Questions in Fiction

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 few days. I ‘fess up to one of the downsides of scheduling this week! Let’s just say I think most schedulers get caught out this way at some point and this week it was my turn!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Now I’ve talked before about the virtues of scheduling blog posts etc. It is a useful thing to do but one slight downside is it can mean you get ahead of yourself a bit and I’ve realised I’ve just done that for Chandler’s Ford Today.

My post this week is actually called Questions in Fiction where I talk about using questions as a structure, as inspiration for themes and titles, and I look at questions for characters too.

Screenshot 2022-05-20 at 09-54-18 Questions In Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

My Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions post will be on CFT next Friday, 27th May and will I hope to prove to be equally useful as I discuss why reading matters so much to writers. I will also look at rhythms in stories and how resolutions have to be suitable, even if not happy ones.

Apologies for the mix up but as ever comments on all of my CFT posts are welcome over on the website. (It has been a long week! That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!).

Questions In Fiction

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Hope you have had a good day. Nice to see some decent weather. Other half and I enjoyed our evening meal al fresco which was lovely and not something we get to do that often.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow covers Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions in Fiction. Err… no! See above! As ever comments are welcome in the CFT box. This is always true though!

Talking of comments, many thanks for the comments in on my Authors Electric post yesterday. See below. I was talking about Why I Love the Short Fictional Forms. I love novels, novellas, short story anthologies, and flash fiction collections though I must admit I would like the latter two to have as much “status” as novels.

What every short form writer will hear at some point includes the following:-

1. When are you going to write a proper book?

2. Can you only do short stories then?

3. You must be belting out short stories all the time then because they can’t take you long!

4. Are short stories only for children?

5. Is there really a market for short stories?

Answers (possibly given to stop the writer from gnashing their teeth at the questioner):-

1. A short story or flash collection is a proper book. It still takes time to compile, edit, and proof-read.

2. No but I love short stories so that’s what I write.

3. I do write a fair few but each story needs editing and crafting and that takes longer than you might think.

4. No! Best example here is the original story of The Birds by Daphne du Maurier, which Alfred Hitchcock then turned into a film. Definitely not for kids!

5. Yes. It’s a question of knowing where to look. There are the magazines, including the online ones. There are the competitions. And then there is the indie press who are open to collections.

I feel better for getting that off my mind!

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18th May – Authors Electric
It’s always a joy to blog for Authors Electric, especially when it’s on a topic close to my heart. This month I talk about Why I Love The Shorter Fictional Forms. I celebrate the wonders of the short story and flash fiction formats here.

One great aspect to them is you get the “payback” from a twist in the tale story, to name one example. that much more quickly. And I love going on from story to story in a collection too. In one book I can read a variety of moods and genres. Why should mixed assortments only be for chocolates?!

Screenshot 2022-05-18 at 08-51-06 Why I Love the Short Fictional Forms by Allison Symes

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20th May 2002 – Bonus Post – Mom’s Favorite Reads
Pleased to share a bonus post tonight. Here is an example of a column I write on flash fiction for Mom’s Favorite Reads. The magazine is FREE to download and, as well as the column, I set a writing challenge each month. Why not take a look, have a good read, and give the challenge a go?

Screenshot 2022-05-20 at 12-20-06 Flash Fiction

I like to start the working week with a story (YouTube) and I like to end it with one (Friday Flash Fiction). Seems like a good arrangement to me! Hope you enjoy my latest tale on FFF called Another Birthday.
Screenshot 2022-05-20 at 09-54-32 Another Birthday by Allison Symes

Titles can carry a lot of “weight” for flash fiction but I’ve found they work best when kept short. I like to use my titles to either indicate the mood of the story to come or to be open to interpretation so someone has to read the story to find out which direction I have taken it in. I sometimes subvert well known phrases (my Punish the Innocent is an example of that).

I also like using one word titles such as Expecting – the idea there is to raise questions in the reader’s mind. Who is expecting what? Are they going to be disappointed or thrilled?

So I do give some thought as to what I want my title to be/to do. For flash this is useful as in many cases, the title does not count as part of your overall word count so a writer can use that to good effect.

However, a ten word title to indicate mood etc isn’t going to work. As with the story itself, you want to have an impact on the reader and that works best when kept short. A long title will dilute the effect (and be harder for readers to remember).

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I love slipping in humorous one-liners into my flash stories sometimes. For example in my story, Rewards, from From Light to Dark and Back Again, I have the line “The mocking face of blue-eyed brunette, Gemma Alderson, who was endowed with a bosom that could knock someone out if deployed as a weapon”.

It was great fun writing that but I needed it to have a purpose too – I wanted to send out a specific image (and I so do there!). I could’ve just said that Gemma was big-busted and saved a fair number of words in doing that but it wouldn’t have been so much fun to read or to write.

So yes there is a time when you need more words rather than less in flash fiction but there should always be a specific purpose behind it. Here it was to raise a smile! Good enough reason for me!

Fairytales With Bite – Making the Most of Tropes

For my flash fiction, I can make the most of tropes to help me get the most out of my word count.

If I’ve got a fairy godmother character, I needn’t go into details about the magical equipment she uses, say. You will expect there to be a magic wand, probably a spell book, maybe some pre-prepared potions and so on. You will bring to the story what you know from other fairytales you have read. You will know what to expect. What you don’t want is for something to spill over into cliche.

Yet a fairy godmother character who turns up without a magic wand would seem odd to a reader. So you can use the conventions to your advantage here. You can work out what you don’t need to explain and what you can leave to your readers as they fill in the gaps.

And, yes, things like magic wands can act as a kind of a shorthand. Saves a lot of explaining on your part. Pick your “things readers could reasonably expect” carefully.

If you want to bring in a twist on your trope, such as my fairy godmother character hitting someone with her wand rather than aiming it at them, do explain why. Better still, get your characters to do it. There must be a good reason for the trope being used in a strange way.

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This World and Others – World Building Acrostic

W = Work out whether you’re going to show the whole of your world in a story or just part of it.

O = Originality – what makes your world stand out? How is it different from ours?

R = Realistic characters are always vital. Just bear in mind in a strange setting, those characters can still be realistic even if, say, they are e a great big dragon! Their behaviour and attitudes should be reasonable for the world you’re in.

L = Limits are a good idea, funnily enough. Limit what your powerful characters can do and make them think of alternative solutions to problems.

D = Dreams – what do your characters want and what stops them getting it? Are their dreams/ambitions etc constrained by the type of world they’re living in?

 

B = Build in contrasts. Comparisons with things on earth bring home this is a alien type story.

U = Under your world – what lies there? All sorts of things are being discovered in our seas so what could be beneath current knowledge in your world? Could that have a major impact on them later.

I = Imagination. Have plenty of it! Use the right telling details to help us conjure up what you’ve created.

L= Lunches and leisure – how does your creative world affect them? Does everyone have to stop at a certain time? If so, what would happen on the odd occasion they couldn’t turn up?

D = Dig deep into your characters’ lives but also in to why this setting rather than one other.

I = Intensify the conflicts between certain people groups on your home planet.Look at how these developed. Then ideally come across people from both who will try to put things right. great drama there!

N = New scene, new paragraph. Keep things nice and tight. Drip feed information in throughout the story. Don’t go for big blocks of explaining. Those will be what readers skip.

G = Go for it! Have fun. Think about what you need to know to be able to write the world and characters up.

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Getting The Story Down and Hooks

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. Weather still hot and cold (literally) where I am right now. I guess that’s a kind of bank holiday tradition in the UK!

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Facebook – General

Writing Tip Number 5085 (or thereabouts): When set a writing exercise or responding to a prompt, just get the story down as quickly as you can. Go with your imaginative gut here. You can tidy things up in the edits. It is what edits are for! (And yes there will be more than one).

I’ve mentioned before I always feel a certain sense of relief once I’ve got my first draft down. This is because I know I have got something to work with and improve. I’m not worried about the fact it will need improving. Shakespeare didn’t write a perfect first draft. Neither did Dickens.

