Playing with Words – and Just a Minute

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Would anyone be able to identify you if there were no distinguishing markers and the only clues someone had were three books you own?

I ask as I played the Guess the Book Owner game recently. I was part of a team and it wasn’t easy to match a book to who nominated it from the other team.

The good thing was there was an eclectic mixture of books and the teams were clearly well read!

Which books would you choose and why? In the game I played I could only pick one book and that was tough.

The idea was to look for clues in what was chosen and deduce the owner also from what was already known about them. And we still got many wrong on first guess!

I chose The Great War by Dawn Knox, a book of 100 x 100-word stories all linked to WW1. The characterisation is wonderful and the stories deeply moving. Do check it out.

Flash fiction may be short but it can pack quite a punch for its word count size.

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One joy of the smartphone is listening to Classic FM on my travels via my trusty headphones. Good music of any genre, like good books, can take you away from the cares of the world for a while.

I suppose this is one reason why I love fantasy and fairytales. I know those worlds will be very different to anything we experience here. Perfect escapism though I often feel a sense of huge relief I don’t live in the worlds I’ve just read about!

Mind you, I can think of characters of mine I would never want to Mmeet in life! I should imagine crime and horror writers always feel like that!

 

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Well, how did your Monday go? I’m back to the fray after a lovely weekend away.

Tonight’s post comes to you from my desk.

Last night’s came from the 5.12 pm train from Waterloo to Weymouth, which took a detour via Twickenham and Chertsey before finally reaching Woking and carrying on with its normal route.

Still the extra time travelling meant more writing was done by yours truly. (Couldn’t tell you what Twickenham and Chertsey looked like as by the time we got there, it was dark. If you can’t have a good view, get on with some writing is my motto).

Pockets of time like this mount up and it’s amazing how much you can get done when you’re made to focus. (So from a writing viewpoint there IS a point to engineering works!).😀😀

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So sorry to hear the news of the death of Nicholas Parsons. I adore Just A Minute and my late mum had the show on almost religiously every Monday at 6.30 pm.

I can’t hear the theme tune (Chopin) without thinking of her old radio in one corner of the kitchen and JAM blaring out. Mum was particularly fond of Nicholas Parsons and Kenneth Williams.

JAM is not only good fun but it can be quite educational in terms of what you can do with the English language. I’ve always adored word play and JAM is an excellent example of it. If it’s not something you’ve come across, see if you can check out back episodes of it. It can help improve your own vocabulary too and above all it is great fun.

I very much hope they can continue the show but it won’t be the same without Nicholas. Nor do I think we’ll see his like again. To be broadcasting the same show for over 50 years is some achievement.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Name a moment in a book or a film that took your breath away. I can think of several but my favourites include the Ring of Power being cast into Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings, and the truth about Severus Snape being revealed in the Harry Potter series.

Both of these are emotionally charged and you are gripped by the characterisation. You have to find out if the Ring gets destroyed and what Harry’s reaction will be to what he now knows about Snape.

So what are your “have to find out” moments in your stories? There is rarely a case for lowering tension in a tale!

 

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It was lovely sharing the news about Tripping The Flash Fantastic with my colleagues on the ACW Committee this weekend. We were at a Retreat making plans for events we run etc. It was also lovely hearing everybody else’s writing news. There is a great mix of styles and genres represented here too.

This is one aspect of writing I love. There are so many genres and styles, there will be at least one which suits you. And there is plenty of scope for interesting chats at writing events. I am always fascinated by what others write and why they went that particular route.

Naturally I wave the flag for flash fiction!😄

 

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Monday, Monday, fly away,
Come again another…. week.
After a long, hard day’s work
It’s inspiration I seek.

Allison Symes – 27th January 2020

I suspect this will ring true for many of you! If you do find one particular day of the week tougher than others to get going on the writing front (and tiredness is such a huge factor here), try some flash fiction writing.

Have fun, pick a word count of your choice to aim for and go for it.

When you’re tired and you don’t feel like writing much, having some flash fiction on the go gives a useful writing exercise you can polish up and submit to markets later on, when you do have more time and don’t feel so tired!

Creativity is good for you. Having smaller things to work on is particularly useful when you haven’t as much time or energy as you’d like. Nobody said creativity always has to be about the large projects.

There will rightly be many tributes to the late, great Nicholas Parsons, who hosted the wonderful Just a Minute for over 50 years. The word play on this show is fabulous and I think inspirational for all writers, whether you stick to the very short form or enjoy penning epics. Showing you what you can do with the English language has to be something all writers can learn from, I think.

One of my favourite aspects to JAM has been when Paul Merton came up with fantastical stories on all kinds of subjects and speaks for a minute without interruption, deviation, or repetition. Flash stories in radio format, maybe?

