Flash Flexibility, Writing Workshops, and Supporting Other Writers

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. 
Hope you have had a good few days. Summery weather at last which Lady and I have loved. I have publication news too so it’s a good start to the week in that department too.

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Lovely day today and Lady is very happy because she got to “boop” her best mate, the lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback. Usually the Ridgeback boops Lady. For dogs, it really is the little things in life that bring them the most joy (oh and dinner of course!).

Delighted to say I can now reveal I will have another story on Cafelit on 27th June. Looking forward to sharing the link on that then. The piece comes from a homework exercise I set for members of the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group.

Will be off to the theatre again in July with my lovely editor from Chandler’s Ford Today, Janet Williams, Looking forward to seeing the latest production from The Chameleon Theatre Group. Will review in due course. I should’ve finished my In Fiction series for CFT by then – wish me luck finding something suitable for the letters V and X! I hope my years of Scrabble paying might help here!

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Hope your Monday has been okay. Busy as ever here though the weather was lovely. Glad to say I’ll have further publication news to share soon so that’s a smashing start to the week.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is about Underlining In Fiction. I’ll be looking at how to stress points to a reader without needless boring repetition and talking about planting the right clues. Link up on Friday.

Amazon currently has offers on the paperback of both From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See the link.

Writing Tip Number 3,004 or something like that but one I’ve found incredibly useful: time away from a piece of work is crucial. You do need the distance in terms of time away from it so you can see where it has strengths and, more importantly, where it hasn’t!

With my judge’s hat on, I can spot those stories where an author has clearly given themselves enough time away from their story as they have then edited it effectively too.

The trouble with editing a story immediately is there tends to be two responses to it – this is a work of utter genius, no work needs to be done to this deathless prose, or this is a work which I really shouldn’t have bothered with, everyone will loathe it. Neither are true. The truth is your story will have promise but needs polishing up and sharpening to show bring its potential out.

Screenshot 2022-06-20 at 20-11-22 Amazon.co.uk Allison Symes

Many thanks for the comments in on Time Off, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Some smashing feedback, all appreciated.

Going back to my Authors Electric post yesterday on Writing Workshops, I can’t stress enough how important it is to support other writers (something Friday Flash Fiction does very well, as does CafeLit). Nobody produces a perfect bit of work immediately (and is there any such thing anyway? I can look back at my earlier stories and see immediately how they could be bettered but they were where I was at during that time of my writing life).

We all have to start somewhere. We can all improve on what we do. It takes time and practice. There are no shortcuts for anyone.And people remember those who support them. They also remember those who were unsupportive. Which would you rather be known as – a supportive writer or not? I know what camp I want to be in! (That thought is assisted by the old saying make your words sweet as you never know when you’ve got to eat them!).

18th June – Authors Electric
It’s my turn on the Authors Electric blog and this month I’m talking about Writing Workshops. I discuss what I love about these, whether I run them or go to them, and look at how old school pen and paper can come into their own at these things. Hope you enjoy (and I’m looking forward to running another workshop at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August).

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Flash has more flexibility than you might think. Yes, there is the word count issue but I’ve written stories in the first person, the third, as diary extracts, as well as setting my characters backwards and forwards in time. I’ve written fairytales with bite, crime tales, the odd ghost flash piece etc.

What influences all of this are the kinds of story I’ve loved reading over the years and which I continue to love and read. It really has paid off for me to read reasonably well and widely (I don’t think anyone can claim to be perfect here. Why would you want to be anyway? You want there to be other books and genres to discover after all!).

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Many thanks for the views on my YouTube tale last week (or should that be tail?) – The Unexpected. But it is Monday once again and time for another video. Hope you like this one – The True Picture. I used a random verb generator which triggered the word picture and here is what I came up with for that prompt.

Sometimes I have an idea for what I think will be a flash piece but the story really does deserve a larger word count. So I simply write that piece for the short story market instead (and my stories tend to come in at 1500 to 2000 words for that). Sometimes what I think could make a good short story really does work better as a shorter, tighter flash piece. And that’s all fine.

It’s why it has paid me to ensure I have a foot in both camps when it comes to short form storytelling. What matters is the story is right for the character (and vice versa) and the story has a proper beginning, middle, and end. The story ends with a proper resolution to the dilemma the story is about and sometimes that will come in at a longer or shorter word count that you might have originally anticipated.