Guess what? I’m not going to either! But that’s okay. What matters is having that something to work with in the first place. As someone wiser than me once said, you can’t edit a blank page.

Editing has its creative side too

Hope those of you who had a Bank Holiday today enjoyed it. It was overcast and cold today so we got the traditional weather associated with most UK bank holiday weekends!

Have loved the movie music special that’s been on Classic FM today. As ever, the theme from Jaws gave me the creeps. Am so glad I only ever swim in a swimming pool! Am still hoping the Pink Panther theme will come on. (Apologies for those of you who, like me, are of a certain age, as you too will now have an earworm on the go).

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be my review of The Dragon of Wantley, the latest production from the Chameleon Theatre Company. Link up on Friday. (Many thanks to them for sharing with me some fabulous pics – I look forward to sharing them via my post).

I’ve been using the old random generators again. I used the random noun one this time and chose two items – a waitress and a tiara, an interesting combination! I’ve used both for my story which I hope will be on Friday Flash Fiction later this week. I used just one of them for my YouTube video, which I will share over on my book page shortly. See below for link.Screenshot 2022-05-03 at 20-53-53 From Light to Dark and Back Again Facebook
Happy reading Sunday! Am glad to report the May edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out – see the link. For my column this month, I look at Objects in Flash Fiction and share how these can be used to create some great stories. It helps a lot that the reader can picture the object you choose.

The object I chose for this column was a silver teapot and I share my story here. But do check out the other flash pieces that came in as a result of the challenge I set. There are some wonderful tales here. And you can always make yourself a nice brew in a silver teapot while you enjoy a good read!

Screenshot 2022-05-03 at 20-57-08 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine May 2022 eBook Publishing Goylake Howe Hannah Smith Melanie Fae Sylva Jones Wendy H Macleod Sheena Symes Allison Amazon.co.uk Kindle StoreHope you have had a good Saturday. Spent some time in the garden. Lady loves it out there. Next couple of weekends will be busy so it has been nice to have a quiet one this time.

My monthly author newsletter goes out again tomorrow. Now sent but do sign up on my landing page! I’m planning to review the wonderful The Dragon of Wantley for Chandler’s Ford Today as next Friday’s post. I will resume my In Fiction series after that.

Many thanks for the comments in on Reflection, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. This is an object lesson in not being vain and/or greedy, literally an object lesson. Also it acts as a reminder to be careful about what you wish for.


Screenshot 2022-04-29 at 19-00-20 Reflection by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Bank holidays are lovely but they always make me feel as if I’ve somehow skipped a day all week. Throws the dog a bit too (suddenly wonders where everyone has gone!).

Now how do your characters approach holidays? Do they take any? Could your flash piece be a story about what happened on a holiday?

The nearest I’ve got to that I think is my Camping It Up from Tripping the Flash Fantastic where a vengeful fairy disrupts a camping site. Good fun to write.

Holidays are where the normal routines are suspended for a while so that in itself could lead to interesting story ideas.

Framed Flash Collections


It’s (bank holiday) Monday and time for a story. Hope you enjoy Putting on a Good Front, my latest YouTube video. Let’s just say my sympathy is with Marjorie. See what you think.

 

Hope you have had a good Sunday. The rain is back and the temperature has dropped again – welcome to a UK spring!

My latest flash fiction column is out in the May 2022 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads. I talk about Objects in Flash Fiction this time. Yes, I do use a random object generator to trigger these.

The huge advantage of that is I don’t know what will come up so I “raise my game” to meet the challenge set by the object which has been generated. Making yourself think in different ways encourages creativity. I know I’ve produced far more stories due to doing this.

I like to have a mixture of ways into writing a story as it keeps things interesting for me (and hopefully for future readers too), stops me from falling into a rut, and there is always a challenge to be faced and dealt with. I love that. And I get to do my favourite writing thing all the time – invent new characters to write about!

Screenshot 2022-05-03 at 20-58-14 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine May 2022

 

Almost at the end of another month but at last the weather is warming up a bit.

I sometimes write poetic justice stories. As with the twist endings, I tend to work out what that poetic justice should be first. I want to ensure that is right. I can then ensure my character motivations tie in to it nicely and that the character on the receiving end of the poetic justice really does deserve it! Mind you, it is huge fun working that out!

Whatever my kind of story, everything in it has to make sense. A reader should be able to see where a character is coming from and to understand why they are the way they are.

Motivations need to be strong enough too. This is where asking “what if” helps a lot. I ask what if X happened, would I then really do Y or could I be talked out of it? Or if I was to do Y, what would be the X behind that? There has to be an X here! Characters won’t do things without good reason to do then, any more than we would, which is another way in which fiction reflects what we know.

Character Needs are everything

Goodreads Author Blog – Hooks

As a writer, I think about hooks a lot. I want different ways in which to “lure” a reader into reading my stories, of course. And with my reader’s hat on, I want to be lured into reading by a promising character, an intriguing opening line, a promising idea on the book’s back over and so on.

What I need to make sure of as a writer is that I deliver on my promise to the reader to give them a good read. And with my reader’s hat on I want to find out that character was even more promising than I thought, the intriguing opening line led me into a wonderful story, and the idea on the back cover was fulfilled. The good thing with the latter is that if the author delivers here, I am far more likely to want to read more of their works.

Hooks matter then but delivering on them is even more important. You don’t want the reader to feel let down. Neither do I, as reader, want to feel let down. In situations like that I am highly unlikely to read anything by that author again.

When I’m browsing books, I do turn to the blurb first and then look at the first few opening lines. If I like both, I’ll get the book. The hook has worked!

My favourite kind of hook is the intriguing character one because I want to find out what happens to them and that keeps me reading.

Screenshot 2022-05-03 at 21-09-40 Hooks

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News, Getting Enough Sleep, and Random Scenario Generators


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 the last few days have been okay. More signs of spring here (and no snow!) – my camellia is blooming, the daffodils are out, and my lilac is coming into leaf.

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Facebook – General

I was chatting with a friend at Slimming World tonight about my writing hours. I think people fall into two categories – night owl or lark – and I am definitely in the latter category. I used to be able to stay up to all hours writing. Not any more!

I know I need a certain amount of sleep and I try to ensure I get that. Looking after myself here for me is a non-negotiable. I don’t write well when over tired. Mind you, I don’t do anything well when over-tired! So I work out when I will do my writing and pretty much stick to the same times. When I can get in an extra session or two I do.

But sitting down regularly at the same times has kind of conditioned me that this is now writing time, I get on with it, and I find I can get a reasonable amount done. No two writers will write in exactly the same way. No two writers will work in exactly the same way. You do have to work out what works for you but the getting enough sleep aspect will make a difference, regardless of whether you’re an owl or a lark.

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A busy Monday as always. Never sorry to get to this end of the day when I can relax and write. Managed to make some good progress yesterday on various blogs I write for and that is always handy. It means I’ve always got something to hand when I need it and it compensates for those days when, for whatever reason, I can’t get quite so much writing as I would like done. It happens and you get used to it so when I have a really good day, as I did yesterday, I’ve learned to make the most of it! They say go with the flow. Sometimes the flow is very much with you! I like days like that.

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I’ll be talking about Making Characters Real in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Link up on Good Friday.

Don’t forget the April edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is FREE – see Amazon link below – and it is packed full of wonderful articles and stories. Do try it and check out my flash fiction column on Page 66 where I talk, appropriately, about Dialogue in Flash Fiction.

Sometimes I do write all dialogue flash pieces and this works well in such a short form. I’ve found all dialgoue pieces work best when kept to between 100 and 300 words or thereabouts, slap bang in flash fiction territory of course.

It’s an interesting writing exercise to have a go at too as you have to find a way of showing readers the setting without using description, the conversation between your characters has to be natural and not “info dump”, and it still has to be a proper story with a proper beginning, middle and end.