If you get a chance to listen to old episodes, do so and listen out for these in particular. There is some fabulous storytelling too. Kenneth Williams could also be brilliant at sharing wonderful snippets of information on this show yet get it across as if he was telling a story. (Stories are to my mind one of the best ways of getting information across. People like to listen to stories. They don’t necessarily want to listen to facts told in an unentertaining way!).

The challenge to writers is to get our stories and articles across in a way that people will want to read them/listen to them. Playing with the language is fun for the writer but also for the reader when it is done well.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books With Meaning

All good books have meaning (especially to their writers!) but some are so special.

I inherited my mother’s hardback Charles Dickens collection and, while I confess I have not read them all, every time I see them, I smile and think of Mum.

I also have an old edition of Pride and Prejudice, which I read ahead of reading it officially at school.

Did I regret having to read it again? Oh no. I picked up on points directly, and thanks to the guidance of my excellent English teacher, Miss Mackenzie, thanks to that second read.

And Pride and Prejudice can withstand multiple readings, which is always a sign of a good book!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanings

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, the images come from the marvellous Pixabay

Facebook – and Chandler’s Ford Today

For this week’s CFT post, I look at Meanings, how comedy writing depends on there being multiple meanings to get the laughs (particularly true for puns), and discuss how certain radio shows can help you as a writer learn about the use of language. Hope you enjoy.

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My inspiration for my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Meanings this week comes from going to see My Husband’s Nuts, the latest production from the Chameleon Theatre Group. (Review next week).

I guessed that there would be at least some reference to the various meanings of nuts within the play (you can fill in your own gags here!) and that led me to look at how much comedy writing depends on multiple meanings etc.

Ideas can be funny things at times. All it needs is that initial spark to create a starting point and you go from there. You just need to be open to recognising that initial spark for what it is AND to see that it really is just the beginning.

I’ve found reading and writing more makes it easier to recognise those initial sparks. And ideas do come from all over the place (and not always at convenient times either!) but you get used to that.

I have brainstorming sessions every so often and just write down all the ideas I come up with then. A lot I do go on to use either for story ideas or CFT blog posts and some I discard.

Closer examination, after a break away from that brainstorming session, leads me to critically decide which ideas have the “legs” and which don’t. But coming up with ideas I don’t take further later on is not a waste of time. Far from it. Sometimes I have to add another element into that initial idea and then it has the “legs”. What matters is there ARE ideas I can flesh up and write up. I think there is a certain element of having to think through ideas to get to the nuggets you can do something with.

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Posting early today as off to see The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production, My Husband’s Nuts, later tonight. I make no comment on the title except to say I’ll be reviewing the play and production next week for Chandler’s Ford Today. This week’s post will be all about Meanings. Read into that what you will! 😀😀

I’ll be meeting up with my lovely CFT editor, Janet Williams. Going to the plays has become something of a CFT tradition for both of us. I like to think of it as a kind of works outing! What I do know is this evening should be a lot of fun!

Have put in my order for the Best of Cafelit 8. Looking forward to that postal delivery. You never lose the thrill of being in a book!

Am working on a story for a competition and hope to get that submitted over the weekend. I really don’t miss the old days of having to get everything sent off in the post – email submissions are so much easier.

I’m looking at Meanings for this week’s CFT post. I look a little at how the use of certain English words has changed.

I also discuss how radio shows like Just A Minute and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, as well as being great fun, are excellent for writers to learn from. This is particularly true for JAM. (If you get the chance, do check out earlier series where grammatical deviation challenges are particularly useful for writers to learn from).

I look at how comedy writing is so dependent on getting the right meaning from the right words to get the laughs. Well, where would puns be without having more than one meaning?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to say I’ll have another flash fiction tale up on Cafelit soon. Will share the link obviously. Very pleased with the look of The Best of Cafelit 8. Receiving parcels with books with your stories in is a great joy. It doesn’t dim!

How do I decide what is a great moment in a character’s life that deserves having a flash fiction tale revealing said moment?

Well firstly that moment has to grip ME. A writer is their own first reader and if you’re not gripped by the characters and situation you’ve put them in, nobody else will be.

Secondly that moment should reveal something interesting to a reader.

That can be anything from the character finally learns a much needed lesson (humour can work well here), the character changes their ways or deals with a conflict and resolves it.

I’m always interested in how characters resolve problems and why they’ve gone the route they have. I think most readers are fascinated by that. It’s why we read to the end if we are gripped by the tale. We have to find out what happens and that urge to find out has been with humanity for centuries. It’s not going anywhere any time soon!

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Posting early as off to see My Husband’s Nuts, the latest production by The Chameleon Theatre Group, later on. Oh the power of a title!!

I look at Meanings (including how comedy writing depends on words having multiple meanings to get the laughs at all) for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post. Link up tomorrow.

