Interviews and Good Stories

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated otherwise.

Facebook – General

Well, okay, I grant you, the weather HAS cooled down a lot since my last post but it has been a bit of an odd day here. Squally rain and blustery winds. What season are we in again?! It is June! Having said that, I am grateful for the temperature drop, as is Lady.

If you ask a writer to name their favourite book or story, they’ll usually reel you off a considerable list. (I am also guilty of this).

Ask us to name a book or story we don’t like and we might come up with a few but there won’t be so many. Part of that will be due to the stories in question being forgettable for us. We move on to what we hope will prove to be a more enjoyable read next time (and we do move on. Life is too short to do otherwise).

We want to remember good stories. We want our stories to be good stories people don’t forget.

Yet at the same time any negative reviews for our books and stories stick stubbornly in our heads like glue and those are the ones we SHOULD forget!

Funny old weather again today, though at least Lady and I didn’t get hot on our walk. Good to catch up with family in NZ on Zoom this morning (UK time). Then Zoom church which was lovely.

Also good to meet up with family yesterday for natter and nosh in the great outdoors. Lady had a wonderful time “hoovering” up. For someone who loathes the vacuum, she does do an excellent hoover impersonation. 😀😀

Writing wise, I’ll have a story up on Cafelit again soon and look forward to sharing the link to that in due course. I look at interviews in my spot on the Association of Christian Writers’ More Than Writers blog this month. Hope to share link on that tomorrow. I’m going to be setting some puzzles in my CFT post later this week too.

Drafting more flash fiction and am pleased with how the edit on my short story (1500 worder) worked out. Hope to give that story another read through and final polish before submitting later this week.

Have a good writing/reading/both week!😊

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Facebook – General – 

and Association of Christian Writers –

More Than Writers – Interviews

It’s always a pleasure to write my monthly post for More than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers’ blog. This time I talk about interviews.

I look at what I enjoy about them and how you can use them to outline your characters.

I also discuss using open questions for my Chandler’s Ford Today interviews and share some advice for those not yet published or who are just beginning their writing journey. Interviews are useful to think about NOW.

Hope you enjoy.

 

No chance of Lady and I being too hot today – rain for most of the day! Still, the park will look a lot nicer for it tomorrow. And my roses are blooming lovely. A friend gave me the ones I have at the front as the variety is called Allison. They smell nice too (and I do usually as well! 😀😀😆😆!).

Have got a few things coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today which I look forward to sharing when I can. Will be brimming with useful information. That’s about all I can say for now.

Plans for the week including prepping the above things for CFT, giving an edited short story the final read through and then submitting it for a competition, and continuing to work on my longer term projects.

Also plan to write more flash of course. The nice thing with that is when I’m really pushed for time and I know I’ve only got 10 minutes, that’s when I jot down a very rough draft of a flash tale, knowing I can finalise it later. Those 10 minute slots add up over the course of the week and you can get a fair bit done in them. So if you only have little slots of time, use them!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What do I want my flash stories to do?

Chiefly to entertain of course. Books and stories are wonderful forms of escapism.

While I have nothing against “real life” writing, far from it, I do want stories to amuse, entertain, and/or inform me, but not depress me about the state of the world. I can get that from watching the news.

I do want to be able to identify with the character, whether or not I agree with what they’re doing and/or their attitudes. I want them to be able to make me react, whether it is to inspire pity, make me laugh, or what have you.

The difference with flash is all of that has to be done in a compressed word count but it does make you focus on what matters to your character. You should have no doubt that this story has to be told “by” this character and that what they have to reveal is vital to your readers.

Sometimes that vital element is to make your readers laugh! Both P.G. Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett did rather well out of that though neither were up for the Booker or anything like that. I am all for the laughter makers, always have been, always will be.

In between the laughter, that is when I will look for a story to move me in a different way so I come back to the lighter hearted forms of fiction, ready to enjoy that all over again.

But a story that doesn’t make me react in any form is not something I’m going to read again. Indeed it is highly likely I won’t get beyond the first paragraph.

And that serves as a useful pointer for me with my writing. What impact do I want my story to have on others? It is a good thought to keep in mind.

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I’ve just listened to the wonderful Pachelbel’s Canon in D on Classic FM and it made me think of repetition as its theme is repeated throughout.

Repetition can be a useful device in a story though for flash it has to be used sparingly. I don’t use it often because I want to use my restricted word counts in better ways but sometimes it IS the thing to do when the type of story or character needs/would come out with the kind of emphasis repetition gives you.

