A Questionable Choice, Spoilers, and Characterisation

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you had a good weekend. Weather continues to be strange for the time of year here. Oh and writing wise, one rejection and one acceptance this week!

The Writing Journey

Facebook – General


Enjoyed my first swim of the week today but it is the hardest one of the week to do! And I knew I’d tired Lady out this morning as she didn’t get off the sofa to come and greet me. It looked as if she’d just woken up as she looked at me as if to say “you’re back, then!”

What I love about writing (and I promise to keep this short, honest!):-

  • Inventing characters
  • Inventing things for them to say and do
  • Putting them in conflict with each other and/or their environment and enjoying the show as they battle it out! (I know, I know… I am a nice girl really, honest).
  • Editing my draft and almost feeling the story “tighten” up and be so much better than that first draft.
  • Submitting the finished story.
  • Being told it has been accepted or if I’m preparing a story for use on my website or Youtube channel, creating a video to go with it.

All great fun and now back to it!

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Hope you had a good weekend. Another blustery day in Hampshire today, Still feels like flaming March!

I found out yesterday the story I submitted for the annual Bridge House Publishing anthology didn’t make it. On the plus side a story I sent to CafeLit will be appearing next week! Will share the link when I have it.

I will at some point have another look at my BHP story and see if I can submit it somewhere else. I often can (and there is always the possibility of including it in a single author collection – nothing is wasted in writing. I’ve found I can recycle most things in some way and sometimes a story turned down in one place is accepted by another).

You never lose the buzz of being published so, yes, having a turn down is always disappointing but I’ve also been encouraged by all those times when I have been able to recycle a story elsewhere. So I know I can have a crack at that again. And there is always the next story to work on! There is always a next story!


My Chandler’s Ford Today post later this coming week will be on the theme of Understanding. (Couldn’t we all do with more of that in the world?). I look at how reading encourages empathy and why this is good for you. I also have a look at understanding how stories work. I’ve found learning this has helped me as I craft my flash and other stories. Look forward to sharing this on Friday.

Have discovered a one-star review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic but there’s no name or comment left with it. Does this mean I have “arrived”?! I know everyone gets them…! (I guess it gets my number of reviews up anyway! – Oh and yes please to anyone who hasn’t yet reviewed TTFF – reviews are always helpful. Thanks!).

Also a big hello to those newly signed up to my author newsletter. Good to have you aboard. Hope you enjoy the freebie (which you’ll find as a link in the welcome email). I share tips, flash stories, as well as news here on the 1st of each month – if you would like to sign up please head to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am working on a piece I hope to submit to an online magazine later this week – am loving writing it and reading back issues of the magazine too. Yes, I do always read copies of anything I am hoping to submit work to – how else will you get a feel for the style they want? And it is huge fun to do of course!

Hope you have had a good Saturday. Can’t believe the weather. More like March than May out there. Still Lady got to have an excellent run with a whippet, Milo, earlier today, and a good time was had by all. Lady can keep up with, and sometimes outrun, your average whippet. Yes, she is that fast. Equally fast at coming through for when she just knows it’s dinner time. Strange that.

One of the things I love about characterisation is when it is done well, you do feel as if you are inside that character’s head and can almost feel their pains, their joys etc. I’m currently reading a book for someone where they have got the narrative voice down so well, it almost takes my breath away and it is a sheer joy to read because of that.

A character that grips you is one that will grip the reader. Think about what kind of characters you like. What is it about them that appeals? Look for ways of reproducing that for when you plan out your characters.

If you like honesty as a trait, how will your lead character show that honesty? Is that honesty welcome or does it land them right in it? Think about the things that could come from that honesty – another character being honest back could tell your lead person truths about themselves they won’t like which could set off a chain of events.

If your characters don’t engage you, they won’t for anyone else. You do have to like your people, people (!), even if you loathe what they go on and do in your story.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Many thanks for the great responses to my story video, A Questionable Choice. Also thanks to those who put comments up on my Youtube channel. If you’d like to subscribe to this the link you need is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

I usually create a story on a Sunday and upload it for a Monday. This is a great way of sharing mini-tales!

Screenshot_2021-05-11 Allison Symes


Pleased to share my latest story video, A Questionable Choice, with you. Hope you enjoy. (And a big welcome to my most recent subscribers too). As ever, I created this one in Book Brush, uploaded it to Youtube, and added a free to use music track. (Youtube have a great audio library and a huge thank you to Dawn Kentish Knox for flagging that up).


I chatted about spoilers for my Goodreads blog this week but another advantage to flash fiction is you can’t really have them here! The form is too short to stand such things. By the time you’ve skim read the story to work out what the spoiler might be, you have in fact read the tale!

One thing you can do with flash though is analyse your stories. Now you may argue surely the form is too short for that but I’ve found this isn’t the case. I still need to ask myself does this character work? Do they convince me? I also look at whether I’ve placed the lines (in some cases individual words – see my post from yesterday on this) in the right places to trigger the most impact on a reader.

I also analyse stories I read, of any length, to work out what made these work for me. I can then learn from that and apply it to my own fiction. I can do the same with non-fiction pieces and learn from that for my Chandler’s Ford Today, Authors Electric, More Than Writers posts etc.

Writing is good for you not just because it stretches you creatively, it encourages you to learn. Every writer learns from those who have gone before us and our contemporaries. What that should do is encourage us to “up our game” and produce even better stories, articles etc.

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If I have one favourite flash tale of mine, it has to be Calling the Doctor. See book trailer below! The reason I like it is because I change the whole mood of the story with the last word. And you can have great fun placing your words at the right places to create maximum impact on your readers. Had I used that last word for this story earlier on, it would simply have become a spoiler. (No spoilers here, thank you!).

This is one of those tales where I did know the ending first and worked backwards to get to a logical starting point. For those stories with twist endings and punchlines, I do think that is the best approach to writing them. It works for me!


Goodreads Author Blog – Spoilers

I have a simple attitude towards book/story/film spoilers – I avoid them! But almost inevitably there are times when, despite everything, you come across the wretched things.

Now do these stop you reading the book/story or watching the film? They don’t for me. I tend to then read/watch to find out if the spoiler did reveal everything or whether there were bits left unrevealed for me to discover.

When writing my flash collections, I need to give enough information away to hopefully get readers to want to check my books out but without telling them everything. It’s not an easy balancing act to get right.

So how much is too much information?

I don’t want to find out the endings, I really do want to find out for myself. I don’t mind being told something like there are plenty of surprises, one of the major characters doesn’t make it (because I then have to read or watch to find out who that was), but I don’t want name drops or to be told the ending is a miserable one. If the story has to end miserably, I want to find out myself and see that the ending is appropriate.

And if the ending isn’t appropriate for the characters and the story being told, I consider that a spoiler. A writer has to deliver on the promise of their story after all.

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Late Running, The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball, and Why Books are Special to Me

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay pictures.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her. Many thanks to Janet Williams (my lovely editor at Chandler’s Ford Today) for the image of me reading at a book signing at our local railway station (yes, really!). Also to Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn for their images of me reading at various Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic night events. All great fun.

And I think I’ve finally cracked the “most unusual title for a blog post” category! Read on to find out how the inside of a ping pong ball is relevant for my flash fiction writing this week. If you had asked me last week whether I would anticipate such a thing, the answer would have been a firm “no”! How much can change in a week?!

Facebook – General

A huge thanks to the #DundeeCityWriters – I was talking to them over Zoom last night on the topic of flash fiction (naturally!) and it was such fun. Many thanks for hosting me.

(Also one of the best ways to show what flash fiction is to read some out and I always enjoy doing that. I’m hoping the Open Prose Mic Night will be on again at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this year. Flash works well for this kind of thing. You can’t go on for too long for one thing!).

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is on the subject of Favourite Lines. I’ve touched on this topic before but for this post I will also be looking at how catchphrases and repetition can help us form said favourite lines. Looking forward to sharing that on Friday.


Many thanks for the wonderful responses to my rather unusual tale, The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball, which I posted yesterday (see below) in reply to a writing challenge set by #WendyHJones on Wordy Chat. (The latter is a Facebook group set up by fellow Association of Christian Writers member, Maressa Mortimer – lots of giggles and chats about the writing world – naturally we meet on Zoom).

I have two standard ways of getting into a story. By far my favourite is working out who the character Is, what their main trait is etc as that usually gives a pretty good idea of the kind of story in which such a creation would appear. But my other way into a story is with a promising title and that was the take I took on this one.

The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball not only gave me my title, it set the tone (with a title like that it had to be a humorous tale), and therefore the kind of character likely to be in it.