I sometimes know the title of a flash fiction story immediately because I’ve come up with something I really want to write something to and so off I go. At other times, the title emerges from the character and the story but at all times I have to have a draft title to get me started. I do need a “peg” like that but once I’ve got one, away I go!

But I’ve learned not to worry about changing the title if a better one comes to me. Only the Ten Commandments were set in stone, folks.

(Oh and have literally just had The Best of Cafelit 8 delivered – at 5 pm on Thursday 24th October. I like getting parcels like that! So naturally that needs a photo!).

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For someone who writes flash fiction, I can’t say I have that many flashes of inspiration! I don’t usually get an idea out of the blue. What I do hear is a character’s voice and I can detect from that something of what their major traits are likely to be.

Assuming I like the sound of this character (whether they’re hero or villain doesn’t matter – all I need is to see possibilities for them), I ask myself what situations would they hate having to deal with and why. I then dump them in those situations. It’s time for my character to sink or swim then! No shortage of conflict here either (especially internal conflict). And yes, I know, I’m all heart to my characters – NOT!

There’s no point in putting your super duper character in a situation you know they can handle. Where’s the story in that? Give them hell and then some. It will challenge you to work out how your character deals with it and that is where the story is!

Have fun dropping your characters right in it then!

Fairytales With Bite – What I Like in a Fairytale

  • Strong characters (even if they themselves don’t think they are but prove it later)
  • To see wrong being righted (with some help from a fairy godmother and a magic wand. Be prepared for pumpkins to be involved. Just go with it… it’s part of the fairy godmother’s stock in trade).
  • Humour. While the character of Buttons is not in Cinderella to the best of my knowledge, I can understand his addition to the traditional pantomime. If the main character can’t be humorous, for whatever reason, best to get a sidekick to do it then!
  • A good and appropriate ending, usually a happy one though there are exceptions (The Little Mermaid as told by Hans Christen Andersen is a classic example here).

 

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This World and Others – Deciding on a Setting

How do you decide what setting is best for your characters?

  • The setting has to meet the character’s needs. If a character is on a quest, where are they likely to meet those who will help them/supply them etc? Also where are they going to and why? What kind of obstacles must they overcome to achieve their objective?
  • The setting has to be appropriate to the characters. You wouldn’t get a mermaid to live in an inner city etc (well she wouldn’t last for long if you did!).
  • What kind of world do you want to create? Have you got a hankering for forests? Then create a world which has plenty of them and think about what kind of characters would live in woodlands? Which characters would hate that? Would there be conflict between the two types (I should think so but good stories always come out of conflict!)?

 

 

 

Writing for Myself and Perfect Days

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

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Had a lovely time with visiting family today. Lady is very tired – good walking and lots of cuddles from more people than normal and her favourite dinner. Life doesn’t get any better for her…! Very much her perfect day.

Do you ever think about what would be the perfect day for your characters? Okay, I know. In your story, you’re going to put them through hell, love doing so, and therefore have no interest in working out what their perfect day would be. All perfectly understandable BUT… (you knew there’d be one!)…

Working out what a character would love will reveal to you more of their personality and how they are likely to take things when their desires are thwarted. Ironically, that will help you work out just how far you can push them until they reach breaking point – and that is when you can drop them right in it.

Have fun!

 

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The weekend has had what I call perfect autumn weather – crisp, dry, reasonably warm. It’s my favourite kind of weather. Lady likes it too. Am not so keen on it getting darker earlier but hey hum, you can’t have everything.

I always think of Keats’s “mists and mellow fruitfulness” at this time of year. It is such a wonderful summing up of the season. I don’t use the weather much in my stories. I tend to imply it with the odd reference to what my character is wearing. (If it’s a big coat it’s either very cold out there or the character’s a softie. You’ll soon find out from the story which is the case!).

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The joy of word play is exemplified in shows like Radio 4’s Just A Minute, but it is something most writers relish too.

I love it, when writing a lighter flash fiction tale, if I can come up with a pun which fits the story and is better than the original idea I came up with. Sometimes this is for the title, sometimes it is for the end of the story or for a quirky piece of dialogue. Great fun whenever it happens though I must admit it doesn’t happen nearly often enough for my liking but that’s another story (and my problem!).

Flash fiction writing has taught me to pick words with greater care because, of course, I want to make the maximum impact on a reader for the lowest word count possible. Playing on the double meaning of words is not only fun but helps enormously with this aspect of writing.

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I started writing purely for myself to begin with. I wanted to see if I could write a short story. Then could I do so again. Then could I write a short story in a different genre etc etc. It was some time before I decided to see if I could get the stories published.

I don’t regret that. To a certain extent any apprenticeship was served in all of those stories that (rightly!) never saw the light of day. Learning to cope with rejections was another step on the way. Starting to get positive rejectiosn was another huge milestone.