For this kind of story, I tend to repeat an odd word in close succession to build a “beat”. I used this technique in my story Why Stop Now by repeating the word “here” in the opening sentence (and more than once too!).

I did it for emphasis and it also shows something of the character who is doing the repeating. (Clue: this is one of my tales where it even gave me the creeps so I hope it does the same for you if you read it – it is meant to!).

I think it is true for any writing device that you need to think carefully about why you want to use it and why it is the best thing for your particular tale/character. If you can tick the boxes on those two thoughts, go ahead. It will be the right thing to do.

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I’ve been talking about interviews tonight as it was the topic of my ACW blog spot this month for More Than Writers. I’ve also interviewed my own characters from time to time.

I work out what it is I want to know and then ask a series of questions. Good questions to consider include the following but I’m sure you can think of loads. It really is up to you to work out what you need to know and frame the questions around that.

1. What do YOU think is your best quality? (You can use this one as a test as to whether your character is deceiving themselves or not).

2. What is your biggest weakness? (Again, you can use this to test how honest your character is).

3. What do YOU think others think of you? (You can also get an indicator of how much your character is likely to care about this depending on their response!).

4. What is your biggest fear? (Naturally as author you will make them face up to it too!).

Now for the shorter flash fiction stories, I tend to look at what my characters’ main traits are and how these are likely to land them right in it. (Such good fun that!). And for longer stories, you might want to ask more questions. But I have found, regardless of length of story, for that tale to work I’ve got to know my character inside out and questions like this help a lot with that.

 

I was watching one of the old Ealing comedies late last week (The Lavender Hill Mob starring Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway). Great story, fab acting, and all packed into about 75 minutes or so. (Flash film, anyone?!).

My overall favourite Ealing comedy is The Ladykillers which, if you’ve not seen it, is dark with its comedy and worth checking out. Again stars Alec Guinness and a very young Peter Sellers. We probably wouldn’t think much of dark comedy being such a “thing” now but back when it came out, I think it may have been a different matter.

What these films have in common is a tightly controlled storyline. Not a thing is out of place. Not a thing could be taken out without the films losing something important. Good lessons for story writers there, regardless of what word count you work to!

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Habits That Annoy!

Aside from the obvious one of people turning down corners of books (which is even more irritating when they’ve borrowed the book from you!), what annoying book habits “get” you?

1. Feeling yourself about to nod off when you’ve been looking forward to reading all day and you’ve managed to read about two minutes’ worth of glorious prose. Yet you know if you make yourself keep reading, you will wake yourself up and then not be able to sleep properly when the time does come for lights out.

2. Not being to make up your mind about reading from your Kindle or paperback bookshelf and by the time you’ve decided, guess what? It’s lights out time again.

3. Looking for THE one book you’re longing to read, knowing you’ve got it somewhere, but can you find it when you want it to hand? Surprise, surprise – no!

4. Managing to pick up that hardback you’ve been looking forward to reading and end up dropping it on your foot. Some of these big beasties hurt when they land on your toes!

5. Having two books come out at about the same time by your favourite authors and not being able to decide which one to read first.

Of course, all of the above COULD just be me but I don’t think so!

Over to you then. Can you add to the list?

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Interviews and Characters

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

For my CFT post this week, I look at why writer interviews are so useful. I also share news of an interview I’ve taken part in, more details on that next week, and share memories of an interview that went wrong and another that involved an Emu! Anyone growing up in 1970s Britain will remember the latter!

I look at what I think makes for a good interview too and share my thoughts on interview etiquette. I also share a little of how I go about interviewing authors for Chandler’s Ford Today (and I hope there will be many more of those later this year).

I discuss the art of interviews as part of my Interviews post on Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Good preparation for an interview is important for both parties to it, of course. But it is just as important for writers, as well as interviewers and interviewees, to think of good questions. (In the latter’s case, anticipating questions that are likely to come up gives you time to prepare your answers).

For fiction writers, you may well want to interview your characters to find out more about them and what makes them tick before you write their stories. (I do this as part of my outlining process. I have to ask what the character thinks makes them tick. They don’t have to be right! Other characters may have completely different ideas as to how Character A really ticks!).

For non-fiction writers, it’s a question of working out what research you need to do for your project and there you ask yourself what you think you need to know. As you start working on your project, other questions will inevitably crop up but, having already decided where and how you will research and found answers to those initial questions, you will know where to look to deal with the other ones as they come up!

