Podcasting, Flash Fiction, and Spring

Now there’s a right mix for you!

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today x 2!

CFT – Part 1 –

The Writing and Marketing Show – Podcast by Wendy H. Jones

The post below is an amalgamation of the FB posts I shared on my author page and book page during the week.

I thought I’d start by sharing the link to my Local Author News page on Chandler’s Ford Today earlier this week where my news is the podcast interview of yours truly by Scottish crime writer, Wendy H Jones, on my favourite topic, flash fiction. I also share the link to the episode I appear in (and I repeat the link below too).

I was delighted to take part in The Writing and Marketing Show, which is Wendy’s new podcast. It does what it says on the tin, folks! I’m on Episode 4 – How to Write Flash Fiction. Well, I wasn’t going to turn down an opportunity to talk about my great writing love now, was I?

As well as discussing flash fiction, I share some tips, particularly on nailing those crucial opening lines. I also discuss what you can do with cliches – now, now… tune in the show and find out exactly what it is I DO do with them!

Every so often CFT puts up Local Author News posts when local writers have book events etc. It is lovely to put such a post up for myself! (And a huge thanks to Janet Williams, CFT’s very supportive editor who is great at encouraging sharing news like this. It is appreciated and not just by me).

I also want to say a big thank you to Wendy H. Jones for inviting me on to her show. It was huge fun to take part – and do check out the other episodes too. Episodes are released on a Wednesday. Well worth making a note in your diary for especially if you are keen to have insights into the wonderful world of writing.

Episode 4 – How to Write Flash Fiction

CFT – Part 2 – Spring Approaches

It’s always a pleasure to write posts like the above which celebrate something positive. Despite Storm Dennis being on its way, there are still signs of spring out there and I’ve already noted the daylight lasting that little bit longer each evening.

I also look at spring in the terms of new life/new developments. What new developments, as a writer, are you hoping for this year? (The podcast with #WendyHJones earlier this week was a new development for me and so much fun to do). Comments as ever welcome over on the CFT page.

Feature Image - Spring Approaches

As part of my Spring Approaches post for Chandler’s Ford Today this week, I look ahead to the Chameleon Theatre Group’s next production. This has the charming name of Spring Quartet. Love the sound of that. I am hoping throughout the next few months to put up additional posts featuring members of the Chameleons. More details as and when.

Do you find writing easier or harder to do when the weather gets better (it will eventually, honestly!)? I have no real preference here though I can understand the lure of getting out and about when perhaps I should be at my desk writing.

Mind you, when I do go out and about, there is always part of me which sees these trips as great opportunities for “research”.

Now that can be anything from picking up inspiration for characters (e.g. overhearing odd snippets of conversation I know I could use in totally different contexts for a tale or two) to going to a specific place and learning from it. What I learn then ends up in a story.

It’s a great excuse and I’m sticking to it!

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Many thanks, everyone, for the lovely feedback on the podcast interview for those of you who tuned in when the link was shared on Wednesday this week. For those of you who haven’t, do check out the episode via the link above. It was a joy to talk flash fiction with #WendyHJones. (And do check out the other episodes too. The link to all episodes is in the top left corner).

My usual CFT post will be up tomorrow and it is called Spring Approaches. Now I know Storm Dennis is due (named after Dennis the Menace, do you think?) but, hang on in there folks, spring really is on its way.

There are already signs of it out there. Tonight I managed to walk the dog with my better half and we only needed a torch for the last 15 minutes. That figure will reduce week on week too and I love that. Two weeks or so ago, we needed the torch for 25 to 30 minutes so those lighter evenings are slowly coming in! (On a personal note, I find the increased light helps with my writing productivity too and I bet I’m not the only one who finds that).

My post celebrates the approach of spring then but also looks at how, given we rightly associate spring with new life, what that can mean for us. A new life can mean new starts or developments. (Being interviewed for a podcast was a new and enjoyable development for me!).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

F = Fun to write
L = Length of story can vary but should not go over 1000 words.
A = Alliteration can be effective in titles but best to use sparingly (otherwise readers will tire of it. You don’t want anything to seem “faddy”).
S = Story should focus on ONE important point only as you won’t have room for more, particularly in a sub-500 words tale.
H = Have fun mixing up which genres you write your flash fiction in as the good news is you don’t have to stick to one!

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When you want to mix up your flash fiction writing, how do you go about that?

Some of my favourite ways to mix things up include:-

1. Work out an ending to a story and work backwards to the start instead of working linearly. (If you usually start this way, simply reverse the process and start at the beginning!).

2. Try writing a flash fiction story in a genre or format you’ve not tried before. If it doesn’t work out, why worry? You were playing with words. I would suspect also some of what you write you would probably be able to use elsewhere. Equally if you discover a new way of writing flash, even better. This is how I started writing historical flash fiction pieces. Until fairly recently, it wasn’t an area I had explored.

3. Write to different word counts. While my natural home is between the 100 to 250 word count limit, I do write much shorter than that. I also go up to the top end of the scale for flash at 1000 words.

And why mix things up at all?

Firstly it keeps things interesting for you. You really don’t want to become bored with what you do.

Secondly, a variety of stories, whether it’s in genre or word count or both, means you have a wider selection of markets and competitions to aim those tales at! Good luck.

Fairytales With Bite – 

When the Magic Wand Isn’t Enough

One of my favourite things about fantasy fiction is when magic is limited in some way. That is a character can only do so much with their powers and no more. Or if they go beyond that, then there is a dreadful price to pay.

What is fascinating there is finding out how the characters get around this. When you can’t or dare not use your special skills, what do you do?

Likewise if two magical characters have the same kind of powers, then you know they’re going to cancel each other out effectively. What does each of them do to try to get the upper hand on the other?

I believe more of the real personality of the characters comes out when they can’t just rely on magic to get them out of trouble (and even more when they know using it will exacerbate their problems).

I love stories which show the downside of using magic and where characters have to use their wit and intelligence to overcome problems. My favourite of all here has to be Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series given, when in doubt, she goes to the library to look things up! What’s not to like about that?!

