ve got a little bit of room to manoeuvre if I need it and allows for those places where the title IS part of the word count. You’re never going to have a 20 word title, are you?!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog – 

Why Everyone Needs a Writer in their Life

If you’re not a writer yourself, you definitely need one in your life somewhere. Why? Well for one thing, you’ll have an easy present buy for said writer.

If we don’t give you a list of books we’d like to find under the Christmas tree, we’ll always appreciate nice pens and notebooks!

But the chances of us NOT asking for books, in whatever format, are extremely remote. Nor will we ever moan about a book shaped present waiting for us! We don’t care we know it’s a book in there. We just want to find out which one you picked out for us!

And this is why I loved receiving book tokens as presents too. I relished the thought of going to pick up my own present after the Christmas holidays – the thought of all that choice…oh good!

I don’t know about you but I always find it a joy buying presents for people where I know they’re going to like said present. And writers as a rule fit that category very well.

I can’t think of any writer who would pass on the option to have books bought for them!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!😀).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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?

 

 

Celebrating Writing

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

A very big thank you to Paula Readman, Debz Brown, and Dawn Kentish Knox for kind permission to use their photos which were taken during the Bridge House Publishing celebration event.

Facebook – General

On my way to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event as I draft this post at 7.30 am on Saturday, 7th December 2019. Not going to see much of the lovely Hampshire countryside this time – it’s pitch black still and will be again on the way home.

Am happily ensconced in a comfy seat plugged in and listening to Classic FM as I write. Generally I find classical music soothing unless they put on the 1812 Overture when I have to resist the urge to use my stylus as a conductor’s baton! You’ve heard of air guitar. This is my equivalent!😀

When I get to read my stories publicly, I like to pick a mixture of tales in terms of length and mood. For today’s event I’ve picked short humorous (which can also be used as a description for yours truly!), a mid-range fantasy with a twist, and a crime tale. Hope they go down well. Will be writing the event up for CFT for next Friday.

What I am looking forward to most is meeting up with my fellow writers. It will be fun!

And the pics below prove it was fun!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Loved the Bridge House event yesterday. Got home shattered but happy – always a sign of a good event, that! Many thanks to Paula Readman and Russell for the group pic of us holding up the books we were in this year. It’s a smashing photo. And this gives me the perfect excuse to repeat showing it!

Was very happy with my work during the day too. Drafted my FB and Goodreads blogs on the way up to London, posted them on the way home. Drafted two new flash fiction stories and wrote a reasonable section for a non-fiction book I’m working on as well. On getting home I started drafting my CFT post for this week so plenty of writing done I’m pleased to say. Naturally I came home with books to read too…

I do love Evernote and a smartphone! Even better was being on a train where I could keep my phone charged up as I actually had a power socket! (I know, I know, writers can be pleased by strange things indeed but I’ve been on too many trains where there is no power socket for phone charging or, worse, where there were some and they’ve been blanked out so I don’t take this kind of thing for granted!).

It was also lovely to chat to different people during the speed “dating” exercise at the event yesterday. Books, whether writing or reading them (or both), are a great conversational ice breaker. (Many thanks also to Dawn Kentish Knox for the pic of me reading from From Light to Dark and Back Again).

Oh and the Christmas tree at Waterloo was lovely. More pics in my CFT post later in the week.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Am enjoying singing along with the carols on Classic FM. Lady doesn’t really know what to make of it all though… 😀😀 – mind you, she does love Christmas. For a household with a collie in it, there is no such thing as left over turkey! And we get to go on post-Christmas walkies, which always goes down well – with Lady at least.

One of the nice things about coming back from events like the Bridge House one on Saturday is I can be sure of being “mugged” by the dog (demanding a big cuddle, how dare you go away, Mum!) on my return home! (Lady has almost followed me on to the train to Swanwick before now!).

I’ll be writing about Friends and Traditions for my CFT post this week. The Bridge House event has become a tradition for me and it involves lots of friends so win-win there! Link up on Friday. (I’ll also be looking at the benefits of meeting up with other writers).

Oh and I was delighted to find one fellow Bridge House author, #LindaPayne, is a fellow fan of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Another instant topic of conversation right there!

I remember being a very nervous newbie when I went to my first writing event aeons ago. Now, I can hardly wait for my favourites to come around. What has helped here? Why, making writer friends of course. It makes a huge difference. And I’ve always found that when you meet up again, you continue your conversations as if there hadn’t been a break of months or what have you since you last spoke directly.

There is so much much to enjoy about writing and this is one aspect of that. All hugely encouraging too and we all need encouragement on a regular basis.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A very wet day (as Lady would testify if she could) and I spent a lot of it fervently wishing my glasses came with mini windscreen wipers!

I don’t tend to use the weather much in my stories as, if I wish to add atmosphere to a story, I can usually do it in some other way. If I want to show my characters under stress, there are usually better ways of doing it.

