Character Study

Facebook – General

Do your characters look back at their lives at all? (You should as their creator! Have they developed? If so, positively or negatively? How does this impact on the story?). If the characters do look back at their own lives, why are they doing it? Are they trying to learn from past mistakes and do they actually do so? How does that “look back” change their behaviour (for better or worse) and how does that change the direction in which they go?

Sometimes Character B can look back at Character A’s life and this can be because:-

1. They don’t like the changes in A’s life now (and they may be right to take that view!). By drawing A’s attention to this, B is hoping to get A back to where they used to be.

2. Character B is comparing themselves with A, especially if A has gone on to be really successful. (We all do this for real so why shouldn’t our characters do so?! What is interesting here is how does B respond? Are they jealous? Do they seek to improve themselves or try to “do A down”?).

3. Character B is delighted Character A has changed (and again they may well be right. Equally they may be pleased because A has worsened and it makes B look better! B does not have to have noble motives here!).

All three of these points could generate some fascinating stories.

Facebook – General

One thing to consider when creating your characters is to work out what impact they have on other characters. Naturally, this can be for good or evil. Equally, it can be a happy or sad impact. How would the death of a character affect your story world and its other residents?

There would have to be some impact made, even by a minor character (otherwise why are they in the story at all?). Is a character killed because the assassin(s) know the death will change the political situation in your story world (if so, how?) or it gets a rival out of the way? How did that character become a rival in the first place?

How does personal history impact on the characters themselves? Family background and circumstances usually do impact somewhere. Are they running away from something? Trying to better/prove themselves? Do they succeed?

The history of the story world and the general setting should have an impact on your characters. Someone being brought up in the country will have a different perspective on rural life than someone who has always lived in a town or city and does not know anything about rural life except what they see on the media.

So let your characters have an impact and be impacted upon. Both of these points should generate wonderful tensions within your story and drive the plot along beautifully.

Facebook – General

What do you look for when it comes to the ending of a story?

I don’t necessarily look for a happy ending. What I like to see (and indeed write) is an ending that is appropriate for the characters and the situations they are in. It is so important the ending doesn’t feel forced or “runs out of steam” because you, the writer, were getting to the word count limit!

You also want the ending to wrap up the story with impact. No damp squibs here, thank you!

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Facebook – General

I’m taking a shortish break from my 101 Things to Put into Room 101 on Chandler’s Ford Today. This week I’ll be looking at some of the frustrations of publishing and then lead into a two-part feature where I interview a fellow Chapeltown author. More details later.

Some great insights to come from the interview and I suspect most of you will have had direct experience of the frustrations of publishing I will be talking about this week. This aspect of the writing life deserves a whole section in Room 101’s vaults! (It was easier to write about them separately though!).

Will return to the Room 101 series later (and look forward to doing so too. Is there any one of us who doesn’t like a good moan every now and again?!

Books invite you into their world - image via Pixabay

Books invite you into their world. Image via Pixabay

Baubles Medium

My story Helping Out is in Baubles, the Bridge House anthology for 2016

Good advice here - all writers need to fail better - image via Pixabay

Good advice. Image via Pixabay.

Humans are immensely creative - image via Pixabay

Let those ideas flow! Image via Pixabay,

Photo2241

I love walking by water – so calming. Can also inspire how you create your own world. Image by Allison Symes

Use review questions to find out more about your characters, image via Pixabay

Use personal reviews to help you generate characters and story outlines. Image via Pixabay.

I'm not arguing with this - image via Pixabay

I’m not arguing with this one! Image via Pixabay.

Facebook – This World and Others

Do you have fun with your characters? There should be the initial fun of creating them, of course, but for me, I think the most fun comes when they develop and mature and truly take on a life of their own. You can look back at the earlier stages of their development and literally see how far they have come.

I also enjoy dropping my characters right in it when appropriate to do so but that probably says more about me than them. I will claim dramatic licence though! So yes you should have fun with your characters, especially for novel writing, you will be living with them for a long time. Even in flash fiction writing, while you will generally go from one character to another for each story, you should still know what makes that character tick and enjoy working out how best to get that across to your readers.

If you become tired of your characters, it does show through in your writing so love them, love to hate them, enjoy writing for them, enjoy putting them through the emotional wringer etc! It will help your writing flow and sparkle. Characters written like this always draw me to a story. I think it is the characters, more than anything, that makes a story unforgettable.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

There are certain ways of knowing your created world works. These are:-

You can picture in your head everything from how the world is run politically to who the beings are the world depends on to get anything done.