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This World and Others – 

What Do Your Characters Make Of Their World?

Asking yourself this as you outline your fictional world is useful as:-

(a) it will show you insights into what your characters really think revealing more of their attitudes which should prove useful later and;

(b) it will show you what your characters think is the most important aspect of their world. It might not be what you originally thought!

I would then probe further as to why that is. If you thought the most important thing was your created world’s fantastic lakes but your character thinks the best thing since sliced bread is the mountain behind their village, look at why. Have they got a fear of water, say? Have they got a famous ancestor who was the first to climb that mountain? Could that come into your story at some point?

How do your characters react to their world during the course of the story? What aspects of it get in their way on whatever their mission is? What aspects help them? Does the transportation make their mission easier to carry out or more difficult? How easy is it for them to get provisions? What do other characters think of their mission? What and/or whom gets in their way?

If your character is trying to save their world, are they doing so out of love for that world or knowing that whatever the world is facing is too dreadful to contemplate allowing to happen so has got to be stopped no matter what else they think? Is the world around them grateful for their efforts?

Above all, what changes have to happen in and to the characters to make them want to carry out their mission? It is not uncommon for the hero/heroine to be reluctant to take on their quest and they have to be persuaded into it. So who does the persuading? What makes the character “bite”?

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Storms, Flashes, and Podcast News

Image Credit:  As ever, unless otherwise stated, all images come from the magnificent Pixabay.

Podcast News

I’m delighted to say I am the guest on Wendy H. JonesThe Writing and Marketing Show talking about flash fiction tomorrow, Wednesday, 12th February. Wendy is a Scottish crime writer of the DI Shona McKenzie series and also writes about Bertie the Buffalo for children. Do check her website out for more information.

The podcast was a wonderful opportunity to chat about why all writers should write flash fiction, even if is not their main work. More on the show and I look forward to sharing the link on the next post on Friday.

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And In Other News…

Am very pleased to say my website links are now included on:-

  1.  Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Swanwick Connections page.
  2.  The Association of Christian Writers’ Members’ Website page.

Facebook – General

I’ve set up a page on my website where from time to time I share some flash fiction stories and look at how I wrote them. I hope this will be useful for other flash fiction writers and entertaining anyway!

I had great fun yesterday evening putting together a simple video for Putting My Face On and think it works well. (See below and on the link too).

Hope you enjoy!

 

Horrible day weather wise with the storm (Sunday, 9th February in the UK – Storm Ciara). Hope and trust everyone is okay. Did like seeing the full moon rising tonight and the way it lights up the clouds though. The clouds DID have a silver lining tonight! (One sign to confirm the weather is truly awful is when Lady wants to finish her walkies quickly and she did today).

Good day today. I’ve finished drafting a standard length short story which gave ME the creeps (and yes it is meant to!) and I’m looking forward to polishing that and submitting it later this week. Will have more news on the publication front fairly soon too.

Have a good week and I hope the weather soon calms down.

 

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I can hardly believe it is the 80th anniversary of the first Tom and Jerry cartoon. Always loved those two (but then I’ve always been a fan of the kind of story where the underdog clearly has the upper hand of the “master”. The Jeeves and Wooster stories by P.G. Wodehouse are the sublime prose example of those).

Never despise “light” entertainment whether it is in the form of a cartoon or book. Escapism is invaluable and something I think most of us need, for one thing. For another, this kind of thing is harder than it looks to write. If anyone makes anything look easy, you can bet they’ve been working quietly away for years to get to that point.

I do take some comfort in knowing there are no shortcuts in writing (it means it’s not just me taking the scenic route!), but I take even more from knowing very little is ever wasted. Even rejections can teach you something you can use to improve your writing. And I’ve lost count of how many stories of mine didn’t get placed somewhere, I’ve looked at them again, reworked them, submitted them elsewhere and, as a result, got them into print/on to screen (sometimes both).

Persistence is a virtue when it comes to writing but a better one is being open to looking at your writing and thinking well, I could do this bit better… Time away from the piece is crucial here for being able to give yourself distance but it does pay off.

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I was delighted to find this picture on Pixabay (and you wonder why I like them so much!). Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

What is your inner vision and are you making progress towards it

What is your reaction when you come across a book you don’t like? Do you carry on reading? Do you abandon it and maybe try it again at a later date?

In my time, I’ve done both. The latter has been more successful. For example, I tried reading The Hobbit when I was at junior school but I just couldn’t get into it. Now, of course, I have no problems with it. Sometimes it is a case of timing. YOU sometimes have to be “ready” for a book.

Very rarely do I abandon a book altogether. Even then I feel a sense of failure. I do wonder if it’s just me. What is useful though is to analyse what it is was you didn’t like and make sure nobody can say the same of your books and stories! So even a book that, for whatever reason you couldn’t get on with, has its uses for a writer!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When do I know a flash fiction piece is going to work?

When the story makes me feel the way I want it to make a reader feel, whether it is to make them laugh, cry, or, on occasion, scream!

One of the joys of flash is its almost instant impact but there definitely has to BE an impact! Incidentally slice of life studies can work well here too because the impact there is to make you care for the character you’ve just read about.

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Today was the perfect day, weather wise, to stay in and write and/or read! It’s about the only good thing to say about the horrible weather… I trust things are calming down where you are. Trees down here but it looks like damage is limited.

I don’t use the weather a lot in any of my stories partly because, with flash, there is limited room for description, and I always think the character is far more important anyway. I would rather show you a character battling through the elements than focus on the elements themselves. I’m also determined not to be caught out by the “dark and stormy night” cliche!

 

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How to spot a writer Part 1:-

1. They mutter and probably swear at spotting yet another typo in whatever it is they’re reading. (Guilty here: last one that really annoyed me was the ITV news report online which had Isle of White instead of Isle of Wight. Someone didn’t check the place names there…).

