In Fiction – Frameworks and Animals – and A Good Cause


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Somes images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you are all safe and well. UK currently experiencing Storm Eunice. Must admit I’m not impressed by her! Neither was the dog…

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today/Authors Electric

Authors Electric
Busy night on the old blogging front as I have two separate posts to share. First up is my Authors Electric post for this month where I talk about Animals in Fiction. This is something I talked about for Chandler’s Ford Today a few weeks ago but the topic bears repeating. I share my love of animal characters and talk about what I do when I write from the viewpoint of an animal character. I’ve written from the viewpoint of a mother dragon after all! Hope you enjoy the post.

Chandler’s Ford Today

And now time for my Chandler’s Ford Today post. This week I’m looking at Frameworks in Fiction. I look at why frameworks matter, share a few of the different ones I use (and why I like to mix them up), and what can be used as a framework, even when at first glance the device in question doesn’t appear to be a framework at all! I also ask if frameworks can be too constricting. Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful.

Frameworks in Fiction

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Lull between the storms in the UK right now. Take care, everyone, with Storm Eunice due tomorrow.
On a happier note, my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be about Frameworks in Fiction. I use a number of different ones for my flash tales and will be discussing these and why frameworks are so useful. Link up tomorrow. See above.

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

Currently busy on story judging and editing as well as my own writing so am staying out of mischief well enough!

It was lovely catching up with everyone on the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group on Zoom last night. We all ended up with a new story to work on thanks to a free writing exercise set by #AnnmarieMiles. I used a random name generator to come up with the name of a character to write about and there were excellent and different approaches taken. All good fun!

 

The wind is already getting stronger here in Hampshire – take care, everyone, over what promise to be a wild few days in the UK.

Now I don’t use the weather in fiction at all (too many cliches etc and It was a dark and stormy night has been done!). But you can use the elements to help set mood including landscape as well as weather. Think about the detail a reader needs to know. You won’t need to spell everything out. The joy of flash is so much is inferred and the reader fills in the gaps.

I’ve always loved doing that when reading longer works but for flash writing, it is crucial. I may need to know your character is on a moor. I don’t need to know how wet, boggy etc the moor is because I have my idea of what a moor is like and that will be what I visualise when I read the word “moor”. What is more important to know is the season. Is your character there in the summer or the winter? That will make a huge difference to the conditions they face.

So it is the question of the telling detail then – select what readers have to know, what they cannot guess at, and let your readers fill in the gaps. We will – and it saves so much on the old word count! Nor do you irritate readers telling them what they can work out for themselves.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Now earlier this week, I shared my YouTube story called At Number 64  – see below – and I mentioned I had submitted a linked story to this for Friday Flash Fiction. Well, I am glad to say my second story on the same theme is now up on FFF and I am glad to share it here. Hope you enjoy A Good Cause (and many thanks for the fab comments in on it so far).

Screenshot 2022-02-18 at 19-20-44 A Good Cause, by Allison Symes


In a month’s time I’ll be on my way to the Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference where I’ll be running a flash fiction workshop. Looking forward to that immensely. Never thought I’d be doing this kind of thing when I started out.

But I have a very soft spot for workshops anyway. You get to meet other writers. You get to learn something useful. And a good workshop should trigger ideas for you own stories too.

Best invention since sliced bread? The notebook and pen of course.

Still great for workshop/conference environments. And flash gives you potential for writing up your exercises from workshops etc into polished stories you can submit later. Every so often I will go back through my old notebooks and see if there is something I can polish up. Sometimes I will find something useful like that. Other times I’ll read something which will trigger other story ideas and that’s great too.


Screenshot 2022-02-18 at 20-54-40 Writing Workshops Conference 2020 Scottish Association of WritersI was talking about giving readers the telling details they need to know to make sense of your story over on my Facebook author page just now and I referred to the elements. But you need to think about telling details for your characters too.

I’ve mentioned before I like to know the character’s major trait as all sorts of things can come from that which you can use to bring your character to life (e.g. the character is brave, they have a tendency to be reckless because of it and that’s where the story is – in what that recklessness leads to).

So work out what you need to know to make the character work for you. (If the character works for you, they’ll work for a reader). If a character is poor, do you need to know if they have become poor or have always been less well off? What is their attitude towards it? Can that attitude be where your story is – if your character is bitter, do they do something against anyone they hold to blame for their situation?

Ask yourself questions about what you need to know. I’ve found doing that sparks ideas and soon an outline for a possible story emerges. I like that – a lot!

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Fairytales With Bite – Happily Ever After?

And they all lived happily ever after has to be one of the most famous endings to any story. Though it should be added the original versions of fairytales often did not have a happy ending or gruesome things occurred before the happy ever after bit.

