Broadcast News and Stories in Song

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Many thanks to Hannah Kate for kind permission to use the Three Minute Santas photo. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Weather turning cold again here. Christmas preparations going okay but still much to do! Still time for stories and writing though….!

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Posting early today as am off out to my church’s Carols by Candlelight village sing-along later. It’s a lovely informal event with plenty of Christmas cracker jokes in between the singing. Last time we held this event was in the week of Christmas 2019. It is so good to have this back!

Those who follow the Friday Flash Fiction website – look out for the results of the Christmas competition soon. Normal submissions will resume in the New Year I would’ve thought. (Please note the normal submissions button isn’t there at the moment on the understandable grounds the editor needs time to count up the votes for the competition and get the results out!). I’m preparing pieces to submit in January to give myself a bit of a head start here – always useful to get some drabbles written!

I did get my submission in for the Writing Magazine Grand Flash Prize a while back, following my own advice to take some time off the official closing date. Good luck to all who have or are about to have a go at this one – deadline is the end of the year.

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Hope you have had a good start to Christmas week. Looking forward to sharing my Festive Flash and Other News post for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. There will be a couple of new flash pieces in there from me plus I take a look back at some highlights from my writing year.

Will start winding down on the writing for a few days from Saturday. Looking forward to doing plenty of reading over the Christmas break too.

I often use this time of year to ensure I’m up together with my blogs and have started drafting others for the start of the New Year. I don’t just keep a stock of stories to hand!

And I’m looking forward to a social evening on Zoom for the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group later this month. It will be a nice way to wrap up our writing year there.

Am also getting my January newsletter ready. If you’d like to sign up for hints, advice, stories etc do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

 

It’s my turn on the Authors Electric blog today. This time I look at Stories in Song. The carols inspired me here as so many of them have a clear narrative but there are other songs which have long been favourites of mine due to their lyrical quality. See what you think via the link and do send in your favourite stories in songs in the comments.
Screenshot 2022-12-18 at 08-05-15 Stories in Songs by Allison Symes
Hope you have had a good day. Many thanks to Hannah Kate for including my story, First Night on The Round, on her Three Minutes Santas show on North Manchester FM today. Hope to be able to share a link soon but meantime you can use their Listen Again service to find the show.

Please note Hannah’s show is in two halves for the benefit of the Listen Again service. I’m first on for Part 1. Great fun listening to all of the other stories here too. Well done to everyone included in the show. And do check out festive flash fiction – it is great fun to write, read, and/or listen to bit don’t just take my word for it. Give it a listen here!

Part 1 here.

Part 2 here.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Twist endings work especially well for flash fiction. The impact is greater given the restricted word count. I love writing humorous ones, the “character gets comeuppance” type, as well as the character coming up with something unexpected kind, which is not quite the same thing as getting their comeuppance.

In my George Changes His Mind from From Light to Dark and Back Again I end the tale with the dragon given their viewpoint on the proceedings. Great fun to do and a lovely “left field” ending to that tale!). So think about what you want your twist ending to do and how you want it to impact on your readers.

I do this and find writing this first, then working out what could lead to it works very well. It means I stick to the point and everything that proceeds before my big reveal has to make sense and be logical, even in the most fantastical of settings.

Framed Flash Collections

19th December – Second Post
Oops! Almost forgot to share my latest YouTube video. Hope you enjoy New Experiences.


It was lovely at the Carols by Candlelight service yesterday. First one since Christmas 2019. The singing was fantastic.
Do your characters like to sing and, if so, what would they sing? What songs have special resonance for them?

Resonance comes into my flash fiction too. I have to know where my characters come from to be able to write them up at all. Some of their attitudes and actions have got to resonate with me, even if I still don’t approve. You don’t necessarily need to like your characters. You do have to understand them to be able to get into their heads and so write up their tales though.

Have been doing a little admin in adding books to my website book page and my Book Brush Reader Hub. That’s a nice task – Evergreen – an Anthology is now on there. Plus I’ve notified ALCS and my Author Central page has been updated by Amazon. They are usually pretty quick to do that when you notify them.

Screenshot 2022-12-19 at 20-31-08 Reader Hub Book BrushScreenshot 2022-12-18 at 21-38-10 Allison Symes

A week to go to Christmas and I’ve enjoyed one pre-Christmas treat – re-watching The Muppet Christmas Carol. Fabulous film and to me one of the best adaptations of Dickens’s classic tale. Lots of lovely little moments as the film goes on (Miss Piggy giving Scrooge a piece of her mind is just one of them!) and, of course, little moments is what flash fiction is about. We focus on the single most important thing, which is a little like looking at the cameo and focusing on that rather than on taking in everything about the main film. (That’s the job of the novel!).

Writing flash fiction is a great exercise for any writer for another reason – it does make you focus on the single important thing and it can show you perspectives you might not have considered before. Later on this evening, I’m reading a wonderful poem called Shepherd by Lisa Debney for the Carols by Candlelight service at Abbey URC, Romsey.

The poem is lovely and it focuses on one viewpoint – that of the shepherd – but it shows a perspective I had not considered before I read this poem. (There can be some links between poetry and flash in that both forms need to use words to specific and deliberate effect and we are using the word count restrictions to their best advantage).

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

My story on Three Minute Santas, hosted by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM, was broadcast today. 17th December – and see links above.  For this submission, I had to submit a story which came in at a maximum of three minutes. So how to do it? Simple! I used Zoom to record myself reading my story, I ended the meeting with myself, and Zoom then turns the file into an mp4 file. Not only can I play it back to hear how it sounds, I’ve got the timing of my story right there!

Mine, First Night on the Round, came in about 2 minutes 50 seconds. When I first started writing, I used Audacity to play back stories of mine so I could check if the words flowed as well as I thought. Doing this is a great way of picking up on clunky dialogue etc. I see it as part of my editing process.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Santa’s Reading List

Now we all know many of the presents on Santa’s sleigh are books. (The rest I suspect would be chocolate, toys, socks, and stuff for pets!). But what would Santa himself want to read after all of those deliveries have been done or would like to read if the books existed? We all deserve to put our feet up with a good book after all. (He would have already read A Christmas Carol and The Nativity stories of course and would re-read them each year).

Lounging in the Sun – would make a change from his usual environment, yes?

How to Bake the Perfect Mince Pie – suspect he might leave this book as a present when what he is offered as refreshments is below par. Bound to come across the odd shoddy few.

Reindeer Management – What You Need to Know – wonder if he’ll find a cure for Rudolph’s red nose here.

Postman Pat – Any of these classic children’s stories would go down well with the great man. Would make a change to read stories from someone else with deliveries to sort out.

Getting Away From It All – You’d want to after dealing with the workload for another year.

The Haynes Guide to Sleigh Maintenance – The Haynes manuals are very well known especially in the UK. They even have one for the Star Trek Enterprise and the Millennium Falcon so why not do one for Santa’s sleigh?

Hope you have plenty of book shaped presents under your Christmas tree this year!

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ALLISON SYMES – BOOK BRUSH READER HUB

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Festive Flash News and Author and Book Events

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots were taken by me, Allison Symes, as was the photo of my two flash collections at the BHP event. Many thanks to Lynn Clement for taking the photo of me reading at the Bridge House Publishing Celebration event. Always tricky doing that kind of thing yourself! 
Weather becoming significantly colder in my part of the world. Lady’s not bothered but is probably wondering why Mum is keen to keep moving rather than let her stop and sniff everything every five seconds or so!

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Facebook – General

Glad to report one of my festive flash fiction pieces will be broadcast on Hannah Kate’s Three Minute Santas show on North Manchester FM on 17th December. Looking forward to sharing the link to the show later. Glad to hear other friends will also be having their stories on here – well done, all!

Now I will record myself on Zoom every so often to check if a story flows as well as I thought and for things like Hannah’s show, I want to make sure I’ve got my timings rights. (Maximum allowed is three minutes). The lovely thing with Zoom is if you set up a meeting with yourself, record yourself speaking, and then end that meeting, Zoom will convert the file to an mp4 for you. You also get an exact timing.