I tend to save the weather for when the story wouldn’t make sense if it wasn’t brought in. That way I can avoid parody (“it was a dark and stormy night”, anyone?) and any description of the weather is kept to the minimum I need to achieve my objective.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction lends itself well to being read publicly and also gives an instant demonstration of what flash is. Its brevity is its strongest selling point. Not got enough time to read?

Well, you can read a 50 or 100 worder quickly enough! See it as a great way to enjoy a fiction fix! A good friend has described it as a bus stop read, which is a great way of summing it up as well as suggesting where you can read it!

I love to read shorter fiction in between novels too. Flash fiction is the story form you can enjoy between “meals” of longer works without ruining your appetite for long or short fiction! Anyone else out there who remembers the old Milky Way advert?!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A story comes to life for me when the lead character comes to life. For flash fiction, that has pretty much got to happen in the opening couple of lines. I try to do this by:-

1. Giving an intriguing situation the character has to solve and you want to find out how the character does it.

2. Take you inside the character’s head immediately and something about their attitude/thoughts will make you want to read on.

3. In my Punish the Innocent, I use a letter format to show my lead character addressing “their” reader and by opening with powerful lines. “Dear Sarah, They say the perfect crime is where the criminal doesn’t get caught. Wrong.” Again I’m seeking to intrigue a reader here into wanting to find out if my letter writer is right or not and if THEY’VE committed the perfect crime as their line clearly implies they think they have. It is the “got to know what happens here” scenario and if there was a kind of holy grail for writers, I would say that was it.

So basically then my way into a story is via an intriguing character or intriguing situation. The ideal, of course, is to have both but often (and I’ve found this in works I’ve read by other writers too), you don’t always realise how intriguing a character is until you have got to end of the story.

After all, if you take A Christmas Carol, you would hardly warm to Scrooge if you only read the first page or two, would you? There has to be something to make you want to read on and it is only at the end of that Christmas classic, you have got to see the depths of the real Ebenezer. In flash fiction, you have to do that much more quickly but it is a fun challenge!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I sometimes write one liner flash fiction stories. (These are great for the 25 words and under competitions/markets). One of the stories I drafted in London on Saturday was one of these. I saw the potential for expanding it and did so! I’ve got work to do on it but the character comes across better in the longer version so I will stick with that.

The flexibility of flash here is one of its strengths I think. If I want to I can still submit the one line version but to a different, appropriate market for that word count.

At other times I will look at my one line stories again and realise they are best left as they are. But this is added reason to put work aside for a while before coming back to it. You need distance to be able to assess whether something would work at a longer word count than the version you originally came up with.

The deciding factors are whether the character is strong enough for their story to be expanded at all and does that character benefit from this.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thought it would be nice to share a story tonight. Hope you enjoy it.

WHAT THE NEIGHBOURS THINK
Had the neighbours seen the appearance of a witch in the huge chestnut tree?
Mary fervently hoped not. She also hoped they hadn’t seen her frantically wave at the witch indicating exactly where she could go. Back into the sky on that dodgy looking broomstick and away from Mary.
What is it about me that attracts the oddballs?
Mary poured herself a cup of tea and added a decent amount of brandy to it. She felt in need of it.
Even by her standards, the appearance of a witch was unusual. Annoyingly it was nowhere near Halloween so Mary couldn’t pretend it was one of the neighbourhood kids taking a prank that bit too far.
Looking again out of her kitchen window, Mary sighed with relief. The witch had gone. Mary turned back to her tea only to discover she now had company in her kitchen.
‘Well, aren’t you going to make me a cup of tea then, sister?’
Mary grimaced. She now knew where the witch was.

ENDS.
Allison Symes

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog – What Reading Does For Me

Hmmm….where to start on this one!

1. Reading helps me escape. It doesn’t matter if the day is a good one or not – when I get to read I get to switch off.

2. Reading shows me worlds, real and fantastical, and expands my horizons. You can’t know everything, no one person could, but books are a brilliant way of expanding your knowledge. They can help you develop new interests too.

3. Reading inspires my own writing. I see what other authors do with their characters and think well I would have written them this way instead because… and off I go with my own tales.

4. Reading non-fiction expands your general knowledge. Handy if you like quizzes!

5. Reading expands your vocabulary. Handy if you love word games as It do.

6. People will never run out of present ideas for the book lovers in their lives!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Progress, Success, and How to Judge Them

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week (Progress and Success and How to JudgeThem) was inspired by thoughts on what makes a writer successful. Is it having multiple books out? Is it having a movie option on your book (which would rule most of us out!)?

So I thought I’d look at what I think would count as progress and success. The trouble with both of these things is they can be hard to measure. This is where science has the advantage – it is much easier to define progress and success there. Note I say easier. It’s not the same thing as easy though!

I also look at this topic particularly from a writer’s viewpoint and share why I think there can’t be a one size fits all for writers. I also share what I think would be progress and success for humanity. Very much one of those “if only” thoughts…

Captions as ever over on CFT.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Enjoying the latest series of Tom Wrigglesworth’s Hang-ups (Radio 4). Great characterisation and dialogue.

