What Makes A Good Story

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I share what I think makes a good story and why. I also name some of my favourites and share my reading “diet”. I also invite you to share your favourite stories. Hope you enjoy – and that you have plenty of wonderful books and stories as Christmas presents this and every year!

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Two posts from me tonight. This second one also ties in with my CFT theme of What Makes a Good Story too.

Below is the book trailer for Nativity, this year’s Bridge House Publishing anthology. I’m delighted to have a humorous fairytale in here – What Goes Around.

Do check out the wonderful stories in here. There’s a lovely mixture of styles and moods but of course you don’t just need to take my word for it!

Boxing Day is my chance to catch up on some reading – books old and new – and I relish the opportunity to put my feet up for a bit and get my nose stuck into a good read!

Must admit to being a bit miffed Doctor Who has been pushed back to New Year’s Day. It always was the highlight of my Christmas Day viewing.

Have no idea what I’ll be watching this year. If nothing appeals, it’ll be back to the Morecambe and Wise box set. Can’t go wrong with that! The scripts were wonderfully written and brilliantly performed.

This is also where I particularly miss mum. She loved a good game or two of Scrabble. You knew word play had to come into this somewhere, right?

I’ll be taking a bit of time off from writing naturally but what is lovely about this is (a) a brief break does me good (and does for everyone) and (b) I’m raring to go again when it is time to start again. Gets the New Year off to a good new creative start and I love that.

Am I ready for Christmas yet? Umm…

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I’ll be asking What Makes a Good Story in my CFT post this week. I know – I could’ve gone on at length on that one. I haven’t, honestly (the link will be up on Friday so you can see for yourself!). I look at a good reading “diet” too and share a couple of festive flash fiction stories.

I can’t remember what the first book I read by myself was though the Reader’s Digest Fairytale Collections and Little Women have got to be strong contenders for that. What I do know is once I was hooked on stories, that was it.

What I like now is the range of ways in which you can take stories in – I love audio books for example and a great film adaptation can bring stories to life for many and may drive them to read the book too. The latter is one reason I love The Muppet Christmas Carol so much as The Great Gonzo aka Charles Dickens recommends reading the original book! (And very good advice that is too).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Good stories (my theme for Chandler’s Ford Today this week) come in so many varieties of style, mood, genre and, of course, word count length! The phrase “less is more” could have been invented for flash fiction writers. It wasn’t but it could have been!

Of course good stories for me are centred around the characters (as I discuss further in my CFT post) but the characters don’t have to be likeable. Well, Hannibal Lecter is memorable, is he not? Would you want to have dinner with him? I’d pass on that one… you’d never know who you would have having with the Chianti, would you? (I refuse to believe that’s a plot spoiler after all this time!).

So how do you make your characters memorable then? For me, they have to have a distinctive voice. This is one reason I use the first person a lot for my flash fiction. I can take you straight into the characters’ heads and show you their thoughts and attitudes. You then decide whether you like them or not!

A good story, whether it is a flash fiction piece or longer work, has to engage with a reader and the characters are, for me, the key to doing that.

As you know, I like a mixture of darker and lighter stories in my reading “diet”. I do find at this time of year when the nights draw in so early, I read more of the lighter side. I guess I’m trying to balance things out here! I know I need something to give me a bit of a lift reading wise and that’s why I head to the funny/amusing side of fiction first.

And, yes, as the light gradually increases, that’s when I turn to the darker stories for a good read.

Whatever your reading diet, I do hope the books you’ve asked for end up under your Christmas tree this year. The best things about winter by are having more time to read and hot chocolate!

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Flash fiction can be written in different styles as after all it is a very short story and tales can be told in varying ways as well as in a variety of word counts!

They’ve been told in many different ways for centuries – from the oral tradition to the printed word from stories told in letters, diaries (think Adrian Mole!) etc.

I’ve occasionally written limericks which tell their own story. Hope you like this one.

TAKING THE PEN AWAY

There was once a cracker joke writer
Whose puns made people curse the blighter
So when his pen was taken
He felt forlorn, forsaken
But the world felt oh so much brighter!

Ends
Allison Symes

I suspect there are many of us who could identify with this!😊

 

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Fairytales With Bite – Transformations

Fairytales often have transformation as a theme ranging from the changing of an arrogant prince into something ugly (Beauty and the Beast) to changing someone’s life completely (Cinderella).

In all of the stories there is justification for the transformation ranging from deserved punishment to rewarding virtue/delivering from a dreadful environment. So when you use transformation in your stories (especially if it is done courtesy of a helpful and handy to have around fairy godmother), ensure you have a good reason for it.

The actual transformation is a pivotal point of the story of course. The arrogant prince becomes the beast and his story after that point is in discovering whether someone will love him enough to free him from the curse. For Cinderella her life is turned upside down by the fairy godmother’s intervention. Think about how your characters could handle that. Not everybody would handle it well and there could be some interesting stories there.

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This World and Others – When Your World Works…

This is by no means a definitive list but useful pointers for gauging whether your fictional world works include:-

  1. You can imagine living there yourself.
  2. You can picture how the different species in your world could co-exist (whether they do so or not is then up to you!).
  3. You know where your characters fit into the overall picture. Not everyone can be a leader so who are the governed and who does the governing?
  4. You know how your characters live and what they do for housing, food, sanitation etc. You have to convince yourself your world could work if it existed somewhere. You may not need to put all of these details into your story. You just need to convey enough so a reader is convinced you know how your world works!
  5. You know what could threaten your world and its characters and why.

 

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Friends and Traditions

Image Credit:  Mainly the marvellous Pixabay, but also a big thanks to Debz Brown, Paula Readman, and Dawn Kentish Knox for kind permission to use their images of the Bridge House Publishing Celebration Event.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I discuss Friends and Traditions in this week’s CFT post. I think the image below from Pixabay may well prove to be a favourite. Just love the thinking behind it.

It is with great pleasure I look back at the Bridge House Publishing/Cafelit/Chapeltown Celebration Event which was held at St. John’s, Waterloo, last Saturday.

I must say a big thank you to Dawn Kentish Knox, Paula Readman, and Debz Brown for kind permission to use some of their pictures. The big problem with taking part in an event is not being able to take pictures of yourself doing so! If you ever want to know how to help a writer friend out, do consider taking pics for them!

I also look at what traditions writers could have. Hope you enjoy.

Captions as ever over on the CFT link.

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What kind of picture prompts do you find most useful for generating story ideas?

I prefer “open-ended” images which give me ideas for settings and then I work out what characters would live in those places. I don’t want specifics. I want to be able to fill in some gaps for myself.

I also find quirky pictures don’t work well. They tend to dicate the mood of your story (which inevitably will also be quirky and while I LOVE quirky fiction and write it, I don’t want to write it all the time).

And forget cute pictures of kittens etc. Lovely to look at but dreadful for inspiring story ideas. (I know, that’s not the purpose of cute kitten pics, but whenever I do see a photo, if a story idea is triggered, I see it as very welcome input. You just can’t do that with a cute kitten pic!😀).

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I’m looking at Friends and Traditions for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

I look back at the Bridge House Publishing celebration event held last weekend. I’ll also be looking at how writers can make their own “traditions” by figuring out what works best for them when it comes to settling down and getting the words out.

