Murphy’s Law For Readers

Time for some lightheartedness I think… hence my CFT post. More in a moment.

Image Credit:  As ever, all images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I thought a lighthearted post would be useful for my slot on Chandler’s Ford Today this week – hence Murphy’s Law for Readers! Hope you enjoy this and do send in your own Murphy’s Law suggestions for Readers via the CFT comments box.

The post takes in readers and books, readers and libraries, and readers and book events etc and so I’ve taken a broad approach here! Hope you enjoy.

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It is always good fun to write humorous posts for Chandler’s Ford Today and I hope the Murphy’s Law For Readers which is this week’s piece amuses you! It amused me when I wrote it so I hope that’s a good sign! (I wrote a piece on Murphy’s Law for Writers a year or so ago so that is everyone on the reading and writing fence covered now I think).

Many thanks to our church for sending a Good Friday service sheet for us to use at home today. It was great but must admit to missing seeing everyone and I hope it is not too long before we meet again. It really does not feel like Easter to me. Mind you, the weekends don’t really feel like weekends either at the moment.

I would be glad to have a writing routine anyway as I am one of life’s planners (as much as possible at the moment anyway) but am finding having this routine now to be incredibly useful. It’s a bit of normality in what is an abnormal situation for us all.

Nice lot of cheering in my neck of the words for the frontline workers. Well done all. (This is happening ever Thursday night at 8 pm in the UK for the duration of the lockdown here – I don’t know whether anything similar is happening elsewhere but I do think this show of appreciation is a very good thing indeed).

Looking forward to hearing where my choices for the Classic FM Hall of Fame come in this year’s chart. They count this down over the Easter weekend. My choices were:-

1. Jupiter (from the Planet Suite) by Holst
2. Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams.
3. Danse Macabre by Saint Saens (and used as the theme for Jonathan Creek and the book trailer for my From Light to Dark and Back Again – see below! So this music will always have special meaning for me!).

Need a sort out of my writing desk so that is on the cards for me to do tomorrow. Yes, have been putting it off. I refuse to believe I’m the only writer who does that.😆😆

Have resumed playing tennis on the old Nintendo Wii to help with my exercise levels. Well I say playing… let’s say I give it a go! Lady doesn’t like it though and goes and hides while I “strut my stuff” here. Of course it won’t help she can’t possibly get the ball here and no collie will like that.

Writing wise, am working on a book proposal for my non-fiction idea but that will take a while to do. Am also fleshing out ideas for a flash piece for a competition so plenty to be getting on with.

My CFT post this week will be a lighthearted one about Murphy’s Law for Readers. I wrote one about a year ago for writers so it is only fair readers get their turn! Link up on Friday.

Am slowly getting back to reading again which is good. I’ve had no problems writing but think my focus has been on ONE creative activity rather than two.

Reading is a creative activity in its own right in that, for fiction, you should be able to engage with the characters. For non-fiction, you should be gripped by what you are discovering and hopefully go on to find out more about the topic you’re engrossed with.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am happily drafting a flash fiction piece for a competition at the moment. Have got the character and her voice as I like it. But she’s spouting on a little bit too much for the word count requirement so she is going to be shortened! It is one of those cases where I know she can be shortened without losing her style and indeed her style will come through better at the reduced count.

This is where I need to work out what is VITAL for the reader to know. Anything that is not something I could honestly call vital comes out.

This is why I do like writing the longer flash fiction stories too as those give you a bit more room to play with and there you can have characterisation that adds depth and strengthens the story. This is where you can have that “little bit more” which adds flavour to a story.

I think it is a good thing to write a mixture of word count stories so you get a real feel for writing short and spare tales and longer ones with added “value” that you simply can’t put into a shorter story. But what I do know is when I’ve got my character and their voice right, the word count has to suit that. I know I can simplify what I’ve drafted for my current story and I should do that anyway. It should take me to the required count but there are times I really can’t get a story down any further without losing something important – so I don’t! You do get better over time I think at working out when to call it a day.

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One thing I have found useful with regard to having an Amazon Author Central page is having my book trailer on it for FLTDBA. I very much hope later in the year when hopefully Tripping the Flash Fantastic is out that a book trailer for this will also appear.

I have had some fun on my website with book trailers too. (https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/book-trailers/)

As well as the ones for FLTDBA and the Bridge House/Cafelit/Waterloo Art Festival Writing Competition collections I’ve been involved in, I have created a basic trailer for one of my stories from FLTDBA. I hope to do more of this as and when but I mention it because flash fiction is ideal for this kind of thing! You want something nice and short that is easy to read on a screen… hmm… on to a winner there I think!

