Classic Stories

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated with many created in Book Brush. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good week. Very busy one for me. Not sorry the weekend is almost here as I share this. Looking forward to visiting a local pantomime and winding down on Sunday, I hope.

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share Classic Stories, my post for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I look at what I think makes a story qualify as being a classic and share some of my favourites. I also take a peek at inspirational stories (which so often go on to become classics) and what we can learn from classic tales. Hope you enjoy and do share some of your classics in the comments box.

Classic Stories

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Looking forward to sharing Classic Stories, my latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today. Link to go up tomorrow. Heading off to the local panto on Saturday – oh yes I am! Will review in due course for CFT. Looking forward to seeing what The Chameleon Theatre Group “do” with Pinocchio – I do know it will be a lot of fun!

When you’re thinking of characters for your stories, where do you start? I often look at major traits as they are a great way in to find out what you need to know. If someone is honest, they can also be tactless (just how honest is honest?!). And that just names one example. Also you can use traits like this to set up characters who have the exact opposite trait and really set the fireworks going here as the two characters will inevitably clash.

Don’t forget my author newsletter goes out on the first of the month so do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like to sign up. And a big welcome to those who have joined up since last time.

 

Hope you have had a good day. I was chatting earlier today about favourite characters (of my own and those of other authors) and I picked one of each. It was hard to pick just one. I love a whole range of characters in literature and so much depends on what I feel like reading. If I’m in the mood for a crime novel, one of my favourite characters will be in one of those books somewhere! If I’m up for humorous fantasy, as I so often am, well it’s Sam Vimes from the much missed Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series all the way here. So how would you make a selection here?

Strong characters play a pivotal role in helping us decide whether a story works at all or not

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to be back on Friday Flash Fiction with my latest tale, Why Now? Find out why my character, Bella, really dislikes government inspections. Hope you enjoy.

On a separate note, I did enjoy receiving the latest delivery of my two flash fiction collections today – From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic – to replenish my stocks. Always lovely opening parcels like that!
Screenshot 2023-01-27 at 09-19-55 Why Now by Allison Symes

Had a lovely time at the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group last night (25th January 2023) on Zoom. Got chatting about favourites – tips, word counts etc and also at some of the downsides of favourites. I deliberately mix up the random generators I use for example so I am not just confined to using a couple of them. Also stretching myself by trying something new here has helped me find stories I would never have written otherwise and I like that too.

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

One of the lovely things about flash fiction is I get to invent characters all the time. Sometimes I use a character in more than one flash tale and that’s fine too. But I have always loved inventing my own people and given flash has to be character led, (no room for convoluted plots etc), I get to create lots of different people (and other beings) and put them in interesting situations, sometimes funny, sometimes anything but. It is a joyous thing to do and yet another reason to heartily recommend giving flash fiction writing a go.

May be an image of sky and text that says "One advantage to flash fiction writing is I can set my characters anywhere. I do too!"

Fairytales With Bite – Themes from the Pantomimes

I will be going to see my local amateur theatre’s production of Pinocchio soon and this led to my thinking about the themes behind so many of the pantomimes, which in turn often come from the classic fairytales.

Pinocchio – theme of acceptance.

The Ugly Duckling – also has the theme of acceptance but I would add in a second theme of not judging someone by their looks.

Beauty and the Beast – Love conquers all, don’t judge by appearances and, for the Beast, this is particularly true given he was cursed by an old woman he insulted, not realising she was a powerful magical being. Third theme here: don’t misjudge older characters!

Cinderella – Love conquers all/right will be done eventually (though I would still be cross with the fairy godmother for turning up so late if I was Cinders. She could’ve done with help much earlier on in the story!).

Aladdin – Theme of rough diamond winning through, also of not letting setbacks get in the way.

Puss in Boots – Cats are smarter than you think!

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This World and Others – Entertainment

Often going to see a pantomime is someone’s first experience of live theatre and that’s a great thing as it encourages going again to see other pantomimes before going on to try other forms of theatrical entertainment. I’ve found National Theatre Live a great way to discover Shakespeare but my early experiences of theatre were the pantomimes.

In your fictional setting, which forms of entertainment exist? Is the government here a big believer in the “bread and circuses” policy adopted by the Romans who thought, as long as people had those things, they wouldn’t cause trouble? Does it work in your setting?

How long have these entertainments been on offer and have they developed from something even further back in time for your world? Are there forms of entertainment which would not be tolerated in any circumstances? Are there forms of prescribed entertainment your characters have to go to, regardless of their own feelings in the matter? Are there underground/fringe entertainments?

Now I am very glad that things like bear baiting no longer exist in my part of the world but this was part of my country’s history for a very long while. So how does your fictional setting decide which entertainment should not happen any more and what are the driving forces behind this?

Do your characters make their living in the entertainment industry?> Is this well regarded or not and how do your characters feel about it? There are story ideas here!

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Workshop News and Key Story Ingredients

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated with many created in Book Brush. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Still very cold in my part of the world. One nice thing about running a Zoom workshop (which I will be doing on 25th January) is you get to stay indoors!

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Facebook – General

Another bitterly cold day today but Lady got to show off in front of her Hungarian Vizler friend today so she was happy enough!

Looking forward to running the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group on Zoom tomorrow. Those taking part in it live hundreds of miles apart so we never could get together in person but Zoom has made groups like this possible.

I’ve used Zoom to help me get my timings right for stories which have then been broadcast on North Manchester FM. It means I know for sure I am coming in at under the maximum time allowed. And it has been a lifeline for catching up with family as well. So yes I am a big fan of the app here.

I also love in person workshops and it is a good thing, I think, to try and have the best of both worlds.

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Hope you have had a good start to the working week. Still bitterly cold here. Will be talking about Classic Stories for Chandler’s Ford Today later on this week – will share the link on Friday. (And many thanks for all the comments which have come in over my interview with June Webber last week. Much appreciated all round!).

Many thanks also for the fabulous comments coming in on Reasons, my most recent Friday Flash Fiction tale. This is one of my darker tales but I hope you enjoy it.
Screenshot 2023-01-20 at 09-27-41 Reasons by Allison Symes

Had a lovely time at the workshop yesterday. Many thanks, everyone, for making me so welcome.

Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group meeting on Zoom on Wednesday and going to see The Chameleon Theatre Group perform Pinocchio on Saturday. It will be a lively week!

Have been busy sorting out some of my writing admin today – need to get in more business cards etc and book orders too. This kind of admin is a joy to do though – I can literally see the end product! And don’t forget if you would like a copy of either or both of my flash fiction collections, you can get them from me by contacting me through the contact form on my website (link below). Naturally there are the usual other online outlets here but I can sign the books for you if you get them directly from me!

Contact

 

Am on my way to run a flash fiction workshop in London. Looking forward to that though today’s trip is a mixture of trains, tubes, and replacement bus services thanks to the landslide at Hook. This is on the main route to London.

I don’t know if you’ve seen pictures of this but the damage done by the landslide is seriously scary with tracks in mid-air etc! Hope and pray this is sorted well and as quickly as possible given the circumstances (shouldn’t be either/or here!).

Was delighted to hear of a book sale of Tripping The Flash Fantastic to a local fellow dog walker yesterday. Always lovely news that!☺

Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on social media re my interview with June Webber for Chandler’s Ford Today which went live yesterday.