The writing journey is made up of steps. Publication is the biggest step I think but the journey continues after that. The important thing is to make sure you’re enjoying the journey!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When I outline a piece of flash fiction, I usually ask myself the following questions.

1. What mood would I like the story to be? (There are some competitions or themes where the mood is clearly dictated, but for open competitions, you get to decide this. I’ve always found it has paid me to think about this one way ahead of writing the story).

2. Who is my lead character and why have I selected them?

3. What is my lead character seeking? Do they succeed? How?

4. What gets in my lead character’s way and how do they overcome these things?

You can set your own questions for outlining purposes, of course, but anything that helps you to get to the nitty-gritty of what your story is about and who your character is will be of enormous benefit to you. I’ve found outlining like this has saved a lot of time (and stops me going off at unhelpful tangents).

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The one good thing about the nights drawing in is that should help me get more writing done. My main writing session is in the evening after we’ve taken Lady out for her evening walk and had dinner.

We will be coming back earlier due to falling light levels soon and Lady will have to wear her fairy light on her collar again. She’s not keen on it but she lights up the world like a little ray of sunshine (albeit a green coloured one most of the time) and it is the only way to see her in the dark!

What do your characters make of the dark? Do you have any that are scared of it and have to learn to overcome that fear? My characters tend to see it as more of a nuisance than anything else. (As does Lady!).

 

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I looked at favourite film adaptations of books in my last Goodreads blog. That doesn’t happen with flash fiction, given the form is far too short for that (though famously Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds was based on Daphne du Maurier’s short story. I think the standard length short story is the shortest material that could be turned into a film.).

I have expanded flash fiction ideas into standard length short stories (1500 to 2000 words) where the idea is one I really love and is up to being extended. But I don’t do this often as I’m busily moving on to the next idea most of the time. And I do relish the challenge of coming up with different ideas and characters. It keeps me on my toes!

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Flash fiction is a great outlet for those moments which are not long enough to form a standard short story or novel, but which still have interest and good characterisation. I’ve read many an excellent character study in flash fiction and you can learn a lot about how to portray your own characters studying things like this. (It’s also fun!).

The phrase less is more could have been written for flash fiction fans. You don’t always want lots of details for your characters. You want your reader to find the heart of the character quickly and focus on that.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books Into Films

My favourite adaptation has to be Peter Jackson’s take on J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings – the vision conjured up seemed to match what I had thought when I first read the trilogy.

It was wonderful “seeing” The Shire. The darkness of Mordor was vividly brought to life too.

I’ve also loved the adaptations of Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, Hogfather, and The Colour of Magic.

I would love to see an adaptation of Men at Arms and Raising Steam.

I still don’t understand how you can get three films out of The Hobbit though!

Having said all of that, I am all for film adaptations of books as long as they stay faithful to the book. I don’t “get” changing endings, character roles etc. It makes it a different story to the one the author originally intended and I really can’t see the point of that.

What are your favourite adaptations and why?

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Time, Heat, and Random Generators

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I wrote this while in the car on the way to a family do (on Saturday 24th August). Looking forward to seeing everyone again. Glad of the air con though.

I remember when that first came to the UK thinking it was a daft idea. With the exception of rare very hot summers, we’d never need that here, I thought. The States, yes; Australia, yes, but here?

Just how wrong can you be?! Very, as it turns out!

Where I am glad not to be wrong is in taking up writing seriously. My only regret is not starting sooner. It does take far longer than you anticipate finding out what it is you want to write and to develop your voice.

Give yourself plenty of time then and ensure you enjoy the journey, at least most of the time!😊

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Must admit I’m not enjoying the heat much (neither is the dog) and it’s hard to believe we’re almost into September. My plans for the last quarter of the year then?

1. To continue submitting work to competitions. I’ve entered more at this stage than I had done for the same period last year so I am pleased with that. I’m waiting to hear on some but will presume no luck if I don’t hear by the end of September. The good thing with that? I’ll have another look at the stories, do any further work on them, and submit them elsewhere.

2. To continue submitting flash fiction to publishers.

3. To hopefully get my novel out into the submissions process.

4. To complete and edit another major project I’m working on with the idea of looking to submit it early in the New Year.

5. To continue with my blogs on CFT and Goodreads. Am hoping to do more with blogging in terms of being a guest on others’ blogs and inviting more on to mine. That is a long term ongoing goal.

6. To revamp my website.

So definitely not stuck for things to do! And I’ve written my goals down too… (much more likely to achieve them or make progress towards achieving them writing them down).

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Just a Minute famously doesn’t allow repetition (except for the subject on the card) in its rounds. Do you find repetition creeping in with your writing?

I find favourite phrases tend to be repeated. I watch for these and limit my use of them. I might’ve written them down six times in my draft but they’ll only appear twice at most in the piece of work that goes “out there” (and that’s assuming I need the second one for emphasis or because it is a phrase my character would use like that).

