Originality in Fiction and Alphabetical Writing Thoughts


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.
It has been a busy few days. I have two blog posts to share tonight and a new story on Friday Flash Fiction. In most of the UK, it is a bank holiday this weekend so I hope those who can enjoy it. Wouldn’t mind the weather being a bit warmer though!

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today and More Than Writers

Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s a busy night tonight. First up, I’m pleased to share my latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today. I talk about Originality in Fiction and discuss whether or not we can be truly original in what we write given we are all inspired by what we have read and as there are only so many basic plots.

I also look at finding and making the most of your author voice (which is key to being original), and at how to put your own take on an idea. Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful and do share your thoughts on originality in the comments box.

Oh and talking of CFT, Janet Williams, my lovely editor, and I had an absolute ball at The Dragon of Wantley pantomime put on by the Chameleon Theatre Group last night. Oh yes we did! Review to follow in due course.

Janet and I very much treat our trips out like this as “CFT works outings”! They’re an absolute joy to go to -and the panto was a hoot from start to finish. The Chameleons had to delay this from January but it was definitely worth the wait! More to come in my review.

Originality in Fiction

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More Than Writers – the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers

My second post tonight is for More Than Writers, the blog spot of the Association of Christian Writers. I blog monthly here and my topic this time is Alphabetical Writing Thoughts. Great fun to do and I get to share a number of useful tips and hints. Again, I hope you find this one fun and useful.

 

Am off to the panto this evening with my lovely CFT editor, Janet Williams. Oh yes I am…!

So not too much on the writing front from me today though I will be making up for that tomorrow with my double blog for CFT and More Than Writers. That’s it. No blog for ages then two come along at once, you know how it is!

I have no idea what the storyline is behind The Dragon of Wantley, which is what I’m off to see tonight, but I do know it will be fun finding out. And it will be lovely having a nice night out with guaranteed laughs – that is the joy of panto. Yes, it may be unseasonal but The Chameleon Theatre Group had to put it off from January and I say better late than never, especially after the last couple of years where there was no live theatre at all. It is lovely having live events back again.

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It will be a double blog from me on Friday with my Chandler’s Ford Today post out on Originality in Fiction. Also my More than Writers post, where I blog monthly for the Association of Christian Writers, will also be out and I’ll be talking about and sharing Alphabetical Writing Thoughts. I look forward to sharing both posts later in the week. See above.

Don’t forget I send out my author newsletter on the first of the month so if you would like to sign up for tips, prompts, news etc., do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I’ve mentioned before for my fiction work I always have an Ideal Reader in mind. I do the same for my blog posts. I try to think of what they would find useful about this story or blog of mine and tailor them accordingly. I find doing this helps stop me going off at unhelpful tangents. Having an Ideal Reader in mind from the start helps with targetting your work to the right place (market or competition) as well.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I hope you enjoy my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. The starting point idea for my story, Reflection, comes from a random object generator and I then took things from there as to why my character would want the object.

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

I sometimes write historical flash fiction pieces. For these, I give my characters the benefit of being able to speak to us in language we understand so I don’t use Olde English. It’s not easy to read and clarity is everything for a story, especially a short one. What I do do is be accurate and everything I come up with is either based on fact or reasonable supposition given the known facts.

I sometimes get my characters to address us the readers and then go on to show us their perspective on things. I hope this is a way of making those characters seem more real. I think that is even more important the further back in time you go. It is easy to forget these were real people with real feelings. I hope my flash pieces here can correct that to an extent. Honesty in characterisation is vital as otherwise the reader simply won’t believe the people you present to them.

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Hope you have had a good day. Chilly today. Not that Lady noticed. She was too busy running around with her best buddy, the lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Whether I write my stories in the first or third person, I try to ensure my opening line has an intriguing hook immediately. There has to be something to entice the reader in to want to find out what happens next.

With my reader’s hat on, I know I want to be enticed to go on reading! Okay, okay, you don’t have to try too hard with me to get me reading. I do read the menu in the fish and chip shop because it is there, it has words on it, and words have to be read etc but I can be switched off by something that doesn’t grab me.

Writing flash fiction has meant that I have to hit the ground running from the opening words. There is no room to “run into” the story. And if I’m not intrigued by the story premise, I also know nobody else will be either. I have to be excited about writing it!

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Fairytales With Bite – Fairytale Acrostic

F = Flighty fairies, not likely!
A = Able to conjure up spells to bring down the arrogant – and they do.
I= Intelligent and they see right through to a character’s soul.
R = Reality for them is coping with everything from a dragon to a witch trying to build gingerbread houses again.
Y = Young? Not necessarily. The best have been around for centuries. Age is not a thing for them.
T = Tough but kindhearted, yes you can combine the two. They are anything but twee.
A = Always ready to help someone in distress.
L = Like helping people, loathe liars and cheats.
E = Experts in getting to the truth of a matter and not caving in to evil.
S = So why would you annoy a fairy? Only if you’re incredibly brave or foolish and my money would be on the latter.

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This World and Others – Games and Puzzles

When I’ve finished writing for the day, I like to unwind with an online game of CrossCraze (a version of Scrabble). So words still come into my “play time”! But I inherited my love of word games, as I did my love of reading from my late mother.

So in your created world, are games and puzzles a “thing”? If so, can anyone join in or do certain species play one type of game or puzzle and others have their own they have to stick to? Are the games and puzzles anything like the ones we have here? If so, what is different about them that could only exist in your fictional world?

I love a game to relax but what does your world use them for? Could they use them to assess intelligence (and therefore someone’s role in their society)? Can they use the games to control people?

Or is this kind of thing seen as a waste of time? If so, what kind of recreational activities are your people allowed to do and why are they only allowed to do these?

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Spring-like Writing


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.
A hectic start for the week for me after a lovely and happy birthday weekend spent with family. Mind you, snow is forecast later in the week. Never let anyone tell you the weather in Britain is dull – it is anything but!

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Facebook – General

It’s my turn on the Association of Christian Writers blog spot, More Than Writers, today. This time I talk about Spring-like Writing. What do I mean by that? Well, I take a look at the mood of our writing but also discuss the “energy” within a story. Hope you enjoy the post and many thanks to all who have sent in some wonderful comments already.Screenshot 2022-03-29 at 20-34-37 Spring-like Writing by Allison Symes

Hope you have had a good start to the week. As ever, it has been a hectic Monday here but at least there is only one Monday in any week! Had a lovely weekend with the family (Lady adored having everyone here) and I was back to story writing yesterday.

My latest More Than Writers blog for the Association of Christian Writers is out tomorrow, I’ve sent something off to Friday Flash Fiction, and I’ll share a new YouTube video on my book page shortly. See below for link. So not a bad start to the writing week then!

I look to complete certain things by the end of the week (such as two of my website round-up blogs on the Tuesday and Friday) and then work on stories and blogs around that. It means I know what I’m doing on each day and helps me ensure I never waste a minute of precious writing time.

I like to hit the ground running for my writing as well as getting my characters to do likewise. It keeps things interesting for me – and I trust for my characters too.

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#Had a wonderful time with friends and family at my birthday do yesterday. Lovely to have a good chat with the fabulous #JanetWilliams, my editor at Chandler’s Ford Today. It’s been a funny week. I started off coming home from Scotland to having a big do and I could so have done without losing an hour’s sleep this morning thanks to the clock change!

Talking of CFT, I resume my In Fiction series this week with an interesting post based around the letter K – Kindness and Killing in Fiction. How can I get a post out of a topic where the title is such a contrast? Link up on Friday – you will have to wait until then to find out!

My author newsletter goes out next Friday as well (see my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com for the sign up page).

Talking of my website, a big hello to all who have started following me here – it has been encouraging to see steady growth here.