More author interviews to come in due course but June proves it is never too late to write and be published. I find that enormously encouraging.

Update: had a fabulous time at the workshop. Everyone was so welcoming. I hope you all have fun writing up the story ideas generated.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the views coming in on Bigger and Better, my latest tale on YouTube. See below. Also thanks for the great comments in on Reasons, my newest story on Friday Flash FictionLink and image further up.

I like to mix up the way I come up with themes for my stories and do this by using different random generators, proverbs, overhead snippets of conversation, themes which will never date (there will always be places for ghost stories, love stories etc), odd things which catch my eye in the news/on social media etc.

I then think of which characters could best serve those themes and look at why they would. Then I start drafting when I know my character, who has this quality, that fault etc., would be the best for this tale. And I relish writing that draft. It should be fun!

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It’s Monday. It’s icy cold. It’s dark. It has been a hectic Monday. Definitely time for a story then. My latest on YouTube is called Bigger and Better – hope you enjoy it.

 

Had a lovely time running a flash fiction workshop in London yesterday. It is always a joy to share the joys of writing flash and why it is useful for all writers, regardless of whether someone makes it their main creative form or not. I discovered the form having been writing short stories for some time. I hadn’t even heard of flash when I first started out but I’ve never regretted this happy writing accidental discovery!

Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on Friends, my recent Friday Flash Fiction story. The feedback from this site is great. Do check the site out and, in case you missed my tale first go around, do see the link below. Especially pleased to repeat this one as it is an acrostic story, which are always fun to write, and the comments have been wonderful.

Screenshot 2023-01-13 at 09-32-23 Friends by Allison SymesWhen I enter any kind of writing competition, I assume “nothing doing” if there is no notification from the organisers within two months of the closing date.

I then have another look at my story, revise it (sometimes it is just the odd word or two here), and then send it on elsewhere. I have had flash and short stories then go on to be published.

It isn’t a question of major rewrites for the revision process here. I would’ve written and edited the original as good as I could do before entering the competition. But having the gap of a couple of months means I’m looking at the story again with fresh eyes and there nearly always is something I can tweak and make better. So I do!

I do judge competitions sometimes and know a story can be fine but then one comes in which simply takes your breath away and that must be the one to win. And different things trigger that take your breath away moment for different judges.

Moral of this? Never be afraid to revise your stories and send them out elsewhere.

Goodreads Author Blog – Key Story Ingredients

All successful stories, for me, have to contain key ingredients. Doesn’t matter if these are flash fiction, short stories, novellas, or novels, I think they all need to have the following ingredients in them.

1. Characters you care about and want to root for. Sometimes it can be rooting for a villain to fail.

2. Twists and turns so you have to keep reading to find out what happens.

3. A feeling of having had a fantastic reading experience when you finish the story. Points 1 and 2 are crucial here.

4. For a novel/novella series, there needs to be continual character development so you can see how they change and grow over the series. You can do likewise on a smaller scale for linked flash/short stories.

5. Understanding of the dilemmas the characters face and enjoying finding out how they deal with these.

What would be key ingredients for you?

Screenshot 2023-01-21 at 21-25-05 Key Story Ingredients

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MOM’S FAVORITE READS LINK – CHECK OUT THE MAGAZINE INCLUDING MY FLASH FICTION COLUMN HERE.

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Author Interview: June Webber – Publication: Never Too Late

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated with many created in Book Brush.Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as were photos of The Hayes, Swanwick as part of my CFT interview this week. Talking of which,  many thanks to June Webber for great author and book pictures for her interview with me on Chandler’s Ford Today.
Has been a cold week hre but Lady has got to have many “puppy parties” this week with her best friends over the local park so she’s happy at least.

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

I am thrilled to welcome dear friend and fellow Swanwicker, June Webber, to Chandler’s Ford Today, to share her writing journey in Publication – Never Too Late. Her writing story is an encouraging one. I very much hope you enjoy the post and find it encouraging too.

Author Interview: June Webber – Publication: Never Too Late

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Hope you have had a good day. Another bitterly cold one here. Looking forward to chatting with June Webber on Chandler’s Ford Today – link up tomorrow. Her story is an inspiring one and I’m only too pleased to be sharing it. See above.

Where do you get your inspiration for writing from? As well as using the random generators to trigger ideas, the biggest inspiration comes from what I love reading.

I’ve always loved the classic fairytales so they are a huge influence on me. I love the humour of Austen, Pratchett, and Wodehouse, so those are huge influences on me.

This is why the more you read (in terms of numbers of books read and genres), the bigger and wider are the sources of inspiration for you to draw on. Other sources of inspiration can be topics on which you have strong feelings. I like to see justice done and the evil not to get away with it (again the fairytales have a definite influence on me there) so I will read crime stories which reflect this.

So having a broad reading diet then is a very good idea indeed!

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It’s my turn on the Authors Electric blog and this time I’m talking about Flash NANO – A New Challenge In the Old Year. I look at what Flash NANO is and share what I found useful about it. It is good to be stretched, writing wise, every so often, and Flash NANO did that for me. Looking forward to the next one already.

Screenshot 2023-01-18 at 09-31-41 Flash NANO - A New Challenge in the Old Year by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to share Reasons, my latest Friday Flash Fiction story. Many thanks for the great comments coming in on this one already.

Screenshot 2023-01-20 at 09-27-41 Reasons by Allison Symes

Looking forward to giving my flash fiction workshop this weekend and also the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction Group meeting next week. I like a mixture of in person and Zoom events – both kinds of event have their bonuses.

If you’re thinking of putting a collection together, remember the independent press is a great avenue to explore as they are much more open to approaches from non-agented writers. And having short stories/flash fiction published online or shortlisted in competitions makes for great material to put in your query letter.

May be a cartoon of text that says "Creative writing is fun and good for the brain ίσσ."

Many thanks to #ValPenny for sharing Writing Pitfalls, a recent blog I wrote for Chandler’s Ford Today on her blog today. A great way to spread the word! One writing pitfall I didn’t mention either here or earlier on CFT is not realising just how many kinds of writing there are out there and therefore to take your time working out which suits you best. I am so glad I discovered flash fiction for instance though I’d never heard of it when I started out.

Writing Pitfalls by Allison Symes

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Fairytales with Bite – Magical Seasons – Characters and Magic

How does your magical world have its seasons? Are they similar to Earth’s four and, if so, is magic more prominent in any one of them? If so, why? Does the winter, for example tend to dampen down magical activity? Does magic abound in the spring with longer days and brighter weather?

Do your characters have seasons in their life where their magical performances are significantly better or worse than others? Indeed, are waning powers a sign of illness/a character’s life coming to an end, again on the grounds everything has its season and it applies to characters too? Or does everyone experience a drop in performance at certain times and they’ve learned how to cope with that?

Do you have characters who cope with the down times better than others and how do they achieve this? Does the availability of light make a difference?

I also love characters who are older but with tonnes of useful magical experience behind them yet are still capable of “outgunning” those far younger than them because of that experience. How would their magical season progress?

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This World and Others – Climates

Does your world have one predominant climate or several? How does this/these affect the geography of your fictional world? Equally how does the geography affect the climate that can only exist because, for example, your world has a lot of water in it? Can your characters change the climate (for better or worse) and. If so, how?

