Interview Part 2 with Jenny Sanders, Shout-outs, and Getting Steamed Up

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Many thanks to Jenny Sanders for supplying author, book, and other pictures for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. As ever, screenshots were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good working week. Nice surprises this week – unexpected shoutouts for Tripping the Flash Fantastic and I will be glad to share further publication news very soon too. (And it stopped raining for a bit too so Lady and I consider that a win!).

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s with great pleasure I welcome back Jenny Sanders to Chandler’s Ford Today for Part 2 of a stunning interview (and many thanks for the comments coming in on this already).

This week, Jenny and I discuss writing devotionals, short stories, and flash fiction. The latter especially is another example of where Jenny and I cross (writing) paths – hence the title for this interview this week. Hope you enjoy.

The writing journey can take you on all sorts of interesting pathways as Jenny and I have both found.

Crossing Paths with Jenny Sanders – Flash Fiction, Devotionals, and Short Stories- Part 2

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Many thanks to #ValPenny for a lovely shout-out today for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. That was a lovely surprise, as was the fabulous comment from #JoyWood. Now that is what I call a review! Thank you, ladies.

Also had a further nice surprise when I gave someone, a fellow dog walker, one of my business cards as they’re interested in my books. Now that’s music to a writer’s ears, is it not?

Don’t forget, as well as getting copies of TTFF and From Light to Dark and Back Again, online (usual outlets), you can contact me via my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like a signed copy (or copies) directly from me. See my contact page.

Talking of flash fiction, I’ll be discussing that very topic, amongst others, with Jenny Sanders in Part 2 of her interview on Chandler’s Ford Today. Link up tomorrow. See above.

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Lady got to play with her best buddy, the lovely Ridgeback today, and after Monday’s weather, it was so lovely to have a nice day out in the park today. Nice to come home still dry too!

Am enjoying the Flash NANO challenges especially as there is great variety in them. Looking forward to tackling today’s one later on. I deliberately mix up the random generators I use to produce stories. I don’t want to limit myself to one type. I think this has stood me in good stead for Flash NANO. Best of all, it’s fun anyway!

I was impressed – my train tickets for the Bridge House Publishing event arrived today. I only ordered them a couple of days ago. So looking forward to catching up with people again here (and I hope making new friends too).

AE - November 2022 - Taking part in Flash NANO

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s Friday. It’s time for another story. (Think it is quite nice to start the working week with one on my YouTube channel and to finish said working week with another one on Friday Flash Fiction). Am pleased to say Getting Steamed Up is my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. This one started life in response to a Flash NANO prompt. Hope you enjoy it.

Screenshot 2022-11-25 at 09-38-34 Getting Steamed Up by Allison Symes

Many thanks to #FridayFlashFiction for commenting on my post yesterday about one of the disciplines of flash fiction. Couldn’t agree more – see screenshot if you missed the post. Don’t forget a new batch of stories will be up tomorrow and do check out what’s on there.

Fabulous reading and catching up with stories via websites like this can be a great way to ensure you get some contemporary flash fiction reading in as part of your “reading diet”. I consciously try to ensure I read in and out of my genre, past and present work, books, magazines etc. It keeps life interesting for a start. It’s fun too!

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One of the disciplines of flash fiction (which comes in useful for other forms of writing) is in knowing where and when to stop! You tell your story, your character has done/said all they needed to do/say, and then you stop. I find the word count restriction helps here.

The End really does have to be the end. It can be tempting to add in a kind of concluding bit. Flash writing cures you of that habit quickly as you can only include anything which moves the story on in some way. There really is no room for anything else and that’s good. Your focus is sharpened thanks to this.

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Fairytales with Bite – Who Guards The Guards?

In a magical setting, there should be some way to measure magical standards. One way is obviously through schooling and exams but what about later? Who ensures standards are kept up by fairy godmothers and the like? Who ensures short cuts aren’t being taken which could endanger others? Who sets the standards people need to stick to in the first place and have these ever been changed or challenged?

Is there a magical enforcement agency of any kind and, If so, who guards those guards to ensure they’re doing their job properly? Is the agency a good one or are they the equivalent of the old Keystone Cops (i.e. fit for comic purposes only)?

Are the guardians of magical standards respected or feared? (Could be both but I find it interesting where a body like that is respected rather than feared. It would tend to show me that these people are doing their job in a way that benefits the people and there could be stories here about where the public helps the agency solve magical crimes, prevents standards slipping and so on precisely because that respect exists. People don’t tend to assist those they fear unless they have no choice).

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This World and Others – Law Making

In your fictional setting, does law making tend to follow the pattern we have here of parliamentary democracy or dictatorship? How do laws get made and passed? Do people have any say in this? Can people petition the likes of their local councillors/MPs? And when laws are passed how are people informed about them? How long does a new law take to be implemented fully?

Does your world have a separate civil/criminal law making body/bodies?

In the case of longstanding laws, what could make the authorities change these? Do they update laws where situations/technologies and the like have changed? That kind of change can make some laws redundant. For example, we no longer need a man with a red flag walking in front of a motor vehicle to warn pedestrians a car was on the road!

Is the law respected or mocked (even if the latter is done privately)? Are there laws which desperately need scrapping or an update and who/what is blocking that? Plenty of stories to be had there I think!

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Publication/Submission News and The Flash NANO Challenge


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Weather all over the place so far this week. Busy week with publication and submission news and the Flash NANO challenge continues… am never short of things to do writing wise. And that is the way I like it!

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Facebook – General

Lady and I spent a lot of the day getting wet. When I went out earlier it was to go swimming! You couldn’t make that up!

Writing wise, I’ll be sharing Part 1 of a fabulous interview with fellow Mom’s Favorite Reads contributor, Jenny Sanders, over on Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. Link up on Friday. More interviews to come too.

Progressing well on Flash NANO. Also looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group meeting at the end of the month. And I’ve proofread my story – Ever Green and Good to Go – which will be appearing in Evergreen, this year’s Bridge House Publishing anthology. More details on that publication as and when I have them.


Busy day as usual for a Monday. Hope things have not been too hectic with you. Pleased to get my usual batch of stories prepared and scheduled/submitted yesterday. Sunday afternoon is flash fiction writing afternoon! The rest of the week is blogging and more flash writing but I do reserve Sundays specifically for getting new material prepared and out.

It is like responding to “live prompt” writing with a very short deadline to meet and I enjoy doing that. I was pleased that something I prepared for Flash NANO will fit perfectly for something coming up shortly so I have gone and submitted it. Also submitted my third flash collection over the weekend so am pleased with weekend’s achievements.

I have some wonderful author interviews coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today so am looking forward to sharing these with you over the next few weeks.

Author Interviews coming up on CFT

May be an image of laptop and text that says "It took a while to find my writing style, voice for fiction and non- fiction but now I know what these are, I can play to their strengths."

Hope you have had a good day. The service at the War Memorial in the village where we go to church was most moving. Remembering and being grateful for sacrifices made is so important.

What would your characters consider important to remember? What does this reveal about them? What stories and poems do they choose to hold dear? Also what would they be prepared to sacrifice and what would drive them to do it?

And remember you can use a character’s memory as a point of conflict with another character. How would that then play out in your story?

May be an image of text that says "Dream Inspire Courage Harmony We should understand where our characters come from even if we don't agree with them. What dreams do they have? Would we dream the same?"

Many thanks for the comments coming in on my In The Blink of an Eye, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. I’ve loved getting back to the 100-worders (aka drabbles) again. These were what first got me into flash fiction writing at all and is a joy to be writing these weekly for FFF.