2. Their other half has to drag them out of bookshops OR plot a route around any area that is lucky enough to still have said bookshops. This is particularly important if they have an appointment in two hours time or less as it will be the only way to ensure that appointment isn’t missed. If you tell me you couldn’t possibly spend two hours in a bookshop, then I’ll know you’re not a writer!

3. Flash fiction writers are easy to spot. They will get their smartphone out at every opportunity and will tap away on it. Some of them might even use a stylus (Guilty as charged). If desperate, they will grab a napkin and draft something on the back of that. (Before you ask, not yet, but I suspect I will do this at some point!).

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How to spot a writer Part 2:-

1. You can’t move for them in stationery shops. (We are all suckers for lovely pens, notebooks etc). Guilty as charged on this one.

2. In coffee shops, they are likely to be in a corner, phone or laptop plugged in, and they’ve made one drink last at least an hour so they can get some writing done. (Not quite guilty on this one. I always buy a hot drink and at least one other cold drink if I know I’m going to be there for a while).

3. The flash fiction writer will be keen to explain what their genre is to anyone who will listen so it is more of a case of them spotting you. On the plus side they will know the importance of Less is More for their genre and will keep their talk short and to the point. (Another clue as to who the flash writers are is in their speech. If they seem to cut out all adverbs even when talking, you know you’ve found one). Ahem…

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Goodreads Author Blog – Why Read Then?

Strange question to put on Goodreads, isn’t it? We all love books and stories. Reading is a way of life.

Celebrating books at literary festivals and/or writing conferences is a lovely part of life too!

But it is easy to forget reading isn’t a way of life for everyone. Books have to compete with other forms of entertainment for people’s attention. Sadly, books don’t always win.

I was deeply saddened once, when on a book stall with some other local authors, I heard someone walk by and loudly exclaim “I don’t do books”. Hmm… I wonder why that is? Nervousness about reading? Too many associations with bad experiences at school? I thought the comment was so sad, and I still think that.

I read to:-

1. Escape the world for a bit. (It is beyond me people don’t latch on to this more. The great thing books are legal, they won’t make you put on weight, or give you a hangover).

2. Be entertained in a way that suits me. I don’t have to commit to reading for three hours at a time (though chance would be a fine thing!). If you’re in the cinema and it’s a long film, you really do have to love it otherwise you’re in for a dull evening.

3. Discover different worlds in a way that I choose. I vary my reading. I’ll read crime books for a while, then historical fiction, then short story collections etc. But I choose which worlds to explore and when and I like that.

What I don’t want to see is books being seen as “elitist” or anything like that.

Happy reading, everyone!

 

 

Playing with Words – and Just a Minute

Facebook – General

Would anyone be able to identify you if there were no distinguishing markers and the only clues someone had were three books you own?

I ask as I played the Guess the Book Owner game recently. I was part of a team and it wasn’t easy to match a book to who nominated it from the other team.

The good thing was there was an eclectic mixture of books and the teams were clearly well read!

Which books would you choose and why? In the game I played I could only pick one book and that was tough.

The idea was to look for clues in what was chosen and deduce the owner also from what was already known about them. And we still got many wrong on first guess!

I chose The Great War by Dawn Knox, a book of 100 x 100-word stories all linked to WW1. The characterisation is wonderful and the stories deeply moving. Do check it out.

Flash fiction may be short but it can pack quite a punch for its word count size.

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One joy of the smartphone is listening to Classic FM on my travels via my trusty headphones. Good music of any genre, like good books, can take you away from the cares of the world for a while.

I suppose this is one reason why I love fantasy and fairytales. I know those worlds will be very different to anything we experience here. Perfect escapism though I often feel a sense of huge relief I don’t live in the worlds I’ve just read about!

Mind you, I can think of characters of mine I would never want to Mmeet in life! I should imagine crime and horror writers always feel like that!

 

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Well, how did your Monday go? I’m back to the fray after a lovely weekend away.

Tonight’s post comes to you from my desk.

Last night’s came from the 5.12 pm train from Waterloo to Weymouth, which took a detour via Twickenham and Chertsey before finally reaching Woking and carrying on with its normal route.

Still the extra time travelling meant more writing was done by yours truly. (Couldn’t tell you what Twickenham and Chertsey looked like as by the time we got there, it was dark. If you can’t have a good view, get on with some writing is my motto).

Pockets of time like this mount up and it’s amazing how much you can get done when you’re made to focus. (So from a writing viewpoint there IS a point to engineering works!).😀😀

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So sorry to hear the news of the death of Nicholas Parsons. I adore Just A Minute and my late mum had the show on almost religiously every Monday at 6.30 pm.

I can’t hear the theme tune (Chopin) without thinking of her old radio in one corner of the kitchen and JAM blaring out. Mum was particularly fond of Nicholas Parsons and Kenneth Williams.

JAM is not only good fun but it can be quite educational in terms of what you can do with the English language. I’ve always adored word play and JAM is an excellent example of it. If it’s not something you’ve come across, see if you can check out back episodes of it. It can help improve your own vocabulary too and above all it is great fun.

I very much hope they can continue the show but it won’t be the same without Nicholas. Nor do I think we’ll see his like again. To be broadcasting the same show for over 50 years is some achievement.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Name a moment in a book or a film that took your breath away. I can think of several but my favourites include the Ring of Power being cast into Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings, and the truth about Severus Snape being revealed in the Harry Potter series.

Both of these are emotionally charged and you are gripped by the characterisation. You have to find out if the Ring gets destroyed and what Harry’s reaction will be to what he now knows about Snape.

So what are your “have to find out” moments in your stories? There is rarely a case for lowering tension in a tale!

 

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It was lovely sharing the news about Tripping The Flash Fantastic with my colleagues on the ACW Committee this weekend. We were at a Retreat making plans for events we run etc. It was also lovely hearing everybody else’s writing news. There is a great mix of styles and genres represented here too.

This is one aspect of writing I love. There are so many genres and styles, there will be at least one which suits you. And there is plenty of scope for interesting chats at writing events. I am always fascinated by what others write and why they went that particular route.