Are there wars between different peoples because one has a better climate than the other? What pressures are there on food production etc which could lead to such conflicts and how are these things resolved?

What kind of climate do your characters prefer to be in? There will always be those who relish causing trouble so like a climate in which that is easily done. They would be bored senseless in a climate where peace prevails and nobody argues about anything. (Would make for a boring story too).

And how do shyer characters cope in a climate where people/other beings of choice are expected to be upfront and dominant? My thinking here is climate can be about social context and prevailing attitudes, as well as the geographic kind.

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Interviews and Ideas

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated with many created in Book Brush. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Brrr… it has turned very cold again where I am with temperatures plummeting well below zero. Dog is wondering why Mum has speeded up the walking a bit! There are some signs of spring though. Have seen first catkins out.

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Facebook – General

Now I’m looking forward to sharing a great interview with June Webber on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday, but there is another use for interview questions, which fiction writers may well find useful. I’ve mentioned before I like to know my characters and will often interview them. Why not take an interview question you come across and get your character to answer it?

One of my favourites to ask my interviewees to name their three favourite authors and briefly say why they’ve chosen them. Now that gives insight into my interviewees’ taste in books but also at what influences their writing.

For your characters, go on to think a bit more about why they’ve chosen what they have. What do these choices say about them?

Are you surprised by their choices and, if so, work out what that is, as the more you know your characters, the easier you will find it to write their stories up with conviction. When I read a story, I want to be convinced the author knows their character inside out. I think something of that does come across in the way the story is told.

 

Brrr… the cold snap is back. Lady did get to play with her best buddy, the lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, today but we mere human owners kept our girls running so we kept moving too! Am so thankful writing is an indoors job!

Next couple of Saturdays will be busy. I’m off to London for my workshop this week and the following week I’m off to the local panto, Pinocchio, as performed by The Chameleon Theatre Group. I expect lots of laughs from the latter – review to follow for Chandler’s Ford Today in due course. (It was nice when I was booking my ticket here they ask you where you found out about the show and Chandler’s Ford Today was listed as an option. That did make me smile and naturally I did tick that option!).

Every so often something nice and unexpected comes along. I was swimming recently, and having a much needed breather, had a chat with the lifeguard as it was quiet. I’d had a long swim (100 lengths – I impressed myself), having swam for about about two hours.

Anyway, they wanted to know who I worked for given I was effectively having a two hour lunch break. I mentioned I was a writer and they were impressed with that. They were even more impressed when I mentioned having books out! Naturally I got to put the word out about what I write too and explain a little about what flash fiction is – I can but hope for a sale here! Mind you, they’ll have to wait for me to be out of the pool before I sign any books for them!

Allison Symes - Flash Fiction Collections

Looking forward to sharing a lovely interview with friend and fellow Swanwicker, June Webber, for Chandler’s Ford Today, later on this coming week. June is a great example of it never being too late to be published so I hope people will find her story encouraging. I know I do!

Don’t forget I send out an author newsletter on the first of the month. If you’d like to sign up for tips, news, story links etc., head over to (my landing page at) https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am hoping to have broadcast news again soon – keep your fingers crossed! Will share when I can.

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Hope you’ve had a good day. Weather grotty again here. Many thanks for the wonderful responses to my acrostic story, Friends, which appeared on Friday Flash Fiction yesterday. Link here if you missed it first go.Looking forward to running my flash fiction workshop next Saturday for an ACW affiliated group. These are always good fun and it is great to be out and about again.

I remember being very nervous when I first went to a writers’ event. Think I was having a bad case of Imposter Syndrome at the time but am so glad it went as I ended up meeting the person who was to go on to become my publisher at it. And when I realised networking means talking about writing and listening to fellow authors who share your love of writing also talking about the same topic and as a result you have an instant conversation going, the fears went.

Screenshot 2023-01-13 at 09-32-23 Friends by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction writing has helped me lose all fear of editing and has also made me stop and work out just what is it about this character that makes me feel I’ve got to write their story up. (All characters should make you feel something). It also makes me work out well just what is the story and focus on that alone. Two excellent reasons to give it a go – and I’ve found it has helped me with the other writing I do – short stories and blogging.

May be an image of text that says "With flash fiction, you have to focus on THE single most important aspect of your character's life"

16th January
I don’t know about today being Blue Monday. I do know it’s Very Cold Monday where I am. I also know it’s time for a story. Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTube – Why Am I Here? Even a “deep” question can lead to story ideas!

 

I deliberately mix up the random generators I use for triggering story ideas. It’s fun to have a variety of ways into which I can get into a story. Also I don’t want to be relying on just one or two anyway. Well, you ever know what kind of writing exercises you’ll be set at a workshop so it helps to know you can produce a story to prompts produced in different ways so you are ready for all of that.

Having said that, the ideas I hope to write up for submission this week come from odd turns of phrase I’ve either come across or used in my own Facebook posts recently and I had the old light bulb moment and thought I could produce a story here. So be open to having a number of ways in which you trigger ideas. It does pay.

May be an image of text that says "You're "fizzing" with ideas? Great. Just get them down. Sharpen them later."Sometimes good themes will occur to me as I am writing something else so I note the ideas down and then go on to write some flash fiction to those themes later. This is the Murphy’s Law of Writing in full flow here. It doesn’t matter what you write but an idea for something else will crop up as you’re trying to get to grips with what you’re trying to complete. Best to go with the flow then and have a way or ways to jot down those ideas.

I know not to rely on my memory here. Why is it you can always remember the hundreds of things you have to do around the home etc but can’t recall the one great idea that occurred to you at an inconvenient time? And I suspect there could be a flash fiction story in a character discovering the truth of this for themselves! (Have just followed my own advice and noted this down for another time!).

May be an image of text that says "? alt en option CREATE return Good idea but how? One way is use themes from stories you love and then see what you can do with that same theme."

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Recommendations

Where do you get book recommendations from? Yes, I get some from Goodreads, but I would say my main source for these is from fellow authors. And there is, to my mind, nothing better than going to a book/writing event and having a good look at what is on offer at the book table. I nearly always come back with purchases!

I do look at reviews on Amazon and the like but am not necessarily swayed by them. Having said that, if there are lots of bad reviews, and the reviewers are pretty much saying the same thing, then I will sit up and take notice. Likewise, if good reviews are saying similar things, I will take note. (I like to see the reasons why someone likes a book so if there is a comment about the characterisation, I will take immediate notice given characters for me are the driving force behind what makes a story work or fail).

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Writing Pitfalls

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated with many created in Book Brush. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good week. Lady and I spent most of the week failing to duck the rain clouds but she did get to play with several of her friends. Am looking forward to running a workshop soon. Will be good to be out and about, writing wise, again.

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Glad to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. This week I talk about Writing Pitfalls. I talk about rejections and con artists, writing, editing and stamina (all three things are crucial for writers), support networks, and competitions and trying again, amongst other items here. Hope you find the post useful.

Writing Pitfalls

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Questions make a great way into a story. For example, there is a great cartoon doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment where the punchline is a question – why are you here?

Now your story could be about a character who answers that question for themselves or for someone close to them. It could be an excellent title. I would want to know who the “you” is here and why this question would be asked of them in the first place. It could be a story about a character reacting badly to that question.