As promised yesterday, here is the flash fiction tale I wrote in response to a challenge set on Wordy Chat the other night. The story title says it all!

The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball

Look, don’t blame me. I have to travel in whatever vessel I can find and blend in with my surroundings. I am in what you humans call a sports hall doing various horrid things with balls and bats and making yourself all sweaty. So gross!

But it means I am currently curled up inside a ping pong ball. It’s cramped in here. I’ve had to shrink my normal size down by well over 80% to get in here. Trust me that is not a comfortable experience.

I am here to study you lot on the order of the big bosses. Personally, I would far rather have gone to the seaside.

But I have to go where the bosses tell me to go. (Would so love to tell them where they can go but they’re not forgiving of any kind of insubordination and I do like living so that rules this out).

To be honest with you, I think they’re preparing for an invasion.

I’m going to tell them not to bother.

I’ve seen the way you treat other ping pong balls. Smash them about with absolutely no thought. What would you do to the likes of an alien invader?

I tell you it is terrifying to think about.

So you lot have won. And I must get out of this ball before…

Arggh! Too late.

Ends.
Allison Symes – 2nd May 2021

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Hope you have had a good Saturday.

New author newsletter from me went out earlier today. See https://www.facebook.com/501180463318271/posts/3429068970529391/ if you missed this.

If you would like to receive the newsletter regularly, please sign up at my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – on receipt of the welcome email, you’ll get a link to a giveaway as well.

I’m enjoying putting the newsletters together and, unless there is some specific time urgent news, will keep these to monthly send outs.

In other news, as they say, the next couple of topics for Chandler’s Ford Today will be on Favourite Lines and Understanding. I look forward to sharing those blogs as it is always a joy to talk about favourite lines from books and I make the case for how reading encourages empathy in the latter post.

Am currently drafting a flash fiction story based on what is probably the most unusual location I’ve chosen to date. Well, I say chosen. It’s a response to a challenge set on Wordy Chat last night, where a group of writers from the Association of Christian Writers get together for a good giggle and lots of talk about writing related topics. Those who were at Wordy Chat last night will know what the location is but will share the story tomorrow! (See above – and I hope you enjoy it. I loved writing it).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the lovely responses to my story video Late Running. (See below for video). Also to The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball. (See above for story).

One lovely thing that came up with the latter was I used it in my talk to the #DundeeCityWriters group I spoke to via Zoom yesterday about flash fiction. I used it to prove my point that flash fiction lends itself beautifully to being able to set characters anywhere!

And the great thing? Dundee City Writers is led by #WendyHJones who set the topic of The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball at last week’s Wordy Chat!

What goes around etc etc!

Still, I think I am going to have to try very hard to think of a more unusual setting for a flash fiction story!

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Pleased to share my latest story video. Hope you enjoy Late Running. Pun intentional (and indeed for a lot of my flash fiction it is a case of no pun knowingly overlooked! Why the fondness for puns? I love them anyway but for flash, having words and phrases that can carry double meanings helps with (a) impact and (b) keeping that old word count nice and trim!).

Over on my author page at https://www.facebook.com/allison.symes.50 I’ve shared a flash fiction story, The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball, which was written in response to a writing challenge set by Scottish crime writer, #WendyHJones. It is certainly a top runner for the most unusual writing challenge I’ve responded to (!) but it was great fun to do.

And it is important to have fun with your writing. Okay, there are times when it won’t feel that way. I find being over-tired can sap the joy out of writing (and everything else come to that) so I try to avoid getting into that state.
But one lovely thing about flash fiction, especially if you’re working on a longer project and it is proving to be a slog-fest, drafting a very short story can be a refreshing break from your main writing work and you have something else to submit elsewhere later.

And when I am tired, just jotting down a couple of hundred words, whether it is a full flash tale or will end up being part of a longer one, still makes me feel connected to the creative process. That in itself makes me feel better.

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One of the best ways to demonstrate flash fiction to people is to read some to them! I’ve done this a few times now at things like the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic and even at book signings. (That led to sales -win-win there!). I’ve found the 100-word stories (aka the drabble) work best for this. They don’t take too long to read and demonstrates the capacity of flash fiction well, especially for impact on a reader.

I’ve mentioned before here and on my author page that reading work out loud is great for literally hearing whether your dialogue is as smooth as you think it is. What looks good written down doesn’t always work so well when spoken out loud. But this technique also works for the rest of your prose. If you stumble over something, you can be sure your readers will too. And again with flash it is easy to read a piece out loud and hear whether or not something is working.

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Why Books are Special to Me

I could write chapter and verse on this week’s topic, appropriately enough. So where to start on why books are special to me?

My love of books and stories comes from my late mother who encouraged my love of reading and taught me to read before I started school. Books were regularly given as presents. I would often buy books with pocket money and money gifts sent by my relatives for Christmas etc. I went to the library a lot.

Best of all, Mum had a lovely collection of books herself, which I now have. And I so wanted to have a collection of my own (which I have). As well as being read to as a child, which is so important, I saw Mum read for pleasure herself more often than I could say. It sent the unspoken message that this was definitely an okay thing to do – and it is!

Then there are the books with particular meaning. I treasure the Bibles given to me by my late parents and the one given to me by my son.

I love The Reader’s Digest of Classic Fairytales two volume set. I spent hours reading those and loving the beautiful illustrations. I remember the shock I first had on reading The Little Mermaid in here and discovering fairytales didn’t always have happy ever after endings. I identified with the way The Ugly Duckling felt and cheered when all did work out well in the end. (You know full well as a kid it doesn’t always work that way in life, You know it even more as an adult).

I treasure my paperback of The Lord of The Rings and my copy of Pride and Prejudice.

For me, there is absolutely nothing about a book to dislike.

I like my paperbacks, my hardbacks, my audio and ebooks. The format doesn’t matter. The fact it is a book does!

Happy reading!

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Effects, Impact, and Hidden Gems

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you have had a good week. Lady, so far, has had a brilliant one though she wasn’t impressed at my signing copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic! Image taken by Adrian Symes.

Lady looks distinctly unimpressed! Image by Adrian Symes

Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Lady played with her “gentleman friend”, Bear, today. Bear is a lovely tri-coloured Aussie Shepherd. Lady generally prefers to play with her girl friends (and she got to do that again today with the smashing Coco) but Bear is one male dog Lady does have a soft spot for. And boy can they both run! Took home a tired but very happy dog.

Looking forward to giving a talk about flash fiction on Zoom next week.

For my Facebook book page a couple of days ago, I suggested a new way of finding ideas for a story (using a random word generator and Pixabay) and mentioned I would have a go at this myself. I duly did so and I will be posting the results on my From Light to Dark and Back Again page shortly. (Also see below in my From Light to Dark and Back Again section here – the image below is the image I’ve chosen for my flash story idea).

Always good to keep ways of finding story ideas fresh and challenging. Mixing up ways of approaching a story I find makes things interesting for me (and hopefully for a reader). The one thing that does not change, whichever method I use, is ensuring I do know the character well enough first. For me, that is the only way to be sure the character is “worthy” of having a story told about them! Well, they are the leading character. They’ve got to be up to the role!


Lady had a great time playing with her pals over the park today. Came back tired out but happy. And it takes a lot to tire out a collie!

Looking forward to sharing the final part of my Chandler’s Ford Today series, Judging a Book by its Cover, on Friday. This week I’ll be talking covers with guests from CafeLit, Bridge House Publishing, and Chapeltown Books. This has been a great little series. Many thanks to all who have taken part so far and who will be joining me in Friday’s post.

Loving listening to Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams on Classic FM as I type this. It is one of my favourites, I voted for it again in the Classic FM Hall of Fame, and was pleased to see it went up to No. 3. I love this music because it seems to take you right back in time and that is such a wonderful effect to create.

Of course as writers the effects we create are with words but positioning of words, thinking of strongest impact possible on a reader etc., all have a part to play in making sure what we create is exactly what we mean to create. Flash fiction writing, where you are honing your word count right down, encourages the creation of effects via the minimal amount of language so every word I do use really does have to punch its weight to justify being in the story at all.

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Hope you have had a good weekend. It is nice coming back from a long walk with Lady without having to clean all the mud off her! (And you should see where she can get the mud. She also believes in sharing it around – but at least it is only mud!).

Do you remember the first characters who made a huge impact on you at the time of discovering their stories? Mine mostly come from books but there are some TV characters who made a huge impact on me too – mainly because they were girls who did things (Including writing!) and didn’t just hang around waiting to be rescued. I became tired of that very quickly, even as a kid.

My favourite characters include Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), George (The Famous Five), Jo March (Little Women), Lady Penelope (Thunderbirds), Sarah Jane Smith (Doctor Who).