I also celebrate my lovely celebration of meeting up with other writers. I always come back from doing that with a real “buzz”. Encouragement is contagious! Link up on Friday. Next week I’ll be looking at what makes for a good story. I suspect I’ll have to put a strict word count limit on that one!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction can take many forms. I’ve written acrostic stories which can work well and, of course, you can write a story in a poetic form. A lot of the Christmas carols do this. Think of The First Nowell for example. You have the telling of the Christmas story in one carol there. Good King Wenceslas is also a great story told in song.

But the point remains, whatever the length or format of your flash fiction story, there has to be one central theme to focus upon. Everything else hangs off that, of course, but there is no room for sub-plots (and those are wonderful for the longer short stories, novellas, and novels. I love the fact that every aspect of writing has a purpose and a joy of its own).

I’ve found it helpful to sum up my stories in a line, especially for flash, as that becomes the “peg” I write the story to!

(Oh and one other Christmas tradition I’ve happily upheld tonight is watching The Muppet Christmas Carol. Easily the best film they made and a classic telling of a brilliant story).

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Am listening to a hilarious version of The Twelve Days of Christmas on Classic FM narrated by Joanna Lumley (as at 12th December!). Could well count as a flash fiction story though likely to be towards the upper end of the spectrum. Do check the piece out. It is very funny. (Oh and the writer of this piece has stuck to the “golden rule” of flash fiction by not having too many named characters!).

And talking of Christmas related flash fiction, I hope you enjoy this one.

AN UNEXPECTED STOP
‘You do know at what speed you were travelling, sir?’
‘Er… no… officer, I’m afraid I was concentrating on getting to my next destination. I have to cover everyone on my list, you see, and I don’t have much time. Was it important?’
‘I’ll say so, sir. You will cause chaos flying at that speed. If everyone did that there’d be accidents galore.’
‘But, officer, it’s Christmas Eve, I’m Santa Claus, there’s nobody up here except us and I’d love to know how YOU got here.’

ENDS
Allison Symes

 

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Do I ever feel frustrated by word count limits imposed by flash fiction?

No. If a character has a longer story to tell, then I tell it and it goes on to be a competition entry for, say, a 1500 to 2000 word market.

If I can’t enter a 100-worder flash competition, I can always enter a longer piece for a 250 or sub-500 words kind. I do like that kind of flexibility.

The really important thing is getting the story right and if it works better at 150 words rather than 100, you are better off sticking to the longer word count. There will be a home for it somewhere out there.

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Fairytales With Bite – A to Z of Fairytale “Rules” – Part 4

Final section with some tricky letters to tackle but here goes!

U = Unique. Your fairy godmother will always come up with a unique way to help you. Pumpkins are often involved and she seems to have a bit of a thing for extremely uncomfortable footwear (for you that is) but she means well so bear with her. Her unique approach will work out.

V = Variety.  Where the fairy godmother will demonstate variety is in the number of ways they transform errant beings into hideous beasts and so on. Naturally there will be a need for someone to set said errant beings free from their horrendous transformation. Naturally the errant being needs to have learned enough humility to recognise they need to be set free. There is no room or point in continued arrogance here. It is that which led to the horrendous transformation in the first place.

W = Wands. A magical being will have their wands on them at all times of course. Fairy godmothers will still have the star on the end. Tradition is a big thing in the magical world and also the end client expects to see something of that nature. Letting people down is not what a fairy godmother does!

X = X-Ray Vision. A fairy godmother won’t “do” a Superman here. Where her vision is at her sharpest is in assessing character. Let’s just say when a being gets transformed into something hideous, there’s always a good reason for it. Nobody has been wrongly transformed to date. So when it comes to reading a character’s soul, your average fairy godmother has wonderful X-ray vision and will not be fooled. (Indeed trying to pretend you’re something you’re not is even more likely to encourage her to ensure you are next on her “to bring down several pegs or so” list).

Y = Yarns. Not wool! What your average magical being likes is a good story. Sometimes they like being the star of said yarn but it naturally has to have a happy ending and make them look good (even if they don’t do so at the beginning).

Z = Zest. Every magical being is expected to be full of zest. Nobody wants a bedraggled and tired looking fairy godmother turning up to help out. Magical beings are expected to keep themselves looking and feeling good, no matter what it takes to do so. (This may explain Snow White’s stepmother’s attitude towards her own looks).

discovery-space-shuttle-1757098_640Even in a fantasy world, the author will share some of its history to make the world seem more real to the readerEven in time travel stories there is a history involved

The best books take you right into their world - it's a painless procedure

Books take you into other worlds.

The perfect way to end a day - with a good book - Pixabay

Fab end to a day I think. Pixabay.

This World and Others – What Is A Good Fictional World

For me a good fictional world has to have the following attributes.

  1. I’ve got to be able to see it in my mind’s eye and either wish to live there or avoid it like the proverbial plague. Sounds like a contradiction, right? What matters here is being able to visualise that world so well it will trigger either reaction in you. That world has drawn you in – job done!
  2. A good fictional world will reflect the lives of different species/classes/genders within it. There generally isn’t one species/class/gender etc. Okay, the story may focus on only one but you should be able to see how that one reacts and acts to the others living in that same world. (They’ll often be the source of conflict driving the story or will be supporting your hero/heroine in some way).
  3. A good fictional world will give some details on its virtues and shortcomings. What do your characters love and loathe about being where they are?

 

 

Celebrating Writing

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

A very big thank you to Paula Readman, Debz Brown, and Dawn Kentish Knox for kind permission to use their photos which were taken during the Bridge House Publishing celebration event.

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On my way to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event as I draft this post at 7.30 am on Saturday, 7th December 2019. Not going to see much of the lovely Hampshire countryside this time – it’s pitch black still and will be again on the way home.

Am happily ensconced in a comfy seat plugged in and listening to Classic FM as I write. Generally I find classical music soothing unless they put on the 1812 Overture when I have to resist the urge to use my stylus as a conductor’s baton! You’ve heard of air guitar. This is my equivalent!😀

When I get to read my stories publicly, I like to pick a mixture of tales in terms of length and mood. For today’s event I’ve picked short humorous (which can also be used as a description for yours truly!), a mid-range fantasy with a twist, and a crime tale. Hope they go down well. Will be writing the event up for CFT for next Friday.

What I am looking forward to most is meeting up with my fellow writers. It will be fun!

And the pics below prove it was fun!

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Loved the Bridge House event yesterday. Got home shattered but happy – always a sign of a good event, that! Many thanks to Paula Readman and Russell for the group pic of us holding up the books we were in this year. It’s a smashing photo. And this gives me the perfect excuse to repeat showing it!

Was very happy with my work during the day too. Drafted my FB and Goodreads blogs on the way up to London, posted them on the way home. Drafted two new flash fiction stories and wrote a reasonable section for a non-fiction book I’m working on as well. On getting home I started drafting my CFT post for this week so plenty of writing done I’m pleased to say. Naturally I came home with books to read too…

I do love Evernote and a smartphone! Even better was being on a train where I could keep my phone charged up as I actually had a power socket! (I know, I know, writers can be pleased by strange things indeed but I’ve been on too many trains where there is no power socket for phone charging or, worse, where there were some and they’ve been blanked out so I don’t take this kind of thing for granted!).

It was also lovely to chat to different people during the speed “dating” exercise at the event yesterday. Books, whether writing or reading them (or both), are a great conversational ice breaker. (Many thanks also to Dawn Kentish Knox for the pic of me reading from From Light to Dark and Back Again).

