THE PHONE CONVERSATION

Image Credit:

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.


Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today
Double post from me tonight. A busy end to a busy week!

First up tonight is the link to my Chandler’s Ford Today post for this week. The Phone Conversation is a bit different from the kind of post I usually write here as (a) I set a writing challenge in it and (b) I include a new piece of flash fiction too.

My challenge is where I invite you to name one person (existing forwards or backwards in time) who you would love to speak to by phone. You only get the ONE phone call. Remember the old cop shows that always had that as a plot device? Well, I’ve taken the idea and run with it here.

Whichever direction in time you choose, the recipient would be enabled to use the phone. (Nor, if you go back in time, would they be burnt for witchcraft in being able to use such a strange device!).

Rules: Keep it short, keep it funny (and that rules out politics given that is anything BUT funny).

Now naturally I answered my own challenge and came up with a new flash fiction story as it was the best way for me to answer it! See The Biter Bit which I hope both amuses you and acts as a kind of heads-up to be wary of the scammers out there.

I look forward to seeing what you come up with – comments over on the CFT page please. (Oh and I had great fun with the captions for some of the images below but do check these out over on the CFT page! You can probably guess which ones I had the fun with!).

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SECOND POST!
A big thank you to #BarryLillie for hosting me on his blog today. The questions were challenging but great fun to answer! Hope you enjoy.

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Delighted to share another lovely review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Many thanks!

Screenshot_2020-10-15 Truly delightful
Now as we head rapidly towards the end of the year, and with book events mainly going to online versions only, writers, I know, are going to be even more appreciative of support than we normally are. (And generally we ARE an appreciative lot, honest!).

The nice thing is there are two big things you can do to support the writer friends in your life and they cost nothing, merely take a little time.

These are:-
1. Support their event by “going” to it even if only for a short while.
2. Give an honest review of their book on Amazon and Goodreads in particular.

Many thanks, folks, on behalf of EVERY writer!😊😍

thank you signage

Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

cup of aromatic cappuccino with thank you words on foam

Photo by wewe yang on Pexels.com

Many thanks to #ValPenny for hosting me on her blog today. This is the final part of my mini blog tour, all involving splendid people from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. (Last week I was guest on #PatriciaMOsborne‘s and #JenWilson‘s blogs – thank you, ladies!).

Tonight’s post with Val is an in-depth article. Naturally I talk about Tripping The Flash Fantastic, what I love about flash fiction writing, and discuss what I can of my internet search history! 😂😂😂 Best leave it there I think.

I also share a little about my writing routine and what I think is the best thing about being a writer.

Thanks again, Val. It was fab to chat!

From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve written a new flash story, The Biter Bit, as part of my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week (and that’s a first). Hope you enjoy!

I found writing a story was the best way to answer the challenge I set in this post (and naturally I was going to meet said challenge myself). Stories are fabulous vehicles for getting points across without preaching or switching people off.

(Oh and a quick update on Tripping The Flash Fantastic. It is available on the Waterstones website too).

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Hope the week has been a good one. Now I usually share news about my Chandler’s Ford Today post over on my Facebook Author page. But this week’s post is different!

Called The Phone Conversation, I issue a fun challenge and share a new flash fiction story in my response to the challenge I set! Can’t really say more than that without giving the game away but link up tomorrow. (See above!).

I don’t usually combine my fiction with non-fiction writing but for the challenge I set, I realised using a flash story was the best way to meet it! More tomorrow. It is the first flash tale I’ve written for a couple of weeks given the cyberlaunch for TTFF etc and it was good to get back to that again.


A huge thanks to #ValPenny for hosting me on her blog today. It’s always a joy to chat about flash fiction. Naturally, Tripping The Flash Fantastic was mentioned too!

(Link to go on my website shortly on my interviews page and later in the week on my next blog post. I have shared this on my author page on Facebook tonight though so do pop across to that if you would like to read this now. Val knows how to set good questions!).

I do have an interview page on my website (which I will be updating shortly to include the mini blog tour I’ve been on with Val today, and #PatriciaMOsborne and #JenWilson last week). If you want to know more about my work and/or flash fiction, the interview page is a good place to start.

(And I will be updating the page again probably over the weekend to include my appearance on #BarryLillie’s blog this week too).


Fairytales With Bite – Is Magic All That Wonderful in Stories?

One thing I don’t think is stressed enough is that magic is not the be all and end all in a story. Nor should it be. If a character can just solve all of their problems with the wave of the old magic wand, well that’s going to make for a very boring story. Wave wand, conflict and story over. Hmm.,, I don’t know about you but I would feel a bit cheated with that.

There should be limitations as to how magic can be used (and I also believe it would have to drain the user of it physically and mentally too). I felt the Harry Potter series covered this aspect well.

Also Lord Vetinari in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series also makes pointed comments about how dangerous magic is especially when countering Moist Von Lipwig’s plea to use the stuff in Raising Steam and call the wizards in to help with a major and urgent problem he’s facing.

So, for me, a good story does show the down side of magic. I also like to see characters call on their own non-magical resources to solve problems. I also like to seem them overcome issues which are caused by magic. And when magic is used, it should be where there is no other option and should be for the good of more than one character.

Also there’s the whole aspect of abuse of magical power to be explored too. How that is tackled or not is to me far more interesting than the magical element itself.

 

This World and Others – What Readers Need to Know

The writer will always need to know far more about their fictional world than the reader does. You will need to know what drives your characters and some of their back story but that doesn’t mean it has to appear on the page the reader enjoys.

What should come through is a sense that the writer really knows their characters and it is that I think readers pick up on.

I love discovering more about the fictional world as the story goes along. I don’t need to know it all at once. And having characters reveal things is also intriguing. What is obvious to one character isn’t to another and that character discovers something new at the same time as the reader does. Always like that.

So it is a question then of working out what it is your reader does need to know and how best to “plant it” in the story. You don’t want a huge block of info all in one hit as that risks sending the reader to sleep (especially if their reading is done at bedtime as mine is!).

But by drip feeding information, that goes a long way to keeping the reader turning the pages to find out more.

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CYBERLAUNCH – TRIPPING THE FLASH FANTASTIC

Image Credit: All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

A self explanatory post from me for CFT this week (well, you can’t get more self explanatory than Local Author Cyberlaunch News – Allison Symes – Tripping The Flash Fantastic – can you?!)

Having said that I do share in this post some thoughts on cyberlaunches, the joy of technology, and how good prep work helps SO much with this kind of event.

Hope you enjoy the post and hope to see you at the Tripping The Flash Fantastic event tomorrow.  See both the CFT post for details and the direct link here.

Screenshot_2020-10-02 Tripping The Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch Facebook

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Well, it has been quite a week but it is lovely to end it looking ahead to the cyberlaunch tomorrow.

I am also delighted to share a fantastic (appropriately!) review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic from Aly Rhodes which came in today. A huge thanks to her and to all of my lovely reviewers so far.

TRIPPING THE FLASH FANTASTIC
This is the author’s second collection of flash fiction i.e. where the stories are often very brief ( 100 words) up to maybe 1000 at most; maximum story with minimum wordage. Here in this collection witches play tricks, historic figures give their pov’s (Anne Boleyn), Santa Claus is revealed, dragons fly, and fairy godmothers run rampant.

Symes has enormous fun with these quirky, alternative mini-tales, which often make the reader laugh but sometimes cry too.

My favourites were The Pink Rose, (outstandingly touching), And Then There Are Tuesdays (I was born on a Tuesday so this had resonance for me) and Time To Be Off, the last line cracked me up.

Dip in, sample, taste and savour these short shorts.

And on behalf of ALL writers, I’ll take the chance to say reviews are always hugely appreciated by us all. They don’t have to be long but they help so much.

I use reviews myself as a consumer for everything from book purchases to new groceries to try! So if you’re thinking of reviewing but haven’t done so, perhaps you’re wondering if it’s worth it, then let me say it definitely IS worth it. Please do send them in!


