Pantomime, Rabbits, and Keeping Going

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.
Think my title for this post is a cracker – it’s not your usual combo! Hope you’ve had a good weekend and early start to this week. My weekend took in all the fun and chaos of pantomime which was great. Oh yes, it was!
(For those who don’t know the pantomime tradition the “oh yes, he is” and the “oh no, he isn’t” etc etc is a staple ingredient of ALL pantomimes, which are always based on the classic fairytales. This gives me another reason to love them. It is one of the few times an audience is expected to shout at the actors on the stage and where it is welcomed!).

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Hope you have had a good day. Am delighted to say the February edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out, with new editor in chief, Wendy H Jones at the helm. Now this year is the Year of the Rabbit so you may wonder how I could have written my flash fiction column and set a challenge around that. If you want to find out, turn to page 66 – see the link below – and do check out the rest of the magazine. It is a fabulous, free read – what’s not to like?

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Had a wonderful time at Pinocchio, the pantomime staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group over the last week or so. I’ll be reviewing this for Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. All great fun!

Don’t forget my author newsletter is due out again on Wednesday. If you’d like to sign up do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Hope to have news of a potential interview soon. Looking forward to that.

Writing Tip: An outline doesn’t have to be chapter and verse. Often, especially with a flash piece, a couple of lines as to character, trait, situation is enough. Example below.

Character: Older lady.
Trait: Pride
Situation: Faces something where she has to ask for help, though she really doesn’t want to do so.

That is enough to give me the “bare bones” of a potential story. I will then have fun filling in the gaps but it is a great way to start a potential tale and the lovely thing with this approach is when you have the odd couple of minutes, it still gives you time to jot something like this down for working on later.

 

It’s my turn on the More than Writers blog, the Association of Christian Writers blog spot. This time I talk about Keeping Going, an apt topic for what can seem like the longest month of the year! (Sometimes you have to laugh at your own typos – when I first typed the last sentence, it came out as longest moth of the year!).

Hope you find the post useful and encouraging.

Screenshot 2023-01-29 at 08-03-06 Keeping Going by Allison Symes

Am off to see Pinocchio as performed by our wonderful local amateur drama company, The Chameleon Theatre Group, later tonight so am posting early. Review to follow on Chandler’s Ford Today in due course. Later, there will be more fabulous author interviews to come as well.

Many of the fairytales make for wonderful pantomimes of course and I think one reason is that the themes of these appeal to a wide age range. Pinocchio is about acceptance. Most of us will identify with the need for that. Even at a very young age, you do even if you can’t articulate it. And that is a massive factor in why fairytales will always be timeless.

May be an image of text that says "The classic fairytales call classicfairytalescalloutevil out evil for what it is and reflect our behaviour. They don't flatter!"

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Many thanks for the views in already on Character Missing In Action, my latest YouTube video. Also thanks for the views in on Bigger and Better, my video from last week. Now my author newsletter is out again tomorrow and I do include all the links to my Youtube and Friday Flash Fiction tales as part of this. I also share news, tips, writing advice etc. If you’d like to sign up do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com for more.


It’s Monday. The evenings are slowly getting lighter in my part of the world – hooray! There are signs of spring emerging. Still time for a story here and this one, I think will particularly appeal to the writers. Hope you enjoy Character Missing In Action.

 

Slowly getting warmer out there and it is nice to have a bit more daylight each day. I was listening to an interesting snippet on Classic FM where talk turned briefly to missing jigsaw pieces and how only one missing piece can spoil the whole thing.

Well, the same is true for story writing and the missing “bits” show up even more sharply in flash fiction with its maximum word count of 1000 words. So what do I mean by “bits” here? Simple!

1. You must have an intriguing character. I define intriguing here as being where a reader must read to find out what happens to said character. Your reader can’t look away until they reach the end.

2. You must have a proper beginning, middle, and end. Flash fiction isn’t truncated prose. Something has to happen. Something has to be resolved. There has to be a turning point roughly in the middle.

3. The ending must be satisfactory given the nature of the character and the storyline. Doesn’t necessarily have to be a happy ending.

Now I’ve talked before about being inspired by overhearing bits of conversation. That’s exactly what has happened for me today with this post. I never thought I’d be inspired by a Classic FM presenter to trigger today’s Facebook post but there you go!

May be an image of text that says "A framework is my road map for my story. It stop me going off at unhelpful tangents which would only need to be cut out later."

Hope you have had a good day. Glad to say my order for my flash fiction collections arrived yesterday – very prompt. Always love opening parcels like that! Also nice to have to top up on stocks…

Have revamped my business card a bit and ordered in some other bits I hope I will put to good use at later book events.

I like all kinds of story collections as you might expect. They are a great way to try out works by authors new to you and I am pleased to recommend the Bridgetown Cafe Bookshop as a place to start hunting out some fab collections to try.
Screenshot 2023-01-31 at 20-40-11 The Bridgetown Café Bookshop

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Deliveries

I recently took stock of a delivery of copies of my two flash fiction collections. Always a joy to top up on stocks and to open parcels like that. I love book deliveries, also for when I am buying in other authors’ works. Those parcels are joy to open too!

I’ve never envied Santa for his sleigh round. There will be a lot of books on there – and they’re heavy. Maybe that explains the need for millions of mince pies!

I do, of course, visit book shops (not as often as I’d like. Mind you, this may be a good thing to (a) help my bank balance and (b) you might need a crow bar to get me out of the shop).

But however you get your books, the important thing is to enjoy them. I like to read widely in and out of my genre (including non-fiction) as that helps me inspire with my own writing. How?

Simply in that an odd line here or there will spark off an idea for a situation I could put my characters into and then have fun working out how they get out of it again, assuming they do. Also the odd fact can spark ideas for a character.

And the best reason of all to enjoy books? Simply because reading is fun.

Screenshot 2023-01-28 at 17-58-56 Book Deliveries
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ALLISON SYMES – BOOK BRUSH READER HUB

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MOM’S FAVORITE READS – CHECK OUT THE MAGAZINE INCLUDING MY FLASH FICTION COLUMN HERE –

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Workshop News and Key Story Ingredients

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.
Still very cold in my part of the world. One nice thing about running a Zoom workshop (which I will be doing on 25th January) is you get to stay indoors!

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Another bitterly cold day today but Lady got to show off in front of her Hungarian Vizler friend today so she was happy enough!

Looking forward to running the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group on Zoom tomorrow. Those taking part in it live hundreds of miles apart so we never could get together in person but Zoom has made groups like this possible.

I’ve used Zoom to help me get my timings right for stories which have then been broadcast on North Manchester FM. It means I know for sure I am coming in at under the maximum time allowed. And it has been a lifeline for catching up with family as well. So yes I am a big fan of the app here.

I also love in person workshops and it is a good thing, I think, to try and have the best of both worlds.

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Hope you have had a good start to the working week. Still bitterly cold here. Will be talking about Classic Stories for Chandler’s Ford Today later on this week – will share the link on Friday. (And many thanks for all the comments which have come in over my interview with June Webber last week. Much appreciated all round!).

Many thanks also for the fabulous comments coming in on Reasons, my most recent Friday Flash Fiction tale. This is one of my darker tales but I hope you enjoy it.
Screenshot 2023-01-20 at 09-27-41 Reasons by Allison Symes

Had a lovely time at the workshop yesterday. Many thanks, everyone, for making me so welcome.

Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group meeting on Zoom on Wednesday and going to see The Chameleon Theatre Group perform Pinocchio on Saturday. It will be a lively week!

Have been busy sorting out some of my writing admin today – need to get in more business cards etc and book orders too. This kind of admin is a joy to do though – I can literally see the end product! And don’t forget if you would like a copy of either or both of my flash fiction collections, you can get them from me by contacting me through the contact form on my website (link below). Naturally there are the usual other online outlets here but I can sign the books for you if you get them directly from me!

Contact

 

Am on my way to run a flash fiction workshop in London. Looking forward to that though today’s trip is a mixture of trains, tubes, and replacement bus services thanks to the landslide at Hook. This is on the main route to London.

