A Novel Approach, Favourite Books and a Free Story

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. A big thank you to Jennifer C Wilson for supplying many of the photos for her interview on Chandler’s Ford Today this week.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is with great pleasure I welcome #JenniferCWilson back to Chandler’s Ford Today.

This time, we discuss her venture into non-fiction with her recently released book, A Novel Approach.

The theme for this summer on CFT has very much been one of changing direction and Jennifer’s interview continues that idea.

Do check out her thoughts on the benefits of finding a good writing group amongst many other gems here.

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I always enjoy writing my CFT posts but interviews, I think, are the most fun of all. Why?

Because I always learn something useful, interesting, entertaining, and often all three from my guests. (So thank you one and all!).

No one author can know it all and learning from other writers is a crucial part of how we all develop. Reading interviews and, in my case, hosting them as well, helps enormously here!😊

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We all have favourite books, many of which go back years. So what made you decide Book A was said favourite? Is it a question of working out what books you have you simply can’t manage without and favourite status is conferred upon them due to that?

In my case, one of my favourite books is definitely a nostalgic one as this was given to me by my late parents. Others, such as Josephine Tey’s wonderful The Daughter of Time I came across by accident and I was so happy to find it!

Still others are books written by friends and, not only do I love the stories, but every time I look at the books, I am reminded of happy times meeting up with said friends. (Usually at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, Bridge House Publishing or Association of Christian Writer events it has to be said!).

So what are your favourite stories and why do you love them so much? Do you have room in your life for new favourites? (The answer to that should be of course!). Which book is your most recent addition to the favourites list?

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Am delighted to be welcoming #JenWilson back to Chandler’s Ford Today this week.

Jen will be talking about her change of direction into non-fiction writing with her recently released A Novel Approach. There has been a lot of this change of direction in the air this summer! It has definitely been my theme for this year for CFT.

Jen will be discussing how she came to write the book and shares her thoughts about what a good writing group can do for you amongst many other gems. Link up on Friday. Don’t miss especially if you are thinking about writing a novel.

Meanwhile if you want to check the book out do see the link.

 

JenniferCWilson-ANovelApproach-Cover

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Free Story!

I couldn’t resist having another go at the random noun generator. This time I opted for three random nouns and what came up were “shirt”, “marriage”, and “ladder”. Now there’s an interesting mix!

Hope you enjoy the following. A humorous end to the week is always welcome!

THE SPECIAL OFFER

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the sign. “Buy a shirt and your dearest wish will come true”. I’ve seen plenty of dodgy advertising in my time. So I went over to the market trader and challenged him. How on earth could a shirt grant wishes? Especially such a bright one. Vivid purple was never my style fortunately.

‘You’ve heard of magical lamps and rings, why can’t a shirt be magical too?’ was his response.

I guess on logic alone, he had a point, but when I think of
shirts and magic, it is only in terms of being able to get leaky ink stains out of a shirt in one go in the washing machine. And that doesn’t happen often I can tell you. Unlike leaky ink stains going flaming everywhere.

‘Anyway,’ I told the guy, ‘how can a shirt know what my wish is to grant it?’

‘You tell the shirt when you get it home, silly.’

That was me told.

Now don’t judge me here. I did buy the shirt. I needed to get a present for my nephew so I thought a vivid purple shirt would be the thing. (You should see the colour of his trousers. You need sunglasses, I tell you, so a bright shirt would suit him beautifully. Okay, I didn’t envy his mother the task of washing the wretched thing. That purple would be bound to run but I’ve long told my sister she ought to get her boy helping around the house more so she can start by getting him to wash the wretched thing).

Did I make a wish? Yes. For a laugh. I know my sister is concerned about her lad’s prospects so I wished that his life would take off in a good way so she could stop worrying. Covers both of them and it’s a nice wish I think.

I didn’t tell my nephew, or my sister, where I got the shirt or about the advertising for it.

But I was taken aback when a week after I’d given the present, he and his mother came around with news. Robbie was to be married to the young lass who worked at the launderette and knew everything there was to be known about washing colours separately.

Apparently, he’d borrowed his father’s ladder, went around to the young lass’s house, and proposed at the top of the ladder on Valentine’s Day Night. He had meant to do so when he took her out for a meal but lost his nerve.