I often find this to be the case for my CFT posts. I know a thread I need to look into initially to help me write on my topic. Inevitably there will be threads from those initial ones I need to check out to see if they are relevant to what I want to write about. Sometimes they are. Not always. It is important not to be sidetracked but this is where asking yourself what you really need to know first can help. It helps to keep you focussed.

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How well do you know your characters before you start writing your stories?

Particularly for flash fiction, I outline what I need to know about my character before I work out what their story is.

A character who is a loud mouth is going to need a tale that will show this trait in action and the resultant consequences. This could easily be a funny story or a tragic one.

A quiet mouse of a character is going to need a tale that will either show when that trait saves the day or they get so fed up of being treated as a doormat, they rebel. Then you can go into the consequences…

I’m a great believer in getting the character right. Then it is a question of deciding what kind of story they WOULD naturally be at home in and whether that shows them at their best or their worst. Either can be a great deal of fun!

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My CFT post this week will be about interviews and what I think constitutes a good one. It’s a timely post for me as you’ll see when I put the link up on Friday! (I also hope to be sharing more interviews later in the year on CFT too).

Moving on, let’s think of a wish list for writers. My top three wishes would be:-

1. Time expands so you can do all the writing you want and the boring things of life (e.g. housework) somehow magically go away. I do see that as one wish, so there!

2. There are never any tech issues. Computer batteries won’t go too flat. You’ll never get a power cut at any awkward moment (if only!). You’ll always be able to connect to the net. I’m sure you can think of loads to add to that one!

3. Never running out of ideas and enthuasism for writing (again I see that as one wish on the grounds the first bit is no good whatsoever without the second part as well).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I see a novel as akin to seeing a beautiful tapestry on a wall. You step back and literally see the whole thing. You are rightly taken in by its scale and how much it covers. There are so many wonderful threads to follow and your breath is taken away wondering at the mastery in putting such a thing together. You are immersed in the whole world portrayed.

A novella is like seeing one half of the tapestry, complete in and of itself, with plenty of stunning details to take in but simply not as much as the full novel, which is fair enough. But there is more than enough to capture your interest, plenty of threads to follow, again just not so many as the novel, but exactly the right amount for what you want to take in and enjoy. (I’m very pleased to see the form is back. Why? Well, people have all kinds of tastes in reading, not just in genre, but in length of story that they want too. There is plenty of scope for the novella).

A short story is like seeing one quarter of the tapestry. There is still plenty of detail. There are interesting threads to follow but obviously not so many as for a novella or a novel. You are taking in a world in minature and that’s fine. Maybe you want to enjoy some of these before taking in the whole of the tapestry again. (I often read flash fiction and/or short story collections in between reading novels).

Flash fiction is like focusing on one section of that quarter of the tapestry. You can’t see the whole picture. You are literally too close to it. Everything else around that section is blocked from your view. What you DO do is find those wonderful moments of sheer detail that those looking for the bigger picture will overlook as they have so much to take in and follow. They are standing too far back to spot what you are looking at. You are focusing on the ONE most important thing and can tease out every vital detail from that. You will pick up on things missed by the longer forms of creative writing.

And I love them all! (Whatever your preference is here enjoy! Writing and reading are two of the most wonderful things in life).

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Story time again. Hope you enjoy.

Putting My Face On

If I can fake this, I’ve got it made.

I’ve only got to go and meet John at 3. I don’t want to go but it will be the acid test. If I can keep my act together when I meet him, I can keep it together for anyone. Anyone, I tell you.

So if a bit of lippy and rouge are what I need to cover how I feel, so be it.

Well, I say I’ll meet him. It’s really a question of seeing him.

John’s in the Chapel of Rest at the local undertakers.

I put him there.

ENDS

Allison Symes – 6th February 2020

Now this is one of those tales where I knew my lead wasn’t looking forward to meeting John but I then had to work out why. So I did! Could’ve taken this in all sorts of directions but that is the joy of flash. It is open to genre and I fancied this one being a crime tale.

The irony is I can change the mood of the story completely by adding a few words to the ending.

If I added “I put him there – and so wished I hadn’t” – the mood of the story completely changes. Yes, there could still be a crime element but tragedy becomes the lead genre here instead.

So have fun with your flash fiction. Think about what impact you want your character and story to have on a reader.

 

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The story I shared yesterday, Putting My Face On, was something I came up with while out on a walk with my dog, Lady. I mentioned yesterday I could’ve changed the mood of the story by adding a few words. That is one of the arts of flash fiction if you like. You can change mood with a judiciously placed word here and there. The fun bit for you as the writer is working out what mood it is you want to go with!