And in playing back your recording, you can literally hear the ebbs and flows of your story. Worth doing and it is also great practice to read aloud for Open Prose Mic Nights as well.

Last but not least, a big thank you for the anniversary congratulations yesterday. Much appreciated! (See below).

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5th December
Hope you have had a good day. Today is my 35th wedding anniversary. Better half and I can’t believe where the time has gone either.

Writing wise, I’m pleased to share the link to the super duper double issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads. Why such a large edition? Simply it is because this is the 50th edition and naturally that had to be celebrated with something special.

I use the theme of Fifty for my article in this issue and I set not one but two flash fiction challenges. One was to write on the subject of fifty up to a word count of 300 words. The second challenge was to write a fifty word story all in, including the title. Do check out the stories that came in – it was, as ever, a joy to be the editor on these.

 

Brrr…it’s cold out there. Nice to have a quieter day today after my trip yesterday. I hope my next trip will be in January when I’ll be giving a flash fiction workshop. (It will be in person ideally but may need to switch to Zoom. Am happy with both kinds of workshop).

Am looking forward to welcoming back Wendy H Jones to Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. She’ll be discussing Deadly Traditions, a cozy mystery at Christmas anthology, with me. I’ll be chatting about how she found writing shorter fiction given she is best known for her own crime series and marketing books in particular. Long and short fiction writing have their own challenges and joys.

Have not yet started work on my editing for my Flash NANO stories. I suspect I’ll get to this after Christmas. I won’t be that sorry about it as I do give myself time away from something recently written so I can come back and judge it objectively later.

 

Am writing this on way up to London for the annual Bridge House Publishing Celebration event. This is being held at the wonderfully named Theodore Bullfrog pub.

Am looking forward to seeing friends and listening to author readings. I’m taking part in that too but it is such a joy to relax and be read to – how often do you get to do that? Audio books are fab but listening to the author telling their tale live as they want it to come across is special and a treat.

Do support author reading events. They’re great fun and give you a chance to escape the world for a bit as well as being another way to support writers.

Update: Did indeed have a fabulous time at the BHP event. Loved the readings from the different authors and it was fun to take part myself. Hope to write more about this for a further Chandler’s Ford Today post. A big thanks to Lynn Clement for taking the picture of me on my phone as I read a story from each of my two flash collections.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to say a festive piece of mine will be on Three Minute Santas on Hannah Kate’s show on North Manchester FM on 17th December. Always a fun show to listen to – and I plan to share the link later. Flash works so well in an audio format.

Flash is also great to share as a reading because you can’t go on for too long yet it makes for a great introduction to you and your writing style. Win-win there!

I am planning to use my Flash NANO stories for a mixture of competitions and for a future collection. Nice to be off to a cracking start there!

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It’s Monday. It’s cold. There is still far too much to do before Christmas but it is time to take a break and enjoy a new flash fiction video. You know it makes sense, to quote Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses. Hope you enjoy Fourteen Days, my latest on YouTube.

 

Loved my trip out yesterday and it is always good to wave the flag for flash fiction. I hope to do so again in January when I’m due to run a workshop.

I took the opportunity yesterday to show how flash can mix up the moods so read a humorous tale and a serious one. Both tales have good emotional impact which is what you want from a story. Even as a kid, I wanted to get to the “happy ever after” in the fairytales but I was also intrigued as to how that would happen.

That should’ve been an early flag to me that writing would be what I’d end up doing!

From Light to Dark and Back Again - by nightTripping The Flash Fantastic - by night

Looking forward to reading some flash tales at the Bridge House Publishing Celebration event in London today. Nice to be back on the train again too. Always good for people watching and I have had inspiration for stories from things seen/overheard.

These things are always a starting point only as by the time I’ve written and edited my tale, my “unintentional inspirers” would never recognize they had inspired a story.

One key skill for any writer is to be observant and from that to think yes, I could use that. For example, I spotted someone hastily writing out a couple of Christmas cards. So my mind is thinking along the lines of who are these cards for and why it is vital my character gets these written now.

It’s a situation most of us can identify with and has the potential to be a funny tale and/or a heartwarming one. But I needed to spot someone doing this to get my ideas sparking.

(Again thanks to Lynn Clement for taking the picture of me reading).

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Events

Book events are great fun and if you can get to go to any, please do.

As well as showing support for the authors (which is always appreciated), you may well get to hear readings. Also there will be the chance to get signed copies. These make for fab Christmas presents!

A lot of work goes on behind the scenes setting these up but book events are wonderful for bringing writers and readers together.

Any reader interacts with the author simply by reading their works of course but at events, you may be able to ask questions as you get your books signed.

That can give the writer useful feedback. I’ve had readers say something about my stories revealing hidden depths I hadn’t considered when writing the tale.

Was I pleased? Oh yes! Why? Because the readers had engaged with my stories and showed me they had.

We all love books for various reasons but engaging with stories like that is so special. And it is really nice for an author to find that out a book event.

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Book Brush – Reader Hub – Allison Symes

 

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Publication/Submission News and The Flash NANO Challenge


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 all over the place so far this week. Busy week with publication and submission news and the Flash NANO challenge continues… am never short of things to do writing wise. And that is the way I like it!

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Facebook – General

Lady and I spent a lot of the day getting wet. When I went out earlier it was to go swimming! You couldn’t make that up!

Writing wise, I’ll be sharing Part 1 of a fabulous interview with fellow Mom’s Favorite Reads contributor, Jenny Sanders, over on Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. Link up on Friday. More interviews to come too.

Progressing well on Flash NANO. Also looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group meeting at the end of the month. And I’ve proofread my story – Ever Green and Good to Go – which will be appearing in Evergreen, this year’s Bridge House Publishing anthology. More details on that publication as and when I have them.


Busy day as usual for a Monday. Hope things have not been too hectic with you. Pleased to get my usual batch of stories prepared and scheduled/submitted yesterday. Sunday afternoon is flash fiction writing afternoon! The rest of the week is blogging and more flash writing but I do reserve Sundays specifically for getting new material prepared and out.

It is like responding to “live prompt” writing with a very short deadline to meet and I enjoy doing that. I was pleased that something I prepared for Flash NANO will fit perfectly for something coming up shortly so I have gone and submitted it. Also submitted my third flash collection over the weekend so am pleased with weekend’s achievements.

I have some wonderful author interviews coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today so am looking forward to sharing these with you over the next few weeks.

Author Interviews coming up on CFT

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Hope you have had a good day. The service at the War Memorial in the village where we go to church was most moving. Remembering and being grateful for sacrifices made is so important.

What would your characters consider important to remember? What does this reveal about them? What stories and poems do they choose to hold dear? Also what would they be prepared to sacrifice and what would drive them to do it?

And remember you can use a character’s memory as a point of conflict with another character. How would that then play out in your story?

May be an image of text that says "Dream Inspire Courage Harmony We should understand where our characters come from even if we don't agree with them. What dreams do they have? Would we dream the same?"

Many thanks for the comments coming in on my In The Blink of an Eye, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. I’ve loved getting back to the 100-worders (aka drabbles) again. These were what first got me into flash fiction writing at all and is a joy to be writing these weekly for FFF.

For Flash NANO, I’ve found my word count has been variable but that’s okay. They’ll be even more variable when I get to edit these pieces! But it will result in, I hope, thirty new stories written by the end of the month and I know I’ll be doing plenty with those.

Screenshot 2022-11-11 at 08-57-23 In The Blink Of An Eye by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am glad my story on YouTube, Time Management, has gone down well. Also thank you for the comment left on this one over on my YouTube channel. Don’t forget you can subscribe to my channel and new subscribers are also welcome. Many thanks to those who already do!

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14th November
You know the drill. It’s Monday. It’s getting dark early. It is still flaming Monday, and it’s time for a new YouTube story from yours truly. I concede I may be a little early with this one given the subject matter (Time Management) but hope you enjoy it anyway!


Flash NANO challenge continues to go well. And I submitted my third flash fiction collection yesterday so fingers crossed time!