My CFT post this week is about progress and success and how to judge them. Link up tomorrow. I’ll also be on the ACW More Than Writers’ blog tomorrow with a piece about history in stories. (I’m looking at this from a character history viewpoint and working out what you leave out of the actual story). I’ll put the link up for that tomorrow as well.

Happily writing further flash fiction stories. I often write these a batch at a time. I hope to edit my short story for a competition this weekend too. Making good progress on the novel though I know I won’t be submitting it anywhere this side of Christmas. Hope to get it submitted sometime during January though.

Also want to get a few blogs drafted in advance at some point to try and be more “efficient”! Scheduling posts is a great idea and I need to do this more often. No – tonight’s one wasn’t an advance one!

 

A big thanks to all who reacted and/or commented on my lighthearted post about the signs of being a “proper” writer (which I’ll repeat here shortly). I love writing fun posts like that.

Of course the real answer to being a “proper” writer is that if you write regularly, you are a proper writer and that’s it. By regularly, I would define that as being committed to writing no matter what, whether you write for several hours a week or can only manage 15 minutes every other day etc. If you can’t imagine your life without writing in it somewhere, that’s a pretty good sign too!

I’ll be talking about progress and success and how to judge them in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Link up on Friday. I’ll be taking a look at this topic as it applies to writers too.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I think this lighthearted post is worth repeating. Many thanks to all for the reactions and comments to it. Much appreciated.

How do you know if you’re a “proper” writer?

1. You scorn the very idea you have too many notebooks.
2. You develop a thing for collecting nice pens too, some of which you will actually use.
3. You dread power cuts as they always seem to happen in the middle of a writing session.
4. You have the great joy of having a number of books written by friends on your shelves.
5. You are even more thrilled when your works are on the same shelves!
6. You can’t wait to tell everyone your latest publication news.
7. You open the latest copy of Writing Magazine and look for people you know in the letters page and the Subscribers’ sections in particular.
8. You feel a little miffed when you come across an issue when there isn’t someone you know in it. (It’s a kind of something’s not quite right with the world feeling).
9. Launches, especially online ones, are a regular part of your life and you love them all.
10. Your TBR and TBW piles never diminish but that’s the way you like them.
11. There is no such thing as having too many books. What you CAN have is not enough shelving.
12. You just feel SO at home in book shops and libraries.

Okay, guilty as charged on all those. How about you?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Time for a flash story to end the working week with. Hope you enjoy.

The End of the World

He was going to miss the end of the world. He was late. Of all the days this could happen, it had to be this one.

It was all over the media – the world would end at midnight on Wednesday, 3rd June.

It never occurred to him to ask about the oh-so convenient timing and how could anyone be sure of the exact date anyway when, even in the Bible, there were warnings against those predicting such things.

All he knew was he had to get to a good vantage point to witness first hand the last moments of the world.

It was a pity really. On the way to the top of St. Giles’ Hill in Winchester, he was run over by a bus that was also running late.

They put the time of his death as midnight, Wednesday June 3rd.

Ends

Allison Symes – 29th November 2019

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Drafted a couple of flash fiction stories yesterday based on a couple of phrases conjured up thanks to a random phrase generator.

It also occurred to me that a random letter generator could also be useful. You can use an electronic one or pick a letter at random from a Scrabble set. Some thoughts here:-

1. Take one letter and write a story where the opening word of every sentence starts with that letter. For example, M – Mary had no regrets about her life of crime. Misuse of a library book WAS a crime. Mind you, the miserable little wotsit behind the offence wasn’t going to be bothering her and the rest of the library staff for some time. Mary wondered how long it would take for the idiot to get out of the handcuffs and locked room down in the basement.

2. Take one letter and use it for every word in a sentence. For example the letter D – Daft duck drives dumpers daily! (Could have great fun generating some nonsense but this could be a useful way into a writing session or a way from winding down from an intensive time at the old desk).

3. Take one letter and use it for the opening and closing word of a sentence. (Could be a challenge though if you get the Q!). (Example: Queenie happily chomps quiches!).

Have fun!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Flash fiction is a great vehicle for telling a story from an alternative viewpoint. As you know, I am very fond of fairytales told from said alternative viewpoint, not least because my first story in print, A Helping Hand, was precisely that type of story. (It’s the Cinderella story as seen through the eyes of the younger stepsister and can be found in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology). (Link takes you to my Amazon Author Central page where you can find Alternative Renditions).

I find these stories huge fun to write (and indeed to read) but the sharp focus of flash fiction I think makes them work even better. It forces you to focus on what is really important for that alternative viewpoint to get across.

It’s not enough for say Character C to rant about how Character A got all the breaks. What an alternative viewpoint story should show is why Character C deserved to do as well if not better than Character A. It’s then up to the reader to decide whether the character has a point or not!

Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers – History In Stories

It’s that time again – time for my monthly blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. I look at history in stories from the viewpoint of character histories. What do you need to know about your characters before you write their stories? What do you need to know but don’t need to put in the story itself? Hope you enjoy. Captions over on the More Than Writers blog.