For Flash NANO, I’ve found my word count has been variable but that’s okay. They’ll be even more variable when I get to edit these pieces! But it will result in, I hope, thirty new stories written by the end of the month and I know I’ll be doing plenty with those.

Screenshot 2022-11-11 at 08-57-23 In The Blink Of An Eye by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am glad my story on YouTube, Time Management, has gone down well. Also thank you for the comment left on this one over on my YouTube channel. Don’t forget you can subscribe to my channel and new subscribers are also welcome. Many thanks to those who already do!

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14th November
You know the drill. It’s Monday. It’s getting dark early. It is still flaming Monday, and it’s time for a new YouTube story from yours truly. I concede I may be a little early with this one given the subject matter (Time Management) but hope you enjoy it anyway!


Flash NANO challenge continues to go well. And I submitted my third flash fiction collection yesterday so fingers crossed time!

Over on my author page, I was thinking about the use of memories for story ideas. Flash can be an ideal form for monologues. So you could focus on one character and one specific memory and how that changed them to create a poignant flash piece. (I did this with my They Don’t Understand in From Light to Dark and Back Again. I think it works well precisely because it has to be kept short and pertinent).

The memory you select has to be something that has changed your character and which would rivet a reader into wanting to find out why the character was changed by it.

Allison Symes - Flash Fiction Collections


Flash News: Hannah Kate will be running her Three Minute Santas again on North Manchester FM. See the link for more details but I hope to submit something for this and it is easy to do too. Have since sent something in. Again fingers crossed time!

What I do is prepare my story, edit it, and then when I’m happy, I set up a meeting with myself on Zoom and record it. When you end your meeting Zoom turns the file into a mp4 file for you. Not only can you hear it back, you get the timing for your file too. (And reading your work out is always great for hearing whether your story flows as well as you thought).

3 Minute Santas

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Memory Associations

Books are special for so many reasons. Not least is the fact books have so many positive memory associations for us. I still have my Reader’s Digest Collection of Fairytales which my father bought for me many, many years ago. I think he saved up cigarette coupons to get the books. You could back then!

You went into what was a effectively a catalogue shop (a bit like Argos) and redeemed the coupons. One irony here is I know I did get a recorder thanks to those coupons thanks to Dad’s smoking habit, which I am glad he gave up much later on. Anyway, I still treasure those fairytale books. The spines are taped up because I read them so much when I was younger.

Then there are the books I inherited from my mum. There are the books I bought for myself to start my own collection off. There are the books I’ve written or contributed to and there are plenty of books on my shelves written by friends. I love them all!

There are books I associate with reading at certain times of the year. There are those I dip back into occasionally but I am just glad to know they’re on my shelves somewhere. For me a home isn’t a home without books in it. They are a great comfort.

So which books have great associations for you? Which books could you not bear to part with under any circumstances?

Screenshot 2022-11-12 at 20-08-03 Book Memory Associations
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Flash NANO, Book Wish Lists, and Podcast News

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good start to the week. Wild weather here but progressing well with Flash NANO and I’m about to be on a podcast talking about that very thing. Hope to share the link to the podcast in the next issue on Friday.

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Thrilled to say I was interviewed by #WendyHJones for her podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show, today. Show will go out tomorrow and I’m looking forward to sharing the link.

Our topic? Flash NANO! Flash NANO is an offshoot of NaNoWriMO and is where flash fiction writers get to write 30 flash pieces over 30 days. I’ll be working on my prompt for today later on this evening! Tomorrow’s episode follows on beautifully from her show last week which talked about NaNoWriMo – the A to Z see link for that. It was great fun taking part in this and I am always keen to spread the word about flash fiction – win-win here then!

Screenshot 2022-11-08 at 20-40-00 NaNoWriMo A to Z - The Writing and Marketing Show

Hope you have had a lovely start to your working week. Blustery and wet again here but I did have a lovely surprise this morning. Ruth Leigh, whom I recently interviewed for Chandler’s Ford Today, gave me a lovely shout-out on More Than Writers (the Association of Christian Writers blog spot). See link and screenshot.

Talking of CFT, my post this week will be called Remembering, especially apt at this post goes out on Armistice Day.

And in other news, I will be interviewed myself very soon. See above! Will give more details when I can but looking forward to this a lot.

All in all, it’s not been a bad Monday!

Screenshot 2022-11-07 at 09-21-45 It's All in the Questions

More rain last night, fewer fireworks, Lady dozing off to the second part of Classic FM’s Pet Classics – win-win all around here!
I use a good old-fashioned paper diary bought from my local Post Office to help me plan out my writing. I find this especially useful for the different blogs I write pieces for. There is still much to be said for pen and paper technology!

Having said that, I take my turn every month on the Association of Christian Writers Twitter feed. I draft those tweets in advance and schedule them so I use that kind of technology too.

Am definitely one of life’s planners. I find it invaluable for keeping track of my writing. And today being a Sunday, as well as continuing with Flash NANO later on, I will get some flash pieces ready for submission and scheduling respectively. It’s a nice way to round off the writing week.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. There were some fireworks last night but the combination of Classic FM’s Pet Classics, the TV being on, and shut curtains etc meant Lady was okay (and she nodded off during the evening, which is always a good sign). The only positive thing about the wild and wet weather today is it should mean fewer fireworks (I hope). I see some of the supermarkets are now stocking the silent variety. Now that is the way to go with these things. It is the noise which causes the most distress and I do feel deeply sorry for the wild animals. At least I can keep my pet indoors.

A big thanks for the wonderful comments coming in on Old Notebooks, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Feedback always appreciated.

My theme for next week’s Chandler’s Ford Today will be Remembering given it will be Armistice Day.

Memories can make great themes for stories too. You can have characters who struggle with theirs for various reasons from illness to the memories themselves being something they don’t really want to have to face up to and don’t forget false memories. Who has them? What has triggered this? How can they be shown these memories are false?

Progressing well with Flash NANO too. Looking forward to having a go at today’s prompt later on.

Screenshot 2022-11-04 at 09-26-35 Old Notebooks by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Earlier today I was spreading the word about flash fiction and Flash NANO in particular as guest interviewee on Wendy H Jones’s podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show. Show goes out tomorrow and I will be sharing the link then.

But I’m always pleased to share the virtues of flash fiction and one perhaps overlooked aspect is the possibilities of getting into print with it. I hope by the end of Flash NANO to have 30 new stories. Once I’ve polished those up, I hope to send some in for competitions. Others I hope to put towards a future collection. And with the rise in the indie press, there are opportunities out there to have flash collections published. I know, I’ve done it!

I also remain convinced that flash is an excellent form of writing exercise for any writer because you have to think about what the story is about and what the reader needs to know and cut out everything that doesn’t serve a useful purpose.

Flash Fiction focuses on THE important aspect of a character's life

It’s a dark Monday. It’s a wet and windy one. Time for my latest story on YouTube. Hope you enjoy All In The Game, which is based on fact too.

 

How to tell when a flash piece is finished? My take on this is when I know I cannot take another word out without losing something invaluable to the characters/story. As for adding words, again the same criteria applies because you can, to use the English phrase, “over-egg” the pudding and ruin it.

As I mentioned yesterday, I have to justify to myself why I’ve included anything in my story. If I’m not convinced if something is necessary, then a reader is likely to feel the same way. I don’t want them switching off as a result.

When looking back at my earlier stories, I can see now how I could improve these but that is the point. That was the stage of writing I was at then. I have moved on since and rightly so too. I want to try and keep on improving on what I do. That attitude helps fuel my imagination and creativity and I am all for that. I don’t think any writer can feel they’ve “made it”. There are always ways to develop your characters further and to come up with other interesting situations to dump them in. That is the fun bit!

