Panto, Numbers, and Publication News

A real mixed bag tonight but hope you enjoy!

Image Credits:-

Firstly, a huge thank you to the lovely people at The Chameleon Theatre Group for kind permission to use their photos as part of my review for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I’ve included a couple of photos I’ve taken but the majority are from them.

Secondly, all thanks to Pixabay as usual for the other images used. Thirdly, thank you to Penny Blackburn for the picture of me taking part in the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic Night last year. Great fun! Now down to business…

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my review of the excellently performed show, Atlantis – The Panto. Well done to all at The Chameleon Theatre Group. Also I look at why an eclectic mix of music and a decent villain are vital to a good pantomime. Both are as important ingredients to a successful show as having a convincing Dame is.

I was intrigued by this story as it is not one I knew. How does an underwater adventure work as a pantomime? Well I had to find out…  Captions as ever for the Chameleon photos over on the CFT link.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I loved going to the panto by The Chameleon Theatre Group last week. (Oh no you didn’t, oh yes I did, oh no…etc etc!). I had no idea what Atlantis – The Panto would be given it is not one of the classic fairytales pantomimes are usually based on. All I knew was it would have to have an underwater setting and I was interested to find out how that would be conveyed. (Good use of suitable music, the right costumes, props etc is the simple answer to that).

For stories, especially flash fiction, inference and implication play a big part in scene setting. If I told you someone was wearing a red coat, that would conjure up possible images for you. (For me, it would conjure up memories of a favourite red coat I had as a kid). If I then add one hyphenated word “moth-eaten”, that image will change, as will the mood of the story. The person wearing said moth-eaten coat is going to be poor, possibly homeless, and that will set the tone of the story too.

Facebook – General – and Publication News – Cafelit

Glad to say I’m Bored by yours truly is now up on Cafelit. If you ever wanted to know the true story of what happened to Humpty Dumpty, now’s your chance! Hope you enjoy it.

Facebook – General

I’ll be reviewing Atlantis – The Panto as my CFT post this week. Definitely a new story for me but that’s one of the joys of going to see the productions put on by The Chameleon Theatre Group. There is such a variety of work staged by them and it always makes for a fantastic evening out. I’m a big fan of taking in stories using various formats and going to see a good show is just another and very enjoyable way to do that.

Link up tomorrow. I’ll be looking at the signs of a good panto, why music matters for shows like this, and why there has to be a decent villain for the audience to boo at! It IS as vital to get the villain right as it is for the Dame to be what audiences expect. I’ll also have a look at why the panto, in my view, is vital for theatre going overall.

All good fun…

 

Facebook – General – Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers – Numbers and Creative Writing

There are more links between numbers and fiction than you might think. Hope you enjoy my latest blog for the Association of Christian Writers’ More Than Writers blog spot, which discusses numbers and creative writing and there are plenty of links between the two. Mind you, my first love will always be words, glorious words!

I also share some thoughts on how to manage word counts and competition deadlines.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Can one word make a difference to a story? Oh yes. I talked about this over on my author page tonight (Allison Symes Fairytale Lady – https://www.facebook.com/Allison.Symes.FairytaleLady/).

One word can turn a mood. One word can change how a story ends. I’ve long thought of flash fiction as precision writing and this is why. It’s also why if you’ve got a powerful story that works really well at, say, 250 words, leave it there! Don’t try and edit it down to get it into a 100 word competition or market. Impact on the reader is the most important thing, then the word count, and not the other way round.

Story matters. The format less so. I like to take in my stories via:-

Books, obviously.
Kindle.
Seeing them performed as plays, pantomimes etc. (I love the whole concept of National Theatre Live. Brilliant idea).
Audio books
Magazines
The vinyl version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds as produced by Jeff Wayne (which is just brilliant. Richard Burton was a wonderful narrator).
Hearing them on radio. (You can count TV drama obviously though I admit I’m watching less TV and I wasn’t impressed with what was on offer over Christmas).
Via film.

For flash fiction the top two have been the main outlets for me. It is a hope of mine that flash fiction can draw in the reluctant reader and if that has to be via electronic means, so be it. Get hooked on books. You know it makes sense!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve mentioned before I always feel a certain amount of relief when I get a first draft done of any writing. I feel like I’ve “nailed something down” to the screen or paper (I still occasionally write in longhand) and from there onwards the draft is going to get better. It is precisely what editing is all about!

I also like to have more than one project on the go as while I’m working on one, my subsconsious can mull over any issues I’m having with something else. It is almost inevitable an idea to resolve those issues WILL occur when I’m working on something else.

I’ve learned not to fight that and just go with it. It’s what a notebook and pen besides the laptop is for after all so those ideas that suddenly come to me don’t disappear into the author’s hell-hole called Lost Ideas That Were Brilliant But You Will Never Know Will You Because You Did Not Write Them Down At The Time! (Most of us HAVE been there and often more than once!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fairytales With Bite – Keeping Fairytales Alive

As shown above, the pantomime is one great way to keep fairytales alive given most of them are based on the classic stories. Long may that fantastic tradition continue.