Fairytales With Bite – A to Z of Fairytale “Rules” – Part 2

G = Generosity. You can guarantee those characters who are generous in heart, especially to those less fortunate than themselves, will do well in the fairytale world. Fairy godmothers will be falling over themselves to assist! So be generous!

H = Honesty. What is the point of lying to a magical being? They’re going to know. Honest characters do well. What I loved about Puss in Boots was the master knew full well the cat was far smarter than he was. Good man. Credit where it is due and all that. Again, be honest.

I = Integrity. There is a definite theme developing here and that’s not coincidental. Again, those characters with integrity such as Beauty from Beauty and the Beast prosper. The fairytale world knows what it likes and rightly sticks to those things. So keep hold of your integrity. In the fairytale world at least it makes all the difference. (It ought to here as well but that’s another matter).

J = Judgement. The fairytale world has a strong sense of what’s right and wrong and will ensure justice is done. Beast from Beauty and the Beast was punished for his arrogance and had to learn humility and to win true love before being set free from his curse. Evil does not prevail here (though it doesn’t necessarily mean there are sugar sweet happy endings to every story. Just look at Hans Christen Andersen’s The Little Mermaid). Judgement is always proportional too.

K = Kindness. It pays to be kind to people in the fairytale world. So many of the wizened old people turn out to be wizards or fairy godmothers in disguise! So be kind…

L = Love. As well as the romantic love, the fairytale world celebrates love. Take the story of Hansel and Gretel as one example. I also loved Bella’s love of books in the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. I guess I would! It could be argued that magic and love power the fairytale world.

M = Mayhem. This is common in the fairytales until a magical being comes along to put things right. My favourite example is the mayhem caused in the Emperor’s New Clothes by a child shouting out the truth! (You’ve almost got to admire the rip-off merchants who “stung” the Emperor and made him look like an idiot). Always look for the one causing mayhem in a fairytale. They’re the ones to avoid.

N = Names. Names are important and have meaning, as Rumpelstiltskin would be the first to testify. The important thing for a fairytale character is to keep their good name.

More next time…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – Top to Bottom

When you set out to create your fictional world, what do you focus on? How it is governed (the top) or how the practical stuff is done (the bottom)? Is there a class system? Can characters better themselves or are they expected to stay within their allocated class? Now you can guarantee that just asks for someone to rebel so how do they do so and what do they achieve?

By having a good idea of how your world works, you will write it with a conviction that comes through to a reader so it plans to to deduce what it is you need to know first.

Good luck!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Authors Talk and Publication News

Image Credits:

The photos of the author event at the Hiltonbury Farmhouse were taken by me, Allison Symes. Many thanks to Antony M Brown (Cold Case Juries series) and Richard Hardie (Temporal Detective Agency) for supplying other photos, especially their book covers. The other images are from those fantastic people at Pixabay.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

This week’s CFT post When Authors Talk is a look back at an author event held by YA author Richard Hardie (Temporal Detective Agency) and Antony Brown (Cold Case Juries series) recently.

Both authors talked about how they got into writing (and in Richard’s case publishing too) and the ups and downs of the writing life.

I also look at the benefits of author events like this from the viewpoint of a reader. Hope you enjoy. (And do support author events!).

The joy of author events, from a writer’s viewpoint, is they give us a chance to engage with readers (actual and potential). From a reader’s viewpoint, you can quiz the author about what inspired them and find out their latest news. So do support author events you know of (the support is always appreciated).

My favourite remains, I think, the signing at my local railway station. It was a great venue, I hope to do it again at some point, and flash fiction is great to demonstrate to curious passengers! It also doesn’t take up too much time (which is one of its selling points to the reluctant reader).

My next event should be the Bridge House celebration event in December, all being well. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with writer friends I don’t see the rest of the year too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When you go to author events, what do you like best about them?

For me, it’s always hearing how the writer concerned got the “itch” to write in the first place and how they kept going despite all the rejections etc that happen. I’ll be reporting on the joint author event held by Richard Hardie and Antony Browne tomorrow for Chandler’s Ford Today. I’ll also be looking at what readers can get out of events like this. It is very much a two-way thing.

I loved the old James Garner films Support Your Local Gunfighter and Support Your Local Sheriff. There ought to be something for Support Your Local Writer!😀

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Had a lovely evening at a local author event held by YA writer, Richard Hardie, and Cold Case Jury writer, Antony M Browne at the Hiltonbury Farmhouse yesterday. Write up to follow for CFT later in the week including why author events are important for the READER as well as the writer.

Publication News

It’s a nice feeling to get to Wednesday and to already have had publication news with the “advent” of Nativity by Bridge House Publishing yesterday. I make no apology for the pun. (Am shameless like that but that’s what being a fan of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue can do for you).

Nativity Full

Am catching up with some fantastic reading on my Kindle. Hope to post some reviews soon.

It’s also nice to get to the stage where Writing Magazine hits the doormat and the first thing I check is if there is anyone I know in there! Usually there is…

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Some ways to trigger ideas:-

1. Random generators – I’ve used random word, phrase, and even number ones to trigger ideas. It also pays to mix up the parameters you set for these things too.