And last but not least, there is an offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic over at Amazon. Do check out my Author Central page for more details at http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent


Getting together with family and friends today so thought I would post early. How do your characters handle get togethers? Do they relish them or dread them? And who controls the events? Is your lead character really the one running the show? They might think they are but…

Get togethers are often the source of family traditions so which would your characters have and do they uphold them? Do they cherish them or feel they are being held back by them? For your lone characters, which traditions do they remember from the past and do they miss these? How do they cope with being lone characters now? There is a sense of loss implied here so your story could focus on that.

This is where our own life experiences can help us in crafting a tale. We all know loss. We may not know what it is like to live on an alien world but we can take what we know of life here and help our characters to come across better to a reader. Empathy matters.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Have had one of those days where I’ve run late all day. But the nice thing about flash, and something I especially appreciate during a busy day, is with its restricted word count, I can still carve out five minutes some when during the day to draft a story! Or jot down ideas for stories, possible titles and so on. Those quick writing times mount up and give me a store of things to come back to when I’ve got more time. There is nothing to dislike about that scenario!

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It’s good to be sharing story videos on YouTube again after a brief break due to my being at the Scottish Association of Writers conference. Hope you enjoy A Scent of Sense. This story was triggered by a question which came up on a random question generator – what is your favourite smell? I thought it a good way to write a tale based on one sense and to focus on that.


If you’d like to check out some of my flash fiction, do visit my YouTube channel. As well as sharing mini stories there, you can find the two book trailers for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic, here, both of which have a free story included in them. Hope you enjoy (and new subscribers to my channel are always welcome).

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Am having a family do today in celebration of my birthday. It will be lovely seeing everyone again and the weather is gorgeous. So am posting early. I’ll be resuming my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today next Friday. I also hope to get back to writing for Friday Flash Fiction this week. And I’ve a number of blogs to draft so I will be out of mischief for some considerable time!

Now there’s no reason not to use gatherings in your stories as long as they move your plot on in some way. What could your character find out at a gathering that will make them change what they do next? And could it change the outcome of the overall story?

If your character Is the shy type and a gathering of any kind would fill them with horror, how do they find out information they will need for their “quest”? And how would they handle things if they absolutely had to to go a gathering? Don’t be afraid to drop your characters right in the mire – this is where you find out if they will sink or swim and where you will find out so much more about what they are capable of, whether that’s in a good way or not.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Celebrating the Booksellers

We should celebrate the booksellers, yes? If you’re lucky enough to have an independent book store near you, make the most of it! Even where you have a known chain, still support them. Where I am, we were lucky enough to have a lovely independent book shop as part of our main shopping centre but the owner retired (understandably) and now the nearest bookshops are at least five miles away.

One of the joys of going to a writing event, such as the one I’ve recently returned from, is there is usually a book stall connected to it. These are often run by a local independent bookseller so, as well as supporting the authors whose works you buy, you support these good people too. And it does make sense to support the industry you want to be part of!

Although online ordering can be convenient, I don’t want the physical bookshops to disappear. I think we would lose something important. Browsing through bookshop shelves is a far more pleasurable experience than trying to browse online!

So go and support your local bookseller. You know it makes sense.

Screenshot 2022-03-29 at 20-47-10 Celebrating the Booksellers

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Starting and Finishing and Creativity


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.
Hope you had a good weekend. Nice quiet one here but lots of exciting news to report this time plus I hope a useful blog I prepared for the Association of Christian Writers on Starting and Finishing.

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Facebook – General

You know how sometimes there is no news and then all of a sudden there is loads to share – well today is one of those days for me.

Delighted to say my new author newsletter is now out there (for more do see https://mailchi.mp/22ec1b09a6da/allison-symes-february-2022-newsletter).

Many thanks also for the comments in on Tears Before Lunch, my most recent Friday Flash Fiction story. See https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/tears-before-lunch-by-allison-symes for more.

And I’m delighted to share the link to the brand new edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads which is free. See https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2022/02/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-february-2022/ – the range of articles in here is amazing. Do check it out.

Has also been a good day for another reason – I’ve booked my place for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Can’t wait to go and there is plenty to look forward to before then.

I’ll be at the Scottish Association of Writers conference in March and running a workshop on flash fiction there. So looking forward to that – https://www.scottishassociationofwriters.com/workshops-speakers/

 

Hope Monday hasn’t been too trying. Newsletter out tomorrow, new story video out (will share link on my book page shortly), and pleased to have submitted a new story to Friday Flash Fiction. I’ll be discussing Dialogue in Fiction for my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday.

I use more dialogue in my short stories (1500 words plus) than in flash though I am counting thoughts as internal dialogue and I do use that a lot in flash. It’s a great way of taking you straight into a character’s head and showing you their thoughts and attitudes. You see things as they see them and I think it a good way of developing character empathy. Okay you may not always agree with them but that’s another matter! You at least see where they are coming from.

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Hope you have had a good weekend. Lovely to catch up with writing friends on Zoom last night. Always such a morale boost. Am getting my next author newsletter up together ready for sending out next week. If you would like to sign up for tips, prompts, news, stories etc., head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

What would you say was your favourite kind of story? I suppose mine comes from my life long love of fairytales in that I love to see wrong being righted and the underdog to do well. Mind you, that does open up a lot of possibilities for reading material as well as for writing stories. Wrong being righted is a common theme to crime stories after all. And the underdog aka the hero nobody expects to be a hero is a common theme in fantasy.

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I talk about Starting and Finishing for More Than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers, this month.

I discuss how I often get into starting a story by using a random generator and share why spider diagrams are so helpful too. As for the other end of the story, I look at how for twist in the tale stories, it is a good idea to write that twist down first and then look at what could lead to that point.

I also look at whether planning your work out kills off spontaneity.

Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The new edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is out and you can download it for free. See the link at https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2022/02/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-february-2022/ for more.

In my column this month (see Page 42), I talk about Creativity. I look at some of the different ways I use to trigger story ideas and fuel my own creativity (and I discuss picture prompts and random generators amongst other things. I hope to talk more about random generators for a future column as these are so useful). My theme for people to write to this time was What Creativity Means to Me and the responses to that were wonderful but don’t just take my word for it – go and treat yourself to a good and free read!

 

Hope you enjoy my new YouTube story – No B Gratitude. This story was inspired by something that came up on a random question generator – the question was what was the most recent silly thing you’ve done?
So I got my character to show you! (There’s also a pun in the choice of music chosen for this one – I was so pleased to find it available to use from YouTube’s comprehensive audio library which is the audio equivalent of Pixabay for photos).

Just to flag up there is an offer on From Light to Dark and Back Again at the moment over on Amazon.

What do I love most about reading flash fiction by other writers? Firstly I learn a lot from seeing what other people do with the format. Secondly, I love to see what writers do when writing to the same theme and word count.

The Waterloo Art Festival Writing Competitions held in the last few years were a great example of this – the fifteen winners for each year, including yours truly, all wrote to the same theme and word count yet the stories were so vastly different.

Last but not least, it encourages me to “up my game” and see what I can do better. Why is that a good thing? Because it fuels the old creativity “grey cells” and helps me produce (a) more work and (b) better work because I have tried to stretch myself a bit.

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Twist endings work beautifully in flash fiction precisely because you don’t have to wait long for the pay-off! I’ve always loved that aspect of things. And the nice thing here is you don’t have to limit twist endings to crime stories, though that is the obvious home for them.

Twist endings can also be punchlines so will work well for humorous tales. And a monologue can be enlivened by a surprise ending too. For this kind of tale, I always write the twist first and then work backwards to get to the start. It seems an odd way of doing things to begin with but you do get used to it. It also means you have a logical plot leading to that final twist. You don’t want your twist let down by a weak start or flabby middle.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books and Trains

Books and trains are a match made in heaven (especially publishing heaven!). As well as stories inspired by train (and my favourite here is Murder on the Orient Express – the ultimate train, yes?!), books are the best form of portable entertainment and a fabulous way of passing the time.