 

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What do I like best about story and flash fiction collections?

I like the range of moods that can be contained in one book (which directly inspired the title for my own From Light to Dark and Back Again of course).

I love being able to dip in and out of such a book, whether I read it in paperback or via the Kindle.

I love them as they are brilliant for those times when I don’t have time to read or don’t feel like reading a huge amount. Indeed it is often the collections that get me out of the latter mood and into reading novels and non-fiction again.

I also just love the whole idea of reading a book full of little self-contained worlds with a host of characters. They are just fun!

They’re huge fun to write too!

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Fairytales With Bite – 

What Fairytales Have Done For Me

I’ve loved fairytales for more years than I care to remember, encouraged no doubt by my parents buying me The Reader’s Digest Complete Collection of Fairytales. This is a two volume set which I still have. (One of the books is bound up with tape to keep the spine together!). I spent hours reading the stories and admiring the wonderful illustrations. So what have fairytales done for me as a writer then?

  1. Fairytales have a strong message which they get across without lecturing and in an entertaining way.  I find that inspirational (and a challenge to always “raise my game” here).
  2. Fairytales don’t shy away from calling something evil that is evil. There is no mistaking the goodies and baddies here. The characters are clear cut and their actions and thoughts are consistent. That’s all useful stuff for writers.
  3. Fairytales have endings which are appropriate. Generally these are happy ones but there are exceptions and that’s  okay too. What matters is the ending is appropriate to the story.
  4. When magic is used in a fairytale, it is always used to assist and it is rarely the first resort. Characters still have to use their intelligence and take advantage of others forms of help coming to them.

 

This World and Others – The Arts

What place do the arts have in your fictional “other world”? Is there music? Painting? Creative writing? Are these things valued or despised? Does everyone have access to them or only the privileged few?

For your characters, what do the arts mean to them? What role can the arts play in their story?

When fleshing out your creation, think of the arts as a way of adding culture and depth to your created world. You can always use things like statues as well known landmarks your character has to reach to meet someone etc. That tells a reader there is sculpture in your world at least (and therefore likely to be other art forms too. It also reveals there is at least some appreciation of these things and this is a good indicator of likely intelligence levels too).

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Objectives

Facebook – General

Looking forward to seeing the Chameleons’ production of Blackadder later this week. Should be a very good night out. The last episode of Blackadder Goes Forth is one of those sublime moments of writing where comedy meets tragedy and both are done superbly. Definitely not an easy thing to do.

Blackadder clearly had one objective in mind in Goes Forth – to get out of the war and go back home. Totally understandable.

What is your character’s overriding objective in your story? What will they do to achieve it? What gets in their way? In those three lines, you have a plot outline!

Pleased to have sent off some flash fiction stories last night. Plan to get more out later this week, there is one particular website I’m keen to try out, and finally want to get around to doing so!

One of the trickiest things to handle is time. (And yes I think Doctor Who showed that brilliantly in the Rosa Parks episode). How much time do you spend working on new stories and ideas? How much time do you spend marketing?

As with so much in life, there has to be a balance. I’ve found it helpful to look at the week as a whole. By the end of it, I want to have written some new material, be editing older work ready for submission, have my next CFT post up and ready to go, and have carried out at least some marketing. Okay life does not always go according to plan but whatever I’ve not quite done enough of writing wise in one week is what gets the focus of my attention during the following one. It does all balance out eventually.

Acronyms featured in this morning’s church service sermon and of course they’re a common feature in writing. KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid is probably the best known one. Very much the antidote to “purple prose” – the days of the long descriptive passages are behind us!

I suspect that is due to everyone being used to films etc where you get into the action quickly but it is not a bad thing. I like descriptions in stories to be to the point and to feel as if they are a seamless part of the narrative and not a “bolt on”.

All parts of the story must feel to the reader as if they have to be there and the tale would fall down without them. If you’re not sure if something should be cut, ask yourself how your story works without that something in it and that should indicate quickly enough whether it is needed or not.

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Had a fabulous time at the Writers’ Day run by the Association of Christian Writers today. The topic was on writing for children and YA but there was discussion on crossover fiction and contracts, all very useful stuff. From my viewpoint, it is lovely to meet some of the membership face to face given I usually only meet them via emails!