As for my own characters, unless they do something useful, they’re not making it into any of my stories! After all the whole point of a story is to find out what happens and you need your characters to make things happen.

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Glorious sunny day today. This is more like it! Great to have a Zoom chat with writer pals yesterday – always a great “pick me up”. Looking forward to when we can get together for actual live events again.

Do you find it hard to get motivated to start writing sometimes? I find that is more of a problem if I am really tired so I just go easy on myself. Just draft something useful I can turn into a blog or short story later on. I always feel better for having done something creatively and that in turn helps me for the next writing session. I am encouraged to go on with the thought well maybe I can do something with what I drafted yesterday and if I could write something useful then, I can do it again now.

It is important to be kind to yourself. If you can only manage five minutes writing, for whatever reason, then go with that. Don’t despise small pockets of writing time like that. They build up over time.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


I mentioned a new way of creating a story using Pixabay and a random word generator the other day. (See post further down). I selected my sixth random word and the sixth image I found on Pixabay relating to my topic. The topic I chose was raindrops. And here is the result! Hope you enjoy.

Hidden Gems
‘Boring, Dad, this is so…’
‘I know, boring!’
I wish I could say I was surprised at Karen’s attitude but unless there was a decent shopping centre within a mile of her, she made it clear to the world at large she was hard done by. Why bring her to this wildflower meadow then?
I promised her mother I would try to get some love for the natural world into our daughter before she hit the terrible teens. Since losing Sarah to the Big C, all Karen wanted to do was shop, shop, shop.
Even the kingfisher in flight hadn’t impressed Karen mainly because I swore she missed seeing it, though I was amazed at that flash of brilliant blue.
‘There are hidden gems everywhere, Karen. Keep your eyes open.’
‘Yeah, Dad, right. I know Mum wanted you to bring me here but this is so boring. And it’s been raining.’
I knelt by a flower. ‘Isn’t this beautiful with the raindrops on it?’
Karen gave me the “you must be kidding me” look.
I sighed. ‘Okay, Karen, tell me, if this was a piece of artwork would you want it? Go on, get down and have a good look at the flower and see what you think.’
To my surprise, she did. And it started something special.
Karen is in her thirties now, just married and I hope at some point she and her chap, Stephen, will present me with a grandchild. But what does Karen now do for a living?
She’s not become a botanist or anything like that.
She’s a jeweller. She creates exquisite items based on inspiration from the natural world.
I guess it is one way of learning to appreciate the joys of our planet!
Her pieces sell well too.
She presented me with a smashing tie pin. It was in brilliant blue and in the shape of a kingfisher. On the card that came with it were the words ‘I didn’t miss the kingfisher, Dad. Is it really twenty years ago since we saw that?’
I smiled. Those words meant I kept my promise to Sarah after all.

Ends.
Allison Symes – 27th April 2021


Pleased to share my latest story video on Youtube with you. Hope you enjoy A Rotten Day. We all get days like these…

One of my nice tasks for the week is to create a story video and schedule it on Youtube. I look forward to sharing my next one with you tomorrow, having set one up today. (I do love scheduling!). But the images I use for my stories don’t always tie in with the tale itself so, as for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts, I have to think laterally. Sometimes I go for a relatively plain background image if there is no obvious link I can get to directly or laterally.

But it occurs to me there is nothing to stop you (or me for that matter) looking up random images on Pixabay and the like and using them as an inspiration for a flash tale. You could even use a random word generator to trigger words to put in the search bar for Pixabay and perhaps decide you will pick the sixth picture (or whatever number you decide) as the image you will use to generate your next flash tale.

Worth a go? Definitely. And I will give this a go myself and report back I hope later in the week. (See post above). I’ve selected the sixth random word and the sixth image on Pixabay for my topic. Hope to share a new flash tale based on this later in the week.

And do have fun with this!

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I chatted over on my author page about being kind to yourself when you’re finding it hard to start writing anything. Just write for five minutes and see this as something you can polish up later on. The great thing with flash of course is it is perfect for short periods of writing time and, once polished up, those little bits of work can become published stories and, eventually, make it into a collection.

Five minutes of writing time is always better than none and I must admit I always feel better in myself when I have written something. I also feel better knowing what I’ve drafted has the potential to become something that can be published and that spurs me on too.

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Disappointments

Are there any books that have disappointed you? I’m glad to say mine are few and far between and it is almost always because I’ve not been convinced by the characterisation. Something doesn’t quite ring true for me and that lets the whole story down.

The good thing about that is you can learn from it if you’re a writer. I do try to analyse what I liked or disliked about a story and its characters. I also look at how the author shows us what their characters are like. I want to see for myself that Character A is mean to their granny or what have you. I don’t want the author telling me. I want to work it out myself. And great stories and books always allow you to do just that.

After all, what do we look for in a good read? A story and characters that will take us away from our daily lives. Therefore the characters have to “take us with them” on their journeys and be such that we will want to go with them.

Even in the case of a villain, it will be a case of wanting to find out how they get their comeuppance but if you have got to the stage where you want that, the author has written their character well to get you to feel that way.

I must admit I resent book disappointments more now than I used to as I don’t want to waste time on reading something that is going to let me down and make me wish I’d been reading something else instead. Also I am only too aware there are so many wonderful books out there, so I don’t want duff stories getting in the way!

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Moments, One Liners, and Publication News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush, using Pixabay images.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Screenshots of my latest CafeLit story and latest Author Electric blog spot taken by me, Allison Symes. (But do go and check the links out – see posts below!).

Spring has finally turned up here in the UK – hooray!

 

Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Loving the spring weather (now it is finally here!).

Don’t forget the ebook of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is on offer at Amazon for £0.99 for the next two days. See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic for more details.

Looking forward to sending out my next author newsletter. If you would like to sign up for a monthly newsletter, full of tips and stories, as well as news, please go to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – and on sign up, you will receive a welcome email with a link to a giveaway too.

In other news, as they say, what do you make of writing prompts? I love them though I appreciate not everybody does. My favourite kind is the opening line. I like to rise to the challenge of them! I also like picture prompts though I find it easiest to use a prompt like that where the image is taken by someone else. I suppose with my own photos I’ve already got the links and stories in my head associated with those pictures.

I find writing prompts are a great “go to” as a warm-up writing exercise but the most important thing about them is to have fun with them. If they take you out of your comfort zone, then you’re being stretched as a writer and it is only by being stretched like that, you will find out what you are capable of and it may well prove to be more than you think.

Definitely worth a go I think!

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CafeLit – Publication News

Pleased to share a new CafeLit story from me – Smashing Sally. This is a long piece (by my standards!) but I hope you enjoy it. I was rooting for Sally all the way through – and I don’t always do that for my characters as it depends on how I’ve portrayed them! – and hope you do too. (Also nice to have a longer piece published again. Makes for a nice balance with my recent drabbles on Friday Flash Fiction!).

 

Facebook – General and Authors Electric

Pleased to share my latest post for Authors Electric. This time I talk about editing. I look at when to edit and discuss whether you can edit too much. I always feel a sense of relief when I’ve got my first draft down because I then know I’ve got something to work with and improve and it will improve after a decent edit.

I can’t edit as I go. I have to reassure myself it is okay to write total rubbish to begin with because it is not going to stay in and that nobody but nobody ever wrote a perfect first draft. That’s definitely not going to change with me!

However you write and edit, what matters is you do and it helps enormously to get as much creative joy out of both processes (if only for your own sake!).

Hope you enjoy.

Thought the funeral service for HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was beautifully done. Felt so sorry for the Queen sitting alone. (And for anyone who has had to do that this past year).

Looking forward to sharing my Authors Electric blog tomorrow and there will be a new CafeLit story from me up on that website on Monday.

Oh and a quick shout out for #ValPenny who kindly gave me a mention on her blog today.

Friday night is often Zoom night for me and it was lovely catching up with friends from the Association of Christian Writers. To think just over a year ago, if someone mentioned Zoom to me, all I would think of was that it is a fabulous ice lolly and a great word to get out in a game of Scrabble, especially if you can get it out on the triple word score! Yet since then, I’ve attended various writing events on Zoom, given a talk on Zoom, and been part of an international writing summit (the Share Your Story Writing one) all thanks to it. I wonder where we’ll be a year from now!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the great response to my new story video, Fear. (See below for link to it). Some aspects of life never change and my character’s attitude and actions in this prove that!

It has been a joy to find a way of using my mini-tales (the one and two sentence kind) as a way of flagging up (a) what I do and (b) what flash fiction can be. I never anticipated having my own Youtube channel only a year or so ago.

