Genres, Opening Lines, and Publication News

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

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Needs Met, Flash Fiction, and Mom’s Favorite Reads News

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.

Screenshot of my Youtube channel front page taken by me, Allison Symes, as was the screenshot of a lovely description of me by fellow flash fiction writer, Rosemary Johnson, earlier this week.

Picture of Lady helping me to open my box of books taken by Adrian Symes.

Back to cold and wet weather in “summery” Britain right now…

BookBrushImage-2021-6-22-20-1744

Facebook – General

Many thanks for the great response to my post yesterday about Mom’s Favorite Reads being at No. 1 in the Amazon charts. Much appreciated. Still buzzing from that news too!

Just a quick reminder that I post new story videos on my Youtube channel on a Monday. Do check them out at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

Screenshot 2021-06-22 at 20-21-14 Allison Symes - YouTube

My most recent story is Needs Met, which is on the darker side, but if you like a tale that can make you shiver, this is one for you. I like to mix up what I share here, as indeed I do with my flash collections. After all, life is a mixture of light and dark and my fiction reflects that.

Have subbed another drabble for #FridayFlashFiction. The latest one is called Restless and I hope I can share the link with you on Friday for that one.

I’m preparing an excellent two-part interview for Chandler’s Ford Today at the moment. I love chatting to other writers here. Every writer has a unique journey and (a) I always find this fascinating and (b) I always learn something useful I can apply immediately or which might become relevant to my writing later. After all it is by chatting to other writers I have learned about markets and competitions. Looking forward to sharing the interview early on next month.

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News – Mom’s Favorite Reads

Hope you have had a good Monday. Weather wise, it has been more like autumn here. Not nice!

Delighted to that the June 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is doing so well on Amazon. See screenshot. (Thrilled my piece on Flash Fiction and Sharks is in this one. Have recently subbed something for consideration for the July issue). I’ve never been part of something that is No.1 on Amazon before! Now that is what I call a great start to the writing week.

Screenshot 2021-06-21 at 17-33-53 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine June 2021 eBook Publishing , Goylake , Howe, Hannah , Smit[...]Screenshot 2021-06-21 at 17-33-20 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine June 2021 eBook Publishing , Goylake , Howe, Hannah , Smit[...]
Also looking forward to being able to book my ticket to go and see The Chameleon Theatre Group when they return to my local stage in July. The Box Office is open again from tomorrow. Well worth seeing them. I was especially impressed by their version of Blackadder a couple of years ago. Also looking forward to reviewing the latest shows, which will be comedies, for Chandler’s Ford Today again.

And I have ordered a new railcard. I usually renew this annually and did so just ahead of lockdown so last year’s one was a complete waste of effort on everyone’s part! Still, I look forward to using the new one for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August, I have an ACW meeting in London to go to later in the year, plus I am taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Fest in November so I will be out and about on the train again, hooray! I’ve always loved train travel and usually get a fair bit of writing done on said train trips so it will nice to resume that again.

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My old grandfather used to say a British summer fell on a Wednesday afternoon. Given it is overcast again here today, I think he had a point.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is all about The Joy of Editing and I’ll be sharing some thoughts and tips. I like editing because I know it is here that my stories or blog posts will improve so take the view what’s not to like about that. Link up on Friday.

Busy getting my next author newsletter ready to go for 1st July. If you’d like to sign up please head to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – would be pleased to welcome you aboard.

Delighted to have taken part in a new flash fiction writing group earlier this week. Good fun and looking forward to doing more of this in due course. I set some writing exercises for this group and I plan to write mine up soon. I love writing exercises. I get useful draft stories out of them!

Have a good week.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Changeable weather here today.

One of the joys of Zoom has been in being able to keep in contact with writing and other friends around the country. That has been such a boon.

I’ve submitted the chapter I’m contributing to #WendyHJones’ book on Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion For Writing. There will be edits to come of course but am looking forward to working on those In due course.

A big thanks to all who’ve commented on my story, Security, on #FridayFlashFiction. The overwhelming feeling here is sympathy for my hero – for more see here.

Pleased to put in an order for Tripping the Flash Fantastic via Hive.co.uk (see https://www.hive.co.uk/ for more info). Yes, it does mean I’m gearing up for live author events (hooray!) and the lovely thing with Hive is I can donate a percentage of my order to an independent bookshop of my choice. I chose P&G Wells in Winchester (they’re the bookshop for the Writing Festival there).

Incidentally, never worry when they say “out of stock” on sites like Hive. All it means is it is a print on demand book and they have to order it in. I like having alternative places to shop for books and being able to support independent bookshops as well is a huge plus for me.

I get the double joy here of putting the order and looking forward to my books turning up. Always a nice parcel to get!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I usually listen to Classic FM when I’m writing. I find it relaxing and being in a relaxed frame of mind helps me to write more (and I hope better). Do I ever find it distracting or altering the mood of what I intended to write? Glad to say the answer to that is no. (Interestingly that wasn’t the case when I listened to pop/rock music – that did effect mood. Why this should be I don’t know. I just know it’s true for me).

Where I tend to block out the classical music is when I’m editing. I just get in the “zone” and I can be oblivious even to things like the 1812 Overture, cannons, fireworks, bells and all. (Wonderful piece of music it is too but I can be so focused on editing, I am oblivious even to that – and rightly so).

Mind you, I don’t know where my flash fiction would relate to in classical music terms. Definitely wouldn’t be a symphony! (I think the novel would have that accolade!). Short instrumental piece perhaps? Maybe.

I do know crafting a short piece of fiction takes as much care as does a longer work. I suspect the same is true for music too.

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If you like a little bit of horror in your fiction, my latest story video, Needs Met, is for you. The opening line was something I set as an exercise for a flash writing group I was leading last week (Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group) and this is my take on it. Note I don’t go in for a lot of description. It isn’t needed.

Oh and a shout-out to friend and ACW Committee colleague, Rosemary Johnson, for referring to me as a “flash fiction writer extraordinare” in her blog post which you can read here. (Lovely start to a Monday though I concede my story video is a creepy start to a Monday!).

Screenshot 2021-06-21 at 17-42-27 Reviewing, Flash Fiction and Other Things


Judging the length of a flash fiction story can be tricky at times. I write the story first, polish it, and then worry about the word count. Sometimes I’ve ended up with a 200-word tale where to take a word out would spoil it, as would adding another one. So I leave it alone and then look for a suitable market for it. I may have originally planned to write a 50 or 100 worder but if any alterations to a story would spoil it in some way, then I know now it is best to leave it be.