I don’t know if you’ve seen pictures of this but the damage done by the landslide is seriously scary with tracks in mid-air etc! Hope and pray this is sorted well and as quickly as possible given the circumstances (shouldn’t be either/or here!).

Was delighted to hear of a book sale of Tripping The Flash Fantastic to a local fellow dog walker yesterday. Always lovely news that!☺

Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on social media re my interview with June Webber for Chandler’s Ford Today which went live yesterday.

More author interviews to come in due course but June proves it is never too late to write and be published. I find that enormously encouraging.

Update: had a fabulous time at the workshop. Everyone was so welcoming. I hope you all have fun writing up the story ideas generated.

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Many thanks for the views coming in on Bigger and Better, my latest tale on YouTube. See below. Also thanks for the great comments in on Reasons, my newest story on Friday Flash FictionLink and image further up.

I like to mix up the way I come up with themes for my stories and do this by using different random generators, proverbs, overhead snippets of conversation, themes which will never date (there will always be places for ghost stories, love stories etc), odd things which catch my eye in the news/on social media etc.

I then think of which characters could best serve those themes and look at why they would. Then I start drafting when I know my character, who has this quality, that fault etc., would be the best for this tale. And I relish writing that draft. It should be fun!

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It’s Monday. It’s icy cold. It’s dark. It has been a hectic Monday. Definitely time for a story then. My latest on YouTube is called Bigger and Better – hope you enjoy it.

 

Had a lovely time running a flash fiction workshop in London yesterday. It is always a joy to share the joys of writing flash and why it is useful for all writers, regardless of whether someone makes it their main creative form or not. I discovered the form having been writing short stories for some time. I hadn’t even heard of flash when I first started out but I’ve never regretted this happy writing accidental discovery!

Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on Friends, my recent Friday Flash Fiction story. The feedback from this site is great. Do check the site out and, in case you missed my tale first go around, do see the link below. Especially pleased to repeat this one as it is an acrostic story, which are always fun to write, and the comments have been wonderful.

Screenshot 2023-01-13 at 09-32-23 Friends by Allison SymesWhen I enter any kind of writing competition, I assume “nothing doing” if there is no notification from the organisers within two months of the closing date.

I then have another look at my story, revise it (sometimes it is just the odd word or two here), and then send it on elsewhere. I have had flash and short stories then go on to be published.

It isn’t a question of major rewrites for the revision process here. I would’ve written and edited the original as good as I could do before entering the competition. But having the gap of a couple of months means I’m looking at the story again with fresh eyes and there nearly always is something I can tweak and make better. So I do!

I do judge competitions sometimes and know a story can be fine but then one comes in which simply takes your breath away and that must be the one to win. And different things trigger that take your breath away moment for different judges.

Moral of this? Never be afraid to revise your stories and send them out elsewhere.

Goodreads Author Blog – Key Story Ingredients

All successful stories, for me, have to contain key ingredients. Doesn’t matter if these are flash fiction, short stories, novellas, or novels, I think they all need to have the following ingredients in them.

1. Characters you care about and want to root for. Sometimes it can be rooting for a villain to fail.

2. Twists and turns so you have to keep reading to find out what happens.

3. A feeling of having had a fantastic reading experience when you finish the story. Points 1 and 2 are crucial here.

4. For a novel/novella series, there needs to be continual character development so you can see how they change and grow over the series. You can do likewise on a smaller scale for linked flash/short stories.

5. Understanding of the dilemmas the characters face and enjoying finding out how they deal with these.

What would be key ingredients for you?

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MOM’S FAVORITE READS LINK – CHECK OUT THE MAGAZINE INCLUDING MY FLASH FICTION COLUMN HERE.

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Bridge House Celebration Event

Image Credits-:
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Many thanks to Lynn Clement for taking the pictures of me reading at the recent BHP event for my CFT post this week. Screenshots and most photos for my CFT post this week were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Bitterly cold weather all week here. Writing progressing well – am so glad it’s an indoor job! Looking forward to hearing some festive flash fiction over the weekend, including one of my pieces. It is a thrill to hear my stories on air.

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Delighted to share my new Chandler’s Ford Today post which is all about the recent Bridge House Publishing Celebration Event. It was such fun to go to this and catch up with people. It was by no means certain it would go ahead and, of course, the last two years the event has been affected by Covid. Hope you enjoy my round-up. Already looking forward to next year’s one.

Bridge House Publishing Celebration Event 2022

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Lady had an unexpected surprise today – she got to play with her best buddy, the Ridgeback, who looked very fetching in her coat. Both dogs very happy to see each other.

Looking forward to sharing my next Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. I’ll be looking back at the recent Bridge House Publishing Celebration Event. Always good to go to this. Always lovely to write about it afterwards! See above.

Also looking forward to hearing the Three Minute Santas show on North Manchester FM with Hannah Kate over the weekend. Festive flash is fun to write and wonderful to listen to – will share the link once I’ve got it. Hope this will be in the next post.

Coming up in the New Year will be another flash fiction workshop in January. I did get my competition entry in for the Writing Magazine Grand Flash prize. (You’ve got to 31st December on that one – 500 words maximum).

 

Hope you have had a good day. Still bitterly cold.

Characters have always fascinated me – in my own work as well as in what I read. I do want to know what makes them tick. I need to care about them enough to want to find that out. Often it can be an intriguing bit of dialogue or an internal thought that lures me into reading more. In that, I’m getting a snapshot of what the character is like. Attitudes show up in what they say or think. When I’m writing, I am thinking what it is about this character that would make a reader want to find out more? There has to be something!

I guess the lure of any well written story is wanting to find out what happens. That something happening has to occur to someone which is why for me at least characters are more important than plot. A great character will drive the plot. A good plot won’t be saved by a poorly portrayed character. Readers have to care about your characters (even if that includes wanting to see them fail. There is still care for the character there – you want to see them get their comeuppance).

May be an image of 1 person and text that says "Readers should be keen to find out what your characters do next. whaus next"

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Glad to report the December double issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now available free to download on Amazon. I took the topic of Fifty as my theme for this edition. I also set a double flash fiction challenge. Do check out how people responded to it. There are great stories here. (And the rest of the magazine is a wonderful read too but don’t just take my word for it – check out the link below.).


I was chatting about closing lines yesterday (see below) so I thought I’d look at opening ones tonight. I love to use an intriguing situation or an interesting bit of dialogue (ideally something that poses a question) so readers have to read on. I also like to set scenes as much as possible too.

One of my favourites here is from Where the Wild Wind Blows from Tripping the Flash Fantastic. That reads The Witch had just finished planting out her runner beans when the farmhouse landed on her head. No prizes for guessing the inspiration behind that one!

But what matters is having something that encourages your reader to read on and I find thinking about what I would like to read helps here. Having an Ideal Reader in mind and thinking about what they would want to see helps enormously too. I am writing for an audience so it makes great good sense to write with them in mind from the get go.

May be an image of text that says "I sometimes use questions as opening lines. I ALWAYS look for something that will intrigue a reader."

I love to end a flash tale with a twist or humorous ending, but not always. There is room for the thoughtful ending too. This works especially well for monologues but I did also use this kind of ending for The Pink Rose in Tripping the Flash Fantastic. This is a compassionate Alzheimer’s story and therefore the ending needed to be appropriate for that.

I also used the phrase “the pink rose” in the opening and closing lines deliberately. It was like a “circle” effect here which again was apt for this kind of tale. Knowing the characters well means I get a good idea of what kind of ending would be apt for them.

The one thing in common with a twist or humorous ending though is it would probably pay to write your thoughtful ending first and then work out the steps that led to it. I’ve done this. It is a good technique to help you ensure your story has the right internal logic to make it work.

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Fairytales with Bite – The Underdog

The underdog crops up a lot in the fairytales. Cinderella is a classic example of that. She was not expected to “win”. She was expected to continue to be the kitchen skivvy. I think one of the classic fairytale tropes is that the underdog can win (and to encourage compassion for said underdog – encouraging compassion is always a good thing!).