Naturally I wave the flag for flash fiction!😄

 

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Monday, Monday, fly away,
Come again another…. week.
After a long, hard day’s work
It’s inspiration I seek.

Allison Symes – 27th January 2020

I suspect this will ring true for many of you! If you do find one particular day of the week tougher than others to get going on the writing front (and tiredness is such a huge factor here), try some flash fiction writing.

Have fun, pick a word count of your choice to aim for and go for it.

When you’re tired and you don’t feel like writing much, having some flash fiction on the go gives a useful writing exercise you can polish up and submit to markets later on, when you do have more time and don’t feel so tired!

Creativity is good for you. Having smaller things to work on is particularly useful when you haven’t as much time or energy as you’d like. Nobody said creativity always has to be about the large projects.

There will rightly be many tributes to the late, great Nicholas Parsons, who hosted the wonderful Just a Minute for over 50 years. The word play on this show is fabulous and I think inspirational for all writers, whether you stick to the very short form or enjoy penning epics. Showing you what you can do with the English language has to be something all writers can learn from, I think.

One of my favourite aspects to JAM has been when Paul Merton came up with fantastical stories on all kinds of subjects and speaks for a minute without interruption, deviation, or repetition. Flash stories in radio format, maybe?

If you get a chance to listen to old episodes, do so and listen out for these in particular. There is some fabulous storytelling too. Kenneth Williams could also be brilliant at sharing wonderful snippets of information on this show yet get it across as if he was telling a story. (Stories are to my mind one of the best ways of getting information across. People like to listen to stories. They don’t necessarily want to listen to facts told in an unentertaining way!).

The challenge to writers is to get our stories and articles across in a way that people will want to read them/listen to them. Playing with the language is fun for the writer but also for the reader when it is done well.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books With Meaning

All good books have meaning (especially to their writers!) but some are so special.

I inherited my mother’s hardback Charles Dickens collection and, while I confess I have not read them all, every time I see them, I smile and think of Mum.

I also have an old edition of Pride and Prejudice, which I read ahead of reading it officially at school.

Did I regret having to read it again? Oh no. I picked up on points directly, and thanks to the guidance of my excellent English teacher, Miss Mackenzie, thanks to that second read.

And Pride and Prejudice can withstand multiple readings, which is always a sign of a good book!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Numbers Into Writing Will Go

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I look at the links between numbers and creative writing this week for CFT. There are more links than you might think. I’m not just talking about word counts either (though naturally that is a priority for my flash fiction writing).

The inspiration for the title comes from when I was taught to do division at school many, many moons ago. Three will go into six (twice), three will go into seven (twice with one left over) etc.

I also look at how numbers come into my online writing and I share some tips for managing word counts.

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My CFT post this week is Numbers into Writing Will Go, a title inspired by how I was taught division many moons (and then some!) ago. (That is 2 will go into 4 twice, 2 will go into 5 with 1 left over – anyone else remember that style of teaching?).

There are many links between numbers and creative writing funnily enough and my post will be looking at some of these. Link up on Friday.

Talking of numbers, it has been lovely to see more followers recently for my website. Welcome to you and thank you to those who have been following the site for some time.

I hope to continue to add to this site throughout the year and will post latest pages etc. One of my most recent additions was the Book Trailers page where all the book trailers for anthologies I’ve had work in, as well as the one From Light to Dark and Back Again, are included. (A big thank you to Chapeltown Books – they make some great trailers. Yes, I know, I’d be bound to say that, wouldn’t I, but go on. Check the page out!).

It was a relief NOT to get a soaking while out with the dog today. Plenty of tree debris around but at least things are calming down here a bit. Mind you, our local park will continue to be a mud pit for some time to come!

Back to unhelpful writing advice that I was talking about in my last round-up on Tuesday.

1. Of course you can edit on screen… ahem. You do miss things this way. Print your work out and edit on paper. (It can help to change the font or the character size to make your work seem different when looking at it on screen BUT I still recommend printing it out. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve picked something up this way that I missed on screen).

2. It won’t matter if you get a competition entry in JUST after the deadline. Oh yes it will. It’s called being late and a judge would have to turn down late works as it is not fair on those who did get their entries in on time. My top tip here is to take a week to ten days off the official deadline and make that your OWN one. It gives you a few days in hand for final tweaks should you need it and you’ll then still submit the piece in good time.

3. If I send my work (especially if it’s a book) with fancy ribbon on it, it will make it stand out. Yes, it will but for all the wrong reasons. I’ve heard many agents and publishers at writing conferences say basically how irritating this kind of thing is – all you need to do is follow their guidelines to the letter and leave it at that.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What do I enjoy writing the most in a flash fiction tale?

When I come up with a “killer line” whether it is a punchline to end a humorous story or a twist to conclude the tale. I love that feeling you get when you know what you’ve come up with is absolutely right for that story. Gives me a very good buzz.

I also love that moment when writing the first draft and you know you have got the idea and characters spot on. It’s then a question of fine tuning the story and cutting out what doesn’t add to the tale but you know at this point that you’ve got something to work with and your editing will improve the story.

I almost always find I’m about halfway to two-thirds of the way through a first draft when I know yes this is going to work or it will work if I end the story this way instead. It’s a relief to get to that point too!

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I think it helps to have a fascination with what makes people tick when it comes to character creation. This is especially true for flash fiction writing where I’m coming up with so many different characters for my stories (though I am beginning to link a few stories. This is where I either use the same character in another story or Character A in Story 1 is referred to by Character B in Story 2. Good fun to do and this is something I hope to do more of in future).

I do find the Scrivener character templates enomously helpful for outlining “my people”. They make me think about why I’m creating the character the way that I am and that will add “oomph” to my story. When reading, a character gels with me far more if I sense there is depth to them, even if I don’t discover those depths for a while. With flash, I need to give hints as to how deep my characters can be and then show a reader what they need to know to make those connections to hidden depths for themselves.