2. Play the What If game. Ask that question of potential characters. Think about the setting and play What If on that. Can the setting have an effect on what your character can and cannot do? Are there stories there about how your character overcomes this?

3. Think attitude. What kind of attitude does your lead character have and how does that land them in it? What do they do to overcome the issues that throws up?

4. Is your character a rebel or a conformist? If the former what are they rebelling against? (That can be anything from a corrupt power to expectations they or their famiies have). If a conformist, what has led them to take that view? Is it a case of fear for their own safety to be otherwise? Look at the story behind that fear.

Have fun!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I received a lovely message from FB that the FLTDBA page is now up to 50 followers. A big thank you to everybody (and to all who follow this blog!). Just for that, I think the appropriate response is a flash fiction story for you! Hope you enjoy.

JUST A MINUTE

The big mistakes don’t take long to make.
Stranbarb chose the wrong shortcut in no time and faced a witch.
Her glower told him his life could be measured in seconds. Her wand was raised and she looked as if she wanted blood. It didn’t matter whose.
‘Dwarf, why are you here?’ She paused. ‘Did you see two children go by?’
‘I got lost. No.’ The dwarf looked at the confectionery cottage behind the witch. Understanding dawned. He’d just stopped her having dinner.
He looked at her again. She was smiling. She’d already selected an alternative main course.

Ends.
Allison Symes – 14th November 2019

SEASONS IN WRITING - But setting your own deadline can be helpful for writing competitions

One thing flash fiction is brilliant for is that it is so easy to demonstrate what it is at signings etc. Nor does it take long! (Mind you, I make a point of sticking to ONLY reading out a couple of my 100 word stories. The longer ones in the flash word count range can be saved for when people read the book!).

I was asked at a local author event I went to yesterday if I used adverbs. Generally I don’t. It’s an easy save on the word count. The exception is if I think the use of an adverb adds something to the characterisation or the plot of the story. That doesn’t happen often.

For example:-

The witch wickedly put the kids in the oven.

You really don’t need the wickedly for that, do you? I think wickedness is definitely implied by the action!

BUT:-

The kids put the witch in the oven forcefully.

It makes more sense to use forcefully here (though I would say forcefully can still be implied. Well, you’re not going to put a witch in an oven gently now, are you?). I would prefer to write a sentence like this as:-

The kids shoved the witch in the oven.

You’ve got all the force you need in the word “shoved” and you save a word on the old word count. Those saved words mount up over the course of a story which in turn can make all the difference to which competitions/markets you can use. (Paragraph Planet, for example, is 75 words INCLUDING title so for something like that you are really looking to pare things back).

Oh and no kids or witches were harmed in the making of this post.😀

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fairytales With Bite – Adverts

Okay so adverts get everywhere so why not in the magical realm? How about some slogans then?

The porridge so good thieving girls will love it – won’t commend itself to the Three Bears but Goldilocks might go for it.

For comfortable shoes, don’t go to the fairy godmother, come to us – Cinderella would concur with this one.

Need a long sleep? Be sure to get a comfortable mattress! – One for Sleeping Beauty. Possibly Snow White too.

Looking for the perfect apple? Don’t go to the old crone, come to us. Definitely one for Snow White.

Worried about your looks? Come to us at Swan Beauty. One for The Ugly Duckling.

Hope you enjoy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – Working Out Your Characters

I’ve mentioned before that I start by working out what my characters’ major traits are and, from there, what kind of scrapes said traits are likely to get them into! If a character is stubborn, you can have a lot of fun with that. But with most traits there is a flip side to that. Stubborness can also mean grit and determination and courage to keep going when nobody else will. How can you use that aspect in your stories? That’s only naming one trait too.

Another way in to knowing your character(s) is to interview them. Work out what their tastes would be and why.  You can also ask yourself why you want to write about these characters. Why are they special enough to be written up into a story? If they’re not special enough, then why even consider putting them into a tale? The first person that has to be convinced by your characteristion is you!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

PERSPECTIVE AND PUBLICATION NEWS

Facebook – General

Hope it has cooled down where you are. I prefer a temperate climate, as does the dog. I also find it easier to focus.

Does the time of year affect what you write? I can’t say it does for me as I write a mixture of light and darker pieces throughout the year.

If the seasons do affect what you write, how can you play to the strengths of this? I would’ve thought it is probably better to work with it rather than to try to fight it, if only because you’ll feel less frustrated that way.

Analysing how you work is a good idea, whether you’re affected by the seasons or not. For me, the amount of time I have per writing session is more important and I aim to make the most of each slot. My goal is to be able to look back and feel it was a good writing session, regardless of whether I had ten minutes or three hours.

Happy writing!😊

 

Image Credit:  Generally Pixabay as usual but the Scottish beach and loch pictures were taken by me earlier this year.