May be an image of 1 person and text that says "Wm ( S)TOP LEARNING Good idea. It can be great fun though getting your characters to learn their lessons the hard way. Makes for good drama."

Flash fiction is the definition of Less is More being true but it is nice being able to exploit that to maximum effect. This is another reason why knowing the last line first is such an effective device for writing flash. If I’m given a prompt which could be an opening or a closing line, I nearly always make it the last one for this reason. I’ve got the impact in that line so where best to place it? Often it is at the end.

Sometimes a story simply does work better at 300 words, say, rather than 100. Usually there are factors such as more in depth characterisation adding to the story which you would not want to lose. My basis for editing any piece of my work is if it adds something to useful to the story and moves it on in some way it stays in. If not, out it comes. So part of my editing process is to go through my story line by line and query its worthiness to be included. I have to be able to justify its inclusion.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Wish Lists

It is the right time of year to start thinking about book wish lists (assuming you don’t have an all year round one. The advantage of the latter is it covers birthdays, anniversaries, feel like a new book days etc). I don’t have a wish list for my Kindle. If there’s a book I’m after for that, I just get it.

But I will be compiling my annual list for the family to pick books from for me for Christmas. That’s always fun to put together. I go for a mixture of hardbacks and paperbacks. Some will be books I’ve been after for a while. Others are recent releases I like the look of – and often detective novels at that. I also make a point in checking out non-fiction releases as I’ve found some gems there.

So what it is that makes you put a book on your own wish list? For me the story is the lure. If I like the sound of it, on to the wish list it goes, whether it is by a big name author or not. Some are the latest in a series I’ve become fond of and others are stand alones. As long as I like the sound of the tale and the characters, I’m putting it on my list.

The nice thing about lists is it is a win-win for my loved ones too. I am easy to buy for! Mind you, I think most writers are. There are always books or stationery items we want. No good asking for an agent or a publishing deal though – you’re on your own for those!

 

 

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Sherlock Holmes, Old Notebooks, and Flash NANO

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. A HUGE thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Group for providing photos from their recent production of Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery at Mallen Hall. Hope all well with you. Some frightful storms in the UK this week, with more to come, but I’ve been out and about to my local amateur theatre’s latest production and have started Flash NANO which I am thoroughly enjoying.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am delighted to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. This week I review Sherlock Holmes and The Mystery at Mallen Hall, which was recently wonderfully performed by The Chameleon Theatre Group.

My format for this review is different this time too – I do it in the form of a recipe! I look at what makes for a good detective story and give you the ingredients, the method, and the results as it refers to this particular show and the performance. Hope you enjoy it. Loved the show. Loved the performance.

Those local to me – if you haven’t been to see The Chameleons in action, do take the chance to do so when you can. You’ll be in for a wonderful evening of entertainment. I’ve shared a heads up for their next show in this post too.

Review: The Chameleon Theatre Group – Sherlock Holmes and The Mystery at Mallen Hall

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Pleased Lady got to play with her friend Coco today. Both dogs had a lovely time. Not impressed by the ghastly weather coming in again this evening (though if it does lessen the number of fireworks let off tonight, Lady won’t be that sorry. Incidentally, Classic FM are repeating their soothing music for pets programme, Pet Classics, this weekend. I know I found that soothing last year and I hope some of that rubbed off on Lady. It is worth a try for a nervous pet).

My Chandler’s Ford Today post is up tomorrow and this week I’ll be reviewing Sherlock Holmes and The Mystery at Mallen Hall, which was recently performed by the ever excellent Chameleon Theatre Group. My format for this review is a bit different this time too. Hope you like it. Look forward to sharing the link tomorrow. See above and again thanks to the Chameleons for their photos.

One lovely thing about writing, especially when the weather is pretty grim as it is is for a lot of us at the moment, is it is at least an indoors creative art! I am truly thankful for that!


Hope you have had a good day. Blustery and wet here. Lady though had the time of her life with two of her best friends, the lovely Ridgeback and the equally lovely Labradoodle, in the park this morning. A three way zoomie session ensued – great time had by all.

Will be working on my second prompt for Flash NANO later. Enjoyed writing the first one. My aim here is not to write 50000 words over November, funnily enough. Even if I wrote 30 x 1000 words pieces, I would be well short of that target (though if you took in my blogging etc I would easily exceed it).

What I am aiming for is to write 30 new flash fiction pieces throughout November to “knock into shape” later on. Am also putting finishing touches to my third book and am on course to submit that possibly later this week or next. (I was aiming for autumn with this so am happy with this).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction though it does come with a word of warning. Be ware of writers’ notebooks! If you want to find out why, check out the story, Old Notebooks.

This topic came up as a result of a random theme generator in case you’re wondering why I didn’t go for a writer’s current notebook! Link here (and a big thanks for the great comments already coming in on this one).

Screenshot 2022-11-04 at 09-26-35 Old Notebooks by Allison Symes

Am enjoying Flash NANO and will be working on the Day 3 prompt a little later on this evening.

Don’t forget if you would like signed copies of my books From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic, just contact me via the website and I will get back to you. (And I am always pleased to see new followers to my website and/or sign ups for my author newsletter too).

One huge advantage to writing flash is you do pare your stories down to the bare essentials. It makes you focus on what really matters to your characters. I’ve found that makes me think more deeply about why something really matters to them. And it is another way to get to know my characters better as a result. This is even more useful if you write linked flashes. (I’ve written more of these for my third collection and found it enjoyable to do. Not got enough to do a whole novella in flash but one day, maybe).

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It isn’t just for my twist stories that I know the ending first. I often know the ending first for my humorous tales. I know the punchline or ending and then figure out how I can get to that point. When I brainstorm one liners, often I will come up with something that would make a great ending or a powerful beginning to a story, So I work out options for both and then go with what I like best.

Also looking at what Character A would make of a situation and then contrasting it with what Character B would make of it can make for a great story idea. (Often good for comedy).

Overall I’ve got to know my starting point whether it’s knowing the ending first, or knowing what this character could be capable of in these circumstances. It’s the way into a story which matters for me. Once I know that way in, away I go.

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Fairytales With Bite – Seasons in Magic

In your fantastic setting, are there seasons in magic? Does one season encourage more use of magic, for example? I could see there being a need for more of it during what we would consider to be the winter months, if only to try and ward the darkness (and whatever may lurk in it) away.

Are there seasons where magical accidents are more likely to happen? That could tie in with the academic year, for example. You would expect beginners to be more clumsy after all. (Also think about who would clear up after such accidents, is there such as thing as Magical Accident Investigators and so on? Stories can come from someone not doing their job properly here or doing it so well they’re a threat to someone else).

Do your magical characters find they have their own seasons in magic when, perhaps at a younger age, there were things they could do magically they cannot now? Do they feel the lack or are they happy not to have so much responsibility?

Conversely, do older characters, with more experience behind them, discover their main season in magic is at this point rather than when they were younger? Are they taking on more powers and responsibilities? Do they resent the younger ones or is it the other way around? Are the younger ones waiting impatiently for someone’s season to end?

Equally could there be those who give fate a helping shove in the back and remove people in their way precisely because they want their season in magic to take off and flourish?

How would you define your character’s season in magic? When they get to a certain level or have clocked off a certain number of years worth of experience?

Can magic interfere with your world’s natural seasons and what would happen to any character who tries to exploit that?

