Author Voice

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots and holiday photos from the lovely county of Northumberland were taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good week. Better half, the dog, and I have had a great time on our autumn break. The changing colours of autumn have been amazing and the weather great for the time of year (sun for most of the week too).


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Back to Kielder Forest today for a massive walk with the dog. Lovely time had by all. Must’ve walked 5 to 6 miles. Loved the changing colours of the trees and ferns. Really lovely. Back home tomorrow but glad for the break away.

Pleased to share Author Voice, my latest post from Chandler’s Ford Today. I look at this topic from the viewpoint of finding my own author voice (it took me a while!) and I share some tips on how I went about doing this. I also ask whether a writer can have multiple author voices and why it pays to find your own. Hope you find it useful.

Author Voice

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Towards the end of our holidays, we usually go back to some favourite locations and we did that today. We went back to Seahouses and walked on the coastal path there to the beach at Beadnell. We must’ve walked three to four miles in total. Lovely time had by all.

Lady loved playing on a field on the way to the beach and on the beach itself. Currently crashed out on her quilt – dreaming happy doggy dreams I trust. (She often gives half woofs when doing that. No sign of that yet though). A big thank you to everyone for commenting on the photos I’ve shared this week – I love my mobile phone camera!

I’m talking about Author Voice for Chandler’s Ford Today – link for that up tomorrow. See above. It took me ages to work out what my author voice was so I hope this post proves to be useful.

Mind you, it helped a lot when I discovered how important it was for me to know who I’m writing about well enough. Developing my love of characterisation helped me find my author voice and the kind of characters I like to write about.


Went back to Druridge Bay today and, as well as Lady having a splendid time on the beach, we explored the lakeland/woodland walk which circles the visitor centre there. Wanted to do so on Sunday but there was a cross country run going on. Lady would still have gone on this walk though she would inevitably have tried to herd up the runners so we thought best not!

If Lady could name a favourite place away from her home comforts, Druridge Bay would be it – everything a dog could want – beach play, woodland/lakeland walks, and treats we bring with us, given not everything in the fabulous cafe here would be suitable for dogs. It is suitable for my better half and I though!

I do sometimes write flash tales related to dogs in some way but I prefer to focus on a wide range of characters, who are not necessarily human. This is partly because I recognise not everyone likes dogs so won’t be fans of doggy stories but I also like not to limit myself. I like exploring character thoughts and motivations. That’s not the easiest thing to do with a pet!

Motivation for me makes a story. A character has to want something for a reason good enough for them (we don’t have to agree) and someone else has to have good reason (to them) to stop this. Cause and conflict. For me that’s what a story is all about as I then want to find out how things are resolved. Unlike life, there does have to be a satisfactory resolution to a story.

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No Friday Flash Fiction story from me this time (hope to make up for that next week), but do check out the website as there are fabulous stories here and it is a great advert for what can be done in a mere 100 words.

Writing drabbles, as 100-worders are also known, is a great writing exercise and you learn to condense. Boy, do you learn to condense! But writing to that tight a word count shows you what really matters for your character and what the heart of the story is better than any other writing exercise I know.


If there are categories of flash fiction it would be worth practicing in particular, I would name the 50-worder (the dribble), the 100-worder (the drabble), and stories up to 300 words. These are some of the most frequent competition word count requirements I come across. The next one is a word count of up to 500 words.

I have come across competitions which have 750 words as a word count maximum. Often these aren’t listed as flash competitions but they are so do keep an eye out for ones like this too.

It is also a useful idea to have a stock of stories ready for possible submission. Certain topics are all-time favourites. There will always be love stories for example. And a competition coming up is also an opportunity to have another look at stories which haven’t been placed elsewhere to see if you can polish them up for this one, as long as the theme fits or it is an open competition.


Flash fiction writing has encouraged my development in first person writing, as I’ve mentioned before. The advantages of it are that you do get straight into a character’s head and you do see things through their eyes. The disadvantage is you can only show their thoughts, their viewpoint etc.