I must admit I wait to read until I know I am on the train I want otherwise there is the risk I will still be reading at the platform long after the train has gone! (It helps a lot if I know I’m going somewhere like London Waterloo which is the end of the line as I know I can’t miss my stop either!).

It is no coincidence that the major stations have bookshops on them. For me the perfect way to escape the cares of the world is to read, ideally while listening to classical music via my headphones. (If there’s a cup of tea or hot chocolate to hand, even better!) And if I’m not reading stories while travelling, I am writing my own so I love that too.

It probably helps that I write flash fiction which a dear friend described as a “bus stop read”. It works well on trains too!

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Out With The Old?


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. Hope you have had an enjoyable Christmas break. Happy New Year!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Firstly, may I wish you a very Happy New Year.

Secondly, I’m pleased to share Out with the Old?, my new post on Chandler’s Ford Today. Hope you enjoy it. I talk about whether you should necessarily discard everything that is old about your writing (old markets, old work which has been turned down, old ways of doing things) and about appreciating the new.

I also look at how this time of year is a great opportunity to assess where you are writing wise and maybe set some plans for the coming twelve months. And I also include a timely reminder that it is a normal part of the writing life to have to take the rough with the smooth, which gives added reason to celebrate the positives in writing when they happen.

Out with the Old?

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One of my post Christmas treats is to have a day trip to Dorset with better half and Lady. Cobwebs well and truly blown away. Lovely time had by all. Big walks are not where I find story inspiration funnily enough. What they do achieve is being something where I chill out. It’s being in that state of mind which does achieve kickstarting the old imagination.

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Posting early today but am pleased to share my latest post for More Than Writers, the blog spot from the Association of Christian Writers.

This time I talk about Aspects of Writing. I look at what I need to know before writing and why it helps to accept a first draft is not meant to be perfect, far from it!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Will be sending out author newsletter tomorrow. I share tips, prompts, links to stories and videos I’ve created etc, as well as news. To sign up head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Given flash is brief, and newsletters work better when they’re kept fairly short, a flash fiction based newsletter is a good match up I think! (And Tripping the Flash Fantastic is still on offer over at Amazon – see screenshot).

Happy New Year!

Screenshot 2021-12-31 at 20-21-21 Tripping the Flash Fantastic Amazon co uk Symes, Allison 9781910542583 Books

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Looking forward to resuming drafting drabbles at the weekend. The 100 worder is a great form to practice as there are plenty of competitions and markets for it. Check out the Writing Magazine Competition Guide or do a web search. And if you can write to that tight a word count, it will help you draft your blurb and synopsis for longer works.

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Lovely warm and sunny day for the time of year though Lady did manage to find all the mud in the park this morning!

As I write this on route to see family, I get glimpses of people, houses etc. Now any of these could spark ideas for flash fiction pieces. Who is that person? Why do they live where they do? Have they always lived there? If not, what or whom made them move? All story ideas there.

Anything that triggers you asking questions, start wondering “what if” etc, will have good flash potential to it. And people watching is a great one – just be discreet. Nobody should be able to guess what or whom inspired your story unless you tell them.

Fairytales With Bite – New Beginnings

This is an apt topic as we rapidly approach 2022. Do your characters see a new calendar year as a chance to have a new beginning or is this not something which would occur to them perhaps because their world does not celebrate the passing of time like this? If the latter is the case, what would make your character decide now was the time to begin again and which aspect of their life needs them to have a new start?

You could argue that a new beginning for a fairytale character should start after the “happily ever after” bit because your character(s) would be making a new life for themselves. And there are stories to be told here. How well did Cinders, Snow White etc adjust to married, royal life for example?

I should stress that does not need to be a negative story. They could adjust very well indeed but it would be likely they would need time to adjust, they would make mistakes, and it would be there that the stories could be told. How do they overcome all of that?

How supportive are their spouses? What mistakes would they make as they adjust to married life themselves? Certainly there would be space for good romance stories there – and probably humorous ones too, if the couples overcame the issues in a humorous way.

New beginnings, for me at least, would be positive stories and there is no reason why that can’t happen in a fairytale world. For me, here, the stories would be more interesting if the fairy godmother was not called in to sort things out and the couples had to sort things out themselves, probably making a bit of a hash of it along the way but overcoming that too. (Don’t we all do that at times?!).

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This World and Others – A Brand New World

I don’t know about you but the New Year period can feel a little like we’re about to enter a brand new world. There is (usually) more optimism and hope around for the start of the next twelve months. Okay, at the end of the year, we tend to look back and review whether the year was as good as we’d hoped for or not. In the case of 2020, with the onset of Covid, I suspect it could be named the Year Everyone Wants to Forget. (And I suspect 2021 is not going to score too highly in the Best Year of All Time Awards either!).

How do your characters respond to a new time in their lives? Are there the equivalent of New Year celebrations? If so, how are these celebrated and do your characters join in with this? What is societal expectation here? If not, how is the passing of time marked in your fictional setting instead? Why is it different from what we know? What would make your characters feel like they were about to enter a brand new world? Are they right to feel that way?

Taking your setting and characters a whole, what is the prevailing mood? Is it optimistic or pessimistic and why? For example if your world is generally optimistic because it is at peace, most people have all needs met etc., what would it take to change that mood? What would make it become a brand new world in a negative way? (And you can swap that round too – what would make a negative world positive? In either case, are the changes permanent?).

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SEASONS IN WRITING - When life gets in the way be kind to yourselfWriting Routines varyTime awayGood advice whatever your walk of life

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What Books Mean to Me, Bridge House Publishing, and Random Questions

Image Credit:- 
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as was the photo of one of my stories from The Best of CafeLit 10. I also took the photo of my books at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Not so cold today and Lady got to play with her pal, Coco, who is a very lovable Labradoodle.

Looking forward to sharing this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post. I’ll be writing about the recent Brechin/Angus Book Festival and sharing why events like this matter (and not just to the authors taking part either). Link up on Friday.

Am putting finishing touches to my author newsletter too and that goes out tomorrow, 1st December. Can hardly believe we’re almost at December already. (And I do hope you have a good number of books on your wish list!).

Also, I was delighted to come up with a new idea for a flash fiction story when I was taking part in the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction group recently. Have written it up, polished it, and submitted it. Now fingers crossed time!

It’s my turn once again on the More than Writers blog for the Association of Christian Writers. This time I talk about What Books Mean to Me and the challenge here was to keep to the 500 words limit!

Mind you, it is a topic every writer could go on about at length. We’re inspired by what we read. The more we read the bigger our “inspiration net” from which to fish. And we’re supporting the industry we want to be part of – win-win there I think.

Screenshot 2021-11-29 at 19-35-05 What Books Mean to Me by Allison Symes

Brr… another cold day here. Am grateful for thick clothes, big coat, long scarf, and gloves for walking the dog. Glamorous? Err… no!

I’ll be talking about What Books Mean to Me in my blog for the Association of Christian Writers tomorrow. See link above. The challenge there was keeping that topic to 500 words! You can see how I did tomorrow when I put the link up.

Pleased to see more comments coming in on Moving Along, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction.

Am working on material for another Zoom talk in February and I’m almost there with material for my third flash fiction collection. It will need robust editing before I submit it but I am hoping to get that off by the spring of next year, earlier if possible. I am happy with the material in and of itself but I know thorough editing will sharpen what’s there and I enjoy that process.

But it is also a relief to know I’ve got the book “down”, the stories are a good mix, and editing will improve them still further. What’s not to like there? Do I wish it was a quicker process? Sometimes. But I know I need a decent break between writing the stories and then going back and editing them. Taking the time there has helped me enormously in the past to see more clearly what is working and what doesn’t. It then gives me my best chance of submitting the best I can to a publisher.

Screenshot 2021-11-26 at 19-21-09 Moving Along, by Allison Symes

Hope everyone is okay. Very stormy conditions in the UK today. Hampshire saw snow, sleet, rain, bitter cold, and strong winds for a lot of Saturday. Even Lady wasn’t that impressed. She isn’t usually fazed by the weather.