Maybe it is something which has haunted them and they decide to find their own place in the world to prove if only to themselves they have every right to be where they are. I hope to write something up on this question in due course myself but it’s a great open question to play with here, I think.

May be an image of ocean and text that says "Questions are a great hook A reader knows they have to be answered. Only way to find out how is to read the piece."

Lady had an excellent day today. Got to play with all of her girlfriends – it was a fab “puppy party”. We managed to avoid most of the wet weather today as well so consider that a win. Looking forward to sharing Writing Pitfalls, my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Link up on Friday. See above.

Also looking forward to seeing the Chameleon Theatre Group put on their new show – Pinocchio – later this month. Oh yes I am! (Can’t help but wonder what topical gags will end up in that though – will find out in due course!).

Writing Tip: Every so often look up some of your earlier writing pieces. I do this and I can see why I wrote the pieces in the way I did at the time. I can also see what I would do now to “tighten” those pieces up further. This is a good thing. It brings home how much you’ve learned over the intervening time and I find this encourages me to keep on going and to keep on learning.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s lovely to be back on Friday Flash Fiction. This time I share an acrostic story, Friends. Hope you enjoy it. (I find acrostics work best for shortish words).

Screenshot 2023-01-13 at 09-32-23 Friends by Allison SymesI’ll be looking at Writing Pitfalls for Chandler’s Ford Today this week (an overview). Link up tomorrow. See further up.

Pitfalls about writing flash fiction? Well, one is when you swear you’ve got the perfect 100 word story for a competition and find your tale really does need to be at 300 words!

If you find your story would lose something (characterisation, a good telling detail etc) if you were to cut your story back further, then leave it as it is and write another 100 word story instead. Part of the art of flash fiction is in knowing when to leave well alone and in knowing what must be in your tale. When you’ve got to that point, your story is done. You worry about the word count later.

May be an image of text that says "Flash fiction illuminates briefly it is a great form for a lighthearted piece. These often work best when kept short."

When I run flash workshops, I will often read a couple of my stories out and then break down how I wrote them. I’ve come across this technique in various author interviews I’ve read/listened to and always find it helpful. Having an outline (even if sometimes it is just a line or two) helps me to remember why I’m writing the story in the way I am and I find that useful too. It is too easy to go off at a tangent – have done this and where you’ve got a strict word count, you do have to focus.

Outlining makes me do that but it also gives me enough of a break down of my tale to be able to share when I want to share writing advice. And with flash stories, this can be done quickly. At events, I’m often asked what flash is and reading some out is a perfect demonstration. I often read stories out at home to ensure dialogue flows as well as I think it does etc. This is all useful “stuff”.

May be an image of text that says "workshop Writing workshops are great fun and Sơ much can be learned from them. Preparation is key- and not just for the speaker!"

Fairytales With Bite – Openings

How can you make use of openings in your magical settings? Well other than the famous starting line Once upon a time… there are other ways of doing this.

Think about openings for the beings who populate your world. As well as training schools for magical beings, what job opportunities await them? How do they work their way up the ladder? If your world keeps itself to itself, can openings be found to initiate dialogue with neighbouring worlds? Who would see the usefulness of being able to do this and “break the mould”?

If your setting covers up part of its history, what would persuade it that it would be better to “open up” and face the fact no world is perfect? Also have changes come into your setting since that history and are these positive or negative?

Even where characters and/or the setting itself is prepared to open up, there will be those who oppose that. Who are these people, what can they do to prevent such opening up happening, and how are they dealt with by those who see the necessity to be more open?

Opening can represent changes and not everyone welcomes those, sometimes for good reasons, other times definitely not. So how could you make use of the theme of opening in your stories? There are ideas to be explored here.

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This World and Others – Networking

When I was starting out as a writer, the thought of networking used to terrify me. It was only when I realised all it meant was talking about something I love (writing and books) with others who appreciated talking about such things I realised it wasn’t something to be worried about. Also when I realised writers have the perfect way into starting conversation (”what do you write?”), I lost my fear. I knew I had something to ask the person opposite me and it would get a chat going. And so it has proved!

How would networking occur in your fictional setting? Is it encouraged or not? Are there rules so you can only mix with certain groups? What kind of technology is available and how is that used for networking? Is networking only saved for, say, the creative arts sector?

What kind of colloborations occur as a result of networking? How does networking benefit your individual characters? Also think in terms of personal development as well s financial benefit here. Could a shy person, for example become less shy thanks to the right kind of networking for them?

Does your world network with neighbouring ones and how well does that work or otherwise? Does your setting have the equivalent of an “entente cordiale”?

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The Writing Life and The First Day

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated, many created via Book Brush. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Another wet week of “walkie” sessions with the dog since I last posted. She dries off quicker than I do! Starting to spot spring bulbs sending shoots up though, which is lovely.

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Facebook – General

Last Tuesday, Lady and I, by the end of the day, looked like bedraggled rats. This Tuesday we’re looking more like mildly moist mice! I guess we’re heading the right way.

Have booked my train ticket for the workshop I’m going to be running later this month. Really looking forward to doing that. I love going to workshops too and alway learn so much from them. Looking forward to booking my train tickets for The Writers’ Summer School, Swanwick later on in the year too.

Part of my reading “diet” includes the writing magazines because, as well as competitions I might enter, I find out more about the industry and that is always worth doing. And you never know when a bit of advice which isn’t useful to you right now proves to be very helpful indeed later on in your writing journey. It happens. It has happened to me a number of times.

May be an image of text that says "WHAT'S NEXT Good question! One thing I've learned 1S the writing journey is a continual one."

Hope you had a good day. Lady got to play with her two best girlfriends today and we didn’t get soaked so both of us considered that to be a win! Looking forward to running a flash workshop later this month. I do set exercises as part of my workshops and the advantage of these is they help illustrate the points being made. Also later you can finish these off at home and I hope go on to submit them somewhere.

People do take different approaches to the same theme. I discovered how true this was when I was one of the winners three years in a row for the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition. We all had to write to the same theme and word count yet 15 different winning authors took very different approaches to the topic set. That was enlightening for me! It was also encouraging because a good theme, open to interpretation, should spark off plenty of ideas.

May be an image of ‎text that says "‎زایS I've found writing exercises incredibly useful for recharging my stock of story ideas.‎"‎

Lady and I got a bit of a soaking earlier – she dries quicker than I do! I’ll be looking at some Writing Pitfalls for my next Chandler’s Ford Today post – link up on Friday. Am also looking forward to taking part in another author’s blog – more details nearer the time as it is not until March but it is good to be in early!

Have also got a smashing interview lined up with a writer friend of mine showing publication can happen at any age. Really looking forward to sharing that. I do think it is one of the lovely things about writing – there is no retirement age. You can start writing at whatever age and publication can and does happen at any age. More on that nearer the time as well. Have been catching up with some blogging posts to appear later in the month as well.

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Today has been more hectic than I’d have liked but I appreciate my time at the writing desk even more on days like these. Writing gives me time to be creative, to forget the other worries, and to invent characters and situations. On tiring days. I particularly like to get lots of “little bits” done such as finishing off a blog post, finding suitable pics for it and so on. On days when I’ve got more time, that’s when I get the word count up significantly.