Over on my author page, I was thinking about the use of memories for story ideas. Flash can be an ideal form for monologues. So you could focus on one character and one specific memory and how that changed them to create a poignant flash piece. (I did this with my They Don’t Understand in From Light to Dark and Back Again. I think it works well precisely because it has to be kept short and pertinent).

The memory you select has to be something that has changed your character and which would rivet a reader into wanting to find out why the character was changed by it.

Allison Symes - Flash Fiction Collections


Flash News: Hannah Kate will be running her Three Minute Santas again on North Manchester FM. See the link for more details but I hope to submit something for this and it is easy to do too. Have since sent something in. Again fingers crossed time!

What I do is prepare my story, edit it, and then when I’m happy, I set up a meeting with myself on Zoom and record it. When you end your meeting Zoom turns the file into a mp4 file for you. Not only can you hear it back, you get the timing for your file too. (And reading your work out is always great for hearing whether your story flows as well as you thought).

3 Minute Santas

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Memory Associations

Books are special for so many reasons. Not least is the fact books have so many positive memory associations for us. I still have my Reader’s Digest Collection of Fairytales which my father bought for me many, many years ago. I think he saved up cigarette coupons to get the books. You could back then!

You went into what was a effectively a catalogue shop (a bit like Argos) and redeemed the coupons. One irony here is I know I did get a recorder thanks to those coupons thanks to Dad’s smoking habit, which I am glad he gave up much later on. Anyway, I still treasure those fairytale books. The spines are taped up because I read them so much when I was younger.

Then there are the books I inherited from my mum. There are the books I bought for myself to start my own collection off. There are the books I’ve written or contributed to and there are plenty of books on my shelves written by friends. I love them all!

There are books I associate with reading at certain times of the year. There are those I dip back into occasionally but I am just glad to know they’re on my shelves somewhere. For me a home isn’t a home without books in it. They are a great comfort.

So which books have great associations for you? Which books could you not bear to part with under any circumstances?

Screenshot 2022-11-12 at 20-08-03 Book Memory Associations
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Merry Christmas!

Image Credits:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay images. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. I also took photos from my Scottish break this year to illustrate light and dark. See further down. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. I hope you have a lovely Christmas, however you celebrate it, and I hope there are plenty of books amongst your presents!

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my Merry Christmas post on Chandler’s Ford Today. I share the link to the Three Minute Santas festive flash fiction broadcast on North Manchester FM hosted by Hannah Kate and another story called Festivities.

I also discuss the joy of writing festive pieces and share some thoughts about “baking the perfect story”. I mention ingredients and method too! Hope you enjoy the post. And as the post says, Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

 

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Other half and I have now had the booster. Rest of family will be “done” tomorrow. Will be a relief to have it dealt with. And a big thanks to the lovely folk at Salisbury City Hall today. Hubby and I jabbed and out in under 10 minutes.

I’m sharing festive flash fiction on Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Link up tomorrow. See above!

To all who were shortlisted in the Friday Flash Fiction festive competition, well done.

Best writing tip of the year for me was to record on Zoom a practice run of any talks/presentations ahead of giving them. Zoom converts any recording into a mp4 file. I found on playing things back I was speaking too fast. Yet it didn’t seem as if I was when recording.

Lesson learned here: you are not always the best judge of how you come across. You can’t fool a recording on play back! But worth noting and learning from.

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Indulged in some alternative creative therapy earlier – Christmas baking! Best of all, it meant I had to be in the warm on what has been a bitterly cold day for a lot of the UK. It is another advantage to writing – generally you do it indoors!

Have started indulging in my favourite Christmas stories – watched The Muppet Christmas Carol, which is just brilliant. Next up on my list will be Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather.

No YouTube video from me this week and I will probably not submit anything to Friday Flash Fiction over the Christmas period but I will look forward to resuming both of those after a bit of a break.

Am currently reading two excellent flash fiction collections by other authors and hope to review those in due course. Yes, I read in my genre as well as outside of it. You do need to know what is going on in your field too. No two writers go about their storytelling in exactly the same way and I find the differences in style and approach fascinating.

What we can do is learn from one another – what works well, what doesn’t and so on. I know I’ve been grateful (and will continue to be) for learning this way. One aspect to creative writing is we keep on learning – how to improve our craft, get better at spotting what markets are best suited for our work etc – and that is so good for us in terms of this keeping our brains active and in terms of encouraging and developing our own creativity.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Hope you have a lovely Christmas and get to enjoy plenty of books, stories, flash fiction tales etc. The latter is of course ideal for a quick read when time is tight! I’ll be back posting on here again next week.

Meantime, I’m sharing the link to my page on CafeLit where you will find a mixture of flash pieces and short stories. Hope you enjoy. Merry Christmas! (And yes it is a good reminder to me to submit more work to CafeLit next year!).Screenshot 2021-12-24 at 19-56-10 CafeLitMagazineM = More flash tales for 2022.
E = Exploring more genres and varying word counts
R= Remembering not to exceed the 1000 word limit for flash.
R = Rules can be stretched a bit – hyphenated words count as one word in flash.
Y = Yet noting you do still have to hyphenate where that is legitimate – no cheating!

C = Characters are the stars of the stories.
H = Hearing their tales, their voices is what readers want.
R = Readers are your audience of course so write with them in mind.
I = Imaginative characters in unique settings will grab readers’ attention.
S = Stories – it is all about the story and its impact on readers.
T = Truth is often revealed by characters, usually showing some aspect of our nature.
M = Mirroring life, stories can share what we might not like to discuss in more palatable ways.
A = Always be truthful in your writing even when telling stories – you have to believe it first.
S = Structure and editing – don’t rush either as it pays to get these right.

Merry Christmas!

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Turning the tables on a character is great fun to do and I’ve used this for my longer short stories too. (My It Is Time from Mulling It Over by Bridge House Publishing is a good example of this).

You have the ending set up in advance – the moment the tables are turned and this is especially true for a flash story where it works best as the last line. What you need to work out is whether the character deserves having the tables turned like that or whether you are going to leave your readers with a sense of pity for your character where such a thing is undeserved.

If your character does deserve what is coming to them (and most of mine do), then you need to work out why. Also are your characters going to have a chance to redeem themselves, say, or do they blithely ignore all of that and what hits them hits them?

One of the reasons I love A Christmas Carol is because Scrooge does deserve the fright he gets but he recognizes this and accepts the need to change. That kind of story is so positive and I love them.

And it’s perfectly feasible to do this in flash. This kind of story is where I do work from the ending back to the start and use a spider diagram to help me work out the best start. I’ve found that technique for this kind of story is especially effective as it ensures I have the “turn around” written and good to go. I can then work out what led to that. You don’t have to always write A to Be. B to A can work really well too. Give it a go!

Fairytales with Bite – Light and Dark of Fairytales

Fairytales reflect the light and dark side of life. They show cruelty up for what it is and ensure the villains get their comeuppance, though this doesn’t usually happen for a while. Pantomime, which so often uses fairytales as the story base, adds humour into the mix. But both of these don’t shy away for calling out the dark and ensuring the light triumphs.

Maybe, because we know so often that doesn’t happen in real life, the appeal of fairytales is very long lasting. I think there is a deep-rooted need to see wrong being righted. I know I feel that way.

Fairytales are also realistic about what human nature can be. We don’t question Snow White’s stepmother’s murderous intent. We just know some people are just like that, again motivated by envy a lot of the time, or being unable to accept the person they’re feeling murderous towards for other reasons.

But fairytales can also show virtue being rewarded and I’ve always loved that aspect, again because it so often doesn’t happen for real (even though it should!).

So fairytales are far from twee then. They’re open to interpretation and cover a wide range of emotions we recognise in ourselves. Light and dark both have to be shown – and shown honestly – and I feel fairytales are brilliant at that. I don’t feel they will ever lose their appeal simply due to that.

 

This World and Others – Deciding What You Need to Know

Every writer, regardless of what they write, needs to decide what they need to know before bringing their story to life. I need to know my character’s major traits (and as a result what can come from those). I don’t need to know what they look like and, even when I do, that comes in later for me. Other writers need to have an idea of what their people look like before fleshing them out more. Different strokes and all that.