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I’m chatting about Writing Workshops for Authors Electric this month (see my author page on this – https://www.facebook.com/allison.symes.50) and one advantage to flash fiction here is these are easy to share when you want to discuss elements of story writing. They don’t take too long. They also demonstrate the points you’re trying to make. (And it’s another way of spreading the word about flash fiction so win-win there!).

I’ve found flash pieces are especially useful for demonstrating the old advice of show, not tell. Precisely because I don’t have the word count room for description, I do have to get my characters to show the readers what matters. And showing a point gets things across more clearly I find. I’ve been on the receiving end of that benefit many a time from workshops I’ve been to and have always appreciated that.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Covers

For a book to grip me, I have to be gripped by its characters, but the right book cover is what is going to get me to look at the blurb, the opening page, and then go on to buy said book. I want the cover to show me something of the mood/genre of the book, to be attractive, and to intrigue me enough so I do pick the book up in the first place. Not asking much. Hmm…. No wonder book covers are so difficult to get spot on.

My favourite quote on the topic comes from the wonderful P.G. Wodehouse who, in a letter to a friend, said “God may forgive Herbert Jenkins Limited for the cover of……… But I never shall!” Book title deleted here to protect the guilty. I highly recommend the Wodehouse books of letters by the way – there is a wonderful one edited by Frances Donaldson (Yours Plum, the Letters of P.G.Wodehouse which is where I came across this quote) and another which was edited by Sophie Ratcliffe (Wodehouse: A Life in Letters). Both are fascinating reads.

It is some comfort to me as a writer that even the big names didn’t/haven’t always liked the book covers they’ve been “given”. I’ve been fortunate here in that my small indie publisher has ensured I have had some input into my covers which is something I’ve appreciated.

The author ought to have some idea of themes etc that their book cover could draw on though, rightly, the publisher should have the final say given they know what has worked for them already and can drawn on that kind of knowledge one author is simply not going to have.

So then what works for you with book covers? I don’t like over-complicated ones. Indeed my Agatha Christie collection (good old Odhams Publishers) are simply red hardbacks with gold lettering – simple but effective. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has Gandalf striding out in bad weather and again works well (I know immediately this has to be a fantasy quest).

Screenshot 2022-06-18 at 20-24-23 Book Covers

 

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What Keeps You Reading?


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, as were the photos from the recent Golden Jubilee weekend.
Hope you have had a good weekend. It was lovely having a quiet one after a very busy and exciting one at the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend. Think fun and hectic for that one!

ACW workshop info

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Free read time, folks. Do check out the most recent flash fiction pieces which came in as a result of my column Numbers in Flash Fiction for the June edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads. All great pieces and it is amazing how you can work in numbers into a story.

My article explains more about that but I would say the impact of a number with meaning to a character is greater in flash because the form of writing is so short. Where you can have fun is working out why that number has meaning and what that can do to the story outcome.

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Hectic day as always for me on a Monday but Lady and I did enjoy the lovely weather at the park earlier this morning.

It was good to get back to normal in writing editing and submitting a story for Friday Flash Fiction and another for my YouTube channel. I’ll share that over on my book page shortly. To check out all of my story videos, see the link below.

It is great fun creating these stories. I use Book Brush to make the video and then simply upload it via YouTube. The editor function there makes it easier to add a music track too. It’s a nice way of bringing visual and audio to a flash fiction tale.

Allison Symes – YouTube channel 

Screenshot 2022-06-14 at 20-40-58 Allison Symes - YouTube

Gloriously sunny day in Hampshire – hope it is lovely where you are too. Nice to be back in church this morning too after a month’s absence. I was away at the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend last week and before that I was under the weather with a thankfully mild dose of You Know What. So good to see everyone once more and the singing was lovely.

Writing wise, I hope to have some exciting news to share soon – all I can say now is it is workshop related. Looking forward to sharing more on that when I can. It is funny how the pandemic combined with workshops has led to me re-discovering the joys of PowerPoint! I didn’t see that coming.

Do you like film or TV adaptations of books? I loved The Lord of the Rings trilogy (Peter Jackson) and enjoyed Hogfather, Going Postal and The Colour of Magic, which were wonderful Pratchett adaptations. Tim Curry was superbly evil in the last one. Well worth checking out if you love Discworld.