I find you do have to go with the flow and everyone has days when the flow is slow or has been temporarily dammed. It helps to focus on the word “temporarily” here. There will be better writing days. Sticking with writing and accepting some days are worse than others in terms of what you get done is an underrated attribute but one I think all writers need to develop.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Looking forward to running my first flash fiction workshop of the year later on this month and to meeting up again with the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group not long after that. I often prepare PowerPoint presentations for the latter. It’s funny how I hadn’t used PowerPoint in years but with the growth in the use of Zoom, it has come into its own again. Good fun to do and easy to share if you want to do so.

I believe the growth in flash fiction has come about as a result of people reading more on screens – the very short form of writing is ideal for this. Flash may be short but it needs as much crafting and editing as any other form of writing – loads in other words! This is why I’ll get a story down, rest it, go and write some more tales, then come back to the first one.

Then and only then can I see how I can make it better and there is always room for improving a tale. What can be tricky sometimes is working out when enough is enough on the editing. At some point you have to let your story “out there” and see how it does. This is where deadlines are handy. They make you do this!

BookBrushImage-2023-1-10-20-5043It’s Monday. It’s still dark far too early out there. It’s cold. It’s been a tough, busy day. It’s Monday. And it’s time for my YouTube story. My latest is called Friends. Hope you enjoy it. (Short and sweet this one).

 

Hope you have had a good day. How easy do you find coming up with titles for your flash pieces? I use a variety of ways for this. I use random generators as those can often spark title ideas. I use proverbs sometimes directly as a title, sometimes as inspiration for a title (especially if I want to “subvert” a common phrase as I did with my story Punish The Innocent). I like to keep my titles relatively short (though there are always exceptions to any rule. It is just that most of the time shorter titles are easier to recall).

May be an image of text that says "Jotting down ideas for future stories, blog posts etc., is a great thing to do when you're short on time. Latr tired and uninspired, you can come back to those ideas and find something you like the look ofto to write up."

Many thanks, everyone, for the lovely comments coming in on my first story for 2023 for Friday Flash Fiction, The First Day. It was nice to start with New Year with a feel good tale. Looking forward to my “flash fiction Sunday” tomorrow which is when I get a lot of flash written.
Screenshot 2023-01-06 at 09-18-42 The First Day by Allison Symes

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Blurbs

I must admit it is the book cover which draws me to a book (whether it is online or via a bookshop unless I know of the author. Know I like their work, can’t wait to snap up the next they bring out etc). But after that it is the book blurb which draws me into buying the book or leaving it on the shelf. I like something crisp and snappy to lure me in but they’re not the easiest things to write. You can be sure what you see on the book is the result of several drafts!

But the end result is usually well worth it. Every writer needs to be able to sum up their book in a line (as it gives you something to tell people without going on for too long – and that is an art still).

Sometimes I’ve come across quizzes and the like where you have to guess the book from the blurb that’s been given to you and that can be fun.

As a flash fiction writer having to stick to a tight word count, I guess I may have an advantage here. Writing tight can help you produce those blurbs or at least be less nervous of coming up with something short and snappy.

Screenshot 2023-01-07 at 20-42-44 Book Blurbs

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Diaries and Letters


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. (Many created in Book Brush). Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good start to 2023. It is lovely being back at the writing desk. Look out for a useful writing exercise in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Hope you give it a go and find it useful.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share my first Chandler’s Ford Today post for 2023 where I take a look at Diaries and Letters.

I look at the joys of reading books of these as well as explore using these formats in my own flash fiction writing. I also discuss the usefulness of keeping a diary (not just for noting down what I’ve got to do and when but also for reviewing where I am with my writing and to set goals). I also share a useful creative writing exercise here.

Hope you enjoy the post and hope you have had a good first week “back to normal”.

Diaries and Letters

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Looking forward to sharing Diaries and Letters for my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. See above – this is one of those posts where I have to watch my spelling. It’s difficult reading and/or writing dairies!

I love reading and writing both formats! Am looking forward to sharing more author interviews later on in the year and am glad to say I’ll be taking part in another writer’s blog in March. More details nearer the time. Also looking forward to running another flash fiction workshop later this month.

Hope to get back to work soon on a major project I had to shelve last year (due to my wanting to get my third flash fiction book submitted). Looking forward to that too. I’ve got a rough draft done on it but know it needs plenty of honing.

Have you set any writing goals you want to achieve this year? I like to have a rough idea of what I’d like to see done in the period and deliberately have a mixture of goals I know I’ll achieve quickly as well as the longer ones. It is nice being able to tick things off my “list”.

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Hope you have had a good day. Weather a lot better than yesterday – Lady and I didn’t get wet! It is the simple pleasures in life etc etc…

Am currently reading a biography of the late Queen by Gyles Brandreth (and loving it). Then I’m on to a crime novel. I like mixing things up! I read in different formats too (and I’ll be looking at some formats of story writing in the forms of diaries and letters for my next Chandler’s Ford Today post too. I often read books of letters and diaries – do check these out. They’re illuminating. I’ve written in both diary and letter formats too).

Writing Tip: Given you’re going to be spending some time with your characters (and yes that applies even to a flash piece), it does pay to get to know them a bit. If you could write a letter to your leading character, what would you put in it and why? Give some thought as to how they would reply to you. You’ll get insights into their personality doing this.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s great to be back on Friday Flash Fiction with my story The First Day. An apt title for the first week in the New Year, I think. Hope you enjoy. (Also many thanks for the comments coming in on this already but I think you’ll like my characters in this one).

Screenshot 2023-01-06 at 09-18-42 The First Day by Allison Symes

If you want to practice writing short in a way that helps other writers, how about writing a review of their books? It helps authors with publicity and is the second best way to help them (the first is to buy said books of course). The great thing with reviews is they don’t have to be long.

Talking of writing short, I must admit I did find the strapline for both of my collections tough to come up with – I knew what I wanted to say but it was condensing it down enough that was the issue. Still I got there in the end.

For From Light to Dark and Back Again, the strapline reads A collection of very short stories to suit every mood.

For Tripping the Flash Fantastic, it reads A carefully crafted collection of story worlds.

It is funny how writing short is so often more difficult than writing long!If you’ve got ideas for possible strap lines or even words you’d like to use in a strapline, jot them down somewhere safe. Never assume you’ll remember. You don’t, honestly.

Flash with Amazon and Barnes and Noble

I mentioned over on my main author page on Facebook about getting to know your characters. There are various ways of doing this. For flash fiction, you may not need to know so much. I often use a template to help me work out what I think I need to know. One or two pertinent questions can draw out a lot of information! It’s working out what you need to know I think which can be the tricky bit.

I know I need to know a character’s major trait and why it is that one. Others may need to know what they look like and deduce their personality from the type of clothes they like to wear etc. But as long as you know what makes them tick, that’s the important thing. You do have to convince ourself you know these people and therefore can write their stories up with conviction. You know X would react like this to Y because… etc etc

May be an image of text that says "".. Understanding what makes US tick is crucial for understanding what makes your characters tick."

Fairytales with Bite – New Year Acrostic (Writing Tips)

N = New Year = New start – do your magical characters need this and, if so, why?
E = Explore what your characters would do when dropped right in the mire. This can be great fun!
W = Work out what your characters could do with in the way of worthy opponents. You mustn’t make life too easy for them.