When it comes to world building, what do you need to know there? Do you need to know the physical geography of your setting or its political make up? Do you need to know both and one directly affects the other? If so, how? What will make your fictional world seem real to you? You have to believe it first before any reader might.

It would pay to take time out then. You have this great idea. You have fantastic characters you can’t wait to bring to life on the page. So what do you need to know to make the most of these, to get the best out of them? Even if you don’t usually plan, a little forward planning could save you considerable time on the editing later on.

And it may well be you will need to know things the reader does not but that knowledge will help you write your characters with more conviction. It is my belief (as a reader and a writer) that sense of conviction does come through.

It is what I think keeps readers glues to characters and their stories. It definitely pays to work out in advance what you need to know to convince yourself. You will write with more confidence. You will know this character. You will know their story. I hope you find a bit of forward planning helps you against the wretched Imposter Syndrome which affects most writers at some point.

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Christmas Plans and Writing Across the Genres

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you had a good weekend, the last before Christmas. Have not finished my preparations for Christmas but am getting there!

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Am enjoying listening to the carol concerts on Classic FM as I write. Soothing and I can join in with the carols – win-win as I love a good sing. (Of course whether anyone else appreciates me having a good sing is a completely different matter!).

I’ll be taking a couple of days off over Christmas but there will be another blog round up on Christmas Eve. And my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday will be sharing some festive flash fiction. I will probably “pop up” over the period between Christmas and New Year but I don’t anticipate “normal service” being resumed until after 1st January. Whatever you do for Christmas, I hope it proves to be a blessed time for you.

I did manage to get a story submitted for the Writing Magazine Grand Flash Prize. There is still time to enter that one if you’re interested – deadline is 31st December.

There will be a Chandler’s Ford Today post on New Year’s Eve where I will be talking about Out with the Old?

I will take the chance to say a big thank you now to those authors I’ve interviewed for CFT over the last year. I very much hope there will be further interviews to come in 2022.

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A big thanks for all the lovely comments coming in on All In the Blend, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Much appreciated (and it gives me another excuse to have another read of the wonderful collection of tales on there so win-win!). It is good to be back writing the 100-worders regularly again.

What do I enjoy most? Usually on my draft, I end up at anything between 150 and 200 words initially. What I love is the honing and pruning to get the story to 100 words without losing anything of value. That is where the challenge lies and I find it to be great fun.

Screenshot 2021-12-17 at 19-28-36 All In The Blend, by Allison Symes


Hope you have had a good Sunday. Finally got my Christmas cake iced. Am very late on it this year but it looks good and I shall look forward to having some next Saturday!

Will be slowly winding down as we head towards Christmas but I will be sharing a festive flash fiction post on Chandler’s Ford Today on Christmas Eve. As well as including the link to listen again to the Three Minute Santas flash fiction special hosted by Hannah Kate yesterday, I will also share another story and talk about the delights of writing festive pieces. Hope it will prove to be a very positive note to go into Christmas with!

I plan to do my usual blog round-ups on Tuesday and Friday this week but that will be about it for a few days. Am looking forward to my usual Christmas story intake of favourite films and books too.

My next author newsletter will go out at some point on 1st January though I cannot promise it will be particularly early!

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Delighted to share the first of two posts here tonight. It was a pleasure to have a festive flash piece on Three Minute Santas hosted by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM. Wonderful to listen to the collection of stories on here. Great start to the 7 day countdown to Christmas! Link below is to the listen again service and the show is divided into two halves – first hour and second hour. I’m on during the first hour with my tale The Night Before Christmas.

Listen Again Page on North Manchester FMScreenshot - Three Minute Santa pageScreenshot 2021-12-20 at 20-21-57 Hannah's Bookshelf pre-Christmas Christmas Special - 18 12 2021Lovely to be on North Manchester FM again

I look at Book Products for my post on Authors Electric this month. I look at what I like here and what I loathe. I also share what I would like to see on the market including a gizmo for ensuring I never lose a notebook or pen again! Now that would be a best seller!

Screenshot 2021-12-18 at 20-12-49 Book Products by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I like writing across the genres with my flash tales. It’s great fun and I see no reason to restrict myself here. The one restriction that counts for anything here is the 1000 word count limit for any individual flash story.

Given flash has to be character led, I may as well set my characters wherever and whenever I want and see what they come up with. This is where my love of reading over the years comes in as naturally that plays a major part in the kinds of story I love to read (and thus to go on and write myself as you write from the heart).

With my historical flash pieces, the one “conceit” I allow is in getting my characters to speak and think in a style of English we will understand. They are communicating their tales to us and it is a question of ensuring we understand them.

I also think using old English is a little like using accents and dialects in storytelling. You want a little of it to give a “flavour” of the era, perhaps, but not so much it “over-balances” the entire story. Nor do you want to make the story difficult to read (and Old English is difficult to read so again it makes sense to limit it!).

For my flash tales where my word count is restricted, every word has to work hard to justify its place to be in the story at all and, again, gives me a reason for not using old style language. It would, I feel, get in the way.

fromlighttodark_medium-2Tripping the Flash Fantastic Small.jpg

It’s Monday. It has been a long day. It’s story time then! Hope you enjoy my poignant festive tale, Getting By.

 

I’ve always sided with character in the character -v- plot debate as I’ve mentioned here before, but flash fiction writing has made that call even easier to make. Why?

Simply because I haven’t got the word count room to give lots of lovely description and intricate plot points. I have got to focus on what my character thinks says, and does – and I absolutely love doing that!

But this is precisely why I need to know my character well enough first and why I find a simple template invaluable in getting to know that character. Think of it as interviewing your character. You do want your character to “say” I do like this, I don’t like that because…

The interesting bit here will be in the because as it will be the reason given which will show you even more aspects to your character. I’ve found that makes it easier to write them and their stories up as a result.

writing-advice707359_S.jpgImage - Allison Symes - Light and Dark - these questions can help you establish which applies most to your charactersCharacter Needs are everythingQuizzing my characters


It was a joy to be on the Hannah Kate show again today with my story The Night Before Christmas. I love the idea of a Three Minute Santas festive flash fiction special show. Flash works really well when read out and this show proves that.

The collection of stories is varied and each of them conjures up its own little world. I loved listening to it and I am all for things like this which promote flash and show what it can do and be. Perhaps flash comes into its own at this time of year when everyone is busy and reading might take a bit of a back seat for a while.

Well, you can still read/listen to flash! Hope you enjoy the stories on here.

Joy to hear stories as well as read them

Goodreads Author Blog – Books as Presents

I don’t know how many books are given as presents at Christmas but it must run into millions. Hardbacks, paperbacks, audio books, ebooks – a fabulous celebration of the written word, fictional and factual. I love that aspect. Yes, I’ve got books on my wish list this year – I always do – no surprises there.

I still have an annual (The Friendship Book which is still going strong after many decades and published by that marvellous publisher, D.C. Thomson of Dundee). I wonder how many kids got into reading thanks to having an annual every Christmas. Certainly they’re a great way to encourage reading.

Comics and comic books can serve the same purpose. Flash fiction, my genre, can do so too because these can tempt the reluctant reader in – you don’t have to read a brick of a novel (a) all at once and (b) as your way into reading. You cam start smaller and build up or read the brick a bit at a time.

The important thing is to read and I hope whatever book presents you receive this year, you have a fabulous time reading them!

 

The BHP book stall

Cafelit books - Book Brush mock upBridge House anthologiesHow many books will be on your wish listBooks as presents

people reading books in library

Photo by BERK OZDEMIR on Pexels.com

FINDING IDEAS - The finest way I know to feed my imagination is to readWhere will your fiction take your readers and will it make them laugh

 

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Prep Work

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good week. Busy preparing for Christmas here but at least the cards have been sent! It all counts as writing…!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest post on Chandler’s Ford Today which is about Prep Work. Apt for this time of year of course! But I look at the topic from a writer’s viewpoint.

I share how prep work is an important part of my writing life, look at the benefits of it, and discuss how having a rough outline of what I plan to write when over the course of a week helps me stay on track and get more writing done overall.

