Mixing Things Up

Image Credit:  As ever, the images are from the fabulous Pixabay.

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My latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today looks at why mixing things up is so important for writers. I share some thoughts and tips as to how to do so too. Hope you find it useful and enjoyable. I also look at the advantages and disadvantages of writing to set and open themes for competitions. (And good luck if you’re entering any soon!).

Mixing Things Up is the theme and title for my latest CFT post of course but it would also make a great theme for stories!

How would your characters mix things up? Would they do this out of maliciousness or from a sense of mischief? What would the consequences be for them and for others?

Asking what the consequences would be is a great way of developing your story outline! To quote Isaac Newton: “To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.”

Good thought for story writing too (though I doubt if he would have thought of it that way!).

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Am loving listening to Danse Macabre on Classic FM as I type this (on 19th March 2020). This is the theme used on my book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I think of it as “my song”! 😆😆 See below!

I write with classical music on and find it relaxing. When I’m relaxed I find I write more. So that’s added reason to relax then! I don’t know quite what it is about classical music for it to have this effect. I do know other types of music simply don’t do the same thing – for me at least.

My post on CFT tomorrow will be Mixing Things Up and I will share some thoughts as to how a writer can do that and, just as importantly, why it matters.

 

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I’m glad the one-liner post the other day went well! The films were:-

The Italian Job (with the wonderful Michael Caine).

Carry On Cleo (with the wonderful Kenneth Williams. He had a marvellous narrative voice too).

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (With the wonderful Bob Hoskins). Bear in mind this film was made before CGI and he was acting to “air”. The cartoon figures were added in later including the anatomically impossible Jessica Rabbit!

It was great rediscovering The Great Escape a few months ago. Fabulous and true story, well acted, and a great score to it too.

Favourite film adaptation of a book for me is and remains The Lord of The Rings. No surprises there…

And my own favourite one liner from a story?

Probably “Still as I told Mother, if this is what I can do when I’m honest, just think of the possibilities when I’m not!”

For the rest see my Making The Grade in From Light to Dark and Back Again!

Allison Symes and published works

Allison Symes and some of her published works. Image by Adrian Symes

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Used one of the prompts in the Prompts book by Gill James to write a flash tale that I have now submitted. It was good fun to write.

My week so far has mainly been on non-fiction work so it was good to get some fiction writing in. That should be my main focus for the rest of this week now.

Will have more news on another book but will save that for tomorrow night’s FB posts. (Well, we all need something to look forward to at the moment, right?!).

 

The one thing I hope to come out of the current crisis is that people read more and keep the love of reading going when things eventually calm down again.

Reading is a wonderful way to relax and for writers it is the flip side of what we do. To write well, you need to read well. (It’s also a bit daft to say the least NOT to support the industry you want to be in so go on get those books in, you know you want to!).

I love flash for its immediate impact, the longer short story for being able to expand on characterisation, and the novel for depth of plot etc. And the great thing with reading? There’s no limit on what you can read in terms of genre, length, topic etc. So go on, get stuck in!

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Do you find it easier to write the ending of a story or its beginning?

I usually know when I’m brainstorming ideas whether a line I jot down is going to make a superb opening (I hope!) or a stunning finish. I then work out ideas from there and often use a spider diagram to help me get to the better storyline. (It is very rarely the first one I come up with!).

Sometimes the line can be open to being placed at either end of the story (and I love those). On my To Do list is to try to write two consecutive stories where the finishing line of one becomes the opening line of another. That could be fun to try (and good luck if you get to do that before I do! More than ever especially at the moment, it is important to still have fun and enjoy life as much as possible. Enjoying your story writing can be a key part of that).

 

Fairytales with Bite – The Downside of Magic

I’ve mentioned before that I like stories which show the downside of magic.

Firstly, something that powerful has to have disadvantages and would be prone to misuse/abuse (as with any kind of political power etc), though great stories come from exploring that.

Secondly, I love characters who use their wit and intelligence to get out of trouble in any genre and I want to see that in fairytales and fantasy too. Where magic is used, I want it to be appropriate.

