Learning from Stories and Characters

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Well here’s hoping!😊

 

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

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

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

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

Allison Symes – 22nd June 2020

 

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

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

Good luck!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Outdoor or Indoor Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Books On The Radio

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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Facebook – General – and

Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers –

Honest Writing

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

 

Twitter News – @AllisonSymes1

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

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

Magnetism Small

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fairytales With Bite – Making Space

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

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

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

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This World and Others –

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lockdown Effects on Writing

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

RADIO NEWS – CHAT AND SPIN RADIO

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RADIO NEWS:

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

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

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

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

 

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RADIO INTERVIEW LINK

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

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

Hope you enjoy. Also see their website.

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

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

 

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And now on to other things!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feature Image - Lockdown Effects on Writing

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

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

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

Happy reading and writing!

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

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

 

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Fairytales with Bite – Characters With Bite!

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

I adore characters who:-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This World and Others – What Books Mean To Me

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

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

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

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

 

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Radio News and Preparation

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

RADIO NEWS

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

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

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

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

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

Image from Chat and Spin Radio

The above ties in with my next post too!

Facebook – General

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Always plenty of space to fill!  Pixabay

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

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

Now where’s my notepad?😆😆

 

 

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

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

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

 

HONOURABLE MENTION!

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Character summary? Rebellious fairy, soft spot for kittens.

And away I go.

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Goodreads Author Blog –

What I Look For In A Good Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Reasons To Be Cheerful

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

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can you learn from flash fiction?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Fairytales With Bite – Why Analyse Fairytales?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This World and Others – What Is Important?

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

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

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

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Murphy’s Law For Readers

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

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

They’re huge fun to write too!

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Fairytales With Bite – 

What Fairytales Have Done For Me

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

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

 

This World and Others – The Arts

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

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

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

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Music and Books – Free Book Offer!

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

Facebook – General

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

Talking of which…

Would you like a free book?

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

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

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

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

I can’t say I write for therapeutic reasons though there are plenty who do. What I can say is I always feel better in myself once I have written whether it’s 50 words or 500.

I feel even better when I’ve polished a piece of work up and submitted it somewhere. But the act of producing a piece of work and getting it as good as you can make it is so worthwhile in and of itself. Any results such as publication are a marvellous bonus.

Whatever your creative activity of choice is, enjoy. Particularly enjoy the side benefits. Creativity really is good for you.

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Having written a story, I put it aside for a while so I get some distance from it. If I don’t do that, I find I have two responses to a piece of work – what I’ve written is rubbish or is a work of genius (and neither is true! To be fair, I AM trying to work on the latter and will be to the day I put my pen down for the last time I suspect 😆😆!).

I ask myself certain questions when going through a piece and these include:-

1. Is the story making the impact on me I thought it would on a reader? If it doesn’t, it certainly won’t on said reader.

2. Do I HAVE to find out what happens to the character, no matter what? When the answer to that one is yes, that’s a very good sign. Where it isn’t, I need to look at why a character isn’t gripping me the way they ought to be. Tweaks here and there usually put that right. I then put the story aside again for another breathing space and then ask myself this question again. The answer should be yes for sure the second time.

3. Does every word (particularly for flash fiction) HAVE to be in the story? Have any of my infamous wasted words crept in? If so, out they go.

Happy writing and rewriting!

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I have the feeling some of my favourite “comfort reading” books will be making a reappearance on my TBR pile during this very strange time. Still if I can stick to comfort reading instead of comfort eating, I’ll be ahead of the game!

I think it is fair to say we are living in interesting times. I’ll be talking a bit more about that in my CFT post this week AND share some thoughts on story creation for anyone who would like to give it a go but has not yet tried to do so. The whole idea is just to write for fun.

The nice thing about the advent of flash fiction is you need not be put off by the thought of having to write thousands and thousands of words either. You don’t have to unless you want to! And writing IS fun especially when you remember the important thing is to enjoy it. Tidying up a piece of work can come later.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash tales are short but they should pack a good emotional punch for their word count. I like to think of it as illuminating one specific moment in a character’s life. It has to be the single most important thing too, else why write about it?

I love reading flash fiction too of course as its great joy is being able to dip in and out of collections, sample different styles and mood of story, and have a good read in few words.