I am, of course, very fond of fairytales told from the viewpoints of different characters as my first published story, A Helping Hand, in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology, comes into that category. It is a popular theme and I’ve seen it used in other competitions and rightly so too. There are a wealth of stories (and therefore characters) you could do this for.

The Disney adaptations also play a part in keeping fairytales alive though I would always recommend going back to the original stories to compare and contrast what Disney kept in and, often, what they had to keep out to retain a Universal certificate for the cinema.

I also can’t see good old-fashioned reading fairytales to children stopping either. Children know what they like in stories and fairytales do tick the right boxes there. Then the likes of Roald Dahl and David Walliams could be considered to be modern fairytale tellers too.

Long live the fairytale!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – How the Other Half Lives…

While readers don’t need to know the ins and outs of your creative world, they have to be convinced that in some dimension somewhere, your world is realistically enough portrayed to have a chance of existing!

Basically this means your characters need to have shelter, be able to eat, drink and so on and therefore a society has to spring up around them so these needs are met. Some of those societies will be close to what we know here. Others will be different but readers will be able to pick up on how it works. (Can’t say I’d like living in Mordor – it’s the ultimate in grim!).

One of my favourite quotes on this topic is from the much missed Terry Pratchett, who referred to building his Discworld “from the bottom up”. That is, he worked out how waste was disposed of, how water was supplied etc.

You need to decide what you need to know here so you can write with conviction about your setting and the characters in it. I’ve focused on system of government for a longer project I’m working on. Whatever way you go in for this, it does have to be something readers can identify with. Good luck!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

On Characters and Being a “Proper” Writer

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, all images are from Pixabay.

Facebook – General

What I look for in a great character:-

1. I totally understand why they’re acting the way they are. It doesn’t mean I have to approve though!

2. You can see how they got into the situation they’ve got to overcome and are keen to see if/how they get out of it again. You believe the character has the potential to get out of it and it’s a case of seeing whether you were right about that or not.

3. I love characters who come out with great one-liners but only as long as they arise naturally out of the situation and the character. It must never feel forced.

4. They stay with you in your imagination long after you’ve finished reading the story!

Examples of great characters for me:-

1. Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy

2. Jeeves and Wooster

3. Sam Vimes and Lady Sybil Ramkin – Discworld

4. Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee

5. Aslan – Narnia

6. Ebenezer Scrooge (though I prefer him AFTER the visitations! Am very fond of the Muppet Christmas Carol. Thought that was the best Muppet film too).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m delighted to share Part 3 of Peter Russell’s local history series on The Hutments for Chandler’s Ford Today. If you have any memories to share of a part of the community that has now gone, do comment via the comments box. I know Peter would be pleased to hear from you.

Feature Image - Hook Road Hutments and My Family

It has been a good writing week. There has been plenty of progress on the novel. I’m enjoying it ! (That HAS to be a good sign, right? 😊😉).

Short story and flash fiction submitted. Am fleshing out another standard length short story for a competition and have got another “resting” for me to have a look at again, hopefully later this week.

Almost done on next week’s CFT post too. Continuing to add to my website and working on a non-fiction project.

So, no, I’m never short of things to do but that’s how I like things to be!

I’ll be talking about progress and success and how to judge them in the CFT post for Friday.

Am really looking forward to the Bridge House celebration event. Not far away now. It’s a great chance to catch up with friends and to make new ones!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Word association can be a great way of triggering words to use in a story. You can play the standard way by setting a word and then finding others to link to it – e.g. play, toys, games etc.

Equally you can play the I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue version where there should be no connection at all to the chosen start word – e.g. play, universe, green.

Whichever version you go for, I suggest setting a limit of how many words you are going to use – I find that helps me focus. But of course you can raise or lower that limit for future stories.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How do you know if you’re a “proper” writer?

1. You scorn the very idea you have too many notebooks.
2. You develop a thing for collecting nice pens too, some of which you will actually use.
3. You dread power cuts as they always seem to happen in the middle of a writing session.
4. You have the great joy of having a number of books written by friends on your shelves.
5. You are even more thrilled when your works are on the same shelves!
6. You can’t wait to tell everyone your latest publication news.
7. You open the latest copy of Writing Magazine and look for people you know in the letters page and the Subscribers’ sections in particular.
8. You feel a little miffed when you come across an issue when there isn’t someone you know in it. (It’s a kind of something’s not quite right with the world feeling).
9. Launches, especially online ones, are a regular part of your life and you love them all.
10. Your TBR and TBW piles never diminish but that’s the way you like them.
11. There is no such thing as having too many books. What you CAN have is not enough shelving.
12. You just feel SO at home in book shops and libraries.

Okay, guilty as charged on all those. How about you?

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I always consider impact to be the most important aspect to my flash fiction writing, but do you go about creating the impact you want to achieve?

Some of it is out of your hands. You may write a funny story but a reader doesn’t find it amusing – this is why humorous writing is so hard to do. It is subjective after all but what can you do to level the playing field a bit?

Having decided what the impact of my story is going to be, I look at what would make ME feel that impact. For example, if the tale is going to be a sad one, what would trigger that feeling of sadness in me?