The importance of networking came out as well during the day and I lost my own fear of this when I realised it meant chatting naturally about books, what I’m writing and so on. I have no problem going on at length about that topic!

(Oh and a quick reminder: if you’re offered a publishing contract, always get it checked out. The Society of Authors and Alliance of Independent Authors are the places to go for that. Both I believe issue guides which are free to members. There’s a small fee charged to non-members. Never be afraid to ask).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A = Alliteration. Can be useful for titles in flash fiction (though I don’t use it much) but as with any story, it can grab the attention and help set the mood. Best not overused I think. You want each title to set the tone for what it is to come and a variety of methods for doing that is best. Keeps it fresh for you as the writer too.

B = Backstory. Not a lot of room for that in flash fiction! Best to hint at it through one or two vital details the reader has to know and leave it at that.

C = Character. The kingpin of fiction I think. Get the character right and the plot will come from them. Know your character inside and out – I find it useful to know their chief trait (and I piece together a mental picture of what they are like from there). Find the appropriate starting point for you but it is worth taking the time to know your character well before you start. Your writing will flow better because you write with that knowledge. It does come through in what you write.

There was talk at the ACW Writers’ Day today of how boundaries, far from restricting creativity, help it to flourish. This is SO true for flash fiction as well. The limited word count means you have to dig deeper to come up with those original ideas that make flash fiction stand out and have the most impact on a reader. It is worth the effort!

I usually know what impact I want a story of mine to have on a reader before I write it. This is to help me choose my words with precision. However, sometimes a story (more accurately the lead character) surprises me and the tale ends up being funnier, darker, sadder than I’d originally thought. This is no bad thing. It means the character has life and if they surprise me, they’ll surprise the reader too.

It may also indicate I hadn’t outlined enough but the great thing is ideas that come to you as you write a piece are not wasted. Jot them down, step back and take a look at where they can fit in. Are they better than your original thoughts? Do they add depth to your original thoughts?

 

Back to working my way through the alphabet again then…

D = Drama. Even the shortest flash fiction has to have some drama in it! But it is also true that serious drama doesn’t necessarily have to have lots of words to make it so! There is drama and anguish in Hemingway’s famous example of For Sale: One pair Baby Shoes. The drama should suit the story though (and be to the right length for that tale).

E = Editing. Every story needs this and I don’t think it should be something a writer dreads. I always feel a sensible amount of relief when I’ve drafted a story as it means I’ve then got something to work with. Editing improves a story and, as a result, increases its chances of success. Take your time over the process though.

F = Fun! Writing should be fun. You are creating something new for others to enjoy. The first person to enjoy said tale should be you!

So marching on then:-

G = Genre. One of my favourite things about flash fiction is because it has to be character led, due to the word count restrictions, you can set those characters anywhere. So, if you’ll pardon the pun here, you do have an open book when it comes to genre in the stories you write. Have fun with that, I do!

H = Humour. Can work well in flash fiction as you can end the story with what is effectively a punchline. Also when you have a very short funny piece, look at turning it into flash fiction. It can be an ideal vehicle for those pieces which would be spoiled if you added anything more (and this often goes for humorous pieces).

I = Imagination. True for any form of fiction, but I find with flash fiction I’m using my imaginative muscles far more. Why? Because I try not to come up with the obvious idea from a theme or title. I dig deep and see what else I can come up with, something that will make a greater impact on the reader.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog –

After the End, What Next?

If you’ve enjoyed a really good book, what do you do when you finish it? Go on to read more books by the same author, or read more in the same genre, or do you go for something that is completely different in mood and style?

I have done all three of these (though obviously not at the same time!) and it very much depends on my mood at the end of the story. If I’ve loved a gory crime thriller, I may well want something humorous to show the lighter side of life, albeit a fictional one!

With short stories especially, I tend to read a few by the same author before moving on. With novels, if the book has really gripped me, I’ve got to check out what else the author has done, even if I decide I’ll come back to those later.

The important thing though is that whatever you read, you enjoy it so much, you keep on reading, no matter what author, genre, style etc you choose next. Happy reading!

A moment I've hoped to achieve for more years than I care to recall...

MOODS AND THEMES

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

I finish my mini series on Writing Tips tonight with A to Z of Writing Tips Part 8 where I cover W to Z!  I discuss Writing, X-Rated (fiction),  Young Adult (fiction) and Zero Heroes.  By the latter, I refer to those storeis whre the hero is not particularly likeable but clearly the best of a bad bunch.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

In Moods and Themes I look at writing to a theme and discuss how often mood can emerge from a story, taking even its author by surprise.  That’s happened to me quite a bit!  I’ve often written to a theme but rarely write to a mood.  How can you decide to write “funny”, for instance?  The “funny” has to emerge naturally or it will come acrsoss as artificial.