I try to ensure I write a mixture of first and third person. I do like being able to take a broader view than that offered via an individual character’s persona. So I have to decide which would be the best approach to use when I’m outlining my character. Some are clearly best suited to a first person portrayal. This is especially true for when I’m writing a monologue.

For other tales, if I know that character has got to interact with others to achieve their objective then it’s obvious I’ve got to go the third person route. But there are stories where I could take either option and it then a question of working out whether my characters would work better alone or with others.

Mind you, if I’ve got a cracking line to give a character, I’m going the third person route so the character has a chance to deliver it!


Fairytales with Bite – Getting Away From It All

Having had a lovely break in the gorgeous county of Northumberland recently, it led me to wonder where magical characters might decide to go when it’s time to get away from it all.

Fairy Godmother – absolutely doesn’t want to go anywhere near a Palace or other stately home for some considerable time. So would prefer a country break in a secluded cottage. No balls, no dodgy glass slippers, no wondering if your goddaughter has any sense of time at all…

A Witch – Probably heading for a city break. The chances of a farmhouse landing on your head are remote there.

The Big Bad Wolf – Anywhere well away from housing sites and building materials. Is not taking any chances here again.

A Wizard – Anywhere away from Oz and yellow brick roads. Unexpected visitors are not particularly welcome.

Cinderella prior to her marriage – A luxury retreat where there is no housework to be done whatosever.

Snow White prior to her marriage – Anywhere apples can’t be grown. Has had a dodgy experience with an apple. (Would probably find she has gone somewhere where she’ll meet Eve from Adam and Eve fame).


This World and Others – The Tourist Trade

Tourism is a major part of the UK economy but is there a tourist trade in your fictional world? What form does it take and where is it that people or other species would want to visit and why? Do the usual residents in your setting welcome tourists or resent them?

Tourism of course varies from visiting historical places to walking in the country to going to the theatre (especially Shakespeare productions). What are the historical places in your fictional setting and what are the stories behind them? How would history be different on your alien world than it would be here?

And who are your tourists? Do they come from the same world or other ones? What do they expect to get from their trips? Who organises the trips? Where would people/other beings stay? What would they expect to get from the hospitality industry on the places they’re visiting?


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Getting Away From It All and the Fairytale A to Z (Part 1!)

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My latest CFT post is Getting Away From It All. Appropriate as I am about to swan off to Swanwick! I share some thoughts on the importance of relaxing and how just writing something for the sheer fun of it can be a marvellous way to unwind for writers.

The great thing too is you can always work the piece up “properly” later on and submit it but to just write something for fun is wonderful. Possibly something we don’t do enough of? I’ve found doing this useful (a) to take a break from my main writing work and (b) to remind myself during tough patches just what it is I really love about writing – the creativity of it. I think you can lose sight of that at times.

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More on the ABC of Flash Fiction…

D = Drive. Not only do you need that as the writer, but your characters do as well. Something has to happen in your narrative for it to be a story at all so your characters must be ready to “act” and for that to wrap up quickly. They must be ready to “hit the ground running”. They do something, there is a reaction, there is a conclusion (and of course it doesn’t necessarily have to be a happy one).

E = Entertainment. Whatever your genre, your flash fiction should entertain (even if that entertainment is simply to make your reader think about the theme of your story and whether they would do the same as your character has). Every word has to make your reader want to read on, every line has to move the story on, and at the end you want your reader to feel as if they have had a good read, even if it is only in 500 words, 100 words, 75 words or what have you.

F = Fairytales. I’ve found flash fiction to be a good vehicle for fairytales (albeit of the short and sharp variety. Not necessarily sweet as well though. Many of my fairy characters do have a penchant for justice, the rough kind where they feel it is necessary at that!).


Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers – On Criticism

Confession time:  Am certain I didn’t put this up when I was supposed to so will share now.  It IS better late than never and I hope my post for July on On Criticism will prove helpful.