The story on the book trailer for FLTDBA is one of my favourites. Part of the reason for that is the whole mood of the story turns on the very last word of Calling The Doctor. Do check the trailer out and you’ll see what I mean.

One thing I make sure of is that whenever the twist of moods comes in the story, it IS something that could reasonably be expected from the rest of the tale based on the information given.

Calling The Doctor does this because the conversational style of my narrator here is (a) consistent and (b) ties in with the mental image you will form of the character especially their age and such a conversational style would be appropriate for them and their age. The story leads up to … but that would be telling now, wouldn’t it! But the denouement is appropriate given the facts already stated by my narrator.

And very conveniently here is the book trailer with Calling the Doctor for you to check out!

Fairytales with Bite – Favourite Character Types

We all have our favourite kinds of characters, the ones we instantly gel with when we come across them on the page/on audio/on video etc. Some of mine include:-

  1.  The underdog. I always look out for the character who is bullied, despised, overlooked etc. I am never surprised when this character beats all the odds and has transformed their life by the end of the story. I adore stories like that.
  2. The fairy godmother. I love these. They are the agents through which cruelty and neglect will be put right. (Think Cinderella especially). Sadly we only know cruelty and neglect are so often not put right and even as a kid I remember being aware of that. Fairytales are comforting in that in those you know things will be rectified. I think we all need that comfort sometimes.
  3. The one who sees the error of their ways. Firstly, they too can be used to transform the story. Secondly, I like anyone who can see the error of their ways in life as well as in fiction! I am also very fond of redemption stories. I like to see characters being redeemed (it gives hope for us all!) but it has to be done in a way that makes sense. This is why I think gradual realisation of said errors is far more realistic.

Whatever your favourite kinds of characters, happy reading!

This World and Others – 

What I Like to See in Created Worlds

  1. I like to get a picture of the overall world. This is partly because I’m nosey (!) and partly because I like to be convinced the writer really has thought it through.
  2. I like to see a system of government, even if it is a basic one. A world does have to have someone leading it after all. (Best one here: Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Lord Vetinari from the Discworld series).
  3. I like to know how people live. I love the Middle Earth/Shire scenes in The Lord of the Rings. Okay, I could probably make myself very cosy and comfortable living in a hobbit hole as I’m not tall (that’s my example of understatement for this week!). More importantly, again it convinces me the author has thought this through and recognised different species will have different kinds of home and so on.
  4. A sense of how the different species get on, assuming they do. Where there are conflicts, and I would expect some, I want to see how these originated. Both sides in the conflict should have good reasons for holding the views they do, even if they are only good to them and their people. It should be something a reader can understand.

INTERVIEWS AND UNUSUAL BUS JOURNEYS

Facebook – Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest Chandler’s Ford Today post is part 1 of my interview with fellow Chapeltown Books author, Gail Aldwin. She shares how her around the world bus journey inspired her flash fiction, especially her story, Paisley Shirt, which is the title for her new collection. Part 2 next week will see Gail sharing writing tips and her thoughts on “real” books and ebooks amongst other things. Plenty of insights for writers and readers to come.

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Facebook – General

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be Part 1 of an interview with fellow Chapeltown Books author, Gail Aldwin, whose flash fiction collection, Paisley Shirt, is now out. She shares travel tales from around the globe and looks at where paisley comes from. It is not often the East India Company gets a mention in my posts but it does here!

Part 2 will feature writing tips, a discussion on characters etc. Link to Part 1 will go up tomorrow.

There are so many things I love about interviewing other writers. Some of these things include finding out what inspires them, how links form between something they may have read years ago and a story they’ve written now (it can be amazing what conscious and sub-conscious influences come out when you’re writing), and the tips they’ve found most useful.

I also really love the way Chapeltown Books have such a distinctive image for their flash fiction collections. Okay, so my From Light to Dark and Back Again is one of them. Okay, so I AM biased (!) but if you wanted to see an example of effective branding, I would say this is a good one.

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Facebook – General

What do you like most about interviews (regardless of format)?

I like those questions that draw the interviewee out and interviews that really do seem like it is a conversation written down or broadcast or what have you.

One great thing about writer interviews is that, regardless of the genre being covered, we all face the same challenges of getting the story down, editing it well, hopefully getting it published and then marketing it. That does give a lot of ground in which to find lots of lovely questions to ask!