You can visualise the societies of your world – there are class systems everywhere – and how they interact or, conversely, why they don’t.

You can plan out what the history of the world was, how that affects the current situation you’re writing about in that world, and whether there’s an official version and/or revisionist one.

You can see how towns, villages etc are run and the life that goes on in them regardless of what your story is actually about. (The life of towns/villages etc is bound to affect at least some of your characters – are they rebelling against it? Does it inspire them? Are they acting heroically to defend it?).

You can ask yourself questions about your world and answer them!

And it doesn’t matter if you are “just” writing flash fiction, you still need to know where your characters come from, what drives them etc. How their world operates and how it affects them will have a direct impact on that so you still need to know enough about your setting so you can write about your characters with conviction. That in depth knowledge does show through in what you write.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One good thing about flash fiction is that there is nothing to stop you taking characters you enjoyed writing about in this form and then writing longer stories for them. I have done this occasionally (though I find I am so focused on the next idea, the next story, that I don’t do this as often as perhaps I could and should do, but it is something to bear in mind.). Also, a flash piece can be turned into a longer one (so you have two stories on your hands then!).

Another thing you could do is if you have a character in mind for a longer story but are not sure whether they have the capacity to carry the tale, then try them out in a flash piece first. If the character is strong enough to make a good impact in a form that demands a tight word count, no waffle, and getting the story down quickly, then they should have the strength to star in a longer work.

How do you define “good impact”? For me, the characters have to stay with me long after the story has ended. I have to find myself wondering what else they might get up to and so on.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I wear two writing hats (and often at the same time!). One hat is the flash fiction and the other is my non-fiction work – in particular, my writing for Chandler’s FordToday. But the great thing has been that skills I’ve learned for CFT (especially writing to a deadline and a word count) have been really useful for my fictional side.

So does it pay to expand on what kind of writing you do? I think so!

 

 

 

HAVING FUN WITH YOUR CHARACTERS AND KEEPING IT LOCAL!

Nice combination of titles for tonight’s posts I think!

Image Credit:  Images are either from Pixabay or, where NOT stated, taken by me.

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Tonight’s Chandler’s Ford Today post looks at local communities and writers and how they can help each other. I also look at the benefits to both of this and discuss sponsorship, how local events (often sponsored) can raise awareness of the writing community’s existence and encourage spending in the local area (and not just on books!).

I use Chandler’s Ford as the “model” and take the opportunity to thank a wide range of people who have been very supportive of our writing community. By community, I do mean everyone from local businesses to our fantastic Grade 2 listed library to the Age Concern Centre to the Post Office! So there’s a good old mix in there!

(I also manage to have a quick moan about Nat West closing our local branch as our shopping centre has had closures, this being the latest, yet has other shops moving in. It has been a bit of a strange time – businesses you think would stay for good now gone, others you think may not last going on for years.).

I also share news of another event on 25th November at Winchester Discovery Centre where several local authors, including yours truly, will be taking part in the Centre’s 10th-anniversary celebrations with talks, readings, etc. Should be fun and I hope to post more details later.

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Facebook – General – Part 2 – When Your Main Character Is a Wimp

What can you do when your main character turns out to be a wimp and a secondary character is “nagging you” for more of the action? I would see this as a sign your main character simply isn’t up to the task of being the lead, unless you significantly re-write them, Equally this can give you the chance to look at whether you have written the story from the right character’s viewpoint after all. You can always rewrite, promoting the secondary character in importance, and see which version of your story works best. (My money would be on the version where the secondary character “takes over”).

The magical world of the imagination. Image via Pixabay

Is your main character really up to the job of leading the story or a bit of a wimp?  Whose story is it?. Image via Pixabay

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction is the perfect format for those lovely incidents which are not enough to make a standard length short story (usually 1500 words or so) but are worthy of being told all the same.

I’ve found it lends itself really well to laugh out loud moments and, strangely, those tales that give you a sense of something walking all over your grave. Why there is such a contrast in the mood generated I don’t really know, (of course it could just be me!), but flash fiction, for me, is all about impact. The twist in the tale ending comes into its own with flash fiction too as it is such a great way to ensure you do make that impact.