AE - March 2022 - the creative spark
Hope you have had a good Saturday. Already a week gone since the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend – it was lovely to see everyone there. Now back at home listening to the main theme form Wallace and Gromit on Classic FM’s Saturday Night at the Movies! (And before you ask, I do appreciate some “cracking cheese” as does my dog! If you’ve not seen these wonderful animations do check them out, you’re in for a treat).

I’m back to my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I’ll be looking at The Rule of Three this time. Link up on Friday for that. And talking of that number, I thought I’d share three top tips here.

1. Don’t expect to write a perfect first draft. Nobody ever does. Shakespeare didn’t. Dickens didn’t. We’re not going to either but that’s fine. Getting things right is what the editing process is all about.

2. Take off about ten days from any official deadline. Why? It gives you time to go through your piece again and pick up on those annoying typos etc that you missed on your previous edits. Trust me, there will be something, there always is!

3. If you edit on screen, change your font, the font size, even the colour, anything to make your text seem different. When you come back to edit, it is more likely you will spot the things that need to be corrected. I’ve found that on paper, it is easier to pick things up.

With screens, it is easy for your brain to fill in the words you meant to put in but which you didn’t actually get to type in. Making the text different will help you spot those omissions. And you will need to correct the changes before you send the piece out as again it is a chance for a final read through to make sure all is well before submission.

Top Tips

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Time for a prompt. Not quite such a mad day for me, which I always appreciate Tuesdays for (!), but that led to me thinking what days do your characters dread/look forward to and why? Am sure there are stories to be told there!

If your setting is not of this world, what time elements does it use? Does it mirror ours or are their concept of days literally alien to us? And even in that concept, I’m sure you can think of a story where a character has a right rotten time of it and you then have fun trying to get them out of the mess they’re in.

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It’s been a busy Monday so time to chill out with a new story on YouTube. Hope you enjoy my The Unexpected where magic is not of the variety my character expected. Find out how she was nonplussed here. (It is a tiny tale so you may need to play it through twice).

 

One-liners can make excellent opening lines for a flash piece, but have you tried using one as powerful closing line? When I write twist in the tale flash stories, or humorous ones, I will usually write the twist or the punchline first and then work out how I could have got to that point. Spider diagrams to work out different possibilities are useful here and I always go for the one that makes the most impact on me. I figure a reader is likely to react in the same way.

Trying to put yourself in the head of your Ideal Reader helps here. I try to work out what I think they would like and to ensure everything that is in the story meets the needs of said reader. A well edited story is one where you can’t imagine a word being taken out or added. Thinking of your Ideal Reader helps ensure you cut the waffle out!

I sometimes jot one-liners down for use when I only have a few minutes of writing time. Why? Because I am still doing something creative. I can come back to those one-liners later on and then decide if they’re going at the start of a tale or at the end of it. When I have a longer writing session, I have something to work with immediately.

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Last week’s ACW Golden Jubilee weekend was good fun and it was a joy to share my flash fiction workshop. Many thanks to all who came to it and for the lovely feedback. One thing I looked at was the benefits of writing flash fiction even if it is not your main writing form, I’ve found I’ve lost all fear of editing thanks to writing flash.

And so often at conferences you are set exercises to have a go at (I always set them incidentally!) and, in the time given, you’re not going to have time to write that much. The great thing here is (a) you can finish that piece off later and (b) even if the piece remains short, you now have a market for pieces like that.

There are so many more flash competitions about these days too – and don’t forget the online markets. A great way to get some publication credits too!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – What Keeps You Reading?

I don’t think there is any one answer to this question but it is a good one to make you think about why you read. For me, I can’t not read. I can’t imagine life without books and stories in my life and neither do I wish to! So the love of the written word in and of itself is one reason I keep reading.

The main reason though is because I am gripped by the characters in the stories and have to find out what happens to them. Only one way I can do that – read to the end! I rarely abandon a book but on the odd occasion I have, it is because I have lost all interest in the characters. Now that serves as a lesson for me with my own writing. I try and look at what made me switch off and try to avoid replicating that!

I don’t often read a book because it is “in”, the current flavour of the month etc. I have to be intrigued by the premise of the book and then by the characters to read and keep on reading. Life is too short to waste on a book which doesn’t grip me.