Tripping the Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch
ONE DAY TO GO! Where has the week gone? Time for another story I think.
Look forward to seeing you on my Facebook event page from 7 pm tomorrow.

As well as celebrating the launch of Tripping The Flash Fantastic (and it means so much to me to have a second book out), I would like to see the launch as a celebration of stories. They are always worth celebrating! Cheers!

Tonight I share one of my favourite tales from TTFF – Being Yourself. You may never look at librarians in quite the same way again…🙂😉


Delighted to share another review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Many thanks to Gail Aldwin for the following.

TRIPPING THE FLASH FANTASTIC

The title sums up this collection exactly! These short stories contain characters including dragons, witches, fairies, ghosts, figures from history and contemporary life. Many stories include unusual observations and viewpoints. Some are funny, others pack a punch. If you enjoy a diverse collection of stories, this is the book for you!

When it comes to reading, as well as writing flash collections, I do love a variety of mood and characters. It is always the characters I want to discover and root for/boo hard at (depending on whether they’re the villain or not). Naturally that love of character comes out in my own writing.

And a little later, I’ll be sharing a brief reading of one of my stories from Tripping the Flash Fantastic on my events page, which I hope you enjoy. (I’ve put one of the videos I’ve used up above and will share another here shortly). (Oh and below are three other images I did have in mind for the book cover for TTFF at some point).

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch
It’s storytime as the flyer says. I’m reading Judgement Day from Tripping The Flash Fantastic and then share a little of what led me to writing this story. Hope you enjoy. Oh and before I forget, as if I could (!)… TWO DAYS TO GO! (When I put this on Facebook during the week of course. It has been a busy and exciting week as you can probably tell by now!).

Storytime - Judgement Day By Allison Symes


Such good fun to be on a mini blog tour at the moment. I was guest on #PatriciaMOsborne’s blog yesterday. Today I am on Jen Wilson’s blog (see my earlier post for the link). Next week I shall be on Val Penny’s one. And the two things the four of us have in common?

As well as being writers, we are all stalwarts of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. AND two of us are part of the renowned Prosecco Queens’ quiz team of said Summer School!

(Image below is of me taking part in the Open Prose Mic Night at the School in 2019. Many thanks to #PennyBlackburn for the pic. The other image was taken by Cheryl Holland on my phone and features Val Penny and Jen Wilson and other lovely Swanwick friends. We all can’t wait for Swanwick to resume, hopefully, in 2021).

34889c89ed2c7f0164fbf25826dd9ac9.0Always time for a laugh with fellow writers-1

Many thanks to #JenniferCWilson for hosting me on her blog today. It is always great fun to talk about flash fiction. Knowing Jennifer’s own love for history, it was particularly nice to discuss this aspect of my flash fiction writing with her here.

Flash fiction has the huge advantage of being character led and I can set those characters wherever and whenever I want. Great fun! But with Tripping The Flash Fantastic, for the first time, I have written historically based flash fiction. See the article for more about this but it is something I hope to do more of at some point.

Just to confirm the link for my launch event on Saturday can be found at https://www.facebook.com/events/1246876649024453

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch
I’m on a mini blog tour at the moment with fellow stalwarts from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. It was a pleasure to chat yesterday with Patricia M Osborne on her blog.

Today I chat with Jen Wilson on her blog

Next week I shall be on Val Penny’s blog and it has been great having slots ahead of the cyberlaunch and again just after it.

As I know Jen writes historical paranormal (do check out her Kindred Spirits series), my focus for this blog spot was on my historical flash stories in TTFF.

I’ve mentioned on my posts before that one thing I love about flash fiction is it has to be character-led. That means I can set those characters wherever and whenever I want!

For the first time with TTFF, I have set stories back in time. There are stories in here which are from the viewpoint of Richard III and Elizabeth of York for example, as well as my trademark “fairytales with bite” fiction.

All good fun to do and, of course, history is full of wonderful and not-so wonderful characters. This is an aspect of flash writing I hope to do more of in future.


Time for a listen I think! I had the great joy of being a guest on #WendyHJones’ excellent podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show, earlier this year. My first time on a podcast, great fun to do, and no prizes for guessing what I talked about (though there is a huge hint below!).

Do check out Wendy’s show every Wednesday. All of the episodes are jam packed with tips and advice.

See https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-writing-and-marketing-show/e/67280384

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again –


One of the challenges of any form of fiction writing is ensuring readers can tell your characters apart by the way they speak etc.

Now with flash fiction where I often focus on one character per story, that isn’t a problem as such.

Where the challenge DOES come in is ensuring that in a collection like From Light to Dark and Back Again and now Tripping the Flash Fantastic as well, the characters in the books as a WHOLE are nicely varied. Readers should be able to distinguish between the stories (and thus the characters).

It’s another reason why I like a good variety of mood and tone in my books as that helps with this aspect enormously.


Sometimes when I write my flash tales, I have the character in mind clearly and I then need to think of something for them to do! At other times I have the ideas of a situation to write about but need the right person to “fill” the role, so to speak. So this is why I jot down ideas for stories but also for characters.

Let’s say a competition theme is one of honesty. I could go one of two ways here – use an honest character and highlight the theme via them directly. Or I can use a dishonest character and contrast them with the honest situation. Both would work. It’s then down to me to decide which of the two characters I think is the strongest and I will then write their story up.


This week is going to be focused on my launch for Tripping the Flash Fantastic, of course, but I am looking forward to sharing a couple of readings from the new book. (See above!).

How do I choose stories for reading for things like this or for Open Prose Mic Nights and the like? I try to go for a balance of mood. If I read a funny tale, I will read a darker one too. I also go for a balance of lengths too. If I read a 100-worder, I will also read a 250 or something that is a little longer than the first tale I read.

Above all, I try not to go on for too long. Recordings are best kept fairly short (as it effects download time etc). Also a short recording or reading makes it easier to keep your listener’s interest.

Pic below is of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School’s Open Prose Mic Night (and there’s a phrase you don’t want to say quickly!). A huge thanks to #GeoffParkes for the pic.

The Open Mic for Prose night

Fairytales With Bite – The Sting in The Tail


One of the joys of flash fiction writing, which is my big love, is it is a great form for twist in the tale endings. Also, as the form has to be character led, you can set those characters whenever and wherever you want. Your characters don’t have to be human either. I like all of that!

One great thing about using non-human characters is you can use them to reflect aspects of us. Animal Farm by George Orwell does that brilliantly. (Definitely not flattering either).

The most effective stings in the tail are for me where:-

1. The character is an aggravating one and deserves whatever is coming to them!

2. You think a character you’re rooting for has little chance of winning and things change at the very last moment so that they do win out. (The classic fairytales often work on this basis. Think of Cinderella when the Prince insists that all of the women in the household have to try the glass slipper. Had the Prince not been so persistent….)

So think about how and where in your story you are going to place your sting. In my Calling The Doctor from From Light to Dark and Back Again, my sting is in the very last word.

Both book trailers below. (For me it is lovely seeing them side by side).

Hope you enjoy the stories and do think about how you can make your sting have the maximum impact on a reader. Sometimes you can know the sting fairly early on. It is then a question of finding out whether the character deals with that sting in a good way or not and that can be fun too.

This World and Others – Conjuring Up Your World


What do you want readers to imagine when they read your stories? What aspects of your created world are the most important for them to read about and how can you convey that?

I’ve mentioned before it is often the telling detail placed in the right place in a story that has the maximum impact on a reader. I don’t necessarily need to know Character A lives in an “upside down” world.

I do need to know Character A walks on what we would consider to be the sky and a brief showing of how that is done. (For the characters that live in this world it would all be perfectly natural of course, but often a story changes dramatically when a stranger comes into the world and someone has to show them the ropes).

Readers need a sense that if your world were to exist somewhere, it could exist. That is your characters can find food, drink, shelter, there is some sort of government etc. You can unveil this a bit at a time and I can think of no better example to use than Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. You find out more about how Ankh-Morpork is “run” as the series goes on. What he gives you in each story is enough for you to make sense of that story.