There are a lot of steps on any writer’s journey but I am pleased to say I’ve made another one. I’ve become a character in Beatrice Fishback’s novella, Winter Writerland. I met Beatrice at Swanwick this year and along with Jennifer C Wilson, Fiona Park and Val Penny, we came up with ideas for a cosy mystery, which Beatrice has now written up! The story is set in the fictional writing conference of Branwick and all four of us have given our blessing to being named characters.

Oh and before you ask even I don’t know if I’m the murderer yet. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write!😀 The novella is currently in e-book form only but there are plans for a paperback.  Amazon link below. I never thought I’d promote a book where I’m a character but that’s one great thing about the writing life. It can take you down some very interesting avenues! Good luck with the novella, Beatrice. I wonder what we’ll come up with at next year’s Swanwick!

A gruesome murder was inevitable, but how the death would unfold would be anyone’s guess. And the murderer’s identity? That would remain a mystery until the appropriate time…Meet Daisy McFarland, an American spinster…

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again Part 2

Sometimes even I find 100 words are not enough for the tales I want to tell. One of my favourite longer stories in From Light to Dark and Back Again is They Don’t Understand, which is a poignant character study.

The reason for the longer word count here (though it is still under 750 words) is I needed some time to establish the relationship between the two characters in the story. Without that the punchline would not have the impact I wanted it to have. So my guideline here was the impact and had I put in enough detail to support it? Yes, I had but this time it took more than 100 words to do so.

I like the flexibility of flash fiction regarding genre but I also like the fact it has sub-divisions within it so I can vary the word count I use. Whatever word count I go for, it has to be right for that story. There mustn’t be a word out of place, whether it is a 100-word tale or a 1000 word story!

Fairytales With Bite – Having Fun With Your Characters

Do you have fun with your characters?  There should be the initial fun of creating them, of course, but for me I think the most fun comes when they develop and mature and truly take on a life of their own.  You can look back at the earlier stages of their development and literally see how far they have come.

I also enjoy dropping my characters right in it when appropriate to do so but that probably says more about me than them.  I will claim dramatic licence though!  So yes you should have fun with your characters, especially for novel writing, you will be living with them for a long time.  Even in flash fiction writing, while you will generally go from one character to another for each story, you should still know what makes that character tick and enjoy working out how best to get that across to your readers.  If you become tired of your characters, it does show through in your writing so love them, love to hate them, enjoy writing for them, enjoy putting them through the emotional wringer etc!  It will help your writing flow and sparkle.  Characters written like this always draw me to a story.  I think it is the characters, more than anything, that makes a story unforgettable.

Talking of characters and having fun, I’ve become a character in a book, Winter Writerland, written by Beatrice Fishback.  I met her at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this year and, along with Jennifer C Wilson, Fiona Park, Val Penny and, of course, me, the five of us came up with story ideas for a cosy mystery.  All highly enjoyable and many laughs were had at what we came up with!  Beatrice has written the story up as a novella and I’m very glad to share the link.  (Naturally all four of us have given our blessing to being characters in a book but I must admit it was a development in my writing journey I hadn’t anticipated!).  Oh and don’t ask me if I’m the murderer (a sentence I never thought I would write!).  At the moment I don’t know.  I wouldn’t say anyway.  No plot spoilers here!

Love your writing.  Your readers will love you for it.

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This World and Others – The Joys of Editing

As well as editing my own work, I sometimes edit pieces for Chandler’s Ford Today. I’m currently editing a local history mini-series, which I hope will be up on the website fairly soon. Fascinating material which just needed putting together in the right order to improve clarity. Funnily enough, it’s thrown up a few odd coincidences with my life, which I wasn’t expecting.

I love editing. I love sensing how my story or post is improving because I have taken the wasted words out. Without a decent edit (and ideally at least two to three), I know no work of mine will be accepted anywhere because I always overwrite and so have to cut out the padding. But I don’t mind doing that. I like to write down all of my ideas and then select the strongest, based on my outline. It is always a relief getting that first draft down because I then know I definitely have something to work with and experience to date tells me the edit only improves a piece.

I do think it vital though to keep the creative side away from the editing side. You need that joy of creating something new to help you get that story nailed to the screen but the sensible editing side comes later. They really are two separate tasks. How can you edit something properly that isn’t finished? So write first, edit later is my mantra and I’ve never regretted following that.

Goodreads Author Programme – Quotes

I thought I’d share the link to my quotes page here.  I make no apology that, to date, the majority of quotes come from the much missed Terry Pratchett.

From Light to Dark and Back Again

Allison Symes’s books on Goodreads