This World and Others – Light and Dark

We think of light and dark in terms of the sun and the moon and also in terms of traits in ourselves. Most of us will acknowledge we are a mixture of light and dark but are your characters so honest? Do you have characters who think they are light but everyone else around them knows full well they’re not? Do you have characters who struggle to control the dark and have they friends/mentors to help them? What is their reward for not giving in to the dark?

What does your world have in the way of natural lighting? Does it have artificial lights, electricity etc? Thinking about seasons again, do they have a long or short light/dark season and what makes your setting have the kind they have?

We know the lack of light can have an affect on physical and/or mental health. Do your characters find the same and, if so, how understanding is their world?

Thinking about your world’s history, what would be considered to be their golden or light periods? What would be their dark ones? Is this accepted by all or do people/other characters query the official versions of events?

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Out and About in Northumberland

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots and holiday photos taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good weekend. Am making the most of a late autumn break in Northumberland – as is Lady, see below. I think the fresh air and loads of exercise is certainly doing something for her. Sleepy puppy is the obvious caption here I think!

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Facebook – General

Went inland and over to the west for our trip out today. Went to the Kielder Forest (Forest Drive end – the whole forest is huge – and went for a lovely walk to a great waterfall. If this doesn’t say “potential for fairy glen” I don’t know what will!).

We then came back to Rothbury where we walked alongside the river taking in the scenery. Lady in her element of course. She loves woodland walks. She loves riverside walks. She loves walks and has done so much for my better half and I in making us get out and about. This is where dogs are good for you.

Writing wise, I look forward to sharing Author Voice, my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Link up on Friday. I’ll be chatting to Ruth Leigh, author of the Isabella M Smugge series, on 21st October and looking forward to sharing that too.

And I’ll be starting to put together my November newsletter soon (probably on my return from holiday. If you’d like to sign up for hints, tips, story links etc, do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – always good to see people following me there!).

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Our adventures today took us from Seahouses to Bamburgh. Wonderful walking, glorious beaches, and fabulous views. A great time had by all. Lady currently crashed out where we are staying.

Looking forward to scribbling out some postcards soon. Great practice in writing to a short word count!
It reminds me that flash fiction has been known as postcard fiction in its time (and understandably too. It makes a good visual clue as to the kind of word count required – literally what you can get on the back of a postcard. Mind you, my handwriting is tiny so I can get quite a bit on one of those!).

Brisk, breezy, and bright at Duridge Bay today. Glorious scenery and plenty of walking done. No way would the beaches be this quiet down south.

Writing tip 2001 or thereabouts: write what you can, where you can, when you can.

Sounds simple but I know I’ve wasted so much time in the past fretting about not having a lot of time in which to write.

Now, if I’ve got five minutes, I’ve got five minutes and I know I can do something with that. Likewise if I’m out and about I’ll use Evernote to jot things down. If I’ve got the laptop, it’s good old Scrivener. And there is always room for the good old notebook and pen. Often tying in with the time factor, if I can’t write a full blog, I’ll write part of it and finish later or draft a shorter flash piece instead.

What matters is I am writing something I know I can use later on.

May be an image of 1 person and nature

Loving the changing colours of the leaves as I head north towards Northumberland. Looking forward to doing plenty of walking – all kitted up with woollies and boots. Lady just goes as she is!😊

Many thanks for the comments coming in on A Quick Sandwich, my latest on Friday Flash Fiction. Will be having a quick sandwich myself on trip up! (Update: before you ask it was shared with Lady!).

Will be looking at Author Voice as a topic for Chandler’s Ford Today. This will tie in nicely with my interview with #RuthLeigh the week after.

Screenshot 2022-10-07 at 08-58-14 A Quick Sandwich by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

As I’m away, there’ll be no YouTube story or Friday Flash Fiction one from me this week. Back to normal on both of those next week I hope. Meanwhile do check out my YouTube channel anyway – new subscribers are always welcome. It is fun to create and share flash fiction tales here. Hope you like them too.
Screenshot 2022-10-11 at 19-47-32 Allison Symes - YouTube

One joy of going to new places is you get further opportunities for people/place watching. For example, today, I was on the beach at Bamburgh and loved looking up at the castle there. I wondered about who might have lived there. I wondered about the people who passed by me on the beach. Will that lead to new flash tales from me? Possibly. (I have in my time been struck by the colour of an item of clothing someone I’ve passed by was wearing and put that in a story!).

But just going somewhere different can help inspire story ideas. I love the idea of just having the possibilities here! The nice thing here is you don’t necessarily have to go very far. It is a bit ironic that my family came from London yet we didn’t visit Kew Gardens until we left the capital. So is there somewhere you’ve always meant to go to which is localish to you? Can changing your location for an odd day out help you inspire story ideas? Worth a go and a break does everyone the world of good.

May be an image of nature

Am enjoying catching up with old episodes of Just a Minute while writing as I enjoy my autumn break. I love quizzes and programmes involving word play. I guess it goes with the territory of being a writer. It’s amazing what random topics come up on JAM but then I like random things and words. I will often use the random word generator for story ideas and love working out how to place the generated words in a way which makes sense and moves the plot along.

And it is fun exploring the different types of random generators available. I’ve used a number of them now and have come up with stories which I wouldn’t have written because I wouldn’t have had the inspiration for them in any other way. The random generators make me think outside of my creativity box and that’s no bad thing.

May be an image of text that says "I use random question generators to trigger ideas for topics. DID YOU SMILE Instead of applying a question like this to yourself, apply it to your character. TODAY T What would be the answer? What made them smile? What made them NOT smile?"

While away, I hope to work on various flash-related things. There is a competition at the end of the year I’d like to have a go at and I need to look at some tales not accepted elsewhere to see what I can do to improve thelr chances out there.

Also hope to start work on something for the next Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group meeting later in the month.

Having said that, I also plan to have lots of lovely walks with my better half and the dog (and maybe I’ll get some inspiration for stories from what I see over the next few days. Certainly the views I’ve seen so far are stunning).

May be an image of road and text that says "The writing journey is full of twists and turns."

Goodreads Author Blog – READ

Read!

R = Read widely and well – in and out of your genre, why limit your choices?
E = Ebooks, audio books, the good old paperback – love them all!
A = Adult fiction, YA fiction, classics, contemporary – have a good mix.
D = Drag out old favourites, buy new ones, visit your library – have a fabulous reading diet!

Screenshot 2022-10-08 at 19-42-38 Read!

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Looking Back

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. In what has been a historic week, I take the opportunity to look back, share a new story, and prepare to embrace the new season. It has taken an autumnal turn here!

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Facebook – General and – Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share Looking Back, my new post for Chandler’s Ford Today. At the end of the week which began with Her Majesty’s funeral, I thought I’d look back at some of the events I recall over the last few decades and set them against some of the major royal events which were in the news at the time. I look at the importance of taking time out to reflect too.

Long term, I believe it does you good. We need time to process things and taking time out gives you some of that at least. There is a time for looking back, even enjoying some nostalgia but the important thing I think it not to wallow in this but to learn from our past and move on. But you need to take time out to reflect and then move on. It is in the reflecting we learn.

Looking Back

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Lady got to play with her pal, Coco, today. Lovely time had by both dogs. Always nice to see dogs playing.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is about Looking Back, which to me seemed an apt topic in the week of the late Queen’s funeral. Given Her Majesty was the only monarch I’d known, I’ve taken a look back at the decades I’ve been on the planet and shared some of my highlights against the backdrop of major events in her long reign. (Naturally I could not cover all of those). I also reflect on why I feel it is important to reflect. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Many thanks to those who came to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group on Zoom last night. It was great fun and I hope we all produce stories from it. We at least have got a head start on some! (And it was the tonic I needed after a frustrating day thanks to the Case of the Non-Appearing Washing Machine Engineer! See below!).