Image Credit: All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

A self explanatory post from me for CFT this week (well, you can’t get more self explanatory than Local Author Cyberlaunch News – Allison Symes – Tripping The Flash Fantastic – can you?!)

Having said that I do share in this post some thoughts on cyberlaunches, the joy of technology, and how good prep work helps SO much with this kind of event.

Hope you enjoy the post and hope to see you at the Tripping The Flash Fantastic event tomorrow.  See both the CFT post for details and the direct link here.

Screenshot_2020-10-02 Tripping The Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch Facebook

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Well, it has been quite a week but it is lovely to end it looking ahead to the cyberlaunch tomorrow.

I am also delighted to share a fantastic (appropriately!) review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic from Aly Rhodes which came in today. A huge thanks to her and to all of my lovely reviewers so far.

TRIPPING THE FLASH FANTASTIC
This is the author’s second collection of flash fiction i.e. where the stories are often very brief ( 100 words) up to maybe 1000 at most; maximum story with minimum wordage. Here in this collection witches play tricks, historic figures give their pov’s (Anne Boleyn), Santa Claus is revealed, dragons fly, and fairy godmothers run rampant.
Symes has enormous fun with these quirky, alternative mini-tales, which often make the reader laugh but sometimes cry too.
My favourites were The Pink Rose, (outstandingly touching), And Then There Are Tuesdays (I was born on a Tuesday so this had resonance for me) and Time To Be Off, the last line cracked me up.
Dip in, sample, taste and savour these short shorts.

And on behalf of ALL writers, I’ll take the chance to say reviews are always hugely appreciated by us all. They don’t have to be long but they help so much. I use reviews myself as a consumer for everything from book purchases to new groceries to try! So if you’re thinking of reviewing but haven’t done so, perhaps you’re wondering if it’s worth it, then let me say it definitely IS worth it. Please do send them in!

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch
ONE DAY TO GO! Where has the week gone? Time for another story I think.
Look forward to seeing you here from 7 pm tomorrow. As well as celebrating the launch of Tripping The Flash Fantastic (and it means so much to me to have a second book out), I would like to see the launch as a celebration of stories. They are always worth celebrating! Cheers!
Tonight I share one of my favourite tales from TTFF – Being Yourself. You may never look at librarians in quite the same way again…🙂😉
Smile and wink emojis. BY recording.

8th October

Delighted to share another review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Many thanks to Gail Aldwin for the following.

The title sums up this collection exactly! These short stories contain characters including dragons, witches, fairies, ghosts, figures from history and contemporary life. Many stories include unusual observations and viewpoints. Some are funny, others pack a punch. If you enjoy a diverse collection of stories, this is the book for you!

When it comes to reading, as well as writing flash collections, I do love a variety of mood and characters. It is always the characters I want to discover and root for/boo hard at (depending on whether they’re the villain or not). Naturally that love of character comes out in my own writing.
And a little later this evening, I’ll be sharing a brief reading of one of my stories from Tripping the Flash Fantastic on my events page, which I hope you enjoy. (Oh and below are three other images I did have in mind for the book cover for TTFF at some point). Use TTFF images 1, 2, 3. See TTFF folder.

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch
It’s storytime as the flyer says. I’m reading Judgement Day from Tripping The Flash Fantastic and then share a little of what led me to writing this story. Hope you enjoy. Oh and before I forget, as if I could (!)… TWO DAYS TO GO! Use the jpg download of the flyer AND from my TTFF drive on E drive the Judgement Day story OR use Dropbox to create a link as I did for CFT. Might be better to do that though may be worth trying to import video directly.

 

7th October
Such good fun to be on a mini blog tour at the moment. I was guest on #PatriciaMOsborne’s blog yesterday. Today I am on Jen Wilson’s blog (see my earlier post for the link). Next week I shall be on Val Penny’s one. And the two things the four of us have in common?
As well as being writers, we are all stalwarts of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. AND two of us are part of the renowned Prosecco Queens’ quiz team of said Summer School! (Image below is of me taking part in the Open Prose Mic Night at the School in 2019. Many thanks to #PennyBlackburn for the pic). Swanwick 2019 folder

Many thanks to #JenniferCWilson for hosting me on her blog today. It is always great fun to talk about flash fiction. Knowing Jennifer’s own love for history, it was particularly nice to discuss this aspect of my flash fiction writing with her here.
Flash fiction has the huge advantage of being character led and I can set those characters wherever and whenever I want. Great fun! But with Tripping The Flash Fantastic, for the first time, I have written historically based flash fiction. See the article for more about this but it is something I hope to do more of at some point.
Just to confirm the link for my launch event on Saturday can be found at https://www.facebook.com/events/1246876649024453

https://jennifercwilsonwriter.wordpress.com/2020/10/07/spotlight-allison-symes-tripping-the-flash-fantastic/

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Cyberlaunch
I’m on a mini blog tour at the moment with fellow stalwarts from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. It was a pleasure to chat yesterday with Patricia M Osborne on her blog. Today I chat with Jen Wilson on her blog at https://jennifercwilsonwriter.wordpress.com/2020/10/07/spotlight-allison-symes-tripping-the-flash-fantastic/
Next week I shall be on Val Penny’s blog and it has been great having slots ahead of the cyberlaunch and again just after it.
As I know Jen writes historical paranormal (do check out her Kindred Spirits series), my focus for this blog spot was on my historical flash stories in TTFF.
I’ve mentioned on my posts before that one thing I love about flash fiction is it has to be character-led. That means I can set those characters wherever and whenever I want!
For the first time with TTFF, I have set stories back in time. There are stories in here which are from the viewpoint of Richard III and Elizabeth of York for example, as well as my trademark “fairytales with bite” fiction.
All good fun to do and, of course, history is full of wonderful and not-so wonderful characters. This is an aspect of flash writing I hope to do more of in future.

SECOND POST
Time for a listen I think! I had the great joy of being a guest on #WendyHJones’ excellent podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show, earlier this year. My first time on a podcast, great fun to do, and no prizes for guessing what I talked about (though there is a huge hint below!).
Do check out Wendy’s show every Wednesday. All of the episodes are jam packed with tips and advice.
See https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-writing-and-marketing-show/e/67280384

 

From Light to Dark and Back Again – General

 

9th October
One of the challenges of any form of fiction writing is ensuring readers can tell your characters apart by the way they speak etc.
Now with flash fiction where I often focus on one character per story, that isn’t a problem as such.
Where the challenge DOES come in is ensuring that in a collection like From Light to Dark and Back Again and now Tripping the Flash Fantastic as well, the characters in the books as a WHOLE are nicely varied. Readers should be able to distinguish between the stories (and thus the characters).
It’s another reason why I like a good variety of mood and tone in my books as that helps with this aspect enormously.

8th October
Sometimes when I write my flash tales, I have the character in mind clearly and I then need to think of something for them to do! At other times I have the ideas of a situation to write about but need the right person to “fill” the role, so to speak. So this is why I jot down ideas for stories but also for characters.
Let’s say a competition theme is one of honesty. I could go one of two ways here – use an honest character and highlight the theme via them directly. Or I can use a dishonest character and contrast them with the honest situation. Both would work. It’s then down to me to decide which of the two characters I think is the strongest and I will then write their story up.