Hope you find the post useful, especially if like me you are a planner rather than a pantser though I think some loose structure to a writing week would benefit most people. I know it has done wonders for my productivity.

Prep Work

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I’ll be discussing the usefulness of Prep Work in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Link up tomorrow.

Also looking forward to sharing the link to Three Minute Santas in due course.

Just to flag up there is an offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic on Amazon at the moment. Looking for a last minute present for someone who likes short stories, especially quirky ones? See the link for more details.

And don’t forget the one thing you can do for authors whose work you love – leave a review! Doesn’t have to be long (indeed keeping it short helps make it more memorable and effective) but a thoughtful review is appreciated by every author.

Screenshot 2021-12-17 at 20-23-22 Tripping the Flash Fantastic eBook Symes, Allison Amazon co uk Kindle Store

I was chatting about ideas yesterday and it is as I develop mine, I often remember books and stories which have influenced me. As I outline my characters, I know from books and stories I love the kind that work the best for me. (Not every book does this for me – I still dislike Miss Price from Mansfield Park and I love Jane Austen’s work as a rule but this case did show me what I don’t want in my characters so still useful!).

And I try to replicate what I like best in my “people”. I say people but then I have written flash pieces from the viewpoint of a mother dragon and responded to a challenge to write a piece about the inside of a ping-pong ball. My characters are definitely not all human but I still need to portray them in a way to either gain reader sympathy or to have readers happily root for them to fail, depending on whether they’re villainous or not.

All great fun and even more reasons to keep reading. I see it as research and that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Looking forward to hearing wonderful festive flash fiction on Three Minute Santas hosted by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM tomorrow. I hope to share the link in due course. I also hope to include it in my Chandler’s Ford Today post for Christmas Eve which will be a festive flash post.

Lighthearted stories take as much care to hone and polish as the more serious kind and I think even more in fact.

Why? Because you know the effect you want to produce in the reader – you are aiming to amuse and/or cheer and everything you write for this story has to serve that purpose. Also what one reader will see as lighthearted others will dismiss as frivolous. You just accept there is no pleasing everybody and you go for what your Ideal Reader would like. That Ideal Reader won’t be just you, honest!

With a sad story, you know what would make you sad, what would make most people sad so you can use that in your storytelling. But humour is notoriously subjective which is why it is not as easy to write as it might appear. It is good fun though and well worth the effort!

BookBrushImage-2021-12-17-19-5235Screenshot 2021-12-08 at 16-07-14 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 18 December 2-4pm - Hannah Kate


Pleased to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy All In The Blend.


Screenshot 2021-12-17 at 19-28-36 All In The Blend, by Allison Symes

The nice thing with flash fiction is it has more scope than you might think. You can set your characters anywhere and everywhere, in the present day or the past or the future, and don’t forget you can vary the genre too. I’ve written historical flash pieces, crime flash, humorous stories and so on. You can also vary the word count as long as you don’t go above the 1000 words limit.

So if a piece works out better at 500 words rather than 100 then that’s fine. You just can’t submit that piece for a 100-word competition or market but there will be others where you can submit it. When I keep a story at 500 words, rather than reduce it down, it is because there are telling details in that story I feel make the tale more powerful and the character more memorable.

If I feel the story would lose something vital if I were to cut further, I don’t! I leave it as it is and find an alternative market for it.

The trick is in working out what is vital. If certain details help a character make more of an impact on the reader then those things stay in. But you do have to ask yourself honestly do I really need this? Does this detail give the reader something useful?

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Looking forward to the Three Minute Santas broadcast on Hannah Kate’s show on North Manchester FM on Saturday 18th December between 2 and 4 pm. My story, The Night Before Christmas, is on there and I am delighted to know other writing friends will also be having their tales on there. A great way to get into the festive mood.

I have a very soft spot for writing festive flash pieces. They’re light-hearted, just what you need I think at this time of the year, great to share on social (and other) media, and a bit of a reading pick-me-up. I will share the link to the show in due course if you can’t tune in on Saturday.

Oh and naturally I am going to love flash stories being shared in this way – it’s another method to get people into flash writing and reading I hope!

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Fairytales With Bite – Dressing Up

The most obvious example of dressing up is when the fairy godmother turned up to transform Cinder’s rags into a decent ballgown. But are there any opportunities in your stories for your characters to dress up? What events would they dress up for? And what would they actually wear? How is this different from day-to-day clothing?

Does your fictional world have tailors, clothes designers etc or is everything produced magically? If the latter, how does this work? Would your characters need to have some kind of currency to get a magical costume produced? And if they were poor, what would they have to “make do with”?

Occasions dictate costumes as well so what events would mean everyone, regardless of their means, has to dress up? How would the poorest manage this? And what elaborate costumes would the elite wear and why these? What is the history behind them?

Events usually commemorate something and, for everyone to have to join in, these would have to be of national importance. Can you link the history of your fictional world to what people are wearing now? As ever, with this kind of thing, there is always someone who will want to go against tradition – who, why, what are the consequences of them doing so? Does their choosing to dress differently inspire others to look at why they do things traditionally at all?

Clothing can indicate status too and you could use that as a shorthand way of showing how rich or otherwise your characters are.

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This World and Others – To Map or Not to Map?

Hands up time. I looked at the map in The Lord of the Rings once, maybe twice, on my first read of that wonderful trilogy. I was too engrossed in the story to want to go back to the map at all. So how useful do you find a map to be in fantasy works, especially the longer kind?

I can understand why the writer would need a map. Literally it is a visual aid to them to help them picture things and to thus write about their created world successfully. But do the readers need to see the map? Does film take away the need for such things now? Do feel free to comment!

I do know I couldn’t draw a map if paid to do so. I know I need an idea on setting for my flash and short stories though I find I need to know the characters much, much more. The characters will often dictate to me where they have to be set. I like that as it means I picture them and their location in one go.

And a lot of what I need to know about my characters doesn’t end up in the finished story. It doesn’t need to go in but I needed to know it to write that character up with conviction. Even if I could draw a map. I suspect the same would be true here!

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Celebrating with Bridge House Publishing

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
A huge thanks to Gill James for the YouTube clip in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Also thanks to Lynn Clement for her fab author-editor-publisher photo which is part of this post. Other photos in this post were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good week. Have been busy on the flash fiction front with stories submitted for competition as well as in my usual outlets. And I have news on another story of mine which will be broadcast soon.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m pleased to share the link to my latest post on Chandler’s Ford Today which is called Celebrating with Bridge House Publishing. I look back at the recent Zoom and in-person events and discuss why events like this matter. I also share some tips on writing to a theme in this post. This is relevant as BHP set the theme for the next anthology at the celebration event.

It was great to meet up with friends old and new at both the Zoom and in-person event though I am sure the Christmas tree at Waterloo Station by the world’s second most famous clock (after Big Ben, though I know that’s the bell rather than the clock!) has shrunk. Check the pictures out and see what you think!

Celebrating with Bridge House Publishing

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Have started on the Christmas cards! I guess it counts as writing…

I enjoy writing them but it is the getting started on them which can be tricky but now I am underway and know I will now finish them. It is exactly the same thing for me when it comes to writing flash fiction tales! Get me started and away I go!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be Celebrating with Bridge House Publishing where I take a look back at both the Zoom and in-person event. Always a lovely way to finish the writing year.

And apologies – I forgot to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction which came out last Friday. It’s a fun one too. Just what will Alison do with the witch who has crashed into her bungalow? Find out with my story The Best Remedy.

A huge thanks to all who have commented on this one already – it was a joy to reply. I do appreciate the feedback on this website. It is so helpful. Like most writers, so often you never hear back so to get thoughtful feedback is very much welcomed.

Screenshot 2021-12-09 at 19-43-00 The Best Remedy, by Allison Symes

BROADCAST NEWS

Hope you have had a good day. I now have a list of all the writers who will be taking part in Hannah Kate’s Three Minute Santas flash fiction show on North Manchester FM on 18th December between 2 and 4 pm. See screenshot below (and thanks to Hannah for putting this up). I plan to share a link to the show later too. Well done, all.