I also believe there should be a downside to using it even when the intention is good. Something that powerful ought to have an effect on the user. For me, that’s realistic. I’ve always loved the section in The Lord of the Rings where Frodo offers Galadriel the Ring of Power because he clearly thinks the wretched thing would be best in the hands of someone good who would only use it for good (that’s my interpretation) and she reveals what that could mean.

What you don’t want is a wave of the wand getting characters out of trouble. Well, it’s not very interesting is it? Where a wave of the wand gets the character out of trouble but lands them right in it again in a different way because magic was used, now that is a lot more interesting to follow.

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This World and Others – Hobbies and Interests

So you’ve created an interesting world for your characters to inhabit. You’ve creating fascinating characters that will keep us glued to your book. Excellent!

Now think of rounding out your characters that bit more. What are their interests and hobbies? Why are they interested in these?

If your characters are on a quest, what interests have they had to give up so they can go on the quest? Is there any chance of them being able to resume that old life again? What are their attitudes to having to give anything up? What do they do in their down time?

I’ve always found when reading series novels that a character with interests is going to attract me more for the good simple reason that the character concerned has a rounded life and that’s what I want to read about. What they do about their main work in the story adds depth to them.

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Running Orders, Tech Issues, and One-Liners

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

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Have not long completed the first edit on my second collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic. It was good fun to do and eye opening too.

I had gone through my draft at least three times before submitting it and I still missed things! This is why it is important an outside eye does see your work. They will pick up on things you are too close to the work to be able to see.

Also if they come back with comments, it will help you to see if you really have got things across as clearly as you thought you had. (The answer to that one incidentally is sometimes no! And in those cases I rewrite. An editor’s eye can also help you realise what comes across as a bit clunky and therefore awkward for a reader to enjoy smoothly. So again rewrite time there),

There are no shortcuts but editing is what is going to make your work special so it is worth taking time over.

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It’s been a strange old week. I suspect next week will be stranger still. On the plus side, there is plenty of reading and writing to be cracking on with so I’ll focus on that. It is positive at least!

I’ve got a nice queue of items on my Kindle TBR list so will be trying to catch up on some of those.

Writing wise, I’m drafting a story for a competition which I need to finish. I also need to press on with my other major projects. And I do keep an eye out for interesting flash and short story competitions too. I like good writing competitions. They help me to “raise my game” which is never a bad thing.

Keep well, everyone.

 

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Apologies to anyone who is having trouble accessing the Chandler’s Ford Today sitetoday (16th March 2020). The technical side of things I leave to my lovely editor #JadeCloud and I have emailed her. Hopefully this will prove to be one of those irritating hiccups that can soon be sorted. I don’t know if it this is something at CFT’s end or whether it’s a browser issue. Will keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I will look ahead to my post this week. I will be talking about Mixing Things Up as a writer and share a few thoughts as to how you can do that. I also look at the advantages (and otherwise!) of competitions with set and open themes. Post up Friday.

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What are your favourite one-liners? Mine have to be:-

‘You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off.’
‘Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me.’
‘I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.’

(And if you want to play name the film, feel free!).

What do I like about one-liners in stories? Well, they pack a punch when well placed in a story. I sometimes use them to finish a flash fiction piece. They have emotional impact and a good story will have that, whether it makes you laugh or cry.

Great one-liners are memorable of course and it is always a pleasure to re-read them again when going back through favourite books. And you know those one-liners will have been through several edits as the author seeks to make every word carry its weight so what is left, well you know nothing could be added or taken out.

ALSO:-
Many thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for flagging up an access issue to Chandler’s Ford Today yesterday. Am glad to report the issue should now be resolved.

The auto renewal of the site’s SSL certificate did not happen. Goodness knows why. A big thanks to our technical guy for sorting that out and putting measures in place to hopefully prevent it happening again.

Meanwhile, I’m sharing the post Dawn Kentish Knox had wanted to comment on – the Local Author News spot I put up on behalf of #RichardHardie and #FrancescaTyer. Hopefully all well now!