This is where it pays to draft and work on a series of stories though. You will then have a “stock” to consider for the latest writing competition or market to catch your eye. Hopefully you will end up with a batch of 100 worders, a few at 200 to 500 say and so on. You can then choose how to use them. Win-win there! And all the time you’re drafting stories, you’re giving the old imaginative muscles a good work out!

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I’ve become involved in a writing group recently (all about flash fiction – and fabulous fun!) and we were talking about openings. Especially for flash stories where every word has to punch its weight to justify its place in your wonderfully crafted tale, opening lines are key.

You are after the “have got to find out what happens next” moment. The next line of course then makes the reader to keep on wanting to find out what happens until you reach The End.

What I find helpful here to think along the lines of He/She/It (I’ve written many a tale from the viewpoint of an It!) and Action/Reaction. Anything that intrigues me writing the story is going to intrigue the reader.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Giving Up on a Story?

With my writing hat on, I must admit I’ve only ever abandoned two stories in my time and for the same reason. I managed to box myself in a corner and that was because I didn’t know my characters well enough. I avoid that mistake now by using a simple template that ensures I do know my creations well enough to write their stories up.

Have I given up on books by others though? Occasionally yes but I am glad to say it is a rare event. And it is for the same reason – their characters have not gripped me enough to make me want to continue to read their stories. There has been a lack of the “got to find out what happens here” in the novel or short story collection. Now this is useful. It tells me what to avoid!

You improve your writing skills by reading well. You learn from what others do. You look over well loved books and tales to figure out what it was about them that worked for you and then try to replicate that with your own creations. But it can work the other way round. You can learn what not to do!

But I am glad I only rarely give up on a book. Life is too short to waste time on a book that doesn’t grip you. I always think it a shame when you come across a book like that.

 

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Becoming a Flasher Queen, Transforming, and Gossip

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.

Screenshot of Mom’s Favorite Reads was taken by me, Allison Symes. The June 2021 magazine is now available free to download on Amazon – more details coming up.

It has been an interesting few days as tonight’s post title confirms!

BookBrushImage-2021-6-8-20-188

Facebook – General

Pleased and relieved that my better half and I have now had our second Covid jabs so that meant another trip out to the lovely city of Salisbury. A very slick operation and both of us came home wearing our “have had the Covid vaccination” stickers. I suspect we’ll end up having to get a booster every year but that’s fine. Lady now won’t be the only one in our household who has to have an annual booster (though she will remain the only one who gets treats from the vet for being a good girl!). (Lady has also had a good day today, getting to play with her Labradoodle pal, Coco, and having fabulous walks. Lady has now crashed out on the sofa, having thrown the cushions off first. It is her equivalent of an Olympic sport).

Does listening to music (of any kind) trigger memories of stories you’ve written or which you feel link to your characters in some way? Danse Macabre is one of mine as I used it for the book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again but every so often I will hear a piece of classical music and think yes that would suit my character because… and I am right, it would. I find that encouraging. If my character is real enough to me to trigger that kind of response, they’ll seem real enough to a reader as well.


Dodgy start with the weather today but brightened up considerably. Lady did too on getting to play with her Rhodesian Ridgeback buddy today, and other pals including a Labradoodle and a Hungarian Vizler.

Glad to report the June 2021 issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now available to download FREE from http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B096BGP93Q

(It is available for a wide range of other Amazon stores but I thought it best to just share the UK link here).

My article on flash fiction and sharks is in there along with my story Dressed to Kill. There is a wonderful selection of other flash stories in there too and a wide range of fascinating articles. Do check it out.

Am thrilled to report I am now MFR’s Flasher Queen (!) and am looking forward to contributing regularly to this magazine.

Screenshot 2021-06-08 at 20-25-21 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine June 2021 eBook Publishing , Goylake , Howe, Hannah , Smit[...]


Due to have my second Covid jab next week. It’ll be good to have that done. Nice weather again today. At least it’s feeling like June though we’ll see how long that lasts! My maternal grandfather, whose birthday would have been today, always felt a British summer fell on a Wednesday afternoon… sadly, he was often right!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post later this coming week will be about Finding Themes so I hope will prove to be useful.

Have just submitted another story to #FridayFlashFiction. This time it is a 100-word acrostic. Good fun to do. Best kept short and can be highly effective. You need to choose “open” words which can be taken in any direction. Will keep you posted on how it goes.

Also looking forward to sharing another acrostic tale, this time in a new story video, which will be up on my Youtube channel tomorrow afternoon. Meanwhile, if you want to check out my other stories here, here is the link.

Screenshot 2021-06-08 at 20-28-53 Allison Symes - YouTube

And it’s back to the warm sunshine here. Managed to get out in the garden for a bit too.

Went to a highly enjoyable Zoom talk by #WendyHJones about killer first lines today. I always learn something useful from talks like that. And it doesn’t matter what you write – that first line has got to hook, hook, hook your readers in and keep them wanting to read.

In flash fiction, that opening line is even more important. It does a lot of heavy lifting. It sets the tone for what is to come and you don’t wait long for the delivery to come on the promise of that line.

And talking of flash, I’m pleased to share this link for obvious reasons. https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2021/06/05/flash-fiction/

As well as my article and flash tale here (Dressed to Kill) there are wonderful flash stories by other writers here. Check them out. I loved them. Sure you will too.

Screenshot_2021-06-01 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine June 2021(1)Screenshot_2021-06-01 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine June 2021

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thanks for the great response to my Stories acrostic story video yesterday. It was good fun to write. Also thanks for the great responses to my story on #FridayFlashFiction (Gossip). Preparing the videos and, separately, the drabbles, is proving to be a good way of helping me balance out my fiction and non-fiction writing during the week.

One great thing about story writing is you get to choose what happens to your characters and how they respond to it. In Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my story Enough is Enough shows what my character does when she is finally fed up with being body shamed. Let’s just say she’s a feisty soul, my favourite kind of character. You know a character like that is going to act and react in interesting ways! Characters have to seem real and readers need to be able to identify with them, even if they don’t like them. Characters have got to make your readers react.


Time for another story video and this is an acrostic called Stories. As ever I used Book Brush to create the video and then uploaded it to Youtube where I found a free to use audio track to add to it. The nice thing is I don’t have to wait for YT to add the track. As long as I’ve saved it, they’ll process it and when I next come back to YT, there is my video with the music added. I also like the smoke motif on this one. Hope you enjoy.

 


I talked about transformations over on my Goodreads blog yesterday (Transforming Storiessee below for link) – as transformation is the point of all stories, regardless of their length. Something has to change in a story. Something has to happen.