Oh and the Christmas tree at Waterloo was lovely. More pics in my CFT post later in the week.

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Am enjoying singing along with the carols on Classic FM. Lady doesn’t really know what to make of it all though… 😀😀 – mind you, she does love Christmas. For a household with a collie in it, there is no such thing as left over turkey! And we get to go on post-Christmas walkies, which always goes down well – with Lady at least.

One of the nice things about coming back from events like the Bridge House one on Saturday is I can be sure of being “mugged” by the dog (demanding a big cuddle, how dare you go away, Mum!) on my return home! (Lady has almost followed me on to the train to Swanwick before now!).

I’ll be writing about Friends and Traditions for my CFT post this week. The Bridge House event has become a tradition for me and it involves lots of friends so win-win there! Link up on Friday. (I’ll also be looking at the benefits of meeting up with other writers).

Oh and I was delighted to find one fellow Bridge House author, #LindaPayne, is a fellow fan of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Another instant topic of conversation right there!

I remember being a very nervous newbie when I went to my first writing event aeons ago. Now, I can hardly wait for my favourites to come around. What has helped here? Why, making writer friends of course. It makes a huge difference. And I’ve always found that when you meet up again, you continue your conversations as if there hadn’t been a break of months or what have you since you last spoke directly.

There is so much much to enjoy about writing and this is one aspect of that. All hugely encouraging too and we all need encouragement on a regular basis.

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A very wet day (as Lady would testify if she could) and I spent a lot of it fervently wishing my glasses came with mini windscreen wipers!

I don’t tend to use the weather much in my stories as, if I wish to add atmosphere to a story, I can usually do it in some other way. If I want to show my characters under stress, there are usually better ways of doing it.

I tend to save the weather for when the story wouldn’t make sense if it wasn’t brought in. That way I can avoid parody (“it was a dark and stormy night”, anyone?) and any description of the weather is kept to the minimum I need to achieve my objective.

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction lends itself well to being read publicly and also gives an instant demonstration of what flash is. Its brevity is its strongest selling point. Not got enough time to read?

Well, you can read a 50 or 100 worder quickly enough! See it as a great way to enjoy a fiction fix! A good friend has described it as a bus stop read, which is a great way of summing it up as well as suggesting where you can read it!

I love to read shorter fiction in between novels too. Flash fiction is the story form you can enjoy between “meals” of longer works without ruining your appetite for long or short fiction! Anyone else out there who remembers the old Milky Way advert?!

 

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A story comes to life for me when the lead character comes to life. For flash fiction, that has pretty much got to happen in the opening couple of lines. I try to do this by:-

1. Giving an intriguing situation the character has to solve and you want to find out how the character does it.

2. Take you inside the character’s head immediately and something about their attitude/thoughts will make you want to read on.

3. In my Punish the Innocent, I use a letter format to show my lead character addressing “their” reader and by opening with powerful lines. “Dear Sarah, They say the perfect crime is where the criminal doesn’t get caught. Wrong.” Again I’m seeking to intrigue a reader here into wanting to find out if my letter writer is right or not and if THEY’VE committed the perfect crime as their line clearly implies they think they have. It is the “got to know what happens here” scenario and if there was a kind of holy grail for writers, I would say that was it.

So basically then my way into a story is via an intriguing character or intriguing situation. The ideal, of course, is to have both but often (and I’ve found this in works I’ve read by other writers too), you don’t always realise how intriguing a character is until you have got to end of the story.

After all, if you take A Christmas Carol, you would hardly warm to Scrooge if you only read the first page or two, would you? There has to be something to make you want to read on and it is only at the end of that Christmas classic, you have got to see the depths of the real Ebenezer. In flash fiction, you have to do that much more quickly but it is a fun challenge!

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I sometimes write one liner flash fiction stories. (These are great for the 25 words and under competitions/markets). One of the stories I drafted in London on Saturday was one of these. I saw the potential for expanding it and did so! I’ve got work to do on it but the character comes across better in the longer version so I will stick with that.

The flexibility of flash here is one of its strengths I think. If I want to I can still submit the one line version but to a different, appropriate market for that word count.

At other times I will look at my one line stories again and realise they are best left as they are. But this is added reason to put work aside for a while before coming back to it. You need distance to be able to assess whether something would work at a longer word count than the version you originally came up with.

The deciding factors are whether the character is strong enough for their story to be expanded at all and does that character benefit from this.

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Thought it would be nice to share a story tonight. Hope you enjoy it.

WHAT THE NEIGHBOURS THINK
Had the neighbours seen the appearance of a witch in the huge chestnut tree?
Mary fervently hoped not. She also hoped they hadn’t seen her frantically wave at the witch indicating exactly where she could go. Back into the sky on that dodgy looking broomstick and away from Mary.
What is it about me that attracts the oddballs?
Mary poured herself a cup of tea and added a decent amount of brandy to it. She felt in need of it.
Even by her standards, the appearance of a witch was unusual. Annoyingly it was nowhere near Halloween so Mary couldn’t pretend it was one of the neighbourhood kids taking a prank that bit too far.
Looking again out of her kitchen window, Mary sighed with relief. The witch had gone. Mary turned back to her tea only to discover she now had company in her kitchen.
‘Well, aren’t you going to make me a cup of tea then, sister?’
Mary grimaced. She now knew where the witch was.

ENDS.
Allison Symes

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Goodreads Author Blog – What Reading Does For Me

Hmmm….where to start on this one!

1. Reading helps me escape. It doesn’t matter if the day is a good one or not – when I get to read I get to switch off.

2. Reading shows me worlds, real and fantastical, and expands my horizons. You can’t know everything, no one person could, but books are a brilliant way of expanding your knowledge. They can help you develop new interests too.

3. Reading inspires my own writing. I see what other authors do with their characters and think well I would have written them this way instead because… and off I go with my own tales.

4. Reading non-fiction expands your general knowledge. Handy if you like quizzes!

5. Reading expands your vocabulary. Handy if you love word games as It do.

6. People will never run out of present ideas for the book lovers in their lives!

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Why I Love History

Image Credit:  

Unless otherwise stated, images are from the marvellous Pixabay.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Just sometimes I write a CFT post where I have to stick to a very strict word count limit. I could go on at length about Why I Love History but that is precisely why I shouldn’t!

I’ve forgotten who it was who apologised to a friend for sending a long letter as they hadn’t the time to write a short one, but I know what they mean. (Whoever it was behind this comment would surely have made a great flash fiction writer – or at least had an appreciation for it!).

Captions over on the CFT site.

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This is one of those posts where I HAD to set a strict word count limit. Too easy to go on at length on Why I Love History. I take a look at how history gets everywhere, I discuss the importance of remembering, and how fiction writers use history. (Just to name one example, there will be the histories of our characters that we need to know to be able to write about them, though most of this will not end up in the stories themselves). I also look at the joy of local history. Hope you enjoy.

You found more in this amazing stained glass window the more you looked at it

The more you looked at this amazing stained glass window, the more you saw in it. Image by Allison Symes and taken at Tewkesbury.  History also gives you plenty of places to visit!

Why do you write? I write because I have to and that’s it. I aim to be published as often as possible yet know there will be plenty of rejections to cope with too. The former is a joy when it happens, the latter is a pain, but that is the writing lot, which is fine by me. Ups and downs are part of normal life, so they’re going to happen in the writing life too. It’s working out how you handle them that’s important.