I’m giving another Zoom talk next week on flash fiction and am looking forward to that.

 

Hope you have had a good day. Has been a bit of a frustrating one here – have been waiting in for an engineer to visit. No engineer! Ring the company up and “apparently” they rang me late last week to say the part needed wasn’t in. They didn’t. I did point out that they didn’t call and also they could’ve emailed me (they have to have my email address). Not impressed. It’s a lesson of how NOT to do customer service. Did manage to walk Lady though – she’s had the better day!

It will be especially nice to be at the Association of Christian Writers Flash Group meeting tonight. It will be fun and great to see everyone especially after a frustrating day. I suspect an awkward customer service person may end up in a flash piece of mine at some point – writing can be so therapeutic at times!

Always a joy to talk or write about flash fiction

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s Friday night and time for another story of mine which appeared on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy Good for Something – my writer character has fears about their upcoming book signing.

Screenshot 2022-09-23 at 08-55-01 Good For Something by Allison Symes

Am looking forward to sharing my flash fiction workshop to some lovely Scottish writers next week. This is where Zoom is a blessing!

What I love about flash is especially on those days where I’m tired or just too busy, I can still write something. I can still create something. And that makes me feel so much better.

Unless I am on holiday, or ill, where I expect not to write much, if at all, I have to have my fix of daily creative writing. Am a grouch without it – you heard it here first!

Flash is a wonderful outlet for small pieces you wouldn’t otherwise do something with so I love it for that too.

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Feeling very autumnal at the moment. Not that I mind. I think autumn is a lovely season. But as the days grow shorter and the nights longer, can that be made use of in a story? A crime flash piece is perhaps the obvious use for that but you could also do reflective pieces where the characters are tune into the mood of the season to share something important with us.

May be an image of outdoors, castle and text

Fairytales with Bite – A New Beginning

The classic fairytales often end with “and they lived happily ever after”. It’s what we expect. But for me that line heralds the start of a new beginning for the characters involved. Where could their story take them next?

Many an additional fairytale has come from writers asking and answering that question. It is along those lines I got into print for the first time back in 2009 with A Helping Hand from Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing). I looked at the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of the youngest step-sister and explored if there could be a new beginning for her.

Screenshot 2022-09-23 at 20-17-54 Allison Symes

You can take the idea of a new beginning for characters who have solved one crisis and have to learn to live with their new situation in which they find themselves. How would they adjust? Do they need additional support? Do they get it? And when a character has literally moved on, how do those left behind cope with their new beginning? Is it a good thing for them or something they are not looking forward to having to cope with?

A new beginning can be a threat to a character as well as holding out a promise. How will you make your characters face and deal with their new beginnings and what triggers such things? Have your characters known this was coming?

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This World and Others – Continuity

Many of us like continuity in our lives. We like to know certain things will happen at certain times. We like to know we are going to be able to do the things we need to do to survive and so on. Some of us like a routine. (I do. It’s how I get my writing done). So we can apply this directly to characters too.

Think about how they would react if that continuity was threatened or even taken away for a while. How would they cope? Do they get the natural rhythm of their lives back again or do they have to face up to change they didn’t seek and set up a new kind of continuity?

Are there other characters who thrive on chaos? What happens when they disrupt the community continuity and how do characters react to that disruption?

What community leaders does your setting have and how do they react to threats to their authority? It is not likely to be a good reaction but are they measured in how they put things right (in their eyes) or do they take extreme measures? Are they prepared to do anything to get that continuity back?

Definite story ideas there!

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Emotions, Solace, and Books With Meaning


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. As you can imagine it has been a strange and sombre week here in the UK following the death of Her Majesty the Queen. Some of my posts below reflect that.

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Facebook – General

13th September 2022
The scenes around Buckingham Palace tonight are moving. Especially when you consider the last time there were crowds like that it was for Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. You are and will be much missed, Ma’am.

Portraying emotion in fiction can be tricky. I like to let my characters show you how they’re feeling by what they say (and you will also pick up how they’re saying it from context). Sometimes I use gestures to back that up. I can show you a character pacing up and down for example, muttering to themselves. I can also show them biting their nails. I don’t need to tell you they’re worried. You’d have seen that from what I’ve shown you through them.

I like to build up a character picture with small touches like that. For me that is more realistic. I don’t want”over the top” emotion here because it can spill too easily over into melodrama and that for me is a huge switch off. Why? For me it simply doesn’t feel real. And I have to be convinced by my characters. If I’m not, nobody else will be.

We need to care about the characters we read

12th September 2022
I thought the ceremonies from Scotland today for the late Queen were wonderful and most moving. The Honours of Scotland are beautiful (as is the country. Am not on holiday there this year but did enjoy my visit as part of the Scottish Association of Writers Conference earlier this year).

Many thanks for the comments coming in on On That Day, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. If you missed the story, you can find it here.

I’ll also be discussing Hooks for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday.

Screenshot 2022-09-09 at 09-12-26 On That Day by Allison Symes

11th September 2022
I liked the line up of tractors as a farming salute to the late Queen on Her Majesty’s final journey. I thought that was nicely done – and also the line up of horse riders further down.

Gestures have so much meaning and they are something that can be used in fiction too. Does your lead character have a gesture they use? It doesn’t even have to be a conscious one. A character twiddling with their hair may not be aware they’re doing it but it is an immediate signal that character is nervous about something.

Gestures can be a great way to show and not tell given most gestures are immediately understandable and we can picture the character giving these out.

You can also think about what you would like your character to signal. If it is respect, do they bow their head? Doff their hat? Just say still for a moment when they don’t strictly have to do that? Readers will pick things up from context here too.

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10th September 2022
Music and books are two things that bring great solace to me – the other one is chocolate but that’s not such a healthy option, I admit.

I’ve found bringing my characters to life so I can visualise what their tastes would be and things like that means I write about them with more conviction. So working out things like what would bring them cheer, their minor vices (like chocolate!), and so on can make them seem more real to you. I think something of that does get through to readers as they read your tales.

Using your own tastes can help you work out what your characters might like. I love classical music, my characters might like hard rock, but my taste in music has given me a way in to working out what I need to know about my character. It is the way into a story that matters, I think. Once I’ve got that way in, off I go happily with my first draft.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash captures a moment in a character’s life – the single most important one. This is why it is such a great tool to help you focus on what really matters to your character and to figure out just what story it is they have to share.

I always like to think of these things as my characters’ stories. I don’t want my author voice getting in the way. By taking this view, I am getting into my characters’ heads more effectively and I hope end up writing their stories with more conviction.

I also focus on getting the story down and then working out how I can improve it. I don’t worry about the word count at all until I know I’ve got everything in place and then I can figure out what word count would suit the story best. Often it isn’t what I had in the back of my mind initially but that’s okay. There’s plenty of different markets and competitions for different word counts out there.

Flash Fiction focuses on THE important aspect of a character's life

It’s Monday so time for a story again. Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTube – this one is called Memories.

I like using flash fiction to show moments in a character’s life which are complete stories in and of themselves. They’re just smaller than the ones you see in the magazines. But that’s fine. Sometimes something is best said in 100 words or so than it would be in 1000. (You can dilute the impact for one thing).

I also think slice of life stories probably work better when kept short. You get an interesting insight into a character and enough time to develop empathy for what they’re showing you but not enough time to be bored or to think they’re whining!

It’s also why monologues/first person narration work so well in flash. Enough but not too much. The Bridport Prize describes flash as “the art of just enough” which is one of the finest descriptions of the form I’ve come across.