With flash fiction of course I have less word count room in which to do that but the upside of that is you can pack a more powerful emotional punch to the reader. There isn’t the word count room for that emotional impact to be diluted.

And in character studies, you can make the change or transformation as simple as a character realising something they hadn’t before and that it is clear this realisation is going to change their lives from that point onwards. Dramatic transformations are great fun to write and read but don’t neglect the more subtle types. Those are the ones that tend to grip the heart.


It has been a great joy over the last few weeks to have drabbles regularly appearing on #FridayFlashFiction. So how do I come up with the ideas for these? I’ve mentioned before I use odd pockets of time to jot down potential ideas and I am now writing these up so I have something to submit here.

The great thing is plenty of distance in terms of time has passed between when I first jotted that idea down and my writing it up. The ideas have still hooked me (and that is the test. If I suddenly think what was I thinking here, that is not a good sign, ever!).

What this also means is I will have to give myself another brainstorming session to jot down ideas for future use but that’s fine (and it is also fun to do).

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Goodreads Author Blog – Transforming Stories

All stories pivot on change. I write a lot of short stories and even more in the way of flash fiction where word counts are restricted but even in a 100-word story (a form I am fond of) there is a journey for the character. Okay, it is not a long one but it can pack the punch because the form is so short.

Transformations in characters don’t have to be dramatic. A character realising something is a change. Think of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Both of them change – one loses their pride, the other their prejudice – as they realise they do love each other. (And I refuse to believe that’s a plot spoiler after all this time!). Jane Austen was going to call this one First Impressions which is a fine title funnily enough but lacks the emotional punch of Pride and Prejudice I think.

Another favourite transformation for me is Scrooge in A Christmas Carol and the courage Frodo Baggins and Samwise develop in The Lord of The Rings.

So transformation matters then. (It is with some pride I can say I am in a book called Transformations from Bridge House Publishing with three of my stories. It is such a powerful idea to write and read about).

After all it is why we read. We have to find out what happens. And nothing happens without something or someone being transformed.

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Surprises, Titles, Barnes and Noble, and Youtube

Nice combination for a title I think!

Image Credit

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General

Had a nice surprise today. Discovered I’m on Barnes and Noble. See link and screenshot further down.

Why the surprise? Well, I guess it is because I hadn’t really thought I could be on there! Nice way to finish a Tuesday having said that! Also note to self: you really should check these things out sooner!

Very happy with progress on my kind of NaNoWriMo project too. So not a bad start to the writing week.

One thing I find about my Chandler’s Ford Today posts at times is picture finding. All hail the mighty Pixabay and all of that because they are brilliant but sometimes I will write a post where I think I will find loads of excellent images to go with it.

What do I find? Precious few.

Using Pixabay has taught me to think laterally and that will often resolve my problem but not always. For example my post on board and card games proved surprisingly difficult to find the right images for and I did think I would have a surfeit of richness there.

Still no such problem this week when I chat to #LizHurst! (Another advantage to interviewing authors – as well as being huge fun to do, you can always rely on them for book cover images, author pics etc!!).

Screenshot_2020-11-10 Tripping the Flash Fantastic PaperbackHope you have had a good start to your week. Lady and I had a wet start to the week…not that she worried. Mind you, she was pleased to see her best buddy, who is the sweetest Rhodesian Ridgeback ever. And the news about a possible Covid vaccine is fantastic news. Definitely need a lift right now.

Looking forward to sharing an interview with #LizHurst later this week on Chandler’s Ford Today. Liz and I are big fans of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. So looking forward to being back there hopefully in August 2021.

One of the biggest things about the lockdown is missing being able to meet up with people in the way we used to do. Mind you, I love Zoom and like the way that has made events accessible. We want the best of both worlds here.

Had the delightful task yesterday of going through a proof of a short story that will be appearing later in the year in an anthology. More news later of course but this kind of writing work I’m always going to enjoy!

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As promised yesterday, here’s the link to the video for Being Yourself from Tripping The Flash Fantastic, which I uploaded to Youtube yesterday. Hope you enjoy.

I also talk a little about what inspired me to write this story. I love this kind of thing when other authors do this as I always learn something useful that I can apply to my own writing.

In other news, I’m making good progress on my non-fiction book which is my “kind of” NaNoWriMo project so am happy with that. Looking forward to getting back on to that shortly. And for another story here is the book trailer for Tripping The Flash Fantastic.

Have just scheduled another video to go up on my Youtube channel. I’ll be putting up my story, Being Yourself, which I created a video for as part of my cyberlaunch for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Link in above post!

The story is due to go live a little later on this evening (and I will share the specific link tomorrow) but I am impressed at how easy it is to upload videos on to Youtube.

I’ve been creating videos for the first time this year for both my website and things like the launch so it makes sense for me to develop this side of things further.

Flash fiction works very well for this as it isn’t too long (so download times etc are also good). Hope to have more fun with this and create new stories specifically for the Youtube channel in due course.

Screenshot_2020-10-31 Allison Symes - YouTube

From Light to Dark and Back Again

I tend to keep my titles short for my flash stories. This is partly because some markets/competitions do include the title as part of their word count so that’s all the incentive I need to keep the title short!

But it also pays to do so simply because shorter titles are easier to remember. That in turn makes it easier for that title to impact on the reader.

It is also important for a writer to be able to keep tabs of what they wrote and where it was (hopefully) published so again make your life easier here and keep the titles short!

Most of my titles are from one to five words, though I occasionally use a six or seven worder. In Tripping The Flash Fantastic, my story Time Is For Others To Worry About is deliberately at that length as it intrigues (I hope!). If I’m using a proverb or well known saying as my title, then I will use it in full but again that phrase will be designed to spark curiosity in the reader as to what the story is all about.

So as well as outlining my lead character and story line, I do give thought to the impact I want my titles to have. It pays.

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Had a wonderful catch-up chat with Swanwick pals on Friday night via Zoom. I don’t know if this is just me but I do find Zoom easier to use than Skype.

Good to also catch up with listening to a couple of writer pals who’ve been on Chat and Spin Radio recently too. And one thing that came out of a good old chat on Friday night was the joy of flipping through the latest copy of Writing Magazine and spotting the names of writers you know in there. What is lovely is these days I feel a bit disappointed if I don’t spot the names of at least three people I know in there!

And do bear in mind that some of the magazine’s competitions would count as flash fiction. I’ve seen a 750-word competition in there, a 500 words one and so on. They may not be labelled flash fiction but they are all the same!

And online magazines like Cafelit have a lovely mixture of flash fiction and standard length short stories so bear them in mind too.

My story page on Cafelit can be found here and I deliberately have a mixture of flash and standard length short stories on there.