For a series I love, such as Discworld, having read one and loved it (Jingo was my starting point there), I had to read others in the series. Now that’s what every author wants to happen!

For authors new to me, I often read their works on Kindle first to see if their stories grip me. If they do, as does happen most of the time, I am more likely to get their paperbacks later on. But again they have to keep me reading.

So what keeps you reading? Have you stopped reading a book? If so, why?

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Inspiration and Grouping Stories


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A lovely Saturday here in Hampshire.

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

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

 

Facebook – From Light To Dark And Back Again

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

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

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

AE - March 2022 - Lateral thinking encouraged


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodreads Author Blog – The Best Times for Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Characters, First Person, and Impact

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you had a good weekend. Have a weekend workshop coming up which I’m running – looking forward to that. Also preparing for a weekend conference I will be at in June (and where I’ll run one of the workshops. Naturally mine is on flash fiction). Weather all over the place again but then that is a UK spring for you!

Screenshot 2022-04-23 at 17-00-06 Finding your voice — London Jesuit Centre

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Lady got to play with her pals Coco and Kitima today – a good time was had by all.

Writing wise, I’m looking forward to running my workshop at the London Jesuit Centre on Saturday. Hope to have a visit to the National Gallery in the afternoon.

And my tickets have now come in for the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend at The Hayes, Swanwick in June. I must admit I am seriously impressed when booking my train tickets online. Always with me in a day or two after booking, even at the weekend. And no queues!

Am almost ready to submit a story for one of the competitions I always have a go at but I always make myself slow down a little to do a final “is it really good to go” check. I’ve found it pays to do this.

I’ve picked up last minute errors doing this and that’s despite having gone through the manuscript several times previously. It is easy to miss something. Hope to get the story off tomorrow or Thursday, and still in good time for the official deadline.

Time away

Hope you have had a good Monday. Busy, busy, busy here.

When I read any story, it has to be the characters I get behind, whether I want them to succeed or fail. Their success or failure must make sense and be the right things to happen for those characters. If a character has a problem solved with magic, say, I need to know earlier on in the story that might be a possibility so I don’t feel cheated when the author reveals this to me at the end.

To get behind the characters I have to care about them so there has to be something about who they are and what they do I “get”.

When I invent my own people, I try to keep all of that in mind so readers can identify with the people I put on the page/screen.

Above all, I have got to know what happens, whether I’m reading or writing a story.

Readers understand character failings


I’m back to my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today this coming week. I’ll be talking about Paragraphs and Punctuation In Fiction on Friday. Both have a crucial role to play for clarity, improving pace in a story and so on.

Am looking forward to running my fiction workshop for the London Jesuit Centre next Saturday.

Now when I write a story or a post like this, I have one question always in the back of my mind – what is in it for my potential readers? I’ve found having that in mind helps me to (a) not waffle and (b) come up with useful writing tips or a story which entertains. That question helps me ensure I deliver something useful and makes me focus. For my flash fiction work, the word count there helps me focus as I cannot go on for too long.

In trying to engage with a potential audience immediately, I write with them in mind and I think that helps me “up my game”. “Upping my game” means I stretch myself creatively too so win-win. Also for book writers, it helps enormously to have your audience in mind from the word go because it will help when it comes to pitching your novel to a publisher and/or agent as they will want to know who you think your potential audience would be.

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Have booked my train tickets for the Association of Christian Writers Worth Our Weight In Gold Golden Jubilee celebration. This will be at The Hayes, Swanwick from 3rd to 5th June and I’ll be running my flash fiction workshop as part of it. Looking forward to meeting everybody in due course.

Many thanks for the comments coming in on One of Those Days, my latest Friday Flash Fiction story. This was fun to write and inspired by two nouns coming up in a random noun generator. What came up here for me was “waitress” and “tiara”, not things you would usually associate together.

But then that’s the joy of random generators. They encourage you to think creatively and to put things together you normally wouldn’t do. Lo and behold, you get another story written which would not have come to you in any other way.

Screenshot 2022-05-06 at 17-04-48 One of Those Days by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The advantage of writing in the first person is you get into your character’s head immediately. The disadvantage is you can only see or think what your character can see or think. That works well for short pieces though so this is why first person is a good technique to use for flash fiction. (Essential for monologues naturally!).