Y = You decide how magic works in your setting and whether your characters can all have the same powers or have the potential to develop them.
E = Eagerness to gain power – which of your characters have this? Why? What would they do with that power if they got it?
A = Always know what your characters are doing and what their motivations are. These need to be motivations readers understand but we don’t necessarily have to like them.
R = Read through your stories and check for consistency. If your character changes behaviour patterns, there has to be a good reason for that, again something readers can identify with. Were they “redeemed” or “corrupted”? What are the consequences of the changes? Your stories need to play this out.

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This World and Others – Starting Over

This is an apt topic for the start of another year (and Happy New Year!). Many stories show characters starting over (and my favourite here is A Christmas Carol by Dickens).

But give some thought as to whether your setting needs to start over. Has there been a climate catastrophe in your world where agriculture, industry etc all need to start again? What caused the disaster? How have your characters recovered from it? What changes have had to be forced on them? Which have they happily adopted?

Also there are personal disasters for your individual people. What form(s) do these take? How did your characters start over or have they never been able to really recover? What are the consequences of not being able to start over?

How would the history of your world impact on those living in it now? Is there history they prefer to forget (and so have “started over” by focusing on the history they are happy about?). Starting over can be an artificial concept exploited by the powerful so you could explore what they are trying to bury here.

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Festive Flash and Other News

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. One image directly from Pixabay. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as were the pictures of my local post box with additional festive “toppers” as I believe they are known.
Will shortly be taking a few days off for Christmas so my next round-up on my website will be a week today, Friday 30th December. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. Back soon!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is with great pleasure I share Festive Flash and Other News for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I share two new flash tales as part of this and have a look back at my writing year.

I share the links to the recent fun and fabulous Three Minute Santas show hosted by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM and the link to the Flash NANO podcast I was on with Wendy H Jones as an episode of her excellent The Writing and Marketing Show a little while ago. It has been an interesting year and I hope 2023 proves to be equally or more interesting, writing wise. Hope you enjoy the post.

Festive Flash and Other News

 

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Hope you have had a good day. Finally got around to doing some present wrapping – yes, I know! Plan to finish tomorrow (probably just in time for my Christmas food shop delivery!). Trickiest one to wrap for? My dog – because she is with me all the time. Managed it though!

Just to flag up I will be taking a break over the Christmas weekend from social media, my blog posts etc. I hope to have another blog round up out on Friday and then again on 30th December. I hope you have a lovely Christmas and that there are plenty of books for you under the tree!

Am looking forward to a social meet up on Zoom next week with the good people from the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group. Three of us had stories on the Hannah Kate Three Minutes Santa show recently (North Manchester FM). Well done, everyone!

BookBrushImage-2022-12-21-9-3344I’ll be sharing a couple of new flash stories as part of my Festive Flash and Other News post for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Link up on Friday. See above.

Am loving joining in with the carols on Classic FM though so far I have resisted the temptation to sing the alternative words to While Shepherds Watched. (While Shepherds washed their socks by night, All seated on the ground, a Bar of Sunlight soap came down, and they began to scrub. My late mum always sang that version with glee! I will almost certainly sing the alternative version on Christmas Day itself and think of Mum).

Talking of treasured memories, give some thought as to which memories your characters would treasure and why. Have they remembered things correctly? What actions do their memories encourage them to do and what are the consequences? There are story possibilities there. Also, I find a character sharing with me a s a reader a fleeting thought tends to make that character seen more real to me though the memory they share should have bearing on the story.

Couldn’t resist re-sharing these pictures of my local post box. Well done to whoever made these. I’ve been seeing a number of pictures like these throughout the UK – very cheering!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am looking forward for a social catch up with members of the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group next week.

Am already starting work on a potential fourth flash fiction collection (my goal would be to have a first draft of that ready by this time next year, God willing). Would like to try to enter more flash competitions next year too.

Hope your festive preparations are going well (and it would never surprise me if there are several flash fiction pieces inspired by such preparations! I hope you have fun writing those up!).

Hope there are plenty of flash fiction collections amongst this lot!

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Quick shout-out to say the submissions button is back on Friday Flash Fiction. See link

Must admit I don’t know if I’ll get to submit anything this week given my usual writing day for this is Sunday – and something else is happening on that day!

But you can still treat yourself to a great read of the stories on there. Regular submission of work is the best way I know to increase your chances of having acceptances – and this applies no matter what you write.

Submitting regularly to FFF has got me back into writing the 100-word drabbles again which is great. They were my way into flash fiction writing in the first place so there is something pleasingly symmetrical about this!

Screenshot 2022-12-22 at 20-26-04 Submissions

One of the great joys of writing flash fiction at this time of year is in sneaking in some festive references. For example in my Every Little Detail from From Light to Dark and Back Again, I refer to someone checking a certain list “(twice mind you)”. That’s a nod to the song Santa Claus is Coming to Town (and my favourite version of that is still the one by Springsteen). I love reading passing references like this in stories by other authors – it’s great fun to get these in and, for me, a fabulous way to play with words.

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Fairytales with Bite – Fairytale Season

Now December and January is the time for the old fairytales to be revisited by people like me. Pantomime is a fabulous way to enjoy the tales again too. I often visit my local amateur theatre company for their annual panto – always great fun.

Fairytales and pantomime are a great match up because you need outstanding characters. You need a hero/heroine, a baddie, magical support (usually the godmother or the genie), evil to be overcome in the end, and for a happy ever after ending. Generally the fairytales do deliver here! And it helps if you already know the stories well because you appreciate the gags more. Or at least that’s what I’ve found to be the case!

My plan this fairytale season is probably to visit my local panto (they’re doing Pinocchio this time) and to catch up with some “alternatives”. I’m a huge fan of the much missed Terry Pratchett and I love his take on the origins of Santa story with his Hogfather. I think it could be argued A Christmas Carol is a kind of fairytale (albeit aimed at at a much older audence than normal) and I’ve already had the joy of rewatching my favourite adaptation of it – by the Muppets!

Of course you can’t beat reading the original stories – and they are definitely not twee and/or just for kids!

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This World and Others – Festivals

Does your setting have festivals at certain times of year? Are there stories to be shared, which only come out at this time? Special food and drink? Is everyone expected to join in? Are there special shows/services, pageants etc?

If your world doesn’t celebrate anything in particular. Why is that? Terrible history and everyone wants to forget it? Could you explore the dangers of not commemorating something? Or look at a time where there had been festivals but there are not any longer? How were the festivals removed? What happened to those who wanted to continue with them after they’d been stopped?

A festival can also show something of a culture as well as of its history so how does your world does this? Is there a culture which dominates the others, whether deliberately or by histoical events ensuring that this culture is the “top one”? A festival is also brightly coloured and light is heavily involved so how does your setting do this?

I love Christmas. My Christian faith means it does mean a great deal to me and I love the carols and festive music. On that note, may I wish you a Happy Christmas (and maybe give some thought as to how your fictional people would greet and treat others when it comes to their festivals).

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Broadcast News and Stories in Song

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Many thanks to Hannah Kate for kind permission to use the Three Minute Santas photo. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Weather turning cold again here. Christmas preparations going okay but still much to do! Still time for stories and writing though….!