Often in the fairytales the underdog is in that position through no fault of their own and usually due to the cruelty of others. So another message here is that cruelty will eventually fail (though I must say I find that doesn’t come as quickly as I’d like!).

An interesting thought for a story idea (or several) is what about the underdog who does deserve to be in that role. What have they done to put them into this position? Are they remorseful? Can things be put right?

As a matter of note, I always look out for the seemingly unimportant characters in fairytales. They do usually tend to end up being far more important than anyone initially thought and that’s an idea to play with in your own stories too.

I also love it when an underdog does a lot to help themselves get out of their situation and doesn’t just rely on a fairy godmother turning up. Much as I love the Cinderella story, I do query why the godmother didn’t intervene earlier to help the poor girl against all that cruelty going on. I wouldn’t have minded Cinders challenging her on that but maybe that was best saved for after the happy ever after ending. Cinders wouldn’t be the underdog then!

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This World and Others – Species and Specialisms

Picture the scene. You’ve created a fantastic multi-cultural world. You’ve got a nice array of species. You’ve worked out how they get on with the others (or not as the case may be). You’ve worked out the politics and/or history behind all of that. You’ve figured out how basic needs are met and so on.

So think in more depth about what the individual species are and why you need them in your setting. What are their specialisms? Do they have to co-operate with others to get skills and other resources they can’t do/produce for themselves? Are there biological reasons why they can’t do these things? How does the need to trade with others affect the politics of your world? Can anyone upset the old apple cart here and, if so, how do they do it?

If you have species with specialisms, does that encourage tolerance in your setting or are those with “better” specialist skills resented? What would that resentment lead to?

Also what forms are the specialism in? Technology? Better ways of food production? What you are after here, I think. Are skills which are definitely needed and which others might have cause to envy or resent. Every story needs conflict and resolution. This could be another way into setting up some interesting conflicts.

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Learning From Our Favourite Characters

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good weekend. This week sees my latest author newsletter go out and my taking part in Flash NANO for the first time. Weather all over the place here though we still have gorgeous autumn colours to enjoy (the photo below was taken by me during my Northumberland holiday only a couple of weeks ago).

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Where does the time go? Mind you, it wasn’t hard to believe it’s November today. I’ve had heavy rain, gales, hail, all sorts here and that was by lunchtime today! Lady got to have a bonus play with her best buddy today so she was well pleased.

Author newsletter went out today. Received my first Flash NANO prompt which I plan to write up later this evening.

I’ll be reviewing Sherlock Holmes and The Mystery of Mallen Hall for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. Always a joy to go and watch The Chameleon Theatre Group. Looking forward to going to their pantomime (Pinocchio the Pantomime) in January – oh yes I am!

Oh and big news – I’ve booked my place for The Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, very much being an ”early bird”. If you want to know more about Swanwick, do check their website out.


Screenshot 2022-11-01 at 20-24-19 Swanwick Writers' Summer School

Hope you have had a good start to the week. Lady got to play with her best buddy today, the Rhodesian Ridgeback., so those two went home tired but happy. Went out at the right time too – the heavens opened at lunchtime!

Looking forward to taking part in Flash NANO which starts tomorrow. Good luck to everyone taking part in that and in the NaNoWriMo. Hope you all get plenty written. I’m hoping to write to as many of the prompts as I can with the idea being these might go forward to a future collection of mine.

Separately, don’t forget I send out my author newsletter on the first of the month so do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like to catch the next one “hot off the presses”, so to speak, given it goes out tomorrow. I often share flash tips etc here.

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Hope you have had a good weekend. Did appreciate the extra hour’s lie-in this morning as clocks went back in the UK. Even the dog welcomed it!

Many thanks for the fabulous comments coming in on The Caterpillar and The Zebra, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction.

I’ll be reviewing Sherlock Holmes and The Mystery of Mallen Hall for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. It was great to see The Chameleon Theatre Group on stage again.

Also a big thanks for the comments coming in on Learning from Our Favourite Characters, my most recent blog post for More than Writers (the Association of Christian Writers’ blog spot).

Will be pretty busy preparing interview questions for CFT for a couple of lovely authors soon. More details on these interviews nearer the time. Once nice thing about it getting darker sooner in the evenings is that it gives me even more incentive to stay at my desk writing away!

 

It’s my turn on the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. For More Than Writers this month, I look at Learning from Our Favourite Characters. For one thing, you can figure out whether you would make the choices they do in the book you’re reading. One of the joys of being a writer is you get to read more too and you can learn so much from what else you read, whether it is contemporary or classic, fiction or non-fiction.

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Received my first Flash NANO prompt and am looking forward to writing that up later. Plan for the month is to write up as many of the prompts as possible. I’ll be worrying about editing in December!

One of the most sensible pieces of writing advice I’ve received (and act on) is to write the story first and worry about editing later. See them as two separate tasks.

That has helped me so much. It means I don’t “hamstring” myself trying to get the first sentence right. I just get the story written and then look at ways to improve it. There always are ways!

Writing Advice

It’s Monday. It’s a darker than normal Monday too – not because of Halloween but because the clocks went back in the UK yesterday! It bucketed down with rain at lunchtime. And it remains Monday. Definitely time for a story on YouTube then. This one, Past Writings, is inspired by a random theme generator and the theme which came up was that of old notebooks. It’s a complete contrast to my zebra video last week (and again a huge thanks for the views coming in on that).

 

I’ve signed up to take part in Flash NANO which begins on 1st November. You receive 30 prompts over 30 days and it is up to you how many stories you write up. If you want to find out more about this head over to Nancy Stohlman’s site at https://nancystohlman.com/flashnano/

Am looking forward to this. Should be fun. And talking of flash fiction, I am glad to say the November issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out and I’m talking about Twists in Flash Fiction this time. Also check out the wonderful stories that came in as a result of my challenge.


One simple thing any reader can do to help a writer is to review their books. Doesn’t need to be a long review. Just needs to be honest and to the point for the book in question. On that note, I’m delighted to have received another five star review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See screenshot. Many thanks to #JoyWood.

Also, there is no “use by” date for these things. Yes, they are especially helpful at the time of a book launch but any author will welcome helpful reviews whenever they come in.

This review mentions signed copies of my books. I’m always pleased to sign my books for people. Just get in contact with me via https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com and we can take things from there.

Screenshot 2022-10-29 at 16-31-50 Tripping the Flash Fantastic eBook Symes Allison Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store

Goodreads Author Blog – The ABC of Books Part 2 – N to Z

It’s time for Part 2 of my alphabetical celebration of books.

N = New and old books – read both and have a great reading “diet”.

O = Open up your reading diet to include genres new to you – this is where I’m glad I have many writing friends. I like to read what they bring out. It’s wonderfully entertaining and I’ve got to read books this way I might not otherwise have come across.

P = Paperbacks and the Penguin. Paperbacks are my favourite format and Penguin opened these up for so many – definitely worth celebrating that.

Q = Quirky fiction. Plenty of room for that in the book world – and often it is the quirky books or characters that grab the attention. Who would have thought a trilogy about a brave hobbit would take off?

R = Reading – and across formats as well as genres. Stories can be taken in via the printed word, audio, etc. Enjoy them all.

S = Stories. This is what books give us – yes, even non-fiction. Why? Because in a non-fiction book, the “story” is you finding out something you had not known before on a topic that has grabbed your interest. Or has increased your knowledge on it.

T = Trailers for books. These are great fun and a fabulous way of giving a teaser to a book. I’m all for getting the word about books out there and this is another way to do that.

U = Universes, yes plural. Fabulous books take you into a world of their own (whether it is set here, back in time, or a fantasy planet somewhere). You should lose yourself in a good book!

V = Voice. A good book will show you the author’s voice through their characters and will enthrall you. You’ll look out for more by that writer hopefully too.

W = Words, the powerhouse of books. Books impact you through words, the way the author has put them together, what they get their characters to say and do. The words of characters stay in your memory. Words, and therefore books, are powerful.