I just cannot imagine (literally!) not writing. It is my way of playing with words. I was (and still am) useless at art but words are my way of being creative. I think everyone has some creative instinct in them somewhere. It’s a question of finding what is right for you.

I love the challenge of creating new posts for Chandler’s Ford Today, short stories, and flash fiction. Particularly for the latter, the challenge is to keep on coming up with interesting characters that will grip a reader (and said characters have got to start by gripping me first!).

Writing is a great way to keep the brain very active!

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Glad to report Nativity is now showing on my Goodreads page. Many thanks to the folks there for sorting that out for me.

I have had the joy of being published in other Cafelit titles though some of those stories made it into From Light to Dark and Back Again and naturally I’m going to focus on publicising that which is why is has a prominent place here!

Glad that I’m finally getting a grip on things like my Goodreads and Amazon pages though. It is easy to overlook things like that. (Also nice to find I’ve now had work in 12 books, including FLTDBA though there is one book missing from my Amazon page. I had a piece in The Shamblelurkers Return, a charity book edited by #MaritMeredith, many moons ago, which does show up on Amazon but is unavailable. It was good fun to take part in though! Many thanks, Marit!).

Nativity by Bridge House Publishing is a great example of several authors working to the same theme but taking many different takes on it. If you needed confirmation all authors have their own unique voice, anthologies like this prove it. I concede though it can take a while to work out what your voice is! I know it took me some time to do so. I think you know you’ve found what your voice is when you write in a certain way and know that IS the way for you to do it. When you can only write the way you do…

That doesn’t let you off the hard graft of editing and polishing your stories and articles to give them the best chance “out there” though. Knowing what your voice is and using it is just the start! But a reader should be able to read several pieces of yours and hear your voice through the way you present your characters etc.

 

 

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t often use adverbs in flash fiction. They don’t give me enough of an impact to justify their inclusion. For example, what makes the most impact out of these two sentences?

1. She ran quickly.

2. She ran as if the hounds of hell were after her.

Sure, the first one is economical in terms of word count but to me it is meaningless. When you run, you usually do it as quickly as you can for a start!

The second one, while longer, is much more promising. It conjures up much stronger images and I would definitely use this one. If I needed to reduce a word count down to say 100 words and this phrase took me over it, I would be looking to make cuts elsewhere in the text OR submit the piece to a competition with a higher word count limit.

Impact on the reader is by far the most important consideration when working out what to leave IN a story.

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Top tips I’ve found useful for writing flash fiction include the following:-

1. Keep the pace taut. (Short sentences and paragraphs work wonders here).

2. Stick to one major character if your flash fiction story is sub-500 words. The idea of flash is to focus and limiting how many characters you have in your story helps enormously with that focus. The character themselves can refer to other characters – I use this technique a lot to show what my lead thinks of the others who are “off stage”. That in turn shows up what this character’s attitude is and as the story goes on, the reader should find out whether the character is justified or not in their stance.

3. Vary how you create your flash stories. I sometimes start with the closing line and work backwards to get to the start. Mixing up your methods here keeps things fresh and interesting for you and I believe some of that filters through to a reader.

Have fun!

 

 

Quick bargain alert: From Light to Dark and Back Again is on offer at Amazon. Paperback and Kindle versions are at the same price. If you know someone who likes quirky fiction… 😊

One of the things I would love to become true, if it isn’t already, is that flash fiction helps reluctant readers overcome that reluctance to read. After all, none of us started off by reading War and Peace, did we? Oh… that was just me not doing so then…😀😉

Children are encouraged to read and with the wonderful world of children’s literature out there, they have such fantastic choices. “Grown ups” (the jury’s out on me!) also have fantastic selections but I’ve heard people say at book fairs etc that they “don’t read”. That strikes me as being incredibly sad. They are missing out on so much.

But what can we as authors do to encourage people NOT to stop reading much later on in life? To see reading as every bit a valid form of entertainment as TV, cinema etc? Thoughts welcome…

FromLightToDark_medium-2

Image from Chapeltown Books

Allison Symes and published works

Image taken by Adrian Symes

SG PART 2 - Warning - poems, blogs, stories, novels, all writing alike benefits from good editing - image via Pixabay

Warning: Writer at Work. Pixabay

Ideas, the spark for writing competitions, image via Pixabay

Read widely to inspire these. Pixabay

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Fairytales with Bite – A to Z of Fairytale “Rules” Part 1

This is what I think fairytale rules might consist of – see what you think.

A = Always Believe. The lead character usually has to!

B = Be Humble.  Characters who are not tend to get their comeuppance.

C = Charity Welcomed. Think of the characters who have been kind to little old men/women who then turn out to be powerful wizard or fairy godmother in disguise.

D = Deserving. Characters who are considered to be deserving of assistance get it – Cinderella is the classic example of this for me.

E = Energy.  The best fairytales are full of energy and zip along. There is not one dull moment, something all writers need to aspire to with their own work.

F = Fairy Godmothers. These turn up when needed. They always turn up to characters who aren’t expecting them. There has to be a rulebook about this somewhere…

More next time…

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This World and Others – Setting Your Sights

When coming up with your characters, how much of the world you’ve put them in are you going to show to your readers? How much do readers need to know? How much do you need to know that never makes it on to the page but which is crucial for you to create your characters and their setting with conviction?

You need to decide whether it is best to set your sights on a tight focus – i.e.  you show your characters living in one specific town, say. Or would your story be better served showing the complete world in which your characters live and the contrasts between areas in that world?

Only you can answer that one but it pays to set your sights as early on as possible and then focus on whichever route you’ve decided to go. If your story world has a major affect on how your characters act and react, then you probably do need to show the reader as much of that as possible so they understand why.

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The Writing Week, History, and Publication News

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

Facebook – General

Glad to say Nativity, the new anthology from Bridge House Publishing, is now up on my Amazon Author Central page.  I hope it will be added to my Goodreads page soon too. Am getting better at being organised about this sort of thing.

Have finished the first draft of a standard length short story so will probably look at that again to read it afresh next week. Need to outline another story. Want to submit these two stories at the same time. I like to do them in batches!

Am also drafting a couple of blogs, one of which will be my CFT post next week. Picking topics for CFT can be interesting. Times of year can be useful (I nearly always produce a Christmas limerick or piece of festive flash fiction, for example).

When I’ve got events coming up, such as the Richard Hardie/Antony M Brown talk on Tuesday, that gives me the post for that week. I like to do extended posts every so often and invite guest contributions. I’ve found a three part series works well (beyond that, people tend to switch off). Generally though I go for a “wide” topic (this week’s one will be about history) and then look for either my take on it or link it to something in the news or an event which is going on in my area.

What were your favourite subjects at school?

Mine were English and History. No big surprises there. I loved composition as it was called back in the day and enjoyed inventing stories then.

I also used to like the old SRA cards which were colour coded. The card had a story on it, you had to read it and then answer some questions. You could then progress to the next card and so on. I used these at junior school usually either when a teacher was marking or we had a supply teacher in.

History – well it is a great big story when you think about it. There’s “standard” history – the tales of kings and queens. There’s the history of scientific discovery and invention and so on.

And there’s local history too. CFT has two great series going on at the moment on this. One is The Hutments by Peter Russell which I edited. The other are extracts from the journals of Rick Goater’s grandmother who covers social and natural history in her diaries.