Hope you have had a reasonable day. No snow this weekend so that already makes it a win! Looking forward to catching up with friends from Swanwick later on via Zoom.

You know I said my next in person event was going to be in June at the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend? Err… that was correct at the time of going to “press”, so to speak! It isn’t now.

Yes, I am off to The Hayes in June and really looking forward to what will be a fun event but in the meantime I’m going to be in London in May running a fiction workshop. Will say more nearer the time but looking forward to doing this and heading off to Derbyshire in June.

Am busy blogging and preparing future blogs as well as talks so plenty to keep me occupied at the old keyboard. I like it that way even though it does mean I tend to wear the letters off the keyboard. Thankfully I can touch type!

Had a lovely time catching up with ACW friends on Zoom last night. I know if my dad was still around, I’d have problems keeping him off Zoom! He’d have loved it.

Writing tip of the day: Never worry about writing a perfect draft. Why? Because nobody ever does. Just get something written, then worry about improving it.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I mentioned yesterday I found a Random Scenario generator and I hope to have lots of fun playing with this.

It strikes me I can use this in more than one way. Use the generated prompt directly. Equally I can take that as a starting point and add my own twist to it. I used yesterday’s prompt of a bit of paper stuck in a chest of drawers as it was but if I wanted to put a twist to that, I could’ve added in another object, a sinister one maybe, being stuck in a drawer further down.

The focus of the story could’ve been on that and then I would reveal what the paper said at the end and it would inevitably be something the character should have found sooner but they were distracted by the sinister object instead. All sorts of things could have come from that – especially the ending. It could make all the difference between the ending being a happy one or not.

So if a prompt really strikes you, why not add in your own “spiel” to it and see where that takes you? It will help you craft a unique tale.

 

It’s Monday, it’s YouTube story time again. I’m pleased to share Reading the Market. Hope you like it. It is very short though! The idea for this one came from a Random Scenario prompt – yes, there is such a thing!


Now you know I hope by now that I do love my random generators for triggering story ideas. I’ve found another one! How does the Random Scenario generator grab you? Well, it grabs me nicely enough and I plan to write up a couple of stories based on what I’ve just generated. Will share what I do with these as yet unwritten stories later but I am looking forward to giving this a go. The screenshot gives you an idea of what you’ll see when you click on the link below.

Screenshot 2022-04-10 at 14-51-02 Random Scenario

The box with the prompt in appears beneath the Generate Scenario button. I hope to have fun playing with this one. And there’s nothing to stop you tweaking the generated scenario a bit so it fits in with your style of writing either.

This is the thing with any kind of prompt. Yes, you can write to them directly and a lot of the time that’s precisely what I do, but sometimes I have a prompt which I like but I can then see a way of tweaking it to make it best suit my style of writing so I do that and away I go. Do use these things as starting points too.

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One important aspect to flash fiction is it makes you focus on what is important for your story to happen and make sense. No boring description. No dialogue that doesn’t add anything to the plot or what we need to know about the characters.

This is why writing flash fiction sharpens up all of the other writing you do. It has helped me a lot with my blogging. It helps me to write down what is important about my story/character but you don’t need to go into chapter and verse about that. Often the odd line or two is enough to keep me on track.

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Goodreads Author Blog – The Joy of Short Fiction

Hands up time. I write short stories and flash fiction so I am bound to be biased here. Regardless of that, I have always loved short stories (and discovering flash fiction was a revelation to my reading diet as well as my writing one). I will read flash and short story collections in between reading novels or longer non-fiction books. I kind of see them as an appetiser for the next “big book”.

But I love the impact of short fiction. You do get the pay-off that much more quickly and I enjoy reading that s well as writing it. I’ve always loved inventing people and thought that the best bit of storytelling. So with my short form work, I get to do that all of the time so win-win there!

And short stories have gone on to be turned into films. The most famous example has to be The Birds by Daphne du Maurier, famously turned into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock.

I also see reading short story and flash collections as a chance to try out an author’s style before I commit to reading their longer work. From a reader’s viewpoint, this is lovely because in an anthology you can get to try out a dozen or so different authors and if some really strike you, then you’ve discovered more authors to try out. What’s not to like about that?

And of course, many an author gets into print via the short fiction route in the first place. I am just one of them!

Allison Symes - Flash Fiction Collections

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Making an Impact with Words – and Delia’s Choices


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
When the news is so grim, and the impact from words can be dreadful, we need stories more than ever, I think.

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Facebook – General

Am delighted to share the link to the brand new edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads for March 2022. As ever the magazine is a wonderful mix of articles, photos, puzzles, and, of course, stories.

My column this time is called Random Generators and I share some of those I use regularly as well as share a story I created using one. As ever it was a joy to read the stories submitted on the the theme I used here. I’ll be sharing the topic for next time soon on the MFR Facebook page.

On a separate note, I was thrilled to see someone I know from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School mention they were inspired by some of my 100 word flash pieces for Friday Flash Fiction and then submitted a piece themselves to the Swanwick newsletter.

Flash is great fun to write – and addictive too! There is always the challenge of can I write a story in 100 words, then 50 etc? And you find you’re never afraid of editing again, as thanks to the restricted word count, you do have to develop a robust attitude and not be afraid to wield the red pen.

https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2022/03/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-march-2022/

Screenshot 2022-03-01 at 17-02-46 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine March 2022

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One good thing about having the 29th as my slot for More Than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers blog spot, is that I get every three Februaries off! Am looking forward to blogging again on there next month.

Now I’ve been planning my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today for a while and this week I’m up to H. My topic is Human Behaviour In Fiction. It’s the kind of topic you could write a treatise about but I’m keeping it to one blog post.

And is it timely with all that is going on in the news? Possibly. It is odd sometimes how something you prepared becomes timely. It can sometimes happen with fiction too. Always sends a shiver down my spine when it happens to me.

Anyway, I’ll be looking at how human behaviour is both reflected in fiction and why it is the cause of fiction. Link up on Friday. Oh and I’ll be sending out my author newsletter tomorrow as well. Went out on 1st March but I share a link to the newsletter further down.


Am thrilled to be back on CafeLit once again with my story Delia’s Choices. This story is a result of the ten minute writing exercise set by #AnnmarieMiles at the last Association of Christian Writers Flash Group Zoom meeting. I set the name thanks to using a random name generator.

Those of us at the meeting all gave this exercise a go and shared the results. There was a lovely range of stories all based on one character called Delia. Writing to a set theme does produce varying results as we all have our individual author voices and those come through especially well when you’re all writing on the same topic. Hope you enjoy my effort here (and do let me know what you think of my Delia).

https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2022/02/delias-choices.html

Screenshot 2022-02-27 at 16-09-25 Delia’s Choices

Many thanks for the comments coming in on Light of the Moon, my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. Much appreciated.

I’ll be sending out my author newsletter again next week so if you would like to sign up for tips, stories, news etc., do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – would be glad to see you.

A big hello to all who have joined since the last edition and many thanks to all who follow me here and on my website.

Now what is the most important thing about any character, regardless of genre, length of story etc?

For me, they have to be relatable whether these characters are human, animal,some odd alien species or what have you. There has to be something I can identify with (though I don’t necessarily have to agree with the character)

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/light-of-the-moon-by-allison-symes

Screenshot 2022-02-25 at 16-16-25 Light of the Moon, by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to get my author newsletter out earlier today. Do take a look (see link at https://mailchi.mp/5955992ab501/allison-symes-march-2022-newsletter-heading-north-again). If you’d like to sign up head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com.

And a big thank you to the lovely comments in on Blue Memories, my latest YouTube story.

Screenshot 2022-03-01 at 20-14-12 Allison Symes - March 2022 - Northward BoundScreenshot 2022-03-01 at 10-10-11 Your Swanwick Newsletter 1st of March 2022

 

 

 

It’s Monday. It’s story time. Hope you enjoy Blue Memories, my new YouTube video. I’ve taken a random object, a blue hanky, and based my tale around it. I’ve done the same for the one I hope will appear on Friday Flash Fiction later in the week. The moods of the two stories are different too. It’s good to mix the moods up and I am relishing getting two ideas out of one randomly generated item.