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Don’t make the mistake of thinking because flash fiction is short, the editing of it won’t take long! Ahem…

Well, obviously it will take less time than editing a novel but you still need to apply care and precision, especially since the placing of a word in a flash fiction piece can turn the story round just on that alone.

My Calling the Doctor has the mood of the story changed by the last word (see trailer).

It’s also not just about editing for word count. You want to make sure your story works without all the bits you’ve put the red pen through. The story mustn’t feel as if there is anything missing.

The aim is for a reader to feel as if another word couldn’t be added to the story while, at the same time, being unable to think of anything that could’ve come out from the tale they’ve just read. Not an easy balance to get right but so worthwhile when you do!

 

One of my favourite stories in FLTDBA is Circle of Life because it is a poetic justice tale. I’ve always been fond of those.

It’s a theme I can turn to time and again as you never run out of dodgy characters who you can dole out suitable retribution to! You are just limited by your own imagination and if ever there was a challenge to keep stretching said imagination, that’s it, I think.

I’m also fond of funny poetic justice stories. You don’t necessarily have to kill off the miscreant though I suspect my crime writing colleagues would beg to differ!😆😆😆

One of the joys of fiction, of course, is you as the writer can always ensure justice is done to those deserving it. So go on, have some fun!

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If it hasn’t happened already, there will be loads of virus tales across all story formats soon! I won’t be writing any though. The market gets saturated very quickly.

It is far better to write what you would like to write to the best standards possible and find a suitable competition/market for it than to try to write to a trend. Trends are often gone by the time you get your story out anyway.

The only thing I hope might come out of our current crisis is that people, if stuck at home, rediscover the joy of reading but I would really rather they did that without this horrid or any other virus contributing in any way. Books are fabulous and should be treasured and loved and read and re-read anyway!

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Getting the running order in a flash or short story collection isn’t always as straightforward as it might appear. I look for impact on a reader here as well as from the individual stories themselves.

I like to group themes together (I think there is a stronger overall impact) but, as with chilli powder, you CAN have too much of a good thing here. (I once made a chilli with too much powder in it. I could’ve sworn there wasn’t much in it. I was wrong! Oh I was SO wrong…😆😆). So I tend to group 2 or 3 stories with a similar theme together but no more than that.

I write a reasonable number of poetic justice tales, to name one example. I’d group a couple of those together, then have a couple of say funny fairytales together, then some historical ones, then back to the poetic justice ones again. (I do like to think of my collections as “mixed assortments”. I’ve always loved those!).

It does pay to give plenty of time and thought to think about how you want your running orders to be. It will make the impact of your book that bit stronger and that is always a good thing.

Goodreads Author Blog –

Are Books The Best Invention Ever?

Daft question time, I can hear you say in response to this blog title! And you’d be right. Of course books are the best invention ever but… well, without literacy and encouraging people to read, those wonderful books we all love are left literally on the shelf, aren’t they?

How do we get people to read who don’t currently do so? I wish I knew the answer to that. All you can do as a writer is put your works out there, spread the word about them (and this is where supportive writing friends are brilliant), and hope people will take a look between your covers (ooh…err…. Missus), whether they’re electronic covers or the lovely paperback variety.

I have wondered whether people have lost confidence in reading. You know they finish reading at school and then that’s it. They’re not reading another thing. They’ll get their stories via film, TV, audio even, but not from the printed page. This is why I think supporting children’s authors is so important. They play a vital role in developing a future reading audience and keeping that love of books going. (And I still like reading YA, even though it has been a long time indeed since I qualified!).

I loved the James Garner Support Your Local Sheriff type films. We need at least three more. Support Your Local Children’s Author. Support Your Local Writers. Support Your Local Libraries.

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Looking Forward

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

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On days when I don’t have much time to write, I focus on drafting blog posts for future use and/or flash fiction stories. Ironically it can often feel like I’ve got far more done because I’ve written 3 or 4 posts and a couple of 100-word stories. But that’s fine. I don’t mind that at all.