Am busy getting my author newsletter ready for sending out on 1st December. I share tips, prompts, video links and all sorts here. Head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if this sounds of interest.

I’ll be talking about the recent Brechin/Angus Book Festival for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Many thanks once again to Lynn Clement for the recent two-part interview. It is always a joy to interview other writers for CFT as I always learn something interesting/useful to know (and often both).

The great thing with creative writing is that it is an ongoing process to find out what it is you like to write and then to try and get better at it. Good for the old imagination and the brain as a whole. And then there are all those competitions and markets to still try and crack… no excuse for becoming bored then!

Screenshot 2021-11-30 at 20-37-37 The Appeal of AnthologiesCreative writing is a joy

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am looking forward to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event on Saturday. It will be nice meeting up with Lynn Clement again, whose The City of Stories, has recently been published by Chapeltown Books. I recently interviewed Lynn to discuss flash fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today.

Flash is a wonderful format for sharing on social media. For something to entertain without taking up too much of anyone’s time, it can’t be beaten. And it is easy to share at in-person events too. In the busyness of life, it is great to take time out for a very quick read indeed!

I’ve found it pays me to just get the story written and worry about the editing and word count later. Some flash pieces genuinely do work better at 250 words rather than 100 words, for example. It is only by getting the whole story down and giving myself breathing space to look at it properly later, I can see that yes, this needs to be kept in and that doesn’t.

Over time, you do develop an instinct for what will work better at a slightly longer word count and I’ve learned to trust that instinct when it kicks in.

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Back to my normal slot for story time. Hope you enjoy Going On. This one came about as a result of a question from a random question generator (what can you talk about for hours?). I’ve used the same question as the basis for my story for Friday Flash Fiction this week too. Good fun to do.


Am glad to report there’s a special offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic on Amazon right now. See link below. And a big thank you to those who have picked up the Kindle version recently too. Much appreciated (and if you have time to leave a review, even better).

I’ve mentioned before I’m often using Sundays to produce new stories for YouTube and Friday Flash Fiction respectively and I often use the random generators to trigger my ideas here.

Having a quick look at a random question generator, the question that cropped up was “what can you talk about for hours”? I don’t know yet if I will use that for my stories tonight but the thought struck me it would be a good question to ask your characters as you outline them. You are sure to find out more about what makes them tick by getting “them” to answer that. It should highlight some of their overall attitudes to life too.

For example, if the answer is “military history”, say, you could then dig deeper to find out why your character is fascinated by that. What does that reveal about them? Could an opponent use this against them in some way? And there’s your story outline as you think about the answers to those questions. Using one question to trigger others works for story outlining.

http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Small.jpg

I often write festive flash fiction. My last Chandler’s Ford Today post of the year usually features some. And I have just written a piece and submitted it on a festive theme. Will report back it if it gets taken. I often share a festive dribble (50 words) or drabble (100) words on my Facebook pages too. (The 50 word ones also work well on Twitter).

I see it as a nice way to wrap up the old year and hopefully the tales will raise a smile or two. Naturally I keep the theme for thee stories light. I do avoid any kind of whimsy though. Even tales featuring Santa will have a bit of a bite to them (albeit a nice bite!).

And when I do write a fairytale kind of story, again apt for the rapidly approaching season, there will be a twist or a sense of irony in the story somewhere. Fairytales were never meant to be twee. I think stories with humour are often the best for getting any kind of message across anyway. It helps to make it palatable.

But what I want most for my festive fiction is for there to be a sense of fun about them. I certainly have fun writing them and I hope that comes across.

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Goodreads Author Blog – The Appeal of Anthologies

Naturally I am a bit biased here as I’m honoured to have several of my stories appear in various anthologies over the years. It’s a pleasure to write short stories for these and even more of a pleasure when said tales are accepted.

But, regardless of that, I have always had a soft spot for anthologies. Why? I like to see them as a reading “mixed assortment”. Who ever said that just worked for biscuits or chocolates?! It works for books too!

What I get most from anthologies is the wonderful range of talent on offer. I get to read authors I might not have come across otherwise and, when the anthology is to a set theme, it is fascinating to see how so many different writers bring their own take to that topic.

I deliberately read anthologies, including flash fiction ones, between novels. They do act almost like a “starter meal” for my next longer read. Indeed, if I’m not sure which novel to read next, by the time I’ve come to the end of an anthology, I know which mood (and therefore genre) of novel I want to read next.

So do check the anthologies out. (They’re also useful for seeing if you like the work of an author new to you. If you like their short work, it is highly likely you will like their longer books).

And happy reading – short and long form!

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Book Lists, Writing Days, and Competition

Image Credit:-
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.
Hope you have had a good week. I’m off for a short break from 30th October. I plan to keep posting but internet connections may get the better of me so I will see how things go! (Definitely back here on Tuesday, 9th November if I can’t post).

BookBrushImage-2021-10-29-19-1056Facebook – General – and

Chandler’s Ford Today and Association of Christian Writers

29th October – CFT

Am writing on a topic close to my heart for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I’m writing about Book Lists. Every writer has two – one for books they want to read and others they want to write! I’m focusing on the ones I want to read for this one. Posts like this are a celebration of books in general and those are always a good thing to celebrate! Hope you enjoy the post.

Book Lists

 

 

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29th October – ACW

It’s a busy night on the blogging front for me today but I am delighted to share my blog on More Than Writers. This is the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. This time I talk about Writing Days and I share hints on how to make the most of these as well as how to re-create some of the buzz from events like these when you’re at home. Hope you find it useful (and a big thanks for the wonderful comments already in on this one).

https://morethanwriters.blogspot.com/2021/10/writing-days-by-allison-symes.html

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Am posting very early as this evening I’m off to the theatre again. I’m going to see Murder with Ghosts staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group and I hope to review this show in due course. I’m also meeting up with my lovely editor, Janet Williams, so it will be a Chandler’s Ford Today “works outing” in many ways. Haven’t had one of those since December 2019 when Janet and I were at the Chameleons last show before You Know What disrupted everything. I love a good spoof and the title of this play sounds very promising!

Talking of CFT, I will be sharing my post tomorrow about Book Lists. (You must have at least one on the go, yes?).

It will be a busy day on the blogging front as my post for the Association of Christian Writers is also up tomorrow. Plan to do two separate posts about these. See above.

I may need to share my author newsletter a couple of days early as I won’t be about on 1st November. You know how sometimes things pan out beautifully – one thing comes along, then another, then another and all is well. Well, sometimes you get everything happening at once and I’m at that point right now! Takes deep breath, will stay calm and carry on!

 

Lady had a fabulous time with her best buddies, the Rhodesian Ridgeback and Hungarian Vizler today. It was lovely seeing them run around. Lady has to have a good run once a day (the rest of her exercise is walking) and what is nice is I can always tell when she’s really enjoyed herself. How? On the way home, she will look up at me with bright shining eyes and her tail is going nineteen to the dozen as if to say “thanks, Mum, I needed that.”. Dogs are honest about how they feel. We, and our characters, aren’t necessarily!

If you have a character who has to hide their true feelings, they’ve got to have a decent reason for doing so. It is a common theme in romance of course but it can apply to other genres too. Ironically in crime stories, often you will know who the murderer is, it is case of finding out how the detective finds them out. That wonderful series Columbo was brilliant at that. As the story plays out , we find out how the murderer tried to cover up their tracks and of course they can give away no signs of guilt etc.