Flash fiction is the ultimate in the quick read but that doesn’t mean the stories are quick to write. I can get a first draft down in minutes (especially for the 50 to 100 word tales) but the crafting takes much longer. And for me a story isn’t written until it is fully edited and “out there”.

With the limited word count, I am always asking have I really expressed this in the best way possible? Is it better to have extra word count here because it gives more depth to a character and/or moves the story along, and if so (and the answer to this is nearly always yes), what do I cut elsewhere?

Equally do I accept the story is better at 150 words rather than 100? Often the answer to that one is yes too. So all sorts of things come into play when I am putting the final version of the story together and that takes time – as it should do.

What I want is the most powerful story in terms of impact on a reader in the fewest possible words yet to have the best characterisation possible within that limit too. I don’t want much, do I?!

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I read flash collections as well as write them, as it is important to read what is in your genre as well as reading widely from outside it. Firstly, it is important to support the industry I am in and, secondly, it helps me to see what is out there in terms of flash and that in turn encourages me to up my game. I also have come to love flash, as you know, so it makes sense to feed that love by reading it.

Advantage to flash is setting characters anywhere

Goodreads Author Blog – Making an Impact with Words

One of the joys of stories and books is when the words flow, you have to keep turning the pages, and the language just hits you “right there” as it is so appropriate for the character or what have you. And the very best authors add words to the language too, Shakespeare being the obvious one there. There is more than one way to make an impact with words then – have some of your invented ones make it into the dictionaries!

As a flash fiction writer, with a maximum word count of 1000 words per story, I have to make an impact with words quickly. So anything that doesn’t add to my characterisation or moves the plot along gets cut out.

The joy of the novel is having a wonderful reading experience and looking back at that – reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time was a fantastic experience once I had finished the book. It was only by finishing it I could really appreciate the depth and scale of the work. For the short story and flash fiction formats, you get the “pay back” of impact that much quicker.

But the joy of reading widely, in whatever form or genre, is you take in words and their impact and you can learn from how other authors do this to improve your own works so other readers get the impact from your stories, your words.

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Getting Into Character Heads and New Stories

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Images of me reading at Swanwick Open Prose Mic Nights taken by Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn. Image of me book signing at Swanwick was taken by Fiona Park. Many thanks, folks. Looking forward to seeing you again at Swanwick later this year hopefully!
Hope you enjoyed the weekend. Glad to be back to producing stories for YouTube and Friday Flash Fiction.

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Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Many thanks for the views coming in on Lucky Number, my latest YouTube video. It is always great fun putting these together. I adore using the Book Brush tool for videos here and being able to add a music track from YT’s library of free-to-use clips.

I don’t have a lucky number. I don’t believe in such things but characters can and do. How would their belief in a lucky number affect their behaviour? How would other characters respond to their behaviour? Equally what would their belief in an unlucky number cause them to do?

If you set your story in another world, what numbers would that world consider lucky or otherwise? Thirteen, for example, is often considered unlucky because there thirteen people at the Last Supper of Christ, including the traitor, Judas Iscariot. There usually is some reason why numbers have luck associated to them. Could you find interesting stories to tell about that?


Glad to get to my desk to sit and write for a while. Mondays are always horrendously busy for me. Is there a particular day of the week you find challenging? For me it is a relief to get to my desk on any day of the week but especially on Mondays. I find writing so therapeutic and I can feel myself relax as I start).

I don’t know quite what it is but getting into the heads of characters and bringing them to life is just wonderfully relaxing and a challenge. Responding to that challenge gets the old imaginative sparks flying and before I know it I am taken out of myself which I guess is the point! Characters should seem real to you for them to stand any chance of seeming real to a reader.

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Hope you have had a good weekend. Weather better but colder today.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is called Animals in Fiction and I am looking forward to sharing that on Friday. I share some of my childhood favourites here and what I think would be the downsides to writing animal characters. Mind you, this is from someone who wrote a story from the viewpoint of a mother dragon! See below.


Has been a blustery and wet day in soggy Hampshire. Hope things have been better with you (though given the power cut earlier this week I am just thankful to have got in from walking the dog to a nice cosy home!).

Do you find it harder to get your creative juices started at this time of year when it is dark and gloomy (in the UK at least) or does the time of year not matter? I find when I get started, I end up being on a roll. It can be the getting started which is tricky which is why I use a number of ways to help me begin a story. I’ll be talking more about that in my next column for Mom’s Favorite Reads but in the meantime there is always the January issue to enjoy.


Screenshot 2022-01-01 at 17-16-40 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine January 2022 eBook Publishing , Goylake , Howe, Hannah , S[...]

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ll be looking at Animals in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I sometimes have animal characters in my flash fiction but I prefer writing human/humanoid characters. It is easier to give them thoughts and dialogue!

But animals can (and have been used to) represent human behaviour, especially in fables. Many of those would fall within the flash fiction category thanks to their word count. The best fables are kept short. They’re easier to remember this way and especially in the days before print that mattered.

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Pleased to share Lucky Number, which is my latest YouTube story.  See link further up. I used a random number generator to come up with 766, the “lucky” number in this tale. It isn’t usually a number associated with luck, good or otherwise, so why is it considered lucky by my character, Denise? Check out the video – hope you enjoy.
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One of the joys of flash is being able to capture those moments which would not sustain a full standard length short story of 1500 words or more, yet is still a complete tale in and of itself. It means nothing is wasted here.

So if you have a writing exercise jotted down which won’t come to more than 1000 words, why not review it and see if you can turn it into a piece of flash fiction? It doesn’t just have to sit in your notebook!

And given there are more competitions and markets for flash now (especially the indie press), there’s every reason to try and get it published too. Good luck!

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Many thanks for the comments coming in on New Start, my first story of the New Year for Friday Flash Fiction.

Am looking forward to the ACW Flash Group Meeting later on in the month too. That took a break for Christmas and it will be lovely to see everyone again, even if we are in a Zoom box!

When choosing pieces of flash to read out, I usually focus on the 100-worders. They’re to the point and are effective at showing what flash is quickly. If I’m reading at an Open Prose Mic Night, I usually start and finish with a 100-word tale and then have something a little longer in the middle.

Even then I tend to go for the 250-300 words and no more. These stories still have the “oomph” effect of flash but also show you can put in a little more, relevant, detail which adds detail and information that you can’t do in the drabbles.

And it is fun to mix up the word counts I write to – give it a go! There will be markets and competitions for the differing lengths of story.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Why Reviews Matter

Every writer with a book out longs for reviews but they can be difficult to come by. I’ve never really understood why. Reviews don’t have to be long. Indeed the short one or two liners often work better.

And, aside from buying the book itself, leaving a review is one of the best ways you can support authors.

What I like to see in a review (and try to do when I give them) is for the reviewer to give a flavour of what the book is about without giving too much away.

I like to see mention of characters that have grabbed the reviewer’s attention and, in flash and short story collections, which were the “stand out” tales.

Reviews obviously help raise an author’s profile. The author can quote from them on their website, Facebook and social media posts etc. And they really don’t take long to write.

My policy here is to review a book as soon as I have finished reading it. It ensures I don’t forget to do it. Maybe that is where the problem lies. Any thoughts?

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Ideas, Writing Journeys, and Characters Carrying Their Roles

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay images. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Has been a hectic couple of days. Hope all okay with you. Looking forward to hearing my festive flash piece broadcast on North Manchester FM later this week.

Screenshot 2021-12-08 at 16-07-14 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 18 December 2-4pm - Hannah Kate

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Looking forward to sharing my Prep Work post on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. Hope it proves to be useful. After that I’ll be sharing a festive flash fiction post and I hope to include a link to Hannah Kate’s Three Minute Santas show on North Manchester FM. Will be a nice way to wind down as we heard towards the end of the year. (If you want to listen live, the show will be broadcast this coming Saturday, 18th December between 2 and 4 pm).