I didn’t set out with the intent of writing more in the first person but it is something that has sprung from my flash writing. For first person to work, the character has to be a strong one so I find I have to ask myself why does this character “deserve” to get their story told at all and what it is about them that means “they” have to tell the story “themselves”.

Deadline


It’s funny how music can grow on you the more you hear it. Am currently loving listening to my favourite Mendelssohn piece – The Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave) on Classic FM. As at 8.00 pm UK time Monday night but there is never a time when this piece of music does not enthral!

The more I hear this piece, the easier I find to picture the scenery in that fabulous part of the world. (I’ve not been to that part of Scotland, it is on the To Do list, but I’ve seen plenty of photos and it is those I have in mind when I hear this).

When I write my flash fiction pieces, I do have in mind the image or impact I want my stories to leave with the reader. When I review my stories, I check how the tales make me feel. Does this compare with what I had in mind when I was drafting the story? Often the answer is yes and that is how it should be.

Sometimes though the impact is stronger than what I had in mind originally and that is even better!
As for my latest story on YouTube, A Magical Design, I have every sympathy with my lead character. See what you think!


Just to flag up that Amazon have an offer on both of my paperbacks – see screenshot and link for more.

As you know, I love inventing characters so having to do that all the time for flash fiction is a wonderful bonus for me. I also adore mixing up the moods of my stories so I get to write “light” funny tales and I get to write to deeper levels of emotion too. I get to write monologues, I can take you straight into the action by getting you to see what my character sees, and I don’t make you wait too long for the pay-off for twist endings or humorous punchlines. And even if you didn’t want to make flash fiction writing your main “thing”, it is still incredibly useful as a warm up writing exercise.

Screenshot 2022-05-08 at 16-28-17 Amazon.co.uk Allison Symes


Hope you have had a good Saturday. Nice day here. Lady got to play with her gentleman friend, a gorgeous Aussie Shepherd, who is a sweetheart. Both dogs so pleased to see each other. Our other (and much missed) dogs would say “hello” to other dogs but were not sociable in the way Lady is – they had a rotten start in life and having found “doggy heaven” with us didn’t really want anything else.

I’ll be spreading the word about flash fiction workshops over the next couple of months and am currently judging a flash competition.

On the writing side of things, I’m working on something I want to submit shortly to a competition. So busy-busy but in a good way.

Let nobody tell you that you have to have loads of time in which to write. Those odd moments of time we all get are useful for jotting down potential ideas for flash stories and flash non-fiction pieces. A writing session spent brainstorming ideas is never wasted. I often spent my odd five minutes here and there doing things like this. I then have things to refer to later which I can then write up into first drafts.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Is the Film Ever As Good as the Book?

Now there’s a controversial question! And my answer to it is “it depends”.

For The Lord of the Rings, I feel Peter Jackson’s trilogy of films does do justice to the books, though there are scenes missing from the films. I never understood this incidentally. Given the films were so long anyway, I would have had the missing scenes in the films given another twenty minutes to the running time wasn’t going to make a lot of difference in my view.

Where films can help is encourage people to read the original books. I watched Oliver Twist where Alec Guinness played Fagin and Oliver Reed played Bill Sikes. Excellent, and scary, performances from both of them. The story gripped me and I read the book immediately after seeing the film (it was on BBC2 one late afternoon years ago). And I’ve always loved The Muppet Christmas Carol for where Gonzo recommends viewers go and read the original of A Christmas Carol after watching.#

So films can help fuel reading. And if a book I’ve loved is adapted into a film, I’m more likely to want to check the film out, if only out of curiosity to see if they have stuck to the spirit of the book or not.

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Getting The Story Down and Hooks

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Weather still hot and cold (literally) where I am right now. I guess that’s a kind of bank holiday tradition in the UK!

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

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

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

Editing has its creative side too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

Framed Flash Collections


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Character Needs are everything

Goodreads Author Blog – Hooks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Workshop News and Questions


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you had a good weekend. Tonight’s post looks at questions and aspects of flash fiction writing. I also share some exciting workshop news.

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Hope Tuesday has been a good day. Lady loved being with her buddy, a smashing Hungarian Vizler, today. Still a bit chilly for April, mind you.

There are offers on both From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See the links (and the screenshot) for more.

My train tickets for my trip to London to run a workshop for the London Jesuit Centre arrived today. News on the workshop further down.