I love history for its glimpses into the past (and it makes me so grateful I live when I do now. I wouldn’t have made it to anywhere near my age had I lived in medieval times. I am assuming here I would have been a peasant!).

English obviously feeds directly into my writing and reading. History influences the topics I come up with. (Oh and the other reason I’m grateful to live when I do, despite all that is currently going on, is that in medieval times, it would have been highly unlikely I could read or write at all. The thought of not being able to do either makes me shudder).

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When do you know a book has really got to you?

1. You can’t wait until you can continue reading it.
2. You fear for the fate of your favourite characters (and usually with good cause).
3. You re-read it often.
4. You worry when you discover there will be a film or TV adaptation. How can it do the book justice?
5. You are overjoyed when the film or TV adaptation IS faithful to the book and brings to your eyes the scenes you’d only seen in your head as you read the book.

For me that’s fulfilled by The Lord of the Rings in particular but I also loved the adaptations of Going Postal, Hogfather, and The Colour of Magic.

For me adaptations only work if it comes across that whoever is behind said adaptation HAS been faithful to the book. There’s no point in going away from the original material.

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Publication News

Pleased to receive my copies of Nativity, this year’s anthology from Bridge House Publishing. My humorous fairytale, What Goes Around, is in there. Love the cover (and honestly I still would even if I wasn’t in it!). The joy of opening a parcel with your books in it never lessens.

I’ll be looking at Why I Love History later this week for Chandler’s Ford Today. History plays a major role for all writers and not just historical fiction authors. More details and the link will be up on Friday.

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Let’s see what I can do with a phrase taken from a random generator as an acrostic flash fiction story.

TALK THE TALK

T = Touche, the witch thought, someone’s trying to frighten me.

A = All the people I’ve cursed in my time and someone’s fighting back; it has to be one of them.

L = Less than five seconds in and my feet have turned into concrete.

K = Keyword here is preparation; someone’s put so much thought into this, so who’s got the skills for that round here?

T = Turns out I’ve a magical rival who’s clearing the opposition, me!

H = Hell, no; they’re not getting away with this.

E = Extending her arm, the witch reached for her wand and cursed the concrete away.

T = Turning to her desk diary, yes every magical being needs one, the witch flipped the pages.

A = Ah, yes, it’ll be her – she’s had her eye on my cottage and the privileges of being head witch here for ages.

L = Likely she’s assumed I’d die – well let’s show her I’m still very much alive and well and bloody annoyed, how dare she try this on me.

K = Kind of got to admire her nerve, the witch thought, as she uttered the spell that would turn her rival’s cottage into millions of splinters, hopefully with said rival still inside it.

Allison Symes – 16th November 2019

Hope you enjoy.

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Many thanks for all who read Talk The Talk, my flash story that I created yesterday, using a random phrase generator to come up with this as a title (and theme. My character really did talk the talk!). I created this live. I only edited a few words where I realised a tweak here or there would improve the impact.

Normally of course I would prepare a story, put it aside for a while and, once happy with it, I would then share it here or submit it somewhere. But I deliberately use the random generators (word, phrase, number) to create a “live” story with only a light editorial touch on it afterwards.

Can stories created this way be improved? Oh yes, almost certainly but I find it fun to create stories this way sometimes. It also keeps me on my toes.

It makes for a really good writing exercise even if you don’t share the results. You can pretend you are and see what you can come up with in a set time limit, say. You then leave the story at that and move on to the next one.

You can come back and “edit properly” later on. But there is a freshness to a newly created story I adore, which is another reason why I like to create stories this way and then leave them be. Often I find when I DO come back to them later, I still sense that raw energy of creating them and it is usually a case of tweaking words to create stronger images and impact. I always think about the impact of the story on the reader. It helps to keep me focused.

Oh and random number generators can be useful. I’ve used the numbers that come up as times to be used in the story, or as a countdown to something happening. The number 13 could in itself be taken as a theme given it has its own phobia – Triskaidekaphobia. (Just don’t try saying that quickly!). How could that manifest itself in a story?

And do have fun with the random generators. They’re excellent triggers for stories.

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Flash fiction is a great vehicle for dropping your characters right in it! They also have to get out of the situation quickly too but it must all be plausible, even if your characters and/or setting are magical. The characters need to be seen to get themselves out of the situation which is why I have to outline before I get the first draft down. It’s also why I sometimes start the story by working out what the ending is and then deducing how the character could have got to that point.

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I tend to “hit the ground running” with my flash fiction stories. I want to get a reader into the story as quickly as possible (and of course out again at the end of the tale). I mix up the way I do this as it keeps things interesting for me (and I hope for readers).

I sometimes take a reader straight into my character’s thoughts. Sometimes I ask a question I hope will provoke curiosity – the must find out the answer type. Sometimes I will start with a character action, again the type that will trigger the where will this go reaction (and there is only ever one answer to that – read on!).

I mix up using the first and third person for my stories (though I love the immediacy the first person gives you). I also mix up my settings. My first love is the humorous fairytale with a sting in the tale but I adore writing crime and historical ones too. That is the thing I love most about flash fiction – its flexibility with setting. It is just the word count I have to watch!

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Dreams

Do you ever dream of your favourite characters (written by you or others)?

I can’t say I do. I’m also relieved about that. I can think of several of my own characters who I don’t want to meet in any kind of alley. I certainly don’t want them haunting me at night either!

Where I DO dream of characters is in hoping they have the impact on a potential reader I set out to achieve. It’s not really for me to say whether that works or not, only the reader can know. All I can do is give it my best shot.

When reading works by other writers, the ones that stay with me the most are the ones where the characters have the most impact. So that inspires me with my own writing. I’m still glad they don’t disturb my sleep pattern though! (I would not be a happy bunny…!).

I do a lot of my reading at bedtime so I did wonder if I would have strange dreams based on whatever it was I was reading. Hasn’t happened at all. Given I read fantasy, crime, historical, and a good range of non-fiction books, it is just as well. I think some very strange images would be conjured up.

 

 

 

 

 

When Authors Talk and Publication News

Image Credits:

The photos of the author event at the Hiltonbury Farmhouse were taken by me, Allison Symes. Many thanks to Antony M Brown (Cold Case Juries series) and Richard Hardie (Temporal Detective Agency) for supplying other photos, especially their book covers. The other images are from those fantastic people at Pixabay.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

This week’s CFT post When Authors Talk is a look back at an author event held by YA author Richard Hardie (Temporal Detective Agency) and Antony Brown (Cold Case Juries series) recently.

Both authors talked about how they got into writing (and in Richard’s case publishing too) and the ups and downs of the writing life.

I also look at the benefits of author events like this from the viewpoint of a reader. Hope you enjoy. (And do support author events!).

The joy of author events, from a writer’s viewpoint, is they give us a chance to engage with readers (actual and potential). From a reader’s viewpoint, you can quiz the author about what inspired them and find out their latest news. So do support author events you know of (the support is always appreciated).

My favourite remains, I think, the signing at my local railway station. It was a great venue, I hope to do it again at some point, and flash fiction is great to demonstrate to curious passengers! It also doesn’t take up too much time (which is one of its selling points to the reluctant reader).

My next event should be the Bridge House celebration event in December, all being well. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with writer friends I don’t see the rest of the year too.

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When you go to author events, what do you like best about them?