Just heard we won’t be having our Carols by Candlelight services this year – will be much missed, as they were last year – but I am enjoying a good sing along to Christmas favourites when Classic FM play them. Favourite carol: In the Bleak Midwinter (the Holst version). (Naturally the dog likes Bach – sorry couldn’t resist).

Am getting a newsletter together for the beginning of 2022. I share tips, writing prompts, and all kinds of things here so please head over to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like to sign up.

Ideas are funny things. Some I can get to work on immediately. I can literally see where the idea is taking me. Other ideas I have to “mull over” for a while before seeing possibilities in them. But that is the way of it and the best ways I have found to encourage ideas are (a) to read widely and (b) get on and write.

Writing in itself I’ve found encourages other ideas. There is some truth in the thought the more you write, the more you will have to write about, but the nice thing about this is it includes all forms of writing.

Writing lots of small pieces as I do encourages me to think about what the next small piece could be and I try to get a momentum going. It’s also why it pays to have a notebook to hand. I come back to the ideas I’ve jotted down at a later date. If they still seem good, I then write them up.

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Hectic day today, Mondays often are for me, though a writing session at the end of my day always makes me feel better. There is something about the creative urge that does just do that for me. If I can’t write (as opposed to choosing not to when I have days off every now and then), well let’s just say I am not a happy bunny. And the nice thing with blogging and flash fiction is when time is tight, as it has been today, I can still write something and feel I’ve achieved something. That matters to me.

Having something already drafted ready for working on later helps me satisfy my creative urge too. If I’m not writing, I am editing and that too is a creative process.

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What has changed along your writing journey compared with how you started out? For me, it is the discovery of the wonderful worlds of flash fiction and blogging, neither of which I knew about when I began writing seriously.

Then there are the technological changes too. The laptop I’m writing this on is far more powerful and smaller than the first computer I used. And then there is the development of things like social media and graphic design programs like Book Brush, which have made it possible to create your own videos and share them on YouTube.

The hardest thing for me to adapt to is getting used to a single space after a full stop. Why? Because I am of the age where it had to be a double space. That harks back to the days when typewriter print wasn’t as clear as it is now so the extra space was needed for clarity. I know! Of all the things to have to get used to! Still Find and Replace is a useful function and Scrivener actually has a Convert Multiple Spaces to Space option. (Found under the Format menu – go to the Convert section and hey presto! This one has helped me a lot!).

I do not miss carbon copies. Cut and paste is so much easier to do in a word processing program too.

Zoom has helped me rediscover the joys of PowerPoint too, very useful for author talks.

Change then can be a good thing and I am grateful I can send in submissions by email rather than have to go and queue in a Post Office to get things weighed (especially at this time of year). There is a lot of time of my life I won’t get back there!

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Nice to have a quiet one after a fabulous day at the Bridge House Publishing event last week. Finished the Christmas cards so that’s one writing task completed today!

I’ll be discussing the value of prep work in my Chandler’s Ford Today post next Friday. I’m just not the “pantser” type but I will be looking at how a simple structure to my writing week pays dividends for me. And the principle of planning out what you write over the course of a week can be applied no matter what you write.

Ideas for my CFT posts especially will come out of other articles I’ve written. There is truth in the thought the more you write, the more ideas you will generate. I’ve certainly found that to be true for my blogging.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I use different ways to get “into” my flash fiction but the key one has to be knowing my character. I don’t need to know everything. I need to know what their major trait is as that will often determine the types of action they could be reasonably expected to do. Equally it will show up what they would not normally do.

A coward, for example, could become brave if and only if they had no other option to ensure their own survival. That should become apparent in the story. In this case, I would also like to know what made my character become a coward. Have they always been like that or is there a story to be told in showing how they got to be that way?

And yes you could have linked flash tales here. One showing what the coward faced to become that way, another could show them how they overcame it even if that was forced on them.

Motivation is a powerful reason for our own behaviour. Our characters should reflect that too. Asking your character “what is your motivation here” will also help you get a clearer picture of what they are like. Appearances, after all, can be deceptive.

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It’s Monday, it has been a hectic day, time to unwind with a story. Hope you enjoy my latest YouTube video, Getting the Mix Right. One lady really fancies the changes when it comes to ingredients for her friend’s recipe…


Pleased to say the December 2021 issue of Moms’ Favorite Reads is now up on Amazon for free. As ever, there is a wonderful wealth of features here. I talk about Festivities for my flash fiction column this time and I loved reading the stories that came in on this theme. Time for a cup of something nice and a good read I think!

Screenshot 2021-12-14 at 20-10-34 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine December 2021 eBook Publishing , Goylake , Howe, Hannah , [...]

I sometimes start my flash stories knowing I want to write a funny tale, say. It’s then a question of finding a suitable character who would be able to “carry” a funny role. They themselves need not be funny. Often they’re not. Often they don’t find the situation I’ve put them in funny at all.

It is for the readers to judge whether it is funny or not (though if it makes me smile, I think it will make others smile too. I always write with my Ideal Reader in mind. I ask myself what would they see in this story, this character?). It is all about reaching out to potential readers.

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Goodreads Authors Blog – Reading Acrostic

R= Romance
E = Epic Sagas
A = Adventures
D = Detective stories
I = Intergalatic tales
N = Novels, novellas or new flash/short story collections – the choice is yours.
G = Genre Fiction or literary – again the choice is yours.

Plenty of wonderful books to explore -paperback, hardback, audio, ebook.

Happy reading and I do hope there are plenty of book-shaped presents under your Christmas tree this year!


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Coming Home, Consequences, and Getting Ready for Brechin

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Scottish photos taken by me, Allison Symes. Screenshots also taken by me (though a huge thanks goes to Sarah Archibald for the Brechin/Angus Book Festival poster).
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Today was marginally less hectic than yesterday. Am hoping Wednesday will be better still!

I issued my November newsletter a little early (as it was easier for me to send it out before I went on holiday). If you would like to sign up for a monthly round-up on news, tips, prompts etc., do head over to my website (landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Was good to get back to submitting work to #FridayFlashFiction on my return too. Am loving reading the other stories on here too.

Will be a busy period on Chandler’s Ford Today for a while too. As well as my forthcoming Chameleons review, I have a smashing interview coming up with an author I met as a result of my being a guest speaker at the Hampshire Writers Society (it really is a small world), and of course I will be reporting back from the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. I’m also looking forward to reporting back on the Bridge House Publishing event in December.

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Why is it Mondays are always the most hectic day of the week? Still, it was lovely to see Lady have an absolute ball this morning playing with her best buddy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and her other pal, a charming Hungarian Vizler. The latter, I swear, has the sweetest smile in the park and is always so pleased to see us! Both dogs also make their appreciation of being able to share Lady’s water bottle known as they have their own ways of saying thanks!

I’ll be reviewing Murder with Ghosts, the most recent production staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Some of my favourite influences make themselves apparent in this play. More on this when I share the link on Friday. And if you think the title sounds fun, you’re right!

Sent off my box of books for the Brechin/Angus Book Festival today. It’s always difficult to estimate how many books you will need for events like this but I was pleased to get my parcel off on its way.

And talking of books, I hope to share further publication news soon.

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It is true what they say about needing a holiday to get over your holiday! Having said that, it is lovely to be back at home after a lovely break away.

Am delighted to say the November issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out. See link below. My article is about Memories, appropriate for November of course, and there are splendid flash pieces in as a result of my theme. Do check them out and I hope you find the article inspiring. What role could your character’s memories have in their stories? What happens if memories “clash”? Perspectives differ after all. Plenty of food for thought for stories there.

I’m also pleased to be the featured author on Page 50 of the magazine. And remember it is FREE.

The journey home acts like a grand tour of Scotland. It is fascinating to see the landscape change from mountains and rivers to farmland to lowland. In previous years, when we’ve been here in late May, there has still been snow on the mountains.