Flash Fiction Impact


Flash is brilliant for those ties when you might not feel/be able to write much – life does get in the way. How you feel can feed into this too but flash does mean you can write something that will be a complete piece of work. There are markets and competitions for it too so there are opportunities out there for you to do something with your work.

Even when you’re on a roll with your writing, you can still use flash an excellent warm up exercise for your “main event”. I like the flexibility of flash with regards to genre and the different word count brackets. I don’t write drabbles (100-worders) all the time. I like to mix things up.

Above all, it is lovely to write something for fun and then see what you can do with it. Flash does give more opportunities here simply because by its nature it is quicker to produce than a novel. If you can get your work out there, you get the payback of publication quicker too. And it can make a great way to build up a track record to tell a publisher about when you are sending longer works somewhere.

Advantage to flash is setting characters anywhere

Goodreads Author Blog – Books With Meaning to You

All books have meaning. For me, I have a few categories here. There are the books written by and signed for me by author friends. I love seeing those books on my shelves, Then there are the books left to me by my late mother. Then there are books I saved up to buy when I was much younger and which I still have.

Then there are books such as The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey which opened up my eyes to the idea there is a whole story behind Richard III that needs further investigating. Do not take Shakespeare as gospel!

Then there are the books which make me gasp as I take in their full scale and scope – The Lord of the Rings is the obvious one.

Then there are my childhood fairytale books – The Reader’s Digest books here were my first introduction to the wonderful (and often scary) world of the fairytale. They remain a great influence on me as a writer too.

Then there are the shelves with my collections of books by P.G.Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett – the laughter shelves if you like.

So which books have special meaning to you and why?

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What Keeps You Reading?


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as were the photos from the recent Golden Jubilee weekend.
Hope you have had a good weekend. It was lovely having a quiet one after a very busy and exciting one at the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend. Think fun and hectic for that one!

ACW workshop info

Facebook – General

Free read time, folks. Do check out the most recent flash fiction pieces which came in as a result of my column Numbers in Flash Fiction for the June edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads. All great pieces and it is amazing how you can work in numbers into a story.

My article explains more about that but I would say the impact of a number with meaning to a character is greater in flash because the form of writing is so short. Where you can have fun is working out why that number has meaning and what that can do to the story outcome.

Screenshot 2022-06-14 at 11-39-46 Flash Fiction

 

Hectic day as always for me on a Monday but Lady and I did enjoy the lovely weather at the park earlier this morning.

It was good to get back to normal in writing editing and submitting a story for Friday Flash Fiction and another for my YouTube channel. I’ll share that over on my book page shortly. To check out all of my story videos, see the link below.

It is great fun creating these stories. I use Book Brush to make the video and then simply upload it via YouTube. The editor function there makes it easier to add a music track too. It’s a nice way of bringing visual and audio to a flash fiction tale.

Allison Symes – YouTube channel 

Screenshot 2022-06-14 at 20-40-58 Allison Symes - YouTube

Gloriously sunny day in Hampshire – hope it is lovely where you are too. Nice to be back in church this morning too after a month’s absence. I was away at the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend last week and before that I was under the weather with a thankfully mild dose of You Know What. So good to see everyone once more and the singing was lovely.

Writing wise, I hope to have some exciting news to share soon – all I can say now is it is workshop related. Looking forward to sharing more on that when I can. It is funny how the pandemic combined with workshops has led to me re-discovering the joys of PowerPoint! I didn’t see that coming.

Do you like film or TV adaptations of books? I loved The Lord of the Rings trilogy (Peter Jackson) and enjoyed Hogfather, Going Postal and The Colour of Magic, which were wonderful Pratchett adaptations. Tim Curry was superbly evil in the last one. Well worth checking out if you love Discworld.

AE - March 2022 - the creative spark
Hope you have had a good Saturday. Already a week gone since the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend – it was lovely to see everyone there. Now back at home listening to the main theme form Wallace and Gromit on Classic FM’s Saturday Night at the Movies! (And before you ask, I do appreciate some “cracking cheese” as does my dog! If you’ve not seen these wonderful animations do check them out, you’re in for a treat).

I’m back to my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I’ll be looking at The Rule of Three this time. Link up on Friday for that. And talking of that number, I thought I’d share three top tips here.

1. Don’t expect to write a perfect first draft. Nobody ever does. Shakespeare didn’t. Dickens didn’t. We’re not going to either but that’s fine. Getting things right is what the editing process is all about.

2. Take off about ten days from any official deadline. Why? It gives you time to go through your piece again and pick up on those annoying typos etc that you missed on your previous edits. Trust me, there will be something, there always is!

3. If you edit on screen, change your font, the font size, even the colour, anything to make your text seem different. When you come back to edit, it is more likely you will spot the things that need to be corrected. I’ve found that on paper, it is easier to pick things up.

With screens, it is easy for your brain to fill in the words you meant to put in but which you didn’t actually get to type in. Making the text different will help you spot those omissions. And you will need to correct the changes before you send the piece out as again it is a chance for a final read through to make sure all is well before submission.

Top Tips

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Time for a prompt. Not quite such a mad day for me, which I always appreciate Tuesdays for (!), but that led to me thinking what days do your characters dread/look forward to and why? Am sure there are stories to be told there!

If your setting is not of this world, what time elements does it use? Does it mirror ours or are their concept of days literally alien to us? And even in that concept, I’m sure you can think of a story where a character has a right rotten time of it and you then have fun trying to get them out of the mess they’re in.

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It’s been a busy Monday so time to chill out with a new story on YouTube. Hope you enjoy my The Unexpected where magic is not of the variety my character expected. Find out how she was nonplussed here. (It is a tiny tale so you may need to play it through twice).

 

One-liners can make excellent opening lines for a flash piece, but have you tried using one as powerful closing line? When I write twist in the tale flash stories, or humorous ones, I will usually write the twist or the punchline first and then work out how I could have got to that point. Spider diagrams to work out different possibilities are useful here and I always go for the one that makes the most impact on me. I figure a reader is likely to react in the same way.

Trying to put yourself in the head of your Ideal Reader helps here. I try to work out what I think they would like and to ensure everything that is in the story meets the needs of said reader. A well edited story is one where you can’t imagine a word being taken out or added. Thinking of your Ideal Reader helps ensure you cut the waffle out!

I sometimes jot one-liners down for use when I only have a few minutes of writing time. Why? Because I am still doing something creative. I can come back to those one-liners later on and then decide if they’re going at the start of a tale or at the end of it. When I have a longer writing session, I have something to work with immediately.

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Last week’s ACW Golden Jubilee weekend was good fun and it was a joy to share my flash fiction workshop. Many thanks to all who came to it and for the lovely feedback. One thing I looked at was the benefits of writing flash fiction even if it is not your main writing form, I’ve found I’ve lost all fear of editing thanks to writing flash.

And so often at conferences you are set exercises to have a go at (I always set them incidentally!) and, in the time given, you’re not going to have time to write that much. The great thing here is (a) you can finish that piece off later and (b) even if the piece remains short, you now have a market for pieces like that.

There are so many more flash competitions about these days too – and don’t forget the online markets. A great way to get some publication credits too!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – What Keeps You Reading?

I don’t think there is any one answer to this question but it is a good one to make you think about why you read. For me, I can’t not read. I can’t imagine life without books and stories in my life and neither do I wish to! So the love of the written word in and of itself is one reason I keep reading.

The main reason though is because I am gripped by the characters in the stories and have to find out what happens to them. Only one way I can do that – read to the end! I rarely abandon a book but on the odd occasion I have, it is because I have lost all interest in the characters. Now that serves as a lesson for me with my own writing. I try and look at what made me switch off and try to avoid replicating that!

