Panto, Numbers, and Publication News

A real mixed bag tonight but hope you enjoy!

Image Credits:-

Firstly, a huge thank you to the lovely people at The Chameleon Theatre Group for kind permission to use their photos as part of my review for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I’ve included a couple of photos I’ve taken but the majority are from them.

Secondly, all thanks to Pixabay as usual for the other images used. Thirdly, thank you to Penny Blackburn for the picture of me taking part in the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic Night last year. Great fun! Now down to business…

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my review of the excellently performed show, Atlantis – The Panto. Well done to all at The Chameleon Theatre Group. Also I look at why an eclectic mix of music and a decent villain are vital to a good pantomime. Both are as important ingredients to a successful show as having a convincing Dame is.

I was intrigued by this story as it is not one I knew. How does an underwater adventure work as a pantomime? Well I had to find out…  Captions as ever for the Chameleon photos over on the CFT link.

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I loved going to the panto by The Chameleon Theatre Group last week. (Oh no you didn’t, oh yes I did, oh no…etc etc!). I had no idea what Atlantis – The Panto would be given it is not one of the classic fairytales pantomimes are usually based on. All I knew was it would have to have an underwater setting and I was interested to find out how that would be conveyed. (Good use of suitable music, the right costumes, props etc is the simple answer to that).

For stories, especially flash fiction, inference and implication play a big part in scene setting. If I told you someone was wearing a red coat, that would conjure up possible images for you. (For me, it would conjure up memories of a favourite red coat I had as a kid). If I then add one hyphenated word “moth-eaten”, that image will change, as will the mood of the story. The person wearing said moth-eaten coat is going to be poor, possibly homeless, and that will set the tone of the story too.

Facebook – General – and Publication News – Cafelit

Glad to say I’m Bored by yours truly is now up on Cafelit. If you ever wanted to know the true story of what happened to Humpty Dumpty, now’s your chance! Hope you enjoy it.

Facebook – General

I’ll be reviewing Atlantis – The Panto as my CFT post this week. Definitely a new story for me but that’s one of the joys of going to see the productions put on by The Chameleon Theatre Group. There is such a variety of work staged by them and it always makes for a fantastic evening out. I’m a big fan of taking in stories using various formats and going to see a good show is just another and very enjoyable way to do that.

Link up tomorrow. I’ll be looking at the signs of a good panto, why music matters for shows like this, and why there has to be a decent villain for the audience to boo at! It IS as vital to get the villain right as it is for the Dame to be what audiences expect. I’ll also have a look at why the panto, in my view, is vital for theatre going overall.

All good fun…

 

Facebook – General – Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers – Numbers and Creative Writing

There are more links between numbers and fiction than you might think. Hope you enjoy my latest blog for the Association of Christian Writers’ More Than Writers blog spot, which discusses numbers and creative writing and there are plenty of links between the two. Mind you, my first love will always be words, glorious words!

I also share some thoughts on how to manage word counts and competition deadlines.

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Can one word make a difference to a story? Oh yes. I talked about this over on my author page tonight (Allison Symes Fairytale Lady – https://www.facebook.com/Allison.Symes.FairytaleLady/).

One word can turn a mood. One word can change how a story ends. I’ve long thought of flash fiction as precision writing and this is why. It’s also why if you’ve got a powerful story that works really well at, say, 250 words, leave it there! Don’t try and edit it down to get it into a 100 word competition or market. Impact on the reader is the most important thing, then the word count, and not the other way round.

Story matters. The format less so. I like to take in my stories via:-

Books, obviously.
Kindle.
Seeing them performed as plays, pantomimes etc. (I love the whole concept of National Theatre Live. Brilliant idea).
Audio books
Magazines
The vinyl version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds as produced by Jeff Wayne (which is just brilliant. Richard Burton was a wonderful narrator).
Hearing them on radio. (You can count TV drama obviously though I admit I’m watching less TV and I wasn’t impressed with what was on offer over Christmas).
Via film.

For flash fiction the top two have been the main outlets for me. It is a hope of mine that flash fiction can draw in the reluctant reader and if that has to be via electronic means, so be it. Get hooked on books. You know it makes sense!