What good judging should be and that includes for reviews etc

What every review should be. Pixabay image,

Fairytales With Bite – the Fairytale A to Z Part 1

I love a list – whether it’s a numerical one or an A to Z format.  So for fairytales and the magical world, what would my A to Z be?  Part 1 then would be:-

A = Anthropomorphism 

Not my favourite word to spell, I must admit!  However, for me, a classic tale will have this as one of its elements.  Think Puss in Boots, Shrek, The Chronicles of Narnia etc etc.  What matters is the traits shown or speech given to an animal character to have/speak must make sense for the way that character has been portrayed.  We see Puss in Boots is a character who would be smarter than his master so the speech given to Puss must reflect that.

B = Beauty
One thing I love about fairytales is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and is not always the classical definition either.  I love the stories of The Ugly Duckling and Beauty and the Beast. Is it just me but I didn’t think the Beast was that ugly incidentally (especially as Disney portrayed him?  Huge, yes, but that’s not the same thing!  That aside, there is a strong emphasis that it is a beautiful heart/character that matters most, which I fervently believe.  I can’t say what single thing makes me love fairytales but this is a very high contender for being the top one.

C = Characters
There isn’t one dull character in fairytales, is there, when you come to think about it.  There shouldn’t be in your stories either.  (And even when a character is meant to be “dull”, there still has to be something about them that will make your reader want to find out if they stay that way or change or if there is a point to the dullness.  Maybe the lead character needs a duller one’s sensible comments to point them in the right direction?).

More next time….

This World and Others – Getting Away From It All

Getting Away from it All is my title for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post and my latest Goodreads blog.

What do your characters do to unwind?  Where would they go to get away from it all?  If your fictional world has a hierarchy (and frankly most will have something), are there places where the “commoners” can’t go?  How is that enforced?

I am about to head off to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for a wonderful week of courses, catching up with writer friends, and making new ones.  A marvellous time is had by all.  For your longer stories, where would your characters go to catch up with friends and family they can’t see often (and how did that situation happen)?

In my Goodreads blog, I talk about my holiday reading.  What would your characters read?  Does your fictional world have a good literacy rate?  If not, is anything being done about it?  I’ve mentioned in previous posts that a totalitarian world will seek to restrict/ban books (as sadly is seen too often in this world!) but is there an underground system that bypasses/overcomes those restrictions?

Plenty of story ideas there!

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Swanwick, Scheduling and the Book Cover Challenge

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Am busily preparing CFT posts for the next couple of weeks. I’d like to get both of the following Fridays done because I know when I come back from Swanwick, I will be happy but shattered so doubt if I’ll be writing too much later that evening! So easier to write and schedule such posts now.

I need to get back to blocking out time for specific things I’d like to do (which is where Swanwick will be particularly helpful to me this year).

Once the CFT posts are done (which I hope to have up and scheduled by Wednesday). I can focus on some fiction. The great thing with flash is I can happily spend an evening writing that and have several stories by the end of it to work on further. Okay, they WILL need working on further but the joy of the first draft is worrying about editing much later on!

I love taking my Kindle away with me as it (a) saves a lot of packing and (b) saves a lot of heartache working out which books to take and which to leave behind. Also for some reason my case is always a lot lighter than it used to be! Biggest issue for me though is to remember to pack the charger!

Talking of recharging the old batteries, my CFT post this week takes a look at that and I will be sharing a few things I find really helpful for unwinding (and I don’t even mention wine, chocolate etc., so you have still those as options too!). Link up on Friday.

I’ve been enjoying taking part in a book cover challenge this week. Has made me really think about the novels I couldn’t be without. What are the ones that have influenced you in some way?

So far I’ve included The Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice, The Daughter of Time, Raising Steam, and Murder on the Orient Express. A nice mixed bag there! And all great in very different ways.

