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Do I have to have a happy ever after ending for stories I read or write?

Not necessarily but this is something that has changed as I’ve become older. I can happily read something that has a sad or tragic ending as long as it is in context with the rest of the story. This hasn’t always been the case. I used to avoid sad endings (on the grounds there’s enough sadness in the news, why on earth would I want it in my fiction?). Now my chief “want” in a story is that the ending is suitable for the story and character.

Good historical fiction will make it seem as if you had stepped back in time - image via Pixabay

Good fiction will take you out of the world for a while. Image via Pixabay.

Good books should bring illumination to a situation, make you see things as you haven't before - image via Pixabay

Good books should illuminate aspects you’ve not considered before. Image via Pixabay.


Flash fiction for impact. Image via Pixabay


Flash – for light or dark fiction! Image via Pixabay

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The art of the perfect flash
Is not to jot down in a dash
But to select what you say
Using just those words that may
Help you create the biggest splash!

Allison Symes – 12th December 2017

Flash fiction to a tee? I think so! What to decide is what the splash is going to be – humour, horror or what have you. The important thing? To have fun with what you write!


A definite theme emerged tonight.  Which do you find most difficult to write – the ending of a story or its beginning?  I share some thoughts on both my Fairytales with Bite and This World and Others posts.  Comments very welcome.  And I would welcome questions coming in via the Goodreads Author Programme Q&A too.

Firstly, though:-


This week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post looks back at YA author, Richard Hardie, and his book signing at Eastleigh Library last weekend. This was part of Cub/Brownie Uniform Day and, overall, part of the Love Your Library Week.

The post looks at what libraries can do (Richard’s report) and I share my thoughts on how writers and libraries need each other, as well as give a summary of the book signing event itself.

If you missed Richard at Eastleigh, then he will be at the Chandler’s Ford Book Fair on Saturday 28th October from 10 am to 12 noon, along with many other regional writers, including me. We hope we can see some of you there.

There will be a good range of books on offer from Richard’s YA fantasy books (Leap of Faith and Trouble with Swords) to my flash fiction (From Light to Dark and Back Again) to short story collections (Secret Lives and More Secret Lives of Chandler’s Ford) and many books and genres besides. Far too many to list here but that’s a very good thing!

Eastleigh Library - Richard at work

Richard at work in Eastleigh Library,  Image by Allison Symes

Allison Symes, Richard Hardie, Daniel

Richard, his dog, Oscar and my son, Daniel, were amongst my supporters at my signing earlier in the year. Image by Janet Williams, Chandler’s Ford Today’s lovely editor.


Richard and I will be two of the authors at the local Book Fair soon.  Image via fellow Chandler’s Ford Writer’s Hub member, Cahterine Griffin.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One of the dilemmas I sometimes face when writing my flash fiction is knowing where to stop!

Sometimes I bypass this dilemma by writing a short piece (usually 100 words) and then, separately, extending the story out to a standard 1500 to 2000 word count later on if I feel the idea is strong enough to take this. (I then use those stories for standard short story competition entries).

I don’t do this too often as I’m usually well engrossed in the next story idea and I also think this solution is one best done sparingly anyway. You want generally to move on to the next idea, the next story etc. However, for a really strong idea, there is no reason why you can’t do this and have two stories based on a strong central premise. Waste not, want not!

The other way around this dilemma, which I use more often, is to work out which ending would have the most impact on the reader and at what point. I then leave the story at that point. You can’t go wrong with that method, I’ve found, but this is where putting work aside for a while pays dividends. You can then look at the piece with fresh eyes and read it as a reader would. It is only by reading it like that you can work out what that best impact point is in the first place!


My latest story is in The Best of Cafelit 6, recently published.  The rest of the books shown here are where I’ve been published by Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit and, of course, Chapeltown Books.  Image by Allison Symes

Love the cover for this. Image supplied by Bridge House Publishing.

My last Bridge House story is in here. Naturally I hope there will be many more to come! Image supplied by Bridge House Publishing.

The links below take you to my Weebly websites with these posts but I have set up a slideshow on both not reproduced here.


One of the joys of writing flash fiction is it doesn’t limit your possibilities with a very strong story idea.  I have written a short piece (usually one of my 100-word tales and then, separately, extended the story at a later date to the standard 1500 to 2000 words required by most writing competitions.  So I have two stories around one strong central premise.  I like this!

I must admit I do this sparingly because I have usually moved on to the next story idea etc. (I also think it is something best done sparingly anyway and for your very best ideas only, otherwise you dilute your own work too much).