Then it’s a question of picking the most appropriate trigger for your story. I prefer to go for understated emotional impact too. A story that tips overs into melodrama can put people off. I know it would do so for me. But sadness that is shown through the character without laying it on with a trowel will always make me want to read more if only to find out if the character “overcomes” the sadness or is beginning the process of adapting to the sitution by the end of the story.

For example if your story is about a fairy godmother rapidly approaching retirement and she really doesn’t want to retire, you could take that in a humorous or sad direction. So decide what you want it to be first.

If funny, what would make you laugh? Would setting your character into a ridiculous situation do it or are you better off having a wise cracking character who comes out with tremendous one liners?

Think about what you would like to read here as if the story was being written by someone else. I’ve found this to be really useful and hope you do too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Have you tried writing a piece of flash fiction to, say, 25 words, and then separately, writing it out to, say, 250 words?

It’s all perfectly legitimate but there will be different markets and competitions for the two stories.

I sometimes do this as a writing exercise (it’s a good way to get into a session of writing).

Not all stories or characters will be capable of being expanded. If the impact you are seeking to make on a reader is over and done with in 25 words then leave it at that. Never ever pad out a tale.

But if you CAN expand the story because the character is capable of so much more (and that’s the key way to judge whether a story IS capable of being expanded), explore what else you can do with that character and then you can either submit the two stories to two DIFFERENT places or pick the one you like the best and just submit that.

I like my titles to give a flavour of what is to come in the story without giving away too much. I like the title to lead people into wanting to read the rest. Of course, the challenge for me is to make sure I deliver on that promising title!

I occasionally use questions as story titles but prefer the statement, though I try to keep this as open as possible. Most of my titles could be taken in a humorous or serious direction.

I’ve mentioned before I have to have a title to work to as I draft my story but I am more than happy to change it if something better comes along as I am writing. It does sometimes and it is best to go with the flow here. Again, as with the story itself, I am looking for the likely impact of the title on the reader. The stronger impact title always wins.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Do you ever think of music to suit your flash fiction stories?

The main time I have was coming up with ideas for the music for the book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I plumped for Saint-Saens Danse Macabre – quirky music to suit quirky fiction.

One of the things I love about music (and especially classical) is that, like flash fiction, there is something to suit every mood. I’m not going to be at any risk of running out of ideas for suitable musical themes any time soon either!

I’ve not yet used a piece of music to influence a story idea but may well give it a go and see what happens. The potential is there!

Goodreads Author Blog – Juggling the TBR Pile

I must admit I couldn’t physically juggle my TBR pile. There would be an almighty crash and some inventive language on my part, I think, if I tried that.

I love reading a mixture of fiction across many genres, non-fiction, short stories, novels, articles etc. I also like to mix up reading on the Kindle with reading “real” books but I also want to put magazine reading into the overall mixture too.

Over the course of a week, I try to cover most of those bases. I’m currently reading historical fiction, true crime, short stories, flash fiction, and my own novel (on Kindle. I’m reading it as a reader would. It has been illuminating!).

Over the course of a week, I have been thoroughly entertained too!

And yes I have a TBR pile on my Kindle too. One of the reasons I don’t put a Kindle app on my phone is so I don’t have a TBR pile on there as well.

It is true – too many books, too little time!

Still I’ll press on and have a fab time doing so.

Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

 

Put Three Words Together and Questions to Ask Your Characters

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week looks at Put Three Words Together And…

I look at how it only takes three words to make an impact on readers and share positive and negative examples. The latter reflects on a brutal part of our history too, something I’m glad is long gone. The post also looks at alternative meanings of the words in question – there is a wide range! The meaning of the words taken together goes far beyond the meaning of the individual ones. Never underestimate the power of words!

Many thanks to all who have commented on this already. Good discussion going, thanks all.

I must admit I was surprised, when drafting this week’s CFT post, to find it only takes three words to make an impact on readers. (I had always thought it was a little more than that based on Ernest Hemingway’s For Sale: One Pair Baby Shoes). Still I guess it goes to show how you CAN pare things right back when you want to!

Happy writing, editing, re-reading, editing again etc!

Image Credit:  As ever, thanks to Pixabay. Captions over on the CFT page.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Many thanks to everyone who has liked my Facebook author page. Now up to 100 likes – thanks, all.

Looking forward to sharing my CFT What Books Mean to Me series soon. It’s always interesting discovering the different responses by authors to the same questions.

It’s also why I love taking part in anthologies and competitions where the theme is the same but you just know the take on said theme will be so varied amongst the authors taking part. It is literal proof of some very active imaginations out there (which is always a cause to celebrate).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One of the biggest tips I can pass on when writing flash fiction is not to have too many characters. In many of my stories, I only have the one!

I often get a character to refer to another one (usually they’re thinking about Character B – and not always pleasantly either!). Or we see Character A reflecting on what Character B has just said/done or both (!) to them.