I adore writing the mini tales because they are an excellent challenge (and would also work well on Twitter incidentally which reminded me to just put Fear on there!).

I like writing across the range for flash. The form has more flexibility than it might at first appear. Not only can you set your characters in different genres and times etc., you can choose the word count to write to as long as you don’t go above the 1000 maximum allowed. I’ve written across the word count range though my natural home is under 500 words. Have fun with the format!

 

Time for a new mini-story video again. This one is called Fear. Hope you enjoy it though it will have more meaning I suspect for the cat owners out there! (Also like to think of this as a kind of tribute to the old Tom and Jerry cartoons. Absolutely adore those though clearly Jerry was the intelligent one. Being small myself, I like that!).

 

 


One reason I like to start my stories with a character I know well enough to write for is that stories encourage empathy and understanding. Therefore I think it crucial to understand your character and where they are coming from so you understand (as will your reader) their actions and attitudes. It is that which I think keeps readers reading. Readers will follow a character they can get behind.

The great thing is you don’t have to like the character. You don’t have to approve of their actions either but you do need to understand why they are the way they are. Interviewing your characters is something I’ve mentioned before but it is a useful way of making sure you know what you need to know before getting that first draft down.

It is also my belief it will save you a great deal of time later. I know I’ve stopped myself going off on unhelpful tangents by simply using an outline of my character so I know what they are likely to do. It doesn’t stop them surprising me but when the surprise comes, my reaction should be one of “yes, that’s possible because they’re capable of this, that, and that, so doing this ties in with that”.

If something comes completely out of the blue, I need to look at my character again because I want to know where that surprise came from. There is always a trigger. And it flags up to me I didn’t know my character as well as I thought I did.

Oh and a quick bit of promotional – the Kindle version of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently available on Amazon at the bargain price of £0.99 so do grab a copy. Offer lasts for four days.

Little moments can have a powerful impact and that is something flash fiction brings out so well. I mention this as I was moved at seeing the late Prince Philip’s hat and gloves on the seat of the horse drawn carriage today. (17th April 2021 – for the royal funeral).  (Also loved seeing the sugar lump pot for his horses). Things like that mean a great deal.

Another item that brings things home are shoes. If you ever go to the Imperial War Museum or the Mary Rose Exhibition when such things are possible again, there are a collection of shoes there, which brings home to you the people they’re telling you about were real. And, for me, there is a link forged between the past and the present.

So when it comes to our storytelling, what are your characters’ little moments? The things that mean the most to them? Why do these things mean so much? What it is about them that will convince your readers about the truth of your character portrayal?

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Goodreads Author Blog – One Liners

What are your favourite one liners from stories etc?

I love the opening to Pride and Prejudice.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Sets the scene and the tone. Beautifully done.

I also love this one, by complete contrast, from Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.


“Many phenomena – wars, plagues, sudden audits – have been advanced as evidence for the hidden hand of Satan in the affairs of Man, but whenever students of demonology get together the M25 London orbital motorway is generally agreed to be among the top contenders for exhibit A.”

Hard to argue with that one! It certainly explains the queues…

A good one-liner usually makes me smile or laugh out loud. A really good one-liner will make me pause, read it again and enjoy it again, before moving on to the rest of the story.

And there are far too many from P.G. Wodehouse to quote here but that in itself is a tribute to his wonderful ability to come up with lines that just “hit” you and make you laugh out loud.

As you will gather from this, my favourite one-liners are of the humorous variety. Which are yours?

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Snow, Stories, Patience, and Fish

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Lady wondering why I’m excited about a box of books was taken by Adrian Symes

An interesting title choice I think – see below for how these link up. Two of them are to do with stories I’ve produced this week!

 

Facebook – General


Many thanks for the great responses to my post yesterday.

Happily drafting more stories for what I hope will be my third flash fiction collection. I’m almost there at the word count requirement but know the draft needs a heavy edit (or several) so plenty still to do there.

Am also revising my non-fiction project. Generally happy with it but am tweaking at the moment. Next stage there will be to draw up a list of publishers I want to approach with it. Am hoping to get that out for submission in the next couple of months or so and I’d love to be able to submit the third flash book by the end of the year. Yes, that is my 2021 taken care of nicely!

I find once I get started on a writing session, it is like someone has fired the starting gun and off I go. It can be the getting started that can be tricky, especially if you’re tired etc as I mentioned yesterday.

My tip here is be gentle on yourself, don’t commit to too much, and on days when I feel like that, I focus on small amounts of writing I can polish up later. There will be places for a 100 or 200 word story later, that’s for sure, and I feel better for having got something down I know I can send off later.

Still no snow today so that’s promising! (I know, I know! Famous last words and all that. We’ll see!).

Not impressed with the recent wintry conditions in the UK. Image created in Book Brush using a Pixabay photo.

Snow again this morning. Other than that, it has been an okay but busy Monday. Hope you have had a good day.

Glad to hear Just a Minute on the air again. It’s not the first time they’ve used guest presenters but it is odd that the much missed Nicholas Parsons is no longer part of this wonderful game.

I’ve mentioned before I tend to write less on a Monday given it is one of my busiest days and tiredness takes its toll. But that’s fine. I know I’ll make up for it during the rest of the week. I don’t set myself a word count per day. I just want to write daily and there will be some fluctuations. It is a case of going with the flow. And that’s fine too but it has taken me some time to get to that point and to learn not to be too hard on myself.

 

Lady helps out! Image by Adrian Symes.


Still can’t believe how cold it is. Doesn’t feel like April at all. Oh and we had snow again today. Thankfully not for long but I suspect it will still be a while before our heating goes off!

Writing wise, I start my new Chandler’s Ford Today series on Friday. Called Judging a Book By Its Cover, this three-part series will see a range of guest authors and myself share our latest covers and talk about what we think of these. We also share some useful tips. Looking forward to sharing that later in the week.

Don’t forget I do have an author newsletter now. I send this out monthly and share exclusive stories and writing tips here. To find out more sign up (and receive a free giveaway) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am busy preparing the newsletter for May, working on my third flash fiction book, and editing my non-fiction project.

And the best thing of all about writing?

I get to write in the warm!

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Delighted to say I have another piece, Patience, up on Friday Flash Fiction. Day late sharing (sorry!) but if you like your stories on the darker side, this is one for you. And it is good to be writing drabbles again. Some of my most recent flash pieces have been on the longer side so it is great to be back to my first flash love here. After all it was the CafeLit 100 word challenge that drew me into writing flash at all!

Lady has had a good day. Got to see her best buddie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, on our way back home from the park so on a convenient corner, well out of the way of anyone, the two dogs had a playfight – as you do. Two tired and very happy dogs went home! (Would love to know how dogs can chew each other’s ears without causing any damage incidentally).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the views on my Fish Out of Water story video which I posted yesterday. (Coming up below!). These mini-tales are great fun to write and then put into a video format like this. I like to mix up the mood of what I produce here and it was more than time for a lighter piece.

Incidentally, talking of mood, I should add that character mood does not necessarily match author mood. This is just as well for (a) all my author friends who write crime, (b) all my author friends who write horror, and (c) me when I’m having an off day! Also, thinking of some of the characters I’ve come out with in my time, it is just as well my mood would never match theirs!

Never assume a character’s mood is the same as their author’s one! Image created in Book Brush using a Pixabay photo.


Hope you enjoy my latest story video on Youtube. Fish Out of Water is one of my lighter tales. Well it is From Light to Dark and Back Again here! Also pleased to say I’ll be having another story on CafeLit next week, which will be one of my longer flash tales. More details on that nearer the time but it’s lovely to have an acceptance at the start of the working week!

 


One thing I am loving about submitting drabbles to #FridayFlashFiction is the feedback on my stories. Many thanks, everyone, for that. For my latest story, Patience, I have deliberately not specified the creature that is the “lead” in this.

This isn’t a word count issue, funnily enough. I am going for effect here. One of my earliest introductions to horror was the film Duel which I think was the first directed by a certain S. Spielberg Esq. It works because the plot is simple, scary, and you never see the enemy. I think it would have lost something had we been able to see who the enemy was.

This is another reason why I don’t always give a gender to the non-human creatures that turn up in my stories from time to time. “It” for me conveys a sense of horror when used in this context. 

 

Sometimes the creature in a story is best left unspecified. Doing that can be a more scary effect for a reader than if you spell everything out.

Hope you’ve had a good Saturday. Still cold!

When do I know a flash story is going to “work”? When I know the characters convince me is the answer to that. If they convince me, they should convince other readers. And to convince myself, I’ve got to want to read their story and find out what happens! How can that be for the person who wrote the story?