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I’ve mentioned before I always feel a certain amount of relief when I get a first draft done of any writing. I feel like I’ve “nailed something down” to the screen or paper (I still occasionally write in longhand) and from there onwards the draft is going to get better. It is precisely what editing is all about!

I also like to have more than one project on the go as while I’m working on one, my subsconsious can mull over any issues I’m having with something else. It is almost inevitable an idea to resolve those issues WILL occur when I’m working on something else.

I’ve learned not to fight that and just go with it. It’s what a notebook and pen besides the laptop is for after all so those ideas that suddenly come to me don’t disappear into the author’s hell-hole called Lost Ideas That Were Brilliant But You Will Never Know Will You Because You Did Not Write Them Down At The Time! (Most of us HAVE been there and often more than once!).

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Fairytales With Bite – Keeping Fairytales Alive

As shown above, the pantomime is one great way to keep fairytales alive given most of them are based on the classic stories. Long may that fantastic tradition continue.

I am, of course, very fond of fairytales told from the viewpoints of different characters as my first published story, A Helping Hand, in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology, comes into that category. It is a popular theme and I’ve seen it used in other competitions and rightly so too. There are a wealth of stories (and therefore characters) you could do this for.

The Disney adaptations also play a part in keeping fairytales alive though I would always recommend going back to the original stories to compare and contrast what Disney kept in and, often, what they had to keep out to retain a Universal certificate for the cinema.

I also can’t see good old-fashioned reading fairytales to children stopping either. Children know what they like in stories and fairytales do tick the right boxes there. Then the likes of Roald Dahl and David Walliams could be considered to be modern fairytale tellers too.

Long live the fairytale!

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This World and Others – How the Other Half Lives…

While readers don’t need to know the ins and outs of your creative world, they have to be convinced that in some dimension somewhere, your world is realistically enough portrayed to have a chance of existing!

Basically this means your characters need to have shelter, be able to eat, drink and so on and therefore a society has to spring up around them so these needs are met. Some of those societies will be close to what we know here. Others will be different but readers will be able to pick up on how it works. (Can’t say I’d like living in Mordor – it’s the ultimate in grim!).

One of my favourite quotes on this topic is from the much missed Terry Pratchett, who referred to building his Discworld “from the bottom up”. That is, he worked out how waste was disposed of, how water was supplied etc.

You need to decide what you need to know here so you can write with conviction about your setting and the characters in it. I’ve focused on system of government for a longer project I’m working on. Whatever way you go in for this, it does have to be something readers can identify with. Good luck!

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Impact, Pantomime, and Character Portrayal

Quite a mix tonight I think!  Hope you enjoy!

Facebook – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post is a review of the Chameleons’ recent panto production of Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves.

The show was wonderful and this particular post was great fun to write. I’ve written it in a different format to the way I usually write reviews and think this worked well on a fun topic. Loved writing it. Hope you enjoy reading it. It gives a good flavour! (Oh and the dame’s hair really does have to be seen to be believed but that’s the way it’s meant to be with panto – oh yes it is!).

Images Credit:  A very big thank you to Stuart Wineberg, Lionel Elliott and the Chameleons for  kind permission to use the photos below and in my CFT post.  I have a lot of fun writing captions for these but see the CFT post for these!

 

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Looking forward to sharing my review of the Chameleons’ production of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves tomorrow. Does panto bring out my inner kid? You bet it does!

What can be interesting on productions like this is seeing how true the script stays to the original story – or not as the case may be. Most adaptations are understandable. Many of the fairytales are too grim (pun intended!) to put on as originally written.

Am delighted to share a bonus CFT post tonight. Children’s writer, Anne Wan, and illustrator, Sally Goodden, are holding a story and crafts event at Chandler’s Ford Library this Saturday.

The theme is based on Anne’s latest book, Manners Fit For the Queen.

I’ve talked about the importance of children’s fiction on CFT before but picture books, such as Manners Fit For the Queen, play such a crucial role in encouraging youngster to read.

Hope everyone has a fab time at the event on Saturday.