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Themes I love in my stories include:-

1. Poetic justice. I do love giving a character who deserves it what they’ve got coming. It’s fun!

2. An underdog winning out in the end. (This is a huge theme in fairytales of course and I’ve always loved that idea).

3. Alternative character stories (my Getting It Right gives the wicked stepmother’s viewpoint on the Snow White tale).

4. Types of character I love – feisty ones (especially older female characters who can still show those far younger than them a thing or two about how to tackle problems); magical ones (especially those who’ve discovered the downside to magic and are fighting back against that).

5. Historical themes I love (and these will turn up in Tripping the Flash Fantastic too).

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Fairytales With Bite – Going Back in Time

Fairytales are some of the oldest stories in literature, of course. This is another reason why I don’t understand why some dismiss them as “twee tales for kids”. If they read the original stories, they’d know fairytales are anything but twee and their intended audiences were definitely not children!

I associate fairytales with many happy memories of enjoying The Reader’s Digest Complete Fairytales (two volumes, both beautifully illustrated), which was a childhood present. I still have those books though their spines are taped up to give them extra support. I read those books a lot when I was younger!

When I read I want to escape to another world for a while and fairytales for me have always been a great outlet for that. A really good story will make you feel as if you’ve escaped time for a while.

I’ve always found it fascinating that there are countless versions of our classic fairytales in different cultures (Cinderella especially). The themes are timeless and will remain so. Fairytales often do reflect on aspects of human nature and they don’t always present a pretty picture either.

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This World and Others – Your Historical World

Whatever your setting, it has to have a past. It may not play a major role in the story you’re telling but there should be inferences to it somewhere in your tale. Your characters’ actions and reactions are based on what? Being attacked by an enemy? Well who is the enemy and what is the personal history here?

How is your world governed? Who runs it? Is there any opposition? How does it get on with other worlds around it? What happened in its past to influence how it is run now? What kind of ceremonies and rituals does it have and does your lead character go along with these or rebel against them?

History is important to us. It helps shape us. It should do for your characters too, even if you imply what that history is. Information is best drip fed into a story in any case but readers do put two and two together. I love doing that in books I read. I get a complete picture of the fictional world doing that and it makes the story stronger for me, always.

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Stories and Storms

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

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My favourite adaptation of stories are:-

1. The Lord of the Ring films.

2. A Muppet Christmas Carol.

3. War of the Worlds – the album by Jeff Wayne. (We still have it. Richard Burton was the narrator/lead. He had a lovely voice).

I’d like to sneak in a mention for The Daughter of Time on radio but it’s not really an adaptation. It’s a wonderfully produced reading of a great book set against some evocative music (The Princes in the Tower by William Walton). It is repeated every so often on Radio 4 Extra. Well worth checking out if you like history, detective fiction, or, if you are like me, you love both!

Adaptations are just great ways to enjoy stories in other formats but the ones that work for me are the ones where you sense the people behind them really do love the originals.

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I don’t know about you but it already seems to me as if January has been here forever and we’re still under the halfway point! What is it about January that makes it seem to drag…?!

Making good progress on one story I’ve got in mind for a competition. Have got an idea for another competition but that needs fleshing out.

I have found it to be true the more you write the more ideas you generate (and reading well boosts that further). I will often have ideas for stories pop into my head while drafting my Chandler’s Ford Today posts (and other blogs) so I just make a note of these and come back to them later.

Yes, I do get ideas for non-fiction articles while drafting stories! I think it must be an unspoken rule of writing that, when you write more than one type of thing, you will get ideas for whatever it is at the time you are NOT working on! Again I just make a note of these. Can you have too many notebooks? Definitely not!

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Lady set a new world record for quickest and shortest evening walkies this evening, encouraged by her owners! She’s not fazed by storms, thankfully, but we can be! (It truly is a night for writing “It was a dark and stormy night”!😀). Hope all is as okay as possible wherever you are. If I knew where my hatches were, I’d be battening them down.

Still I guess it is the perfect night for settling in with writing to be getting on with and reading to enjoy later on.

My CFT post this week will be Numbers into Writing Will Go. Sometimes a post proves to be more fun to write than I anticipated and this was one such. I enjoy writing all my posts of course but I love it when one just “takes off” and this one has. Link up on Friday as usual.

The image of Lady I would caption as “There’s a dog in here somewhere!” (All other images from Pixabay).

 

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I’ve sometimes talked about writing tips I’ve found useful but what have you come across in the writing world which is anything but helpful?

1. No publishers will take work unless you have an agent. Not true. There are plenty of indie publishers who will! It is a question of seeking these out and following their submission guidelines to the letter. Yes, the very big publishers will want you to have an agent but always look out for submission windows. Some of the big publishers have imprints which have these windows so it is worth keeping an eye out for these too.

2. Blogging will open doors in the publishing world. Ahem. Blog because YOU want to. I like blogging as it is a great way to share thoughts and advice. I am not expecting it to pave my way to fame and fortune. That really is not the point of it. It is an outlet, a place where you can share publishing news etc. See it first and foremost as a useful tool for you. Also see it as a way of engaging with potential readers and potentially building up an audience. It is important to be consistent so people know when to expect your posts. Think about what audience you would like to reach and tailor your posts so these will be of interest to them.

3. Short stories have no market. A big no to that one. Yes, they do. Magazines are still the main one but there are indie publishers who cater for short story and flash fiction collections. There are online markets too (and these can be a great way to raise your profile). It is true you have to be a big name to have a big publisher bring out a book of your short stories. But there is always room for good quality anthologies out there. I know, much as I love the novel, I like to read story collections too and I refuse to believe I’m the only one!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t always set out to write flash fiction. I know that sounds odd coming from me but occasionally I will set out to write a standard length short story (1500 words) and realise it has far more impact if I leave it at 150!

But that’s fine. It is the impact on the reader that matters the most and I try to have the needs of the reader in the back of my mind all the time. Yes, I write what I love to write but I also want to get it to an audience if I can so the happy situation here is to write something you love that is likely to have others liking it too.