Sometimes you can strike gold when your interviewee reveals something that you instantly recognize you’ve got to ask them more about. It is often about the most unexpected things too. My CFT post later this week contains such a gold nugget! Link to go up on Friday. All I’ll say now is it involves transport!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The joy of flash fiction is its brevity. No words wasted. A powerful impact on the reader made very quickly. But, as with the standard short story, all moods and emotional reactions can be covered in the form (which is why I called my book what I have!). Indeed, I think it a good thing that there is variety here. I like to see my flash collection as a “selection box” of moods and stories.

I suppose it’s indicative of human nature that no one person likes the same thing all the time. I love humorous fiction but also appreciate crime stories, historical tales and so on and I like to mix up what I read too. I wouldn’t want to just read (or indeed write) one thing all the time. Another joy of flash is that you can sample different styles of writing and moods very quickly. You could even use a flash collection to try out stories in genres you’ve not read before.

Happy reading and writing!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Write what you know, so they say.
But influences come out in your every word.
Sometimes they’re buried away
For years but they will find a way of being heard.
Time means nothing there, you’ll find.
So read widely, both non-fiction or a tall tale.
You’ll feed your creative mind.
Ensure the whole story does not stumble or pale.
Strong “people” reflect our best
While the weak characters will reflect our worst side
Write, rewrite, then let it rest
Every writer has to have a skin made of hide.
Some will not get what you do.
But it’s true you won’t like everything they invent
Rejections can make you blue.
It’s all part of the process you can’t circumvent.
Ask where your story would fit.
Target well, it improves your chances of a hit!

Allison Symes – 15th March 2018

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I have a framed poster above my desk which says “Don’t ever give up on your dreams”. (Good advice. Okay, sometimes the dreams have to change for myriads of reasons. Just because you can’t be a novelist that doesn’t stop you from becoming a short story writer etc). But it also struck me this line could be a great motivator for a character.

What are the character’s dreams? Just what are they prepared to do to achieve them? What obstacles are in the way? Is he/she/it encouraged or are others holding them back? (You could also look into what their agenda was).

Feature Image - Facts and Fiction - image via Pixabay

What writing triggers will help you create your new worlds? Image via Pixabay

Time to find a new place to call home perhaps - what stories could that lead to - image via Pixabay

Time to have another home perhaps? Good stories to be had here! Image via Pixabay

Note taking is an invaluable aid to retaining what you learn at conferences, image via Pixabay

Write, edit, write, edit… image via Pixabay

Nobody gets their ideas spot on immediately, image via Pixabay

Nobody gets their ideas right first go. Image via Pixabay.

Escape with a good book via Pixabay

Escape with a good book, it’s good for you! Image via Pixabay

Fairytales with Bite – What is Behind Your Stories?

In my interview with fellow Chapeltown Books author, Gail Aldwin, for Chandler’s Ford Today this week, she shares with me how her round the world bus trip influenced her flash fiction.  She also shares some of the research she carried out into where paisley comes from given the title of her flash fiction collection is Paisley Shirt.  One of the things I love about these kind of interviews is discovering what has influenced a writer to come up with what they have!  There are so many influences…

This is also why every writer, regardless of genre, should read widely and well in non-fiction and fiction, classic and contemporary works.  You are literally feeding your mind.  You can’t know in advance what book it is you read that will spark off ideas of your own.  You will just know it when you come to it.  So have plenty of fun reading lots of lovely books!  It is good for your own writing.

I used to worry about picking up other writers’ styles doing this but have found it not to be the case.  I read something that sparks off an idea in me and I then write that idea down in my style only because, well, it is the only style I have.  After all, doesn’t every author want their work to be uniquely something from them?  That’s where the joy of writing is – in creating something that is unique to you.

A lot of the fairytales are retelling of stories passed down orally over many generations.  Sometimes there can be agendas behind stories.  Hans Christen Andersen must have had concern for the poor as his agenda behind The Little Match Girl (and probably the hypocrisy of people being horrified at what happened to his character yet doing nothing to allievate suffering themselves).

So what is behind your stories?  Why have you created your characters as you have?  I was surprised when I was looking back at my draft of From Light to Dark and Back Again how often the theme of poetic justice came up.  That wasn’t planned (well not consciously anyway).  I also hadn’t planned the variation in moods of the stories that formed the book (though it did help inspire the book’s title!).  Look back at what you have written and see if you can spot what is really behind it.  It may well inspire other stories!

This World and Others – Character Journeys

My latest Chandler’s Ford Today post features fellow Chapeltown Books author, Gail Aldwin, and how her round the world bus journey influenced her flash fiction.