Simple. I put the story aside for a while and then come back to it after a week or so. Only then can I look at it with fresh eyes and assess it as a beta reader might.

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Goodreads Author Blog – The Greatest Characters

The greatest characters in any story are for me the ones where I’ve got to find out what happens to them. Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings is an obvious one for me here, as was Aslan in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (especially after the sacrifice scene).

But characters who back up the main leads grip me too. I have a very soft spot for Sam (and Frodo would have failed in his mission without him). I also have a soft spot for Lucy in the Narnia Chronicles.

Any great character, for me, is one where I can identify with them in some way. They’re not perfect. Good. Neither am I. They have virtues I aspire to and flaws I’m glad I don’t have as well as some I know I do! But they come across as fully created beings I want to find out more about even if they’re not human.

Great characters for me include Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Sam Vimes and Granny Weatherwax throughout Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (though he makes my skin crawl with his miserly ways at the start of the story).

Great characters can also be redeemed as Scrooge shows and the theme of redemption is a powerful one.

So who would you nominate as your greatest characters?

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Snow, Subverting Expectations, and Traffic Rivals

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

A nice mix of topics tonight I think!

My latest story video coming up further in the post.

 

Facebook – General

More snow flurries today. Central heating back on. Thick cardigans etc not being packed away just yet.

Glad to report my new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Judging a Book by Its Cover, will follow on from my Story Types post this Friday and will run for the remaining three weeks in April. Looking forward to sharing this week’s post and the series in due course.

Enjoyed listening to a poetry special on Hannah’s Bookshelf earlier today (I do love catch up listening!) and the imagery created was fantastic. Particularly enjoyed the lines from two poets. One was “thick as a Bible” (I have images of an old family Bible we had that was huge) and, in a separate poem, “Van Gogh stars”. Both just fantastic word portraits. Great examples of two poets making every word punch its weight.

This is one similiarity between poetry and flash fiction. I was not surprised to hear that some of Hannah’s guest poets had also taken part in her flash fiction shows. I don’t know how many flash fiction writers go on to be poets. Is there a correlation there, I wonder?

I do know that when I read the poetry columns in things like Writing Magazine, I pay particular attention to how the words are used and the tips for making every word count. That kind of information is useful no matter what you write.

It’s all about the impact on the reader.

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Brrr… it has been cold today! Had the odd snow flurry too (and yes odd is an appropriate word given I was just getting used to spring being here and then wham the snow turns up again!). Despite all of that, I hope you have had an enjoyable Easter Monday.

Managed to sub another flash fiction tale over the weekend to #FridayFlashFiction. There have been some wonderful comments on my two stories on the site so far so a big thank you for those. Made good progress on my third flash fiction collection too.

Am putting the finishing touches to a new series on Chandler’s Ford Today to be called Judging a Book By Its Cover. Looking forward to sharing this and the wonderful contributions from my guests for this too. Meanwhile, this week my CFT post will be about Story Types.

What was nice was over the weekend CFT’s lovely editor, #JanetWilliams, sent an email to the regular contributors that she had received from a fan of the site. That was lovely and I know the feedback was appreciated and not just by me. (Ties in with my post last week about Reviews nicely too – constructive feedback is invaluable).

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4th April – Easter Sunday

Happy Easter!

Delighted to see this came up on my timeline as a memory today – from four years ago.

My, how the time flies. From my first book launch for From Light to Dark and Back Again. (See photo below of the notebook and pen).

Look what came up on my timeline – a memory from 2017.


So much has changed in that time! I hadn’t heard of Zoom or Facebook Live when my first flash collection was launched. I hadn’t envisaged having my own Youtube channel, being interviewed on the radio, talking to a WI group, or taking part in an international writing summit either!

Memories like this remind me the writing journey is a continuous one. Sure, there will be times when you feel you are going nowhere or have headed straight into a cul-de-sac. But there are those wonderful moments when you know you are progressing. Progress can be anything from having something published to simply getting more work out there over the course of a year than you’ve done before or trying a new market and seeing what happens.

What matters I think is enjoying as much of the journey as possible and developing what you do in a way that you love doing. You are your own first reader so it is crucial you enjoy what you write.

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Hope you have had good Holy Saturday.

Many thanks for the positive comments, tweets etc about my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week called Reviews. I’m not too surprised this one has struck a chord! I can’t say I review every book I read but I do review the majority. I also find reviews useful for anything from books to my groceries. The range of reviews usually gives a pretty good idea of whether I’m likely to like something or not.

A big thanks also for the lovely comments on my two stories on #FridayFlashFiction.

Enjoying listening to the Hall of Fame countdown on Classic FM. That’s my listening for the weekend sorted. I often pick classical/classic like pieces when I’m creating my story videos for Youtube. They have an impressive audio library and often I’m looking for a particular mood when creating my video. Can’t say I’m too surprised it is the classic section I head most often to look for the right mood music.

Looking forward to sharing details of a new Chandler’s Ford Today series soon too.


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


A big thanks for the wonderful response to my story video, Traffic Rivals, yesterday. (Video below). I adore writing the very short flash tale, especially quirky ones like this, and story videos are a great way to share said mini tales.

Lady and I were not impressed with the snow today. The weather’s being quirky too.

It pays to mix up how you come up with story ideas. For one thing, it will keep things interesting for you.

With Traffic Rivals, it was a case of working out why a witch would take action against a speed camera. After all it wasn’t as if someone was going to dare book her for speeding, was it?! So I then came up with the answer to why she might care about the thing and the story took off from there. Even for a two-line tale, some initial thinking about who, what, why always pays off.


Delighted to see more subscribers to my Youtube channel. Welcome everybody! And I’m pleased to share my latest short story video which is about a witch’s attitude to a fellow witch and speed cameras. Hope you enjoy!

 

 

4th April – Easter Sunday

I’ve talked about wasted words in flash fiction before and one of mine is the word “very”. Why do I consider it to be a wasted word? Simply, it is because it adds nothing of value to a story. Something either is or isn’t something.
The very in front of a word doesn’t strengthen impact.

For example, “I was very cold” is a statement of fact but “I was freezing” shows you how the narrator is feeling. By cutting out words you don’t need, you will have a tighter writing pace and there will be a more immediate feel to it too. Freezing is also a stronger image. You can picture it. “Very cold” can mean different things to different people after all.

Photo by Immortal shots on Pexels.com


Many thanks for the great response to my post yesterday about using intriguing titles to get me started on a new flash fiction story. The Terrified Dragon is not the only time I “subvert” an expectation in my titles. Well, you wouldn’t expect a dragon to be scared, would you?

I use the technique again for Punish the Innocent in my From Light to Dark and Back Again. Have fun brainstorming title ideas that would draw you in. Then and only then work out what stories could come from them and write up the one you like the most, the one that makes you react the most. It will have the same effect on a reader.

You can also do this with well known proverbs and phrases. Change one word in these and see what you can do. I often use a notebook and pen for brainstorming. That just works for me but it also means if I’ve only got a couple of minutes before, say, I have to go out (I know – possibly not right now but bear with me on this!), I can jot down some ideas to work up later. Well worth trying.


Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes a Book Special For You?

It’s always good to start with a leading question, isn’t it?

Okay then, maybe starting with two of them is then!

Seriously, what does make a book special for you? For me, it is always about the characters. I have to want to know them and come to love or loathe them as the case may be but they’ve got to intrigue me enough to make me want to read their stories.

I’ve got to understand their needs and motivations, though I don’t necessarily have to like or agree with them.

And if at the end of the story, I feel sorry that I am “leaving” the characters behind, that is a good sign. Those characters really have got to me – the way they should do.

The characters don’t have to be human. I can understand the rabbits in Watership Down. Their needs, their quest is an understandable one. But there absolutely has to be something I can latch on to about whoever leads the story. It is their journey I’m following after all.

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Characterisation Tips and Happy Hour

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. (Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay pictures).

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Screenshot from ALCS website taken by me for purposes of highlighting their work.

What kind of a week have you had? Interesting one here. I share my latest ACW blog about Characterisation Tips and a new story video, Happy Hour. The latter is one of those where I don’t want to meet the character and I invented them! Ho hum… More below.

CHARACTERISATION - Outlining is a good idea

Facebook – General

Really nice day weather wise today. Lady got to play with a couple of buddies today, the lovely Coco, who is a sweet Labradoodle, and Lady’s “gentleman friend”, a lovely Aussie Shepherd called Bear. Lady came home very tired but happy. The two dogs are happy to share their toys with Lady and she is happy to share hers with them (mainly I think because all of the dogs know the other will give their toy back so win-win here for everyone) so it was a great “play date”.