How do I go about writing a piece of festive flash fiction? Without giving anything away about my story for the show, I will say I decide on the character I am going to write about first, work out where they are set, and, often, putting those two things together gives me an idea as to what the story is here.

And you can have a lot of fun with the setting – for example with one of my flash pieces that ended up in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I started with the idea the story had to be set in Santa’s factory and the character had to be an assistant who was concerned about his boss. (That ended up being called The Help).

Really looking forward to listening to Hannah’s show and not just because I’m part of it, honest! I loved the mix of stories from last year and listening to the variety of tales was lovely so very much want to do that again!

Screenshot 2021-12-08 at 16-07-14 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 18 December 2-4pm - Hannah KateTripping the Flash Fantastic Small.jpg

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Been a busy week on the flash fiction front. I’m going to share two stories from Friday Flash Fiction as I know I forgot to share one “properly” and you get the links to two stories in one go. Hope you enjoy them both. See links below.

Am thrilled my festive flash piece will be on Hannah Kate’s Three Minute Santas show on 18th December 2021 between 2 and 4 pm (UK time) on North Manchester FM. Will share the link later.

And I’ve sent in a piece this week for the Writing Magazine Grand Flash Prize competition. Fingers crossed time for that one.

There is still time to enter this competition – the deadline is 31st December. Maximum word count is 500 words. Fee for entry is £10.00 if you’re a WM subscriber, £15.00 if not. First prize is £1000, second prize is £250.00, third prize is £100.00. I’ve mentioned before I always check competition fees against the prize on offer. I would expect a higher entry fee for a higher prize and this one seems fair enough to me.

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/the-best-remedy-by-allison-symes
https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/specialist-subject-by-allison-symes

 

Don’t forget I regularly post flash fiction videos on my YouTube channel. Subscribers always welcome! I also have my two book trailers on here for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. These both include a story to give a flavour of what I write. Hope you enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

Screenshot 2021-12-10 at 19-22-29 Allison Symes - YouTube

F = Festive Flash Fiction is fun to write.
L = Light-hearted and not too long, ideal for a busy time of year.
A = Animals, workers in Santa’s factory, fairies, elves – there are all kinds of characters to write up.
S = Satisfying short stories that raise a smile – that is the point of festive flash I think.
H = Have fun writing it and reading/listening to it!

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Fairytales with Bite – Twists in Fairytales

Twists work so well in fairytales. The hero/heroine is probably going to be an unlikely one – for example, it’s not often you get a talking cat in footwear being the star of a story!

You know that the villain is going to get their comeuppance at some point, which for me that was one of the joys of fairytales when I was a kid. Even then I knew the world wasn’t fair. Somehow in fairytales things mainly are righted where they need to be. What you don’t know is how exactly that comeuppance is going to happen – and there is plenty of manoeuvre room for good twists there. It also keeps readers glued to the page – you have to find out how the villain gets stopped.

Even though you know magic is going to be involved somehow, the twist there is will it work as it is supposed to do or will another magical character thwart it (as happens in Sleeping Beauty).

So we can think about what twists we can put into our magical stories. Some thoughts here, which I hope inspire ideas, include:-

  • The magical element going wrong.
  • The supposed hero proving to be anything but and not worthy of magical help – how will they be taught a lesson? Will they learn and be redeemed or will someone else, more worthy, become the hero instead? The latter often comes into play when you have three characters in a story. It is usually the youngest son out of three brothers who proves to be the hero eventually.
  • Having your story set in a place where magic cannot happen so other ways of dealing with problems have to be found. That is going to be a problem for your average fairy godmother wanting to assist a client. How will they assist instead or will their client have to resolve their own problems?

Have fun with your twists, readers will pick up on that (I know I do when I read stories like that), but ensure the twist is logical for the story. The twist has to be something a reader can look back through the story and think yes, that could happen here.

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This World and Others – Characters and Their Motives

Motives make the character seem real to a reader. The motives don’t have to be good ones but a reader should be able to understand why your character has them. Basic motives won’t change much regardless of your setting. Sentient beings will need food, drink, shelter, security, the ability to reproduce etc, but where you can bring in variety is in how these things are achieved in your setting.

Let’s say your setting bans war, any kind of fighting (if only!), etc, how would characters with conflicting needs resolve this instead with one major way of resolving issues taken away from them?

Motives can change over time too so that is something which can be reflected in your setting and characters. The desire to reproduce lessens with age (as does the ability of course for example so your Character A can go from wanting this to not wanting it at all). How does the change of motive affect them and those they are closest to?

Conflict comes from two characters wanting different things but again there has to be good reasons for those characters wanting what they do and why they feel the other is wrong. Ideally your readers will be able to empathise with both characters (though will usually root for one in particular to succeed. I do this all the time!).

All of this is why I like to outline my characters and know what their major traits are before I try to write them up into stories. I really do have to know where they are coming from so I can picture them and hear their voice. I’ve found it has paid me to work out what I need to know. Every writer will have differing ideas about what they need to know but it can be fun to experiment to find out what you need to know.

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Back from London, Festive Flash Fiction, and Random Name Generators

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as were the photos of the Theodore Bulldog pub in Charing Cross. Yes, I’ve been out and about again. More to come on that on Friday’s post. Also thanks to Lynn Clement for her author and book cover pictures. Thanks to Adrian Symes for the author pic of yours truly. (I am rubbish at selfies incidentally).
Hope you have had a good weekend/start to the week. Wild weather in Britain right now. Am thankful writing is generally an indoor activity.

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Facebook – General

Am so pleased to say a festive flash fiction piece of mine will be broadcast on Hannah Kate’s show on North Manchester FM on 18th December. More details nearer the time (and I hope to share a link to the broadcast later too). I just love the sound of her Three Minute Santas flash fiction special – definitely had to send something in for that one.

Huge congratulations to Rosemary Johnson, who will also have a story of hers broadcast on the show. Looking forward to listening to that and the show full of stories. (That is such a lovely thought, isn’t it?).

In other news, I will be looking back at the recent Bridge House Publishing events (on Zoom and in the in-person one) for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Link up on Friday.

Allison Symes - Chandlers Ford Today headerAlways a joy to talk or write about flash fiction


Yesterday, I used a random name generator to trigger thoughts for a story for Friday Flash Fiction this week and for my YouTube channel. I only picked first names and it came up with Alison! (Yes, really and spelled the usual way rather than mine with the double l. My late parents could not have foreseen the invention of email and the need for me to spell out my name in full each and every time to ensure I get any email at all!).

Anyway, I will share on my book page shortly the YouTube story I’ve come up with based on my mysterious Alison. Link further down. Will let you know on Friday if the other story was taken by Friday Flash Fiction.

Good fun to do and I don’t recall using a name generator before. The one I used allowed you to set first name only, first name and surname, and even concoct a life story for the name generated. I might have a look at that at some point but I do think it much more fun to concoct the life story myself – that is the story! (I must admit though I am a little curious as to what the generator might come up with).

 

Quiet day today. Bitterly cold again too. Looking forward to seeing how Doctor Who pans out tonight. It is about the only programme I watch live now. Am interested to see how the story threads tied up with this series given it ends this evening. Naturally I am bound to take an interest in that.

I will be thinking soon about my end-of-year post for Chandler’s Ford Today. I usually wrap up with some festive stories, limericks etc. Great fun to do.

And I am pleased to say the latest issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now now – do see the link. The magazine is packed full of wonderful items and it is free! What is there not to like about that?

Am thrilled to see my two flash fiction collections showcased here as one of MFR’s authors. And this month I talk about Festivities. I share a festive related flash piece here and a big thanks to those who sent in flash pieces on the theme. They are a joy to read.

Screenshot 2021-12-05 at 17-01-01 Mom‘s Favorite Reads eMagazine December 2021

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Have been to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event in London today. It was lovely to see so many friends in person again. The ones who couldn’t make it – you were missed!

I’ll chat about this more for my Chandler’s Ford Today post next week but when I say the event started with a wonderful lunch at the Theodore Bulldog pub, you can guess what a fabulous time was had by all!

Many thanks for the great comments already in on Specialist Subject, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction.