Glad to be home from a very busy day in London yesterday. Loved visiting the Sky Gardens. They were great and the views incredible. I’d never seen the Tower of London look like it was a Lego sized kit before! I guess it just goes to show perspective is everything.

Perspective is everything for your characters too and indeed for you as you write the story. Just who is your lead and why have you chosen them? Why does it matter to show their perspective and not another character‘s view of the world instead?

What is fun is to write from the perspective of a character you know you wouldn’t sympathise with in any kind of life yet alone the real one. The challenge here is to write about them convincingly despite your own antipathy to them.

Working out how to get into their head to show their reasons for being the way they are will push you into exploring how they got to be at this point in the first place. That will make for interesting characterisation for one thing. It will almost certainly increase the drama in your story too.

Images below taken by me as at 27th July 2019. It isn’t often I get to take a shot with the caption already on it! Also have fun spotting the landmarks.

Publication News

A busy day on the writing front. Glad to share the links for my ACW More Than Writers’ blog which discusses whether or not it is easier to write during the summer.

Also glad to share the link to Stolen, my latest story on Cafelit. This is the nearest I’ve got to an autobiographical story (and probably the nearest I will get I think. I identify with Sarah in this one).

The nature of this story meant I knew it wasn’t going to be a flash piece but that’s fine. The story has to be what it is. If it’s over 1000 words then so be it.

 

Am sharing an extract from both More than Writers and Stolen here as a taster. Hope you enjoy.

Summertime and the Writing Is Easy…

Or not maybe… Apologies to George Gershwin for misquoting his classic (though I still prefer Rhapsody in Blue).

Do you find writing in summer easier than during the winter? The jury’s out for me here. I try to keep a consistent writing level up for most of the year because, regardless of season, there are always distractions. But there are times when I write less and I’ve learned to come to terms with that…..

Stolen

by Allison Symes

cranberry juice


I’m not going to the bloody doctors.  I couldn’t tell you how often Sarah goes on about it.  When will she take the hint?  I do know my own mind.  I swear she thinks I’m going loopy.  She says not but why else would she want me to go to the doctors when there’s nothing wrong with me?

It’s perfectly normal for older people to forget things sometimes.  Hell, she’s done so herself.  She forgot my birthday last week.  I was really hurt by that.  I was bloody annoyed when she told me my birthday is next month.  I should know my own birthday.

Oh my cup of tea has gone cold.  Did I forget to drink it?  Did I forget to put the kettle on at all and just poured cold water into my mug?  I did do that last Wednesday but I’d had a stressful time of it arguing with Sarah again and well that kind of thing is bound to make you forget odd things, isn’t it?  I didn’t tell Sarah I did this.  She’d have seen it as proof I do need to go and see Dr. Page.

Sarah keeps telling me I shouldn’t be afraid to go to the doctors.  Dr. Page is sympathetic, is bound to have treated patients with memory loss before and there is more awareness now of “mind” issues.  Sarah says this covers everything from depression to dementia.  Sarah is right on all of this but how it applies to me I couldn’t tell you.  I am perfectly healthy.  Sarah says I’m in denial.  There is something wrong when your own daughter tries to tell you what to do.

And I’m simply not having that.  Sarah ought to be pleased.  If ever there was proof I do know my own mind, this is it, surely……

Facebook – General

The challenge of writing stories like Stolen, when they pack an emotional punch, is keeping your own emotions out of it while you’re writing it. You have to put some distance between yourself and the voice of your lead character(s) so it is THEIR story coming through and not yours as the author. You also want the emotion to be authentic and not spill over into melodrama.

This is why it is crucial to put a story aside for a while before revisiting it to edit it. I’ve found it is the only way to get the necessary distance so I can judge what I’ve still got to do on the story objectively (and there is always something!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What is your favourite form of flash fiction? The 100-worder? The 500-worder? Funny? Darker? I love them all of course but if there is one kind that sneaks its way to the top of my list, it is the 100-worder with a humorous twist. So here goes…

Late Running

The ghost train ran straight through the station. It must make up time.

If you thought fines issued to late running train companies on earth were inadequate, you wouldn’t be disappointed here.

Miscreants were treated according to species. Ghosts were obliterated. Vampires were drained down. The rumours tonight were not good.The controllers were more foul than usual. The Boss was due to visit to check all was well…or as bad as this service was meant to be. He wouldn’t be let down by sloppy staff.

Bonemeal was mentioned.

After all, the train was run by a skeleton crew.

Ends.

Allison Symes – 27th July 2019

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Image may contain: night

If there’s anything odd going on tonight, the cat will not spill the beans.  Pixabay

Image may contain: outdoor

Speeding restrictions apply to all but there are always some who ignore the rules. Pixabay

Must ‘fess up and say I’ve got a few writing prompts to catch up with in my diary but all have the potential to make promising flash fiction stories. Will probably have a go at some of these later in the week. (I tend to get my CFT post sorted first, then resume work on fiction).

Was pleased with my Late Running story I wrote on the train yesterday. Hope you enjoyed it. I am partial to puns and they can be used in flash fiction effectively. You can’t go on at length in flash as you’d defeat the whole object of it so a short pun as a twist ending or as part of a character’s thoughts can work well.