Easier said than done I know but what I have found has helped enormously:-

1. Is knowing there’s no time limit on practising your craft and trying to hone it. I’m not in a race with other writers. I need to get to a point where my voice shines through in what I write at the pace that I can manage. If it takes two years rather than two months, so be it. I have found trying to submit work regularly means I’m getting that practice in regularly. It mounts up.

2. The really important thing is to enjoy your writing. If you enjoy it, someone else will too. From your viewpoint, if you enjoy it, you will be able to sustain your writing.

3. By thinking about what I want to read and why I have the preferences I do, I can use that to inspire the creation of my characters. It is nearly always characters that fascinate me enough to make me want to find out what happens to them. So I spend time in getting my characters as right as I can manage in terms of being able to see how they would appeal to readers. I find the Scrivener character templates really useful here but you can create your own. Think about what you need to know about your characters. Think about what you like about other writers’ characters. Story analysis is worth doing.

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What I love about flash fiction is being able to glimpse into a character’s life for a brief period and still being able to work out a great deal about them, when that is not part of the story. (It’s a sign of a great flash tale when you can do that. So much has to be implied but there should be plenty of implications for you to pick up on).

Flash fiction is like a mirror held up briefly. You get one glimpse and that’s it until you pick up the mirror again. Repeated readings of a flash tale should enable you to pick up on clues and inferences you missed on the first read. (A good book or film is always worth re-reading or re-watching for precisely that reason. You are focused on finding out what happens on the first reading/viewing.You pick up more on nuances on repeated reads/views).

 

There was an impressive flash of lightning tonight, while I was out with the dog, that lit up the whole sky. (Naturally these things would happen while I was out as opposed to being nicely cosy indoors but this is Rule 1 for the Murphy’s Law for Dog Owners. You WILL get a soaking every time the heavens even think of opening! Rule 2 is you can never have enough towels for drying the dog).

The ideal flash fiction story should also show an impressive amount of information even if at first read it doesn’t appear to do so. I usually find on subsequent re-readings, there’s more to a character than I first thought and I love that. I also love picking up on the little details that add “oomph” to the story which I may not have given enough attention to on the first read. (I’m too busy trying to find out what happened!).

But I have found it always pays to re-read stories, your own and others, as you will pick up something new. You can then look at what you could add to your own stories to give your own “oomph” factor.

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Am re-reading my Tripping the Flash Fantastic and looking forward to sharing more news on that as and when I can.

I am planning to change the title of this Facebook page later on when I know roughly when my second flash fiction collection will be out.

I have thought for a while that, given I focus on flash fiction advice and tips here, that a title based on that would be preferable anyway. Will let you know more on that later in the year. (It is lovely having plans like this though!).

 

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Goodreads Author Blog –Reading Preferences

My reading preferences depend on what mood I’m in. I will go through a spate of only wanting to read humorous prose, then go through another where I’m on a diet of crime stories, before moving on again.

I often find the spark for moving on to a different genre for a while will come from something I’ve read in a writing magazine. An interview with an author can lead me to checking their work out but also going on to read more in their genre once I’ve read their book.

One thing I will try and do better on during this year is posting reviews. I do appreciate receiving reviews myself. It’s remembering to post them that’s the issue and not just for me I suspect.

As for where I prefer to read, that’s easy enough – in bed at the end of the day. It’s the perfect way to relax before sleeping.

Do I ever dream about what I’ve read? Not usually though I occasionally get strange dreams where it’s clear something of what I’ve read has seeped in. The problem with those kind of dreams is they are disjointed and I’m not sorry I can’t remember them!

My overall reading preference is to keep on reading widely and well. I’d like to read more non-fiction this year too. Have you set any reading goals this year?

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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?!

 

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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!

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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.

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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

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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!

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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?

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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

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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!

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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…

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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!

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The Writing Week, History, and Publication News

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

Facebook – General

Glad to say Nativity, the new anthology from Bridge House Publishing, is now up on my Amazon Author Central page.  I hope it will be added to my Goodreads page soon too. Am getting better at being organised about this sort of thing.

Have finished the first draft of a standard length short story so will probably look at that again to read it afresh next week. Need to outline another story. Want to submit these two stories at the same time. I like to do them in batches!

Am also drafting a couple of blogs, one of which will be my CFT post next week. Picking topics for CFT can be interesting. Times of year can be useful (I nearly always produce a Christmas limerick or piece of festive flash fiction, for example).

When I’ve got events coming up, such as the Richard Hardie/Antony M Brown talk on Tuesday, that gives me the post for that week. I like to do extended posts every so often and invite guest contributions. I’ve found a three part series works well (beyond that, people tend to switch off). Generally though I go for a “wide” topic (this week’s one will be about history) and then look for either my take on it or link it to something in the news or an event which is going on in my area.

What were your favourite subjects at school?

Mine were English and History. No big surprises there. I loved composition as it was called back in the day and enjoyed inventing stories then.

I also used to like the old SRA cards which were colour coded. The card had a story on it, you had to read it and then answer some questions. You could then progress to the next card and so on. I used these at junior school usually either when a teacher was marking or we had a supply teacher in.

History – well it is a great big story when you think about it. There’s “standard” history – the tales of kings and queens. There’s the history of scientific discovery and invention and so on.

And there’s local history too. CFT has two great series going on at the moment on this. One is The Hutments by Peter Russell which I edited. The other are extracts from the journals of Rick Goater’s grandmother who covers social and natural history in her diaries.

I love history for its glimpses into the past (and it makes me so grateful I live when I do now. I wouldn’t have made it to anywhere near my age had I lived in medieval times. I am assuming here I would have been a peasant!).

English obviously feeds directly into my writing and reading. History influences the topics I come up with. (Oh and the other reason I’m grateful to live when I do, despite all that is currently going on, is that in medieval times, it would have been highly unlikely I could read or write at all. The thought of not being able to do either makes me shudder).

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When do you know a book has really got to you?