Whatever you are reading or writing (or both) right now, enjoy!

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Time to use the random phrase gnerator again. On offer tonight the phrase On Cloud Nine. Let’s see what I can do with that then. Hope you enjoy!

ON CLOUD NINE BY ALLISON SYMES
Well it is where I’ve been parked. Don’t ask me why it wasn’t Cloud 8 or 7 or what have you. Here I am sitting on Cloud 9 waiting for instructions.

I was told Cloud Nine is where trainee fairies go before being let loose on an alien world of their choice to do what good they can.

I was also told it was where they put trainee fairies our government thinks are clumsy clots and where they’re trying to limit the damage.

Of course they don’t tell the likes of me anything so goodness knows what the true story is – that fake news stuff gets everywhere I tell you.

I do feel daft sitting here twiddling with the star at the end of my magic wand. I’m itching to get out there somewhere to do something.

Ah! My trainer has just turned up. Tells me my itch to get out there to do something is the problem. Apparently I caused a mass over-production of pumpkins around Cinderella’s garden. Well, where is the problem? She needed plenty to choose from, didn’t she?

Apparently that’s not the point. The girl only needed the one. And there’s a limit to how much pumpkin pie anyone can eat.

Well that’s me told.

My offer to make the spares vanish was hastily turned down.

My trainer tells me they’re sending me to Earth. I’m to wave my magic wand where I see fit. Hmm… that sounds good and fun. I ask what I’m to do specifically.

I’m told to inspire a love of reading, writing and general creativity.

That sounds good but I thought the humans did that already.

Not enough, I’m told. They still fight and squabble. They need more creativity apparently.

Well that’s me set up for a good job for some time then.

It will be a lot better than sitting here on Cloud Nine. Wish me luck.

ENDS
Allison Symes – 22nd March 2020

Have as good a week as possible, folks.

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What do I look for in a character that will make me want to follow their story no matter what? (This applies to whatever type of story I read and/or write but for flash fiction, all of this has to be condensed of course). I look for:-

1. A character that intrigues me. They’re showing an attitude I like and I have to find out how things work out for them OR conversely I’ve got to find out where they’re coming from to have the attitude they do have. (Whether I still agree with their attitude is another matter but if they come out with good reasons for it, then that grips me and makes me keep reading too. And that is the key, isn’t it? How DO you keep a reader reading?).

2. Humorous characters. I ADORE characters with a sense of irony especially when it is directed at themselves.

3. A character with courage and determination.

4. A character who mucks things up big time but redeems themselves. (Can’t we all identify with that one?!)

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I mix up how I come up with titles as well as the flash fiction stories themselves. I often use one word titles. I sometimes use alliterative titles (for example Telling The Time in From Light to Dark and Back Again). As you know I sometimes use proverbs/well known sayings as either titles or themes (occasionally both).

But whatever type of title I use, it has to be a suitable “peg” to hang my story from. Occasionally I change a title as a better idea comes to me when I’m writing the first draft but this doesn’t happen often. I’m usually happy with what I had planned initially. I hope that means I’m getting better at what would work for a piece. I have learned to trust my gut instinct more over the years and it doesn’t usually let me down. This is where the writer’s voice comes in. You have to learn to recognise your own and trust it!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Comfort Books

When times are tough, or your own situation is going through a difficult patch, what books do you turn to for some comfort and cheer?

Do you look to escape for a while via the printed word or does that aspect not matter as long as you’re reading?

I tend to turn to humour and this is where the wonderful books of P.G. Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett in particular come to the fore for me.

All of their work is capable of withstanding multiple re-readings and I usually pick up on gags, in-jokes etc., that I missed before. (I just do! I also don’t believe I’m alone in that).

After humour, I turn to crime – reading wise that is! I adore Agatha Christie but I enjoy contemporary crime too. (See Wendy H Jones and Val Penny for more on these, especially if you like your stories set in Scotland).

After crime I turn to history and that can be a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. I’ve enjoyed Jennifer C. Wilson’s Kindred Spirits series here as that combines a very different take on history with ghost stories.

By this stage, I’m usually looking for some non-fiction to get my reading “teeth” into and then I’m back to the funny works again.

Above all, I have a fabulous time doing all of this!

Whatever you read, especially now, enjoy. Take care, keep well, be kind, and God bless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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