For me, it’s always hearing how the writer concerned got the “itch” to write in the first place and how they kept going despite all the rejections etc that happen. I’ll be reporting on the joint author event held by Richard Hardie and Antony Browne tomorrow for Chandler’s Ford Today. I’ll also be looking at what readers can get out of events like this. It is very much a two-way thing.

I loved the old James Garner films Support Your Local Gunfighter and Support Your Local Sheriff. There ought to be something for Support Your Local Writer!😀

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Had a lovely evening at a local author event held by YA writer, Richard Hardie, and Cold Case Jury writer, Antony M Browne at the Hiltonbury Farmhouse yesterday. Write up to follow for CFT later in the week including why author events are important for the READER as well as the writer.

Publication News

It’s a nice feeling to get to Wednesday and to already have had publication news with the “advent” of Nativity by Bridge House Publishing yesterday. I make no apology for the pun. (Am shameless like that but that’s what being a fan of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue can do for you).

Nativity Full

Am catching up with some fantastic reading on my Kindle. Hope to post some reviews soon.

It’s also nice to get to the stage where Writing Magazine hits the doormat and the first thing I check is if there is anyone I know in there! Usually there is…

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Some ways to trigger ideas:-

1. Random generators – I’ve used random word, phrase, and even number ones to trigger ideas. It also pays to mix up the parameters you set for these things too.

2. Play the What If game. Ask that question of potential characters. Think about the setting and play What If on that. Can the setting have an effect on what your character can and cannot do? Are there stories there about how your character overcomes this?

3. Think attitude. What kind of attitude does your lead character have and how does that land them in it? What do they do to overcome the issues that throws up?

4. Is your character a rebel or a conformist? If the former what are they rebelling against? (That can be anything from a corrupt power to expectations they or their famiies have). If a conformist, what has led them to take that view? Is it a case of fear for their own safety to be otherwise? Look at the story behind that fear.

Have fun!

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I received a lovely message from FB that the FLTDBA page is now up to 50 followers. A big thank you to everybody (and to all who follow this blog!). Just for that, I think the appropriate response is a flash fiction story for you! Hope you enjoy.

JUST A MINUTE

The big mistakes don’t take long to make.
Stranbarb chose the wrong shortcut in no time and faced a witch.
Her glower told him his life could be measured in seconds. Her wand was raised and she looked as if she wanted blood. It didn’t matter whose.
‘Dwarf, why are you here?’ She paused. ‘Did you see two children go by?’
‘I got lost. No.’ The dwarf looked at the confectionery cottage behind the witch. Understanding dawned. He’d just stopped her having dinner.
He looked at her again. She was smiling. She’d already selected an alternative main course.

Ends.
Allison Symes – 14th November 2019

SEASONS IN WRITING - But setting your own deadline can be helpful for writing competitions

One thing flash fiction is brilliant for is that it is so easy to demonstrate what it is at signings etc. Nor does it take long! (Mind you, I make a point of sticking to ONLY reading out a couple of my 100 word stories. The longer ones in the flash word count range can be saved for when people read the book!).

I was asked at a local author event I went to yesterday if I used adverbs. Generally I don’t. It’s an easy save on the word count. The exception is if I think the use of an adverb adds something to the characterisation or the plot of the story. That doesn’t happen often.

For example:-

The witch wickedly put the kids in the oven.

You really don’t need the wickedly for that, do you? I think wickedness is definitely implied by the action!

BUT:-

The kids put the witch in the oven forcefully.

It makes more sense to use forcefully here (though I would say forcefully can still be implied. Well, you’re not going to put a witch in an oven gently now, are you?). I would prefer to write a sentence like this as:-

The kids shoved the witch in the oven.

You’ve got all the force you need in the word “shoved” and you save a word on the old word count. Those saved words mount up over the course of a story which in turn can make all the difference to which competitions/markets you can use. (Paragraph Planet, for example, is 75 words INCLUDING title so for something like that you are really looking to pare things back).

Oh and no kids or witches were harmed in the making of this post.😀

 

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Fairytales With Bite – Adverts

Okay so adverts get everywhere so why not in the magical realm? How about some slogans then?

The porridge so good thieving girls will love it – won’t commend itself to the Three Bears but Goldilocks might go for it.

For comfortable shoes, don’t go to the fairy godmother, come to us – Cinderella would concur with this one.

Need a long sleep? Be sure to get a comfortable mattress! – One for Sleeping Beauty. Possibly Snow White too.

Looking for the perfect apple? Don’t go to the old crone, come to us. Definitely one for Snow White.

Worried about your looks? Come to us at Swan Beauty. One for The Ugly Duckling.

Hope you enjoy!

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This World and Others – Working Out Your Characters

I’ve mentioned before that I start by working out what my characters’ major traits are and, from there, what kind of scrapes said traits are likely to get them into! If a character is stubborn, you can have a lot of fun with that. But with most traits there is a flip side to that. Stubborness can also mean grit and determination and courage to keep going when nobody else will. How can you use that aspect in your stories? That’s only naming one trait too.

Another way in to knowing your character(s) is to interview them. Work out what their tastes would be and why.  You can also ask yourself why you want to write about these characters. Why are they special enough to be written up into a story? If they’re not special enough, then why even consider putting them into a tale? The first person that has to be convinced by your characteristion is you!

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The Gift of Reading and Writing

Image Credit: 

As ever, unless otherwise stated, the images are from Pixabay. The stained glass window shot is taken by Allison Symes (at Tewkesbury Abbey).

Facebook – General

Publication News

Am absolutely delighted to announce my short story What Goes Around is now published in Bridge House Publishing’s anthology for 2019 called Nativity.

Many congratulations to all of the other writers who are also included in this eclectic collection. Currently available in Kindle but will also be out in paperback. Naturally I will share those details when available!

(It’s going to be a nice task updating my Goodreads and Amazon Author Central pages again! That’s the kind of task no writer will ever mind!).

 

Nativity Full

Am delighted to share this new three part series by Peter Russell on Chandler’s Ford Today. I acted as editor and it was a pleasure and privilege to do so. The Hutments were a community within a community and are now long gone. For anyone interested in local history, do have a read. Part 2 will go live next Saturday.

Feature Image - Hook Road Hutments and My Family

I cannot tell you how much pleasure writing and reading books has given me over the years. They are gifts that keep on giving.

The more widely you read, in terms of both volume and genre, the more room you give your imagination to fire up. Every writer is inspired, and continues to be inspired, by both what has gone before and what is contemporary and that’s exactly how it should be.

I realised long ago that I will never be in competition with any writer for the simple reason I write in my voice and they write in theirs. What inspires each writer is also unique to that writer.

Sure, there will be themes and books in common BUT there will be differences too. It is what we as individual writers bring to the mix that matters and we will bring something unique because we bring something of ourselves to our stories, consciously or otherwise, and we are all different. None of us brings exactly the same thing as the writer next to us (metaphorically speaking).

What I DO know is I owe a huge debt to my late mum, who I lost four years ago today (9th November 2019) to dementia, who taught me to read before I started school. She got into trouble for that. Apparently, I was taught “the wrong way”. Today, she’d probably be given a medal but things were very different back in the 1970s. Oh they were different! Incidentally, I don’t think I’ve done too badly for having been taught “the wrong way”.

One of my treasured memories is her joy in seeing my first story in print (A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions back in 2009). That memory will always mean so much to me.

Says it all really

I owe a huge debt to my late mother for her encouraging my love of books.  Pixabay image.

