Making the Most of a Zoom Workshop

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated with many created in Book Brush. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good week. Mine has been very busy but am looking forward to being interviewed over the weekend via Skype. That will be fun. More to come on the results of that next week I hope.


Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s Friday once again and time for my Chandler’s Ford Today post. This week I’m looking at Making the Most of a Zoom Workshop. I discuss the importance of preparation, rehearsing your material, and focus. I also look at mixing up your material (in terms of having text, pictures, other items so it is not one huge block of text if you’re using things like PowerPoint). Hope you find the post useful.

Making the Most of a Zoom Workshop

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I’ll be talking about Making the Most of a Zoom Workshop for Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. Link up then. See above.

Do I find it useful having a day of the week to stick to for my posts here? Oh yes. I can plan my writing week around it, which is useful. It also helps with my focus as I get my CFT post done and then work everything else around that.

Lovely to see everyone at the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group on Zoom last night. We were talking about the long and the short with regard to flash fiction. Lovely time had by all.

And the other lovely thing about Zoom? It’s a great word to get out in Scrabble if you can! I’ve only managed it once!

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)

Hope you’ve had a good day. Now I’ve mentioned before I like to know my characters well enough to write their stories up. What matters here is working out what you need to know. This will vary from writer to writer. Some will need to know what a character looks like. I don’t.

I do need to know their traits (and from that I will often work out physical description though I must admit for a lot of my tales this aspect doesn’t matter much at all, I focus on attitude and action). I often ask my characters a few pertinent questions. You could also name some of the things they like/dislike and work out why they feel this way about these things. That is a great way to often get to the bottom of what makes someone tick.

May be an image of text that says "9.. Understanding what makes US tick is crucial for understanding what makes your characters tick."

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s great to be back on Friday Flash Fiction with my tale Buzzing Around. This one has a sting in its tale, aptly.
Screenshot 2023-02-24 at 09-24-27 Buzzing Around by Allison Symes

When it comes to competitions (flash and short story ones), I like the open theme ones but my preference is for a set theme. Why? I find a set theme gets my brain whirring as to the different possibilities I could do with that theme. I also like to rise to the challenge of writing to that theme. What I do like the set theme to be is open to interpretation though.

I’ve just set a theme for the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group (and before you ask it is Things You Miss – have fun with this, I intend to!). I like a theme which I could take in different directions and yet still meet its requirements. The challenge there is to come up with something which stands out (which is why it is a good idea to write down ideas, at least six of them, before you pick one to write up. It will be the ones which are further down on your list which are likely to be unique).

May be an image of text that says "Jot down ideas based on a theme. Jot down several and discount the first two or three. Those will be the 'obvious" ideas."
I write my story first and then worry about the word count as a general rule. When I know I’m writing to a specific count for a specific market, I will often write my closing line first and then work backwards to get to the start. I also know now roughly what 100 words is going to look like on page or screen so I then focus on what I really have to get across to my reader for this tale.

May be an image of outdoors and text that says "Storytelling shows us so much about ourselves good and bad. It is also so therapeutic."

Fairytales with Bite – Calendars

I know I’d be lost without my calendar/diary. But do your characters take the same view? Does your fairy godmother book in her clients or does she turn up “on the fly”, so to speak? (I’m certain she did the latter for Cinderella – that poor kid had suffered for years before said fairy godmother deigned to turn up).

If your characters do plan their appointments, do they do this on the basis of magical urgency? I’ve often wondered what Cinder’s fairy godmother was getting up to before she did arrive – I suspect there are stories there!

How does your magical setting base its calendar – on a system similar to our own? If not, how do they organise their time structures – do they have days, weeks, months etc?

Also, can anyone book an appointment with a magical being in your setting? Or can only certain people qualify and what would be the criteria here?


This World and Others – Special Appointments

Special appointments could be a great honour. Equally they could be a sign your character is in real trouble. Who would make the special appointments and why? If you’re about to be summoned to see your world’s most powerful magical being, this may not be good news. Who could be on the receiving end of that and how have they ended up here? Could be comic potential here too.

But even the most powerful magical being will have a weakness somewhere – could they end up having a “special appointment” with someone who knows what this is and can exploit it?

Now here in the UK manufacturers can have a “By Royal Appointment” status otherwise known as the Royal Warrant. In your fictional world, is there an equivalent to that?

What special appointments would your characters welcome and which would they dread? Working that out can show you great insights as to what your characters are made of and where that comes from. All useful for characterisation.


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Screenshot 2023-02-24 at 21-11-57 Reader Hub Book Brush


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Celebrations, Reading Work Out, and Framing Stories

A nice mixed bag tonight I think!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is the review of the recent Bridge House event, Celebrations, Crackers, Chapeltown, and Cafelit, though I’m quite pleased I managed to come up with an alliterative title! I also look at how reading work out is useful to writers, as is listening to others reading their work out. For one thing, you literally hear a story’s rhythm and can apply that to your own stories.

Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for kind permission to use some of the images in this piece. I’ve yet to find a way of reading work out and taking my own pictures of me doing this at the same time! (Oh and before you ask, I am really not keen on selfies!).

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My CFT post this week will be a look back at the Bridge House celebration event held on 1st December. I’ll also share some thoughts on the benefits of reading work out loud and on being read to, both of which are lovely!

One of the nicest things about this time of year is that it is very much a time for stories, which is a theme I will be looking at for CFT before too long. Naturally, I love the Christian Nativity story but I also love those wonderful tales associated with it. For example, how did the robin get his red breast? By burning himself on a fire he was fanning to keep a fire going to keep the Holy Family warm.

I also like to have a general review of the year (and also a specific writing review. How did things go? Did I achieve all the goals I set myself? What goals would I like to set for 2019 etc?). So that’s my CFT posts sorted until the year end! Just have to finish writing them now…

One of the great joys of stories (both writing and reading them) is their escapism value, especially if the news is particularly grim. That shouldn’t be underrated.

Whether you read or write humour, horror, sci-fi, or what have you, a story, of whatever length, should transport you into its world. You should be happy to stay there for the duration too! That, ultimately, I think is the biggest challenge to a writer. But it’s a great challenge to have a crack at!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I like to choose themes which can be open ended. Love, for example, can obviously provide happy stories. It can also provide tragedies, something Shakespeare took good advantage of in Romeo and Juliet.

I’ve found that picking the theme I would like to use and then deciding on the mood of the story is so helpful in giving me a “frame” for my story. Then the title comes into play and again I try to choose one which is open, unless I specifically want to put a twist into the tale right at the beginning (my Punish the Innocent is a good example of that).

I find it useful to have my “frame” and then write. It helps me focus.

When drafting a story, what is the first thing you are keen to get right?

For me, it’s ensuring I know my character well enough to know how they would react/act regardless of what situation I drop them right in! (Dropping your characters right in it can be a great way of finding out just what they’re made of). I also like to know what would shake my character out of their sang-froid and what their general beliefs are. Naturally, there should then be something to challenge all of that!

I like to use things that inspire me as a source of story ideas. The great thing with this method is what inspires me and how I combine these to create a new tale will help my writer’s voice to come through. Nobody’s tastes and inspirations are exactly the same. The way these are combined will also differ from writer to writer. So list what your inspirations are. Think about how you can use these. At the very least, you should find some great themes emerging. Good luck!

Fairytales With Bite – Why Fairytales with Bite?

It occurs to me I should have written this post long ago but never mind!

I use the phrase “fairytales with bite” as a lot of my flash fiction work, in particular, is set in a fantasy world and I use a lot of irony. There really is a bite to a lot of what I write. I like quirky writing – my own and that of others! I also use twist endings a lot and there can be a great deal of bite behind those. I am, after all, looking to make an impact with my stories.

My catchphrase is also a reaction against those who think fairytales are twee. I know I’ve touched on this topic before, here and on other blogs I’m involved in, but fairytales can show up human nature for what it is and are anything but twee as a result. Think of all the tales where kindness is rewarded and/or greed is punished. What happens to the villains in lot of fairytales is anything but twee!

Of course, with the Big Bad Wolf, you could argue the fairytale with bite is literal here!

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This World and Others – Reading Work Out Loud

This theme ties in with some thoughts I share on this as part of my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week called Celebrations, Crackers, Chapeltown, and Cafelit.  The latter is a look back at my publisher’s annual celebration event but one part of this is where some of the writers, including me, read some of our stories out to our audience.  Good fun whether you’re taking part or not, but for a writer it’s incredibly useful and here are some reasons why.

1.  You quickly realise if you stumble over words, so will your readers, so out comes the editing pen again.  Always better though that this happens before you submit the story anywhere.  By reading the work out to yourself before submission, this acts as another editing layer and can save your blushes!

2.  You literally hear the rhythm of the story.  There should be a natural ebb and flow to it.

3.  Especially if you write in a genre where you’re inventing names/place names etc, you can literally hear if what you’ve come up with is pronounceable!!  So no more Xxxrbtrzog (try saying that sober yet alone if you have had alcohol!) but something like Xerstone is “do-able” and still conveys to a reader they are in a setting NOT of this world.

4.  As you listen to someone else’s work, take note of what makes a real impact on you.  Is it the power of the dialogue?  Is the sentence structure hitting home well?  I usually find short, simple, and to the point works best.

5.  As you listen, watch out for where you are anticipating what comes next.  What MAKES you wonder what comes next?  Can you apply those thoughts to your own writing?

6.  We all love a story, it’s why we’re writers, and the oral tradition of storytelling is fantastic.  Without it we would have no stories at all so it is a joy to take part in and kind of “support it” ourselves.

Love your reading!