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Both of my book titles have reflected either the mood of the stories within them (From Light to Dark and Back Again) or the overall genre, flash fiction (Tripping The Flash Fantastic).

A good book title should draw potential readers in and the best way of doing that is for the title to spark their curiosity. Otherwise known as the “I’ve got to find out what that’s about” effect!

I didn’t know either of the titles for my collections until late in the writing stage. I DID have working titles (I do need to have something to “peg” my stories to) but also knew these would not be the final versions (but that was okay as I still had my “security blanket peg” so to speak).

It also pays to jot down ideas for titles as they come to you (and it’s often when you’re not expecting them!). Having a shortlist of possibles is reassuring and there is bound to be at least one that really grabs you (and hopefully would also grab other readers).

 

One good exercise to do is to give yourself five minutes to come up with opening lines. Don’t edit what you’ve come up with either.

Just jot down the ideas and work with those.

I have fun here with coming up with seemingly impossible scenarios that I am going to have to find a way for my character(s) to overcome. The best kind of opening line is open to interpretation and can be taken in different directions. See what you can do with these.

1. The postman may have rung twice but he wasn’t going to do so again.

2. When your living room lights up with blue sparkling fairy lights even though it is nowhere near Christmas, you know you’ve got a problem.

3. The dog was never wrong.

Allison Symes – 7th November 2020

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Favourite Non-Fiction Books

I must admit my favourite non-fiction books tend to be the writing guides. I’m especially fond of Stephen King’s On Writing (which is also a great memoir. There aren’t many writing books which can claim that).

I also like How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman is packed with great advice and is very funny.

I also like the Jane Wenham-Jones books Wanna Be a Writer? and Wanna Be a Writer We’ve Heard Of? Again lots of useful information given in a chatty and funny way. I adore that kind of thing.

I suspect I’m not the only one here but I do take information in better (and retain it) if I’ve enjoyed the books said information is in!

No pressure on the non-fiction writers then!

I also love the Ben Macintyre books – again history presented in an entertaining way. I am glad the days of non-fiction being confined to serious and literally heavy tomes have now gone.

And it is a good idea for any writer to mix up their reading material. Inspiration for our own stories can come from a variety of places so it makes sense to read widely and to include non-fiction in that. You just need to read one fascinating fact and ideas for working that into a story can come.

I’m currently reading on my Kindle Spike Milligan’s Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall and loving it. It is non-fiction because Milligan did serve in the war. It is humorous (as you would expect from him) and it draws you in and is a real pleasure to read.

And that’s what a good read should be after all!

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Creating Characters

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated. Also a big thank you to Richard Hardie for the images supplied for my second CFT post which appeared over the weekend, more below.

Facebook – General – bonus Chandler’s Ford Today post

A busy week on CFT for me this time. My second post this week shares news from YA author, Richard Hardie, about his link with Doctor Who. All very exciting and a feather in the cap for Richard. Well done! Check out the post for more details.

Facebook – Association of Christian Writers

More Than Writers blog spot – Creating Characters

It’s my turn on More than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers.

I talk about Creating Characters and share hints and tips, including a list of questions that will help you outline your “people”.

Hope you find it useful. (And many thanks to those who have commented on this. Much appreciated).

A good TV or film adaptation of a book only works if the images shown roughly coincide with the images I had from reading the text. The Inspector Morse series did this, as did the Poirot and Miss Marple series (with David Suchet and Joan Hickson). Film wise, I thought Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings had it spot on.

Are there any books you would like to see made into series or films? Which ones and why? Are there adaptations that haven’t worked for you? (I couldn’t get on with the Marple series. For me, Joan HIckson was perfect in the role and that was that).

When it comes to writing my stories, I put myself in my character’s shoes and see the world their way. I don’t always like my characters by the way! (Oh and a big thanks for a tremendous response to my ACW post on More Than Writers yesterday which was all about Creating Characters. Glad it was useful).

What I have found is you DO have to inhabit your character’s space so you can write about them/for them effectively.

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One very tired Lady on the sofa tonight. Had a great big play with several pals, including her “boyfriend”, a lovely Collie gent, and her best pal, a Rhodesian Ridgeback. I should imagine they’re pretty shattered as well!

Enjolyed listening to the Movie Music Hall of Fame on Classic FM today. I was right about the top two and pleased about them too. Must remember to find out where the Pink Panther theme came in (and there’s an earworm for anyone of a certain age!).

I usually write with classical music on as I find it helps me relax and when I relax, I’m more productive with the writing. Other things I have to have on my desk are my dictionary, my Scrivener for Dummies guide, my publisher guides (Writers and Artists and Mslexia) and plenty of pens (I know! I’m using a laptop, what do I need pens for? I guess I just like to see them around!).

I don’t have any rituals before writing. I just open my laptop and get on with it but I do like to see the accoutrements on my desk. I suppose it’s a case of Allison going into her comfort zone sort of thing.

And now I am IN my comfort zone, time to get on with more writing then!

 

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I can’t say a particular writer made me pick up my pen and start writing. I’ve loved books and stories for as long as I can recall. I loved writing stories in English lessons at school (and I’ll be talking a bit more about that in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week).

But it took me a long time to figure out I really ought to get around and write seriously. It took two major life events to wake me up here! My only serious regret with writing is NOT starting a lot sooner than I did.

But it is wonderful to say that all of the writers whose books are on my shelves (and the electronic one too!) have added to my love of stories and storytelling. For that I will always be grateful. And then there’s the joy of discovering new writers too.

If I could invent things I would invent:-

1. Elastic time so I never run out of time to read or write.
2. Calorie free chocolate.
3. Calorie free prosecco.
4. A stamina “topper-upper” for those times you could really do with it!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t know about you but I find it unsettling it is 8.30 pm in August in the UK and it is pitch black out there! (Not due to the weather either). The seasons are definitely shifting. Talk about going from light to dark!

I’ve mentioned before that one of my favourite writing exercises is writing to a set opening line. The ones that work best for me are the ones that can be taken in more than one direction. For example:-

1. The door remained locked despite her efforts.
2. He was on time, as the note insisted, but nobody was about.
3. The fairy godmother was on early shift.

Now all three opening lines here have comic as well as dramatic possibilities. (The door could remain locked because it took her a while to realise she was using the wrong key. He might be on time but what if he turned up at the wrong place and forgot to check? As for the fairy godmother, what could she expect to have to do on early shift that she might not face later on in the day? Definitely scope for humour there and that would almost certainly be the way I’d take these story ideas).