 

7th October
This week is going to be focused on my launch for Tripping the Flash Fantastic, of course, but I am looking forward to sharing a couple of readings from the new book.
How do I choose stories for reading for things like this or for Open Prose Mic Nights and the like? I try to go for a balance of mood. If I read a funny tale, I will read a darker one too. I also go for a balance of lengths too. If I read a 100-worder, I will also read a 250 or something that is a little longer than the first tale I read.
Above all, I try not to go on for too long. Recordings are best kept fairly short (as it effects download time etc). Also a short recording or reading makes it easier to keep your listener’s interest.
Pic below is of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School’s Open Prose Mic Night (and there’s a phrase you don’t want to say quickly!). A huge thanks to #GeoffParkes for the pic. Swanwick 2018 folder

Fairytales With Bite – The Sting in The Tail
One of the joys of flash fiction writing, which is my big love, is it is a great form for twist in the tale endings. Also, as the form has to be character led, you can set those characters whenever and wherever you want. Your characters don’t have to be human either. I like all of that! One great thing about using non-human characters is you can use them to reflect aspects of us. Animal Farm by George Orwell does that brilliantly. (Definitely not flattering either).
The most effective stings in the tail are for me where:-
1. The character is an aggravating one and deserves whatever is coming to them!
2. You think a character you’re rooting for has little chance of winning and things change at the very last moment so that they do win out. (The classic fairytales often work on this basis. Think of Cinderella when the Prince insists that all of the women in the household have to try the glass slipper. Had the Prince not been so persistent….)
So think about how and where in your story you are going to place your sting. In my Calling The Doctor from From Light to Dark and Back Again, my sting is in the very last word. Do check it out on my book trailer for FLTDBA at https://www.facebook.com/fairytaleladyallisonsymes
I’ve also had fun with this technique for the trailer for my new book, Tripping The Flash Fantastic. See my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/ for more (and the trailer for FLTDBA is here too). Hope you enjoy the stories and do think about how you can make your sting have the maximum impact on a reader. Sometimes you can know the sting fairly early on. It is then a question of finding out whether the character deals with that sting in a good way or not and that can be fun too.

This World and Others – Conjuring Up Your World
What do you want readers to imagine when they read your stories? What aspects of your created world are the most important for them to read about and how can you convey that?

I’ve mentioned before it is often the telling detail placed in the right place in a story that has the maximum impact on a reader. I don’t necessarily need to know Character A lives in an “upside down” world. I do need to know Character A walks on what we would consider to be the sky and a brief showing of how that is done.

(For the characters that live in this world it would all be perfectly natural of course, but often a story changes dramatically when a stranger comes into the world and someone has to show them the ropes).

Readers need a sense that if your world were to exist somewhere, it could exist. That is your characters can find food, drink, shelter, there is some sort of government etc. You can unveil this a bit at a time and I can think of no better example to use than Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. You find out more about how Ankh-Morpork is “run” as the series goes on. What he gives you in each story is enough for you to make sense of that story.

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Learning from Stories and Characters

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General

Writing characters is good fun, especially when you can think of suitable flaws that you know you can use to drop said characters right in it. The important thing is for the flaws to be realistic and not over exaggerated.

I have never really liked larger than life characters in fiction (with the honourable exception of Mr Toad in Wind in the Willows! That’s partly because we know he is OTT from the start of the story!).

I want my characters’ flaws to be reasonable based on what I’ve found out about them. For example, if I know a character is kindly, then their major flaw is unlikely to be anything violent etc. The flaw has to fit with the character.

In this case I would probably make the flaw irritability. This makes sense as a kindly soul pushed too much would be irritable. There should always be a flaw to balance out the virtues.

I find goody two shoes characters difficult to read too and I think most readers would. We want realistic characters, people we can identify with, even if we don’t always agree with them or their actions.

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What have I learned from stories I’ve read over the years?

The big lesson, of course, is I’ve discovered what I love and equally what I don’t!

What is more useful still is in working out why I haven’t liked something. It is almost always that the characters didn’t come across well enough for me. I then look at that and think about how I might’ve portrayed those characters and why.

For stories I love, I study how the dialogue flows,how the chemistry between characters works (and you can always tell the author has put a lot of thought into how their people will be on the page), and what I thought worked well.

From all of this, negative and positive, you can learn a lot to apply to your own tales.

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I use the Scrivener template for outlining my characters though you can easily devise your own. Work out what you think you need to know about your characters and outline from there.

One of the Scrivener settings is for character name. Okay, okay, I hear you say, why the fuss about that? Course you’ve got to know the character name.

That’s true but dig a little deeper and look at why you’re naming the character as you have. Names can reveal much such as likely age of character (Gertrude has not been a fashionable name for a while now!) as well as likely class background and things like that.

The template also has a lovely section on personality and that’s where I get to outline major traits. By the time I’ve done that I know what the character’s personality is like.

I’ve also found outlining like this speeds up the process of writing the story. Outline in place and away I go as I already feel as if I know the lead character(s) in depth.

Looking forward to sharing my CFT post with you later this week. Crime writer, Val Penny, will be looking at her venture into non-fiction with her recently released Let’s Get Published. We’ll be discussing the challenges of writing non-fiction and the aspects of that you simply don’t face as a fiction writer.

Got the first draft of a story for a competition done earlier today so that is now resting, waiting ready for my eagle editor’s eye to attack it with the old red pen!

I now know (by not hearing) a couple of my earlier competition entries this year have not got anywhere in the places I submitted them to but this means I can look at these stories again. Sometimes I can find an alternative market for them and I have been published that way too. So it is always worth considering this as a possibility.

Work might find a different home from the one you originally intended for it but that’s okay.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash characters have to lead from the front given there is not a lot of room to tell their story. This is one reason why I use first person a lot. There is an immediacy about that which helps increase the pace of the story but it also takes you right into the character too.

So when I’m planning a story, I outline my lead character. They’ve got to have a story worth sharing after all. So what makes a character worth writing about?

It has to be someone who intrigues a reader. Intrigue can come from setting up a situation the character has to resolve and a reader wants to find out how they do. It can come from a character being the type that lands themselves in it and a reader wants to see if (a) that stops or (b) what their latest adventure is.

 

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Hope the writing week proves to be a good one for you. Likewise the reading one! And if you count under both categories, have a fab time reading and writing!

I’m reading a couple of collections on my Kindle at the moment and thoroughly enjoying them. I’ve found reading collections to be a good way of getting out of my thankfully temporary reading drought.

I’ve long hoped that flash fiction might also be a good way to tempt reluctant readers in to reading at all as you’re not asking them to commit to too much in one go for a start.

Well here’s hoping!😊

 

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It’s been a while since I’ve shared some flash one-liners with you. Time to rectify that then. Hope you enjoy these.

1. The elephant was in the room and looked around with interest, wondering who would be the first to try and make him leave.

2. Of all the last words she’d heard in her time, she’d never expected to hear “I don’t suppose you’re a vegetarian dragon by any chance?”

3. The witch incinerated the speed camera after she went through it at 180 mph as she didn’t fancy facing Lucinda who had gone through the same spot the week before at over 200 mph.

Allison Symes – 22nd June 2020

 

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Hope you enjoyed the one-line stories. They’re great fun to do. I’d also recommend having a go at this as (a) an interesting challenge and (b) as a warm-up writing exercise ahead of whatever your main writing event is!

One aspect to flash fiction is that all those writing exercises you’ve had a go at over the years might be able to be turned into stories you can submit to a publisher and/or competition. Give it a go! You’ve nothing to lose here. But as with any fiction writing, ensure all is as polished as you can make it before you send your work anywhere to give yourself the best possible chance.

Good luck!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Outdoor or Indoor Reading

Allowing for the time of year, do you enjoy reading books outside?

The only time I get to do this is when I’m on holiday. At home I tend to think I should be getting on with some gardening rather than reading a book.

I know! Allison, why don’t you tell the inner critic to go away? That is sometimes easier said than done though!

That said, I do find it easier to grab a magazine and read that outside while enjoying a drink or a bite to eat. (It’s also easier to use as a fly/wasp swat should the need arise!).

So how about you? I do find it far easier to read indoors and ideally at bedtime when my inner critic has gone away for the night and I can read in peace.

I also know my treasured books aren’t at risk of being rained on etc so I guess that comes into it too,

What matters though is finding time to read and unwind. And reading is such a wonderful way to unwind. I can only live one life but through books and stories I can get to experience many at secondhand. That is one aspect to stories I simply adore.

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Books On The Radio

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is all about the links between books and radio. I also share the radio interview links for YA author #RichardHardie and myself when we were on #ChatandSpin radio recently.

(I also share the link with Wendy H. Jones‘ marvellous podcast The Writing and Marketing Show where I discussed, well what else, flash fiction!). This is a post you can read AND listen to! Hope you enjoy.