The obvious character journey (well for me it is!) is that of Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings.  Everything about this story is epic!  However, character journeys can be much smaller than that.  Scrooge went on a journey of sorts as he transformed from a miserable miser to a generous (and much happier) man in A Christmas Carol.

So what journeys are your characters going on? If it is a physical journey, why are they making it?  Do they like travelling or is is something where they have no choice?  What obstacles must they overcome?  What is the landscape like?  Are they from a background where travelling is normal?  (It generally wasn’t for hobbits so Frodo’s journey was unusual from that angle).

If the journey is more of a character development one, is the journey a good one or a bad?  (People can go from being good to bad, so why not characters?).  Is it a successful journey?  What is the impact of the character change on them and those around them?  Change can threaten others so how is this dealt with?

 

 

 

Interviews and When Less is More for Horror

Facebook – General – Interviews

What are the best questions to ask in interviews? Any that encourage your interviewee to share insights as to why they do what they do and what they think is most important. This is why I always ask writers I talk to for their three top tips.

Yes, there is some overlap (we all encourage people to read widely and well and rightly so), but there are differences too. Also, the order in which writers think certain things matter can be interesting too.

It has also been fascinating, when talking with indie authors, to find out what they loved and loathed about the whole process of self-publishing.

One reason why it pays to read writer interviews is you learn so much from them. Sometimes they can show you a path to follow, other times you realise that this particular way is not for you, but you still learn from it!

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Facebook – General – Settling In

Lady is settling in well though very excitable. Loving the big walks. Fresh air and exercise doing me the world of good too.

Talking about side benefits, how do your characters benefit from what others do? Do those others resent this? After all, nobody likes someone who gets all the glory without doing anything to earn it or, worse, gets the glory THEY earned!

When benefits are unintentional, how do your characters make the most of them? How can they turn a situation to their advantage?

Lady will be going to additional training classes before too long and I’m sure they’ll do her and us the world of good too. In the meantime, if you see a strange middle-aged woman seemingly being dragged around by her lovable dog, it probably will be me!

FEEDING POST - the road is not always clear to see

Is the way clear enough or is training needed to find it?  Image via Pixabay

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What are your favourite genres? I love fantasy (especially fairytales), which will hardly be a surprise (!), but I also love crime fiction, historical fiction (and fact), some thrillers and a wide range of humorous writing.

I’m also very fond of a well written and thought out non-fiction book (and have a particular soft spot for railway history). I’m currently reading a number of books (on Kindle) concerning Richard III and the Princes in the Tower. As a contrast, the other non-fiction I’m reading and loving right now is the joint biography of Morecambe and Wise. So a right old mix then but that’s how I like it!

Some of what I like to read comes into what I write, but not all of it does and that’s fine. It is often those genres I turn to first when I most feel the need to switch off for a while. You really can’t beat a good book for sheer escapism (and the best ones entertain you and educate you at the same time with you barely being aware of it).

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again – Part 2

I sometimes write dark fantasy/light horror (just where DO the boundaries meet?!) and find flash fiction a good vehicle for this. I don’t read or write a lot of horror stories so there is no way I could write longer work in this genre but I DO know what frightens me and find that a good place to start!

Pressing the Flesh from From Light to Dark and Back Again is a good example of the kind of horror I do write from time to time. The images it conjures up are graphic without being overly gory. The 100-word story here says all that needs to be said (without giving too much away, it is a story of meat supplies. Yes, that kind of horror!).

The story would lose its impact if I’d written more. Sometimes with flash fiction, it really is a question of knowing where to stop”.

 

 

WHAT FASCINATES ME ABOUT GENRE FICTION

What I Find Fascinating about Genre Fiction

What I find fascinating about the different genres in fiction are the different ways in which they appeal to different people.

Why is crime always such a big seller? People want to see justice done, are fascinated by what makes others turn to crime, have become a fan of the detective or whoever is the hero of the novel they’re reading and wants to read the latest adventure and also to solve the puzzle that the crime story sets. (Of course, most readers have more than one reason for loving a certain type of story. I know I do).

As for historical fiction, for me, the big appeal is looking at viewpoints you might not have thought about before and also to work out what could have happened in situations where there is no definite conclusion. (What actually happened to the Princes in the Tower is the obvious one here. Were they killed? Were they smuggled out of the country? Why was Henry VII so worried about Perkin Warbeck? You can have lots of fun writing books that try to answer questions like that. You don’t need to be right even. What you do need to be is accurate with the proven history and make a good case for the solution you are coming up with).

So what do you like to read and why? (I love to read outside my normal genre for writing in, which is healthy, I think).