I find it useful to jot down initial ideas from an opening line and then go for the one that is a little way down my list. That is the idea which is not likely to be the obvious one and could well be open to my putting a twist on it, which I always love doing.

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One of my favourite stories in my new book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, involves a librarian and a snake. Can’t say more than that at the moment but it was great fun to write! By all means, let your mind boggle at the thought of that!

But then that is the fun of fiction. You can write in any genre, any time period, and the impossible isn’t so much in things like fantasy, magical realism etc.

Whatever you write, it is important to enjoy it. I mentioned to a friend and fellow author (the lovely #ValPenny) that you have to enjoy what you write, especially if it is a book, because you’ll be promoting said book for a long time.

You as the writer have got to be able to live with what you’ve written and enjoy living with it too! That’s an aspect to the writing life which isn’t often considered I think.

But commitment to what you write shows up here and not just in the hard work it needs to get those stories written in the first place.

Writing is good for you as it stretches you and develops your imagination. It is also good fun experimenting with different forms of writing and discovering where your strengths are. But even when you’ve found the style of writing that suits you best, writing should still keep pushing you.

Pushing you to keep on producing good work.

Pushing you to discover new markets/competitions for your work.

Pushing you to get better at editing your work and polishing it as well as you can to give it its best possible chance out there in the big, bad world.

Pushing you to develop new skills including but definitely not limited to reading your work to an audience, making the most of technology to produce items that can help you market your work more effectively, and so on.

What writing doesn’t do is allow you to rest on your laurels and that’s a great thing. Why? Because you want to keep on developing. The writing journey should be as much fun as possible. Different things come up along that journey, things you would not have expected when starting out, and by developing you will be ready to tackle those things and have more strings to add to your bow.

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Am looking forward to taking part in the Zoom session with #GillJames and #DawnKentishKnox on 26th September. I hope to be reading a story or two, including one from Tripping the Flash Fantastic. You did hear it here first!

I will share the link to the event later in September. You do need to register but the event is free. I’ll also be flagging it up via Chandler’s Ford Today in due course.

Flash is great for reading aloud at events etc. It doesn’t take too long to read. It makes an immediate impact and the “deeper” stories resonate with you and linger long in the memory afterwards. Nothing to dislike there!

And I’ve said before it is a good idea to read your work out loud so you can hear how it flows, whether the dialogue etc comes across as smoothly as you’d like etc. If you trip over your words, a reader almost certainly will. Again with flash, this doesn’t take long. I’ve spotted things I’ve needed to change many a time doing this.

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Goodreads Author Blog Book Dilemmas

What book dilemmas, I hear you ask?

Well, there is the obvious one of which book you are going to read next from your naturally huge TBR pile.

I refuse to believe that doesn’t give you pause for thought from time to time! (I get a little annoyed with myself for doing this. I realise the half hour I spent deciding what I’ll read next could have been spent on reading!).

Then there is the dilemma of whether you’ll reduce the TBR paperback pile or the one on your Kindle.

Then there is the dilemma of whether you’ll read short stories or another novel or non-fiction.

There is no one right answer to how you answer these.

I find I read a load of things on my Kindle for a while, then switch back to paperbacks for a bit, and that’s fine with me.

I just need to stop wasting half hours every now and again making up my mind and just get on with what matters – the reading!

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Changing Direction

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My post this week looks at why changing direction in writing can be benefical and why it is inevitable at some point. After all when you start writing, you cannot know at that point for sure you will always write short stories, say. You may decide to write a novella or a play or what have you.

I share some thoughts about my own changes of direction and flag up a new one but see the post for more on that.

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Did you know what you wanted to write when you first began creative writing? Or was it a case of wanting to try different forms until you found the one you were most at home with?

It was those questions which led to my writing this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post on Changing Direction.

Writers are often urged to not give up and rightly so. Persistence does pay (it has for me) but it should also be said that it is perfectly okay to change direction if you want to do so. It was a turn of direction that led me to discover flash fiction after all. I hadn’t anticipated this at all when I began writing.

And so often writers will start by writing short stories, say, go on to write a novel, and then come back to the short form again.

The writing journey is not a straight line by any means. What it should be though is fun (at least most of the time!).

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Facebook – General – Book Cover Challenge

I was nominated to take part in this on 5th June. I thought I would share my posts here (and again on my next post) as there are some wonderful books to share. If you haven’t read them already, do consider adding them to your TBR list. (I will repeat this post next time so all of the book covers are together). Oh and do check out the writing of the authors I nominate too!

Day 1
I have accepted a challenge by Jane Brocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate Val Penny who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Changed my opinion about Richard III. Is also a different kind of detective novel. A gripping read. Hope you check it out.

Image may contain: 1 person, text

 

Facebook – General

It can sometimes be difficult stopping a story because you really love the characters and the setting and you want to keep writing but, of course, you can’t.

The story has to end at the right point for that tale. There has to be a point of change and we should see the results of that change. Literally end of story.

One advantage of writing flash for me is the fact I have to make myself move on to tackle the next 100-worder or what have you. The lower word counts with flash means I can’t have too long to fall in love with my characters and therefore face the temptation of extending the story out beyond where it should really go.

 

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Do you have pet phrases you like to use in your stories? Or do you find yourself coming out with the same turn of phrase more than once in a story as if you are on “hit default phrase selection” mode?!

Writing flash does help against that given the need to keep inventing new characters and situations. What I DO have to watch are my infamous wasted words and ensuring I don’t start each story in the same way. (That is particularly easy to do if you use the first person. Every story starts “I, I, I” etc etc).

I think it is useful to be aware of things like this so you can look out for them in your editing.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It seems such a long time ago that I took a change of direction with my writing and discovered flash fiction. Now there is one turning point I really don’t regret! And it has enlivened my reading too. Flash fiction collections are great fun to delve into (and ideal for a quick read when you haven’t much time).

Yes, yes, I know, I’m biased. Course I am. Go on check out some flash collections and see if I’m right or not then!

Do you work out your themes in advance of writing your story or does the theme arise naturally out of the tale you’re writing?

It has been a case of both for me. For example, I think I’d like to write a poetic justice story so I then plan out a character and a situation where that theme emerges.

The nice thing with that theme is sometimes poetic justice can have a humorous element to it (and I do enjoy writing and reading those kinds of stories).

There have been cases where I know who my character is and where they’re going plot wise and the theme then comes out of that.

Though in both cases I do like my heroes/heroines to have some fire in their belly. No time for wishy-washy characters here!😆]

I expect my characters to justify being created in that I WANT to write about them, there is no problem finding things for them to do or land themselves in or so on.