What can feel tough is when you’re on a longer project and it feels like you haven’t got much done. Hang on in there. You have. You’ve written a chapter (fiction or non-fiction) for a book. You’ve drafted a longer story (say 2,500 words plus). You’ve edited a lot of work. You are achieving. It just doesn’t show up so well that’s all.

 

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Loved Part 1 of the Doctor Who series finale, looking forward to Part 2 next week, and that’s all I’ll say there!

A good story makes you wonder, especially on your first read (or viewing come to that). The characters you’ve become attached to? Well, what WILL happen to them? I find I start trying to anticipate how the story will pan out. Sometimes I’m right but I love it even more when I’m wrong and the writer has wrongfooted me.

Of course flash fiction is a great vehicle for twist in the tale stories. The twist has to make sense – none of the “it was all a dream” nonsense, the last author who used that with any conviction WAS Lewis Carroll. This is why, for twist tales, I often know what the twist is first and then work backwards to get to several reasonable starts. I then pick the one I like best. Good fun that!

 

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I can’t recall when books and writing were absent from my life. Nor do I wish to!

I do know they mean a great deal to me, even when the writing is a struggle or I’m not getting as much time as I’d like for them.

Incidentally with the former, it is usually just a question of being dog-tired (sorry, Lady!) and a good night’s sleep restores me and my imagination.

Don’t undervalue the importance of getting enough sleep. People focus on the health benefits of it but it is also true good sleep will help with your creative side. (At least you won’t have tiredness dragging it and you down).

A good writing day is when I head off to the Land of Nod happy with what I’ve written/edited/both and am anticipating another good writing session the next day.

A bad one is when I struggle to get anything down and am fighting to keep my eyes open. Time to give up and just get an early night. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way.

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Looking forward to going to #TheChameleonTheatreGroup‘s Spring Quartet production in April aka the Chandler’s Ford Today works outing, given my lovely CFT editor will be there too. A good time will be had by all though, unlike with TCTG’s last production, there will be no cries of “It’s behind you!” to contend with – well, not unless something goes horribly wrong… 😆😆

More immediately, am looking forward to sharing this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post which will be an interview with #PaulaReadman. Link up on Friday. Don’t miss it. Some fab insights as to what books and writing mean to her.

Many thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for the shout-out on her Knox Box of Miscellany. It is also a pleasure to highlight Prompts by #GillJames as well. It is a fab book and I’m looking forward to writing up many more of the story ideas.

So lots of looking forward going on tonight but given Lady and I got caught in a downpour earlier today, I think looking forward, especially to spring, is a very good idea indeed!

Prompts 2020 by [James, Gill] Image by Gill James

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I tend to “hit the ground running” with my flash fiction stories. I want to get a reader into the story as quickly as possible (and of course out again at the end of the tale).

I mix up the way I do this as it keeps things interesting for me (and I hope for readers). I sometimes take a reader straight into my character’s thoughts. Sometimes I ask a question I hope will provoke curiosity – the must find out the answer type.

Sometimes I will start with a character action, again the type that will trigger the where will this go reaction (and there is only ever one answer to that – read on!).

I mix up using the first and third person for my stories (though I love the immediacy the first person gives you).

I also mix up my settings. My first love is the humorous fairytale with a sting in the tale but I adore writing crime and historical ones too. That is the thing I love most about flash fiction – its flexibility with setting. It is just the word count I have to watch – and even there I have choice. If something works better at 200 words than 100 so be it. It just go in for a 100-word (aka drabble) competition or market, that’s all.

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What I like with character creation:-

1. The sheer joy of coming up with a fully rounded person you as writer can have fun telling what to do and dropping right in the mire when it suits you!

2. When the character comes alive and, for me, that moment is when I know how they’d react in ANY circumstance. I usually know things such as what kind of music they’d listen to and so on. When I started out writing, I used to find it a little unnerving to hear a piece of music and think oh yes, Character X would like that. Now, I see that as a good sign.