As ever, Lady didn’t really want to go home. She loves it on the beaches here but she will adore seeing her friends again next week.

I shall be finishing my prep work for the Brechin/Angus Book Fest this week and resume flash fiction writing so plenty to look forward to there.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One of the reasons I love the 100-word story is the fact you don’t have to wait long for the pay-off! I also enjoy the challenge of having to keep coming up with characters and story lines. And stories like this are easy to share on social media and I think make a great advert for what flash fiction is and can be.

Flash as a whole has sharpened my writing considerably and I find myself asking where is the story in this character I’m thinking of writing up. That’s a good thing. Knowing where the story is helps a lot later on too when you need to tell people what your tale is about. You will definitely know and you do need to be specific. What you don’t want is the glazed expression on the face of your audience as you try to tell them!

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Pleased to be back creating YouTube videos once more. Hope you enjoy Consequences. It was great fun to write though I have muted sympathy for my character here.

Good to be back home again after a wonderful Scottish break. (Particularly pleased to be home as weather conditions yesterday were horrendous and I hope everyone is okay). Looking forward to being back in Scotland next week too! Have had the delightful task of boxing up books ready for the Brechin/Angus Book Festival, which will be from 19th to 21st November. I plan to write up a report on the Festival for Chandler’s Ford Today after I get home again (and hope my current post there on Making the Most of an Author Event proves useful).

One lovely thing about events is I can often get to demonstrate what flash is by reading some out. It doesn’t take long and it can lead to sales! Am also looking forward to running a flash workshop and giving an author talk about The Ups and Downs of Becoming an Author as my route to the writing life has had its fair share of cul-de-sacs! Nor did I expect to end up being published in flash fiction. I do not regret this however!

Also pleased to be the featured author in the November issue of Mom’s Favorite ReadsAmazon Link for this further up.

And I hope to share further publication news later this week too. It’s all go right now but that is good! (Also can’t wait for the Bridge House Publishing celebration event on 4th December in London. So looking forward to catching up with writing friends there. We last met up in person in December 2019 though Zoom has been a lifeline – and a great way to share the wonders of flash fiction writing!).

Every story has to have a turning point. In flash, of course, you reach that point a lot sooner. That in turn makes you focus on what leads to that point.

It is why twist in the tale stories work so well in flash and why I often write that line first before working backwards to reach a logical beginning.

But there is nothing to stop you having that turning point right at the start of your tale. When I do this I have already sketched out various ways in which I could take that promising start. The one that has the most impact (by having an equally intriguing middle and satisfying ending) is what I go with. It pays to take time out to work out different possibilities. Best of all it’s fun too!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Mixing Up Your Reading

I like to mix up my reading in different ways.
Firstly, I mix up fiction and non-fiction.
Secondly, I mix up reading novels and short stories/flash fiction anthologies.
Thirdly, I mix up reading in paperback/on Kindle.
Fourthly, I watch stories (via film) and listen to them (via radio, audio books).
But the important thing is getting the reading in and doing so regularly. What I love to read directly inspires what I write.

Online retailBooks are books regardless of format

books signage

Photo by Paul Stollery on Pexels.com

people reading books in library

Photo by BERK OZDEMIR on Pexels.com

assorted books

Photo by Tuur Tisseghem on Pexels.com

opened book on tree root

Photo by rikka ameboshi on Pexels.com

BookBrushImage-2021-9-17-20-3426AE - July 2021 - Great characters will keep you turning the pages

Random Generators, Endings, and Exercise

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
A good start to the week – new story up on Friday Flash Fiction and a new video to share. Also getting closer to the Brechin/Angus Book Festival (19th to 21st November 2021) and am so looking forward to taking part in that.

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Hope you have had a good day. Busy but enjoyable one here. Managed to get out for a swim today and set a personal best so well pleased with that. When I started swimming regularly, I did think I would use the time in the pool to think out story ideas etc. Not a bit of it!

I just don’t think of anything other than trying to keep count of what number length I’m up to but I guess in some ways that is the point. I come out of the pool refreshed and it is that which helps get the writing brain going again after a break from the desk.

So having found this to be the case, it gives me reason to plan out my exercise spots to ensure I do get regular breaks from the desk. Writing is wonderful, great for the brain, but is stationary so the swimming and walking the dog are the two things I do to balance that out a bit.

Busy start to the working week. I submitted a new story to Friday Flash Fiction yesterday and created a new story video for my YouTube channel. Sunday is rapidly becoming flash fiction and story day! Not that I mind. I find it helpful to have a writing structure for the week as a whole. It also means I tend to get straight into my writing day by day and end up getting more done so it does pay to plan out what you’re doing over a week.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be about book lists. I prepare two of these a year – one for my birthday and the other for Christmas. I look at the value of lists like this. Let’s just say it makes me easy to buy for! But posts like this are great fun to write as it is a celebration of books in general and there is always time to write posts like that!

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Pleased to share a link to my recent feature in Mom’s Favorite Reads. My theme for this month was Light and Dark in Flash Fiction. You can have a lot of fun with both of those themes. I share several ways in which you can take these themes too. When I was putting my debut flash collection together for Chapeltown Books, I found my stories fell into these two basic categories so used that to inspire the title – From Light to Dark and Back Again.

Do check out the flash fiction stories other writers have come up with to my theme. There are some fabulous stories coming into the magazine. Don’t miss out. It is free and a good read.


Hope you are having a good weekend. Can’t get over how quickly it gets dark now and we haven’t even turned the clocks back in the UK yet.

A huge thanks for all the comments coming in on Clockwork, my latest #FridayFlashFiction tale. Much appreciated.

Advance notice: I’m not going to be about on 1st November so I will be sending out my author newsletter on 29th October, a couple of days early. This time I’m doing this deliberately! If you’d like to receive said newsletter, please head over to my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – the landing page takes you straight to the sign up form.

It’s going to be a busy few weeks. I’m off to see Murder with Ghosts staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group on Thursday and I’ve a number of writing things I want to either wrap up and schedule or prepare to take with me as I enjoy a short break from the end of next week.

And I’m getting ready for the Brechin/Angus Book Fest too in November and am looking forward to that and joining up with fellow Bridge House Publishing authors at their celebration event in December. In between all of that, I might just get ready for Christmas!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I use a variety of random generator (words, numbers, adjectives, questions, nouns – just to list a few) as all of these give me different trigger points for getting “into” a story. They also make me think outside the box a bit too which is a good thing. It keeps me on my toes. It also means I will never run out of prompts!

And practicing writing to these different types also gives useful practice at writing to different prompts set in writing classes, conferences, and the like because you can never know what will come up with those. (Well, not unless you’re the speaker and you set the things anyway!).

I’ve found it gives me even more fun in coming up with stories precisely because I’m stretching myself here to use things I would not ordinarily have come up with by myself. I’ve written a story this week where I had to use the words egg and bear in it. Done. Submitted it. But I would not have come up with those two things in one story. They’re not an obvious combination.

You can also think of using generators as a warm up writing exercise. Write for five/ten minutes on what comes up. Edit and polish later. Submit later!

Hope you enjoy my latest YouTube story, About Time. This story was triggered by my using a random time generator (yes, really!) to give me the time that appears in this tale. I realised after coming up with the title that it was even more appropriate than I realised when I first read through my initial draft of this. Serendipity perhaps? Maybe but I like it when it happens.


Endings don’t have to be happy in stories. They do have to be satisfying though. The ending has to make sense of what has gone before and be appropriate for the character. In the case of A Christmas Carol, that ending would not have worked unless we had seen Scrooge undergo his transformation from the greatest miser to someone who has learned the value of generosity and kindness. It took something spectacular to shake Scrooge up – and he got that in the form of the three spirits. (I refuse to believe that’s a spoiler now after all this time!).

All stories pivot on a point of change and it is the character who changes in some way. Not all change has to be positive though!