I understand it being in the classic tales for children but it is not one I am comfortable with myself. I like most of my stories to have a positive, upbeat ending where you can see things would continue to be okay for my deserving characters long after the story has finished. But sometimes I write stories with poignant endings because that is appropriate for the characters I’ve come up with.

And that is what I am really after in the stories I read and write – appropriate endings for the characters.

One thing I do get from my love of fairytales is the wish for the villains to get their well deserved comeuppance. I’m actually more interested in seeing how that pans out rather than the happy bit (because with the comeuppance bit achieved, the rest will follow).

I also like to see happy ever afters “earned” by the characters concerned – it seems more realistic to me the characters (a) deserve to get their happy ever after ending and (b) contribute to achieving that significantly themselves.

So give some thought to how you want your stories to end. When it is a happy ending, have your characters be worthy of it. You want your readers cheering them on to the happy conclusion after all.

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This World and Others – Living In Peace

Does your fictional world live in peace with other creations around it? Do the inhabitants of your created world get along with each other? How many species live in your world and is there any “history” between them? Do they live in peace now after centuries of not doing so? Is your world one of those where peace is a rarity or where war is unknown and disputes have to be resolved in other ways?

What would your fictional world make of our real one? Answering something like that can give you insight into how and why your people behave and act the way they do. Could they live in peace with us? What do they make of our warlike ways? Some would despise that (and possibly because we’re not warlike enough in their view). Some would hate it because they cannot understand violence. Some would love it, possibly seeing possibilities of exploiting that quality against us.

Living in peace takes effort. How much effort are your characters prepared to make? What is the incentive for them to be at peace especially if their culture is one of war?

Good story possibilities there I think especially since there is always someone who is prepared for various reasons to go against the status quo.

 

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The Writer’s Journey: Introducing Paula Readman

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay supplied the pictures unless otherwise stated. A big thank you also to Paula Readman for supplying some pictures for my Chandler’s Ford Today interview of her this week.

Every writer’s journey is unique. For a story of grit, determination and perserverance, check out Paula Readman’s story in my CFT post this week.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It was a real pleasure to interview Paula Readman for my CFT post this week. While Paula and I have publishers in common, it is also true every writer has a unique writing journey. Discover Paula’s fascinating writing journey in this interview and why grit, determination, and striving to be the best you can be as a writer is SO important to any writer, published or not.

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It is always a joy interviewing writers for CFT but it is also great fun interviewing your own characters. I’ve used this technique for my longer short stories but even with my flash fiction, I’ve outlined what I need to know about a character and why it is I need to know that.

To do the latter, I have to quiz my potential character as to why they’d be, for example, greedy. What has triggered that? There usually is a reason behind it even if it is not a nice or honourable one. From all of that I begin to hear my character’s voice and away I go. I have to hear their voice before I can write about them at all.

Think about what you need to know before you write a character. Some writers need to know what their characters look like. I have to know my character’s voice and what drives them above anything else and I find physical description follows from that.

Sounds a bit odd I know but it works for me. I know my character is well spoken and is driven to prove themselves, for example. I quiz them as to why. Possible answer would be to prove all those who said they’d be a failure wrong. Their voice is to cover up the fact they come from a poor background – sounding upmarket is a kind of armour for them.

I’m then thinking of what my character might look like. They’d want to look smart for one thing so how that would manifest itself? Can I give them a real fad for fancy shoes, say, and make that a quirky trait that comes up in the story?

No two authors go about this process of discovery in quite the same way (which is another reason why it is such fun to interview them!). It is a case of working out what works for you.

I’ve often read of writers keeping magazine pictures of people to inspire how they would describe their characters’ physical appearance. I’ve taken that idea and modified it because I know I’ve got to hear the character’s voice ahead of anything else. Then, like a good actor, I need to know the character’s motivation. And then off I go!

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My CFT post this week will be a fab interview with #PaulaReadman, author of The Funeral Birds (and with more to come later in the year). She shares with me what books (reading and writing them) means to her. Her writing journey is a powerful one and inspirational. Link up tomorrow.

Interviewing other authors is great fun to do. None of us come into writing in exactly the same way. None of us are inspired by exactly the same things. All of us have a unique voice. And we all love books. What’s not to love?!

Many thanks to Paula for supplying her author shot below. And if you’re wondering what the owls have to do with anything, look up the link when I put it up tomorrow! Update:  Hopefully by now you will have seen the CFT post and know exactly what the owls are about though there is a good clue below!

 

Am making good progress on my edits for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic.

I always feel a certain amount of relief when I get to ANY editing stage on a book, a short story, or a piece of flash fiction. It means I’ve got something I can work with! And, yes, I have cut my wasted words – very and actually especially! Those went before I submitted the book at all!