So how can we have our character do one thing but feel another? Internal thoughts can of course reveal how they are really feeling. But showing a character hesitating before taking a certain course of action can also show a character who has split feelings.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My latest #FridayFlashFiction story is called Competition and you find out what could happen when Humpty Dumpty talks with one of the bears from Goldilocks. Great fun to write and a huge thank you for the wonderful comments in on this so far. Feedback is always appreciated, writers learn a lot from it, and a pat on the pack is particularly nice at the end of a busy week! Also a quick shout-out to another friend of mine making her debut on Friday Flash Fiction – well done to #RosemaryJohnson.
Screenshot 2021-10-29 at 17-09-06 Competition, by Allison Symes


I’m looking forward to being at the Brechin/Angus Book Fest from 19th to 21st November where I’ll be running a flash fiction workshop and giving an author talk. What is nice about the workshop is there are various ways “into” starting to write flash pieces and I will be sharing some of those for that. I hope these encourage people to give flash a try.

The nice thing with creative writing is there isn’t any competition as far as I’m concerned. We all have our own unique author voice and it can take a while to find what yours is, it took me ages to find mine, but once you have it, away you go.

As well as being published in the form, flash has brought other opportunities to my door, including Brechin, radio interviews, taking part in Open Prose Mic Nights and it has all been great fun. Long may this continue!


Most of my flash fiction tales come in at the 100-word mark (and even more do so now I’m submitting tales regularly to #FridayFlashFiction). It’s also apt as it was the good old drabble as the 100-word story is known which got me into flash fiction writing in the first place.

But I do like to write across the spectrum. It’s good practice. It means you have an even wider of competitions and markets to approach. Having said that, the vast majority of mine still come in at 500 words or under. I do think you eventually find what is your natural writing zone and that appears to be mine!

But I worry about the word count aspect only when I’ve got the story down. Putting it aside to rest for a while, I can come back to the story and read it as a reader would. That makes it easier to spot the flaws and there are always some of those! But I also get to see more clearly thanks to giving myself some distance from that first draft the “heart” of the tale and from that can work out what I need to keep and what needs to come out.

Sometimes it works out a story works better at 500 words rather than 250 and that’s fine. Usually it is a case I have details which add depth to my character(s) and the story would be poorer without those details in so I leave them in.

Fairytales with Bite – Setting Scenes

What aspects of your magical setting does a reader need to know? And how can you indicate this is a fantasy setting where magic will happen? How will your readers find out what your characters can’t do/are banned from doing? (The two aren’t the same and there will be many a story to be had from following the adventures of characters who decide to defy whatever the ban might be).

I’ve talked before about telling details and writing down possibles here can help clarify things for you. (I often use spider diagrams and the like to work out different story possibilities but you can use the same things for working out what scenes have to be in your story and also what needs to be in those scenes).

Fantasy settings can be indicated by things like:-

  • Colour of sky/ground/seas if different from Earth.
  • The kind of buildings that exist
  • Showing a character using magic as a matter of routine
  • What your characters look like. If they’re humanoid how do they differ from us? If they’re not humanoid at all, your readers will need to know what they are to be able to visualise them.

Examples of telling details could be:-

  • Colour of hair (or equivalent) especially if different from us
  • How characters speak, write etc again especially if different from us
  • How the world is governed (you won’t need everything here. What readers need to know is whether your characters live in a free society of under a dictatorship).
  • What would count as standard “powers”? What would be extraordinary? (And you can show that by contrasting two characters with different skill sets. One will be seen to be lower than the other in terms of how their skills are valued – this will also show something of the class structure in your world too).

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This World and Others – The Need to Know Question

Ah but who needs to know what in your created world, that is the question. Forget the to be or not to be question posed by Shakespeare. Information is power no matter what world your characters are in so how is information shared in your setting or is it only available to the privileged few? Is information manipulated before being “allowed out there” and what kind of technology does your world have to share it?

What would happen if your government really does need the populace to take in necessary information but they won’t do so, being cynical of any government pronouncement? How do the powers that be get around that one?

Also who decides who needs to know? Can they be bribed or threatened to make information available to others?

Who needs to know? Is there such a thing as whistleblowers in your creation? What happens to them?

Who creates the information in the first place? Do journalists, writers etc., have any say in what information they produce?

Think about what might happen if a long cherished nugget of information is exposed as a lie. What ramifications would that have?

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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Competition, by Allison Symes – Friday Flash Fiction <a href=”https://t.co/XIwz3UQNlz”>https://t.co/XIwz3UQNlz</a&gt; Delighted to share the link to my latest drabble on Friday Flash Fiction. What happens when Humpty Dumpty has a chat with one of the bears from the Goldilocks story? Find out here! <a href=”https://t.co/n6bde4xJQa”>pic.twitter.com/n6bde4xJQa</a></p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1454118628777988101?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 29, 2021</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Book Lists <a href=”https://t.co/Sqsf1Z3UwL”>https://t.co/Sqsf1Z3UwL</a&gt; My topic for CFT this week is close to my heart – Book Lists. Every writer has two – one for books they want to read and others they want to write! I’m focusing on ones to read. Posts like this celebrate books which is always worth doing!</p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1454142514554888194?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 29, 2021</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>More than Writers: Writing Days by Allison Symes <a href=”https://t.co/494Qu84AS7″>https://t.co/494Qu84AS7</a&gt; My turn on the ACW blog again this month. I share hints and tips on making the most of a writing day and how to re-create the buzz from these when you're at home. Hope you find the post useful. <a href=”https://t.co/uxgfKfKFbH”>pic.twitter.com/uxgfKfKFbH</a></p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1454143450144706564?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 29, 2021</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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Pinch, Punch, The First of The Month and Trying Hard

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. Many thanks to Fiona Park for the fab photo of my signing copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic at Swanwick 2021.
Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here. New story out and a new More than Writers blog post which has attracted a fair few comments but then I did ask about people’s Writing Niggles. It seems to have hit a spot!

BookBrushImage-2021-10-1-19-2246

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s that time of the week again and time for my Chandler’s Ford Today post. This week’s one is called Pinch, Punch, The First of the Month. I look at what the first of the month means for me, writing wise. I also look at the origin of the saying and ask why white rabbits are considered lucky. Any thoughts on that? If so pop a comment over on the CFT page. This post will tie in nicely with next week’s one where I’ll be taking a look at sayings and their uses in creative writing.

Pinch, Punch, The First of the Month

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A huge thanks for the wonderful comments coming in on my More Than Writers blog spot yesterday. See further down. My post about Writing Niggles obviously hit a sore spot or several! Mind you, the one comfort here is we all have writing niggles. It is working out a way of (a) managing them and (b) limiting the irritation they can cause you that are the tricky bits to get right.

My post tomorrow for Chandler’s Ford Today is all about Pinch, Punch The First of the Month. I look at what the first of the month means for me now (author newsletter send out day!). I also look at the origin of this strange phase (which will also tie in with my post on the 8th October as I will be talking about sayings and their uses in fiction and non-fiction).

Oh and is it just me or have the light levels in the evening just plummeted into complete darkness so far this autumn? There has been no gradual fading of the light. It looks as if someone has gone in and taken the bulb out! Dark by 7.30 pm… I wasn’t expecting that until much later into October.

It’s my turn on the More Than Writers blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. This month I talk about Writing Niggles and it is a rare writer indeed that doesn’t have at least one. I share some of mine (yes, some!) and solutions I have found that have helped me. A huge thanks to everyone for the wonderful comments on this subject which have come in already.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to share my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Will my hapless Sarah finally make things right with her neighbour in Trying Hard?

Screenshot 2021-10-01 at 18-59-48 Trying Hard, by Allison Symes

One of the biggest things flash fiction has done for me as a writer is to help me understand what “show, don’t tell” means in practice. It took me ages to get my head around that.

Because I have to write to a tight word count, I have no room for “extras” and showing a scene rather than telling it can take up a fair bit of said word count. I’ve found it helpful to focus on one thing I have to show a reader for a story that is 500 words or less. I’ll show two for 500 to 1000 words. So I have to work out what is the most important thing to show a reader and focus on that alone. That in turn does help me keep my word count down.