X = X marks the spot found in classic pirate fiction such as Treasure Island, and that leads me on to saying (e)xcellence in fiction, especially children’s fiction will encourage a life long love of reading. How do I know? It happened for me!

Y = Young Adult fiction. I am so glad this category exists now. It didn’t really when I was growing up. I did find myself between categories and I’d have loved the YA range. Also a great way to keep people reading and I’m all for that too.

Z = Zestful books – the kind that keep you reading all night. The books that are hard to put down even when you have finished reading them. The very best books of all!

Screenshot 2022-10-29 at 20-39-26 The ABC of Books - Part 2 - N to Z

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Story Ideas and Identifying with Characters

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good weekend. Lovely family do. We all had a fantastic time and Lady was spoiled rotten so she had a great time too. Looking forward to a short break next week (am still hoping to post but will have to play things by ear here. A lot will depend on my internet connection!).

BookBrushImage-2022-10-4-20-4619

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When I’m thinking of potential story ideas, I ask immediately what kind of character would “serve” that potential tale well. I then look at what makes the character stand out for me in this role (because if they stand out for me, they’ll stand out for a reader too). This is why knowing what makes my character tick is so important for me. It helps me to get into their head, work out how they would think and speak and so on.

I also know what are the kinds of things my character would not say. Funnily enough that can be useful because I might get them to start saying it if they are under so much stress they come out with something they usually wouldn’t. Readers would identify with that given this is something most of us would do. But the stress has to come out of the character’s situation. It should be the kind of thing that would stress us out too.

May be an image of text that says "01, Understanding what makes US tick is crucial for understanding what makes your characters tick."

Hope the week has got off to a good start for you. Not bad here – recovering a from family do at the weekend. Much fun had by all.

I’m looking at Breaks for Chandler’s Ford Today this coming Friday. Aptly since I’ll be heading off for an autumn break with my other half soon. I will also look at breaks for characters in fiction and ask whether there is any such thing as a lucky break for writers. Link up on Friday.

Later this month, I’ll be interviewing the fantastically funny #Ruth Leigh and if you have read her Isabella M Smugge books, you’ll know why using a hashtag is so appropriate. If you haven’t, go on, what are you waiting for? Looking forward to sharing more on that interview nearer the time.

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)

Pleased to say the October issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out and, as ever, it is free to download. I talk about Character Profiles in Flash Fiction this time and share how I use random generators to create such things.

The random question one is especially useful here and my flash fiction challenge this time was to have a character answer a randomly generated question (which was about wishes). I also invited people to generate a random name for their character if they wanted to and I did so with my own tale for this piece.

Hope you enjoy and do check out the whole magazine. It is a fabulous read. I have two links for you this time. One takes you to Issu and the other takes you to Amazon.

 

Hope you have had a good day. A bit later than usual with my posts tonight given I’ve had a family “do” today. It was lovely to see everyone, the weather held (and I am grateful to God for that – tomorrow’s forecast is grim and timings are not in my hands!), and Lady has a fabulous time with Lily, another family dog. Both dogs got spoiled rotten too so they have had an excellent afternoon!

Managed to get my author newsletter out this morning ahead of “kick off” so pleased about that. It was also lovely to catch up with my lovely editor at Chandler’s Ford Today and her other half at today’s do and am looking forward to joining them for the next Chameleon Theatre Group play later this month.

Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on Coming Home, my new tale on Friday Flash Fiction. In case you missed it, please see the link below.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

How much do you need to know about characters before you start writing a flash tale? I need to know major trait. I can then look at the virtues (and otherwise) from that trait. There is always a flip side! Often story ideas begin to emerge just from doing that.

When I have a twist ending or a humorous punchline “good to go”, I then work out the kind of character who could deliver that twist or punchline. A sombre character is highly unlikely to come out with a laugh out loud line. A Jack the Lad type of character is unlikely to come out with something which stuns people with its philosophical genius.

Yes, there are always exceptions to the rule but you would probably need a longer length of story to establish why these characters are the exceptions. Flash relies on “shortcuts” so if you have got a Jack the Lad character, readers will have a good idea of what to expect from them without you having to spell it all out. Does that mean the character has to be a cliche? Far from it!

Your Jack the Lad character will bring something unique to them to your story. It’s why you’re writing about this character. There still has to be something special about them. Readers will pick up on this and understand why you have to write their tale up rather than than that of another character.

Flash Fiction focuses on THE important aspect of a character's life

It’s Monday. It’s getting dark. It’s getting cold. And it is still Monday. Time for a story then.
Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTube – All In The Timing. It so often is too!

 

I often read out some flash tales when giving a workshop as it is the single best way I think to demonstrate what flash fiction is and can do in ways of impact on a reader. (I know it has helped increase book sales at signing events!).

This is added reason to keep your story moving and to cut out the old purple prose. You want something that is easy to read, conveys a lot of information quickly, and is a joy for the listener to listen to and it should give you joy to read out too!

I practice reading through ahead of an event but I also do so when I think I’ve got a story, not yet published (note the optimistic use of the word yet there!), which I think would make a good one to read out. Best way I know of picking up on phrases which are a little clunky or where dialogue doesn’t quite so flow as well as I thought it did. Still, that is what the editing pen is for.

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Wow, doesn’t the year just speed by? Could be said to go in a flash!

I’ve sometimes used dates in my flash tales (see Losing Myself In Tripping the Flash Fantastic) and used a time period as a framework for my story. In this case I used a diary format but only covered so many entries for a certain period of time as that was where the action of the story took place. It was up to the upper end of the flash limit.

It was fun to do but I did have to select the amount of time I was going to use here. I did this by using selected entries over a time span of two years. Each entry followed on from each other and I left a lot to inference but that is one of the great strengths of flash. You can leave your readers to work things out and I know I love this when other writers do this for me (especially in crime fiction. I do want to have a crack at trying to work out who the murderer is).

It also made huge sense for there to be gaps in the diary entries given what my characters are revealing here but this was all carefully planned out.

So time can be a useful element in a story then but, as with life itself I guess, we have to decide how we’re going to use it best.

BB - Flash with a Dash for TTFF

Goodreads Author Blog – Identifying with Characters

Do you identify with characters? I always have had a soft spot for Hans Christen Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling (and have always loathed bullying of any kind so that feeds in to my sympathy for the character here).

I also like justice to be seen to be done so I am always rooting for the detective in crime fiction unless they are the baddie.

What you value will feed into the kind of characters you root for and I have an especial soft spot for the underdog. I’m on the lookout for seemingly undervalued characters in a story because I am watching for them to turn out to have a major role to play in that story later on – and most of the time I’d be right to do so.

The characters I dislike the most are ones almost inevitably where I don’t share their values (and most of the time rightly so there too!). I’ve still got to be able to understand why they take the view they do though I don’t have to agree with it. That helps me create my own characters – the ones I like and love – and yes I have created characters I really can’t stand! The challenge there is to get into their heads sufficiently well enough to see why they are the way they are.

Screenshot 2022-10-01 at 21-36-48 Identifying with Characters

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Zoom, Flash Fiction, and What Does a Book Give You?

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Full report on my week at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School coming up in my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. Meanwhile, I celebrate flash fiction and share some ways in which Zoom has been so useful to me. Plus I ask a leading question for my Goodreads post this time!

BookBrushImage-2022-8-23-20-2120Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Came back from my Slimming World group to discover only a teensy weensy gain from my week at Swanwick last week. Given what I had, I thought this was a brilliant result and am feeling chuffed and nicely surprised! Lady is not at all sorry the weather has cooled down somewhat. Neither am I.

Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group meeting on Zoom tomorrow. Zoom has made genre groups possible for us, given so many of our members live hundreds of miles apart and could never get to an in person meeting. Zoom is one of the few good things to emerge from the pandemic.

It is also useful as an editing tool. How? Well, you can record a meeting with yourself where you read out your short story or flash piece, end the meeting, and Zoom will turn the file into an mp4 for you to play back later.