This situation comes about when I realise I am having problems working out where exactly to end a story.  Do I leave it at the short punchy ending which suits flash fiction so well or do I extend the characters out (and the plot with them) and trust the right ending will emerge from that (it always does incidentally)?

My main method of working out the right story ending is to work out at which point the story has the most impact on the reader and that is where I leave the tale.  Nothing more, nothing less, job done.  For flash fiction, which aims to give short, sharp impressions on the reader, this is by far the best way of working out where to stop the story (I think).

Feature Image - Flash Fiction - Books are Gateway - image via Pixabay

One of my favourite stock images because it is so true.  Image via Pixabay.


My theme tonight has been the right story endings – right for your story that is, as all endings have to be appropriate for the tale and that can have so much variety.  I can’t imagine Shakespeare’s Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet with happy endings (can you?!), but the way these plays finish is appropriate for the characters and the situations they are in as the Bard of Avon wrote them.  (He also went for maximum impact on his audience, which ties in with my post Finding the Right Story Ending on my Fairytales With Bite site tonight).

So happy ever afters then?  The classic ending for fairytales, usually but not always.  Hans Christen Andersen proved with this with The Little Mermaid and The Little Match Girl in particular, which I guess I could describe as two of my favourite “weepies”.  But, again, the endings are apt for the way he wrote the characters and the situations he put them in and I think this is what we should aim for with our own stories.  Sometimes a happy ending will be appropriate, sometimes it won’t, sometimes the possibility of a happy ending to come beyond the life of the story is an apt way to finish, and sometimes a tragic solution is the only way to end the story.

So you need to ask yourself what would be the most appropriate finish for your story?  Does it tie in with what we know of your characters?  Does it have the maximum impact on your reader?  The most important thing about endings is they have to be definite and definitive.  Something about the ending must bring to a satisfactory conclusion what you have revealed about what your characters – this is where the “ring of truth” to fiction comes in.

Do you find writing the endings to stories more difficult than the start?  Comments welcome!


Eastleigh Library 2017 - Richard gave his talk from here

Richard Hardie gave his talk from this wonderful rug at Eastleigh Library but I also thought it a good way to wrap up this post tonight.  While I have talked about story endings, story beginnings can be difficult too, but for fairytales, you can’t beat this one!  Image by Allison Symes


Fairytale heroines. Image via Pixabay.



In Happy Ever After? Maybe Not...  I list 10 examples where there definitely wasn’t a happy ever after ending for characters.  From the boiled wolf in The Three Little Pigs (can you imagine the horrendous stink of that incidentally?!) to Cinderella’s stepmother and sisters, you can guarantee to find someone who didn’t like the way the traditional tale ended!  Okay, a lot of these characters brought this on themselves but I do have a sneaking sympathy for those unfortunate souls trying to sell spinning wheels in Sleeping Beauty’s kingdom.  They’d have got short shrift from the girl’s parents at best!


Setting Goals looks at those targets characters might set themselves.  Do they achieve them?  Even if they do, do they find the happiness or whatever it was they expected on attaining their goals?  This thought came to mind as one of my long-term goals has always been to have a book on my shelves with my name on the front cover.  The publication of From Light to Dark and Back Again by Chapeltown Books achieves that, though I hope it will be book 1 in a series of books.  Later this week, I hope to share news of my interview with fellow author, Jacci Gooding, who put some searching questions to me.  My goal?  To answer them!


I talk about how seeing certain books when I visit my dad always remind me of my late mum.  Books can be very evocative after all.



Heaven on earth? Image via Pixabay (of the library at Leeds Castle)

Heaven on earth? Image via Pixabay (of the library at Leeds Castle)



One of the best ways to escape is with a good book. Image via Pixabay.



Happy Ever After? discusses the classic fairytale ending (in most cases) versus the modern tendency to have a “happy for now” scenario.  I’m not that keen on the latter, though I can understand it and I share my thoughts as to why here.  What do you think?


The Real “You” looks at our tendency to cover up those less impressive aspects of ourselves, especially when we are trying to impress someone. Our characters should be doing this too and in this post I ask who are they trying to impress, what are they covering up and do other characters see through it all?


I look at a writing exercise I tried at Swanwick where I had to give advice to my 20 year old self.  Tonight’s FB page discusses that.  And yes I did tell myself to lighten up!  I remember being very intense at that age.  I also tell myself to start writing sooner…  oh I wish I had!



Just a quick reminder that part 2 of my interview with the wonderful Barbara Large, MBE, founder of what is now known as the Winchester Writers’ Festival, will be appearing this coming Friday.

What world will you enter when you next read a good story? Image via Pixabay.

What world will you enter when you next read a good story? Image via Pixabay.