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Facebook – General

Posting early today as am off out to my church’s Carols by Candlelight village sing-along later. It’s a lovely informal event with plenty of Christmas cracker jokes in between the singing. Last time we held this event was in the week of Christmas 2019. It is so good to have this back!

Those who follow the Friday Flash Fiction website – look out for the results of the Christmas competition soon. Normal submissions will resume in the New Year I would’ve thought. (Please note the normal submissions button isn’t there at the moment on the understandable grounds the editor needs time to count up the votes for the competition and get the results out!). I’m preparing pieces to submit in January to give myself a bit of a head start here – always useful to get some drabbles written!

I did get my submission in for the Writing Magazine Grand Flash Prize a while back, following my own advice to take some time off the official closing date. Good luck to all who have or are about to have a go at this one – deadline is the end of the year.

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Hope you have had a good start to Christmas week. Looking forward to sharing my Festive Flash and Other News post for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. There will be a couple of new flash pieces in there from me plus I take a look back at some highlights from my writing year.

Will start winding down on the writing for a few days from Saturday. Looking forward to doing plenty of reading over the Christmas break too.

I often use this time of year to ensure I’m up together with my blogs and have started drafting others for the start of the New Year. I don’t just keep a stock of stories to hand!

And I’m looking forward to a social evening on Zoom for the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group later this month. It will be a nice way to wrap up our writing year there.

Am also getting my January newsletter ready. If you’d like to sign up for hints, advice, stories etc do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

 

It’s my turn on the Authors Electric blog today. This time I look at Stories in Song. The carols inspired me here as so many of them have a clear narrative but there are other songs which have long been favourites of mine due to their lyrical quality. See what you think via the link and do send in your favourite stories in songs in the comments.
Screenshot 2022-12-18 at 08-05-15 Stories in Songs by Allison Symes
Hope you have had a good day. Many thanks to Hannah Kate for including my story, First Night on The Round, on her Three Minutes Santas show on North Manchester FM today. Hope to be able to share a link soon but meantime you can use their Listen Again service to find the show.

Please note Hannah’s show is in two halves for the benefit of the Listen Again service. I’m first on for Part 1. Great fun listening to all of the other stories here too. Well done to everyone included in the show. And do check out festive flash fiction – it is great fun to write, read, and/or listen to bit don’t just take my word for it. Give it a listen here!

Part 1 here.

Part 2 here.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Twist endings work especially well for flash fiction. The impact is greater given the restricted word count. I love writing humorous ones, the “character gets comeuppance” type, as well as the character coming up with something unexpected kind, which is not quite the same thing as getting their comeuppance.

In my George Changes His Mind from From Light to Dark and Back Again I end the tale with the dragon given their viewpoint on the proceedings. Great fun to do and a lovely “left field” ending to that tale!). So think about what you want your twist ending to do and how you want it to impact on your readers.

I do this and find writing this first, then working out what could lead to it works very well. It means I stick to the point and everything that proceeds before my big reveal has to make sense and be logical, even in the most fantastical of settings.

Framed Flash Collections

19th December – Second Post
Oops! Almost forgot to share my latest YouTube video. Hope you enjoy New Experiences.


It was lovely at the Carols by Candlelight service yesterday. First one since Christmas 2019. The singing was fantastic.
Do your characters like to sing and, if so, what would they sing? What songs have special resonance for them?

Resonance comes into my flash fiction too. I have to know where my characters come from to be able to write them up at all. Some of their attitudes and actions have got to resonate with me, even if I still don’t approve. You don’t necessarily need to like your characters. You do have to understand them to be able to get into their heads and so write up their tales though.

Have been doing a little admin in adding books to my website book page and my Book Brush Reader Hub. That’s a nice task – Evergreen – an Anthology is now on there. Plus I’ve notified ALCS and my Author Central page has been updated by Amazon. They are usually pretty quick to do that when you notify them.

Screenshot 2022-12-19 at 20-31-08 Reader Hub Book BrushScreenshot 2022-12-18 at 21-38-10 Allison Symes

A week to go to Christmas and I’ve enjoyed one pre-Christmas treat – re-watching The Muppet Christmas Carol. Fabulous film and to me one of the best adaptations of Dickens’s classic tale. Lots of lovely little moments as the film goes on (Miss Piggy giving Scrooge a piece of her mind is just one of them!) and, of course, little moments is what flash fiction is about. We focus on the single most important thing, which is a little like looking at the cameo and focusing on that rather than on taking in everything about the main film. (That’s the job of the novel!).

Writing flash fiction is a great exercise for any writer for another reason – it does make you focus on the single important thing and it can show you perspectives you might not have considered before. Later on this evening, I’m reading a wonderful poem called Shepherd by Lisa Debney for the Carols by Candlelight service at Abbey URC, Romsey.

The poem is lovely and it focuses on one viewpoint – that of the shepherd – but it shows a perspective I had not considered before I read this poem. (There can be some links between poetry and flash in that both forms need to use words to specific and deliberate effect and we are using the word count restrictions to their best advantage).

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

My story on Three Minute Santas, hosted by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM, was broadcast today. 17th December – and see links above.  For this submission, I had to submit a story which came in at a maximum of three minutes. So how to do it? Simple! I used Zoom to record myself reading my story, I ended the meeting with myself, and Zoom then turns the file into an mp4 file. Not only can I play it back to hear how it sounds, I’ve got the timing of my story right there!

Mine, First Night on the Round, came in about 2 minutes 50 seconds. When I first started writing, I used Audacity to play back stories of mine so I could check if the words flowed as well as I thought. Doing this is a great way of picking up on clunky dialogue etc. I see it as part of my editing process.

May be an image of 1 person and text that says "Using Zoơm to record a meeting with yourself is useful way ofbeing able to play back a story as Zoom converts file to mp4 for you. You can then hear a story as reader would take it in."

Goodreads Author Blog – Santa’s Reading List

Now we all know many of the presents on Santa’s sleigh are books. (The rest I suspect would be chocolate, toys, socks, and stuff for pets!). But what would Santa himself want to read after all of those deliveries have been done or would like to read if the books existed? We all deserve to put our feet up with a good book after all. (He would have already read A Christmas Carol and The Nativity stories of course and would re-read them each year).

Lounging in the Sun – would make a change from his usual environment, yes?

How to Bake the Perfect Mince Pie – suspect he might leave this book as a present when what he is offered as refreshments is below par. Bound to come across the odd shoddy few.

Reindeer Management – What You Need to Know – wonder if he’ll find a cure for Rudolph’s red nose here.

Postman Pat – Any of these classic children’s stories would go down well with the great man. Would make a change to read stories from someone else with deliveries to sort out.

Getting Away From It All – You’d want to after dealing with the workload for another year.

The Haynes Guide to Sleigh Maintenance – The Haynes manuals are very well known especially in the UK. They even have one for the Star Trek Enterprise and the Millennium Falcon so why not do one for Santa’s sleigh?

Hope you have plenty of book shaped presents under your Christmas tree this year!

BookBrushImage-2022-12-20-21-336Screenshot 2022-12-17 at 20-27-00 Santa's Reading List

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ALLISON SYMES – BOOK BRUSH READER HUB

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Snow, Anthologies, and Broadcast 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. Many thanks to Hannah Kate for kind permission to use her photo regarding Three Minute Santas. Very cold this week and have seen first lot of snow for the winter. Writers often talk about having “layers” to their characterisation. Right now, the one having layers around here is me!