Many thanks for the lovely comments on my ACW post yesterday about Characterisation Tips and also to those who commented on my latest story video, Happy Hour. Links to both below.

Have sent in another drabble (the 100-word flash fiction type) to #FridayFlashFiction so happy with that.

I’m preparing a new Chandler’s Ford Today series which I hope to share more about soon.

And my new author newsletter will be out on Thursday. Sign up at my website (landing page) if you would like to receive! As well as news, I share exclusive flash fiction here (though I hope these will end up in a future collection) and writing tips as well as other interesting bits and pieces.

 

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers blog spot

It’s my turn on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog More Than Writers and this time I talk about Characterisation Tips. I do love a list and a list of Top Tips is always useful. Hope you find these handy.

Writing flash fiction has honed my characterisation simply because I don’t have the word count room for lots of description. But that’s no bad thing. My favourite parts of the novel, say, are where the characters interact in dialogue and/or action. I find descriptions useful background information but it is not that which draws me into reading a book. It is always the characters which draw me in regardless of the length of the story.

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Missed my hour’s sleep now we’ve gone over to British Summer Time. It’s not summery at all right now though the next week looks promising. Hopefully it will mean Lady and I don’t get a soaking this week. (Good for the soul possibly but never feels great!).

Have just had the delightful task of reading through my two stories for The Best of CafeLit 10, which is due out later in the year. Nice that there were only a couple of amendments to be made. Always feels good pressing the send button sending the corrections back to the publisher.

Looking forward to sending out my latest monthly author newsletter next week. If you want to sign up for this just go to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I share a flash tale here, writing tips, as well as news so would be glad to welcome you aboard. As for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts, I prepare as much as possible in advance and then wrap up towards the end of the month so I know the newsletter is good to go.

Thrilled to see my piece, One of Those Days, went up on the #FridayFlashFiction website this week. I like the idea here of having a target of writing a 100-word story a week so it is ready for the following Friday when the latest stories go live. You don’t copy and paste (and where is the fun in that anyway? As a way to generate new material, I think this is great. Will be getting on and drafting more shortly!).

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Am looking forward to sharing details of a new Chandler’s Ford Today series soon. Spent a lot of last night catching up with friends from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and the Association of Christian Writers via two separate Zoom chats. Many laughs on both and all great fun!

Delighted to receive my payment from the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society on Thursday. Every little bit helps, as a certain supermarket would say. If you want to know more about ALCS, do check out the link at https://www.alcs.co.uk/about-alcs

Membership of ALCS is free if you’re a member of the Society of Authors but even if you’re not, the cost is £36.00 for lifetime membership and they take the money out from the first payment due to you. What’s not to like about that? If you’re a writer with works out there, definitely check this out.

Screenshot_2021-03-30 ALCS

Facebook – From Light To Dark and Back Again

Glad to see my video Happy Hour has gone down well though I wouldn’t want to meet my character in this one. Mind you, that’s often the way. I can think of several characters of mine I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near. I take the view if they give me the creeps in the way that is intended, they will do the same for readers, again as intended!

And nobody says an author has to like everyone they invent. (Think about it. On that scale, where would Stephen King fit?! Does he like any of his creations I wonder?!).

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Pleased to share my latest short story video Happy Hour (though you’ll need to see the video to work out who the happy hour applies to!). (I really liked the music track for this).


One aspect to flash fiction writing I love is it is easy to share on social media, especially if you stick to the 100-200 words mark. That means I get creative writing and marketing done in the same post! I like that a lot!

And of course flash stories work well for book trailers too. Book trailers work best when kept relatively short and a great way to keep people watching them is to give them a story! We all want to find out what happens at the end, yes?

Flash and book trailers – match made in heaven there I think.

 

Publication News

Delighted to say my piece, One of Those Days, is now up on the Friday Flash Fiction website. There’s a lovely mix of stories here and I hope to submit more here. See https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories and there are categories for longer flashes.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this one!

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/one-of-those-days-by-allison-symes

Goodreads Author Blog – Reference Books

Reference books are dipped into rather than read through as such, but they are invaluable. Other than my combined dictionary/thesaurus, my favourite reference book is Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. But I have to watch how long I spent with it. Looking up an entry can so easily led me into looking up others I don’t really need at that moment. The book is a huge, fascinating world of words and their origins. What’s not to like there?!

So which reference books would you not be without and why?

I think it is easy to forget this “section” of the non-fiction world. I know many authors would be lost without these books, myself included. It is not a case of using the nugget of information directly. Often it can be a case of looking something up and that will then affect what I get my character to do. That in turn has a direct result on the story outcome.

So let’s hear it for the reference books then!

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Wishing, Reluctant Readers, and Talks

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Images from the Share Your Story Writing Summit supplied by the organisers, Creative U. I was on Day 2 of the summit, see below.

Screenshots from North Manchester FM taken by me, Allison Symes, but based on their website. (And Hannah Kate asks wonderful questions! Really enjoyed being interviewed by her).

Fabulous pics of me at Swanwick Writers Summer School taken by #JenWilson and sent to me via my Facebook timeline for my birthday (22nd March). Many thanks, Jen. It was fab to see these pics again.

Screenshot from Tim Taylor’s blog, where I was a guest this week, taken by me from his blog. And there’s a new flash fiction piece from me here. A huge thanks, Tim, for hosting me.

Screenshot_2021-03-18 Creative U

Facebook – General


Have loved being part of the Share Your Story Writing Summit which finishes at the end of today. Good news though – you can still register and download the talks. There is a fee of $97 USD (from 24th March onwards) but you do get 23 workshops for that. I do earn an affiliate fee (as indeed do all of the presenters).

Link is at https://www.creativeu.ca/a/46030/yLSebqrq

Good news is you are very quick, you will get the talks for $67 USD but you do need to act fast to get the cheaper rate.

Delighted to report the Covid jabs went well for my better half and I yesterday. We had the Astra Zeneca and I was amazed at how painless it was. I have literally had more pain taking a plaster off! No side effects so far though I did feel more tired than I thought I would be last night.

Hope that stays the case as I know some people have had effects a day or so later. But relieved it has been done and better half and I will enjoy another jaunt to Salisbury in June. (I would far rather feel a bit tired etc than have the dreaded Covid. I know people who have been so ill with it).

Many thanks also for the positive responses to my interview with #HannahKate.

Now writing wise I’m working on a book proposal for a non-fiction project. Am also starting to get material together for a third flash fiction collection. These two projects will easily keep me out of mischief for this year. Am hoping to submit the proposal later in the summer and maybe the flash collection by the end of the year. I know better now than to set definite dates. Life can and does get in the way at times but I have found setting a goal incredibly useful. It helps me focus and I am much more likely to achieve something concrete doing this.

The great thing is though you get to choose to set the goals. For a bigger project it may well help to break it down in sections. Those goals will seem more achievable then and should encourage you to get the next one!

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22nd March – my birthday and covid jab

Firstly, a huge thank you for the wonderful birthday wishes received today. Much appreciated and I was particularly pleased to see some wonderful pics from #JenWilson from previous years at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. See below!

Secondly, glad to report the Covid jab went well for my better half and I. We were impressed with how well organised everything was. It’s an unusual birthday gift perhaps but one that is much appreciated by us. We know people who have been ill with Covid so having the vaccine was a no-brainer for us.

Thirdly, my CFT post this week will be about Talking About Writing, which is a quick look back at how recent events have gone as I have talked about writing a lot lately! This was not something I anticipated doing when I first started writing but it is something worth “getting ready for”. Link up on Friday.

Can you describe what you write to a stranger? Can you share what it is you love about writing what you do? I also share a few thoughts on the prep work I carried out for the radio interview, the summit, and the WI talk. One thing I did learn reasonably early on is that prep work always pays off. And it is not too soon to think about how you will share what you write with others and getting yourself ready to talk about that.

Radio Interview Link

Thrilled to share the link to my interview on North Manchester FM yesterday. A huge thanks to #HannahKate for interviewing me on Hannah’s Bookshelf. Hope you enjoy! It was great fun to do this but agony to only get to choose three books for the Apocalypse Books section of the show. Every writer would want to smuggle in far more than that!

https://www.mixcloud.com/Hannahs_Bookshelf/hannahs-bookshelf-with-special-guest-allison-symes-20032021/



It was a real pleasure to chat to #HannahKate for her Hannah’s Bookshelf show on North Manchester FM. My interview was broadcast this afternoon but I hope to be able to share the link soon. I chat about flash fiction, blogging, and share some tips that have stood me in good stead amongst the wonderful questions Hannah set me.