I’ve mentioned before my “she wears a red coat” and “she wears a moth-eaten red coat” as these are great examples of tight writing and how one word can change perspective. I don’t need to tell you my character is poor in the second example. I’ve shown you (and hyphenated words, since they count as one word for flash fiction, are the flash writer’s best friend). So think of ways in which you could show something.

Anger – character slamming something.

Sadness – character being asked by another character something along the lines of “what’s up with you?” and then getting the first character to sob.

Happiness – Showing your character walking jauntily, whistling a cheery tune etc.

So you can show a mood quickly. Setting can be done with the selective use of detail. A poor house can be shown as characters moaning about the roof leaking again etc. Think about what you want to show and then what words you can use to do that. Always pick the strongest. A roof leaking is far more powerful than characters moaning about how poor they are. Readers do pick things up on context (I love doing this). We just need to give them the right clues so they can.

BookBrushImage-2021-9-30-20-354Just to flag up the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently on offer on Amazon. See link for more.

Will also be sending out my author newsletter on 1st October. I share tips, prompts, flash stories here (and these are often exclusive to newsletter readers) as well as my news. Do head over to my website (the landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where the landing page takes you straight through to the sign-up. There is a giveaway too.

Fairytales with Bite – Seasonal Magic

Do your magical characters use their powers more at certain times of year or spread the use evenly throughout the twelve months? In your fictional setting, do certain seasons encourage the use of magic or, conversely, limit it? In the darker times of year, is magic more difficult? Is there any link to available light levels and when there is light, is it easier for a character to “produce the goods” when it comes to using their powers?

Do physical weaknesses limit magical use? After all, we are prone to colds, the flu etc more in the winter months and that affects how we “perform” so could your characters be affected by something similar?
Also, can your characters adapt their spells to match the time of year? For example, when it is dark and gloomy, are they on call for “lift me up” charms to help get people through these times? (For me a cup of hot chocolate, a cosy home, classical music, and a good book would do this for me nicely!).

Are your people expected to produce more magic at certain times of year? If magic can be equated to energy, are they on call to produce more of this at certain times of year to help keep their environment “going”? (Think Monsters Inc where the monsters need energy from children’s screams and then run into problems when they find youngsters aren’t so easily scared any more).

How do the seasons affect your people? In good ways or negatively and how could that change the outcome of your stories (or do your people “compensate” and, if so, how? What matters here is that you know how things work here even if you don’t need to share all of that with your readers.

You inevitably won’t share it all but you could have a character exploiting weaknesses here to their advantage. You would need to know what they are exploiting, how, and what would be the outcome? Also could the exploited hit back by using your natural world against whoever is trying to pull this trick off?).

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This World and Others – Seasons

I love the seasons. See some of the above pics for proof! The last one with the summer house is from my garden earlier this year. There is beauty to be found in each, even in winter (and there I also have the delicious compensations of hot chocolate, a cosy home etc to enjoy). Okay, so we have the four, but what does your created world have? More or less? Same as ours or totally different?

How do the seasons work in your created world? Especially if you have magical characters, is there anything they can do to influence how the seasons work and, if so, how? What would they gain from this?

Seasons tie in with celebrations too so what seasonal events would your world hold? Why are these things special to them?

As for the climate, can it compare with ours or is yours worse or better? How do your characters manage the ups and downs of the seasons and the climate?

There are seasons in life too. How do your stories reflect this in your characters, especially as they age? Have they learned anything useful from their younger years (especially what not to do) that benefits them now? Do they appreciate the season of “maturity” or do they resent not being young any more?

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Publication News, Alternative Worlds, and Dialogue

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing book covers from #WendyHJones.

Author publicity photos taken by Adrian Symes. Other images (including screenshots) taken by me, Allison Symes. Thrilled with my publication news this week, more below, especially as this is my first non-fiction work in print.

Creativity Matters - and my two flash collections

Facebook – General

Delighted to say my copies of Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing arrived this evening. And naturally that means photo opportunity time! (Thanks to my better half for taking the following).

I can confirm you never do lose the thrill of opening a box of books which you know you have written or contributed to. It’s just a pity you can’t bottle that feeling for drawing on later as and when needed!

Oh and given my chapter in Creativity Matters is Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories, I thought my two flash collections should get a look in too.

AND I’ll be chatting to Wendy H. Jones, who compiled and edited Creativity Matters, on Friday for Chandler’s Ford Today about what made her decide to publish other authors. Looking forward to sharing the link.

Hope you have had a good Bank Holiday Monday. Hope you had a great Monday if it wasn’t a Bank Holiday for you. Glad to hear the Inspector Morse theme came top in the Classic FM TV themes countdown. Also glad to hear Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens was in the top 30 as my first introduction to that wonderful music came thanks to it being used as the theme for quirky detective series Jonathan Creek. I suspect most people’s introduction to classical probably does come from TV and film themes and/or adverts.

It has been an odd day weather wise here in Hampshire. Murky and overcast all day. (I can think of some of my characters who could be described like that!). Am busy putting the finishing touches to my September newsletter and will be working on a super two-part interview for Chandler’s Ford Today to go out in the next couple of weeks or so. More details nearer the time but it has been encouraging I have had no shortage of material for CFT for many, many months now. Long may that continue! Am also working on presentations and workshop materials for use later in the year so plenty going on. And for the other reason I love Danse Macabre, see below!

Bonus Post – 29th August – More than Writers

Sorry, meant to share this earlier as it is my turn again on More than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers blog spot. This time I talk about Being Back. I refer to my recent visit to Swanwick but also look at being back at live events again and how, whether we can get to these or not, we should definitely “be back” to encouraging other writers.

Screenshot 2021-08-31 at 20-52-12 Being Back by Allison Symes

Wow! The responses are really coming in for The Turn Around, my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Many thanks, everyone. The general feel is my characters deserved each other. If you want to check the story out and decide if you agree or not, please see the link below.

Am so looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. This week, I welcome back #WendyHJones and I will be talking with her about her latest venture, Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing. This is the first time Wendy has published other authors, including yours truly (my chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories), and I wanted to ask her what made her decide to follow this path.

I also talk with her about what she has had to learn to do this. Wendy also shares with me how she balances her fiction and non-fiction work and balancing getting her own writing done, as well as publishing others. Link up later in the week (and I am on tenterhooks as my copies of the book are due with me any time. Cue the usual author holding up new book photo later this week I hope!). See above!

Screenshot 2021-08-27 at 17-10-59 The Turn Around by Allison Symes


Great to see the response to my blog round-up post Swanwick 2021 yesterday. Not at all surprised most of these are from fellow Swanwickers!

Just a quick reminder I will be sending my author newsletter out next week (1st September) so if you’d like to sign up for tips, news, prompts etc, please head over to my website (the landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I tend to compile the newsletter as the month goes on as (a) it means I don’t forget anything important and (b) it is easy to just finish off and send at the right time. Mind you, I schedule as many of my blog posts as possible whether it is for Chandler’s Ford Today, Authors Electric, or More Than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers blog spot.

Scheduling has been a boon for me but I still wish I had more time to write!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am so thrilled to receive my copies of Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writingtoday. (Link is for Hive.co.uk – an alternative to Amazon). The book is edited and compiled by #WendyHJones. My chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories. I’ve mentioned before that I did not know flash fiction as a format existed when I first started writing seriously for publication. I am so glad I discovered it! (Pictures from my better half).

Am pleased to share my latest Youtube video. Hope you enjoy Wondering. Miranda cannot understand her neighbours’ fears about a local inhabitant. There is someone else they should be frightened of – as the video makes clear.


I sometimes have fun with flash stories set in alternative worlds. In A Day Out in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, for example, I have my character on his way to feed the ducks but these are no ordinary ducks and my character is not looking forward to the trip. So you can take elements from what we know right here, such as feeding ducks, and turn it into something comedic, tragic, horrific etc.