 

Thought it was time to update the cover photo (on my Facebook page).  I’m using this image on this website too. As well as being “branding”, it makes it simpler for me to have a common image running through my Facebook page, website etc.

Happily drafting a new story for a competition. Really like the way the character has come to life. That is one of my favourite aspects to creating new stories, regardless of word count. When that character “takes off” for me, they will do for a reader too. It is then a question of finding the right competition or market to reach the kind of reader I think will enjoy the story the most.

Biggest writing issue for me? Finding enough time to do all the things I would like to do, writing wise, but that’s a nice problem to have. What I loathe is having additional time but not knowing what to do with it – what a waste that is! – so I make sure I always have competitions to draft for etc.

Allison Symes and published works

Image taken by Adrian Symes

Great to hear I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue is back on Radio 4. The word play on this is sublime (as it is on Just a Minute too).

Have completed the draft of a short story. Time to rest it for a bit and work on something else. I’ll probably look at the story again in a couple of weeks’ time. It will only be at that point I can re-read the tale and look at it as a reader would.

I also ask myself questions as to what I think a reader would make of the story and why. I also look for anything that might be considered weak from a reader’s viewpoint – and then either eliminate it or strengthen it.

But the crucial thing is having enough time away from the story before I look at it again. You really do have to distance yourself.

Also looking forward to going to YA writer Richard Hardie’s and Cold Case Jury writer, Antony M Brown’s, author talk and signing session at the Hiltonbury Farmhouse tomorrow from 7.30 pm. Should be fun.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Publication News

Many congratulations to all of the writers in Bridge House Publishing’s Nativity anthology. I have a standard length short story in here called What Goes Around.

I often use well known phrases and proverbs as titles for my flash pieces too. They can make a very useful short cut as they spell out the theme too without me having to repeat it! They’re also open to interpretation too. For a story like What Goes Around that could be humorous or serious. I love the flexibility of that.

Looking forward to the Bridge House celebration event in December. It will be the first time I’ve had a story in the BHP anthology AND two in the Cafelit collection for the year, The Best of Cafelit 8 (The Art Critic and Dignity and Injustice).

I just love that the buzz of being published online or in print or both never goes away. And does it encourage me to keep writing? Of course!

 

I’d not heard of flash fiction when I began writing seriously. I was sticking to the standard length short story (which I still love writing) and drafting a novel. It was when Cafelit issued their 100 word challenge, I thought I would try the form and quickly became hooked. So beware of what you get into then!!!

Having said that, I adore flash. Sometimes when writing a longer story (or more accurately what is MEANT to be a longer story), I realise the material is strong enough for something around the 750 word mark but to get it to, say, magazine requirement, I would have to add at least 250 and probably 500 words to it.

If there is one thing I have learned over the years it is NEVER pad a story. It never works. It comes across, I think, that the good ideas were in the first half of the story and the rest was to get it to the required word count length. I know I’ve read stories where I’ve had the impression and I also think you, as the writer, just know this isn’t really working. So stick with a shorter piece you know DOES work and find an alternative home for it instead.

The lovely thing with flash fiction is there is now a very welcome home for those shorter, strong pieces. So win-win then!

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How do I create a new flash fiction story?

It depends! I know, I know – not particularly helpful is it, but it really does depend on:-

1. Am I writing for a competition with a set theme?

Here I need to focus on the kind of character who would suit that theme best. Once I’ve got them pictured and outlined, away I go. You can tell when you’ve got the character right because it can feel as if they are telling you the story!

2. Am I writing for a competition with an open theme?
I start by thinking about what theme I would like to tackle. I like to give myself room for manoeuvre here so I tend to go for a simple but open theme such as love, justice etc. You can do so much with themes like that. I then look at the kind of character who would suit the theme I’ve chosen.

I sometimes deliberately set myself a word count target even if I haven’t got a competition in mind. This is partly to keep me on my toes and also because I know I’ll find a potential market for it later on.

Again, I outline the character I want to write about and then think about what kind of trouble I can stir up for them. That is the fun bit, always! I also look at what it is about my character that will either get them out of that trouble or land themselves further in it.

For a very short flash (under 250 words), I go for one lightning quick problem the character has got to resolve quickly. They really have to get on with it but there has to be strength in that character so I know they are capable of doing it.

 

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When do I know a flash fiction story is complete?

I put the piece aside for a while, re-read it and then work out what impact the story had on me. I’m usually looking for a strong response whether it is to laugh, scream or what have you.

Sometimes I write more thoughtful flash tales and there I’m looking for impact in terms of just how thought provoking was the story? When it is a character study, did the story leave me with insights as to why that character is as how they have been portrayed? Do I get a sense this character is realistic? Am I glad to have spent time in their company?

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Goodreads Author Blog – Living in a Fictional World

I’ve never really wanted to live in a fictional world.

I wouldn’t mind a guided tour of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld (as long as it wasn’t by Rincewind and Twoflower. See The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic for more on why!).

I’d love to visit Middle Earth from Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, though I would give Mordor a miss.

And I never had the slightest inclination to follow Alice down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland, Even as a kid, I thought that was a daft idea, though I loved the story itself.

Incidentally is this just me or was Alice either incredibly gullible or greedy? Whenever she saw signs saying Eat Me or Drink Me, she’d just do so. Never thought to question it and then wondered why she suddenly shot up in height etc. (I refuse to believe saying that is a plot spoiler, not after this length of time). Oh well…

I loved the Famous Five by Enid Blyton so a good nose around Kirrin Island would suit me. (I always thought of Kirrin Island whenever I’ve visited Brownsea Island, just off Poole Harbour. It’s the sort of place the Five would visit).

So if there was a fictional world you would visit, which would it be and why?

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A Good Writing Week

Facebook – General

Do you read or write (or both) outdoors? I don’t write outside. I much prefer being at a desk for that (and right now it is beautifully cool in the study so added reason to stay in! It also means I can turn up the volume when Beethoven’s 5th comes on and I avoid annoying the neighbours so win-win).

I read outdoors sometimes, there’s nothing to beat relaxing in a nice recliner with a book in hand unless it’s doing that, knowing you’ve got a long cold drink besides you too!

I cope with colder weather better than hot (as does Lady naturally). How do your characters react to their environment and weather conditions? Do they cope with anything that can be thrown at them weather wise or do they curl up at the sight of anything more than a fine drizzle?! If you’re writing fantasy or anything other worldly, what would be standard weather conditions in your setting? How does it impact on your characters?

Hopefully you’ll find some ways to deepen your characterisation answering questions like that.

A good writing week is when I can look back and see:-

1. CFT post written, images sourced, and appears on the Friday. (Only times it hasn’t appeared have been either because I’ve been away or ill and once there was a technical issue, which meant I had to post a day late).

2. Progress made on my projects, especially the novel.

3. I have either submitted work to competitions/markets or am drafting work to be sent in the near future.

4. My WordPress website round-ups have appeared on the Tuesday and Friday. I enjoy preparing these as they look like a mini magazine. I hope you enjoy them too!

It has been a good week! Do I get bored? No! Do I wish I had more writing time? Always.

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Asking questions is a great way to generate story ideas. The classic one is “What If?” of course, but Kipling’s honest serving men of What and Why and When and How and Where and Who are invaluable for outlining a story of any length.

For example:-

What are the stakes for your lead character?

Why have they got to go for the goal you’ve set?

When do they have to achieve their goal by? (The shorter the time frame the better as it means more pressure for your character).