3. When the character makes you laugh, terrifies you etc., just as you want them to do to a reader. If there’s no reaction from you, their creator, there won’t be from a reader either.

4. The challenge of coming up with different characters. Their voices must be different. I don’t want to write “all the same person” any more than a reader would want to read that. So getting the variety in keeps me on my toes.

5. When someone tells you they really loved or disliked a character but that is the reaction which is meant to happen!

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What I like about writing dialogue:-

1. When the dialogue flows, I know for certain I’ve got into the head of my character properly. It can feel almost as if I’m taking dictation from my characters but that’s a good sign.

2. I can get my characters to say things I’d love to say but wouldn’t dare! Now that’s got you wondering, hasn’t it? Best left there I think. Well, imagination is not fun if you give EVERYTHING away now, is it?

3. For my longer stories, I love getting two characters to spark off each other via their dialogue. My danger point there is to make sure everything is relevant to the story and I’m not just writing it because I love my characters and what they’re saying (though I do!). This is where the edit comes in and I do cut out anything that does not move the story on. I really do kill my darlings, darlings.

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Further to my mini-series so far, what I like about writing in general:-

1. Writing is fun and can be amazingly therapeutic. It is not a cure-all, nor is it meant to be, I think, but just escaping into your created world for a bit I’ve found to be very helpful and relaxing. Sometimes just that is all you need, regardless of what happens to the piece of writing itself. Of course, if you submit it and it is published/wins a competition etc., even better!

2. It is a challenge to do but it stretches you and that, I think, is a good thing.

3. You will expand your knowledge. I’ve looked into all manners of topics for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts, but research comes into fiction writing too. (If you are also a quiz fan, this could be really useful for that too!).

4. You can try all sorts of writing to work out which one suits you best. Nor do you have to stick at one either.

5. The challenge to begin with is to see if you can create a story, then, for me at least, it was to try and be published, and since then to see if I can be published more often. That challenge continues. It combines with wanting to make your storytelling better as you learn from what you write as you go along too.

Whatever you write, enjoy!

Goodreads Author Blog – Sneaking In Reading Time

My main reading time is in bed but the snag with that, of course, is if you’re really tired, you’re going to be lucky to get to the end of a page before your head hits the pillow and the book drops to the floor!

Having said that, there is nothing to beat being nicely cosy and comfortable and settling down for a chapter or so before sleeping. (To my mind this is not the time to read Stephen King though, especially if you dislike clowns!).

So I’ve managed to find little pockets of time during the day when I can sneak in some extra reading time. Five minutes here, five minutes there, and it’s lovely.

At the moment I’m using these pockets of time to catch up with my magazine reading but that’s great. Reading is reading when all is said and done, whether you read magazines, books, graphic novels etc.

When I use the train, I tend to focus on writing. I will occasionally read but I do feel the need to be “doing” something so out comes the smartphone, Evernote, and my stylus and I either draft some flash fiction or blog posts like this one.

So how do you sneak in extra reading time? I realised long ago there is never enough time in the world to do all the reading you would like to do so it’s a question of compromise.

What must I read next? What must I read now? How can I break the book I’ve chosen into manageable reading chunks?

I am grateful for the time I have though and it is a question of trying to make the most of what you can do here. (Same applies for creative writing). Any thoughts and comments on how to sneak in even more reading time are welcomed!

 

 

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This statue I like... a lot. Image via Pixabay

INTRIGUING FIRST LINES

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

I share some intriguing first lines, which I hope you have fun with!  A good line should make you think of different possibilities as to where to go with the story idea.  These can cross genre and forms of fiction too.  I may well have a go at least some of them myself!

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

I talk about mixing things up in tonight’s post. The lines in Fairytales with Bite this evening can equally be used as finishing lines.  Equally, you could do both with each line and see what you prefer.  Above all, have fun with your writing.  It really does show through.

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I talk about why I love writing short stories and flash fiction tonight.  Do you agree?

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Shakespeare had his quill, modern writers have their laptops. Image via Pixabay.

Such a familiar look. Image via Pixabay.