Book cover image kindly supplied by Anne but drawn by Sally!

BOOK EVENT - Anne Wan and Sally Goodden

 

Well, one good thing about the cold weather is it encourages staying in and reading/writing a good book!

I don’t use the weather as a setting in stories (as it reminds me too much of the infamous opening “It was a dark and stormy night”, which has become a parody). I think you could use weather as a way of showing/reflecting your character’s mood though. For example, “Despite the warm temperatures and clear skies, Herbert’s mood was anything but sunny”. That could make a good opening to a story.

Also, I guess I want to be getting on with finding out what the characters are doing and saying. Weather? I don’t think I really need to know that unless it IS going to affect the story in some way. By that point, I want to be so gripped by the characters, that I pick up the detail about the weather without being irritated by it.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Plan to catch up with some flash fiction writing over the weekend. Hard to believe it’s two years since FLTDBA came out. Where has the time gone?!

What I love about flash fiction is when I am particularly busy I can jot down some one-liners that can stand alone or that I can work on later and develop into longer pieces.

A good challenge can be to write yourself a line and then use it for one story as the opening line and for another as the closing one. Give it a go and see what you come up with. Ideally pick different moods for these pieces as well. Above all, have fun with your writing. I fervently believe that when a writer is enjoying what they’re writing, some of that sense of enjoyment comes through and the reader picks up on it. Also if you don’t enjoy what you write, why would anyone else?!

 

I’ve experimented with linked flash fiction in the book I’m currently writing. I hope to write more too. The main criteria is that the character and situation has to be strong enough to sustain two or more stories.

The first set I wrote came about due to the way I’d ended a story and I realised from that ending, there was potential to exploit in a second tale, so I duly did!

Also there should be a natural sense of following on for all of the stories in the link to work. You’ve set the characters and setting up so well, your readers feel at home dipping into that world again.

 

Image Credit:  Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for the picture of me reading at the December 2018 Bridge House Publishing celebration event.  Huge fun!

I talked on my author FB page about using weather in stories. Tying in with that, with flash fiction and the limited word count, weather is best used as a kind of code to represent something or as a metaphor. You don’t have the room to do much else but the great thing with that is you can’t give lots of description that people skim over.

What do I mean by code/metaphor? Best thing I think here are some examples.

1. Heather’s mind was as clear as a pea-souper.
2. Alan didn’t need the downpour to make him feel miserable.
3. Kathy’s hair shone as if she’d washed it in liquid sunshine.

All three of those should conjure up images in your mind as to what mood the characters are likely to be in and what kind of people they’re likely to be. I think it fair to say that Heather is unlikely to win Mastermind with a foggy brain! Kathy – well, she could be vain and, even if not, is her attitude to life as sunny as her hair? As for Alan, you get a real sense of the type of character he is – he can clearly feel miserable all by himself.

Happy writing!

Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers – Impact

Do you wonder what impact your writing has on others?

I mostly consider impact from the other side. That is I know my theme, what impact I’d like my piece to have and focus on selecting words I think will best achieve that.

What is lovely is when readers give you feedback and you can judge if the impact you thought your piece would have did so. If you wonder about commenting on a post but don’t, think again! Comments are noted.

Even negative feedback can be useful if you use it to gauge whether your critic missed the point of what you were trying to say or you didn’t make the impact you thought.

How do you create impact? Look for the strongest words for description. No “he wore grey” here. Go for “his suit was the same colour as my cheapest cutlery”. You use a few more words but the imagery, and resulting impact, is more powerful. I don’t need to say the guy here is unlikely to be getting his suits from Savile Row. That is implied by “cheapest”.

In thinking about impact ahead of writing a piece, you’re also trying to engage with potential readers from the outset. This is great because you’ll be less likely to go off at tangents which add nothing to your piece. (It is easily done!). That saves editing time! I must always cut so anything helping me edit more efficiently is welcomed!

For bloggers, feedback doesn’t always come when you think it will. Sometimes it won’t come at all! But that doesn’t mean your words lack impact. All it means is you don’t know about it. Frustrating though that is, if you enjoy blogging, carry on for that reason alone. I’ve also found as I blog, ideas for posts (and sometimes stories) pop into mind. By writing you are feeding your creative spirit.