Writer at work. Image via Pixabay.

Writer at work. Image via Pixabay.

Chandler’s Ford Today

My comments above tie in nicely with this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post where I interview Gill James about her historical fiction, The House on Schellberg Street.  More details tomorrow.

Personal history can often be found in things like old exercise books, which in turn reveal things about political history and how much people knew at the time.  Image via Pixabay.

Personal history can often be found in things like old exercise books, which in turn reveal things about political history and how much people knew at the time. Image via Pixabay.

From Light to Dark and Back Again – Reviews

Many thanks to all who have left reviews for From Light to Dark and Back Again (Kindle or paperback versions). One example is below but all are much appreciated.

Feedback, negative or positive, is vital for any writer. We learn from mistakes. We learn we can’t please all of the people all of the time! It is also confirmation you are reaching out to readers (hopefully in a good way).

What you can glean from reviews is the general consensus, which can be incredibly useful in thinking about who your Ideal Reader is likely to be, which in turn helps you to write more effectively for that mythical creation.

I wrote a piece a while ago about book reviews (and why they matter) on Chandler’s Ford Today.  I share the link here.  See what you think.  The great thing with a review is it doesn’t have to be long but does give at least one clear reason as to why you liked something or didn’t.  Help an author – review them!

 

“This is a quirky collection of flash fiction: from malevolent fairies to gritty contemporary dramas and bite-size funny stories. I like the way Allison is playful with words and gives a fresh slant to traditional tales. A very enjoyable read.”

FromLightToDark_medium-2

 

 

REASONS TO READ

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

A to Z of Writing Tips Part 7 covers T through to V.  I’ve a little time in hand to work out what to write for X and Z when I come to them!  T = Theme, U = Using Your Characters (I discuss whether this is acceptable and what your characters should be doing for your story), and V = Vital Information.  Yes, I know I could have gone for verbs but I didn’t really want to write a “grammar” post.  Under Vital Information I look at what your readers need to know and whether you do need to tell them everything or if you should leave clues for them to work things out.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Reasons to Read (as if you need any!) was the obvious follow up to my earlier post on Reasons to Write.  I look at the benefits of reading well from a writer’s viewpoint.

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY/FACEBOOK – GENERAL

I’m pleased to be back to more regular blogging and tonight’s Chandler’s Ford Today post was a real joy to write.  It is also hopefully going to be the start of a mini series.  I interview Anne Wan, children’s author (Adventures of the Snow Globe:  Vanishing Voices) and over the course of both parts of the interview will look at the joys and woes of writing for children.  Later in the year I hope to be interviewing a historical fiction writer and look at the delights and tribulations of writing for that genre.

I have to say Anne was a joy to interview and tonight’s post shows how much hard work is involved in writing and publishing a book.  Part 2 (next Friday) will share, amongst other things, Anne’s  love and loathing of editing.  I seriously doubt if any writer will disagree with her thoughts!

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FACEBOOK – FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN

One nice thing that came out of interviewing Anne Wan at Bay Leaves Larder was seeing my book there (including a well thumbed copy – I hope whoever that was enjoyed the stories!).  I have managed to get the book in at our local Post Office and Andersons and I hope soon to have adverts up for the book signing I will be holding at the local railway station (yes, really!).  But tomorrow I’m off to the Winchester Writers’ Festival for a jam packed day full of writing – can’t wait!

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FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN

PUBLICITY NEWS:  The book is back on Writing Magazine’s Subscribers’ Showcase. As a subscriber, I had two months’ free publicity on this.  After that you pay a small amount per month and I’ve committed to the next six months.  I think this is an excellent idea and a great way to help writers.

 

Anne Wan and Allison Symes at Bay Leaves Larder

Anne Wan and I enjoying a chat and cups of tea at Bay Leaves Larder.  Interviews can be so much fun and this one was lovely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairytale heroines. Image via Pixabay.

HAPPY EVER AFTER? MAYBE NOT…

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

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

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

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

FACEBOOK PAGE

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

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

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

 

 

FICTIONAL TEACHING, ADVICE AND INTERVIEWS

Both of my website posts tonight were inspired by my Chandler’s Ford Today interview post with Barbara Large, the second part of which went up on site tonight.  Link below.

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

I look at fictional interviews in tonight’s post and these can be a great way of revealing more about characters (both interviewer and interviewee) as long as the interview serves the story and moves it onwards to its conclusion.

Some of my previous posts on my websites have discussed interviewing your own characters and that can be a useful technique to find out more what makes them tick.  But whether the interview is actually in the story or you are using one to help flesh out your portrayal of a character, it should convey significant information, which is crucial to your story in some way.