I love writing as well as reading these but, as with most things I guess, puns etc work best when not overdone.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My latest story on Cafelit, Stolen, isn’t a flash fiction piece, far from it. The nature of the story meant it had to go well over 1000 words but that’s fine. Not only do I keep my hand in writing a mixture of fiction, it kind of proves the point the story has to be what it has to be.

It never pays to try to cut a story so you can get it to count as flash somewhere.

The stories that work best as flash fiction are those where you want to focus on one intense moment in a character’s life and nothing else. Where there is more than one, you are better off writing a longer story to begin with, otherwise you will sell it short (and reduce your publication chances too).

Time can be an awkward thing to write into flash fiction stories. Most will consist of one vital moment to a character and so the span of time where the action takes place is very short. I’ve found I’ve needed stories towards the upper limit of flash (1000 words) to be able to show action taking place across a longer time span.

For example my Rewards has a time span of one evening and the next morning while my Expecting refers to time as a character realises they haven’t heard from someone for a while.

Flash I think does work best when it is for the moment. Even when I write historical flash, I’m looking at one incident in one character’s life. Time comes into the setting I’ve chosen to use and acts as a backdrop.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog –

What a Good Book Can Lead To

Have you known a good book to change you?

For me, The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey has led to a huge interest in Richard III and conviction he is not guilty of the murder of The Princes in the Tower, assuming they were killed.

There is no evidence they were killed and my own view is at least one was smuggled out of the country. Richard himself was smuggled out as a boy so it would’ve been known it could be done and Henry Tudor was never able to prove where the boys were, else he would’ve done. That really would have damned Richard.

That aside, good books have expanded my view of how irony works thanks to Austen, Wodehouse, and Pratchett. Now there’s a trio for you!

Good books have expanded my ideas of what can be done in fiction, especially in fantasy. There’s a reason The Lord of the Rings is considered an epic. It is! The sheer scale and scope of the trilogy will always amaze me.

Good books open your mind and imagination.

Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

Joys and Challenges

Many thanks to the Hampshire Writers’ Society for making me so welcome on Tuesday night.  Also thanks to those who have liked or given other positive feedback via my Facebook pages on my talk.  Much appreciated.

thank you text on black and brown board

Thank you, HWS! Image via Pexels

HIGHS POST - An inspiring thought

Indeed! Pixabay image.

HAMPSHIRE WRITERS PICTURE OF ALLISON

Many thanks to the Hampshire Writers’ Society for their kind permission to use this photo.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is part 1 (of 3) looking at the joys and challenges of writing series novels. My panel joining me for this are #JenniferCWilson, #ValPenny, #AnneWan, #WendyHJones and #RichardHardie. Between them they cover crime fiction, children’s fiction/YA, historical, ghost and timeslip! Some great insights here with more to come over the next couple of weeks.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Many thanks to all who sent in likes, encouraging comments etc following Tuesday night’s talk at the Hampshire Writers’ Society. All very much appreciated.

I know that some would like the links for some of the competitions/markets I mentioned. I list only a few below. I hope you can see these as a useful starting point.

http://www.flash500.com/index_files/flashfiction.htm
You do have to pay to enter this one but the competitions are quarterly and on an open theme so if you miss one date, put a story in for the next one!

http://writersfestival.co.uk/competitions
This is for Winchester Writers’ Festival and lists all their competitions. Great to now see flash fiction listed here.

http://www.paragraphplanet.com/submission.php
Free to enter. Always looking for submissions. Want to get around to trying this one myself!

Cafelit – give website details and submission details
http://cafelit.co.uk/index.php/submission-guidelines-2
I started writing flash fiction thanks to their 100-word challenge but do visit the site for a wealth of stories and styles.

Writing Magazine
For their 750 words and 1000 word competitions but very much fits into flash fiction territory. Keep an eye on their website and, of course, the magazine itself.

Earlyworks Press details
http://www.earlyworkspress.co.uk/Competitions.htm

And don’t forget The Bridport Prize, the Bath Flash Fiction Award etc etc. Definitely worth scanning the net every so often to see what is out there.

Trust this helps – and just to finish, something I didn’t have time to share on Tuesday. Two one line stories which, in different ways, conjure up a whole world of fear! You tell me which is the most frightening…

1. The lion ran straight at you.
2. The dentist will see you now.

Well?

Many thanks to the Hampshire Writers’ Society for making me so welcome as guest speaker at last night’s event. Much appreciated.

I discussed what flash fiction is, what I love about it, why I think all writers should try it, and a few hints as to possible markets and competitions – in about 15 minutes! Mind you, isn’t it appropriate that a flash fiction writer keeps her speech short!!😁

The main speaker was Ian Thomas, games writer, (founder of Talespinners – stories for video games etc) and his talk was illuminating as to what is needed in this field of work. What was interesting was two skills needed in flash fiction writing – the ability to edit ruthlessly and the need to leave gaps for readers to use their imaginations and fill in – are both vital for games writing too.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

As part of my talk at HWS yesterday, I discussed what I love most about flash fiction. One aspect is that it is proof you can make a huge impact on your readers but don’t need thousands of words to do so. I’ve read many a thoughtful flash fiction piece which would have LOST impact had it been a longer work.