That is so like him. As was tumbling off the ladder but fortunately he landed in a huge shrub and no damage done. The shrub was all right as well apparently.

The marriage takes place next month and now I’m off to the market stall. If there are any more of those shirts, I’ll get him a load. I’ve made a list of wishes that will be of real help to a young, married couple.

It’s the least I can do.

Ends

Allison Symes – 21st August 2020

 

Flash fiction may be a quick read but it isn’t necessarily a fast write! I get a first draft down quickly but the work is in the editing (as it is with all forms of writing I think).

Honing a story to ensure every word justifies its place in the tale takes time. And I will often rewrite a section to maximise the impact of that part of the story.

I ask myself if the impact is strong enough? Will it affect the reader the way I want it to do? A change of word, sometimes where I place the word in a sentence, can make all the difference.

It is only when I know any further changes to a story would weaken it that I submit the story somewhere.

Was listening to #WendyHJones‘ excellent podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show, earlier this evening and discovered a new term for what I call wasted words. The term was weasel words and I love that.

It is some comfort to know every writer has these literary pests (and mine are actually, very, and that, as I’ve mentioned before).

Still, when it comes to the edit, I know what’s coming out first and I find, with this done, it seems to get the rest of the edit off to a flying start. I find that helpful so maybe my wasted words have some use. They just don’t stay in!

Image of Wendy H Jones below kindly supplied by her. (Do check out her podcast. I was on episode 4 talking about flash fiction).

Fairytales With Bite – 

The Influence of Fairytales on Literature in General

The obvious influence is that fairytales are a genre in their own right, correctly so too. The next biggest influence I think is given most children’s introduction to literature is via fairytales, said stories act as a gateway into the wonderful world of books per se. That has to be a good thing! This was the case for me and I’ve never regretted having a lifelong love of stories and books as a result.

With that comes the influence on those children who go on to become writers. The marvellous Roald Dahl with his works aimed at children was, to my mind, clearly the successor to Hans Christen Andersen (especially as he knew children liked to read about characters who were not goody goody. Know your market always!).

Fairytales for children can lead to fairytales for adults and I would say A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a prime example of that. What an influence that particular story has had on so many of us!

The idea of wrongs being put right isn’t just for crime writing! There’s a good case for saying fairytales were well ahead of the game there.

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This World and Others – Fascinating Facts

When it comes to creating your own fictional world, and thinking of how it is all going to come together, do some research. This is where non-fiction reference books can be so useful to fiction writers. A lot can be done online of course but do go for a variety of books. This will help in ensuring you get facts right but almost inevitably you won’t find all you want in one book.

You want to create a new planet for your characters to live on. Okay. What are they going to breathe? What are they going to eat and drink? What will their climate be like? All of those things you can research based on what you know/can find out here on good old Planet Earth and then adapt for your own purposes.

If you want your creations breathing something other than oxygen, what do they breathe instead and how do their bodies manage this? Think about fish breathing through their gills. What would your people do?

Have fun working this all out and then show readers what they need to know to make sense of it all.

 

 

 

 

 

Editing, Haiku, and Swimming

A lovely mixture tonight, I think!

Image Credit:  Pexels/Pixabay if not stated otherwise.

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When you edit your stories, what are you looking for first and foremost? I look for the impact. Does the character make me react the way I want them to make me react? The way I thought they would when I drafted the story?
Of course, I check for typos and grammatical errors too. Yes, I’ll inevitably find some. We all do! But it is the impact of the character that is the most important thing for me. Why?
Simply because if the character doesn’t make me feel something, I, as a reader, am not going to care that much about the perfect grammar and the exquisite spelling!
Grammar and spelling do matter (and this is where writing buddies can be so helpful if these things are not your strong point. They will see things you do not etc). But I would argue get the story right first and then tidy the other matters up.
It will be the story and the characters readers remember.
Incidentally when people don’t notice the spelling and grammar, that is a very good sign. It shows you’ve got these things right. It also shows people were so gripped by your story and characters they had to keep reading.
Where spelling and grammar do matter is when people are enjoying your stories, you don’t want them to have their reading flow interrupted by an annoying typo. But get the story straight, then polish the spelling and grammar up.