I don’t often read a book because it is “in”, the current flavour of the month etc. I have to be intrigued by the premise of the book and then by the characters to read and keep on reading. Life is too short to waste on a book which doesn’t grip me.

For a series I love, such as Discworld, having read one and loved it (Jingo was my starting point there), I had to read others in the series. Now that’s what every author wants to happen!

For authors new to me, I often read their works on Kindle first to see if their stories grip me. If they do, as does happen most of the time, I am more likely to get their paperbacks later on. But again they have to keep me reading.

So what keeps you reading? Have you stopped reading a book? If so, why?

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Characters, First Person, and Impact

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you had a good weekend. Have a weekend workshop coming up which I’m running – looking forward to that. Also preparing for a weekend conference I will be at in June (and where I’ll run one of the workshops. Naturally mine is on flash fiction). Weather all over the place again but then that is a UK spring for you!

Screenshot 2022-04-23 at 17-00-06 Finding your voice — London Jesuit Centre

Facebook – General

Lady got to play with her pals Coco and Kitima today – a good time was had by all.

Writing wise, I’m looking forward to running my workshop at the London Jesuit Centre on Saturday. Hope to have a visit to the National Gallery in the afternoon.

And my tickets have now come in for the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend at The Hayes, Swanwick in June. I must admit I am seriously impressed when booking my train tickets online. Always with me in a day or two after booking, even at the weekend. And no queues!

Am almost ready to submit a story for one of the competitions I always have a go at but I always make myself slow down a little to do a final “is it really good to go” check. I’ve found it pays to do this.

I’ve picked up last minute errors doing this and that’s despite having gone through the manuscript several times previously. It is easy to miss something. Hope to get the story off tomorrow or Thursday, and still in good time for the official deadline.

Time away

Hope you have had a good Monday. Busy, busy, busy here.

When I read any story, it has to be the characters I get behind, whether I want them to succeed or fail. Their success or failure must make sense and be the right things to happen for those characters. If a character has a problem solved with magic, say, I need to know earlier on in the story that might be a possibility so I don’t feel cheated when the author reveals this to me at the end.

To get behind the characters I have to care about them so there has to be something about who they are and what they do I “get”.

When I invent my own people, I try to keep all of that in mind so readers can identify with the people I put on the page/screen.

Above all, I have got to know what happens, whether I’m reading or writing a story.

Readers understand character failings


I’m back to my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today this coming week. I’ll be talking about Paragraphs and Punctuation In Fiction on Friday. Both have a crucial role to play for clarity, improving pace in a story and so on.

Am looking forward to running my fiction workshop for the London Jesuit Centre next Saturday.

Now when I write a story or a post like this, I have one question always in the back of my mind – what is in it for my potential readers? I’ve found having that in mind helps me to (a) not waffle and (b) come up with useful writing tips or a story which entertains. That question helps me ensure I deliver something useful and makes me focus. For my flash fiction work, the word count there helps me focus as I cannot go on for too long.

In trying to engage with a potential audience immediately, I write with them in mind and I think that helps me “up my game”. “Upping my game” means I stretch myself creatively too so win-win. Also for book writers, it helps enormously to have your audience in mind from the word go because it will help when it comes to pitching your novel to a publisher and/or agent as they will want to know who you think your potential audience would be.

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Have booked my train tickets for the Association of Christian Writers Worth Our Weight In Gold Golden Jubilee celebration. This will be at The Hayes, Swanwick from 3rd to 5th June and I’ll be running my flash fiction workshop as part of it. Looking forward to meeting everybody in due course.

Many thanks for the comments coming in on One of Those Days, my latest Friday Flash Fiction story. This was fun to write and inspired by two nouns coming up in a random noun generator. What came up here for me was “waitress” and “tiara”, not things you would usually associate together.

But then that’s the joy of random generators. They encourage you to think creatively and to put things together you normally wouldn’t do. Lo and behold, you get another story written which would not have come to you in any other way.

Screenshot 2022-05-06 at 17-04-48 One of Those Days by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The advantage of writing in the first person is you get into your character’s head immediately. The disadvantage is you can only see or think what your character can see or think. That works well for short pieces though so this is why first person is a good technique to use for flash fiction. (Essential for monologues naturally!).

I didn’t set out with the intent of writing more in the first person but it is something that has sprung from my flash writing. For first person to work, the character has to be a strong one so I find I have to ask myself why does this character “deserve” to get their story told at all and what it is about them that means “they” have to tell the story “themselves”.

Deadline


It’s funny how music can grow on you the more you hear it. Am currently loving listening to my favourite Mendelssohn piece – The Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave) on Classic FM. As at 8.00 pm UK time Monday night but there is never a time when this piece of music does not enthral!

The more I hear this piece, the easier I find to picture the scenery in that fabulous part of the world. (I’ve not been to that part of Scotland, it is on the To Do list, but I’ve seen plenty of photos and it is those I have in mind when I hear this).

When I write my flash fiction pieces, I do have in mind the image or impact I want my stories to leave with the reader. When I review my stories, I check how the tales make me feel. Does this compare with what I had in mind when I was drafting the story? Often the answer is yes and that is how it should be.

Sometimes though the impact is stronger than what I had in mind originally and that is even better!
As for my latest story on YouTube, A Magical Design, I have every sympathy with my lead character. See what you think!


Just to flag up that Amazon have an offer on both of my paperbacks – see screenshot and link for more.

As you know, I love inventing characters so having to do that all the time for flash fiction is a wonderful bonus for me. I also adore mixing up the moods of my stories so I get to write “light” funny tales and I get to write to deeper levels of emotion too. I get to write monologues, I can take you straight into the action by getting you to see what my character sees, and I don’t make you wait too long for the pay-off for twist endings or humorous punchlines. And even if you didn’t want to make flash fiction writing your main “thing”, it is still incredibly useful as a warm up writing exercise.

Screenshot 2022-05-08 at 16-28-17 Amazon.co.uk Allison Symes


Hope you have had a good Saturday. Nice day here. Lady got to play with her gentleman friend, a gorgeous Aussie Shepherd, who is a sweetheart. Both dogs so pleased to see each other. Our other (and much missed) dogs would say “hello” to other dogs but were not sociable in the way Lady is – they had a rotten start in life and having found “doggy heaven” with us didn’t really want anything else.

I’ll be spreading the word about flash fiction workshops over the next couple of months and am currently judging a flash competition.

On the writing side of things, I’m working on something I want to submit shortly to a competition. So busy-busy but in a good way.

Let nobody tell you that you have to have loads of time in which to write. Those odd moments of time we all get are useful for jotting down potential ideas for flash stories and flash non-fiction pieces. A writing session spent brainstorming ideas is never wasted. I often spent my odd five minutes here and there doing things like this. I then have things to refer to later which I can then write up into first drafts.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Is the Film Ever As Good as the Book?

Now there’s a controversial question! And my answer to it is “it depends”.

For The Lord of the Rings, I feel Peter Jackson’s trilogy of films does do justice to the books, though there are scenes missing from the films. I never understood this incidentally. Given the films were so long anyway, I would have had the missing scenes in the films given another twenty minutes to the running time wasn’t going to make a lot of difference in my view.

Where films can help is encourage people to read the original books. I watched Oliver Twist where Alec Guinness played Fagin and Oliver Reed played Bill Sikes. Excellent, and scary, performances from both of them. The story gripped me and I read the book immediately after seeing the film (it was on BBC2 one late afternoon years ago). And I’ve always loved The Muppet Christmas Carol for where Gonzo recommends viewers go and read the original of A Christmas Carol after watching.#

So films can help fuel reading. And if a book I’ve loved is adapted into a film, I’m more likely to want to check the film out, if only out of curiosity to see if they have stuck to the spirit of the book or not.