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It was good fun to take part in the Chat and Spin radio interview, as well as being a guest on Wendy H Jones’ The Writing and Marketing Show.

(For more see my CFT post this week called Books on the Radio – https://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/books-on-the-radio-local-a…).

Now I’ve mentioned before that preparation is key and it is. I prepared too much material for both shows but (a) I know I can use that material at some point and (b) it settled my nerves a bit knowing I had material to hand. I can’t overstate the importance of (b) there!

I hope to put some of that material on my website at some point (but you can still check out my website anyway meantime!!). See https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/

I also hope after the Waterloo Arts Festival event I’ll be involved in on 12th June to put the video I made for that on my website too.

And yes preparing material for future website usage is also a good idea and helps to keep that fresh and keep followers interested.

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Am at the very happy stage of the second edit on my Tripping the Flash Fantastic, which is due out later this year. Also planning my blurb and cover material. All good fun to do!

(Will be following my own advice on a recent CFT post in that I hope to have a cyberlaunch in due course and I will be preparing material for that too. It is always better to have too much material and not use all of it than be in a panic on the night because you haven’t got enough!).

Have also selected another writing competition to have a crack at. Deadline is not until July but that gives me plenty of thinking time. (I will set my own deadline for this to be the end of June so I make sure the story is in well ahead of time and I have time for that extra polish which can make all the difference beween a piece being accepted or not).

When I don’t have a lot of time to write, I draft blog pieces and build up a stock of these. It means I’ve got something ready to edit and send off where appropriate as I blog for the Association of Christian Writers and sometimes have pieces appear in their journal, Christian Writer.

I also like to have pieces to hand that I can adjust and turn into articles for Chandler’s Ford Today.

So always something to do then and that’s just how I like it!

 

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How do you feel when you get to the end of a first draft?

Relieved that part is over?
Sorry that part is over?
Dreading the edit(s) (especially as you know there’ll be more than one!)?
Wishing it hadn’t taken so long?

For me, it is a combination of the first and last ones! So over to you then. What is your reaction the moment you write The End for the first time?

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Facebook – General – and

Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers –

Honest Writing

A busy night for me this evening as it is my turn on the More than Writers blog spot. This is the Association of Christian Writers’ blog and my piece this time is called Honest Writing. Hope you enjoy.

 

Twitter News – @AllisonSymes1

I’m slowly learning to use Twitter more and I thought I’d share something here which is also a good piece of marketing (and great fun to take part in!).

The only book I couldn’t get into the above tweet was Magnetism where I have a short story. This book was produced by Gill James and features the work of Cafelit and Bridge House authors.  It is very much meant to give a flavour of what we do. To get a FREE COPY of this book, you just need to sign up to Books, Books, Books.

Magnetism Small

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The “oomph” moment in a flash fiction story can take different forms and be in varying places in the tale.

The whole mood of my story Calling the Doctor (see book trailer below!) changes on the very last word. This is why it is one of my own favourite pieces.

One of the challenges of flash is to find the right “oomph” moment for your character and to place it in exactly the right place in the story.

In this case, had I placed that particular word earlier in the story, the impact of the story would have been severely diluted.

But sometimes I start a story with a powerful moment where you know from that point onwards, something has got to change and quickly. The fun of those stories is in finding out what that change is and what its consequences are – and there are always some! – and it is just as much fun finding that out when you’re writing the tales!

My CFT post this week is about Books on the Radio and I’ll be sharing links to radio interviews on Chat and Spin Radio which YA author, #RichardHardie, and I took part in recently. I’ll also be looking at the general role of books on the airwaves. Link up on Friday.

Naturally for the radio interview I was waving the flag for flash fiction and books being a perfect form of escapism. And whether you write them or read them or do both, that escapism is so welcome right now!

My favourite flash stories are the ones that make me smile or laugh though. I do like the emotional ones where you really want the character to do well and they can’t/don’t but, for me, you can’t beat a good laugh.

Flash lends itself well to humorous stories because they often work so well when kept short. Flash helps a lot there!

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Fairytales With Bite – Making Space

I believe fairytales and fantasy fills the spaces between reality and chaos. Why? Because so many tales in these genres reflect what we can be like, while others give strong moral messages. Why do we need such things?

  • To guide us as to what our behaviour should/should not be;
  • To show us what life could be like without kindness, gratitude etc. Would you really not want things to come right for Cinderella, for example?

As writers, we also need to give our characters space to develop in themselves and as part of the plot development. A character who doesn’t change will be of little interest to readers.

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This World and Others –

How Do You Know When A World Is Going To Work?

I would say that a fictional world has worked for me when I can:-

  • Spot connections between the fictional world and the real one we know here.
  • See what is better on the fictional world and wish we had it here. (Flying carpets anyone? No emissions but I’ve always thought the landing on those things must be on the rough side and there is definitely no in flight entertainment. You’d be hanging on for grim life, yes?).
  • See what is worse on the fictional world and be glad it’s not coming here.
  • Can understand what the lead character has to contend with and how the setting helps/hinders them.
  • Can see further stories being set in that world, even if it is not with the same characters. That is always a good sign. For me, the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett really took off when it could “host” the Rincewind stories, the Vimes ones, the witches ones and so on. I also liked looking for the connections between the different series. For example a character would refer to another one not appearing in the story. It wouldn’t matter if you hadn’t read the other story. Referring to other characters like that implies a life above and beyond the immediate world of the story you are reading and that is great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lockdown Effects on Writing

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay or Pexels are the sources of the images unless otherwise stated.

RADIO NEWS – CHAT AND SPIN RADIO

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Photo by Dmitry Demidov on Pexels.com

RADIO NEWS:

I’m thrilled to say I was on Chat and Spin Radio on Tuesday, 19th May at about 9.35 pm (UK time) talking about my great writing love – flash fiction – and From Light to Dark and Back Again. See www.chatandspinradio.com

AND if you like their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/chatandspin, you’re in with a chance of winning a £20 shopping voucher too.

I’ll be talking more about this later in the week, especially when I have a link to share! (See below)

Now for actors you say “break a leg” as a kind of good luck thing (though I know it sounds anything but!). What do you say for this? Don’t lose your voice, I guess!😀

 

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RADIO INTERVIEW LINK

A big thank you, everyone, for your support following  my interview on Chat and Spin Radio. It was good fun to do and I’m now thrilled to be able to share the link.

I appear at the 27 minute in stage. Appropriately for a flash fiction writer, I’m brief (!) but it was a fun experience to take part in and I hope to do it again at some point.

Hope you enjoy. Also see their website.

The first link given above takes you to their Facebook Groups page. The second one takes you to where the show starts playing. And if you’re a fan of 1980s music, you are in for a treat there too.  My favourite genre is classical  but I have fond memories of 1980s pop and what I heard as I was waiting to go on the show brought back good recollections!

It was also great to put in a good plug for Cafelit as well! I also got to talk about how I got into flash fiction writing in the first place.

 

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And now on to other things!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week, Lockdown Effects on Writing, is one of the few things I’ll write about coronavirus. I look at how the lockdown has affected my reading and writing. I also talk about the first video I’ve made for the Waterloo Arts Festival, given that has had to go online only this year.

The upside to all of this is having to learn new things and develop other ways of reaching out to people.

The great thing is that, regardless of format, books and stories remain wonderful entertainment, whether you write them, read them or, ideally, do both.

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I’ve deliberately chosen not to write much about the coronavirus so my CFT post this week and one other item will be about the sum of it for me.

There are various reasons for this, not least of which is that when life gets grim, I automatically turn to the lighter side of things. I feel the need for balance. I can see me “using” coronavirus in future stories but mainly as a way of giving a period setting! There will be excellent stories and articles directly about the virus but it just isn’t me to specifically write about it.

And I’ll always wave the flag for books and stories that “only” strive to entertain. These things may be easy to read but I can tell you their authors would have worked phenomenally hard to get to that point. I learned a long time ago if someone makes something look easy, they worked hard for years to get to that!

Mind you, the Feature Image I’ve used for CFT this week is probably my favourite Covid-19 related photo (and as ever is from Pixabay).