I was impressed with that. I only booked the tickets over the weekend – and these were sent out by second class post too. I nearly always book tickets like this online. It means I’ve got them and, as ever, when I go on trips like this, I hope to get a certain amount of writing done thanks to Evernote enroute. I vary what I draft here – from potential blog posts to flash stories, to my To Do list – it all proves useful!

Screenshot 2022-04-26 at 20-06-33 Amazon.co.uk Allison Symes

Loved listening to the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams on Classic FM just now. It always gets my vote in their annual Hall of Fame. Music can conjure up images and with this one it is an image of time travel all the way back to Elizabethan England. Absolutely adore that (and I think it is far better than The Lark Ascending so there!). I listen to classical music as I write and find it helps me unwind. A relaxed me writes more!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be on Originality in Fiction. Link up on Friday.

Am off to a (postponed) panto on Thursday (it was due to be on in January). Am off to see The Dragon of Wantley as performed by the Chameleon Theatre Group, my local amateur dramatic company (and very good they are too).

Looking forward to meeting up and having a good chat with Janet Williams, my lovely editor at CFT, who is also going. Review to follow in due course. And I know what will be particularly nice about this show will be the laughs – panto is wonderful for that and I can’t help but feel that will be a much needed tonic for many right now.


Sunny and blustery today. Weather still a bit odd. The wind is almost gale strength at times.

Booked my train tickets for the workshop I’m running at the London Jesuit Centre in May. (Again see further down). Looking forward to that.

Am also getting my May newsletter ready. To sign up for that, just head over to my website (landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

A huge thanks for the wonderful comments in on my Where Am I?, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. The feedback on this site is fantastic and I’ve found it so useful. It is also nice to know you’re not on your own – there is a supportive writing community out there. Thank you, all!

 

Hope Saturday has been okay for you. Busy out in the garden mowing the lawn and kicking Lady’s ball for her at the same time. Yes, it is do-able! Makes for an interesting if somewhat unusual workout! Used to do this for Gracie and Mabel too.

Workshop News

I’m running a workshop called Finding Your Voice – Writing Fiction – How to Get Started for the London Jesuit Centre in May. Looking forward to this very much. See the link for more information.

Will be running my flash fiction workshop for the Association of Christian Writers as part of their Golden Jubilee weekend at The Hayes, Swanwick, Derbyshire over the weekend of 3rd to 5th June (and yes, we will raise a glass or two to Her Majesty as well!).

Looking forward to seeing everyone at both workshops!

 

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As I mentioned on my author page, there are offers on both of my flash collections. See the links for more. Grab yourself a bargain!

Another thing flash has shown me is how important character is when I enjoy a story, whether I write it or read it. I’ve got to care about what happens to the character for a story to work for me. Genre is far less important. And to care for a character at all, I’ve got to understand what motivates them and what they are aiming for. I do need to see where they are coming from and yes that goes for the villains too. I just don’t have to agree with the latter!

I wasn’t expecting to write more in the first person when flash fiction entered my life but it happened and I sometimes write monologues as a result. These work well for flash as monologues are at their best when they don’t go on for too long.

The important thing is to ensure your character has a strong enough voice to carry a monologue. Why would the reader want to know what this person has to say? What keeps the reader reading? Because they’re intrigued enough to find out what your character has to say and in flash you know you don’t have to wait too long to find out. So flash and monologues can be a very good match up.

Monologues can also work well for my YouTube tales.

Talking of which, I hope you enjoy my latest one – Mirror, Mirror.

 

I talked about asking questions yesterday and, continuing with that theme, another advantage to doing this is that it gives you a basic story structure immediately. Why? Simply because the question set has to be answered in some way by the end of your story.

All stories have to have a point of change and here the answer to that question is the point of change. Also there has to be conflict and resolution in any story – the question is the conflict which has to be resolved and the answer is the resolution.

The character can answer the question directly. Equally you can show them “acting” the answer out. For example, if my question was something like does love change anything?

I can get the character to “show you” by getting them to reflect on whether they think this is true or not. They can narrate something of their life to show the answer. I do this in my They Don’t Understand from From Light to Dark and Back Again.

I can also get the character to “show” how their idea of love answers that question. If they are trying to obtain love and they succeed, then they are showing you that love does change something – it changes their life.