I’ve picked up clunky dialogue this way. What looks good written down doesn’t always read out well. I also use Zoom to practice my Zoom talks and help me get my timings right. (And for those of us of a certain age, Zoom was also a great ice lolly! – at least here in the UK it was!).

Use Zoom to record your stories and then play them back to hear them as a reader would take them in


Nice to see some rain here in Hampshire today – drizzle rather than heavy rain for most of the day. Less likely to cause flooding and will still freshen things up a bit.

Back to the real world after a fantastic week at Swanwick. It’s going to be a long week…! Having said that it was lovely taking Lady back to the park today (there are some green bits on it now – not many but there are some!).

I’ll be sharing my Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 for Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. Looking forward to sharing that on Friday. I loved picking the pictures out for that one. I always take loads when at The Hayes.

My next event is likely to be the Bridge House Publishing one later in the year and it will be lovely to catch up with people there too.

What is nice though is this is where social media can come into its own – there are ways to stay in contact with writing friends throughout the year – and social media is at its best for this kind of thing.

Networking encourages your zest for writing


Hope you have had/are still having a lovely Sunday. Back to the writing desk and coming up later this week will be my Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 for Chandler’s Ford Today. Link up on Friday.

Looking forward to the ACW Flash Fiction Group Zoom meeting on Wednesday.

A big hello and welcome to the new subscribers to my author newsletter. The next one goes out on 1st September. Hard to believe we’re nearly three-quarters of the way through the year already. I share tips, story links, and news in my newsletter, especially relating to flash fiction. If you’d like to sign up, do head over to my website (landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Do I sign up to newsletters myself? Oh yes. They’re a great way of hearing the latest from your favourite authors, which is why I love reading the ones I’ve signed up for.

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Have caught up on some much needed sleep after a hectic and joyous and wonderful week at Swanwick.
Glad to share a link to the last flash fiction challenge I set for Mom’s Favorite Reads – and to one of the entries that came in as a result. Hope you enjoy.

Don’t forget MFR is free to download and there are wonderful articles and stories in there. Do check it out. (Glad to say a fellow Swanwicker, Maggie Cobbett, is in there too).

Screenshot 2022-08-23 at 20-03-59 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine August 2022 eBook Publishing Goylake Howe Hannah Smith Melanie Fae Sylva Jones Wendy H Macleod Sheena Symes Allison Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Trust you have had a good day. Looking forward to chatting about all things flash fiction related with the ACW Flash Fiction Group on Zoom tomorrow. And it was great to spread the word about it at Swanwick too.

Don’t forget Mom’s Favorite Reads has a flash fiction column every month, written by yours truly, and I also set a challenge here. Do check it out for FREE.

I was glad to pick up another anthology from the National Flash Fiction Day from the Swanwick Book Room last week. It is important to read in your genre as well as outside of it. You get a feel about what is out there in your field and I find it encourages the love of this form of writing even more. Win-win there.


It’s Monday. I’m back to the day to day tasks after a fabulous week at Swanwick. It’s definitely time for a story. Hope you enjoy my latest on my YouTube channel – Send a Secret.

 

The lovely thing about flash fiction is you can mix up the mood of your stories in a collection. I like to write a mixture of lighthearted tales and those on the darker side, encompassing everything from historical flash to crime ones to twist in the tale to ghost stories.

The word count for flash is limited but you don’t have to be with your characters and settings. I love that aspect. When it comes to putting a collection together, I try to group my tales so you literally do go From Light to Dark and Back Again, I do like to finish on a lightish note.

I usually focus on my character for my stories and then ask myself where would this character best be placed. Sometimes I know I want to write a historical flash immediately so it is then a question of who can I use to serve my tale.

But the character has to suit which is why I ensure I know them well enough by asking myself some pointed questions. It is about working out what you need to know or so I’ve found and then I can get on and draft my tale.

How do characters see themselves

The weekend after Swanwick is useful as it gives me a chance to catch up on sleep and time to start processing ideas etc which came from the courses and workshops. I was glad to spread the word about flash fiction too. I sometimes run a workshop on why flash fiction is useful for all writers, regardless of what else people do.

I hope to resume writing stories for Friday Flash Fiction and my YouTube channel from this week. Sunday is often when I draft those and it means I get two new flash pieces written a week. Does writing more encourage further ideas? I find it does – and the random generators are a great blessing here too. I know where to go to trigger other ideas I would not have thought of alone. They are so useful for that.

AE - Jan 2022 - Random question generators

Goodreads Author Blog – What Does a Book Give You?

This is a leading question is it not? Where to start! Well what does a book give me?

Books give me escapism, entertainment, educate me, and show me things I had not realised I needed to know. Books can and do encourage empathy with characters. I can see where characters come from and why even if I still disagree with the actions they’ve chosen to do. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is something you get to do all the time when reading fiction, regardless of story length.

Books take me away from my problems for a while – and sometimes that break is all which is needed for me to work out solutions to whatever I’m facing. Even when that’s impossible, just having the break away does my mental health the world of good. And I get to discover worlds and situations I would never face for real but that in turn leads me to wonder what I would do in those situations and why.

Books do act like a kind of portal then. And it was the classic fairytales that showed me girls could be heroes too (see The Snow Queen by Hans Christen Andersen for this).

Above all books and stories encourage you to keep on reading. That in turn fuelled in me the desire to write stories and books myself. I see it as a kind of giving back to the wonderful world of books.

Screenshot 2022-08-23 at 08-34-12 What Does a Book Give You

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Characters, Conversation, and Chandler’s Ford Today


Image Credits:  All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Photo below taken by Adrian Symes (though Lady still has work to do on her literary appreciation techniques!). Hope you had a good weekend and an equally good start to the working week. Lady is in good spirits as she has met up with her favourite dog pals this week already.

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

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For Chandler’s Ford Today this week, I’ll be looking at Writing Techniques in Fiction. Now that could cover several books but I’ll be taking a brief overview at things like show, don’t tell and speech tags amongst other things. It took me a while to get my head around the show, don’t tell one. Writing flash fiction helped me enormously there (and of course still does). Link up on Friday. (I think I’ve found a topic for the letter X but I’ll post on that next week!).

Am looking forward to resuming author interviews on CFT again later in the summer. More details nearer the time.

Will be off on another CFT works outing with my lovely editor, Janet Williams, when we go to see The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production Hoovering the Edge, which we’ll be seeing later this month.

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)Hope you have had a good start to the working week. I wrote two flash pieces over the weekend which have specific times in them. Yes, there is such as thing as a random clock time generator! I’ll be sharing one of these on my Facebook book page (From Light to Dark and Back Again) shortly with the YouTube link. See further down. I hope to share the other one later on in the week. Good fun to do this. And as with all of the generators I use, you can set the parameters that suit you. Will be using this one again at some point.

Screenshot 2022-07-04 at 19-58-41 RANDOM.ORG - Clock Time Generator

What is it about a book or short story or piece of flash fiction that grabs you? As you know, for me it is always the character. I have to find out what they’re doing/going to do. What is it about non-fiction that grabs you given you don’t have a character as such? For me it is the narrative voice and a good opening hook. Questions are useful here as you know by the end of the piece some sort of answer has to be given and that is what keeps you reading. You don’t necessarily need to agree with the answer!

I’m a big fan of reading blogs as well as writing them and what I love most is the way you have a “compact” article in 500 words or so. Great way to take in useful information and tips quickly. For my CFT posts, I see these more as articles given I aim for 1000 to 1500 words a time (as any longer than that, it becomes a two or three part series. Beyond this word count it works better as a series and you can hopefully hook readers into wanting to read Part 2 etc).

Asking and answering questions sets up a structure for your piece of work

If you want a great read, why not download the latest issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads? You will find a great range of articles, including my monthly flash fiction column. This time I talk about Flexibility in Flash Fiction.

I discuss why flash is flexible with regard to word count (bar the the upper limit of 1000 of course), genre, and the use of first and third person. I’ve taken advantage of all of those things and created a wide range of stories as a result. You can too.