Feature Image - Lockdown Effects on Writing

What a week it has been! A lot of learning, a new writing experience (radio interview), and a flash piece submitted (tonight).

My CFT piece this week will be Lockdown Effects on Writing and I also talk a bit about my video production and why it was done too. Link up on Friday.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It has been quite a week what with my first radio appearance and in my CFT post tonight I also talk about why I made my first video recently. Both of these are waving the flag for flash fiction as well as for FLTDBA specifically. Plus I’ve learned so much about Zoom and Skype recently.

I’ll also have publication news next week so look forward to sharing that and I’m working on my Edit 2 of what will be my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, as well. Glad to say that’s going well though it is lovely to be at the “almost there” stage.

Plans for the weekend are to continue the editing and I hope to batch write some 100-worders. I find it useful to do that as I can then choose where and when to send them over a month or so. It’s always good to know you’ve got something to send out when you want too!

Happy reading and writing!

Pleased to have sent off another 100 worder tonight. I often batch write these and hope to have another good writing session on this over the weekend. (Is it just me or will it simply not feel like a bank holiday again?).

I often use first person for my drabbles as it gives a sense of immediacy and that is so useful for the shorter flashes.

 

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Fairytales with Bite – Characters With Bite!

My favourite types of character are those with bite (and I’m not a vampire fan either!). So what does with bite mean here?

I adore characters who:-

1. Say what they mean and follow up on what they say they will do (equally applies to villains!).

2. Are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in (and can apply to villains too!).

3. Have good, understandable reasons for their actions, even if you don’t agree with them.

4. Are memorable. Some will have distinctive phrases but for me the most memorable ones are the ones with attitudes I remember and agree with or loathe. Whatever way it is, they stick in the mind, which is precisely what you want your characters to achieve.

5. I love characters with a sense of humour (and even more so if they can laugh at themselves).

6. I adore characters with courage. (Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee and a host of others).

7. I love characters who fight for their own happy ever after, even if they fail. I loathe wishy-washy characters. I’ve got to feel the character has done something and that the story would be incomplete without them. If I feel why is this character in here then there’s something amiss.

What would you list as the attributes your characters must have? And how do you go about showing those in your stories?

By far the best method is to get your character demonstrating cowardice or courage or whatever the attribute is and then readers will pick up on that without you needing to spell it out.  What can be both funny and tragic is when a character thinks they’re brave but their actions show otherwise so do bear that in mind as a possibility as well. Actions speak louder for characters as well as for “real people”!

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This World and Others – What Books Mean To Me

What do books mean to your characters? Is their world a literate one or is the oral storytelling tradition the strongest influence? Are stories welcomed or do your characters have to stick strictly to the facts and imagination is discouraged, punished even?

Can your characters read any books they like or do they have to stick to an official list? Is there a secret underground world of books where banned items can be read?

Do your characters treasure books themselves or do they leave that to others? If so, why?

Attitudes to books and stories can reveal so much about characters and their world settings. There are stories to be written here – lots of them ideally!

 

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Radio News and Preparation

Image Credit:  As ever, images are from Pixabay or Pexels if I’ve not said otherwise.

RADIO NEWS

RADIO NEWS: I’m thrilled to say I’ll be on Chat and Spin Radio tonight at about 9.35 pm TONIGHT (UK time) – 19th May 2020 – talking about my great writing love – flash fiction. See www.chatandspinradio.com

AND if you like their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/chatandspin, you’re in with a chance of winning a £20 shopping voucher too.

I’ll be talking more about this later in the week, especially when I have a link to share!

Now for actors you say “break a leg” as a kind of good luck thing (though I know it sounds anything but!). What do you say for this? Don’t lose your voice, I guess!😀

I hope to share the link to the show in my next blog on Friday this week.

Image from Chat and Spin Radio

The above ties in with my next post too!

Facebook – General

Preparation is key for so much in writing. For my stories, as you know I outline my characters. It helps me work out whether the character I’ve planned really does suit the story I’ve got in the back of my head.

A feisty character needs the material to suit! A usually gentle character needs to show what she is made of when push comes to shove.

Preparation includes getting the story down and specifically allowing enough time away from it to be able to edit it properly. This is particularly relevant as I’ll shortly be working on final edits for Tripping the Flash Fantastic but the time away from it will help me take in and process my editor’s comments the way they need to be processed!

It also means allowing enough time for final polishing before still getting a story in ahead of a final deadline. I got into the habit of taking about a week off any official deadline for a competition and making MY date the day by which I’d get my tale off. This comes from the days of sending everything in by good old snail mail but it is still a good habit to develop now email submissions are the norm.

I’ve found it pays to plan ahead a bit. Knowing roughly what I’m doing when and why has helped me get more done.

Oh and the don’t give up advice below is something I’ve found useful though I do wish the picture came with an extra bit. It IS okay to change direction if you want to – after all that is how I discovered flash fiction!

 

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Always plenty of space to fill!  Pixabay

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Most of my dialogue writing is for my longer flash fiction tales (i.e. those over 750 words usually) and short stories (1500 to 1700 or thereabouts). I do enjoy writing dialogue. What I have to watch is not writing conversational “ping-pong” just because I can and I love doing it. It all has to be relevant to moving the story on. I always find editing dialogue the hardest to do but my golden rule is that it has to be so important the story can’t work without it.

I love the moment when I know I’ve got my characters right as it is then that I know instinctively the dialogue they’re coming out with is exactly what someone like them would say. It’s a good feeling. And when the words are really flowing it can feel a bit like taking dictation.

Now where’s my notepad?😆😆

 

 

Will have further publication news to share fairly soon so looking forward to that. Over the course of a week, I try to ensure I’ve got at least one story written, one resting, and I like to know what I’m going to be writing next too. I like to mix up the flash fiction and short story writing too.

My favourite part of writing? Difficult to say but I do love it when the characters come to life and the story just flows out. Mind you, I am always relieved to have a first draft done. It proves to me there WAS a story there. The editing refines and sharpens that story and I do like that element. I always overwrite but that’s okay. All unnecessary elements are ruthlessly struck out later.

But I learned a long time ago that, for me, I’ve got to write the story first and edit it later. I can’t edit as I go. I’ve got to know there is something there to edit first.

 

HONOURABLE MENTION!

Many thanks to Lance Greenfield, a fellow Swanwicker, for his honourable mention of yours truly on his blog, Write to Inspire. To find out more, follow the link and his post for 18th May 2020! All images of Swanwick were taken by me last year.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am delighted to be talking about flash fiction on Chat and Spin Radio later this evening. Will talk more about this later in the week when I have a link back to share. If you can tune in live, I’m on at about 9.35 pm. Links up above and I hope to share the link for the show itself in my next post here on Friday.

And yes I am always pleased to wave the flag for flash fiction as a writing form!

Oh and I am preparing this with just under an hour to go before I’m on. Nervous and looking forward to it all at the same time!

 

It was fun writing yesterday’s post about one-liners for well known characters (see below and see this as a bit of a tease!), but it is not a bad idea to be able to sum up your people succinctly.

When I’m planning characters for new flash fiction, I know what their major trait is and how that is going to help them or, even more often, land them right in the proverbial mire.

So I will think of something like rebellious fairy, has soft spot for kittens, and that soft spot is exploited by her boss in an attempt to get said rebellious fairy to do as she is told for once. So that makes for a good one line summary of the story.

Character summary? Rebellious fairy, soft spot for kittens.

And away I go.

 

 

 

Just for some fun, how about some one-liners for well known characters?

Cinderella – I could really do with a trip to the shoe shop.

Dracula – I have the devil’s own job getting an appointment at the dentists, can’t imagine why.

Snow White – I’ve gone right off apples for some reason.

Hansel and Gretel – well, yes, okay, maybe we should have got a sat nav.

I love using one-liners in flash fiction and often end a story with them. They’re great for humorous tales and are a fab way of ending a story on an upbeat “oomph” moment.