FACEBOOK PAGE – GENERAL

A bit of a mixed bag tonight.  I pay my own tribute to Brian Cant, who was one of my favourite children’s TV presenters when I was growing up.  I also discuss my holiday reading plans.  Whether they actually happen is another matter!  I also make a plea for dogs to stay at home in the very hot weather we’re currently having in the UK.  Dogs can literally cook in minutes if left in cars – regardless of whether you leave the windows open.  It really is kinder for the dogs to stay at home if you can’t take them with you.

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FACEBOOK – FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN

I discuss moods and themes again here tonight.  I also look at how easy (or not) coming up with titles is and throw that question open to you.  Comments welcome!  I have to have a title to work to, even if it changes later (and it often does).  It’s almost as if I need a “peg” from w hich to hang my story!

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Where stories emerge these days... Image via Pixabay

UNDER THE INFLUENCE

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Under the Influence asks who influences your characters and whether they break away from that or not.  Plenty of story ideas there.  I also go on to suggest who some of my favourite fairytale and other characters were influenced by.  For example, Humpty Dumpty was clearly influenced by the Acrobatic Society who told him it was feasible for an egg to be balanced on a wall and, more importantly, stay balanced.  There are times when you can’t be more wrong!

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Making an Impact looks at what impact your stories and characters have on you and your readers.  Is it the impact you intended?  Is there more beneath the surface than you at first realized with your tale (generally that is a good thing)?  And I share a tip I’ve found useful in putting your work aside for a while before re-reading it.  Does the story have the same impact on you as it did when you read it the first time?

FACEBOOK PAGE

I share an amusing incident today with regard to one of my darker tales in From Light to Dark and Back Again, my forthcoming flash fiction collection (Chapeltown Books).

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ideas-the-spark-for-writing-competitions-image-via-pixabay

Ideas are wonderful but are your stories making the impact you intended?  Image via Pixabay

 

 

 

You can't beat a good book. Image via Pixabay.

WHO MAKES THE RULES?

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Who Makes the Rules? is one of those apparently simple questions that can generate lots of answers.  I discuss why in the post and ask about conventions and traditions in your fictional world and what happens to those that flout them.  Plenty of story ideas there!

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

How to Spot a Writer is one of my more lighthearted posts.  I list 10 things to look for and admit I’m guilty of most of them.  How many are you guilty of and can you add to the list?

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

Last week’s post on Classic Books has one problem with it in that the topic almost inevitably leads to the article being biased in favour of fiction.  So I redress the balance with this week’s post – Fiction -v- Non-Fiction?  No Contest!

FACEBOOK PAGE

I share more on my Chandler’s Ford Today post.

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This week's Chandler's Ford Today post. Image via Pixabay.

This week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post. Image via Pixabay.

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

BOOKS FOR THE MAGICAL WORLD

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

In Books for the Magical World, I suggest what volumes would be likely to appear on people’s bookshelves.  I’ve excluded standard spell and charm books and the classic fairytales but have included things like Wand Size – Does it Matter? (one for the more insecure wizard I think) to Voice Coaching – How to Perfect that Cackle for the beginner fairytale witch who wants to get her “sound” right.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

How Important is Reading is one of those questions that have inspired reports, essays, academic papers and so on, so how can I answer it in a blog post?  By focusing on answering it from your characters’ viewpoint.  Do they read and, if so, what?  Do they try to read the books their society bans and so on?

FACEBOOK PAGE

I discuss book and story formats tonight.  This follows on from my recent Chandler’s Ford Today post about the Blood and Valour comic book/graphic novel.  I like this kind of thing as these are splendid artworks in their own right and I feel an invaluable aid to coaxing in the reluctant reader.  I also discuss audio books.

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Main Cover - Blood and Valour. Image supplied by Eastleigh Borough Council.

Main Cover – Blood and Valour. Image supplied by Eastleigh Borough Council.  Glorious artwork and a great way of bringing in reluctant readers.

 

 

Notebooks - ancient and modern. Where characters start to take shape. Image via Pixabay.