Most of the time the repetition is not deliberate but I have learned over time not to worry about this when I’m drafting a story. The most important thing is just to get the words down and then tidy things up in the edit.

 

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Glad the weather is supposed to be cooler from tomorrow. Lady and I have drunk gallons (spread out over the day obviously), stayed in the shade etc, and followed all the sensible advice but we still feel more ragged than a ragged cloth that once belonged to a ragged man who lived in a ragged house on a ragged street in a ragged town. I tell you, a used teabag has more life in it than me right now!

Am so glad writing is something you can do sitting down! Moans about the temperature aside, I don’t find writing in high heat a problem. Writing takes me out of myself and I forget everything else and that helps a LOT!

Getting engrossed with characters or the latest blog post is a great situation to be in. It means you know you’ve got something viable. So back to it then….

 

Images:  Those of Lady were taken by Allison Symes. Thankfully side on face shots of dogs can work quite well. Just as well really…

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Getting out and about during the summer can be fun, especially when you catch up with family and friends.

It can also be hell if transport is not all you”d like it to be – and it so often isn’t! If you want to test if your deodorant works, go on the Tube during the summer!

How easy do your characters find their journeys? Is their journey the story or just an important component? What difficulties are you throwing in their way?

In flash fiction, of course, the story is usually the character’s journey in terms of their development and/or how they change in some way. What it should always be is interesting.

I was pleased to get lots done writing wise while travelling to see family yesterday. I love Evernote.

Having said that, writing in the back of a car is not always easy. I use a stylus for writing and every time you go round a bend, the phone screen flips from vertical (my preference) to horizontal and THAT was driving ME round the bend. The Romans were definitely on to something with their straight roads idea…

For once I was focusing on drafting some blog posts rather than flash fiction so I will redress the balance there when I’m next out and about. Need to get some more work out for specific flash fiction competitions I think. (I am waiting to hear on some but it will be a case of only hearing if I do well. If I haven’t heard by the end of September it will be a case of revisiting the stories and then seeing what I can do with them but I never mind that).

F = Fantastic Fun to Write
L = Lines to be kept Tight
A = Action and Animated Stories
S = Super Characters who will keep you gripped
H = Heroics condensed (to 50 words, 100 words, 250 etc etc!)

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I’ve mentioned random word generators before and they can be a great form of writing exercise. But I’ve now come across a random phrase generator. You can select one or several phrases at a time. I think I’ll have some fun with this!

I selected three phrases at a time tonight and my selection came up as:-

Ride Him, Cowboy
Scot-Free
Throw in the Towel

Now there are options here:-

1. Use the phrases as titles for your stories,
2. Use the phrases as themes for your stories.
3. Use the phrases individually, combined or the lot in your tale!
4. Do any or all of the above!

So here goes then… (and this isn’t a story I prepared earlier, honest!).

RIDE HIM, COWBOY
‘Go on then, ride him, cowboy. You are supposed to ride horses, you do know that?’
‘Fine, Jake, but nobody said I had to ride that beast. It’s snorting and pawing the ground. That thing wants to hurt someone and I know it isn’t going to be me.’
‘So Dirk gets off scot-free with his taunting then, Joe. You’ll have a reputation for cowardice for miles. He is watching to see what you’ll do. He’s put bets on that you’ll throw in the towel.’
‘How do you know?’
‘I put 200 on. I came into some money. You know I had that lucky find. Well, I’d been wondering what to do with it and I thought I’d have a flutter. I thought I’d bet on you!’
‘Really?’
‘Yep. Now do you really want me to lose that?’
I gave Jake the look that said I didn’t care but I made myself walk towards the beast from hell. I ignored Dirk’s outright laughter. I knew I’d have to prove myself eventually and it may as well be now. Besides I had a trick up my sleeve and in my pockets.
I stopped within ten feet of the beast and held out my hands to him. He looked at me and came walking slowly over.
There isn’t a horse yet that can resist sugar lumps.
Dirk looked like he wanted to be sick and Jake was rubbing his hands in glee. What he didn’t know was I’d put that money out for him to find. I wanted to take money off Dirk somehow. That would hit him far more than anything else I could do against his taunts and bullying. I just had to do it indirectly.
As for the horse, well every time I see him now, I just stop for a bit and feed him sugar lumps. It’s Dirk’s horse, see. If he ends up with expensive veterinary dental bills for his horse, I’ll have taken money off him again!

ENDS.
Allison Symes – 26th August 2019

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Further to my post about random phrase generators, I thought it was time to give random number ones a turn! How can those be used to generate story ideas?

I found a generator where you set lower and upper limits. The number I generated from this was 313.