1. You can’t wait until you can continue reading it.
2. You fear for the fate of your favourite characters (and usually with good cause).
3. You re-read it often.
4. You worry when you discover there will be a film or TV adaptation. How can it do the book justice?
5. You are overjoyed when the film or TV adaptation IS faithful to the book and brings to your eyes the scenes you’d only seen in your head as you read the book.

For me that’s fulfilled by The Lord of the Rings in particular but I also loved the adaptations of Going Postal, Hogfather, and The Colour of Magic.

For me adaptations only work if it comes across that whoever is behind said adaptation HAS been faithful to the book. There’s no point in going away from the original material.

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Publication News

Pleased to receive my copies of Nativity, this year’s anthology from Bridge House Publishing. My humorous fairytale, What Goes Around, is in there. Love the cover (and honestly I still would even if I wasn’t in it!). The joy of opening a parcel with your books in it never lessens.

I’ll be looking at Why I Love History later this week for Chandler’s Ford Today. History plays a major role for all writers and not just historical fiction authors. More details and the link will be up on Friday.

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Let’s see what I can do with a phrase taken from a random generator as an acrostic flash fiction story.

TALK THE TALK

T = Touche, the witch thought, someone’s trying to frighten me.

A = All the people I’ve cursed in my time and someone’s fighting back; it has to be one of them.

L = Less than five seconds in and my feet have turned into concrete.

K = Keyword here is preparation; someone’s put so much thought into this, so who’s got the skills for that round here?

T = Turns out I’ve a magical rival who’s clearing the opposition, me!

H = Hell, no; they’re not getting away with this.

E = Extending her arm, the witch reached for her wand and cursed the concrete away.

T = Turning to her desk diary, yes every magical being needs one, the witch flipped the pages.

A = Ah, yes, it’ll be her – she’s had her eye on my cottage and the privileges of being head witch here for ages.

L = Likely she’s assumed I’d die – well let’s show her I’m still very much alive and well and bloody annoyed, how dare she try this on me.

K = Kind of got to admire her nerve, the witch thought, as she uttered the spell that would turn her rival’s cottage into millions of splinters, hopefully with said rival still inside it.

Allison Symes – 16th November 2019

Hope you enjoy.

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Many thanks for all who read Talk The Talk, my flash story that I created yesterday, using a random phrase generator to come up with this as a title (and theme. My character really did talk the talk!). I created this live. I only edited a few words where I realised a tweak here or there would improve the impact.

Normally of course I would prepare a story, put it aside for a while and, once happy with it, I would then share it here or submit it somewhere. But I deliberately use the random generators (word, phrase, number) to create a “live” story with only a light editorial touch on it afterwards.

Can stories created this way be improved? Oh yes, almost certainly but I find it fun to create stories this way sometimes. It also keeps me on my toes.

It makes for a really good writing exercise even if you don’t share the results. You can pretend you are and see what you can come up with in a set time limit, say. You then leave the story at that and move on to the next one.

You can come back and “edit properly” later on. But there is a freshness to a newly created story I adore, which is another reason why I like to create stories this way and then leave them be. Often I find when I DO come back to them later, I still sense that raw energy of creating them and it is usually a case of tweaking words to create stronger images and impact. I always think about the impact of the story on the reader. It helps to keep me focused.

Oh and random number generators can be useful. I’ve used the numbers that come up as times to be used in the story, or as a countdown to something happening. The number 13 could in itself be taken as a theme given it has its own phobia – Triskaidekaphobia. (Just don’t try saying that quickly!). How could that manifest itself in a story?

And do have fun with the random generators. They’re excellent triggers for stories.

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Flash fiction is a great vehicle for dropping your characters right in it! They also have to get out of the situation quickly too but it must all be plausible, even if your characters and/or setting are magical. The characters need to be seen to get themselves out of the situation which is why I have to outline before I get the first draft down. It’s also why I sometimes start the story by working out what the ending is and then deducing how the character could have got to that point.

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I tend to “hit the ground running” with my flash fiction stories. I want to get a reader into the story as quickly as possible (and of course out again at the end of the tale). I mix up the way I do this as it keeps things interesting for me (and I hope for readers).

I sometimes take a reader straight into my character’s thoughts. Sometimes I ask a question I hope will provoke curiosity – the must find out the answer type. Sometimes I will start with a character action, again the type that will trigger the where will this go reaction (and there is only ever one answer to that – read on!).

I mix up using the first and third person for my stories (though I love the immediacy the first person gives you). I also mix up my settings. My first love is the humorous fairytale with a sting in the tale but I adore writing crime and historical ones too. That is the thing I love most about flash fiction – its flexibility with setting. It is just the word count I have to watch!

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Dreams

Do you ever dream of your favourite characters (written by you or others)?

I can’t say I do. I’m also relieved about that. I can think of several of my own characters who I don’t want to meet in any kind of alley. I certainly don’t want them haunting me at night either!

Where I DO dream of characters is in hoping they have the impact on a potential reader I set out to achieve. It’s not really for me to say whether that works or not, only the reader can know. All I can do is give it my best shot.

When reading works by other writers, the ones that stay with me the most are the ones where the characters have the most impact. So that inspires me with my own writing. I’m still glad they don’t disturb my sleep pattern though! (I would not be a happy bunny…!).

I do a lot of my reading at bedtime so I did wonder if I would have strange dreams based on whatever it was I was reading. Hasn’t happened at all. Given I read fantasy, crime, historical, and a good range of non-fiction books, it is just as well. I think some very strange images would be conjured up.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Started and Genre Fiction

Image Credit

Unless otherwise stated all images are from the brilliant Pixabay.

Facebook – General

Regardless of what I write where, the hard part is getting started. Once I’m away, I’m away. But I have learned over time to trust the instinct that something will come which I can work up into a story or a blog post. The great thing is it’s going to be a first draft and the only person seeing that is me.

I never worry about getting the writing right first go. I know I won’t. What matters is getting started and putting something down on paper or on screen. You can only work with what you’ve put down to work with after all!

So ways to get started on a piece of writing then?