Best of all, the magazine is free! Time to put your feet up then, have a good read and have a decent beverage to hand I think. (For me that will always be tea!).

And check out the stories which came in as a result of my flash challenge – great tales all of them but don’t just take my word for it. Go on, it really is time for a read!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I sometimes write all dialogue flash stories which are fun to do. I love getting my characters to talk so this is a good format for me. I limit these stories to two characters only and I find most of my stories of this kind come in at the 200 words or under mark. The challenge here is to ensure the dialogue does tell a story and keeps the reader hooked. It can’t just be conversation for the sake of it.

The secret here is to have two strong characters with distinctive voices. Getting them to use certain types of words here can be a great way to tell them apart – one can use slang terms, the other doesn’t. One has a posher sounding name than the other (and I repeat names every so often as well).

Give it a go and have fun with it. You will find out quickly if your characters are strong enough to carry a tale of this type. If not then the conversation will fizzle out and there will be no story. If they are strong enough, you’ll have no trouble sharing their story in conversation.

A classic way in is to have one character want something and the other is stopping them but the conflict here still needs to be resolved via the dialogue only. So it would probably pay you to work out how that could be done first, then work out what leads up to it. The classic writing from B to A again which I use for twist and humorous endings too.

Dialogue resembles real speech but art has to be better than life for this

 

It’s Monday once again and time for another story. Hope you like my latest on YouTube. This one, called Deterrent, is based on clock times generated by a random clock time generator. Yes, really. Hope you enjoy it.

 

Flash fiction is a great format for those humorous pieces which stand alone well (but would not work if used to pad out a longer story. It would either seem like padding or would get “lost” in the overall story). My A Stitch in Time from Tripping the Flash Fantastic is an example of that.

This is another reason to love flash. It gives a vehicle for those tales which might not otherwise be told. For Open Prose Mic Nights, I like to have at least a couple of these funnier pieces in amongst the more serious stories. That in turn shows the range for flash – it can be funny, it can be tragic etc.

Whatever type of flash you write though, you do need to be able to get into your characters’ heads. Otherwise the reader won’t either. And it is the characters that readers want to find out about, whose story they want to read. You are your own first reader.

I like to keep an Ideal Reader in mind when I am going through my stories and to think about how this story would appeal, what would my Ideal Reader be likely to say to me about beefing it up where it is needed and so on. Having your audience in mind from the start has helped me not to go off on unhelpful tangents, which would only get cut out later anyway.

For the funnier tales, I have a fairly broad sense of humour so I try to aim my humorous tales to appeal to that kind of audience, someone like me with that kind of taste.

Laughter in fiction has a great range

Many thank for all the comments coming on on The Big Day, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Much appreciated. This tale came about as a result of my deciding to write a story centred around an anniversary or a birthday. I knew cake had to be involved!

I also mentioned about a week or so ago that birthdays, anniversaries and the like can make a great structure for stories. Something happens at these events. You can also look at how your characters react to them, whether the events go well or not, and so on. Anyway, I took my own advice here!

Screenshot 2022-07-01 at 09-21-26 The Big Day by Allison Symes

Goodreads Author Blog – Story Collections

One of the earliest books I had (and still have) are the Reader’s Digest Fairytale collections. These are two huge books full of the classic tales by Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christen Andersen, and so on. You don’t want to drop these books on your foot is what I am saying here!

I spent hours as a kid looking at the wonderful colour illustrations and later reading and re-reading the tales. I loved The Snow Queen. For the first time I came across a girl as the heroine, the one doing the “derring-do”, and I loved that (and still do).

What I deeply appreciate here is the way people collected these old tales so we still have them now. Invaluable. I also appreciate it from the viewpoint that short stories are worth collecting – they so are!

My late mother collected the works of Dickens, I collected the works of Agatha Christie. Both Mum and I used a book club for these. (Mine was via Odhams Publishers but they set up an Agatha Christie collection kind of club and naturally I wanted the lot. Never regretted getting those).

What story collections do you treasure and why?

Screenshot 2022-07-05 at 20-40-45 Story Collections

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Inspiration and Grouping Stories


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated (and many created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos). Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
I look at inspiration and grouping stories for collections this week, as well as have a look at what led to me creating this week’s YouTube story. 

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Facebook – General

Another mixed bag on the weather front today. Sunshine, strong winds, and rain. There’s bound to be something there someone will like!

Looking forward to going to the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend very soon. I’m running my flash fiction workshop there. I’ll be back at The Hayes, Swanwick. When I get back from that, I’ll need to think about booking my train tickets to go back there again (!) for The Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Hold the revolving door…!

Am running the ACW Flash Fiction Group Zoom meeting tomorrow. Always great fun and lots of information and tips shared. Online groups are a real blessing.

I hope to write up for CFT a report on my recent workshop at the London Jesuit Centre and the ACW one in June in due course but this week’s post really will be on Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions in Fiction. Link up on Friday for that.

Many thanks also for the views in so far on Beach Life – Maybe which is my latest tale/tail on YouTube.
Link to video further down, taster pic below!

Screenshot 2022-05-24 at 20-08-42 Beach Life Maybe - YouTube

Hope you have had a good Monday. Quote of the day from my desk calendar is “A dog is a smile and a waging tail. What is in between doesn’t matter much.”. Sums Lady up nicely!

I was back using the old random generators yesterday. I’ve created two stories based on the premise of “pet peeves”. I’ll be sharing one of those stories on YouTube over on my book page shortly. I must admit though this was a great topic to write about and cathartic too! Definitely a case of writing about what you know too.

And the great thing about using that topic for flash fiction? You can’t go on for too long either!

You could think about the kind of pet peeves your characters would have and why they have those ones. What is the story behind that? There is always a reason for a peeve so can you get a tale out of that? It’s worth a go!

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Glad to say the May issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now FREE on Amazon – see the link for more. (Below).

Now this time I have got things right for flagging up my next post on Chandler’s Ford Today. This coming Friday’s post really will be called Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions in Fiction!

Am currently putting the finishing touches to my flash fiction workshop for the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend at The Hayes, Swanwick, in early June. Talking of ACW, I’m also looking forward to its Flash Fiction group meeting this coming Wednesday, which I’ll be leading. Zoom has been a lifeline over the last two years and, for groups like ACW, it has made certain things possible.

For ACW, this has meant being able to have genre based groups where the members cannot possibly get together in person. One very positive thing to come out of the pandemic!

 

A lovely Saturday here in Hampshire.

Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on my poignant Another Birthday, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. All much appreciated. I don’t always sympathize with my characters but I do here.

I do always know where my characters are coming from and why but nobody says I necessarily have to agree with “their” conclusions. That is a mercy I think for any writer because do you really want to agree with your villains or those characters who are on the “selfish” end of the spectrum? I think not!

 

Facebook – From Light To Dark And Back Again

My inspiration for yesterday’s tale on YouTube, Beach Life – Maybe, (video below) came from a random generator which triggered the question about pet peeves. No problems coming up with a story based on that!

Taking that idea further, think about what your lead character’s pet peeve might be. Focus on just the one.

How would that peeve affect their attitude and behaviour? What would it make them do that anyone else would think odd or just not worth bothering about? Could you get a comic tale out of it, for example? Why not jot down some ideas about what a pet peeve could lead to and see what that could take a character?

AE - March 2022 - Lateral thinking encouraged


Time for a story – well it has been a long Monday so why not? Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTube, Beach Life -Maybe. I have every sympathy with my character, Basil, here.

When I give a talk on flash fiction, I am always keen to share why practicing it regularly helps with whatever other kinds of writing you do.

I’ve found the editing and writing to a tight word count are aspects I’ve carried across into my blogging, for example. It could also be argued a lot of my smaller blogs would count as flash non-fiction anyway (usual word count for that is 500 words to 1000).

Also knowing I am writing to a small word count encourages me to make even more use of those tiny pockets of time that would otherwise be lost. I know I can draft something useful in five or ten minutes to be added to and edited later on. The writing I can get done in that time will be developed further so there is every point in getting it down on paper/on screen.