 

I don’t use a lot of dialogue in my flash fiction. That’s partly due to word count but mainly because I tend to focus a lot on telling you one character’s story. For that, I prefer to show you their thoughts and attitudes as “they” narrate the story.

I do use dialogue more in the short story competitions (1500 words or so) as there is more room and it is lovely being able to have more characters in the tale.

But I do love the pithy, precise nature of flash fiction writing. For me it is apt that my characters are direct to the reader in “their” commentary.

 

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Goodreads Author Blog –

What I Look For In A Good Book

Regardless of genre, what I look for first in a good book is a gripping lead character. I don’t necessarily have to like them (!) but I do need to be intrigued by them enough to make me want to read their story.

This applies to non-fiction too if you accept the “narrative voice” of the text is a kind of character too. Does that voice grip me enough to keep on reading or does it send me to sleep? (Never a good sign that!).

Once I’ve finished the book, is it going to be one of those I enjoyed reading but won’t read again? Or will it reach the dizzy heights of being one of those absolute favourites I happily turn to time and again when I need them back in my life for a bit?

I don’t know about you but I do like light reading anyway and I especially like it now. I am not going to be reading the doom and gloom merchants (I can get that from watching the news).

I know the reality of what is out there but it doesn’t mean I have to read about it.

My reading is about entertainment and escapism and those things shouldn’t be despised.

So my criteria for what is a good book does boil down to its entertainment value and that is down to the character portrayal.

Oh and many thanks to #JimBates for a great conversation on this post! See the Goodreads link itself for that.

 

 

 

Reasons To Be Cheerful

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

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Those of us of a certain age will recall Ian Dury and the Blockheads thanks to the title of my CFT post this week – Reasons To Be Cheerful.

I am on a “cheery post for the time being” roll for CFT for the moment! Hope you enjoy.

And please do send in your own reasons to be cheerful. A bit of cheer goes a long way for us all right now.

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Following on from my Reasons to Be Cheerful theme for Chandler’s Ford Today this week, what reasons could we have for the writing community specifically? Some thoughts:-

1. We get the joy of creating interesting characters and then dump them right in the mire. We then have the additional pleasure of working out whether they sink or swim.

2. Positive feedback from readers is truly wonderful. (We really do appreciate good reviews, folk!).

3. There is nothing to beat the buzz of knowing you’re going to be published whether it is online, in print, or both. That buzz does not fade over time either. How often can you say that about something?

4. Story creation occupies the brain, inspires the imagination (and the more you write, the more that happens), and is just a fabulous thing to do. And there are markets for it! Creativity is a major part of what makes us human and for someone like me who cannot draw, sculpt or what have you, writing gives me a creative outlet I can enjoy.

5. You get to explore ideas. You can “live other lives” through the lives of your characters. (Mind you, if you are a crime or horror writer, I wouldn’t take this literally!!).

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Have been catching up on reading this week and that’s been a joy. It’s nice to get back into it again. I still don’t really know what that took a dip when the lockdown started.

Maybe my subconscious felt you can do one creative activity, Madam, but you’re not doing two. Well if that is the case, my subsconcious can pack its bags. Don’t want that happening again. I love reading and writing equally and that’s the way it should be.

I’m looking forward to sharing my CFT post with you tomorrow. It’s called Reasons to be Cheerful (and yes I am of that age who recalls Ian Dury and the Blockheads!). I’ll be sharing some positives. It is very much a time for the more cheery post I think.

I hope there is plenty of cheering for the NHS and key workers shortly! (This post was written on Thursday 16th April 2020. Oh and there was!).

 

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Hope to get my flash fiction piece submitted later this week. Then time to pick another competition to try. It helps me “raise my game”. Anything that doesn’t get placed I can rework and submit elsewhere later on so I see that as a great way of ensuring I’ve got new material out and about somewhere.

Have been taking part in a friend’s book and author game today (my entries included Stormy Weather by Gail Force and Standing Upright by Ei Leen Right amongst others).

Fun and pun games like this are great for writers. Why? As well as being fun to do, it makes you realise how good or otherwise your vocabulary is to be able to find those puns! Another challenge to raise my game then! I’ve always had a soft spot for word games, I think most writers do. It’s great to play with the language and see what you can come up with. You can also use games like that to help get you into your writing session or as a way to wind down from one.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve been talking about reasons to be cheerful tonight but for flash fiction writing, I find I have to set the mood for my lead character pretty much from the outset. There isn’t the word count space to allow for much in the change of mood.

I use mood (shown through dialogue or thoughts) to indicate the attitude of the character. You will know within a line or so what my character is going to be like in terms of attitude to others and so on.

The advantage of setting mood quickly is I hit the ground running with my stories. I take you straight into the action/setting.

The disadvantage of doing this is you are showing your hand as a writer immediately. So any surprises you want to bring in do have to come as twist in the tale finales that are appropriate to the character and the set-up.

But then that’s fine with me! I love reading and writing those kind of tales. It’s just that if you want to show lots of mood changes, you would probably be better off with a longer, standard length short story, rather than flash fiction. Flash has to show up THE single most important point of a character’s story. Anything that is not directly relevant to the story has to be cut out. The message here is then to focus on what you really need to get across.

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Very good turn out for the NHS and key workers around my way tonight. Well done, all.

What can you learn from flash fiction?

1. What you really need to know about the character in it. A good flash fiction story will leave you with the feeling nothing more could be added to it. Also that nothing could be taken away. You will have insight into the lead character in well chosen words equally well placed. One word can completely turn the mood of a story.

2. What the story really is – with flash there’s no room for anything that isn’t relevant to the tale. This is why I think it is a great thing for all writers to do. Concise, precision writing is useful no matter what your main writing work might be.

3. What words give “value for money” and can carry weight for you. He raced uphill is far stronger in impact than he ran quickly up the hill and you save three words!

4. You will lose all fear of killing adverbs. No more “ly” words when a stronger word will do the work for you. No more she said irritatedly when you can say she snapped.

Whatever you are working on at the moment, have fun with it! I find flash great fun to write and having fun with your writing is vital. It helps keep you going.

One of the joys of loving stories is that this comes in really useful for you as a writer.

You can work out what it is about the stories and their characters you love. From there, you can try to work out how the writer achieved this. Is there something you can use there? If your favourite story has a feisty character, how has the author shown that? They won’t have just told you the character is like that.

Also it is the love of stories that drew us into writing our own in the first place so it is only right that we should keep that love going! We need to be inspired. Reading widely fires up our own imaginative powers so there you have it – the perfect reason to keep reading! But the better thing is to let that reading inspire your writing and you keep writing too!

 

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Fairytales With Bite – Why Analyse Fairytales?

Analysing any kind of writing will help you work out what made a writer decide to write the story in the way they have. There is a lot to be learned from that.

You can also learn from stories you’ve disliked. Work out what it was your disliked and why. Then you know what to avoid in your own! Also work out what you like and dislike about the characters for the same reasons.

Fairytales are interesting to analyse because most of them have a message behind them. Work out how the fairytale gets that across without being preachy. How can you use that for your own stories? How do the characters illustrate the points made? Do they learn from the mistakes they make in the course of the tale? When wrongs are corrected, how is that done?

Fairytales are realistic about cruelty. There is no glossing over Snow White’s stepmother’s deeds, for example. But the reason for her cruelty is pure and simple jealousy, which remains such a powerful motivator. So look at your cruel characters and ensure their motivations are strong enough to justify, if only to themselves, their reasons for being the way they are.

Fairytales can also be tales of redemption. Would such a thing work for your creations?

Fairytales mainly have happy endings. Is a happy ending appropriate for your tale? How can you make that happen in your story without it being sickly sweet? Characters in fairytales generally deserve their happy ending. Do yours?

So just on these points alone, I think fairytales are well worth analysing for tips on improving your own writing!

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This World and Others – What Is Important?

This is a good question to ask because it will depend on your characters. A character on a quest is going to think getting to their destination is the most important thing of all. A ruler will consider achieving what they want to achieve is the most important thing (for good or ill. A real test of whether a ruler is a villain is whether what they seek enriches them or genuinely helps those who they rule over! Same as here really!).