Thoughts on how to use this for a flash fiction story:-

1. It could be your word count (to include title or not, as you see fit).

2. You could use a number like this as a time – 3.13 am or 3.13 pm and that time has to be important to your character for some reason. (For numbers that don’t fit with the clock, generate more that will! Or you could use, say 499 if that was the number generated, as a countdown for something. For example your character had 499 minutes to rescue someone).

3. You use the number in some way in your story (for example your character has to run up 313 steps to get away from someone else).

4. Does your character have a number phobia? Can’t bear to see anything with the number 13 in it, for example, and then you put them in situations where that is all they see. How would they react? Would their phobia bring them to a screeching halt or would they find ways of overcoming it so their life isn’t crippled by it any more?

5. Could be a house number either for the character or somewhere the character has to get to or avoid.

Definite story idea triggers there. Have fun!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reading for Inspiration

Do you read specifically to be inspired for your writing?

I don’t as such.

What I do is read in subject areas of interest to me, fiction and non-fiction, and expect sparks for story/blog ideas to come. I’m rarely disappointed!

Sometimes I know I need to research and then I target my reading appropriately. But usually the spark ideas come as a nice surprise. I know I will find the sparks, it’s just the form they’ll take I can”t anticipate.

But that’s a good thing. In having an open mind, I can make far more use of those sparks when they turn up.

And I increase the amount of reading I do. Win-win!❤😊

 

 

Work In Progress/Flash Fiction Ideas

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

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A week today and I’ll be at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School again. Can’t wait! Always good to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and learn so much from the different courses and workshops. The usual dilemma of which ones to go to applies… but I know I’m in good company with that!

Many thanks to all who’ve read Stolen on Cafelit.

Hope to get another story off for a competition this coming week. Am making a conscious effort to increase my throughput (so to speak) and am pleased I’ve done better this year on this than I did at the same time twelve months ago.

As for where I don’t hear what the results are or where I receive outright rejections, I will review those stories later in the year and see if I can submit them elsewhere. Usually, I can. Sometimes I can spot something, after a break away from it, that could do with strengthening so I work on the story and then re-submit it. Very little is wasted!

Update:  Am pleased to say I will have another story up on Cafelit on 12th August. More nearer the time.

And the first thing people will want to know is the title - Pixabay

I can’t remember what the first story I wrote was. It was not published but to begin with I didn’t write with publication in mind. My first thoughts were to see if (a) I could write a story at all and then (b) can I repeat the process?

I kept doing that for a while until I had a reasonable number and then started submitting work (on the grounds I had absolutely nothing to lose so may as well give it my best shot. If I was published I’d be thrilled to bits. I was – and I was! I still love that thrill of knowing something of mine has been accepted for publication. That’s the nice thing. That thrill does not diminish!).

I will always remember the first story that was published though! (A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology. I suspect time will stand still long before I forget that!).

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Pleased Just a Minute is back on Radio 4. That and Clue are the main comedy shows I listen to now. JAM is a wonderful way of discovering just how hard it is NOT to repeat, deviate, or hesitate when talking on a topic. Know I couldn’t do it.

Repetition in writing is something I have mixed feelings on. I sometimes repeat a word or phrase deliberately for emphasis. Sometimes I get a character to use a particular word so whenever it comes up, you know it’s that character who is speaking. (I avoid tags as much as possible but generally stick to he said/she said/it said when I do need to use them).

When I edit, I’m looking out for the repetitions I didn’t mean to do and there are always some! (This is another reason for reading work out loud by the way. I’ve found I’ve missed things even looking at a printout. Reading the work out literally brings home your repetitions and other failings as you hear yourself speak and realise you’ve used a phrase several times when you didn’t need to or mean to).

Delighted to say I’ll have another story up on Cafelit next week too. More details a bit nearer the time. Looking forward to sharing the link while I’m at Swanwick too.

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I don’t schedule posts as often as could but I will be preparing a two-part CFT article on Making Space, which I’ll schedule for this Friday and the one after. (I will be very tired but happy after a wonderful week at Swanwick for the second part of my post, which will focus on making space as a writer. More details on the first part tomorrow).

I usually schedule posts for when I’m due to be away but, increasingly thanks to Evernote and a smartphone, I’m drafting posts and then putting up later the same day. I often use train journeys for this as well as my flash fiction. It means I get a nice mixture of writing done.

I need to try to write up posts in batches more often and schedule them, as I’m sure that will prove to be more efficient. The nice thing is as well is if something topical comes up, you just change your schedule for whatever you WERE going to post. You can always use that another time. The only thing to watch is to ensure any batch posts are all timeless and could go up at any time.

Pleased to say I submitted another story yesterday for a competition. Have submitted more work at this time this year than twelve months ago so pleased with that. Need to catch up on the writing prompts in my diary too as I know those will trigger more stories.