For my quieter characters, I want their trait of quiet determination to win through so it is clear to a reader that there is more to them than meets the eye. Any character like that intrigues me as I want to find out what that “more” is and I would hope a reader would feel the same for my people here.

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What do I like in an opening line, especially for a flash fiction story? Some of the things I look for here include:-

1. An interesting situation or character that intrigues from the start.

2. Dialogue that sets the scene and, usually, indicates the problem the character has to overcome.

3. Internal thoughts of a character showing them in some sort of turmoil. My story, Rewards, has as its opening line: ‘”She must go,” Becky thought.’

I referred to this story when I was on #WendyHJones‘ podcast The Writing and Marketing Show a little while back.

And the reason I went for this as an example of an opening line to hook the reader immediately is because I would hope you would want to find out who the “she” is and why Becky thinks she has to go. After that you would want, I hope, to find out if Becky did get rid of whoever “she” is and how.

I think the ultimate “rule” here is that an opening line which makes me HAVE to find out what happens next means that opening line has done its job!

Now just to deliver on the rest of the story!

 

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Fairytales with Bite – Character Motivation

Character motivations can cover a wide spectrum. There are the “obvious” ones of love, revenge, seeking justice etc but motivations can be more subtle than that – for example the wish to prove someone wrong.

What matters is whatever the motivation is, it is the be all and end all to your character, even if it seems to everyone else they’re making a fuss about very little.

A motivated character will do whatever it takes to get what they want and the important thing is to ensure your people are driven enough.

It’s not enough for a character to just want to stay out of trouble. But if your character goes to extraordinary lengths to stay out of trouble then a great deal of humour or tragedy can result from that.

What could be behind that? Maybe they’ve got a bet on with a friend to stay out of trouble for six days, say, and the friend has always been right in the past but this time our hero wants to prove them wrong and is determined to do so. They’re fed up with their friend being right all the time and finally want something to go their way.

There, the motivation is powerful enough and understandable. Your readers have to get behind your character to carry on reading their adventures after all. Naturally your character’s friend will know or be able to guess at their friend’s motivation here and will do all they can to scupper any chances of success.

Voila! Instant clashes and tension as you work out how your hero does or does not prove the friend wrong.

This World and Others – 

Top Tips For When Writing Isn’t Working As You Would Like

It happens. You go through phases where writing is either difficult or simply isn’t working out as you’d hoped. Lots of submissions. Lots of rejections. Few acceptances. Do you wonder if you should keep going? Some tips I’ve found useful to keep me going during difficult times include:-

1. Read More. Feed your own imagination. Remind yourself of why you love stories and why you wanted to write any.

2. Remove the Pressure. Deliberately write just for your own pleasure. Make up complete nonsense. Have fun. (Later, if you can do anything with the writing, even if it is just the odd line or two makes it into a story, say, then fab. Even if not, you’re taking time out to play with words and again remind yourself why you wanted to write).

3. Look at Where You’ve Come From Writing Wise. How much have you written over the years? Can you list publication credits (online and in print)? If not at that stage, have you had shortlistings? Are you simply submitting more stories for competitions than ever before?

Remember you define what success in writing is. Yes, publication is the obvious goal but it isn’t the only one. Saying you’ll write 3 or 4 stories and then try and get them published later is a fine goal too. Look at what you’ve learned as you have written more. Have you learned how to improve your editing skills? Have you picked up tips on the way that are helping you write better now (I would be surprised if you hadn’t)? All of these are good and worthy things.

4. Find supportive writing buddies via online groups or in creative writing classes. We all need to be reminded we’re not alone. Others do understand our compulsion to write. Others understand the frustrations of trying to get published. You need that support. It can make all the difference during low times, creatively speaking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Character Types (and Why It Matters to Get Them Right)

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

There’s a nice little Q&A session which has developed from my CFT post this week about character types and why it matters to get them right.

This is one thing I love about my CFT posts. I can never know what reaction there will be until the posts go up and sometimes great discussions take place, sometimes not. Do pop over and have a look at this week’s post and if you have favourite character types I’ve not listed here, please do share them in the comments box.

Comments on the character -v- plot debate would also be welcome. I do come down firmly on one side here but I’ll leave you to find out which one it is!

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My CFT post this week will look at some of my favourite character types and why it matters to get them right.

A good story can only be that way if the characters are strong enough. A decent plot will be let down badly if the characters are not “up to scratch”. More on this and the link tomorrow.

Am looking forward to going to the Association of Christian Writers’ Day at Bath on Saturday. Always good to meet other writers!

 

There will be an expression here which will match your thoughts about most adaptations - Pixabay image

What are your characters like? What emotions do they have? Pixabay image.

It is with great sadness I see from the Winchester Writers’ Festival page that Barbara Large, MBE, who founded the original Winchester Writers’ Conference, passed away on Monday. She will be much missed.

Barbara gave so much support and encouragement to writers across a huge range of genres including me. I have a certificate for a Commended Short Story signed by her from the 31st Winchester Writers’ Conference and it has pride of place on my wall.

Condolences to all of her family and friends.

 

Resized Barbara Large and Anne Wan

Barbara Large MBE (left) will be much missed by the writing community including Anne Wan (right) and myself.  Image kindly supplied by Anne Wan.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The advantage of flash fiction is you have to learn to write tight to keep to the word count, even though there can be flexibility with that. You don’t have to stick to 50-word stories. You can have a go at the 500-word ones!

The advantage of a novel is you have room for sub-plots and can go much further into character development, which when well done adds layers to your story.

The short story is a cross-over to an extent. Usually there would be room for only one sub-plot (but there’s no room at all for anything like that in flash). You can go into character development but the word count restrictions here will limit how far you can take that. (Though that can vary from 1500 to 8000 or thereabouts as there are some longer short story competitions out there).

And all three are brilliant writing disciplines! All need decent editing and crafting to get your story into shape. Whatever form you’re going for, or if you’re going in for more than one, you can know you will be doing a lot of editing! But above all have fun with them. Writing should be fun.

How do you find coming up with promising opening lines? Is it a pain or is coming out with those just fine but then you struggle with delivering on the promise of that opening line?

I’ve found mixing up how I approach this helps a lot. I outline (briefly, appropriately for flash fiction) how a story could go from that opening line. There is usually some promise from those thoughts that I can develop. Okie dokie then, away I go and write the thing.

Sometimes though I’m not satisfied with what I’ve come out with. Somehow the thoughts don’t seem strong enough. DO trust your gut instincts here by the way, they’re normally right. When I have this happen, I then see if what I thought might be a good opening line would actually work better as a finishing one. I then work backwards to get to the starting point.