In my story Rewards from From Light to Dark and Back Again, my character’s point of change is when she gets rid of someone who has been in her way for far too long. You’ll have to read the story to find out what my character did and why and what the outcome of that was but the point remains – change does not have to be positive. We read stories to find out what happens so must ensure that something does happen!

This is why for my twist tales I write that twist down first and then work out what could have led to it. This ensures I do go the best plot line leading to this point. And it means I have my appropriate ending all set up good to go. I just need to go back to the beginning and fill the rest in but I do know where I am heading.

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I’m busy preparing for the Brechin/Angus Book Fest which is from 19th to 21st November 2021. I’m running a flash fiction workshop here and giving an author talk.

So looking forward to doing that and catching up with writer friends at this event too. Always happy to spread the word about flash fiction (and often at events one of the best ways of showing what flash is and can be is to read some. That has always gone down well. I’ve often felt adults like being read to as much as children love being read to – it’s just it doesn’t happen so often for us).

See below for more details on the Brechin event. There is a rather familiar looking book in the top right hand corner! This festival will be my first in-person book fair kind of event for at least two years and it will be lovely chatting to people in that kind of environment again. Book festivals are always great fun (and of course are great places to go if you want to get on with your Christmas shopping!).

Goodreads Author Blog – The Role of the Indie Press

Now I’m not unbiased here. I’m published by the indie press and the big thing they do for the world of literature is give many more authors a voice. The world of books is richer for that. There is more choice out there. It is just a question of knowing where to look (and why it is even more vital for authors to have their own websites so we can point people in the right direction!).

Naturally authors like me who are published by the indie press will support said indie press. It is literally in our own interests to do so but I would like to encourage others to try out books brought out by them too. The indie press does provide more variety so why shouldn’t we have that on our book shelves?

And a lot of the indie press will bring out short story, flash fiction, and poetry collections. That give us so much more variety in our reading and what’s not to like about that?

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Sayings – Their Uses in Fiction and Non-Fiction

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Image of Lady and I examining a delivery of Tripping the Flash Fantastic was taken by Adrian Symes. A huge thanks to Fiona Park for taking the wonderful shot of me signing books at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August 2021.
Hope you have had a good week. Looking forward to getting out and about on the train again tomorrow for the Association of Christian Writers’ first Writers’ Day in well over a year in London. Will be so lovely to meet people I haven’t seen in person again for so long.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s time for my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post and this is on a topic I really should have written up a while ago. Sayings – Their Uses in Fiction and Non-Fiction is one of those themes with my name on it as I do use sayings a lot in my creative writing. I’ve used a number of well known sayings as story titles and even more as themes.

And many of the old sayings could be used for non-fiction work too. I share a few tips here on how to use sayings but so they don’t become cliches, which I hope proves useful. Sayings are well known for a reason but it pays to put your own spin on them so you can get something unique from them for your story or article. That is by far the best way to avoid falling into cliche territory.

And you can change a word in a saying to put your own spin on it. I did this for my Punish the Innocent in From Light to Dark and Back Again. Subverting a well known saying for your own purposes is not only fun, it intrigues the reader. After all, we usually talk about punishing the guilty so, in the example of my story, I would hope a reader would be curious enough to find out why it is innocent in this case.

Best of all, there are loads of well known sayings so they are useful just as a source of ideas to get you started, even if you don’t use them directly. Course you could do both – as I do!

Sayings – Their Uses in Fiction and Non-Fiction

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I don’t know where the predicted sunny spells ended up today but I do know they didn’t show up in my part of the world. Today has been a classic murky autumn day.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post with you tomorrow. This week I’m talking about Sayings – Their Uses in Fiction and Non-Fiction. I talk about how I use these in my writing and share tips about avoiding these becoming cliches. I also take a look at character sayings. These can be an effective device – many of our well-loved characters have a pet phrase – though I think the secret is not to overuse them.

What aspect of writing do you find the most fun? For me, it is the editing. Yes, really. I know I’ve got a story down. I know what I’m going to do to it will improve it and help its chances “out there”. And when I do get to submit the piece, I know I’m sending in something far better than what I originally drafted – and that is how it should be.

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Hope you have had a good day. Writing wise, my post on Light and Dark in Flash Fiction is now out (via Mom’s Favorite Reads) and there are some cracking stories based on that theme too. Well done, everyone! (Link takes you directly to the relevant page – see https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2021/10/06/light-and-dark-in-flash-fiction/).

Screenshot 2021-10-06 at 20-01-30 Light and Dark in Flash FictionScreenshot 2021-10-05 at 16-34-08 Amazon co uk Mom's Favorite Reads October 2021

I tend to work on my next post for Mom’s Favorite Reads directly after I finish the last one. I find this a useful technique for everywhere I blog (Authors Electric, Chandler’s Ford Today, More than Writers etc). When I do get odd pockets of time, I will draft future blog posts and work out where to place them later. It is always a good feeling to know there is “material in the bank” good to go when I need it.

I’m also finding Friday Flash Fiction useful here given it encourages you to prepare a story for the next Friday’s magazine directly after the current one has gone live. It is helping me to produce 100-worders more regularly. For my YouTube videos, I set my own deadline and ensure I stick to it. Over the course of a week, I get a balance of fiction and non-fiction writing done.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy Leaving It Late. Has my character done exactly that? Read the story and find out!Screenshot 2021-10-08 at 16-41-23 Leaving It Late, by Allison Symes

Just to flag up the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently on offer on Amazon. See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic for more details. Have also topped up my supply (which is always a nice thing to do).

Looking forward to seeing both of my collections on a book stall once again when I go to the Association of Christian Writers event on Saturday, 9th October. It will be so lovely seeing book stalls again! I love a good browse…

Every so often I will draft promising opening lines or twist endings for writing up into a story later. The great thing with this is when I come back to them if the ideas still grab me, they’re likely to grab a reader too.

It can be difficult sometimes working out if an idea really is as good as you thought it was when you first came up with it. Time away from it for a while will help you assess it properly. I also find if the idea still grabs me (most of the time this is the case), I am then fired up, keen to get that draft down, and away I go. You don’t lose your enthusiasm for a really good idea. Time away from it, if anything, increases your enthusiasm because you know deep down this will work.

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I like picking open themes for my blog posts (such as for Mom’s Favorite Reads) and flash fiction tales. I like having “manoeuvre room”. It is also more likely I will be able to come up with a twist that surprises the reader but is compatible with my story and character having an open theme. More interpretations (and therefore more twists) become possible with an open theme.

But I do need time then to work out which would be the best option to use and I use spider diagrams to help me here. I’ve found taking the time to work out the best options saves me so much time later. I find I come up with different ideas and the first couple I can instantly dismiss (too samey, seen it before etc).

I then find I have a couple of promising ideas and I then ask a series of “what if” questions. That usually shows me out of two possible ideas, which is the most likely to engage the reader. If I’m engaged with it, someone else will be.

I also look at why something has engaged me and as long as it is something to do with the character portrayal, I go with it. I say that because any story is depending on strongly portrayed characters who appeal to the reader in different ways. As long as there is the likelihood this character will appeal because… then I’m likely to write them and their story up. (The reason because can vary as different readers take different things from characters but as long as there is at least one good reason a reader would want to read this character’s story, then I go with it).

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Fairytales with Bite – Light and Dark

Now this is a popular theme for me given the title of my debut flash fiction collection (From Light to Dark and Back Again). The title came about as I realised my two preferences for stories inevitably contrasted with each other. I love humorous/light stories. I like a well crafted darker tale too. And, with few exceptions, most characters are a mixture of light and dark.

Most readers like to read about flawed characters because we know we too are flawed. Most readers are bored by the “goody two shoes” with no spirit to them. Most readers are horrified by those who are just pure evil with no prospect of redemption. (Redemption or the possibility of it is a wonderful theme for stories).

So how will you show light and dark in your characters? What dark aspects do your “good” characters have to show they are well rounded, so a reader can identify with them precisely because they’re not perfect? What lighter aspects do your villains have to show they are nor caricatures?