Am doing my packing for Swanwick tomorrow. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if other writing friends have done theirs already but the Thursday before is soon enough for me and my books and notebooks go in first! (Did put my rail tickets in my railcard holder today – I suppose that counts!).

The case is packed ready for Swanwick. Just the usual odds and sods to add at the last minute. (Disaster for me will be forgetting my phone charger!). And yes I did pack my books, notepads, pens etc first. Got to have your priorities right!

Okay, I’m not sure where I’ll put books I buy from the Book Room but I’ll worry about that later in the week (and I refuse to believe I’m the only Swanwicker taking that view!). Happy, and safe, travelling to all who are going. May you get through the engineering works at Derby without your blood pressure soaring too high!

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I do love writing some one line complete stories from time to time and it makes for a good exercise to get you into your writing session. For example:-

1. The day the clocks stopped the watchmakers were fired.

2. The dragon surveyed the empty street, which had been teeming with life a moment ago.

3. Try as he might, Arthur could not get that wretched sword out of the stone. (N.B. This also counts as a complete story wrecker!).

4. Turn left and he’d face obliteration, turn right he’d have to face the New Year sales – he went left.

5. The gull enjoyed the look of astonishment on the day tripper’s face, almost as much as the bird loved the stolen battered cod.

6. Dessert was sorted – the gull went back and pinched the same tourist’s mint choc chip icecream.

Allison Symes – 6th August 2018

Give this exercise a go! It’s fun and there’s nothing to stop you developing your ideas further. As for me, that’s some ideas drafted for my third flash fiction book!

My favourite forms of flash fiction are the ones I write in the first person. There is an immediacy about those I think and I love being able to get straight into the character’s head.

It is also great letting them “tell you” the story. There is no pretence at being unbiased or anything like that. The character will give you their thoughts with both barrels, so to speak.

Of course, when everything goes horribly wrong with said character, the reader should be able to see the seeds of that happening early on in the story. And often it is the character’s attitude that plays a major part in this. Great fun to bring about!

Looking forward to my train journey on Saturday to Swanwick despite the engineering works at Derby. Why? Aside from loving train travel (usually!), I hope to write quite a bit via Evernote and my phone for my flash fiction and non-fiction posts. Three hours? Can get a fair bit done in that time, thank you.

I’ve been on the train a fair bit this year so that almost certainly helps for my being further on with my third flash fiction collection than I thought I’d be! And I am getting better at using “dead” time more efficiently. The stories soon mount up (and if you’re a crime writer, the bodies do too! 😁).

The ABC etc of Flash Fiction… (will continue this over the next few posts though there may be some gaps in posting due to my being at Swanwick and probably having far too good a time to be posting!).

A = Atmosphere. The story may be short but its atmosphere must come through clearly. You literally have a few words to set the mood and then follow through. On the plus side, if you like writing “from inside the head of the character”, as I do, this really isn’t a problem.

B = Brutality. There is editing and there is editing. You really do have to murder your darlings with flash fiction. Only what is crucial to the story remains. And it can be hard sometimes to cut a really good line but if it really isn’t vital to the tale, it should go out. Save it though. Might be able to use it elsewhere.

C = Characters. Couldn’t really pick anything else for C. Flash fiction has to be all about the characters. They show you their world and their attitudes in a few words and, ta da, from that the story comes. Character attitudes lead to conflicts which in turn lead to stories.

More next time…

Goodreads Author Blog – Getting Away From It All

I shall be getting away from it all shortly at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School once again but will be immersed in a world of stories and books (reading and writing them!). Bliss!

So what books go with you when you get away from it all?

I pack my Kindle and what I read depends on my mood, naturally, though I am currently enjoying Lucy Worsley’s A Very British Murder and hope to finish that by the end of the week. The book is great. It is usually a question of how long can I keep my eyes open at the end of the day! That is the trouble with bedtime reading…

There’s a couple of other crime novels I want to read as well while I’m away. And after that I may well turn back to humour again. I do find I like to read a few stories or books in a genre, then switch to another one and read a few in that for a bit. Still, it all mixes up the reading and then there is always the delight of the wondrous world of non-fiction too!