Look at why you want your piece to have the impact you’ve chosen. Are those reasons good enough? Do they match the brief of your story competition or article theme the editor has called for?

Naturally we want the impact of our work on an editor to be “Wow! Got to take that.”. It is a question of accepting the need to polish your work and knowing sometimes the piece will make the cut. Sometimes it won’t but there’s nothing to stop you revisiting that piece and submitting it elsewhere assuming your topic or story is relevant to the market in mind.

Think about impact on you as a writer. If rejections are getting you down (and they do for everyone), harness the support of writer friends. This is where they come into their own. In time, they’ll appreciate your support during their difficult periods.

Every writer has their share of turn downs. They don’t necessarily stop when you are published.

We rightly talk about the writing life as a journey. Let’s make its impact on us and those around us as positive as possible.

IMPACT - Blogging. PixabayIMPACT - Feedback doesn't always come when you think it will. PixabayIMPACT - Feedback isn't always positive but look for what you can learn from it - PixabayIMPACT - Look for positive impact wherever possible - PixabayIMPACT - Use strong words for descriptions. Strong questions can help you get there. PixabayIMPACT - What impact does your story have - PixabayIMPACT - What impact will your work have on readers - Pixabay

Fairytales with Bite – The Right Ingredients

The theme of the right ingredients ties up with my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week about Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, my review of the Chameleon Theatre Group’s recent panto production.  Why?  Because I talk about what ingredients are needed for a successful pantomime and I’m glad to say this show had them all and in great quantities!

What are the right ingredients for a fairytale?

  1. There must be a magical element.
  2. There must be a wrong to put right.  (See Cinderella/Snow White etc for the way they’re treated initially and how their stories end).
  3. There must be plenty of drama.  (You know from the outset that Cinderella is never going to keep to the midnight deadline set by her fairy godmother.  The drama here is in finding out what will happen when the girl is inevitably late!).
  4. The ending must be appropriate for the story.  That doesn’t necessarily mean a happy one – see The Little Mermaid as Hans Christen Andersen wrote it!  Also while Snow White had a happy ending, her stepmother rightly didn’t!  (Perspective is important too).


What are the right ingredients for a writer?

  1. A willingness to put in the work – to write, rewrite, rewrite again etc until the story is right.
  2. Accepting the fact rejections happen and trying to learn from them and then move on.
  3. Always seeking to improve what you do.
  4. Reading widely and across genres to feed your own imagination.  It does need feeding.  Often and lots!

This World and Others – Knowing When Your Character Portrayal Is Right

Can you ever know for sure when the character portrayal is right for your story?  I think so!

Firstly, your characters need to ring true to themselves.  If they’re greedy, are you showing them being that in different ways?  They need to be characters that could be people we know.

Secondly, your characters should have flaws and virtues and good reasons for acting the way they are.  Do they try to hide their faults or are they unremittingly unashamed of them (the I Am What I Am syndrome!).  However you portray your characters here, be consistent unless redemption/change is the point of story as it is in A Christmas Carol.  You still need to show your character “waking up” to the need to change.  One sudden change of heart will not convince readers.  Scrooge needed to be visited by all three ghosts to realise the error of his ways after all.

Thirdly, if your characters have different educational standards (and this is highly likely), are you showing the right level of education for the characters?  This will show through in how they speak, the kind of vocabulary they use and so on.

Fourthly, can you hear your characters speaking?  Do they seem real to you?  The first reader you have to convince is you!

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Flash Fiction and Successful Writing

Facebook – General

When is writing considered successful? When you are published? When you submit more work in a year than you’ve done before? When you have more acceptances than rejections? When you can make a living from writing?

All of those things matter, of course they do, BUT if you are committed to your writing, and seek to always improve on what you do, I’d say that was being successful. Why?

Because you do need stamina to cope with the ups and downs of the writing life. You need to recognize you do need to keep striving.

And whether you seek publication for one book, lots of books, or just want to win short story competitions from time to time, then that’s fine. Decide what you would like to achieve and give it your best shot.