And in Job Satisfaction from From Light to Dark and Back Again, I show what a disgruntled fairy is prepared to do as part of her “dentistry work” as she carries out her rounds as the Tooth Fairy. Here I am taking the element of someone being fed up with a client she doesn’t like (with good reason) but setting that with a magical background so my operative has more options open to her than us mere mortals would.

So mix elements up and have fun. See what you can do with them. Taking the ordinary and turning them into extraordinary parts of a story is a great way to come up with some interesting and quirky fiction. And for another example of that, see below.

 


Looking forward to receiving my copies of Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing which I now know are on their way. My chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories. Looking forward to doing the “author opening the box of books” pose again! Great fun (and we all need validation. It’s a funny thing but every writer needs it. It is just a question of degree).

It was also great to see a very familiar name (thanks to Bridge House Publishing) on Friday Flash Fiction recently (well done #HannahRuthRetallick). I am also thrilled to see a very dear friend of mine and fellow Swanwicker on CafeLit today with a fabulous story called Marmalade. Go visit and check it out. (Always worth scrolling through CafeLit. Lovely mixture of stories in terms of style and word count. Marmalade was out on 28th August 2021). My sympathy is entirely with her lead character, Annie. More power to your pens, Hannah and #JuneWebber.

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Dialogue in Books

I love dialogue in books as long as that conversation is moving the story on in some way. I need the characters to show me something either about themselves or the unfolding plot (and it is often both at the same time) for their conversation to grip me and keep me reading. It is something I have to watch with my own writing as I love setting up my characters for a good “chin wag” but it must always be relevant to the story. So if it isn’t, out it comes.

What I don’t like is where characters can sometimes tell each other stuff they clearly must know. I don’t buy the “character needs reminding” business here. It is usually done because the writer needs to get information across to a reader, they know they mustn’t “tell” the reader and are conscious they need to “show” the information.

I totally sympathise and it was something I did when I was starting out but with time and practice, you learn to be more confident in allowing your readers to work things out for themselves. Flash fiction writing with its limited word count really encourages that. So it is a question of putting in the right clues in the right way so readers do something to work with so they can figure things out for themselves.

I’ve learned over time to put in an odd line or two where I reveal something to a reader rather than have a pointless conversation between characters telling each other what they must already know. It takes less time and word count and you don’t switch your readers off with a conversation they will quickly sense is more to help the author out rather than to help the story along.

But when dialogue does what it is meant to do – move the story along, keep up pace etc., – then it is amongst my favourite parts of a book. I want to eavesdrop what the characters are saying because I know I am going to find out useful, interesting things. And often in dialogue the tension rachets up as well, which I also like.

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Wildflowers, Seasons in Writing, and Flash Moments

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. (I’m especially fond of the one I created below about the best lines, think the imagery works really well here).

All screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here and am looking forward to talking about flash fiction via Zoom to the Byre Writers on Saturday, 31st July.

The best lines conjure images

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I end the standard working week with a gentle post for Chandler’s Ford Today called Wildflowers. I am lucky to live near a nice recreation ground, where I exercise Lady, which has a stunning wildflower meadow as part of that. This post celebrates this year’s wildflower “blooming” and it is especially nice to do so as it has emerged late this year. Indeed, as you will see from my post, I had thought we weren’t going to have flowers out at all here this year.

Now the funny thing is the natural world does not inspire my writing at all. I know it can do for writers but not for me. What it does do is give me a refreshing break from my desk and it is that break which helps “fire” me up for writing on return to said desk.

Hope you enjoy the post – and the pictures. It is a joy to share pictures like this.

Wildflowers

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Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers

I’m posting early for once as I have the great delight of returning to watch live theatre this evening. My local amateur theatre company are exceptionally good and I am looking forward to tonight’s entertainment so much.

Meanwhile, I discuss Seasons in Writing for my More than Writers blog spot this time. Slower seasons may be just what we need at times to recover from intensive work and/or to develop ideas that need more time to come to fruition. I do know, whatever season of writing I am in, I need the support and encouragement of other writers. They in turn will appreciate that support and encouragement from you.

Hope you enjoy the post.


Hope you have had a good Wednesday. Got a bit of a soaking out with Lady and my better half this evening. Changeable weather again but Lady did get to play with her best buddie, the Ridgeback, again today so all is right with their world.

Favourite writing tips of mine include:-

1. Get the story out, edit later.

2. Worry about word count (especially for flash) only when you know you have got the story down and there will not be major changes.

3. Fire up your imagination by reading widely, in and out of your genre, and don’t forget the non-fiction. Ideas for stories can come from there.

4. Get the story out, put it aside, then edit it. You need to come back and read the story as a reader would to see where it works and where it could do with work! Only time away gives you the necessary distance.

5. Draft other stories while you’re resting others. I like to see this as a writing – resting – editing – submitting – writing virtuous circle. The idea being you will always have a story to draft and, when not doing that, you will have another one to edit and get ready for submission somewhere.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It was a joy to watch The Chameleons perform last night for the first time since their pantomime in December 2019. I was talking about flash moments in stories yesterday, including those stories produced for the stage. There were several in last night’s performance and I hope to write about some of those in my review for Chandler’s Ford Today next week.

And talking of flash, I’m pleased to share my latest drabble from #FridayFlashFiction. This one is called Oddity and is my take on the Demon Barber of Fleet Street story (aka Sweeney Todd). Hope you enjoy. (And yes always go to a barber you know you can trust!).
Screenshot 2021-07-30 at 18-42-48 Oddity, by Allison Symes

Am off to the theatre this evening for the first time in over a year to see our excellent amateur theatre company, The Chameleon Theatre Group, perform once again. This is why I am posting early. I usually post at around 7.30 to 8 pm UK time. For an evening out, my posts were up by 5 pm! But it was worth it. The performances were great and I’ll talk more about what I went to see in my CFT post next week.

I like stories in whatever form they come in – books, audio, and for something like this getting to watch the stories being brought to life. And yes, flash can pop up here too. How? It will be those one liners here and there that strike a chord with me that perhaps are too easy to overlook. It will be those lines that resonate with me the most. I like to think of those as flash moments.

(And of course different people will get different things from the performances they go to watch so will have different flash moments. But maybe, just maybe I will get ideas for stories of my own from those flash moments. Even when that doesn’t happen, I still get to see an excellent performance and discover plays new to me so win-win!).

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I write mainly in the evenings listening to Classic FM. Does that put me off my stride for writing flash stories, blogs etc? Not a bit of it. I find I relax and when I relax, I write and write and write. You get the picture.

A useful way of working out who your characters are would be to decide what their favourite music would be and why. If your character loves, say, Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens above anything else, does that mean they themselves have a quirky nature given the music is quirky? (See my book trailer for FLTDBA above as I use Danse Macabre as the music here if you don’t know the track. I swear you can hear the quirkiness in it and it is why I chose this piece for this trailer. You might also remember the music from the old TV series, Jonathan Creek). Book trailers below.

Of course, you can use almost anything (and not just music) to work out who your character is but it is down to you to decide what you need to know before you write their stories up. I’ve found a bit of time spent working my characters out has saved me a great deal of time later on and I usually find depths to my characters as I explore their personalities more, which in turn adds depth to my story.

Fairytales with Bite – The (Magical) Arts

What role is there for the arts, as we know them, in your magical world? Is there a place for, say, portrait painting when a quick wave of the old wand could produce a stunning picture without any physical effort at all? Do your magical characters turn to “old-fashioned” ways of producing art as a means to unwind?

Are those who do create works of art, as we would understand the process, looked down on or up to because they use “manual” rather than magical ways to do these things?

Also, what role is there for music? Is music created magically? Or does your created world import music it likes from other places, including from Earth?

Do you have characters who prize the arts and those who despise them? What kind of conflicts could that produce in your stories?

For me, our world would be a much poorer place without the arts. That could apply to a fictional world too. (I don’t like dystopian works much, especially after the last year or so with the Covid pandemic hitting us all so hard, but art would be looked down on in such settings at best I feel and that’s no coincidence. A world without art in some shape or form would always be pretty bleak to me).