So you need to decide what your characters think are the most important things of all. Then you put problems in their way to stop them achieving their most important things of all. The story fires up when they work out how to overcome all of that, assuming they do.

You also need to decide what is the most important aspect to your story. Yes, especially in a novel, there is room for sub-plots but they should seek to serve the main one and never be an “add-on”. They should blend seamlessly into the main narrative.

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Murphy’s Law For Readers

Time for some lightheartedness I think… hence my CFT post. More in a moment.

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I thought a lighthearted post would be useful for my slot on Chandler’s Ford Today this week – hence Murphy’s Law for Readers! Hope you enjoy this and do send in your own Murphy’s Law suggestions for Readers via the CFT comments box.

The post takes in readers and books, readers and libraries, and readers and book events etc and so I’ve taken a broad approach here! Hope you enjoy.

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It is always good fun to write humorous posts for Chandler’s Ford Today and I hope the Murphy’s Law For Readers which is this week’s piece amuses you! It amused me when I wrote it so I hope that’s a good sign! (I wrote a piece on Murphy’s Law for Writers a year or so ago so that is everyone on the reading and writing fence covered now I think).

Many thanks to our church for sending a Good Friday service sheet for us to use at home today. It was great but must admit to missing seeing everyone and I hope it is not too long before we meet again. It really does not feel like Easter to me. Mind you, the weekends don’t really feel like weekends either at the moment.

I would be glad to have a writing routine anyway as I am one of life’s planners (as much as possible at the moment anyway) but am finding having this routine now to be incredibly useful. It’s a bit of normality in what is an abnormal situation for us all.

Nice lot of cheering in my neck of the words for the frontline workers. Well done all. (This is happening ever Thursday night at 8 pm in the UK for the duration of the lockdown here – I don’t know whether anything similar is happening elsewhere but I do think this show of appreciation is a very good thing indeed).

Looking forward to hearing where my choices for the Classic FM Hall of Fame come in this year’s chart. They count this down over the Easter weekend. My choices were:-

1. Jupiter (from the Planet Suite) by Holst
2. Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams.
3. Danse Macabre by Saint Saens (and used as the theme for Jonathan Creek and the book trailer for my From Light to Dark and Back Again – see below! So this music will always have special meaning for me!).

Need a sort out of my writing desk so that is on the cards for me to do tomorrow. Yes, have been putting it off. I refuse to believe I’m the only writer who does that.😆😆

Have resumed playing tennis on the old Nintendo Wii to help with my exercise levels. Well I say playing… let’s say I give it a go! Lady doesn’t like it though and goes and hides while I “strut my stuff” here. Of course it won’t help she can’t possibly get the ball here and no collie will like that.

Writing wise, am working on a book proposal for my non-fiction idea but that will take a while to do. Am also fleshing out ideas for a flash piece for a competition so plenty to be getting on with.

My CFT post this week will be a lighthearted one about Murphy’s Law for Readers. I wrote one about a year ago for writers so it is only fair readers get their turn! Link up on Friday.

Am slowly getting back to reading again which is good. I’ve had no problems writing but think my focus has been on ONE creative activity rather than two.

Reading is a creative activity in its own right in that, for fiction, you should be able to engage with the characters. For non-fiction, you should be gripped by what you are discovering and hopefully go on to find out more about the topic you’re engrossed with.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am happily drafting a flash fiction piece for a competition at the moment. Have got the character and her voice as I like it. But she’s spouting on a little bit too much for the word count requirement so she is going to be shortened! It is one of those cases where I know she can be shortened without losing her style and indeed her style will come through better at the reduced count.

This is where I need to work out what is VITAL for the reader to know. Anything that is not something I could honestly call vital comes out.

This is why I do like writing the longer flash fiction stories too as those give you a bit more room to play with and there you can have characterisation that adds depth and strengthens the story. This is where you can have that “little bit more” which adds flavour to a story.

I think it is a good thing to write a mixture of word count stories so you get a real feel for writing short and spare tales and longer ones with added “value” that you simply can’t put into a shorter story. But what I do know is when I’ve got my character and their voice right, the word count has to suit that. I know I can simplify what I’ve drafted for my current story and I should do that anyway. It should take me to the required count but there are times I really can’t get a story down any further without losing something important – so I don’t! You do get better over time I think at working out when to call it a day.

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One thing I have found useful with regard to having an Amazon Author Central page is having my book trailer on it for FLTDBA. I very much hope later in the year when hopefully Tripping the Flash Fantastic is out that a book trailer for this will also appear.

I have had some fun on my website with book trailers too. (https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/book-trailers/)

As well as the ones for FLTDBA and the Bridge House/Cafelit/Waterloo Art Festival Writing Competition collections I’ve been involved in, I have created a basic trailer for one of my stories from FLTDBA. I hope to do more of this as and when but I mention it because flash fiction is ideal for this kind of thing! You want something nice and short that is easy to read on a screen… hmm… on to a winner there I think!

 

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What do I like best about story and flash fiction collections?

I like the range of moods that can be contained in one book (which directly inspired the title for my own From Light to Dark and Back Again of course).

I love being able to dip in and out of such a book, whether I read it in paperback or via the Kindle.

I love them as they are brilliant for those times when I don’t have time to read or don’t feel like reading a huge amount. Indeed it is often the collections that get me out of the latter mood and into reading novels and non-fiction again.

I also just love the whole idea of reading a book full of little self-contained worlds with a host of characters. They are just fun!

They’re huge fun to write too!

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Fairytales With Bite – 

What Fairytales Have Done For Me

I’ve loved fairytales for more years than I care to remember, encouraged no doubt by my parents buying me The Reader’s Digest Complete Collection of Fairytales. This is a two volume set which I still have. (One of the books is bound up with tape to keep the spine together!). I spent hours reading the stories and admiring the wonderful illustrations. So what have fairytales done for me as a writer then?

  1. Fairytales have a strong message which they get across without lecturing and in an entertaining way.  I find that inspirational (and a challenge to always “raise my game” here).
  2. Fairytales don’t shy away from calling something evil that is evil. There is no mistaking the goodies and baddies here. The characters are clear cut and their actions and thoughts are consistent. That’s all useful stuff for writers.
  3. Fairytales have endings which are appropriate. Generally these are happy ones but there are exceptions and that’s  okay too. What matters is the ending is appropriate to the story.
  4. When magic is used in a fairytale, it is always used to assist and it is rarely the first resort. Characters still have to use their intelligence and take advantage of others forms of help coming to them.

 

This World and Others – The Arts

What place do the arts have in your fictional “other world”? Is there music? Painting? Creative writing? Are these things valued or despised? Does everyone have access to them or only the privileged few?

For your characters, what do the arts mean to them? What role can the arts play in their story?

When fleshing out your creation, think of the arts as a way of adding culture and depth to your created world. You can always use things like statues as well known landmarks your character has to reach to meet someone etc. That tells a reader there is sculpture in your world at least (and therefore likely to be other art forms too. It also reveals there is at least some appreciation of these things and this is a good indicator of likely intelligence levels too).

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Music and Books – Free Book Offer!

Image Credit:  Unless stated, the images are from Pixabay or Pexels.

Facebook – General

Music and books are going to be great boons during the current situation. They are marvellous comforts anyway but whatever you enjoy on either or both fronts here, I hope you have a wonderful time catching up on what you want to listen to/read.

Talking of which…

Would you like a free book?

Magnetism, a collection of short stories, edited by Gill James may be just the ticket for you here then. Just follow the link below and sign up to Scribblers Books, Books, Books.

Magnetism will not be on sale anywhere and it is a great advert for the kind of stories you will find published by Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books.

Authors included in Magnetism are #RogerNoons, #SallyAngell, #GailAldwin, #AlysonFaye, #PaulaReadman, #DawnKentishKnox, oh and one #AllisonSymes amongst many, many others. There is a lovely variety of styles and stories here. Do check it out.

Keep safe, keep well, God bless, be kind, and have a good read!