This is because you may well find out something about the character that you had not originally envisioned but the interview brings out.  Find out where that takes you, it could be fun (!), indeed I think it should be fun (!!), and it should add depth to your character portrayal if nothing else.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Teaching and Advice looks at the role of teachers, advisors/mentors in the role of fiction.  What experience do they have?  How does it help the one they are advising?  Are the teachers and advisors generally respected or not (and why is this the case)?  Plenty of story ideas to be found here I think!

FACEBOOK PAGE

I share details of my Chandler’s Ford Today post, which is part 2 of my interview with Barbara Large.

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CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

Part 2 of my interview with Barbara Large is now on site and, as ever, Barbara shares a wealth of advice for writers of all backgrounds.  It was a great joy to meet up with her again and I can’t overestimate how much she has supported writers of fiction (all genres) and non-fiction over the years.  It was lovely to talk to her and thank you, Barbara, for sparing your very precious time for the interview.

The Writing Life with Barbara Large is a two part interview and now available via Chandler's Ford Today, Image via Pixabay.

The Writing Life with Barbara Large is a two part interview and now available via Chandler’s Ford Today, Image via Pixabay.

 

Creative writing takes many forms, including blogging. Image via Pixabay.

DEDICATION IS WHAT YOU NEED

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

When I was growing up, one of my favourite children’s TV shows was Record Breakers, hosted by the late and much missed Roy Castle.  It would share examples of records broken and the editors of the Guinness Book of Records at that time, the Macwhirter Brothers, would share fantasic examples of people’s dedication so they could achieve this or that feat.  The closing theme tune had the marvellous words “dedication is what you need” and Dedication is the title of my post tonight.  Hope the following You Tube clip of the opening to Record Breakers brings back some happy memories for those like me who grew up in the 1970s.

My post looks at the dedication characters must show and I issue a challenge too!  Name a character you really love and look at the reasons why you like them.  Dedication to their cause (good or evil) will come up.  Try it and see!

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

A short post here tonight (to make up for FWB tonight perhaps!) but this one looks at Your Life’s WorkBoth themes for FWB and TWAO tie in with my Chandler’s Ford Today post (more on that shortly).  In this post tonight, I look at what is your character’s life’s work?  What gets in the way of them achieving it?

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

I recently had the wonderful experience of interviewing Barbara Large, MBE, founder of the Winchester Writers’ Festival.  I don’t think it is possible to overstate just how much help and encouragement she has given writers from all backgrounds and genres over the years. In this interview (and the one to come next week), she generously shares inspirational writing advice, talks about some of her favourite authors and what was the hardest thing she had to do when organising the Festival.  A fascinating insight into a very rich and varied writing life.  I hope you enjoy it.  Below is a You Tube clip which sums up beautifully why the Festival is such a wonderful experience.

FACEBOOK PAGE

I share details of my Chandler’s Ford Today post tonight, which is Part 1 of my interview with Barbara Large, MBE (founder of the Winchester Writers’ Festival as it is now known).  Part 2 to follow next week.

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If there were such a thing as a conference for fairy godmothers, maybe one workshop would discuss how to ensure a good supply of ingredients (to definitely include pumpkins!). Image via Pixabay.

FAIRY (AND OTHER) CONFERENCES

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

I returned from a wonderful day at the Association of Christian Writers’ conference in London on Saturday 8th October.  The theme of conferences is on my brain for all my posts tonight but the FWB one is a fun look at what would be available if fairies had their own conferences. See what you think!  Do you agree with me?  What workshops would the magical beings in your fictional world have?

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Here I talk about what I like about writing days/conferences.  Again do you agree with me? Can you add to my list?

FACEBOOK PAGE

I discuss my hope to do some more print reading this week.  I nearly always read from my Kindle just before settling for the night (and love this) but I like to read traditional print  too and always wish I had more time.  Now granted I could make more time if I didn’t write as much as I do but the problem is I don’t want to give that up either!  Oh well.  I do hope to do better in that regard this week.

And I’m looking forward to carrying out an interview later this week with someone who has done so much to help writers over many years.  This in time is due to appear on Chandler’s Ford Today.  I also discuss the current CFT post I’m working on, which is about a special creative writing project.

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Brainstorming ideas, just one of many good things to come from well run writing conferences and the exercises set there. Image via Pixabay

Brainstorming ideas, just one of many good things to come from well run writing conferences and the exercises set there. Image via Pixabay.