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This World and Others – Fiction or Fact in Your World

Following on from my Fairytales with Bite post, what emphasis does your created world put on fiction and fact? Is one more heavily weighted than the other?

If, say, your world despises fiction (and the arts) and focuses on plain facts (the sciences, engineering etc as we would know them), what would happen if their “knowledge” is challenged by the discovery of something new? Or if a long cherished theory was debunked? Or if if was proven the world of the arts had health benefits science could not produce? Would your created world suppress these because of its disapproval of the arts rather than accept they got it wrong and there was place for fact and fiction?

There could be interesting character development here. If say Character A was a scientist open to new ideas, how would they react when Character B, their boss, who was anything but open, suppressed knowledge? Would Character A leak the knowledge somehow? What would the consequences be if they did?

If Character A was open to the arts but their boss wasn’t, again what would the consequences be if Character A was caught going to an exhibition or a concert?

Interesting story ideas to explore here I think.

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Genres, Opening Lines, and Publication News

https://morethanwriters.blogspot.com/2021/06/genres-by-allison-symes.htmlImage 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.

Hope all is well with you. Glad to share two new stories this time – one from Friday Flash Fiction and another from my Youtube channel. Hope you enjoy. Also have publication news from CafeLit and an update about my contribution to Wendy H Jones’ book on Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing so plenty going on. (Images of me signing my contract for the latter were taken by Adrian Symes).

AE - July 2021 - Whether you love or loathe the characters, they should make you feel something


Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers

Delighted to share my blog on More Than Writers, the blog spot from the Association of Christian Writers. I talk about Genres this month and define a few (having fun doing so too!). I chat about why I love ghost stories where the ghost is not the villain, give you pointers regarding major things to look out for in a fantasy novel, and ask you what are your favourite genres and why amongst other things.

So what are your favourite genres and why? Fairytales/fantasy are it for me though I do love crime and historical fiction as well. Is there a book that took you by surprise as to how good or bad it was? For me, The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey surprised me in a good way and changed my view about Richard III.

I don’t have any time for the snobbery that can prevail around genre fiction. A good book is a good book and if it is accessible to more people because it is in a certain genre, so be it.

You sometimes have days when there is lots to announce. Today is one of mine!

1. I’ve seen the book cover for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion For Writing by Wendy H. Jones where I am contributing a chapter on flash fiction and short story writing. Can’t reveal the cover yet. Looking forward to doing so. It looks great. Trust me on that!

2. Delighted to say From Light to Dark and Back Again is now up on the Bridgetown Cafe Bookshop. Oh and the great thing about the bookshop is there are a variety of places to buy from too. See link for more.

3. There will be some fabulous author interviews to come on Chandler’s Ford Today, starting this very Friday, 2nd July, with part 1 of my chat with domestic noir writer, Helen Matthews. (I always learn a lot from reading/listening to author interviews which is why I love having writers on CFT).

4. I’ll be on the More than Writers blog spot tomorrow (for the Association of Christian Writers) with a humorous piece about Genres. Looking forward to sharing the link for that tomorrow. See above!

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Hope you have had a nice Sunday. It was lovely having family over in the garden yesterday (and what change in the weather today – it’s chucking it down as I type this!).

I’ll be sharing the first part of a fabulous interview with domestic noir writer, Helen Matthews, later this week on Chandler’s Ford Today. Looking forward to sharing that. I always learn so much from author interviews and it is a pleasure to be doing them.

I’m thrilled that so many wonderful comments are coming in on my latest #FridayFlashFiction story, Restless. You can check it out at https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/restless-by-allison-symes

Have sent another story in for them and I’m delighted to say I’ll be having another story up on CafeLit before too long as well. So it has been quite a productive weekend.

Hope you have a good week! (I also hope the weather improves somewhat but we shall see).

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Today (26th June) would have been my Dad’s 84th birthday. It’s a strange day in many ways, as you can imagine. I was pleased he got to see my debut published book, From Light to Dark and Back Again, as my late mum only got to see my first printed story, A Helping Hand in Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing). There is a kind of symmetry to that I think.

I occasionally use a character’s memories in my flash tales. The obvious two are The Pink Rose in Tripping the Flash Fantastic and They Don’t Understand in my debut collection.

Flash fiction can be a great vehicle for character studies like these precisely because they work best when kept short. The impact on a reader is greater too because of the brevity. What matters is getting across what is the important thing about the character you are writing about. What is it about them that readers have to know?

(Oh and on a very happy note, I’ve booked my train tickets for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Can’t wait to catch up with people there).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When do you know your flash fiction or short story character “works”? When they intrigue you enough to write their stories up is the answer that works for me. As I outline my character and discover more things about them, if they grip me at that point, they should do so for a reader as well so away I go.

Also just a quick reminder I share writing tips and exclusive flash stories over at my author newsletter which I issue monthly. The next one is out on 1st July so if you’d like to sign up for this do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where you’ll find the relevant sign up form. You’ll receive a welcome email initially with a link to a free pdf download where I chat about flash and share exclusive stories there. (And a big thank you to those who have signed up already – it is great to have you aboard).

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Pleased to share my latest story video here. Hope you enjoy Borrowing.

 

27th June
Delighted to say I’ll be having a flash piece, written as a result of a writing exercise I set for the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group, up on CafeLit on 5th July. That is what I call a result and I look forward to sharing it then.

I love opening lines as an exercise. There are usually at least two or three directions in which to take them too. (That makes me feel like a kid with the keys to the chocolate factory!). I suppose the reason I love them so much is I know I am “away” once I’ve got that line down, and knowing who my character is and what they’re capable of, means I’ve got the opening line and a structure in place. I find that so useful.

Funnily enough it’s not a question of then joining the dots. I still have to show my character developing and changing but my structure means the change is reasonable for the character and so will make sense to a reader.

I can still wrongfoot a reader (and often do) but if you then went back over the story you would find the clues were there to indicate the wrong-footing was possible given what you are shown of the character. (I love this when other authors achieve this with me whether it is a short story or a novel. It keeps me on my toes and I have learned so much about how to place things in a story to achieve this).

Have managed to get another flash pieces “off” this weekend – another one to #FridayFlashFiction. I am having so much fun writing the drabbles (100 worders) again as those are what drew me into flash fiction writing in the first place.


One idea for a story is to take a date that is special to you and make it special for your character. The reasons could be the same or the polar opposite. Either way you could write an interesting character study out of this.

Dates mean something for a reason and, especially if you don’t choose the well known ones such as Christmas or Mother’s/Father’s Day, you could show us a character with a unique take on life due to the reason they cherish the date you’ve picked for them.

Also, are there dates your characters would be keen to avoid and what would happen if they can’t get out of whatever is happening on the date in question? There’s potential for comedy and tragedy there – up to you which direction you take it.

But having a special date will reveal something of your character to you as the writer. If that appeals, it will appeal to a reader also. (Also there would be broad sympathy given most of us have dates that mean something to use and not to others).

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Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes a Good Story Ending For You?

Story endings don’t have to be happy ones. For some tales, a happy ending would be inappropriate. But what would you class as a “good” story ending?

For me the ending has to be appropriate for the kind of tale being told and for the character.

It was clear in A Christmas Carol, for instance, that Scrooge would have to change. It was a question there of how it would be done. Had Scrooge not changed, there would have been no point in the visitations of the ghosts and there would have been no story.

So I am looking for change to have happened by the end of the story. Being a fairly positive person, I like these changes to be as upbeat as possible. Failing that, I’ll be happy with a kind of “yes, that’s appropriate for this character”.

What you don’t want is a feeling of disappointment that the story hasn’t been closed off properly. There should be no loose ends. The character should have learned something and moved on from the starting point of the story. If that learning something and moving on is something I can identify with, then that makes it an even better ending for me.

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