Over the course of an average week, I’ll have writing slots where I’ll create new stories for competitions, another book etc.

I’ll then have others where I’m writing non-fiction (covering my CFT posts, ACW blog spots, draft articles I hope to pitch in due course etc. A recent edition to this is preparing various posts I can use either here on on Goodreads for those times when I’m pushed for time. I hope this is going to make me more productive as I would like to schedule more posts in advance).

Then there will be those slots where I’m editing. That can feel as if I’m not doing much but I am, of course. The writing really is in the rewriting. The chances of me writing a perfect first draft is remote. The work is in getting rid of the dross from what I hope will prove to be gold!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Some of my narrators in my flash tales are impartial observers and it is something I hope to use more of as a technique in my stories.

The advantages are that I can get straight into the head of this character, they come to the situation in the tale with no preconceptions (as there is no way they could have any), and what might seem obvious to us could appear alien to them.

That in turn can make us think about how something WOULD look to someone who has never come across it before and therefore doesn’t know what to expect.

So how can you make your observer truly impartial?

By ensuring they are not part of the main set up in the story. They’ve been invited in by someone who IS in that main set up. (Exploring the reasons for that can also make for interesting stories).

For example if your set up is the Court of Queen Elizabeth Tudor, your outsider could be someone who is the servant of one of the ambassadors to that Court. They would never be asked for their opinion by anyone in the English Court or by their boss but they would have some thoughts on what they get to see. Nobody is immune to having thoughts even if you do have to keep them to yourself.

Your impartial observer can share those thoughts in your story though! (And maybe the battle to keep said thoughts quiet knowing they won’t go down well with the boss or the English Court, say).

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As you know, I sometimes use a random word generator to kick start story ideas. This works especially well for flash fiction.

Some of the generators allow you to set your own parameters. For example, you can see how many letters or syllables you want in your selections etc. You can even set the first letter and the last one.

When I use the parameters, I focus on word length and maybe the starting letter but leave it at that. I don’t want to be too prescriptive. If the first word generated doesn’t seem to suit, I trigger another three or so. I’ve usually got an idea I can work on within three or four goes on these things. And they’re great fun. (Bear in mind too you could combine ALL of what you trigger for an idea as well).

It could be useful to have a “stock” of these in ready to submit to competitions and markets as and when you come across suitable ones. (And yes I have a stock of stories in! Every so often I have a big writing session where I write a lot of flash. I know I’m not going to be submitting them anywhere for a while but it does mean when I have market or competition information that interests me, I can go through said stock and find something useful to submit).

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Reading in and out of your genre inspires your own writing. You also take in subsconsciously how stories are laid out. I’ve never understood the attitude I’ve sometimes come across where, when people find you’re a writer, they seem surprised when you reveal you’re a reader as well!

It was the love of books and stories that I read which sparked my wish to be a writer at all. It is the books and stories I still read that fires my imagination and helps me to “up my game”.

So read away, folks, it’s good for you!

 

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Fairytales With Bite – Happily Ever After?

The first indication I had that fairytales did not necessarily have to have a happily ever after ending was when I read Hans Christen Andersen’s The Little Mermaid for the first time. That was an eye opener to me as a child. Likewise how dark The Snow Queen is – the image of the ice piercing Kay’s heart still makes me shudder.

The crucial thing for any story, fairytale or not, is that the ending is appropriate. Also the author should deliver on the promise made by the opening of the story. There has to be a proper resolution, whether it’s a happily ever after or not!

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This World and Others –

How To Drop Your Characters Right In The Mire

This is not the be all and end all list. I’m sure you can think of others to add to it.

  1. Use the elements of your created world against your character – unstable terrain, dreadful weather, and so on.
  2. Put them up against a tight deadline.
  3.  Put their loved ones at risk if they don’t complete the task you’ve set them whether this is to actually rescue their loved ones or to do something for an overlord to ensure their loved ones are not menaced at all.
  4. Put them in any other situation where failure is not an option though emotional ties are very good to exploit here. (I know, I know. Authors don’t have to be nice to their creations, okay?!).
  5.  Put them in danger directly.
  6.  Or put them at risk of losing that coveted promotion etc. What will they do to ensure they get what they want?
  7.  Get your character having to defend their reputation etc. Putting them up against a blackmailer here is good. Again what will your character do here?
  8.  Make them The Chosen One for a quest. Get them not to be able to get out of it either.
  9.  Going on the adventure is the only way to salvage a bad situation at home or, if that’s not possible, to escape the consequences of where they’ve mucked up here.
  10. Put them under pressure of society expectations. They can’t let the side down.

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