1. Look through any brainstorming notes and see if ideas jotted down there take your fancy now. If so, away you go.

2. Have another brainstorming session and write anything down that occurs to you. I’d do this for about five minutes. Then look through the ideas. Did one in particular stand out? If so, great, off you go. If not, what was the idea you like the best and why do you think that is? Then still write it up. There will be a reason why you like this particular idea so go with it.

I’ve found that once you start writing, the ideas continue to flow. It is a bit like turning on a creative tap. Stronger and better ideas come as you write too. Jot them down. Come back to them. But just get writing and have fun. Nobody has to see this work but you.

Out of what you jot down, there may come ideas to write up fully. Even if you seem to draw a blank, you are clearing away some creative clutter from your brain in getting these ideas down and out of your system. Just put them away for a bit. Come back to them later. You might see potential in them THEN.

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Am forging away with my CFT post for this coming Friday – and it will include a quiz too. No prizes – just bask in the glow of getting the questions right! More details later in the week.

Revamping a website always takes longer than you think. I’m adding pages to my work on Cafelit and Bridge House Publishing/Chapeltown Books. I also hope to have a page on writing tips etc. Looking forward to sharing more details when all done. Do explore the rest of the site. There will be more goodies to come in due course. The site is now known as allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Next big event for me will probably be the Bridge House celebration event in December. Looking forward to that a lot. So good to meet up with fellow writers that, for the rest of the year, I meet courtesy of Facebook! Incidentally, I do think that is one of the nicest aspects of social media – writers being able to encourage one another even if they can’t meet in person.

More immediately, I’ve got short stories to draft and non-fiction ideas to work on too. Why is it that it can take ages to get started on a piece of work, you get into your stride with it and THEN the time whizzes by and you have to stop? Oh well. The one comfort there is I know I’m not alone on that one!

Allison Symes and published works

Facebook – General – and Publication News

Glad to say Staying In is my latest story on Cafelit. It ties in with my last story, Humourless. I’ve been working on some linked flash fiction this year and hope to write more of these.

Definitely on the darker side of my particular writing scale but I hope you enjoy them both.

 

Catching up with reading on the Kindle at the moment. I’m also re-reading my novel on there too (I do love the Send to Kindle function!) and am trying to read it as a reader would.

I tend to save using the Save to Kindle function for my big projects. I think I might try batching my short stories and flash fiction in one document so I can review them like this too.

When I put the Kindle on, I am straight into reader mode which is precisely what I want to achieve here. The inner editor has been told to go away somewhat forcefully and I can relax and read.

Ironically, I’ve found on the novel it has made me spot things I can improve but that is because I’m reading it in a relaxed way. I’m not at this stage trying specifically to do anything to it. I think state of mind as you read is key here.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I like to write flash fiction in a variety of moods. My absolute favourite are the humorous kind but that’s because I’ve always had a very soft spot for funny writing. I also think it’s under-estimated. (Anything that looks easy to write, you can bet the writer has worked very hard for years to get to that point).

Humour, I think, is the most difficult to get right in any form because it is so subjective. You have to accept not everyone might “get” your sense of irony.

My dear late mum loved a wide range of books but just didn’t “get” funny writing at all. I suspect that’s one reason I DO love it. Well, I guess it is one way of rebelling… albeit very tamely. (She would have been delighted though about From Light to Dark and Back Again and my other published stories).

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I’ve mentioned using random word and phrase generators before as good triggers for story ideas. I thought I’d take a look at the random phrase generator and again and came up with:-

Two Down, One To Go
Down for the Count
On the Ropes

All of those would make great titles and/or themes for stories. May well have a crack at some of these myself. The nice thing is you can keep clicking until you come to a phrase you like the sound of and, also, how about combining phrases?

Two Down, One to Go could make a great title while On the Ropes could be the theme of that same story.

Happy writing!

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Are there themes that really resonate with you whether you’re writing the stories, reading them, or both? I think I’d list mine as:-

1. Seeing the tables turned on superiors by a character who has been underrated or rejected.

2. Injustice put right, especially if someone has been falsely accused. (This is why Azkaban remains my favourite Harry Potter story).

3. A quest carried out by someone who is assumed will never fulfil it but they do. Take a bow, Frodo Baggins!

4. Where someone technically inferior is clearly far superior to their boss (but their boss knows it and acknowledges it) – Jeeves and Wooster are the top men here.

For flash fiction, of course, you would need to show a “brief taste” of these themes but there is nothing to stop you fleshing our a short piece into something much longer if you wanted to do so later.

That is one aspect of flash fiction I love – you CAN have a second bite of the cherry here. It’s just that the second bite is going to go much deeper (and go on for longer) than the first one!

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Am having great fun revamping my website at the moment. Am planning to put on an All About Flash Fiction page with hints and tips. Will share once it’s ready. Plan is to update it regularly. I’ll also use it to compile some of the advice I’ve shared here and I hope to share thoughts on writing exercises too.

I love flash fiction for the way it shines a sharp light on one moment in a character’s life. There is something about the intensity of flash that really appeals to me. And I love getting to create so many different characters too.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Genre Fiction

I’ve never understood snobbery around genre fiction. Genre fiction encourages people to read according to their tastes and isn’t the idea to get people into books in the first place?

My favourite genres include:-

1. Fantasy
2. Crime
3. Historical

(And yes you can combine those. Terry Pratchett’s Sam Vimes novels in his Discworld series combines 1 and 2 and I’m sure you can think of others that blend genres).

I suppose the only “properly literary” fiction I’ve read is Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which I adored, but my go-to-for-a-good-read first is always something which is genre based.

Yes, I know what to expect from, say, a crime novel, but what is fascinating is seeing how different crime writers handle their material. (As a writer, I can pick up tips there myself so win-win!).

I’m always fascinated as well by character creation and different writers take varying approaches to this. So reading widely across genres opens my eyes to different ways that this can be done.

So reading books then is a good idea then? Well of course it is!

Now to decide which genre I’m going to go for next…

Happy reading!

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