I’ve not rejected an opening line altogether yet because if one method here doesn’t work, the other does. It’s just that sometimes you can’t always see the best way to go straight away and that’s where outlining comes into its own and to your rescue!

A quick search of Writing Magazine’s Competition Guide has shown a couple of interesting competitions I’ll try and have a go at. Note to self: go through the guide at the weekend and mark the ones of interest! What is nice is some of the competitions are rolling ones in that there is one per month or something like that so if you miss one deadline, there are others you can aim for.

It proves that the market for very short stories and flash is a healthy one. Hooray for that!

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Fairytales with Bite – Top Five Tips for Characterisation

My theme this week is character type(s) and my CFT post also featured this but I thought a quick run down of tips would be useful.

  1. Be realistic.  Your characters must have motivations that we will all understand, even if we don’t agree with them all!
  2. Show flaws as  well as virtues.  None of us are perfect after all so why should our characters be?  Besides they can get to learn from their mistakes.
  3. Stretch your characters.  Don’t be afraid to put them through hell to find out what they are really made of/are capable of.
  4. Let your characters surprise you, sometimes (don’t overdo it!).  A great example of what I mean here is Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings.  Nobody expects in that wonderful world for a hobbit to be a hero, yet Frodo becomes one.  Frodo shows a determination and courage others far bigger than him are not capable of (and yet he’d have failed completedly without Sam Gamgee’s support).  It would’ve been the easiest thing of all for Frodo to stay in Middle Earth and let someone else do the heroics.
  5. Weaknesses SHOULD get in the character’s way and be something they’re seen to be fighting against.  And that, folks, is where the drama is!  A great story has plenty of that!

This World and Others – Character Types

I look at character types and why it matters to get them right in my CFT post this week.  It doesn’t matter how fantastic your world is, the characters must be believable for your readers to engage with them and want to read your story at all.

One key to getting this right is to examine your characters’ motivations. Why are they acting the way they are?  Is it something we can understand?  I’ve long thought Woody from Toy Story is a truly great character.  Why?  Because his jealousy when Buzz comes into his life is understandable.  There are very few of us, regardless of our age, who haven’t been jealous of something or someone in our time.

Look at how your world is governed. Is it a democracy?  Is there a tier of local government?  What are the politicians like there? (And there will be politicians somewhere along the line.  Where there is any kind of power, no matter how minor, politics and playing people off against one another will come into it.  Sad perhaps but again this is something we all understand and will help make your world seem more real to your readers).

So think about emotions.  What are your characters likely to feel and why?  (This is one reason why the Cybermen as a concept are frightening.  The removal of all emotions?  Those are what make us human.  They can also make your Species X what it is and differentiate them from other character types in your fiction).

 

 

 

Just a Minute and Other Thoughts

Facebook – General

Had to smile today. I receive book recommendations by email sometimes and today it finally happened. Yes, From Light To Dark and Back Again was recommended to me!

Moving on swiftly, I’m pleased to say I’m making good progress with my novel and third collection of flash fiction stories. I’ve ideas for non-fiction that I’m working on as well and I could really do with more hours in the day or to somehow be able to manage without sleep. Given neither of those are going to happen, it’s a case of best endeavours!

Have also started drafting a short story I’ve got in mind for a competition in April. Sounds ages away I know but it’ll be here before we know it and I do like to get a story drafted and then leave it for a while before reassessing and editing it. So starting the story about now is the right sort of timescale for me.

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Have typed up a couple of writing diary prompt stories that I’m considering for my third flash fiction collection. I’m at the 15000 word mark with this so will probably go to 20K and stop there. I know there’ll be a lot of cutting to do – there always is! But I never mind that. I think it shows there IS a story there and it is just a question of getting rid of anything that doesn’t enhance it.

I’ve only consciously padded a story the once and, guess what, I gave up when I realised the idea simply wasn’t strong enough. It remains the only story I’ve ever given up on. So yes I prefer to write and then cut. It always works better for me.

The writing prompts in my diary at the moment are where you’re given an opening line and you then see what you can do with it. I like those. I like to think of them as imagination stretching exercises!

Enjoyed listening to Just a Minute on Radio 4 tonight. The rules of no repetition, no hesitation, and no deviation from the subject are great guidelines for writing fiction too.

You want your story to move onwards and upwards to its conclusion so no repetition (it will also irritate readers). I’ve found outlining a story before I start writing it gives me the confidence to write it at all and so I do (no hesitation). I also think something of that confidence shows through in the final story too.

And as for going off at a tangent… a big no-no. As someone once said “just the facts, Ma’am, just the facts”. What those facts are, as far as your story is concerned, of course is down to you!

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Glad to say a flash fiction story of mine, Mirrored, was in the recent Swanwick Writers’ Summer School newsletter.

I discuss adaptations in my CFT post this week. What makes a good adaptation? What doesn’t? Also, this doesn’t just apply to writing either. Link up on Friday.

Editing of the novel continues to progress well and I’m drafting a 750-word short story too at the moment. Really like my lead character. They have promise! The real issue for me on this one is whether I can keep to the strict word count for this particular competition. Still, I will find out! I do love being able to set a Project Target on Scrivener and find it really useful for competitions like this. I like seeing the bar change colour as I get nearer to my goal!

Scrivener images below werebtaken by me as screenshots.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’m very fond of flash fiction stories that end with a line which make me laugh. When writing this kind of story, I always write that finishing line first and then work backwards to the beginning.

I’ve found outlining in that way means the ending seems natural to a reader and springs out of what has come before. I can take the time to work out what must come before for that line to work and none of that shows in the finished story. Win-win!

How can I tell if a flash fiction idea is going to work best at 50 words, 75, 100, 500, or what have you?

A lot depends on how strong the character is – can they carry a longer story? Also the story itself is about one moment in the character’s life. The moment you’re writing about must not be dragged out (it shows, trust me, that shows) so if you are finding you are trying to extend a story, stop, think again, and look at the piece as a much shorter one. It will almost certainly work better and pack more of an emotional punch on a reader by keeping it shorter. It is impact you want. That is what a reader remembers. You don’t want to dilute that.

Equally, I’ve found sometimes a character needs space to show what is happening in their “moment” properly so fine I go with that. The time to stop is when if you add anything at all, it will weaken the story/character and the potential impact. There’s nothing to stop you incidentally from trying out a story in two different word counts and seeing what works best. Read them out loud. What has the most impact on you?

Street Cred

I’m the coolest one on my street. I’ve been here the longest. Know the best places to hang out with pals. Know the best places to get together with the girls, if you see what I mean. It was just a pity a momentary lapse in concentration meant my cool went haywire and I managed to walk into the catflap my owner put in for me, rather than through it.