BookBrushImage-2022-5-22-19-349

The nice thing about any good book is it can take you into different worlds (sci-fi and fantasy etc) and times (historical/futuristic) and so on. With story collections (short stories and flash ones), you can go into different worlds with each story or flash piece you read and all within the cover of one book.

That is what I love about reading flash collections in particular and one element I appreciated when I was putting my first two books together. I love the mixture and often I will use a flash piece or a short story that has especially gripped me to help me decide which novel I want to read next. If I was gripped by a short crime tale, I am likely to make my next novel read a crime one.

What is interesting is when it comes to grouping your short stories or flash pieces in your collection. Do you do this by genre or by mood or by linked characters etc? I do tend to keep linked character stories together as it stressed to the reader these are meant to be linked and I haven’t used the same one again by accident.

Otherwise, I go with mood. I like to read a few darker tales, then I want something to lighten the mood for a bit and so on. I also like to keep in mind what I think my Ideal Reader would prefer. Once I’ve got a rough running order together, I go through the book again to make sure it does work the way I think it will.

Sometimes I find I have to adjust again to make the stories flow better into one another but that’s fine. It’s an interesting aspect to editing and one I enjoy. It feels good when you know you’ve got the running order right and the stories flow seamlessly into one another, creating the impact you want in your readers.

Goodreads Author Blog – The Best Times for Reading

Do you have a preferred reading time? My book reading tends to be reserved for bedtime. Am currently loving dipping into a huge book by Classic FM of classical music facts and figures (the people as well as the musical numbers!). I love reading magazines (especially writing ones) while having my lunch. As for holidays and travelling on trains etc., the Kindle comes into its own.

I like to mix up books and magazines, short stories/flash collections and novels, print reading and electronic reading. I like to see it as keeping my hand in!

But the best time for reading is really any time you can. What does reading do for us?

Well, it entertains, it educates, it takes us away from our troubles for a while, and we can explore this world. We can explore other worlds and worlds which might exist in a parallel universe.

We can go back in time thanks to historical works (fiction and non-fiction) and we can go forward as well thanks to science fiction. We can follow real people’s lives in biographical works and made-up people’s lives across the wonderful vastness of the fictional genres.

Writers take in what works in stories as they try to write their own.

Characters reflect what we know about ourselves. It can be eye opening at times too.

Screenshot 2022-05-24 at 20-50-33 The Best Times for ReadingBookBrushImage-2022-5-23-21-3411

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Kindness and Killing in Fiction – and Snow!


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. My CFT post this week has the most unusual title I’ve ever written to but I show there are plenty of examples of kindness and killing in fiction and not just in the usual genres. It’s good to be back on Friday Flash Fiction as well though I could have done without the snow coming back! But then that’s April in the UK for you!

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Facebook – General

Two posts from me for 1st April 2022 – not an April Fools Day joke, honestly!

The first of the month is a busy time! Am delighted to share the link for the April edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads. As ever, the magazine is packed full of articles, photos, and, of course, stories!

My column this time talked about Dialogue and there was a fabulous response to my challenge to create an all-dialogue piece of flash fiction with a maximum word count of 300 words. Do check the column and stories out – as well as the rest of the magazine. You’ll be in for a great read but don’t just take my word for it – there is only one way to find out, isn’t there?!

Screenshot 2022-04-01 at 19-47-12 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine April 2022Screenshot 2022-04-01 at 19-48-17 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine April 2022

 

 

Second post!
Okay – not so much sleet and snow today. Lady ran around like a mad thing this morning so almost certainly was unaware of just how cold it is right now. I got my gloves and scarf out! Hmm… I thought I had finished with them for a few months but never mind.

Author newsletter out this morning. Many thanks to those who have opened it so far. Hope you find it useful and informative.

My latest Chandler’s Ford Today post is called Kindness and Killing in Fiction, which is probably the oddest contrast I’ve ever written about. The funny thing is though there are plenty of examples of both across the fictional world and not just in the “obvious genres”.

Screenshot 2022-04-01 at 09-18-41 Kindness and Killing in Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

I take a look at why characters must have a good reason (or reasons) for their actions and attitudes, though it doesn’t mean the author and/or their readers have to agree with them. We do need to see where the characters are coming from though – that is where realism comes in I think.

I also share my thoughts on why we read crime/horror when the world is the way it is and discuss signs of strength (kindness for me is one of them) and the role of justice in these stories. As ever, comments are welcome on the CFT page.

Kindness and Killing in Fiction

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Am still not impressed with the weather – have had sleet, hail, snow today. I thought March was supposed to come in like a lion and go out as a lamb. No sign of that happening today. Lady literally shakes it all off though she can have little “snow mountains” on her back until she decides to shake it off. She does this with rain too. I’ve learned to side step her when she does that! Having an extending lead is useful…

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Writing wise, I’m getting on with various blogs and I’m planning to get back to actual flash writing at the weekend. By the end of a week, as long as I have managed to get a good mixture of fiction and non-fiction writing done, I’m happy.

And odd moments of time I use to draft a flash tale or brainstorm ideas which I can use as I see fit. Sometimes I will have a specific brainstorming session where I focus on ideas for future blogs. These sessions always pay off because I have things to come back to later when I’m not feeling so inspired.

And you learn to recognize every writer gets periods like that (and in my case I know it can be fuelled if I’m feeling especially tired). Having a notebook stuffed with ideas though is a great thing to fall back on!

When I haven't much writing time

Hope you have had a good day. Not impressed with the weather suddenly turning cold though it was lovely seeing Lady having a riotous time with her best buddies, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback and Hungarian Vizler. (Good rule here is to stand back and enjoy the show. You don’t want any of the three dogs cannoning into you!).

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I’m talking about Kindness and Killing In Fiction this time. The whole crime genre has a major focus on the latter, of course, as a good whodunnit depend on there having been a crime to solve but kindness turns up more often than you might think.

A huge thank you to all who commented on my More Than Writers blog about Spring-like Writing yesterday.

My author newsletter goes out again on Friday. I enjoy putting these together and I hope you make good use of the tips and prompts shared.

One thing I’ve found useful to remember when rejections/no hears happen is to recall every writer goes through this and there’s nothing to stop you revisiting a story, polishing it some more, and sending it out elsewhere. I’ve had work published doing that. Good luck!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am delighted to be back on Friday Flash Fiction with my The Way Time Smells and a huge thanks to all the who have sent in fabulous comments on this already. This story is loosely based on fact and I evoke how a particular scent takes my character back in time. The scent I use here is one that does take me back in time in a similar way. Hope you enjoy it.

I had the idea for this one because the title came to me quickly and I know I would then need a scent to “latch on to” and why someone would link a scent with something in their past.. I’ve found before when the titles come first that tends to also give me a story structure from the start and I find that really useful. That was the case here.

Screenshot 2022-04-01 at 09-18-31 The Way Time Smells by Allison Symes

I’ve mentioned reading your work out loud before to hear how it sounds and the nice thing with flash is of course that doesn’t take long. The other reason I do it (and record myself to play back later) is to work out a kind of “set” for Open Prose Mic Nights. I like to have a balance of different moods of story, vary the word counts I read to, vary whether I use a first or third person narrator etc. I hope that makes things more interesting for an audience. I know it does for me!

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For humorous flash pieces, such as my Bypassing The System in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I write my punchline down first and then work out different ways as to how I could logically get to that point. I do the same for twist in the tale stories. To me it makes sense to write down what I know I want to be in the story and then work out everything else around it.

Occasionally I have had a go at competitions where they give you a line they want you to put in the middle of the story. That’s a tough call but the way I’ve tackled this is to work out what must lead from the middle line to get to the end.

Having got two-thirds of the story down, I then figure out what the beginning has to be. Sounds a bit convoluted I know but it does mean that I have completed the “brief” and what leads to the middle makes sense as does what comes out from it to the end. I find with these stories knowing what the ending is, again, helps me to sort out the beginning.

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Fairytales with Bite – Time for a Spell?