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Hope you’ve had a nice weekend. Lovely to have family around in the garden yesterday. Weekends are starting to feel a little more like weekends.
Writing wise, I’m working on a new series for CFT. Details later in the week. It is going to be one of those series with plenty of tips and advice which I, and my lovely guest contributors, all hope you find useful.
And naturally I’m itching to reveal the book cover for Tripping the Flash Fantastic so am looking forward to when I can do that.
Am also working on “homework” as a result of pieces created during the creative writing workshop on Zoom I “went to” on Wednesday. That was good fun as I mentioned yesterday. Definitely liked the haiku challenge.
My longer term projects, including a non-fiction one, are on the backburner at the moment but I hope to get back to those before too long.
I also need to find another short story competition to try and polish up those entries from earlier in the year I now know didn’t get anywhere in the competitions I submitted them for.
But I’ve sometimes had success with a reworked story submitted to another competition or market so this is worth doing. Occasionally I find I can’t do anything else with the story but the character really grabs me (and I would hope other readers) so I see if I can do something else with them.
Must admit though I am also looking forward to when the writing conferences etc come back and I can meet up with friends in person. Zoom is an asset but it is not/cannot be quite the same. (For one thing, whether I’m drinking tea or prosecco, I much prefer to do that in company!).

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Hope Monday has not been too tricky for you. Lady has had a cracking start to her week. She got to play with her best doggie buddie today. Tonight she is zonked (and I suspect her pal is too). There’s a link there somewhere.
I’ve started my writing week by updating the blurb which appears on this author page. It’s about time I had something about the flash fiction in there! Ooops. Still sorted now.
It’s easy to forget, I think, there is a whole wealth of things going on behind the scenes for most writers. Updating websites, profiles etc., takes time but I see this as part of the marketing work. I try to do something on that side of things most days even if it is just joining in with a writing topic of interest somewhere on the web. I see that as engaging with other people and THAT is a big part of what writers do. We want people to engage with our stories, of course, but they’ve got to know we write them in the first place!😊

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Bit of good news today. I should be able to book swimming soon. I have missed that. But it is good that this aspect of life is coming back.
I had thought I’d use my time in the pool to think out story ideas etc. As with walking the dog, not a bit of it, but it is wonderful “down time” and I always go back refreshed. So there’s the mental benefit I think.
I swim the front crawl. It IS going to be a crawl for a bit I should think!
Am catching up with some reading on Kindle and thoroughly enjoying that. Hope to post a couple of reviews by the end of the week. (Reviews matter!).
I read inside and outside of my genre, flash fiction, and I love the mixture of what I read. My absolute go-to has to be humour though. And if ever there was a period of time in my lifetime where a laugh from a good book has been a blessing, it really has been over the last few months.

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This week has been a very exciting one as I’ve worked with the cover designer from Chapeltown Books on Tripping the Flash Fantastic. I’ve also checked the text for the final time. So a busy but productive week and a lovely way to go into the weekend.
I hope in due course to post a cover reveal and I plan to hold a cyberlaunch. More details to follow.
This is the lovely side of writing. So much goes on behind the scenes and often for a long time at that. When you get to the point that the book is shortly going to be “out there”, then that’s the exciting and lovely pay off for all that hard work behind the scenes.
I’ve been drafting some haiku this week as part of a Zoom creative writing workshop I enjoyed this week. Can you tell a flash fiction in haiku I wonder? Let’s see, shall we?
1. The bear squashed the chair
To stop Goldilocks, that mare
Revisiting house.
2. Spinning wheel needle
Pricks the girl’s finger and then
Extended nap time!
Allison Symes
18th July 2020
Hope you enjoy!

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If you have a scene with a character that can’t go into a story, why not turn it into a stand alone flash fiction tale?
The most common reason for a scene not making it into a story is that the scene doesn’t add anything so what’s the point of having it in there?
That’s the right response incidentally. Anything that doesn’t move your story on should be cut.
I’ve had an issue since the new look Facebook came in re posting pictures to my FLTDBA page. Have reported it. No response as yet! It is a pity as I like the new look one but if not sorted out, may have to return to the old. Still I CAN post pictures for you good people here!

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It may seem an odd mix to be both a flash fiction writer and a blogger but I like the contrast. I like making things up for one and sticking to the facts for the other. I’ll leave it to you to work out which way around that works out!😆
One thing on my fairly long To Do list is to have a crack at writing what I’ve heard called flash non-fiction. I do wonder if that is just another name for blogging which is 500 words or under. Any thoughts on that? It is interesting there are calls out now for factual pieces kept to a tight word count.
I can see the point of that. Short, sharp pieces to encourage people to read further into a subject later – yes, I like that idea.