ALTERNATIVE WORK POSSIBILITIES

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

In Alternative Work Possibilities, I follow on from yesterday’s post about what well-known characters could do now their main roles are over.  Tonight, I look at what Dracula, Frankenstein and the wise men, to name a few, could now be doing instead.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

I continue with the theme of work in tonight’s post, Employment.  I ask about what your fictional society is based on – agriculture, technology or both – and how your characters provide for themselves.  Even in a magical world, some characters will have to work because not all will have impressive magical skills and will need to find alternative ways of (a) providing for themselves and (b) proving useful to their society so they are not eliminated by those who are magically powerful.

FACEBOOK PAGE

There are times aspects of the world are so mad it is beyond satire.  Tonight’s post is a bit of a rant on not being able to get through on the phone when I should have been able to do so.  I would be surprised if you couldn’t identify with this though.

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Says it all really. Image via Pixabay.

Says it all really. Image via Pixabay.

 

 

 

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

RESUMING WORK

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

It always takes me a few days after a break like Christmas to get fully back into my writing again.  Resuming Work looks at what fairytale characters might do in the way of employment either after a break from what they usually do or if their work there has come to an end.  I hope to put up some more on this topic tomorrow.  I love writing fun posts like these.   See what you think!

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

There are certain qualities my heroes/heroines must have if they’re going to make it into my stories.  I look at these in What My Heroes/Heroines Must Have post.  I suspect you’d be able to add to my list.  Comments welcome.

FACEBOOK PAGE/CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

I talk about what irritates me in characters and how I like my heroines to be active and not passive (which influenced what I wrote about in This World and Others).  I also share a link to a wonderful poem by a friend of mine, Sandra Lyn Gordon, which appeared tonight on Chandler’s Ford Today.  Fantastic review of the year!

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Poetry conjures up images so beautifully. Image via Pixabay. See Sandra Lyn Gordon's wonderful poem on Chandler's Ford Today for another example of great imagery.

Poetry conjures up images so beautifully. Image via Pixabay. See Sandra Lyn Gordon’s wonderful poem on Chandler’s Ford Today for another example of great imagery.

 

 

Images from the magical world... Image via Pixabay

WHO NOT TO TRUST…

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Who Not to Trust lists five suggestions from me as to who to be very wary of in the fairytale/fantasy world.  Can you add to the list?

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

The Ways of the World – well I’ve always thought this to be an odd expression.  What world’s ways are we following if not this one?  It’s not as if we’re all commuting off to some alien planet somewhere and coming back with their ways and following them here, is it?!  Still, on the plus side, when creating your own fictional world, you do get to set the ways your characters follow. This post looks at and asks what ways have you chosen and why?  It also asks what happens to those who rebel against what is considered the norm and who enforces the “norm”?

FACEBOOK PAGE

A short post tonight in which I share why I write fairytales and fantasy.  I love crime and historical fiction but other than the odd short story every now and then can’t write in them full time.  What genres do you write in and did you come to these by accident or have you always known what you would write?  Is there a genre you would like to write in but, like me, find you just can’t?  Comments welcome here or on my FB page.

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All books are gateways to other worlds, fantasy and science fiction especially I think. Image via Pixabay.

What fictional world have you created? What ways and rules have you set for your characters? Image via Pixabay.

 

 

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

WHAT NOT TO SAY TO A MAGICAL BEING

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

What Not to Say to a Magical Being is full of advice to prevent magical disaster hitting you.  The temptation to let your mouth run riot when faced with a magical being who may or may not be past their prime must be resisted.  If you want to see the next hour that is…

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Closing Lines is a follow-up post to yesterday’s Revealing Opening Lines.  A good closing line ends the story at an appropriate point, leaving you wanting more (but deep down you know the writer is right to finish there, anything else would be padding). I share an example of one of my closing lines.  In this particular case, it would also make a good opening line for a second story and I must look into that!  But that is often the way with a good closing line – it can give you the spark for a new tale.

FACEBOOK PAGE

I discuss tag verbs tonight, following a conversation I had via FB with another writer, Geoff Parkes from Southampton Writers’ Circle.  I share my approach to this.  For me, the golden rule is clarity.  If it is clear enough from context who is speaking, why bother with a tag verb?  Equally “he said/she said” is absolutely fine most of the time.  Comments welcome!

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This statue reminds me of myself when I was a lot younger. Okay I wasn't made of stone (I'm still not!) but I did always have my head in a book. (And do so as often as I can now!). Image via Pixabay.

This statue reminds me of myself when I was a lot younger. Okay I wasn’t made of stone (I’m still not!) but I did always have my head in a book. (And do so as often as I can now!). Image via Pixabay.