I’ve long believed that Cinderella’s fairy godmother was somewhat late for the party when she did finally turn up. Where was she when poor old Cinders was having such a hard time of it being ill-treated by her stepmother and her daughters? Cinders could have done with earlier intervention I think – it would’ve limited the misery for one thing.

That said, when is the right time for a magical being to intervene to help someone? Is there a case for leaving intervention as late as possible to (a) give the character to chance to help themselves and (b) to ensure all other options are exhausted first? (Not a lot of comfort for poor Cinders there!).

Whenever you get your characters to intervene magically, ensure there is a good reason for that intervention and that magic is the only option available at this point in the story. Set something up earlier in the story to show magical intervention is a distinct possibility to avoid any disbelief on the part of a reader.

And if you can get a character on the receiving end of such help to do something to help the process, even If it is only by just fetching possible “ingredients”, then so much the better. They are at least contributing to their own positive outcome here.

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This World and Others – Recollections

Memories matter. They matter to individuals. They matter to countries. They matter to a world, fictional or otherwise. Culture is built up (or destroyed) by what people choose to remember. And what is chosen here will reflect a great deal on the nature of the character or culture doing the reflecting.

We, for example, remember the fallen in world wars etc for Remembrance in November. Others may see remembering the fallen as something they simply do not do – they only recall the heroes, the ones who survived.

For your fiction, you can pick elements like that to show the nature of your fictional world overall. A world that celebrates war is going to be very different from one that remembers and honours more peaceful ways of living. A culture that remembers its failures as well as its triumphs is likely to be a better one in which to live simply because it has learned to be honest with itself about its failures.

So what will your characters recollect? What is officially chosen to be remembered? What is remembered but talked about very quietly for fear of the authorities?

What would your characters do if they come across something that has to be told or recollected in some way yet goes against their world’s policy on what is remembered? Will they dare to cross the line here and what would the outcomes be if so? I would suspect there would be more than one outcome. There would be the obvious one of the authorities punishing the character but what would happen if the words had “got out” and others had got to hear the forbidden truth? What could be the outcome from that?

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Travels, Flash, and Feedback


Image Credit:
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Am about to go off on my travels again. Am doing a LOT of talking about flash fiction this week but it’s great fun to do!

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Facebook – General

Busy packing ready for the Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference. Plan to do lots of writing on the train journey. I just love Evernote for this. I still just use the free version of it but find it is enough for what I want to do.

I’ll be off again on my travels in June for the Association of Christian Writers’ Worth Our Weight In Gold Golden Jubilee weekend in June and I am due to run a flash fiction workshop there too. Won’t have to go so far for that one – it’s at my old haunt The Hayes, Swanwick, Derbyshire where I’ll be back again in August for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

I’m getting plenty of use out of my railcard this year at least!

And a huge thank you to the History Writers last night for the wonderful feedback on my talk about historical flash fiction. Feedback is always useful and it is something I especially appreciate from Friday Flash Fiction too.

Now writing wise, when I’ve got editing to do, I block out periods of time to do it as I know I will need to focus. Those odd pockets of time that crop up now and again – ten minutes here, fifteen there etc – are best used for drafting something new or adding notes to something you’ve got in the pipeline.

I’ve discovered this over time of course but I am now better at suiting writing jobs to the time I’ve got available and that matters. It means I end up getting more done overall. Any spare capacity in terms of writing such as trips on train I just write as much as I can. I will find a use for this later. There’s always space for a spare blog column or more flash fiction stories. Little is wasted in writing. You can either find a home for it or learn from it (and ideally you do both).

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Many thanks for the kind comments and likes in on my post yesterday about owing my love of reading to my late mother. I treasure the books I’ve inherited from her too! See below for earlier post.

Looking forward to talking to the History Writers group tonight about historical flash fiction and to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group on Wednesday about random generators.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be a timely one – Journeys In Fiction. So apt since I am travelling up for the Scottish Association of Writers Conference later this week! I plan to post on Friday as normal.

My posts over the weekend will be at differing times but I am looking forward to the conference very much and to reporting back on it in due course. Am also looking forward to catching up with writing friends and making new ones – that is the great joy of a writing event for me.

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Today would have been my mother’s 88th birthday and it is thanks to her I have my love of reading. She taught me to read long before I started school and reading was just such a natural thing at home, it still seems odd to me that there are those who don’t “get” reading for pleasure.

Whether you read the classics, contemporary, the big blockbusters, the flash fiction collections (well, I was bound to mention them now, wasn’t I?!), or are a magazine “fiend,” what matters is reading. From that love of reading came a love of creative writing.

Many thanks, Mum.

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Many thanks for the wonderful comments coming in on Cherryade, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. I remember my kid sister and I going to the tobacconists at the end of our road, clutching our empty fizz bottles, ready to hand them in for money back. Ironically the fizz bottles came mainly from a wonderful firm called Corona – there are less positive associations with that word now! My favourite flavour was orangeade funnily enough.

The tobacconists also ran a sweet section – the old pick and mix types of sweet jar – so of course guess where my sister and I spent the refunds. Happy days – and I really enjoyed writing this story. Brought back great memories.

Screenshot 2022-03-11 at 09-56-02 Cherryade - What Not To Do by Allison SymesScreenshot 2022-03-10 at 20-01-14 Friday Flash Fiction

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am pleased to say the March 2022 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now free to download on Amazon. I write a monthly column here on all aspects of flash fiction writing and I set a challenge too. I talk about random generators this time, something I’ll be talking about again via Zoom to the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction Group tomorrow. Plus there are a wide range of interesting articles, stunning photos, and much more more so do treat yourself to a FREE read.

Screenshot 2022-03-15 at 20-26-41 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine March 2022 eBook Publishing Goylake Howe Hannah Smith Melanie Fae Sylva Jones Wendy H Macleod Sheena Symes Allison Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store

It’s Monday. Not a favourite day of the week for many including me so it is definitely time for a story! Hope you enjoy Alien Concept – am sure many of you will identify with this one.


I love writing across the genres with my flash fiction stories. It continues to be a great joy to write crime flash, historical flash, humorous fantasy flash and so on. I love reading various anthologies (short stories and flash fiction ones) and I love coming across a good mix.

And this is where what I have loved (and continue to love) reading influences what I write. I have to read some crime to be able to write a crime flash piece for example. The wider you read (and do include non-fiction), the bigger the pool you have to fish from for influences and inspiration. If that’s not a good excuse to put your feet up with a good book and a cup of tea/coffee, I really don’t know what is!

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Am so looking forward to being part of the Scottish Association of Writers conference next week where I’ll be running a flash fiction workshop. Always keen to spread the word about this wonderful writing format! Have a busy few days coming up in the run-up to that as I’m talking about historical flash on Monday on Zoom and will be talking again about random generators for another Zoom talk on Wednesday. But I do know one thing – it will all be great fun! Flash should be fun too. The challenge of coming up with different characters and seeing what I can do with them is fabulous and keeps me out of mischief well enough!

Goodreads Author Blog – Drawing in The Readers

If there was a simple way to guarantee drawing in the readers, then someone somewhere would be a very wealthy person for selling the secret to that! Speaking with my reader hat on, I am drawn to a book by (a) its cover, (b) its blurb, and (c) if I have already read the author’s work. If it is someone whose work I know and love, then it is pretty much guaranteed I will go for their next one.

Out of the cover and the blurb, I have to say I think the latter is the most important. That has got to get me wanting to read more. Yes, sometimes, a good book cover will catch my eye and I will want to check it out but if the blurb isn’t up to scratch, I’m not biting!

Once I’ve got the book though I want the characters to keep me reading. I have got to want to find out what happens to them and to care about the outcome. I think you can only do that with realistically portrayed characters whose goal you can understand.

I also want my characters to be “worthy” of winning through in the end. I don’t want it just to fall into their lap, so to speak. I want them to contribute significantly to their success, even with the help of others. I think you should also be able to see why the others would help the lead character with their goal rather than just leave them to it.

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