But the important thing is to focus on THE important point of your story. There really is no room for anything else. And generally I find one to two characters are plenty enough to convey that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve occasionally written all dialogue flash fiction tales but don’t find them particularly easy to do. Firstly, they are best kept very short (I think the novelty of dialogue only would wear thing pretty quickly if you kept it up for long). Secondly, I’ve got a natural preference for showing you a character’s thoughts (and from that you’ll get their attitudes as well). I think you get more mileage from the latter and so I tend to stick to that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Publication News

Delighted to share again my Three Wishes story on Cafelit. I also want to flag Cafelit up in general as there is a great mix of stories, authors, and styles on here. There is bound to be at least one to suit you! Do check them out.

And how often is the next big thing on the news unremittingly grim - Pixabay

I can dream!  Pixabay

 

Fairytales with Bite – Put Three Words Together And…

My CFT post is Put Three Words Together And…  I look at negative and positive impacts of three words when they’re used together (and how those impacts can vary widely from the individual meanings of the words concerned).

As for fiction writing, well we need more than three words for that but you could look at three word catchphrases for your characters. Catchphrases have to be memorable to work, also you need not to get tired of them (and that’s even more true for your reader!), and so are best kept short to help achieve those points.

If your characters were limited to three words as their pet phrase, what would they be and why? (I suspect the most famous one here would be I’ll Be Back from The Terminator). But what would you choose for your creations?

Would your pet phrase match your character? That is, if they’re a feisty character, would their phrase reflect that? Or would they downplay that side of things a bit (especially if they wanted to put off an enemy)? Would they be sarcastic or would their phrase be a cover for what they are really like?

Food for thought, I hope. The important point is to know who your characters are, how they would speak and sound (to a reader) and, if a catchphrase would be appropriate for your characters, to choose one that fits them well.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others –

Questions to Ask Your Characters

One great thing about this topic is that it is a timeless one! (Bear in mind also if you’re writing non-fiction, if you are using a narrative voice, you can treat that voice as a character, so some of these questions at least may also be worth trying). So what to ask then as part of your outline?

  1. What do you really want and why?
  2. What stops you getting what you really want?
  3. Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?
  4. How are you going to achieve your objectives?
  5. Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?
  6. Are you making your life unnecessarily complicated? (Worth asking this one – any complications getting in the way of your character achieving what they want should be those that arise naturally out of the plot. There should be nothing that seems “faked” to increase the tension in the story. The tension should be genuine, the obstacles real and so on. For a non-fictional narrator, a good question to ask instead of this one is are you communicating as clearly as possible (i.e. go for clarity, not gobbledegook, don’t make your narration unnecessarily complicated? Are you conveying the facts reasonably? Are you backing the facts up with evidence? What are your sources?).
  7. What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?
  8. What if you’re wrong? (How would your character handle that? That could make for a really interesting story).
  9. Are there limits you won’t cross (and if so what are these? What is your thinking behind this?).
  10. Are there rules you are prepared to break? What would the consequences be? How are you going to limit your risk (or are you not worried about that? Some characters aren’t!).

Now if answering those questions doesn’t generate story ideas, I’d be very surprised!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

Good Books and Steps and Contrasts

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

So what DO you look for in a good book? I share what I think and name three of my favourite tomes in this week’s CFT post.

I do love a self-explanatory blog post title!

The three books I name are Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice, and Men at Arms (by the much missed Terry Pratchett). What elements do these books share? They do have some.

Do share your own three favourite books. Comments are always welcome on the CFT page.

Image Credit:  Images on the slideshow are all via Pixabay (wonderful site!).  Captions up on the CFT post itself.  I can confirm this is the first (and likely to be last) time I put up a picture of ants reading…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One of the things I enjoyed doing for my CFT post this week was naming three of my favourite books and looking at what they have in common, despite being in different genres. My problem was limiting my selection to three but it was a nice problem to have! (I’ll put the link up tomorrow. The topic overall discusses what good books should be).

There are certain books I re-read periodically or at certain times of year (Hogfather by Terry Pratchett is always read or listened to in the run up to Christmas for example). I’m glad to say it is a very rare event for me not to be able to finish a book but when that happens it is because the book is awful and I’m at that stage where life is far too short to waste time on books like that. Mind, reading excellent works by other authors is a wonderful challenge to me to ensure I always “up my game” when it comes to writing my stories and that’s no bad thing.

 

Facebook – General – and More than Writers – Association of Christian Writers

I talk about Steps and Contrasts in my monthly spot on the More than Writers blog (Association of Christian Writers).

I look at how difficult it can be to have faith in the writing process when things are NOT going well and share some tips as to how I’ve got around this.

It is a case of getting around it. I see things not going well, writing wise, as a temporary obstacle. You go through it, bypass it, or what have you but you find ways of NOT letting it get in your way forever, including ignoring it, working on something else for a bit and then coming back to it.

I can’t count how many times I’ve come up with an idea to solve a problem I’ve had on one piece of work while working on something else! Distraction therapy works.

And I suspect most writers will identify with the second image in the picture below!