I find I am always thinking about what impact I want my stories to have on readers (or those I’m reading my work to, come to that!). So even as I am writing the story, I am trying to engage with a potential audience. I think it is a good mind set to be in. It helps make it easier for me to cut out the inevitable waffle that does creep in to any draft writing I do. I have a tendency to overwrite, which is okay. That can be cut after all. But I always DO have to cut and that is just one of those things.

It’s a good thing to look at what your writing weaknesses are (in my case, overwriting) and then work out strategies to deal with them. I accept I overwrite, I get the draft down and then I ruthlessly prune back. Problem solved. The great joy of the first draft is only I get to see it!

If you’re having a brainstorming session for story ideas, how about trying a random word generator?

Weave, say, the first three words you come up with into a story. Having a quick look on the net, I found one of these that lets you choose how many words and the first and last letters of the words. You could even select the number of syllables or word length! I chose the first letter of a and the last letter to be t, and a word length of six letters. The words that came up were:-

appointment
accountant
appoint

So what can be done here? How about:-

A QUESTIONABLE CHOICE

It was a grim day in the magical realm when the Dark Lord decided to appoint an accountant. This was not the way things were done here. The Dark Lord was supposed to rob and plunder and then spend his ill gotten gains in a frenzy. The appointment even made the headline news. People dared to question what the Dark Lord was doing and ask what would happen next.

Allison Symes – 11th October 2018

Naturally you can expand this out to trying the first five words you come up or vary the syllable and/or word length, but there is a lot of fun to be had here playing with words and ideas. When is that ever a bad thing?!

Many thanks to #HampshireWritersSociety for taking this picture of me (see top of tonight’s post!) speaking at their meeting last Tuesday (and for permission to use it). I usually take my own pictures of my book stall etc at events and so on but it’s a bit tricky doing it when you’re the one who’s speaking!

One thing I love when talking about flash fiction is getting to read some of it as part of this. It is by far the best way of showing people exactly what it is and, of course, does not take too long. It also mixes up your talk with some storytelling (and I know I love listening to this sort of thing when I’m at other writers’ talks etc).

Says it all really. Image via Pixabay.

Says it all really. Image via Pixabay. And am glad to say my poorly border collie, Mabel, has very much been showing this spirit.

Never give up, work hard, be disciplined... all valuable traits for success, whether you're a tennis player, a writer or a character in a story! Image via Pixabay.

Never give up, work hard, be disciplined… all valuable traits for success, whether you’re a tennis player, a writer or a character in a story! Image via Pixabay.

Fairytales With Bite – Story Loves

What do you love most in a story?  I look for the following:-

  1. Gripping characters – I’ve got to really root for them to succeed or get their just desserts for me to stay with them during the story.
  2. Good pacing – What pacing is required obviously depends on the type of story but generally I’m looking for a pace that keeps the tension up until the end.
  3. Unforgettable settings – This doesn’t have to be an invented world (though it often is).  Here I’m looking for the setting being appropriate to the story and characters and be a place I’d love to visit or equally be glad I’m nowhere near.  The latter depends on the type of story but whichever way it goes, the setting has to provoke a reaction in me.
  4. Entertaining dialogue – Sure sometimes this will be funny dialogue (when appropriate) but even when not I want to feel as if I’m eavesdropping on a conversation that I have absolutely got to finish listening to!
  5. Strong Resolution – The story definitely has to end.  Not on a cliffhanger – that should be for the chapters leading up to the end in a novel or in the middle section of shorter works before the issue is resolved.

This World and Others – Joys and Challenges

My CFT post this week is the start of a three-parter looking at The Joys and Challenges of Writing Series NovelsMany thanks to my panel of Jennifer C Wilson, Val Penny, Anne Wan, Wendy H Jones, and Richard Hardie for their great contributions.  Am looking forward to sharing the rest of the series over the next couple of weeks.  Between them, these fine writers cover children’s/YA, crime, historical, ghost, and timeslip!  (Some of them cover more than one of these!).

The title of this piece led me to think about the joys and challenges our characters face. How do they handle these?  Which do they cope with better?  (Not everyone handles happiness that well – they literally don’t know how to cope with it or live in such dread that the happiness is going to end any moment, any enjoyment of it is lost!).

Are others pleased for your characters in their joyful times or is there resentment there (openly or hidden)?  In the challenges your characters face, do they have friends and family to support and encourage?  When your characters overcome a challenge, do they go on to learn from the experience or does their success change them (and not necessarily for the better)?

This is where the core central values and attitudes your characters have really matter.  Someone who is generally a decent character is not going to upset others by showing off about their successes.  They will have friends who are genuinely pleased for them.  Someone who aggravates others will only find said other characters will be rooting for their downfall!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.