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Facebook – General

Busy day. Bitterly cold one too. Lady had a great day though playing with her “boyfriend”, a lovely tri-coloured Aussie Shepherd. He had the perfect coat for this weather. I did go swimming today. How can you tell when it is really cold outside? When the pool water feels like you’re swimming in a warm bath. Trust me. The water isn’t like that!

Looking forward to sharing my post on Chandler’s Ford Today about the recent Bridge House Publishing celebration event. Such fun to go to that – and lovely to have it again after the turmoil of recent years cancelling it.

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)

Have you made any writing plans for the New Year? I’m hoping to resume work on another long term project I’ve got in draft now I’ve submitted my third flash fiction collection to Chapeltown Books. Oh and I’ve booked for The Writers’ Summer School, Swanwick taking advantage of the Early Bird rate (which means I’ve paid the same as for this year’s event).

In the run up to 2023 though, I plan to continue to submit flash tales and blog posts but will slowly wind down as we reach Christmas Day. I’m looking forward to doing a lot of reading over the Christmas holidays too. And if the weather stays this cold, staying indoors to write and read seems like an even better idea than it already is!

Hope you have had a good Monday. Lady got to play with her best buddy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, who looked very smart in her coat. I was wrapped up like the old Michelin Man. (It is not a good look!). Then their other friend joined us, the Hungarian Vizler, also looking very smart in her coat. Am so grateful writing is generally done indoors!

Broadcast News: Looking forward to sharing the link for Three Minute Santas on Hannah Kate’s show on North Manchester FM when I get the link. The show goes out on Saturday 17th December from 2pm and it is great fun listening to the variety of festive flashes here.

North Manchester FM: Hannah’s Bookshelf, Saturday 17 December, 2-4pm

Screenshot 2022-12-11 at 20-43-39 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf Saturday 17 December 2-4pm - Hannah Kate

3 Minute Santas

Had our first lot of snow today. Laid briefly too. Lady not too understanding about the fact Mum wanted to keep moving when we were out on our walks today. She wasn’t fazed at all. Mum on the other hand just wanted to keep as warm as possible. (Mind you I was doing a great impersonation of the old Michelin man – readers of a certain age will remember that one well. Let’s just say it isn’t a flattering look on anyone. I lost count of how many layers I had on!). The highest temperature reached in my part of the world was +1 and that was at midday.

Have put in my book request list for Christmas. (I don’t think I’m on Santa’s naughty list – well, I wasn’t the last time I checked – so am looking forward to book shaped presents under the tree in due course!). Have submitted my annual flash piece for a national competition so fingers crossed time again.

Don’t forget my latest story, Numbers, is up on Friday Flash Fiction.

Screenshot 2022-12-09 at 16-48-49 Numbers by Allison Symes

Hope you’ve had a good day. One benefit of raking up the leaves in front of my place is it does keep your warm! No snow in my part of the world but the frost is deep, crisp, and even.

Will be taking a look back at the recent Bridge House Publishing celebration event for Chandler’s Ford Today next week. Link up on Friday. After that I hope to write up my usual festive flash piece for CFT where I’ll also take a look back at my writing year. (I hope by then I’ll be able to share the link to the Hannah Kate Three Minute Santas show on North Manchester FM. That show goes out on Saturday 17th December).

Writing tip: I’ve mentioned having a stock of stories before. Certain themes always crop up in competitions – love, justice, crime, and so many more. So you could prepare stories on those themes knowing you are very likely to find a home for them. Also prepare other stories because there are a lot of “open” competitions around too. I often batch cook – it saves time overall. You can batch write too – same result in terms of time!

Also it pays to have another look at stories you haven’t placed. You’re likely to have had enough time away from these to be able to judge them objectively. Is there something you can now do with them that you weren’t able to see before? Always worth another look. I’ve gone on to have work published doing this.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I often use major traits to get into a character’s mindset. Someone who is honest – well I can then put them in situations where it would pay them to lie and see how they manage it.

Knowing the trait means I can then work out the situations they would find easy to handle and, far more interestingly, the ones they wouldn’t.

Minor traits feeding off the main one can also be great areas to explore. An honest person could be tactless as well. Why? Simply because they’re so honest they can’t tell even white lies when it would be kinder to do so. What kind of trouble could that land them in?

May be an image of text that says "Knowing my character's outlying traits means I can write about them more convincingly too."

Pleased to share my new YouTube story, Travelling Light. It is time for the Christmas puns to start! Hope you enjoy.


Hope you have had a good day (and kept warm – you can see why mulled wine is such a big hit at this time of year! Mind you, I prefer hot chocolate).

Got a flash piece off a for a competition and am looking forward to listening to Hannah Kate’s Three Minute Santas on 17th December. Her festive show on North Manchester FM is great fun and it is a joy to have a piece included in it again this year.

I like being able to set my characters anywhere and everywhere in flash and, of course, with festive flash, you can have great fun playing with the traditions in it. After all, Santa is known to have elves as assistants but what it they’re disgruntled with their lot etc? There is fun to be had in writing that kind of story up but you need to give thought as to what would make your elves feel this way and to how the problem here is resolved. It is what you bring to the mix here that makes your story stand out.

May be an image of sky and text that says "One advantage to flash fiction writing is I can set my characters anywhere. I do too!"

Themes for flash pieces (and often things like blog posts too) can be found via books of proverbs, random generators, and many other sources. Think of themes that would appeal to you and ask yourself why this is and can you do something with that topic for your own writing?

You can also think of themes which would appeal to your characters but not necessarily to you! Again have a look at why this might be and put yourself in your characters’ shoes. They will have good reasons for feeling the way they do about this theme.

This is where interviewing your characters is a great technique for getting to the bottom of why they feel the way they do. You do have to understand your characters. You don’t need to like them, just know where they’re coming from.

Goodreads Author Blog – Anthologies

I’ve been fortunate to be published in many anthologies including the most recent from Bridge House Publishing (Evergreen – an Anthology). It is great fun to write for these and it’s a privilege and pleasure when your story is selected.

I read anthologies too, regardless of whether my work is included or not, because I’m a firm believer in supporting the market I want to be in! Also, I want to mix up the kind of things I read. I read novels, novellas, flash, short stories, collections of the latter two categories, as well as magazines and the like. I want a good and varied reading “diet”.

Anthologies are a great way to find authors new to you and many either support charities or are produced by independent publishers who give more authors a voice. For many it is their way into being published at all. It was for me.

I also like varied moods in my stories (whether I read or write them) and in anthologies, you get this in one book so that’s another reason to love them. You can also work out the kind of writing style and mood you prefer by reading these. I tend to like a lighter touch. I’ve described my own collections as “mixed assortments” and this can apply to most anthologies too.

Even when on a single theme, you can be amazed at what the contributing authors have come up with for it. I’ve done this myself. For the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition a while back, I had to write to a set word count on a set theme. Fifteen winners (including me) wrote to those stipulations but the way all of the authors took the topic was amazing.

I often use anthologies to read in between reading novels to make sure I do mix up my reading and to help me make up my mind which genre of novel I will read next.

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Allison Symes – Book Brush Reader Hub

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