STEPS - Ideas have to be worked out, I have yet to have light bulb moments like this - Pixabay

I’ve yet to see an idea flash above my head like this! Pixabay

STEPS - Is there a writer who doesn't know how this feels = Pixabay

Most writers will know how this feels… Pixabay

STEPS - It will take time to work out where your writing journey will take you - Pixabay

The writing journey has to be taken a step at a time. Pixabay

STEPS - We all need to recharge at times - Pixabay

Recharge yourself when you need to. Your writing will be better for it. Pixabay

STEPS - Writing is made up of steps - Pixabay

The writing journey – upwards and onwards. Pixabay

STEPS - Writing is not black and white but it can be useful to contrast what your writing is with what you thought it would be - Pixabay

Contrasting can be a useful technique when trying to solve problems with your fiction. Pixabay

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One of the things I love most about flash fiction is it is open to genres within it. I’ve written historical fiction tales, crime stories, fairytales, character studies etc all within the flash fiction limit of up to 1000 words.

Character is everything for me both in reading and writing stories. I don’t necessarily need to like the character I’m reading about or writing but there has to be something I can identify with so I can see why they are the way they are. I then want to find out how things work out for them. It’s that initial hook which is so important (and it is a lot of fun working out what that should be too!).

One technique I’ve found useful for writing flash fiction is to work out what I’ve loved in other very short stories and ask myself can I learn from this to help my writing.

The answer to that is inevitably “yes” as reading widely and absorbing, almost unconsciously, how other writers handle dialogue, changes of scene etc, is the best way to learn. The difference with flash fiction is there’s not so much material to get through!

What I’m looking for is the impact the flash tale has had on me and why it impacted that way. You can then look for clues in the story itself as to how the writer achieved that.

Almost inevitably, what I love most when reading other authors’ works is the strength of their characterisation. I’ve long believed getting the characters right is the key to good fiction. A weak character will let down even the strongest of plots.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There are days when you have particularly nice writing things to do. Today, I proofread my story, The Professional, which will be in the Waterloo Arts Festival ebook in due course. Love doing things like that.

And other days you are wrestling with a knotty story problem but you will get through it. I’ve found jotting down possible solutions, going to work on something else, and then coming back to look at those possibilities with fresh eyes is a good way forward.

Two advantages here: working on something else frees up your creative juices to mull over your problem. I can’t tell you how often an idea to solve something has occurred while writing something else. The other advantage is you’ve started drafting a new piece of work too!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fairytales with Bite –

What Do You Look For in a Good Book?

What Do You Look For in a Good Book is my theme for this week’s CFT post. Hope you enjoy.

The challenge for any writer, whether they’re writing novels or story collections, is to ensure their book could be classed as “good”.  Allowing for differences in taste I think what writers need to achieve with their writing can be summarised as:-

  1. Believable characters.

  2. Characters we can identify with.

  3. A plot with twists and turns to keep a reader guessing.

  4. The story has to have a “got to find out what happens next” element to it. Without that, the whole thing falls down. This element, for me, works best when the characters are so gripping, I’ve got to find out what happens to them. I don’t need to like them. I just need to want to find out what happens to them. Sometimes it can be to follow a horrible character and experience great glee as they get their comeuppance at the end of the story!

  5. An easy to read style. I’ve got to enjoy the way the prose flows. Easy to read takes time to get right and I learned a long time ago that whenever someone makes writing look easy, that same someone has worked for years to get to that point.

Good luck with your own writing! And whoever said writing is easy has never done any…!

This World and Others Changing Direction

I’ve changed direction at different stages of my writing and anticipate doing so again (and probably a few times at that).

Why is this okay?  Sometimes you discover a new form of writing you just love doing (in my case this was flash fiction). At other times, a certain format is just not working for you no matter how hard you try so you focus your skills where you know you can achieve success.  (Incidentally you can define what success here is too.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be publication. It can be getting to a point where you know you could be published, it could be achieving writing X number of stories in a month etc etc).

Naturally, your characters can change direction too. Sometimes this is literally so (see any quest story for that – a map will come into the story somewhere too!). At other times, it can be a change of opinion (with repercussions. There should always be repercussions, that’s where the drama is).

Whatever the reason for the change of direction, and no matter what form it takes, there should be good reasons for it, reasons your readers will understand and accept. They don’t necessarily have to agree with your characters and neither do you (!), but the reasons for the changes should be well thought out, logical etc etc.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOP TEN ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND DIPPING BOOKS

Many apologies for not being able to share my CFT post yesterday.  I’m glad to say the site is now up and running again, hence this extra post.

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Glad to say I can now share my CFT post for this week. I look at what I think are the Top Ten Accomplishments of mankind. I don’t stick to one particular field and my comments have to be a summary but I have picked photography, the domestication of the dog, and space exploration amongst others.

As ever, comments welcome on the CFT page.

Image Credit:  All images in the following slideshow are from Pixabay and are related to my CFT post.  You could play “guess the accomplishment” by looking at the slideshow first!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

With flash fiction, you are focusing on one specific moment of change for a character. There literally isn’t the word count for more so the challenge is to make sure that specific moment is strong enough to be worthy of having a story written around it.

I look for impact on me as the writer, and then on what I think the impact will be on readers, when I decide on whether a story idea is strong enough or not. That idea has to generate a strong emotional reaction whether it is to make me laugh, cry, scream or what have you.