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1. The click of the mouse
Means I am writing again;
I still love my pen.
2. A flash fiction tale
Often has one character
With one main focus.
Allison Symes – 21st July 2020
I really DID enjoy the haiku challenge set on the Zoom creative writing workshop I was on last week. There is a follow-up session tomorrow which I am looking forward to but the point in the second haiku here remains!
Oh and it proves I can count to 5, 7, and 5 again so I guess that’s a bonus!
Flash is remarkably open to form. I’ve written flash in poetic form (and there will be some examples of that in Tripping the Flash Fantastic). I’ve also written flash in diary format too (and again see the next book when it is out). I’ve written flash in all sorts of genres. It is a great vehicle for strong characters and having fun with said strong characters.

Goodreads Author Blog – 

First Books You Chose For Yourself

Do you remember the first book you chose for yourself?

The first single book I chose was Jane Austen’s Collected Works. It is handy having them in one volume!

The first book series I collected (and still have) was the Agatha Christie series published via Odhams Books. Remember them? The nice thing with that series is it covers all of her major characters from Poirot to Marple to Tommy and Tuppence. Great stories.

The first fantasy book I chose for myself was The Lord of the Rings.

The first history book I chose was Simon Schama’s History of Britain which tied in with his TV series of the same name.

The first comic series I went for was P.G. Wodehouse’s wonderful works. (I don’t have them all but do have a fair number). I started with Jeeves and Wooster, thanks to the fab TV adaptation where Stephen Fry played Jeeves and Hugh Lawrie played Bertie.

I then went on to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. I started with Jingo and then worked backwards to the beginning with The Colour of Magic.

Oh and I mustn’t forget Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series. My local (at the time) ITV network, Southern TV (sadly long gone), produced a great adaptation of these and the books were reissued with the covers showing the child actors in their roles. Sadly Southern lost their franchise and I believe the series ended. I don’t know what happened to the books I managed to collect (I used to be able to buy them from the local newsagent – how times have changed!) but loved the stories.

So can TV and film have a great influence on book buying? Oh yes!

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Times and Story Games

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

For my CFT post this week, I discuss the interesting times we’re living in right now but I also share thoughts and tips on how to start creative writing. I also share a story game which is good fun to play and can be played by all ages!

Any writer will tell you that writing is therapeutic and fun. Inventing your own people and situations stretches you, is good for the old brain, and is a lovely art form for those of us who can’t draw for toffee, sew etc (and yes that does include me). To have a finished piece of work is fabulous. You created that story. The buzz of that never palls.

So have fun. If you’ve wanted to try creative writing but have wondered where to start, have a look at my post. And writing just for the sheer fun of it is a great joy to do. It is how most of us, who have gone on to be published, started after all.

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It was emotional joining in with the applause for the NHS tonight. Plenty of cheering going on round my way too. Well done, everyone. More appreciation for what is so easily taken for granted is always a good thing.

In other news as they say, and as a flag up to other authors with works out there, if you’re not registered with ALCS, check it out. ALCS is the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society run by writers for writers. Am thrilled to say I’ve had my first modest but lovely payment through on this. Many thanks to ALCS. If you’ve got published works out there, join them! (It’s free if you’re a member of the Society of Authors too).

Writing wise, am editing a story for a competition and hope to get that submitted by the end of the week. Email submission was always a blessing but even more so now.

Keep well, keep safe, God bless. Happy reading and writing. Support Your Authors. Go on, you know you want to!

One thing that is always in the forefront of my mind whether I’m writing fiction or non-fiction is to keep the needs of my reader paramount. I have a mental image of who my ideal reader is likely to be and what they will like and naturally I then do my best to provide it – in terms of flash fiction, short story writing, and the blogging that I do.

One other advantage of reading well for writers is you have a ready made audience in yourself. You know what you like in a story. You know what you like in dialogue. You know what you like in genre and pace etc. You also know what you dislike in all of those things. So use that knowledge to help you tailor what you write. You won’t be the only one who likes or dislikes those things. That will help you hone in on who your ideal reader is going to be. You can then target your work much more efficiently.

Good luck!