On a more serious note, I will flag up I block anyone who posts on my threads asking for friendship. You make a friend request properly or not at all.

Usually I take the original post down but the latest comment came in on my post yesterday sharing the link to my story.

I thought this time I would take the chance to call this behaviour out. At best it is phishing and I don’t want to know. I’m here to talk about writing, share links to where I have work published etc.

I am a little amused so many widowed US generals and Army surgeons want to be my friend though!

Anyway, please be aware, folks.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I had a lovely surprise at my Slimming World group tonight. Back in 2017, I held a book signing at my local railway station for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I was chatting to someone tonight who remembered it.

I was hoping to do the same again for the launch of Tripping The Flash Fantastic last year but You Know What scuppered that. I do hope to have another launch at this location again at some point as the community people who are behind looking after the local stations are all for it and I found it worked really well.

It was easy to show people what flash fiction is by reading some and that did lead to sales. Also flash fiction is perfect for a quick read – when you’re out and about on the train or bus, well it would fit in very nicely there. But I was touched that my event was remembered. That means a lot.

It’s the start of the working week. It’s story time once again! Hope you enjoy my latest YouTube video called Clearing Up Again. Find out why Alison would never be surprised at a teddy bear’s picnic. (Alison is the name generated by a random name generator. I often use these to trigger ideas “outside of the box” for stories. I don’t recall using one for names before though I have used random noun, adjective, questions, and even number ones before).


The latest issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out. My column here is about Festivities and I share various ways in how this theme can be used to produce excellent flash fiction stories, as well as sharing one I’ve written. And do check out the flash stories people wrote to this theme. There is a wonderful mix here. And it is a free read – there is never a time when that isn’t good news. If you like a good mix of articles and stories, check out Mom’s Favorite Reads.

 

Good to see flash fiction celebrated as part of the Bridge House Publishing celebration event today.

It was especially nice to catch up with Lynn Clement, author of The City of Stories, which was recently published by Chapeltown Books. I edited this one and interviewed Lynn for Chandler’s Ford Today but it was so nice to meet up in person once again.

And if you want to write but don’t know quite where to start, why not try the shorter forms of fiction? There are indie publishers out there who take collections and writing the shorter forms will help you hone your skills for longer narratives.

Goodreads Author Blog – Books Acrostic

B = Bound to be several styles of book to suit you in terms of genre and format.
O = Original, captivating stories of all word counts are out there waiting for you to discover them.
O = One book or a series? Your call and there are many wonderful examples of both.
K = Kindle – a great and cheap way of discovering authors new to you.
S = Stories – one of the very best things about humanity. Think of the imaginations behind them.

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Learning, Back at an ACW Event, and North Manchester FM

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated (and most created via Book Brush using Pixabay photos). Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good start to the working week. Lovely autumnal weather here in the UK right now – just the kind the dog and I like most.

Facebook – General

Enjoying the lovely autumnal weather at the moment – dry, sunny, crisp – my kind of weather at this time of year.

Writers are often advised (and I’ve done it too) to read widely as sparks for story and article ideas will often crop up from what you enjoy reading. But I was at a fascinating Zoom talk last night about Cistercian Abbeys. Not something I write about. Nor am I likely to do so but the talk was interesting and revealed plenty I did not know especially about life in a community.

Now I can see I might get something from that for a story or two later on. Fabulous if I do. Still improving my knowledge even if not. Win-win basically. So why not try a Zoom or other kind of talk on a topic that might be a little outside of your own box but where you have some underlying interest? (In my case, I love history).

I’ve talked before about mixing up how you approach story writing to keep things (a) fresh and interesting for you and (b) to encourage lateral thinking and even more creativity. Why not use talks as another way into that mixing up your approach?

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Hope you had a good Monday. Not bad here. Nice autumnal day, plenty of sunshine, and Lady got to play with her Rhodesian Ridgeback buddy and her Labradoodle pal. All is well in her world at least!

Coming back to earth after a wonderful ACW event on Saturday but I find I always do need a bit of a breathing space after an event like that to take stock and then get on with my writing again.

Many thanks for the lovely comments so far on my Leaving It Late, which is my most recent tale on #FridayFlashFiction. Am so loving writing the drabbles again – and this particular tale shows just how far one character can take stubbornness.

Screenshot 2021-10-08 at 16-41-23 Leaving It Late, by Allison Symes

It was lovely getting back to using Evernote properly on my train trips to/from London for the Association of Christian Writers day yesterday. I’ll be out and about on the train again next month when I go to the Brechin/Angus Book Fest and again in December because Bridge House Publishing are having their annual celebration event, hooray!

Mind you, some things don’t change over the years. I always used to become irritated when bad radio reception would hit right during the middle of my favourite song. These days my irritation is aimed at when the internet connection drops out just as I’m trying to post something (and you don’t always know when a tunnel is coming up!).

It was fantastic catching up with so many friends yesterday and I look forward to catching up with more over the next couple of months. I also managed to draft a flash piece yesterday which I’m going to use for my YouTube video this week. Hope to share the link for that tomorrow over on my book page at From Light to Dark and Back Again. See further down.

Oh and it has been lovely listening to Gill James being interviewed by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM. Plenty of plugs for Bridge House, Chapeltown, CafeLit etc (and a couple for me too – thank you, Gill and Hannah). Give it a listen and discover insights into how a small independent publisher works.

Gill James Interview Here
Screenshot 2021-10-12 at 20-56-33 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 9 October, 2-4pm - Hannah Kate

Am on way to my first in-person event for the Association of Christian Writers today. Event is being held in London. I am so looking forward to catching up with friends I’ve either not seen or only seen through Zoom for the past two years. Am drafting this via Evernote on train up. Will probably post on train home.

As well as what you learn from the speaker(s), you pick up loads of tips, sites to check out etc., when chatting with other writers over a cuppa or several. You also sense a creative buzz at the event which you can draw on to inspire you when you’re back home again.

So it will be a tiring, inspirational, and fantastic trip out. ACW are also celebrating the launch of Write Well! This will be launched during the latter half of today’s event. The book is written by various ACW members about aspects of writing and I am looking forward to reading it.

The lovely thing with writing is you don’t stop learning or developing what you do. This is so good for the old brain!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Giving your character an immediate problem they have to resolve is a great way to get into a story. Your reader has to read on to find out what happens, which is exactly what you want. But you can also add intrigue by hinting at an unusual setting for the problem.

I did this with my Decisions from Tripping the Flash Fantastic. My opening line to this is “He could watch the world end or jump on the alien spacecraft that encouraged visitors.”.

Well, firstly, what would you do if you faced that? Whatever you decide, hopefully the hook is there for you to want to find out what my character did. Secondly, I’ve managed to give you the genre in four words – world end and alien spacecraft. This confirms the genre has to be sci-fi and this is an apocalyptic tale.

The setting is here on Earth – that is confirmed by my character’s name (Jeff). So little things like this give your readers plenty of information to take in and you don’t info-dump on them either. That was something I did use to do when I first started out. Great big blocks of description and/or “have to tell the reader this so I will give it to them all in one go right here and now”. Uhh… no!

Drip-feeding information is better by far, more interesting, and helps keep your word count down, invaluable for flash of course.

Pleased to share my latest YouTube story, The Package. Who do you feel the most for here? Comments welcome here on over on my channel page. Hope you enjoy the tale.

 

Nice to have a quieter day after a wonderful day in London yesterday with the Association of Christian Writers. Will be returning to the capital in December for a Bridge House Publishing celebration event – can’t wait for that. Have been in contact with people over Facebook and Zoom, of course, but it will be so nice to get together in person again.

I’ll be sharing tomorrow my latest YouTube video which was inspired by a snippet of conversation I overheard on the train yesterday! Good fun to write and I look forward to sharing the story. (I say overhear, it was more a case of not being able to miss the conversation, but it can all be useful material for sparking off story ideas!).

 

Am back on the train for an Association of Christian Writers event so am resuming using Evernote for jotting down blog posts and flash fiction pieces. It’s lovely getting to use the app again after a long gap. I used it for the first time since lockdown for my trip to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School back in August but with today’s event, it feels like it’s going to be a regular thing again. And that’s nice.