Am enjoying watching the talks on the Share Your Story Writing summit. It’s not too late to sign up and if you do it before the summit ends on the 23rd March, you can (a) access the remaining talks for FREE for a limited period and/or (b) get a cheaper rate if you decide you want to purchase the 23 workshops and watch them at a time that suits you.

This is $67 USD until the summit ends. After the summit the price goes up to $97 USD. There is an affiliate link so if you do decide to go for the paid for option I will earn some money from it.

It has been a blast taking part in the summit and being interviewed by Hannah. The writing journey is an interesting one as you can’t know exactly what will happen next. You can make plans, but they may not come off. Or circumstances force plans to change (and haven’t we known all about that over the last year?!).

Am I looking forward to what comes next? Oh yes!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


A huge thanks for the great response to my story video, Wishing. It was great fun to write. I do love exploring the Youtube free to use audio library. There are some great tracks in there.

I mentioned on my author page I’m starting to get together material for a third flash fiction collection. I estimate it takes about a year to 18 months to have a collection ready for submission. Well, it takes me that long!

The editing on a collection is an interesting task. As well as looking at the individual stories, I’m looking for emerging themes, appropriate grouping of stories and so on. My overall aim is a sensible, logical, and enjoyable “flow” of stories for the reader. The lovely thing with that is for my first book, this “flow” directly inspired the title – it really was a case of From Light to Dark and Back Again.

The idea for the title Tripping The Flash Fantastic came from one of the stories in the book. I changed the word “light” from the story to “flash” for the title as I thought it would make a great flag for the book’s genre. And the word “flash” in turn inspired ideas for what could be on the book cover.


My latest story video on Youtube is called Wishing. Hope you enjoy it. There’s a lot of truth behind it!

 

Guest Blog Appearance

A big thanks to #TimTaylor for hosting me on his blog today. Tim set a theme of writing about the pandemic and asked for flash pieces as well as blog posts about it. Now I hadn’t anticipated writing about Covid but the thought of producing a flash story based on it did bring out the “go on, give it a go instinct” in me – and here is the result!
Screenshot_2021-03-23 Welcome, Allison

And to see the rest of the story, do go to the link!


Plenty of marketing for the flash fiction going on this week with my interview on North Manchester FM by #HannahKate today. I hope to be able to share the link for that soon. Also the Share Your Story Writing Summit is currently on and I have been so pleased to receive positive feedback on my presentation, Flash Fiction – Why I Love It and Why I Think Every Writer Should Try It.

Now to resume writing flash fiction! It is always a tricky balancing act for any writer working out just how much marketing to do in relation to creating new material. I don’t think there is any one simple answer to this either. My approach is to look at the week as a whole and try to have a 50/50 split. It doesn’t always work out. This week it will be 80% marketing for example but there will be other weeks when it will be 80% new writing/editing material etc.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Coaxing in Reluctant Readers

I’m a flash fiction writer and one of my hopes for the form is that it may prove to be an excellent way to coax in the reluctant reader. For one thing, with flash fiction stories coming in at a maximum of 1000 words (and often considerably less than that), I’m not asking a reader to commit to too much in one go!

I’ve loved stories and books all of my life (thanks to my lovely much missed mum encouraging and developing that love) but not everyone “gets” stories and books. So how do you reach them and persuade them books can be “their bag” too?

No easy answer to that but I hope films might draw people in to read the books the movies are based on. I also hope audio can be a way in. You can listen to a great story as well as read one. And as I say I hope flash fiction, which reads well on screens, would also help here.

I do know that the love of reading should be encouraged. I think it is a question of convincing people there really are books out there which would suit them.

 

Twitter Corner

 

 

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Superstitions, Characters, and the Love of Story

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. (Some screenshots of my reviews too).

Looking forward to the WI talk I’m giving this week (17th March), the start of the Share Your Story Writing Summit (18th to 23rd March 2021), and the interview with #HannahKate which goes out on North Manchester FM on Saturday, 20th March 2021. (Images connected to the summit were supplied by the organisers, Creative U, or screenshots from their website advertising the summit).

And I have my first Covid jab on 22nd March… it will be a busy and unforgettable few days for all sorts of reasons!

Screenshot_2021-03-05 summit presenters 2021Screenshot_2021-03-06 Share Your Story Writers Summit Facebook

Facebook – General

Lovely big walk with Lady today. Delighted to spot a few early bluebells out and some early blossom. Spring is almost here! It’s hard to say what my favourite season is as all of them have charms of their own. (Yes, even winter – I love seeing the silhouettes of bare trees against a setting sun in the winter months and must try and remember to get more pictures of these).

Thanks for the great response to the heads-up about my CFT post this week, Places to Go For Writing Advice. Feedback is always useful and something writers often cry out for, especially for reviews. It helps us know if we are generally speaking on the right track and reviews, as well as being useful for marketing, can be a great source of encouragement.

Given we spend a lot of time at our desks on our own, hoping our characters are going down well with people (or going down the way they are meant to!), that encouragement is so useful. Go on you know you want to – write a review today!

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My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be Places to Go For Writing Advice and, while this will be especially useful to new writers, I hope everyone can get something helpful from it. This is the kind of broad overview post I would’ve loved to have read when I was starting out so many years ago as it is a good place to start. (It’s also reassuring to know there are places you can go and that there is no such thing as a stupid question either!). I’ll be sharing useful links too. Post up on Friday.

I’m talking to The Disparate Housewives WI-affiliated group on Wednesday night and part of that talk will be about the ups and downs of the writing life. The idea for my CFT post this week has come from that talk. I love it when one piece of writing inspires ideas for other work. (It’s useful too!).


A huge thank you for the wonderful response to my post yesterday about my late mum gifting me the love of books and stories from an early age, which is something I do appreciate more than words can actually say. I was moved by the responses. Thank you, all.

I generally don’t write about mothers in my stories but with one exception. That is Time For Some Peace from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, where I look at motherhood from the viewpoint of a lady dragon. (As you do – and someone had to!).

My main focus on characters is usually centred on them as opposed to their relationships with others. I can and usually do imply the latter through what I show a reader via the character’s own head, attitudes etc. It is a very direct approach and one that works well for flash fiction.

When I outline my characters, I look at their major traits and what reactions are likely to come from those. When I have a longer flash piece, with more than one character in it, then I can let the sparks fly but I have chosen Character A to be that spark generator and it will be seen from their viewpoint. I have, interestingly, come across a competition recently in the Writing Magazine comps guide where the organisers are looking for the same story told twice, but from opposing viewpoints. Now that is an interesting idea and one I hope to explore at some point.


Today would have been my mum’s 87th birthday. One of my fondest memories was when I showed her my first story in print – A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology back in 2009. She was so pleased. I owe my love of stories and books (and therefore writing) to her.

And to all who will find tomorrow a difficult day, for whatever reason, know you’re not alone. Virtual hugs to you all.

I’ve long thought that giving someone the wish to read and to keep on reading is a truly fantastic gift for anyone, whether or not you go on to write your own stories. It certainly inspires me as a writer to try to keep on writing tales that will entertain people.

I’m not a literary writer. I never will be. I have nothing against literary fiction, far from it, but it is just not me. Seeking to entertain people through stories is a fantastic thing to do in and of itself and great fun.

But it is the love of story that sparks all of that.

Thanks, Mum.

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Allison Symes and published works 640 VERSION

Allison Symes and some early works.

My flash collections are available in Kindle and paperback

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thanks for the great response to my video Superstitions yesterday. Much appreciated.

This story hinged on a well known superstition and showing my character is more affected by them than she perhaps cares to admit. This was a case of knowing what the twist would be and then working backwards to getting to a logical start point.

But I do deliberately mix up how I write a story. Sometimes I have a line which I know will make a cracking opening, It is then a question of working out where that line could lead to and going with the storyline I like best.

And I have to be “taken” by the characters. If they don’t grip me, then I can forget any chance of hooking other readers with them. It is useful to know what fascinates you about characters you’ve read and work out what makes them work for you. You can then apply what you discover here to what you then go on to write.

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Am delighted to share a new story video – Superstitions. Hope you enjoy. Am enjoying exploring the Youtube audio library. Good fun to try the different tracks and try to match an appropriate one with the mood of my tale. As for my CFT posts, where I have to think laterally sometimes to find pictures that suit my theme, I am doing this with music, which I had not anticipated doing when I first set the Youtube channel up. It’s good fun though!

Many thanks for the great response to my post yesterday about my forthcoming interview with #HannahKate. If you can listen live, it is on Saturday between 2pm and 4pm on North Manchester FM. Hannah’s show is called Hannah’s Bookshelf. I will share the link to the show as soon as I can after broadcast and I am really looking forward to doing that. The interview was great fun to do and I can’t wait to share it.