Goodreads Author Programme Blog – Books to Dip Into

I love books you read straight through from cover to cover but I also adore those where you dip into them as and when.

Things like the Guinness Book of Records come into that category. I’m currently reading a “big book of facts” produced by Classic FM but will almost certainly have regular dips into this, rather than read it straight though. (To be fair it is a HUGE book).

I also like the way this mixes up my reading a bit as I read flash fiction (as well as write it), short stories, and novels. I also dip read. Dip reading is also useful when I’ve finished a book and am not quite sure what I’m going to read next.

I often fancy a change of mood after completing a novel and until I know what is next on my reading “menu”, I will dip into books like this until such time as I do know.

But the important thing is I keep reading!

 

Impact, Pantomime, and Character Portrayal

Quite a mix tonight I think!  Hope you enjoy!

Facebook – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post is a review of the Chameleons’ recent panto production of Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves.

The show was wonderful and this particular post was great fun to write. I’ve written it in a different format to the way I usually write reviews and think this worked well on a fun topic. Loved writing it. Hope you enjoy reading it. It gives a good flavour! (Oh and the dame’s hair really does have to be seen to be believed but that’s the way it’s meant to be with panto – oh yes it is!).

Images Credit:  A very big thank you to Stuart Wineberg, Lionel Elliott and the Chameleons for  kind permission to use the photos below and in my CFT post.  I have a lot of fun writing captions for these but see the CFT post for these!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Looking forward to sharing my review of the Chameleons’ production of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves tomorrow. Does panto bring out my inner kid? You bet it does!

What can be interesting on productions like this is seeing how true the script stays to the original story – or not as the case may be. Most adaptations are understandable. Many of the fairytales are too grim (pun intended!) to put on as originally written.

Am delighted to share a bonus CFT post tonight. Children’s writer, Anne Wan, and illustrator, Sally Goodden, are holding a story and crafts event at Chandler’s Ford Library this Saturday.

The theme is based on Anne’s latest book, Manners Fit For the Queen.

I’ve talked about the importance of children’s fiction on CFT before but picture books, such as Manners Fit For the Queen, play such a crucial role in encouraging youngster to read.

Hope everyone has a fab time at the event on Saturday.

Book cover image kindly supplied by Anne but drawn by Sally!

BOOK EVENT - Anne Wan and Sally Goodden

 

Well, one good thing about the cold weather is it encourages staying in and reading/writing a good book!

I don’t use the weather as a setting in stories (as it reminds me too much of the infamous opening “It was a dark and stormy night”, which has become a parody). I think you could use weather as a way of showing/reflecting your character’s mood though. For example, “Despite the warm temperatures and clear skies, Herbert’s mood was anything but sunny”. That could make a good opening to a story.

Also, I guess I want to be getting on with finding out what the characters are doing and saying. Weather? I don’t think I really need to know that unless it IS going to affect the story in some way. By that point, I want to be so gripped by the characters, that I pick up the detail about the weather without being irritated by it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Plan to catch up with some flash fiction writing over the weekend. Hard to believe it’s two years since FLTDBA came out. Where has the time gone?!

What I love about flash fiction is when I am particularly busy I can jot down some one-liners that can stand alone or that I can work on later and develop into longer pieces.

A good challenge can be to write yourself a line and then use it for one story as the opening line and for another as the closing one. Give it a go and see what you come up with. Ideally pick different moods for these pieces as well. Above all, have fun with your writing. I fervently believe that when a writer is enjoying what they’re writing, some of that sense of enjoyment comes through and the reader picks up on it. Also if you don’t enjoy what you write, why would anyone else?!

 

I’ve experimented with linked flash fiction in the book I’m currently writing. I hope to write more too. The main criteria is that the character and situation has to be strong enough to sustain two or more stories.

The first set I wrote came about due to the way I’d ended a story and I realised from that ending, there was potential to exploit in a second tale, so I duly did!

Also there should be a natural sense of following on for all of the stories in the link to work. You’ve set the characters and setting up so well, your readers feel at home dipping into that world again.

 

Image Credit:  Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for the picture of me reading at the December 2018 Bridge House Publishing celebration event.  Huge fun!

I talked on my author FB page about using weather in stories. Tying in with that, with flash fiction and the limited word count, weather is best used as a kind of code to represent something or as a metaphor. You don’t have the room to do much else but the great thing with that is you can’t give lots of description that people skim over.

What do I mean by code/metaphor? Best thing I think here are some examples.

1. Heather’s mind was as clear as a pea-souper.
2. Alan didn’t need the downpour to make him feel miserable.
3. Kathy’s hair shone as if she’d washed it in liquid sunshine.

All three of those should conjure up images in your mind as to what mood the characters are likely to be in and what kind of people they’re likely to be. I think it fair to say that Heather is unlikely to win Mastermind with a foggy brain! Kathy – well, she could be vain and, even if not, is her attitude to life as sunny as her hair? As for Alan, you get a real sense of the type of character he is – he can clearly feel miserable all by himself.

Happy writing!

Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers – Impact

Do you wonder what impact your writing has on others?

I mostly consider impact from the other side. That is I know my theme, what impact I’d like my piece to have and focus on selecting words I think will best achieve that.

What is lovely is when readers give you feedback and you can judge if the impact you thought your piece would have did so. If you wonder about commenting on a post but don’t, think again! Comments are noted.

Even negative feedback can be useful if you use it to gauge whether your critic missed the point of what you were trying to say or you didn’t make the impact you thought.

How do you create impact? Look for the strongest words for description. No “he wore grey” here. Go for “his suit was the same colour as my cheapest cutlery”. You use a few more words but the imagery, and resulting impact, is more powerful. I don’t need to say the guy here is unlikely to be getting his suits from Savile Row. That is implied by “cheapest”.

In thinking about impact ahead of writing a piece, you’re also trying to engage with potential readers from the outset. This is great because you’ll be less likely to go off at tangents which add nothing to your piece. (It is easily done!). That saves editing time! I must always cut so anything helping me edit more efficiently is welcomed!

For bloggers, feedback doesn’t always come when you think it will. Sometimes it won’t come at all! But that doesn’t mean your words lack impact. All it means is you don’t know about it. Frustrating though that is, if you enjoy blogging, carry on for that reason alone. I’ve also found as I blog, ideas for posts (and sometimes stories) pop into mind. By writing you are feeding your creative spirit.

Look at why you want your piece to have the impact you’ve chosen. Are those reasons good enough? Do they match the brief of your story competition or article theme the editor has called for?

Naturally we want the impact of our work on an editor to be “Wow! Got to take that.”. It is a question of accepting the need to polish your work and knowing sometimes the piece will make the cut. Sometimes it won’t but there’s nothing to stop you revisiting that piece and submitting it elsewhere assuming your topic or story is relevant to the market in mind.

Think about impact on you as a writer. If rejections are getting you down (and they do for everyone), harness the support of writer friends. This is where they come into their own. In time, they’ll appreciate your support during their difficult periods.

Every writer has their share of turn downs. They don’t necessarily stop when you are published.

We rightly talk about the writing life as a journey. Let’s make its impact on us and those around us as positive as possible.

IMPACT - Blogging. PixabayIMPACT - Feedback doesn't always come when you think it will. PixabayIMPACT - Feedback isn't always positive but look for what you can learn from it - PixabayIMPACT - Look for positive impact wherever possible - PixabayIMPACT - Use strong words for descriptions. Strong questions can help you get there. PixabayIMPACT - What impact does your story have - PixabayIMPACT - What impact will your work have on readers - Pixabay

Fairytales with Bite – The Right Ingredients

The theme of the right ingredients ties up with my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week about Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, my review of the Chameleon Theatre Group’s recent panto production.  Why?  Because I talk about what ingredients are needed for a successful pantomime and I’m glad to say this show had them all and in great quantities!

What are the right ingredients for a fairytale?

  1. There must be a magical element.
  2. There must be a wrong to put right.  (See Cinderella/Snow White etc for the way they’re treated initially and how their stories end).
  3. There must be plenty of drama.  (You know from the outset that Cinderella is never going to keep to the midnight deadline set by her fairy godmother.  The drama here is in finding out what will happen when the girl is inevitably late!).
  4. The ending must be appropriate for the story.  That doesn’t necessarily mean a happy one – see The Little Mermaid as Hans Christen Andersen wrote it!  Also while Snow White had a happy ending, her stepmother rightly didn’t!  (Perspective is important too).


What are the right ingredients for a writer?

  1. A willingness to put in the work – to write, rewrite, rewrite again etc until the story is right.
  2. Accepting the fact rejections happen and trying to learn from them and then move on.
  3. Always seeking to improve what you do.
  4. Reading widely and across genres to feed your own imagination.  It does need feeding.  Often and lots!

This World and Others – Knowing When Your Character Portrayal Is Right

Can you ever know for sure when the character portrayal is right for your story?  I think so!

Firstly, your characters need to ring true to themselves.  If they’re greedy, are you showing them being that in different ways?  They need to be characters that could be people we know.

Secondly, your characters should have flaws and virtues and good reasons for acting the way they are.  Do they try to hide their faults or are they unremittingly unashamed of them (the I Am What I Am syndrome!).  However you portray your characters here, be consistent unless redemption/change is the point of story as it is in A Christmas Carol.  You still need to show your character “waking up” to the need to change.  One sudden change of heart will not convince readers.  Scrooge needed to be visited by all three ghosts to realise the error of his ways after all.

Thirdly, if your characters have different educational standards (and this is highly likely), are you showing the right level of education for the characters?  This will show through in how they speak, the kind of vocabulary they use and so on.

Fourthly, can you hear your characters speaking?  Do they seem real to you?  The first reader you have to convince is you!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUBMISSIONS, IMPACT, AND DELVING INTO THE PAST

Facebook – General

Sent off a story submission tonight so pleased with that. Had drafted the story a while ago but wanted to leave it to one side and come back to it with a fresh eye. The voice of my character comes through loud and clear!