Don’t let anyone tell you cats have no sense of humour. The rest of the gang were all laughing at me. Still I’m not worried. I’ll just have to fight them all tomorrow. But for now, me the big ginger tom from No. 27, is curling up on the sofa with my so-called owner. (I own HER truth to be told). She is feeding me titbits from her tuna supper. This is the life.

Being cool again can wait until tomorrow.

Allison Symes
25th February 2019

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I love writing twist endings for my stories and, as mentioned before, often work those out first and then write the story “backwards” to get to the starting point.

But my other favourite writing technique is to begin with a promising opening line and then outline a few ideas as to where that could take me. Naturally I then go for the idea that I like the most (which is always the strongest one or has the most potential in it. Definitely not a coincidence that!).

Sometimes I can “see” a 100-word story in its entirety. My The Haunting is an example of that and was inspired by the character of Mrs Wilberforce (aka Mrs Lopsided) in The Ladykillers.

Goodreads Author Blog – Short Stories and Flash Fiction

I’m glad to see the return of short stories and the development of flash fiction for many reasons. One of these is that I write both so I won’t pretend to be unbiased here. But the major reason for loving this development is it expands the kind of reading available.

I love novels but it is great being able to read a collection of short stories or flash fiction after finishing one full length tome. It mixes up what I read. By the time I’ve finished reading an anthology I’m raring to get on with a novel again!

Also if the novel has been a dark one in terms of mood, there’s nothing like a collection of funny short stories to show the opposite side of life and I, for one, find that helpful. I don’t want to read “dark” all the time. I also know life isn’t always one big laugh so I like to have a balance of dark and light in my reading, as well as my own writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STORIES, STEREOTYPES, TRICKS AND UNICORNS

Be fair, that is quite a mix, isn’t it?!  I share links to three new stories of mine on Cafelit this week as well and discuss them in my Facebook posts throughout the week too.  Hope you like the stories.  I loved writing them.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Busy night tonight. My latest CFT post is live and looks at favourite views, literal and metaphorical. I also discuss how to develop “the writer’s eye”.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to have three new stories due to appear on Cafelit over the next few days. Will share links as and when. But back to the idea of using the same word to start the sentences of a flash piece with. My word for tonight is Restless and I will ‘fess up and admit I have given this one more thought though I did like the environmental theme that came through with Habitat.

RESTLESS
‘Restless, you are, Wilma, that’s what you are – always have been, always will be.
‘Restless, surely not, I just can’t get comfortable, that’s all’.
‘Restless, I said, and restless I meant.’
‘Restless, that’s the last thing I should be in here, George; I always thought I’d have peace HERE.’
‘Restless spirit, restless grave – I did think I’d have a break from your fidgeting when I joined you in here!’

ENDS.

Allison Symes – 18th September 2018

Hope you enjoy.

I do enjoy reading and writing flash stories told from the viewpoint of a minor character looking at the “main action”. Tonight’s story on Cafelit by me, The Balcony Seen, takes this approach. I don’t even name the character in this one. What matters is showing you what they observed and what they felt.

As ever, with flash, it is vital to focus on sharing what the reader needs to know. It is likely you will need to know a lot more before you put pen to paper or write directly to screen but that is what outlines are for. Outlines are fun to write. The difficult bit can be selecting what it is the reader DOES need to know and leaving out all those lovely pieces of information that are good to know but not crucial to the story. What is crucial for you as writer to know isn’t necessarily the same as what the reader needs to know!

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I love writing throw away lines in a story which tell you something about the character and move the tale on. In my Leaving Home (on Cafelit tonight), there is an example of this. But the crucial thing is it moves the story on. Anything that doesn’t is cut. And that’s the way it should be!

 

Facebook – Publication News – Cafelit

The first of my three stories appearing on Cafelit is The Balcony Seen (I make no apologies for the pun!). This story is based on an exercise set by Simon Hall as part of his A-Z of Novel Writing at this year’s Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Hope you enjoy. Most of the images below were taken by me at a Hampshire Medieval Fair a year or two ago and shows the scrivener’s wares and his accommodation, which was good by the standards of the time.

Woodland Walk - image via Pixabay

A beautiful woodland walk. Pixabay image

The tools of the medieval writer's trade

The medieval scrivener’s wares. Image by Allison Symes

The Scribe's (Scrivener's) Tent

The Scrivener’s tent. Image by Allison Symes

The scribe had good accommodation

The scrivener had good accommodation compared to most! Image by Allison Symes

As promised, story number two from me on Cafelit this week is now live. Leaving Home shows that the problems of kids pinching parents’ transport is nothing new (or necessarily confined to this world!). Hope you enjoy.

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As promised, the third of my three Cafelit stories is now on site. Dignity and Injustice looks at the death of Anne Boleyn from a very different perspective. Hope you enjoy.

 

Another view of the Tower of London - image via Pixabay

The Tower. Pixabay image.

The Tower of London as night falls - image via Pixabay

The Tower at night. Pixabay image.

Fairytales with Bite – Fairytales A to Z Part 7

Marching on towards the end of the alphabet then, this post looks at letters S, T and U.

S = Stereotypes.
It could be argued fairytales have a lot of stereotypes in them.  The Big Bad Wolf represents villainy and indeed the saying has passed into the language.  We say someone is known to be “a big, bad wolf”.  The downtrodden types that have their lives turned around for the better are known as Cinderella types.  I think what any fairytale writer should do is use the tropes wisely but not be confined by them.  What does your Cinderella type do to try to help herself/himself out of the situation that they’re in?  Maybe it is that which attracts the attention of the fairy godmother to help them in the first place.  Stereotypes can also be spoofed or reversed as in the Shrek series.  So use stereotypes, they can be a useful shorthand, but put your own stamp on the characters you are creating so they are clearly “their own people”.

T = Tricks
It is fine to use stereotypes to create shorthands for your characters, who should then still go on to be characters that are uniquely your creation, and other writing techniques to improve what you do, but those should be the only “tricks” played in your stories.  Indeed they shouldn’t even show!  Your stories should read “naturally” with nothing drawn to the reader’s attention any “artificial devices” have been used in the making of that story.  As for tricks played by characters on others, there should be ground rules set out early on in your story as to magical capabilities so readers know that character A could be reasonably expected to play such a trick on character B.

U = Unicorns (and other mythical beasts)
Use sparingly if at all!  For me a story is all about the characters. Unless you are writing a story from the viewpoint of the unicorn or other strange creature, there seems to be little use for these, other than as transport, possibly, or to set the scene for how your world works and looks.