So whatever your holiday/summer reading is, enjoy!







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My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is another one in my Hidden Hampshire series and looks at a lovely, local woodland walk. Let’s just say Mabel and now Lady were and are huge fans of it!

On a more serious note, I also put out a plea for dog owners here to be more responsible where this applies. There are no dog bins on this walk and the Council do NOT come and collect dumped poo bags (which I do see here) so please, please bag it and bin it at home! Then the walk remains nice for everyone, dogs included.

General forest walk shot but similar to Jermyns Lane, image via Pixabay

General woodland shot but typical of the Jermyns Lane walk I enjoy. Image via Pixabay

Mabel at Jermyns Lane

My late dog, Mabel, used to love walking at Jermyns Lane. Image by Allison Symes

Lady loves Jermyns Lane

Lady, my new dog, also loves Jermyns Lane. Image by Allison Symes

Typical of the main track at Jermyns Lane

Typical of the track at Jermyns Lane. Image by Allison Symes

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Is flash fiction a flash in the pan? I don’t think so. After years of everyone saying the short story as a form was dying, I think the advent of flash fiction has breathed new life into that too. Technology isn’t going to go away so there will always be room for a story format that is easy to read on a mobile or tablet.

I love flash fiction for its flexibility. For everyone who loves the 100-word form, there are those who prefer 75 or 50 or 500 and there is room for all. Long may that continue!

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Fairytales with Bite – Getting Away From It All

I often use walking the dog as a chance to get away from it all for a bit and my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post is another in my Hidden Hampshire series, which looks at a local, lovely woodland walk.

How do your characters get away from it all?  What drives the need for them to do so?  How successful or otherwise are they at this?  Does whatever is “bugging” them catch them up and overwhelm them or does the break away give them the respite needed to find a solution to their problems?

How often can your characters get away from it all?  Are regular mini breaks enough or do they have to get right away for a week or more?  How easy, or otherwise, is it for them to do this and what obstacles might get in their way?  Some good stories to be found in answering those questions I think!

Have a wonderful writing year in 2018.  I plan to!

This World and Others – Walking and Writing

This topic came about as a result of this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post, which is another in my Hidden Hampshire series, and looks at a lovely, local woodland walk.

The big problem with writing, of course, is it is a sedentary activity (though very good for the brain!), so I walk the dog (a) because she needs it and (b) because I do too!  The break from the desk can and does inspire creative thought, which is another excellent reason to walk.

What kind of exercise do your characters do to keep themselves fit, assuming they do? What are their walks?  What hazards would they face in their world that simply wouldn’t happen on Earth?  What are the similarities?  Going to meet someone of course can be a pivotal point in many a story but where would your characters go if they needed secrecy and can they guarantee this?

Does your created government restrict where people can go?  What are the laws on land ownership, rights of way and trespass, if any?  These sort of details can help flesh out a realistic picture of the world you’re conveying to us as we can appreciate the equivalent of these that we have so it is easier to identify with this.









In Getting Away from it All I look at what makes your characters feel they’ve got to get away and whether their break helps them or not.  I also discuss how we need to get away from our stories for a while so we can read them with fresh eyes to spot the flaws and the virtues of what we’ve written.  Hopefully putting the flaws right will increase the virtues of the tale and make it much more saleable!


Titling looks at what I like to see in my titles.  I have to have a working title before I write the story (but if what I’ve come up with doesn’t seem quite right I remind myself it can be changed later.  I seem to need a “peg” to hang my story on!).


I talk about twist in the tale stories tonight and how I usually start with the twist and work backwards to get to the start of the story.  The trick is finding a twist that isn’t too obvious!


I discuss my use of the first person in writing flash fiction (it’s more immediate, it’s like an instant short cut into the story and given the restricted word count, that’s invaluable).



At my book signing.  Image taken by me.