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Hope to be drafting bits and pieces over the weekend. I draft potential blog posts as well as flash fiction and other stories. This has all proved useful when I’ve been pressed for time.

I hope to get a short story off for a competition tomorrow and then select a few others to have a crack at. It’s good to have something always on the go!

No chance whatsoever of boredom setting in, which is one of the things I love about writing. If I’m not writing, I’m editing and looking to make things better. That’s a challenge all by itself and it does me good I think to make sure I rise to said challenge.

Some aspects of editing are more fun than others to be honest but everything I’ve written has been drastically improved by the red pen. Nobody but nobody writes a perfect first draft first go. And I find there are always things I want to add in later to give extra depth to my characterisation, to make a scene make more sense etc. Those finishing touches make all the difference.

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When do I know a flash piece has worked?

Basically when it hits me emotionally, whether it is to make me laugh, cry, scream, or what have you. I think it is time for a laugh. Hope you enjoy the following. I’ve taken a different approach with this one. I’ve used an acrostic style but with the initial letter of the paragraph spelling out a word rather than the first letter of each sentence.

SPRING

S = Surprise, surprise! So good to see you! What’s up? You look like you’ve sucked a lemon marinated in vinegar. Have you?

P = Purpose? I thought it would cheer you up. And I know what I can do with my marinated lemons. Charming that is, I don’t think! I was trying to be nice.

R = Ring you first? Well yes I could have done but then there would be no surprise.

I = Intentions? No. Not to give you a minor heart attack. You are a misery tonight. See, I brought a box of doughnuts for us to share. Know how much you love them. See I was trying to be kind. Gavin won’t like it? Who the hell is Gavin?

N = Never again. You hate this sort of thing? Since when? And you still haven’t said who Gavin is! Is there something you should be telling me?

G = Gavin’s your Slimming World consultant. You joined tonight. And I know what I can do with those bloody doughnuts. Oh…

Allison Symes – 26th March 2020

(For #SianNdowora and all at SW in my part of the world with love).

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I don’t always know what length my flash fiction will be when I start writing it. This is particularly true when I use the random word/phrase/number generators.

For stories generated that way, I want to get my ideas down, hone and edit them, and then I see what I have left. When I’ve got the story as good as I can make it, I only then take a look at what the word count is for it. That will help me decide which market to send it to and of course markets and competitions have different requirements so there is a certain amount of automatic elimination here too.

For example, if a story works really well at 150 words, I’m leaving it there. I won’t be submitting it to the fabulous #ParagraphPlanet either given they want 75 words in total including the title. I would submit it to a competition or market which was for anything under 500 words, providing I was happy with that competition or market.

I can’t stress it enough but always check competitions and markets out. The reputable ones will be more than happy for you do to that. If a competition or market has FAQs, do check them out. Never be afraid to ask other writers either. This is where the support of writing pals makes a huge difference. You may not have heard of issues with Competition XXX but they may have done and you can check things out further based on what they tell you. I’ve had good cause to be grateful for people flagging things up to me.

Above all enjoy that story creation process. It is a wonderful thing.

Fairytales With Bite – Dodgy Magical Characters

Dodgy magical characters can range from the treacherous wizard to the sly underling who will always seize a chance to gain something for themselves, no matter who they sell out to do so.

Have a look when you’re outlining your story as to how they got to be like that, whether they have any regrets, whether there is any hope for them to be redeemed etc. The consequences of their actions should of course be played out in the story.

The possibility of someone being turned back from the dodgy path they are on increases tension and the reader’s interest. I’ve always taken more interest in characters where I think there is potential than in one where it is clear there is none whatsoever almost from the start. This is why I think Severus Snape is a fantastic character in the Harry Potter series.

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This World and Others – What Makes Your World Tick?

What is the driving force in the world of your characters? Is it local and/or national politics? (People are often affected by what happens locally than nationally, though at this time of the coronavirus pandemic everything and everyone is affected by what is going on. That is an unusual situation in the overall scheme of things though).

Do your characters ignore the reality of their created world and focus on what it is they have to achieve? Does that ignoring of reality affect the chances of a successful outcome? As well as thinking about what drives your characters, think about what drives their created world. You could use that to add extra problems and tensions for your characters to resolve before getting to their main purpose.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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!

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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!).

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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!

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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!

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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).

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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!

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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…

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

 

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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,