How will they achieve their objective?

Where does your character live and what bearing does the setting have on their trying to achieve their goal?

Who opposes them and who helps?

You can adjust the above questions to suit your needs, of course, but answering these will give you an outline you can add to or change as you require.

 

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Thrilled to announce my humorous fairytale, What Goes Around, will be in the Bridge House anthology, Nativity, later this year. You can rely on me to share the link as and when I can!

Many congratulations to all of the 24 authors in the latest Bridge House book and a particular shout out to #AlysonRhodes, #PaulaRCReadman, #DawnKnox, #LindaFlynn, and #JamesBates.

I can’t wait to read all of your stories. They will be a wonderful ecletic mix!

Image below taken at a previous Bridge House event (and supplied by Paula Readman, who is on the right. Dawn Knox is in the middle).

It has been a busy few weeks with news of stories in The Best of Cafelit 8 and Transforming Being. I like weeks like this!

Paula Readman, Dawn Kentish Knox and Allison Symes and books - with kind permission from Paula Readman

Paula Readman, Dawn Kentish Knox and I celebrate where our stories have appeared! Many thanks to Paula Readman for the picture.!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am currently listening to the theme from The Incredibles on Classic FM (well I was at the time I wrote this on Facebook!). Loved the film and the music is so appropriate for it. A really good film score always stands out and hooks the watcher into the movie.

Favourite film theme? Hmm… Love The Lord of the Rings soundtrack, no surprises there. Favourite John Williams’ piece is Raiders March (though Schindler’s List is so moving). Very hard to pick out an outright favourite.

For flash fiction writing, it is the title that has to be our big hook in for readers. The title has to be appropriate and to serve the story well, just as film music must serve its movie well. So it is worth taking extra time to get it right but it’s absolutely fine to start off with something and replace it later. I often do that when a better idea occurs as I’m writing the story.

 

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Flash fiction, due to its word count restriction, works best with one character, possibly two (and there I would say that would work better with the longer forms of flash). You are looking for your character to have the strongest impact possible on the reader and having too many characters in such a short space dilutes the effect.

It’s another reason why I use first person a lot. I can get into the head of that character and they can reveal other characters for me/the reader. A good example of this is my Calling the Doctor where my character knows she is dying but it is not until the end she reveals who her doctor is. I don’t need to bring the doctor into the story at all. Do have a look at the book trailer as this is the story I chose to use on this and you’ll see why!

 

Flash fiction may be short, sorry it IS short, but it still takes time to edit and ensure the words you’ve chosen are exactly the right ones to make the maximum impact on a reader.

I usually get a first draft down pretty quickly. What takes the time is re-reading (often several times) and realising this phrase here could be sharpened up if I change one word here. Equally I need to look for those phrases where if I were to cut, something of the flow of the story would be lost. I always judge whether something should stay in on its impact on me (and therefore hopefully readers) and never just on the word count alone.

I see the word count as a guide. If something works better at 200 words rather than 100, then fine, the tale stays at 200! I’ll submit it for a different competition or market. You CAN over-edit. Mixing up what you write in terms of word count is not a bad thing to do anyway and gives you plenty of practice at writing across the range flash fiction offers. Nothing to lose there then!

Good news on the story front as my humorous fairytale What Goes Around is due to be published in the Bridge House Nativity anthology later this year.

It is wonderful when acceptances come in but behind them is a lot of hard work, even more rejections to get stories up to standards where they are in real contention for publication etc.

Even when that is the case, you cannot know whether your Story A or someone else’s Story B will fit the theme of the chosen anthology better.

So if a story is turned down somewhere, look at it again. Is there another market/anthology it could fit? All story writing is useful experience. What you learn as you write a tale (even if it is never published) is what you build on for the next story etc. You do learn, over time, to judge that a story of yours would suit Market X over Market Y. You learn to tailor your submissions too. That increases your chances of acceptance. Note I said increases!

There are no guarantees in writing and I guess that IS guaranteed!

 

Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers –

Legacies in Writing

Do you ever think about what your writing legacy is and, as importantly, should you?

I was recently at the Winchester Writers’ Festival and at the end of the Saturday courses, there was a lovely celebration held in the University of Winchester’s chapel for the late Barbara Large, MBE, who founded the event.

Not only was that a direct support to writers across all genres, she always found time to speak to writers of all levels, when she must have had a million and one things to do. She is remembered with much love, as you can imagine.

Easier said than done but encouraging others in their writing journey benefits them and you. Pixabay

None of us can ever know where our writing journey is going to take us when we first start. As with any road, there will be cul-de-sacs, the literary equivalent of potholes tripping us up, what we thought was a helpful road sign taking us in the wrong direction with our work and so on. (I’m not aware of any literary traffic wardens though!).

The writing journey is not always straightforward.  Pixabay

So we go into the writing life with our eyes wide open and seek to encourage other writers along the way as we ourselves receive encouragement from them.  We all know the heartaches of rejections after all, but we also know publication is possible. We also know writing for your own pleasure is as valid a thing to do but I also believe we can all leave a positive legacy behind. I think it is part of our calling as writers.

None of this can come all at once but are so worth striving for. Pixabay

The writing legacy we should leave then can be summed up as follows.

1.  Aim to write to the highest standard you can manage.

Improvement is always possible. It is always desirable too. Accept your first draft will not be great. My favourite quote on this comes from Terry Pratchett who saw first drafts as “you telling yourself the story”.

It’s then a question of extracting the gold from the dross – and there will be dross and more than you’d like. Shakespeare and Dickens faced the same. We will not be exempt!

Equally true for your writing but looking for continued improvement IS good to aim for.  Pixabay

2.  Be proud of your work. Ensure you enjoy it.

You are your first audience. Once published, you will want to keep on producing work to be “out there”. You must be able to enjoy what you write over and over again. Do mix up what you write.

I love writing short stories and blog posts as well as flash fiction, but whether you write one type of material or loads, you must enjoy it all.  That enjoyment comes through in what you write. Prose the writer has loved writing has an energy all of its own. I believe readers pick up on that instinctively.

It’s a pity we can’t award ourselves these every so often for our writing but look back and see how far you’ve come. Hopefully you will find encouragement there.  Pixabay.

3.  For you to be able to look back and see how your work has improved.

Working at the craft takes time. There are no shortcuts.

Determination to keep going is important too. Stamina is needed.  Pixabay

 

This has always struck me as sensible advice but the writing journey will have its ups and downs. The ride is rarely a straightforward and smooth one but it does help to know that!  Pixabay.

Writing challenges and stretches me and is so much fun.  It is also hard work. The two go together. Wherever your writing journey takes you, enjoy the ride!

Goodreads Author Blog – Changing Books

Which books stay with you as firm favourites throughout and which only last for a specific period in your life?

I wouldn’t give you a thank you for the old Peter and Jane books again (!) but would probably still enjoy the Famous Five.

The Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia, along with the classic fairytales, will always be favourites.

But the joy of reading is discovering new genres and authors. It has only been comparatively recently I’ve discovered the joys of non-fiction reading. It wasn’t as if I was particularly against it, I just hadn’t tried any.

Now it’s a regular part of my reading routine. (I like the Ben Macintyre books especially. Loved Agent Zigzag in particular). The best non-fiction uses great fictional storytelling techniques and should keep you as gripped as an epic novel.

Which books from your reading past would you change now? Which would you change them for?