Questions are useful then. Even when I don’t use a question directly, I always ask questions of the characters I’m outlining and that triggers story ideas. The answers that come to me tell me what I am going to do with that character and away I go and write their story up.

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Asking questions is a great way of fleshing out ideas for a story. I’ve often used questions as the theme for a story too. Sometimes I’ve used them as a title. But I mainly use them to get to know my character better. What do I ask?

Things like what is your major trait? What kind of trouble could this lead you into? (A great story always has trouble in it!). Could your major trait, if generally seen as a virtuous one, ever be misconstrued? What is your attitude to others? What kind of things can’t you stand at any price?

Questions that reveal a character’s underlying attitude to life are excellent for getting to what they are really like. Once I know my character, I find I can write them up. I know what their journey is likely to be. They can still surprise me but those surprises will fit in with the traits I’ve uncovered. I usually get my surprises as I am asking those questions of my lead characters. That’s when I sit up and take notice and ask myself what can I do with this? I usually find something!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books You Must Read

Every so often lists come out showing books you must read (and sometimes by a certain age at that). I admit I take absolutely no notice of these lists (other than to note they are out again)! Why?

Because the books I must read are the books I must read. I am always happy to take recommendations from friends (including via Goodreads) but most of the time I pick the books I want to read and leave it there. Some of my picks are based on my genre (I read flash fiction and short stories as well as write them (and I love reading outside my genre too).

I think it is more important to have a good mixture in your reading “diet”. I like to read magazines, books, novellas. I like to read non-fiction as well as fiction. I like to read online as well as print books.
I’m not a huge fan of literary fiction. I do like genre fiction (and utterly dislike the snobbery against it in some quarters. I’ve never understood this. Good writing is good writing, whether it is in a literary form or in a genre book).

Life is too short to read books you’re “supposed” to read. I focus on reading books I know I’m likely to enjoy. My non-fiction reading is where I go outside of my comfort zone a bit because here I specifically want to learn something (but it can still be done in an entertaining way).

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News, Getting Enough Sleep, and Random Scenario Generators


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope the last few days have been okay. More signs of spring here (and no snow!) – my camellia is blooming, the daffodils are out, and my lilac is coming into leaf.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Goodreads Author Blog – The Joy of Short Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

Allison Symes - Flash Fiction Collections

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Hooks, Simple Ideas, and Character Attitudes


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.
What does snow, ice-cream chimes, and simple ideas  have in common? They all appear in this post – and I discuss character attitudes too.

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Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Glad to report there is an offer on Amazon on both of my flash fiction collections – see link for more. Go on, pick up a bargain!

I see there is a film about to come out called Operation Mincemeat based on the book of the same name by Ben Macintyre. Loved the book. Film looks promising – hoping they’re faithful to said book.

Looking forward to sharing Laughter in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. I love writing all of my posts but there are some which are sheer fun and this is one of them. Mind you, the topic helps!

I forgot to mention this last month but I am so pleased to be a member of the Authors’ Licensing and Collection Society. I have free membership of this thanks to being a member of the Society of Authors. I was really pleased with my pay-out from ALCS last month, which was up from last year. Definitely worth looking into to if you have books out there. And updating the online form when you have new works out is easy too.

I joined the Society of Authors years ago after receiving invaluable advice from them over a publishing contact I’d been offered. It was from a vanity publisher. I turned the contract down, got my manuscript back, and joined the Society. Never regretted any of that!

Screenshot 2022-04-04 at 19-51-16 ALCS

Cold but no snow today so I count that as a win! See post further down for why I say this! Hope you have had a good Sunday. Much as I dislike the clock changes twice a year, I must admit it is nice having the lighter evenings. It means Lady gets a longer evening walk for one thing and she is happy about that.

Regardless of the length of story I write, I do like a good hook in the opening line. I am a great believer in the “hit the ground running” approach.

Sometimes I do this by getting a character to do something. Sometimes I will open with an intriguing line of dialogue. I also open with a set up that has to be followed through in some way and the only way a reader is going to find out is by reading the story through.

And yes I deliberately mix up the approach I take here. It keeps things interesting for me and I hope that comes through to readers too.

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Bizarre weather again today. I was doing some gardening, (”doing” being the operative word as I am no expert!), when snow fell again and at the same time I heard the charming chimes of an ice cream van! (I passed on that).