Now I know I’ve mentioned before that interviewing characters is a great technique for a writer to work out what makes the characters tick. I’ve found I write the characters’ stories up with greater depth, even in a restricted word count, because I do know “my people” well enough.

(And it is good to remember it is the character’s story. Why? It helps you focus on getting their viewpoint across without the author voice butting in and, frankly, getting in the way. It’s also a great way to avoid head-hopping because you are focusing on your major character, their needs and wants etc).

But it is down to you what questions you use to find out what you need to know. I need to know what the major traits are, for example, but a good secondary question to that is to ask your characters what made them develop those traits in the first place. A defensive trait for example – what caused your character to develop that as they won’t have been born with it? That could trigger story ideas.

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I will flag this up again later, when I have the link, but my interview with #HannahKate on North Manchester FM will be going out next Saturday, 20th March.

It was great fun talking to Hannah about flash fiction and blogging, my twin writing loves.

It is going to be a busy week as I chat online to a WI group about The Ups and Downs of Becoming an Author. I also hope to share some examples of flash fiction as I have found the best way to explain it is demonstrate it! The 100 worders (the drabbles) are especially useful here!

And the Share Your Story Writing Summit begins on 18th March. My topic for that is Flash Fiction – Why I Love It and Why I Think Every Writer Should Try It.

Then there’s the interview with Hannah on the 20th. (And I get my covid jab, the first one, on the 22nd – well I’m pleased about that anyway!).

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books as Gifts

I always love to give and receive books as gifts. For me they are the perfect present and so easy to gift wrap too! Also no calories are involved whatsoever and a good book as I’ve mentioned before will take you to all sorts of wonderful worlds. Books are the places to escape your cares for a while. (This is just one reason why I can’t read misery memoir. When I read, I do want to escape. I guess that is why fantasy IS high up on my reading list).

But flipping this topic, let’s wonder about what books would make great presents for fictional characters.

Scrooge – The Art of Generosity. (He would have got more from this after the visits from the ghosts).
Jane Eyre – Exploring the Attic.
Elizabeth Bennet – Knowing Your Own Mind
Frodo Baggins – Appreciating Your Friends
Miss Marple – Anything from the I-Spy collections.
Hercule Poirot – Hair Care for the Fussy

Okay over to you – what books would you give to fictional characters?

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Twitter Corner

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Writing Wish List and Flash Fiction Formats

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

All images related to the Share Your Story Writing Summit are provided by the organisers, Creative U, or are screenshots from their website.

Free Writing Summit, Join Me There – 18th to 23rd March 2021.  (So looking forward to being part of this!)

https://www.creativeu.ca/a/46030/yLSebqrq 

Allison Symes3. writers IG 2021

Facebook – General

Delighted to say I’m now booked in for my covid jab. Will be having the first one on my birthday in a couple of weeks time. An unusual gift but one I welcome and look forward to – as much as you can ever look forward to a vaccination.

I am asthmatic so having the vaccine is a no-brainer for me. I know people who have been seriously ill with Covid and given my lungs are not all as I would wish (!), I’m not taking any chances here. I would far rather take my chances with the vaccine (and I don’t usually have reactions to them. I’m taking the view even if I do with this one, I will just wind back my levels of activity until fully back to myself again. And if no reactions at all, even better).

Even better is my other half will be having his jab five minutes after I’ve had mine – our first “date” in ages and we’re off to a clinic!! I would far rather it had been to one of our favourite pubs etc., but hopefully that will happen in a few more months.

Writing wise, I am putting up a bonus CFT post tomorrow giving all the details and links to the Share Your Story Writing Summit I’m taking part in from 18th to 23rd March. Am looking forward to catching up with the other speakers too as there are plenty of topics of interest for me to follow up on here. Link up to the bonus post tomorrow (and quick link up above to the summit details).

My normal post on Friday will be about Book Trailers and Story Videos and I look forward to sharing that link then.

Screenshot_2021-03-05 summit presenters 2021


Pleased to share another story video. Hope you enjoy Doing What You Must, an everyday tale of a monster having to re-evaluate its career options. As you do…and especially after a busy Monday.

 

Has been a good writing weekend. Just sent out my bonus newsletter with details about the Share Your Story Writing Summit which runs from 18th to 23rd March. Sign up details for newsletter are on my landing page

Have put finishing touches to my WI talk. Have created a new story video which I hope to share tomorrow. Am also preparing future blogs. My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be looking at book trailers and story videos. The one on the 12th will be about places to go for writing advice and will be especially useful for new writers. Looking forward to sharing these.

Have also started work on a book proposal and am starting to collate material together for a new flash fiction collection. So plenty to keep me out of mischief for some considerable time to come!

Every so often I will brainstorm for future story and blog post idea as I’ve mentioned before. This makes for a great imaginative work out. I will jot down the ideas and what I think might come from them. I rest them for a bit. If they still seem good when I come back to them, I draft them.

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Hope your Saturday has gone well. Do you have a writing wish list? My writing wishes are:-

  • To get better at what I do/produce more work (the two are closely connected)
  • To widen my range of markets for flash fiction and short stories (ongoing project that one!)
  • More reviews on Amazon for my books (which is on every writer’s wish list and again is an ongoing thing).
  • To expand what I do in terms of writing itself (one reason I’ve had for trying a longer work of non-fiction) and in terms of spreading the word about what I do. (Working on that and the Share Your Story Writing Summit, the WI talk, and the radio interview with #HannahKate are all going to help a lot with that!).#
  • To have more writing time. I’d happily ditch housework anyway but especially if I could give that time over to writing!

What I want to know is when my writing fairy godmother is going to turn up and help me with all of that! So far there has been no sign of her. Oh well, best get on with it myself then!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My favourite format for flash is the sub-500 words kind and it does seem to be my natural writing home. When I do go over this bench mark, I find I’m usually writing right up to the 1000 words upper limit. The joy of those is I can put in a simple sub-plot and give more depth to the characters, which I love doing. But the sub-500 words stories I love for the sharpness of their impact. I like a story which in relatively few words can make me go “Wow”!

The joy of flash overall though is having this flexibility to write to the word count you prefer as long as you don’t go above the thousand. I find I will write in batches. It’s not unusual for me to write a couple of longer pieces, then have a real field day on the shorter ones for a while, but it is all great fun!


Occasionally I can use a list as a story format. In Tripping The Flash Fantastic, my The Wish List has all but one of its sentences start with the words “I wish..”.

The exemption is the last line which is the punchline to the story. I use the “I wish” statements to build up the story layer by layer until I reach that punchline.

This kind of storytelling is best kept short but then that’s what flash is all about so win-win!

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If I’m running out of time in a writing session for any major work, I will do one of two things.

  1. Brainstorm for future ideas for stories or blog posts, make a new notes, put aside for a while.
  2. Draft flash fiction. In ten minutes, say, I can usually draft a reasonable length piece (say a 500 worder) or two smaller works. I find homes for them later!

One thing I have learned over the years is never despite those small pockets of time we all get. You can do some useful writing indeed in those times.

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I like experimenting with form for my flash fiction and one I especially enjoyed was using the diary format. I used this for Losing Myself in Tripping The Flash Fantastic. For this kind of story, you do need pretty much the full 1000 word count allowed for in flash but it was fun to do and the different dates in my fictional diary make effective scene breaks. It’s a form I’ll try again at some point.

I have used letter format as well in Punish the Innocent in From Light to Dark and Back Again. That was a 500 words+ story but unless I am writing to a specific market or competition asking for a specific word count, I decide on the final word count only once I’ve edited the story and I feel as it is good as I can make it (at the time. You always see things you could improve on later – it is the lot of the writing life!).

Both of these tales had to be the length they are. Any less would have spoiled the effect and you do get better over time at knowing when to stop editing and get the pieces out there.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Where I Want A Book To Take Me…

A lot depends on what I’m reading, naturally. For fiction, I want to explore the writer’s created world and characters and be immersed in that for the duration of the book. For non-fiction, I want to stretch my mind and learn. For both I want to be entertained while all of that is going on! No pressure then…

I am thankful that the days of non-fiction being the poor relation to fiction are over. No more boring books of lists and dull facts. What we have are books that engage with the reader, making you want to find out more, actively encouraging further reading in the subject.

As for fiction, even the world is not your limit. I love the way fiction can take you to fantasy worlds, worlds that could exist out there somewhere, maybe, and the books that help us explore our world, right here and now and backwards and forwards in time.
Books have the potential to take you anywhere and that’s just how it should be.

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Twitter Corner



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