I will often use train writing sessions to brainstorm ideas for titles and/or opening lines. Course it’s a great chance to people watch again! Have just heard someone saying they had to go to their old house to pick up a delivery they sent to their old place by mistake and the person now living there was a “really old lady”. I suspect they mean someone of my age – fifties!! But could I get a story from that?

Oh yes! Firstly, the old lady could be something not of this world and my character has no idea what to do when they discover this. Far from getting one over on an old lady, she is the one turning tables here. Secondly, I could do something with the delivery itself. What is it? Why does my character need it? What would happen if the old lady opens it as it came to her house?

So will be keeping ears and eyes open for this trip ready to jot down ideas!  See YouTube video above – I did do something with this!

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Goodreads Author Blog – New Books

One lovely thing about going to events, as I’ve done this week, is exploring the book stalls and bringing home a new book or several! (Naturally I hope to sell some of mine too!).

It is great being able to go to events again. I missed this so much in 2020. And I know I will be picking up a very good read indeed when I go to the book stalls.

I’ve yet to go back to bookshops again but that will only be a matter of time! I may get to do so as part of my travels as there is a Foyles bookshop at London Waterloo. I think a lot will depend on how much I spend at the book stalls first!

The downside is every time I pick up new books like this, it reminds me I should sort my bookshelves out! I guess into every reader’s and writer’s life a little rain must fall!

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Talking About Writing

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

It has been an odd week – starting with my birthday and my first Covid jab and ending with moving a metric tonne of pea shingle… it’s a long story! But the advice on the keyboard below is worth following!

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Oh and don’t forget my author newsletter sign up can be found here.

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Facebook – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my Talking About Writing piece for Chandler’s Ford Today. The last few weeks have been a good learning curve for me as I prepared for a WI talk, an international writing summit, and a radio interview!

I share some thoughts about the prep work I did for all of this (and good prep work always pays off even if you don’t end up using all of the material. I found it boosted my confidence no end just knowing I had material to hand I could use if I needed the extra. And material is recyclable! I am sure I will use at least some of this material in other talks and presentations in due course).

The link to my interview by #HannahKate is in my CFT post and am posting the link here too. Do have a listen. It was good fun and I think that sense of fun comes across in the interview.

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Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. This week my post is Talking About Writing and looks back at various events I’ve taken part in recently where I have done a lot of this! I also share how I prepared for the writing summit, radio interview and WI talk. Allowing enough time for good prep work is vital.

For me, I have to write down what I think I’m going to say. Other writers may just write down a few bullet points. What matters is recognizing what you need as prep and then follow through on that. (The other advantage of writing things down is you can take those notes and turn them into articles or material for other talks etc).

This post also gives me another chance to share the Share Your Story Writing summit and the poster for it. Now this will probably make me sound like a big kid, okay an old big kid (I know!), but I was so excited to see myself on the advertising materials for this event. It was something that hadn’t even occurred to me might happen when I started writing, My focus was on just becoming published and then seeing if I could do it again and then again etc.

I also share the link to my interview with the lovely #HannahKate. If you haven’t had chance to hear this you can tune in via my link in the post tomorrow (though I will add in a quick thank you now to all who’ve given me great feedback on this).


Hope you have had a good Wednesday. I post on #Val’s Book Bundle most Wednesdays and this morning I was looking at the diary format for books. This is partly because I’ve always loved things like The Diary of Adrian Mole and am currently reading a fabulous book by #RuthLeigh (The Diary of Isabella M Smugge#doyourselfafavour, #checkitout – those who’ve read the book will know why I’ve put the hashtags in!).

I’ve used the diary format myself in flash fiction. Yes, it is possible! In my Losing Myself in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, I use this though I needed pretty much the whole 1000 words allowed in flash to do it. Good fun though and I’d happily use this format again.

This story was interesting to do as I get my narrator to write her diary for the person she wants to read it so it is addressed to that other character. As the diary goes on, you find out more about my narrator and her nemesis, a third character. And I managed to get a twist in the end too – so lots of wins for me there.

This was a story where I knew the beginning and how it needed to end pretty much from the start. It was filling in the gaps for this one where the work was needed but this was where outlining my character helped enormously. What I outlined acted as stepping stones and they are a lifeline!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


I sometimes set out to write a 100 word story (aka a drabble) but it doesn’t always meet that target. Sometimes a story simply does work better at 50 words or 500, say, and I know now to leave such stories be and submit them to different markets. I then have another crack at the 100 worder!

The story has to be the appropriate word count length for the story. (You’re not going to write a quest tale in flash fiction, though you could do it as a series of flash fiction pieces and end up with a novella-in-flash).

When I’m looking back at my “finished” piece, I ask myself if the story has the impact I thought it would have and has it said everything I want it to say?

If the answers to those is yes, I submit the story to the appropriate market.

If the answer to either is no, I have more work to do on that tale before it goes anywhere!

The ultimate question here I think is whether the story is at the best I can make it. If it is, off it goes.

Word count is obviously important in flash but the impact of the story is a more important consideration because you want to “wow” your reader. What you don’t want is a sense of anything being watered down because you’re trying to meet a set word count. The jigsaw pieces do have to fit properly! No squeezing the story to make it fit. It will lose resonance and impact.

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The “oomph” moment in a flash fiction story can take different forms and be in varying places in the tale. The whole mood of my story Calling the Doctor (see book trailer below!) changes on the very last word. This is why it is one of my own favourite pieces.

One of the challenges of flash is to find the right “oomph” moment for your character and to place it in exactly the right place in the story. In this case, had I placed that particular word earlier in the story, the impact of the story would have been severely diluted.

But sometimes I start a story with a powerful moment where you know from that point onwards, something has got to change and quickly. The fun of those stories is in finding out what that change is and what its consequences are – and there are always some! – and it is just as much fun finding that out when you’re writing the tales!

 

Comparisons are a useful device in stories. I use this in Rewards in my From Light to Dark and Back Again where I get my narrator to compare herself to a woman she has come to loathe. You can also save on the word count here.

For example, one line in this story reads “Her blue eyes didn’t sparkle”. That tells you the other character must have blue eyes and hers do sparkle! So I’ve managed to get good description in for two characters in one line and you can tell a lot about the attitude of one of those characters from the way that sentence reads. Someone is clearly not a happy bunny!

Also the fact someone is marking comparisons usually indicates that same someone may well have a self-esteem issue. Why would you want to compare with someone else after all? How else could that insecurity manifest itself in your story? So, though flash has to be short, you can still get in some useful unconscious revelations from your main character.

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Fairytales with Bite – Where do your characters go for advice?

Nobody can know it all. Everyone has problems that are beyond them at times. This equally applies to your characters regardless of how magical they are or how fantastical your setting for them might be. So where would your characters go for help or advice? Who would they turn to?

If they would turn to a wizard, say, why have they gone to them? Is that wizard reliable? What is their track record? Have they ever let people down, deliberately or otherwise?

Is the society your characters live in open to their people getting help when needed? Or does it despise such characters for being “weak”?

If it is a wizard needing advice, where would they go to? What hierarchy exists in your setting? Does it work? Can people fall between the gaps?

Once your characters have got their help or advice, do they act on it? What are the consequences?

Plenty of story ideas there, I think!

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This World and Others – How Open Is Your World?

Tying in with Fairytales With Bite above, just how open is your world in terms of characters being able to admit to weaknesses? Is it open to other species or is it a monoculture?

If the majority are magical, how do they treat those who are not? (An interesting idea to explore here is where the magical ones need the non-magical ones for something vital that cannot be produced magically. Who would be the servant in that servant-master relationship? Would it cause resentment?).

Has your world become open, having learned from its mistakes in the past? What were those mistakes? Are there ramifications coming through from those in the current day?

If your world feels threatened, how does it react? Does it stay open or does it become less welcoming? How do the characters react to the changes? (Another interesting idea here can be when the government is open but the people are not. How does the government react to that?).

I could see some interesting short stories coming from answers to these. There is potential for longer works too, Happy writing!

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