As you can no doubt tell, I don’t have time to get bored! But that is a very good thing indeed…

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Favourite things about flash fiction for me:-

1. Can read a story in one sitting. (Invaluable when I’m short of time).

2. Great for twist endings (which I adore).

3. One-liners and punchlines work well here too and again I adore those.

4. You can set your character in any genre you want. It is only the word count you’re watching. I’ve found as a result the story has to be character led as that is more direct. There is no room for descriptions or interaction with many other characters after all.

5. I love writing dialogue. Not a lot of room for that in flash but what I can do is show you some of my character’s thoughts and I love writing those too. The great thing with that is you will pick up on the character’s general attitude to life. In dialogue they may disguise that especially if they want to impress someone.

Sometimes a flash story tips over and becomes a longer 1500+ tale and that’s fine. It just gets submitted to a different market/competition.

I’ve learned over time to let my character(s) have their voice. The trick is ensuring that what emerges IS relevant to the story (or deepens it and makes it more meaningful).

Writers need to come with an in-built “you’re waffling and you know you are, cut NOW” detector!

The critical test for me is to ask myself does a reader really need to know this? Will their enjoyment of the story be greater if this is in the piece? If it’s Yes and Yes, the material stays in. If there’s any doubt on either, out it comes.

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Loving listening to the Pink Panther theme on Classic FM tonight. (You’ll be humming it all night now. I know I will but it is wonderful music! Loved the films AND the cartoons. I don’t know how many other films spawned cartoons either).

So you have distinctive and memorable pieces of music then across the genres. The challenge for writers is to make OUR writing distinctive and memorable.

For me, the only way to do that is to have stand-out characters. It’s never about the plot for me. It’s always about whether the character engages me regardless of whether the story is a 50 word dribble, a 100 word drabble, or a 250,000 word epic saga!

I find working out what my main character’s chief trait is going to be a useful way to unlocking what makes them tick, WHY that trait is their chief one and so on.

For my flash stories (and especially the first person ones), I have to know what my character’s voice is before I start writing them. Are they whiny? Boastful? Remorseful etc etc? Only when I think I’ve got a handle on who they really are do I start writing the story. Outlining like this has saved me a lot of time later.

Where I’ve found ideas for flash fiction stories includes:-

1. Proverbs (to use both as titles and themes).

2. Advertising phrases

3. Taking a period of history I like and writing from the viewpoint of one of my favourite characters from that period.

4. Other well known phrases (e.g. my Circle of Life, Pressing the Flesh, and Coming Up Roses).

5. Turning stereotypes on their head (e.g. my George Changes His Mind. Let’s just say I have an alternative view as to what happened when George met that dragon).

6. Using an alliterative title and seeing where it takes me (e.g. my Pen Portrait). The more open to interpretation the title, the better.

7. Taking a book I like (e.g. Pride and Prejudice) and writing a snapshot story from the viewpoint of one of the characters (e.g. my Changing My Mind is from the viewpoint of Mr Darcy).

8. Picking a fiction genre and seeing if I can write a flash fiction story in it. (I’ve written what I call light horror such as my Calling the Doctor in this vein).

9. Posing a question as the title and again seeing where it might take me.

10. Using a letter format from one character to another to generate a story.

What I like most is mixing up the methods used. It keeps me on my toes and I think makes the writing more interesting. It is really important to have fun with what you write, I think.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books You Can’t Finish

I’m glad to say there aren’t many books I haven’t been able to finish but I guess this is one of those things that happens to most of us.

I always think it’s a bit of a shame when this does occur and I ask myself just why I couldn’t finish the book. The answer is nearly always that the characters didn’t grip me enough to make me want to find out what happened to them.

These days, given life is short and I have to TBR pile to be seen to be believed (and on my Kindle too!), anything that doesn’t hook me quickly is discarded.

It’s a good challenge to me as a writer to ensure I do put plenty of hooks into my flash fiction and short stories.

It also makes you appreciate those wonderful writers who can keep doing this book after book after book over many, many years. When I think P.G. Wodehouse wrote over 90 books and was consistently funny, well for me that’s genius and should be recognised as such.

Now back to my reading…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just a Minute and Other Thoughts

Facebook – General

Had to smile today. I receive book recommendations by email sometimes and today it finally happened. Yes, From Light To Dark and Back Again was recommended to me!

Moving on swiftly, I’m pleased to say I’m making good progress with my novel and third collection of flash fiction stories. I’ve ideas for non-fiction that I’m working on as well and I could really do with more hours in the day or to somehow be able to manage without sleep. Given neither of those are going to happen, it’s a case of best endeavours!

Have also started drafting a short story I’ve got in mind for a competition in April. Sounds ages away I know but it’ll be here before we know it and I do like to get a story drafted and then leave it for a while before reassessing and editing it. So starting the story about now is the right sort of timescale for me.