This piece is just under 1000 words, which is LOADS compared to my favourite 100-worders! But that is a major joy of flash fiction – it has divisions within it and there is nothing to stop you sticking to one type or mixing and matching. I like the latter approach.

Sometimes a character does need to be “let off the leash” for a longer distance and that was the case with this story.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Whenever I watch/listen to an adaptation, whether it is a panto, a play or a novel turned into a TV series, am I looking for a word-to-word faithful rendition?

No! What I am looking for is the adapation to be faithful to the spirit of the original book, play or what have you. There is also a strong reason to adapt, say, fairytales for pantos and the like, given so many of the original stories are far too grim (some pun intended!) to be staged exactly as they were originally written.

I want the characters to be recognisable as the ones the original author created. I don’t like mish-mashes of characters, as can happen. Those never seem real to me, precisely I think because now I can spot the joins!!

Am looking forward to sharing my CFT post as it will be a review of a recent panto put on by The Chameleon Theatre Group. The style I’ve used for this one is a bit different too but suits the material well. More on Friday! (I think we need pantos in January given it seems such a long month and the weather’s generally awful or cold or both).

Making good progress with the novel. Am “brewing ideas” for a story competition (deadline end of March) so plan to start outlining hopefully later this week/over weekend.

Also hope to finalise third flash fiction collection in the next couple of months. The material is pretty much all there now but it needs a darned good edit! Mind, there is nothing I write (with the possible exception of the annual holiday note to the milkman) that DOESN’T need a darned good edit!

I discuss impact in my turn on the More Than Writers’ blog spot from the Association of Christian Writers.

I look at the impact I hope to achieve in the stories I write by deciding in advance what I’d like that to be and then selecting the words to best achieve that. The rest, of course, is down to the reader. You can put down the pointers but it is up to reader if they “run with them”.

Having said that, I have found thinking about impact like this means I’m trying to engage with readers from the outset. It also stops me going off at unhelpful tangents (and that is too easily done!).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Looking ahead to some of the writing prompts coming up in my diary, there are some promising thoughts for new flash fiction stories. Some of the prompts are asking for character studies (with some being based on a specific name. I’ll have fun with that when I get to the week for that one. A name is just a peg after all. It’s what you do with the peg that matters!).

There are also some word association prompts. That will be fun too. A great way to allow yourself to go off at tangents to generate further story ideas. I love playing with words like that.

One huge advantage to writing flash fiction is it can give you a way of getting work out there while working on a much longer project, such as a novel.

I’m happily revisiting a novel of mine and using the editing skills writing flash fiction has given me. This should sharpen the novel up and I hope give it a better chance “out there” when I’m ready to submit it.

Naturally, this is going to take time but when not working on that, having flash fiction stories on the go is a great way of building up publishing credits and so on. I hope all of that will prove useful with regard to the novel later on. Watch this space, as they say!

One of the hardest things to do is cutting out a character you love but you know doesn’t really fit into the story or novel you’re writing. At one time you thought they did, that’s why they were there at all, but you have come to realise, often on repeated reading, that they’re not doing that much and if you cut them out, they wouldn’t be missed. (By anyone other than you naturally). Of course they’ve GOT to go but it seems such a shame…

Well, have you thought about seeing if you can write some flash fiction for them? Waste not, want not and all that. If a character can’t justify a full length story, can they be useful in a much shorter piece?

Food for thought I hope!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Linking on from my theme of impact which I discuss in my monthly spot on More than Writers (the Association of Christian Writers’ blog), flash fiction has the huge advantage that its impact is immediate. It has to be.

That doesn’t rule out having “big themes”, far from it, but in a flash fiction story, you touch on them briefly and leave the readers to ponder on them.

I love this when I read flash fiction by other authors. I like being given the room to think on the impact of the stories I have just read. When a piece really inspires me, I look at how I think the author achieved that and learn from this. One shared joy of reading and writing is there is always something to learn to add greater enjoyment to what you read/help you improve your own writing.

Goodreads Author Blog – Delving into the Past

Delving into the past has great connotations for readers and writers alike.

Firstly, there is the whole range of historical books to explore – fiction and non-fiction. Then there’s the delight in exploring your favourite historical eras and discovering ones you hadn’t known much about.

For me, coming across Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time was one of those moments when a book really does change things for you. It completely altered my views on Richard III. Do check out the book and see if it does the same for you!

Secondly, there is the joy of rediscovering the stories that were favourites of yours in your own past. I’ve done this recently by, of all things, going to a panto and revisiting a story I’d not read in years – Ali Baba. The panto was great but the story reminded me that fairytales are anything but twee and when justice is served, it is usually with a very rough edge!

Other books connected to my past are my late mother’s Dickens collection. Some I’ve read, others not, but I do know I’m not running out of reading material any time soon! This is a VERY good thing!

So if you are stuck for something to read (I know, perish the thought!), delve into your past and look again at wht you used to read. Why did you stop reading that? Is it a question of going, say, from “childish” fairytales (though I’d argue fairytales are anything but childish) to more adult magical realism and fantasy stories?

Above all have fun delving into your literary past and see where it takes you now!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.