Many thanks for the wonderful comments coming in on The Way Time Smells, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Using the senses is encouraged in fiction as they all help readers “picture” things, they also make characters seem more real to me, and I was glad to get in a scent I have fond memories of as a child into this story.

I’m looking at Laughter in Fiction for my Chandler’s Ford Today post next week and look forward to sharing that in due course.

One positive thing about the cold weather is it makes it even more easy to stay indoors and get on with the writing!

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was talking yesterday about how I came up with the idea for my latest YouTube video, Away. Link below. It was based on a simple premise and, especially for such a short form as flash fiction, it pays off to keep the idea simple. Flash is not the place for the convoluted idea and again this is another example of the form of flash ensuring you do have to stick to the point.

I’ve also found, naturally, a simple idea is easier to deliver on (and stick to the word count with). There’s an old saying about not “over-egging the pudding” and that comes into play with flash fiction writing too. Just because an idea is simple, it doesn’t mean the story is simple. You can still show a wealth of emotion via the simple tale of one character telling another just what a hellish time they’ve had of it lately. Basic plot right there.

And the other character’s reaction whether it is sympathetic or not can show a reader just how caring or not that other character is and, to an extent, whether the first character deserves that sympathy or not. Yet that all stems from a simple idea.

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It has been another hectic Monday. Time to slow down and enjoy a story then. Hope you enjoy Away, my latest tale on my YouTube channel. I used a random picture generator to come up with the idea for a story based around chairs in a park and thought about who might have put them there.


I’ve talked before about how I sometimes write a punchline or a twist ending first and then use spider diagrams to help me work out how I could get to that closing line. The other advantage of this is this approach usually gives me a good idea of how long my story is likely to be.

If my spider diagram produces a result where I am likely to need more than one character in the story (as opposed to one or more being referred to – a kind of “being offstage” scenario), then I know my tale is likely to be between the 500 and 1000 words mark for flash. For short stories, I’m definitely looking at 1500 to 2000. That then gives me a good idea of where I’m likely to find a home for the finished tale.

What I don’t do is decide on the word count and then work out the story from there. I always go for the spider diagram option that resonates the most with me because it will do the same for a reader. The one that resonates most with me is one I’m going to love writing up because already that idea has triggered me and I will be itching to write it up.

The only times the word count is almost (!) the most important factor for me is when I am writing to a market which calls for a specific word count such as Paragraph Planet or Friday Flash Fiction. And even there I jot down ideas and still go for the one that makes the most impact on me. I am putting myself in my readers’ shoes here and asking myself what would they like from this idea. Then I go for it!

Having your reader in mind from the start is a good idea. It helps you keep on track too.

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Every now and then I write a story where the sentences open with the same words. In my The Wish List from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, all but the last sentence starts with the words I wish.

The advantage of doing this is that it creates a kind of rhythm to my story and, in this case, the “I wish”in each and every sentence ratchets up the tension and that in turn builds up to a conclusion.

It is not something I would wish to do all the time (the I wish being a deliberate choice of phrase there!) because I wouldn’t want it to come across as gimmicky and I fear frequent use of something like this would do precisely that. It does make a refreshing change every now and then though.

Goodreads Author Blog – Character Attitudes

What hooks you into following a character’s story though to those magic words The End? Something about the character has to draw you in and, for me, it is usually to do with their attitudes towards other characters, themselves, and life in general.

One of my favourite characters is Sam Vimes from Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Discworld series. Not only do I like following Sam through one novel I have loved watching that character develop over the series of Discworld novels he stars in – and boy does he develop. That is a sign of a truly great character. They’re never static! And his attitude varies depending on who is dealing with but there’s never any doubt about him wanting to see justice done. (And doing his level best to ensure it is).

I also like characters who acknowledge their own shortcomings but overcome them. (Pride and Prejudice, anyone?). A character who isn’t willing to change when it is clear change would bring them (a) happiness and (b) make them an all round better person is not a character that’s going to hold my interest for long.

Characters reflect us and what we know about life so a character’s attitude generally is something we will need to have understanding of, even if we don’t entirely agree with it.

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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).

Screenshot 2022-03-29 at 21-21-11 Allison Symes - YouTube

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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Travels, Flash, and Feedback


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

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Facebook – General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many thanks, Mum.

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

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

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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


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

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

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

Goodreads Author Blog – Drawing in The Readers

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

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

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

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

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