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Making Characters Real in Fiction


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Happy Easter to those who, like me, celebrate it. Good to have some proper Easter weather too – lovely, sunny and warm in the UK right now.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

15th April 2022 – Good Friday – CFT
Happy Easter to those who celebrate it. I visited another church this morning for a lovely Good Friday service. I had a lovely walk of a couple of miles each way and I was especially grateful for the cup of tea on offer when I got to the church! It was needed!

My usual church has all of its Easter events on Easter Sunday so it starts mournfully and then ends in celebration. It is a lovely service but I like to get to a service on Good Friday when I can. On my walk down, I came across a little bridge and someone had put up a small bin with sticks in it. They’d marked the bin “Pooh Sticks” so someone is a Winnie the Pooh fan – made me smile as I saw it. (No sign of Eeyore or Tigger before you ask).

Screenshot 2022-04-15 at 12-34-21 Making Characters Real In Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

I hope you find my Making Characters Real In Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today useful. I talk about why characters have to resonate with readers for their stories to be believable (and that’s still true even for the most fantastical of settings). I look at motivation and realism too. (Wish me luck for when I get to Q in this series! It is approaching rapidly!).

Making Characters Real In Fiction

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Lady had a fabulous play “date” with her gentleman friend who is a gorgeous tri-coloured Aussie Shepherd this morning. She usually prefers to play with her girlie dog friends but this very nice lad is a rare exception for the boys. Good to see them both running around at full pelt and having a wonderful time.

Writing wise, I am busy getting workshop material ready. Love this (and indeed presenting it later on). As with my flash work where I have my Ideal Reader in mind all the time, here I am thinking of what my audience is going to find useful. Putting yourself in your readers’/listeners’ shoes is a good idea, always. It helps cut any tendency to waffle for a start!

I also have in mind what I’d find useful from a workshop if I was going to it as a delegate. That perspective again helps me tailor my material in the right way. Later, I will record my material and play it back via Zoom. That is a great way of highlighting any issues – such as am I speaking too fast? Am I speaking clearly enough and so on? I’ve also found it triggers ideas for material to add in as I literally listen to what I’ve said and spot gaps which I then fill. It’s also great practice at writing and presenting non-fiction of course so win-win!

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Not a bad day. Looked grotty first thing, then brightened up. This could often apply to me first thing in the morning just after I’ve had my first cup of tea for the day!

Looking forward to sharing my Making Characters Real In Fiction post for Chandler’s Ford Today on Good Friday. Hope you will find it useful.

My author newsletter goes out on the first of the month and is packed with tips, news, prompts etc so if you would like to sign up do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

The next couple of months will be busy with workshops – one in May in London and the other as part of the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend at The Hayes, Swanwick.

Did I ever anticipate running workshops one day when I started going to writing events etc? Not a bit of it but I am thrilled with how things have worked out here and ironically the pandemic helped. Zoom was my way in to workshops as it made certain things possible. I hope to do much more of this kind of thing.

I’ve taken the long view that I will see where my writing journey takes me. It has thrown up some interesting things which I hope to develop further. I mean I hadn’t anticipated being a flash fiction writer either when I started out and that has worked out well! Being open is important.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

15th April 2022 – Good Friday
Happy Easter to those who, like me, commemorate it (today, a sad day) and celebrate it (Easter Sunday, a joyful day). I once wrote a flash piece for Christian Writer magazine (the journal of the Association of Christian Writers) called The Craftsman. It focused on the carpenter who made Jesus’s cross.

What mattered for that story and indeed for any I write is that I know where my focus is – for this example, I had my carpenter smooth the wood down as much as he could. He couldn’t help in any other way so he did that. So my focus here was on my carpenter’s wish to help and to figure out a small way in which he could feel he had done that.

My focus for my current story on Friday Flash Fiction comes from a prompt. It was from a random scenario generator (yes really!) and the scenario that came out was finding a piece of paper stuck in a chest of drawers. And this is what I did with that prompt. Hope you enjoy my A Timely Reveal and a huge thanks to those who have commented on this one already.
Screenshot 2022-04-15 at 12-35-32 A Timely Reveal by Allison Symes

I don’t always name my characters in my flash stories. One reason for this is that, with my darker tales, keeping something as an “it” is more scary than naming “it”. But with other tales, the name of the character isn’t so important to the story. What matters is what the character does.

Where I do use a name then see that as important information. I’m nearly always using a name to convey social status, sometimes species (in my Losing Myself from Tripping the Flash Fantastic I start the story with the name Graxia – this is highly unlike to be a human name), sometimes genre (ditto with Graxia – likely to be a fantasy name, as it is).

Names, like any other vital information, need to move the story on in some way and that can be by giving an indicator of likely status/setting as that in itself will put pictures inside the reader’s mind. You want them to see the right kind of pictures here.

Allison Symes - Flash Fiction Collections

I sometimes start a flash piece with a question. It makes for a good hook as the reader knows that question has to be answered by the end of the story and they have to read on to find out how that answer happens. My The Truth from From Light to Dark and Back Again does this. I rarely finish a story with a question though I did for Losing Myself in Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Why do that? Because the question itself reveals crucial information that wraps up the tale nicely.

Questions also make for good themes. Shorter questions might be useful as titles too. I use random question generators every so often and have found that most of the ones from those tend to be on the long side (e.g. What was your favourite meal as a child and why don’t you have it now?) and so work best as a theme.

In this example, I would probably show a character being offered an old childhood favourite meal and get them having mixed feelings over eating it because there are sad associations with it now etc. I certainly wouldn’t have that question as a title. Titles work best when kept short and snappy. They draw in a reader’s attention better too like that.

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Fairytales With Bite – Diaries

It was great fun writing my fictional fairy godmother’s diary last week. Hope you enjoyed it.

Now think about your own writing. Do you have a character who could keep a diary like that? The one thing I would say about this kind of writing is it is essential you know your character’s voice well enough. You need that strength of voice to come through to your readers (and to be able to sustain the diary for however long you choose to write it).

On a related note, in your created world, are diaries and journals kept by the population at large or only by the elite? (Can everyone read and write or is that privilege kept for a select few?). Are there official diaries that everyone can read? Would diaries be amongst your world’s historical documents and do the contents still impact on how your world is governed?

Just because a document is old doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. The Domesday Book has been cited in legal cases and is still a valid legal document. (I suspect William the Conqueror might have considered it to be his personal diary of what he owned!).

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This World and Others – Record Keeping

Who keeps the records in your fictional world? Who keeps the unofficial ones and how are they kept away from those who would destroy them? If only a few can read and write, are the scribes treated with honour by the general population or are they resented?

One thing I picked up from a medieval fair I went to some years ago was that it wasn’t unknown for scribes, when asked by a peasant to read a letter for them so they could understand its contents, to deliberately tell their client wrong information. Part of the reason for that was to drum up further business from the peasant. Get the peasant angry enough, the scribe would offer to write a suitable reply, the peasant pays up, and another letter gets written! And the scribe moves on to another town before they get found out! Scribes would often be part of travelling fairs and were always on the move.

Is there any way of the accuracy of your world’s records to be checked? Are there records which should be kept but which deliberately are not? What does your character(s) take as “gospel”and are they right do so so?

Records matter. They can confirm or remove an inheritance for one thing. They can sway how a country, say, reacts to another one, because that is all dependent on the pasts of these two nations. If one is deliberately wrong, that can easily change the course of history and the future.

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