For your setting, how does light and dark work in a physical sense but also what would be these be politically? Is there such a thing as a good government in your world? What would your characters see as being light and dark and would that agree with what we would consider such things should be? Not every world has the same values after all.

 

This World and Others – Generation and Regeneration

Now I’m a Doctor Who fan of longstanding so the idea of regeneration is not new or one I’m fazed by. In your fictional settings, do you have characters who can regenerate? How does your world generate its food, power supplies, anything it needs for the world to function properly?

Generation and regeneration can be reflected in agriculture. How does your world grow food? How does it generate seeds? How can it ensure crops can keep being grown?

If your setting is an old one, has it had periods where it has to re-generate or re-invent itself or face obliteration? How did it rise to the challenge here?

What are relationships like between the differing generations? Do the great ideas only come from one section of your society? And where there is pollution how can your setting “start again” and build a world where there is onoing regeneration?

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Creative Matters: A New Direction and Mom’s Favorite Reads

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing kindly supplied by Wendy H Jones (as was her own author pic). Some images for Creativity Matters created in Book Brush by Wendy H Jones and Allison Symes. Image of yours truly proudly holding up one of her copies of Creativity Matters taken by Adrian Symes.

Other images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos as usual. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

A busy week with Creativity Matters now being out and my latest article is also out in Mom’s Favorite Reads. 

Moms Favorite Reads - September 2021

Creativity Matters

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am thrilled to welcome back #WendyHJones to Chandler’s Ford Today to talk about Creative Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing.

Wendy shares with me what made her decide to go into publishing other authors and how she has found this aspect of her own writing journey. She also shares fabulous tips for writers on working with editors and publishers, as well as marketing tips.

All great information regardless of what stage you’re at in your own writing journey. I’ve found from experience that what might not be directly relevant to me now becomes so later on and I have been so grateful to have that information to fall back on when I needed it.

We also discuss the technical side of bringing books out and Wendy shares what skills she has had to learn to take on something that is brand new for her. She has written from the cradle to the grave, in terms of audience, but publishing others is a first. There are always learning curves but these are what keep us on our toes as writers and help us develop and achieve more than we might once have thought possible.

Wonderful information here and a big thanks to Wendy for sharing this.

Creativity Matters – Wendy H. Jones – A New Direction

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Pleased to say the September 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out. My topic this time is Frames in Fiction and I look at how I use a frame format for some of my flash fiction writing. See my article for more on why this is a useful thing to do and do check out the excellent stories that follow which are on the topic of framed. Loved reading those. Hopefully you will too! My story on the theme is part of my article.

What with Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing, it has been a busy week for celebrating and talking about flash fiction!


A huge thanks for all of the wonderful responses to my post about Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing yesterday. It is always a joy to share author pics, proudly holding book etc! Especially since in the early years, I received outright rejections or simply didn’t hear back from publishers. (The latter is even more common now given time constraints for most publishers and agents).

Persistence and willingness to learn from mistakes are crucial attributes for any writer. You do get better the more you write. You learn what works and, just as importantly, what doesn’t.

I recently judged a flash fiction competition for The Byre Writers. Great fun to do and many congratulations to the worthy winner, #SuzanneMilne with her Why Can’t You Hear Me? I often talk about impact in stories, especially flash fiction. You are looking for the “wow” factor. This one had that in spades.

When I enter competitions I try to come up with unforgettable characters who will move me. If they move me, make me laugh, cry, scream, or what have you, they’ll do that for someone else, including hopefully the competition judge!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Confession time: forgot to submit anything to Friday Flash Fiction this week but I was pleased to see more stories by more people I know on there. (Particular shout out to #HannahRuthRetallick, #VeronicaBright, and #ElaineLangford here).

Browsing the stories on here every week is a great joy and is a fabulous way to discover the wonderful world of flash fiction. Submission rules are easy to follow too so why not give it a go? (And yes I plan to get another story on there again soon).

Screenshot 2021-09-03 at 20-22-56 Friday Flash Fiction

Just a quick reminder that I’ll be talking with #WendyHJones about Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing tomorrow in Chandler’s Ford Today. Link further up. My chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories and it was a joy to write. I’m always up for celebrating flash fiction and spreading the word about what a wonderful format it is… not that I’m biased… much!

I am also in the September issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads and discuss using frames in flash fiction writing. See link for more. And don’t forget Friday Flash Fiction if you are looking for somewhere to send your 100-word stories. The feedback I have had here has been incredible and so encouraging. This is nice because this doesn’t always happen online. Happy to share the link for MFR twice – it is a fab magazine with a wide range of articles and stories. It is a joy and pleasure to write for it.

 

One of the things with flash fiction is working out exactly where to end the story. I know, I know, that’s true for any story, I hear you cry. True but given you have less room in flash, it is even more important to get it right.

This is one reason why I will often “start” with a closing line (which is often a twist or a punchline) and then work backwards to get to a logical start. Let’s call it writing from B to A rather than A to B. (Mixing up how you approach is a story is good fun and keeps you on your toes. It also encourages you to think in different ways which encourages lateral thinking and greater creativity as a result).

I aim to leave a story where the tale is concluded but the reader senses the characters could go on to “live” in other stories not told by me at this time. That’s a good sign of characters coming to life for the reader and helps maximise character impact. I know when I read works by other writers, one of the things I love most is, having got to the end, I can still envisage those characters living lives outside of the novel or short story concerned.

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Fairytales with Bite – Magical History Lessons

In your fantasy setting, what role does history play? How much of your created world’s history is known by your characters? And do mistakes from the past come back to haunt your characters now?

When it comes to education, whose version of history is the “accepted” version taught in schools etc? Is there an alternative history that is suppressed because it is a threat to those in power?

When it comes to fairytale history, do stories such as Cinderella and Snow White form the basis of what is taught as in a magical setting, those could be “real life” tales and be treated as such? Are there fairytales that are considered unacceptable and so are not taught? Why are these “banned”? What would happen if word about them got out? Would it make your people re-examine what they’d always taken to be the truth?

Whatever your setting is, whoever your characters are, there has to be something “behind” them in terms of history. Characters have a past. The setting also does (and you could examine what changes have happened over time here too. Are they better? Is the environment damaged by the changes? Has it affected people’s magical abilities in the same way pollution here on Earth would and does choke our planet? All interesting story ideas to explore).

What matters is getting across to a reader what they need to know but to do it in an interesting way. You almost slip the information in so readers pick it up, almost without noticing. What you don’t want is “info dump” and characters should never tell each other what they ought to know. Readers will see right through that, correctly too, as a way for an author to get information across without “telling” you but it doesn’t really work. Dialogue has to be what you would reasonably expect characters to say and I know I don’t tell people I know what I know they already know! So our characters mustn’t either.

What you could do is get a character to ask another what they opinion is on a historical event in their world which is having impact on their world today. We say history goes around in cycles. There’s nothing to stop that being true in your fictional creations.

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This World and Others – Compare and Contrast

A good way to get started with creating a new setting is to compare what you think you want to write about with what we know exists here. For example:-

Planet Earth has 71% of its surface covered in water. That in turn means we have all sorts of creatures living in water or around it or who are dependent on food from it. So what if your fictional world didn’t have water? What would it have it instead? What creatures would live in that substance? Equally if there is a reason for your world not to have water, as we know it, what is that reason? Is it because your world is a gas giant say and what your characters depend on is being able to breathe using that gas?

Politically, you can take what we know here about democracies and dictatorships and apply them directly to your creation or come up with direct opposites. Equally you can have your world have something that is far superior or inferior to what we have here, depending on your preferences.

For characters, you can take what we know about human behaviour and apply that directly to your alien being. Or your alien being has a totally different nature to ours – e.g. it is not motivated by a desire to survive, it is motivated by a desire to befriend other species so all survive.

But comparing and contrasting is a great place to start. It can help you find a way in to your world and character building.

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