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Have typed up a couple of writing diary prompt stories that I’m considering for my third flash fiction collection. I’m at the 15000 word mark with this so will probably go to 20K and stop there. I know there’ll be a lot of cutting to do – there always is! But I never mind that. I think it shows there IS a story there and it is just a question of getting rid of anything that doesn’t enhance it.

I’ve only consciously padded a story the once and, guess what, I gave up when I realised the idea simply wasn’t strong enough. It remains the only story I’ve ever given up on. So yes I prefer to write and then cut. It always works better for me.

The writing prompts in my diary at the moment are where you’re given an opening line and you then see what you can do with it. I like those. I like to think of them as imagination stretching exercises!

Enjoyed listening to Just a Minute on Radio 4 tonight. The rules of no repetition, no hesitation, and no deviation from the subject are great guidelines for writing fiction too.

You want your story to move onwards and upwards to its conclusion so no repetition (it will also irritate readers). I’ve found outlining a story before I start writing it gives me the confidence to write it at all and so I do (no hesitation). I also think something of that confidence shows through in the final story too.

And as for going off at a tangent… a big no-no. As someone once said “just the facts, Ma’am, just the facts”. What those facts are, as far as your story is concerned, of course is down to you!

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Glad to say a flash fiction story of mine, Mirrored, was in the recent Swanwick Writers’ Summer School newsletter.

I discuss adaptations in my CFT post this week. What makes a good adaptation? What doesn’t? Also, this doesn’t just apply to writing either. Link up on Friday.

Editing of the novel continues to progress well and I’m drafting a 750-word short story too at the moment. Really like my lead character. They have promise! The real issue for me on this one is whether I can keep to the strict word count for this particular competition. Still, I will find out! I do love being able to set a Project Target on Scrivener and find it really useful for competitions like this. I like seeing the bar change colour as I get nearer to my goal!

Scrivener images below werebtaken by me as screenshots.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’m very fond of flash fiction stories that end with a line which make me laugh. When writing this kind of story, I always write that finishing line first and then work backwards to the beginning.

I’ve found outlining in that way means the ending seems natural to a reader and springs out of what has come before. I can take the time to work out what must come before for that line to work and none of that shows in the finished story. Win-win!

How can I tell if a flash fiction idea is going to work best at 50 words, 75, 100, 500, or what have you?

A lot depends on how strong the character is – can they carry a longer story? Also the story itself is about one moment in the character’s life. The moment you’re writing about must not be dragged out (it shows, trust me, that shows) so if you are finding you are trying to extend a story, stop, think again, and look at the piece as a much shorter one. It will almost certainly work better and pack more of an emotional punch on a reader by keeping it shorter. It is impact you want. That is what a reader remembers. You don’t want to dilute that.

Equally, I’ve found sometimes a character needs space to show what is happening in their “moment” properly so fine I go with that. The time to stop is when if you add anything at all, it will weaken the story/character and the potential impact. There’s nothing to stop you incidentally from trying out a story in two different word counts and seeing what works best. Read them out loud. What has the most impact on you?

Street Cred

I’m the coolest one on my street. I’ve been here the longest. Know the best places to hang out with pals. Know the best places to get together with the girls, if you see what I mean. It was just a pity a momentary lapse in concentration meant my cool went haywire and I managed to walk into the catflap my owner put in for me, rather than through it.

Don’t let anyone tell you cats have no sense of humour. The rest of the gang were all laughing at me. Still I’m not worried. I’ll just have to fight them all tomorrow. But for now, me the big ginger tom from No. 27, is curling up on the sofa with my so-called owner. (I own HER truth to be told). She is feeding me titbits from her tuna supper. This is the life.

Being cool again can wait until tomorrow.

Allison Symes
25th February 2019

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I love writing twist endings for my stories and, as mentioned before, often work those out first and then write the story “backwards” to get to the starting point.

But my other favourite writing technique is to begin with a promising opening line and then outline a few ideas as to where that could take me. Naturally I then go for the idea that I like the most (which is always the strongest one or has the most potential in it. Definitely not a coincidence that!).

Sometimes I can “see” a 100-word story in its entirety. My The Haunting is an example of that and was inspired by the character of Mrs Wilberforce (aka Mrs Lopsided) in The Ladykillers.

Goodreads Author Blog – Short Stories and Flash Fiction

I’m glad to see the return of short stories and the development of flash fiction for many reasons. One of these is that I write both so I won’t pretend to be unbiased here. But the major reason for loving this development is it expands the kind of reading available.

I love novels but it is great being able to read a collection of short stories or flash fiction after finishing one full length tome. It mixes up what I read. By the time I’ve finished reading an anthology I’m raring to get on with a novel again!

Also if the novel has been a dark one in terms of mood, there’s nothing like a collection of funny short stories to show the opposite side of life and I, for one, find that helpful. I don’t want to read “dark” all the time. I also know life isn’t always one big laugh so I like to have a balance of dark and light in my reading, as well as my own writing.