Good luck!

 

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Whatever writing you do, I think the two most important things are to enjoy it and use it to help you develop.

If you write flash fiction, as I do, seek to find more ways of generating ideas and find more markets/competitions for your work.

Writing is a journey after all and, even after publication, you will still face rejections. You will want to get better at what you do. There are always things to spur you on.

My overall goal? To be the best writer I can be.

 

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West Bay Beach on a gorgeous day in December 2018.  Image taken by Allison Symes.  Walks along a beach can be a good place to reflect on what you would like to achieve as a writer.

Enjoyed the writing prompt in my diary tonight. I had to use certain words to come up with an opening to a story or a poem. A poem emerged! Needs a lot of work mind you but enjoyable to draft. What was nice about this was I could “hear” the rhythm of the draft and knew from that, this would a poem and not a piece of flash fiction.

I like the mixture of writing prompts in this diary. They’re going to keep me on my toes this year. I also like prompts as a chance to play with words and just see what comes out. Later will come more fun when I look at these drafts in the cold light of day and assess what works and what doesn’t and then obviously go with what does. I know now NOT to try and write and edit the same piece in the same session. Doesn’t work. I find I need to give myself some distance before appraising anything.

 

Off to the panto later this week. Oh yes she is! Oh no… etc etc.

Don’t think I’ve seen Ali Baba before and it’s been a long time since I last read the story. Should be a good fun evening and panto I think is about the only time nobody cares too much how noisy the theatre audience gets. (That may just be me remembering childhood pantos too vividly though!). Review will follow on CFT in due course.

My favourite panto story is probably Robin Hood though as I’ve always adored that tale.🏹🏹 Recently rewatched Prince of Thieves. (The much missed Alan Rickman IS the definitive Sheriff of Nottingham.)

Back to normal after a lovely weekend away. Why is it that, wherever it is you go, no matter for how short a time you’re away for, you always come back feeling jetlagged, even if you’ve been nowhere near a plane?!

My CFT post later this week will take a brief look at why the oral tradition of storytelling will never die out. I also look at how I came across the story of Ali Baba, the panto I’ll be off to see on Thursday, and the special memories of the book I have where I first read the tale. Much as I can see the point of decluttering, I draw the line at books!

Practically all of mine have special memories attached to them and it is a great pleasure to have a shelf of books written by friends of mine. (Take a bow, #ValPenny, #JenniferCWilson, #BeatriceFishback, #DawnKentishKnox, #GillJames, #RichardHardie, #BrendahSedgwick amongst others!). I look forward to filling other shelves with books by friends and, of course, my own!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Drafted another flash story on the train yesterday. Plan to polish that and submit it I hope sometime next week.

Never despise “only” having 5 minutes to write or what have you. These pockets of time are really useful for getting some drafts written. You’d be surprised at how much time those pockets can mount up to and therefore how many drafts you can get done!

Some one-line stories for tonight’s post, I think.

1. The red dragon thought it would defy being out of time by sitting on the clock tower and crushing it.

2. The fraud would work, she knew, but did she have the guts to go through with it?

3. It had a 90% risk of failure, and that would mean death, but he liked odds like that for bringing out the best in him.

Flash fiction lends itself well to having fun experimenting with genre writing. Why?

Because it has to be character led, you can set that character anywhere you want. So you can write fairytales, crime stories, historical fiction etc. The framework is that you are writing a flash story. It may even help you discover what your favourite genre to write in is – I will always have a very special fondness for humorous fairytales. But I do enjoy coming out with crime flash fiction every so often.

Mixing things up keeps ME thinking and stretching the old imaginative muscles, which is always a good thing.

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I’m enjoying tackling the weekly writing prompts in my diary. Some are picture prompts, others you have to use certain words, and still others you have to write a description of a particular thing. All good creative stuff. Loving the mix too.

The one for last week was to use certain words as an opening for a poem or story. What was lovely was I heard the voice of my narrator immediately and they were demanding their words be written as a poem. Well, when you’re told like that, you have no choice do you?!

When writing is really going well, it can seem as if you are taking dictation from your characters, but that is a very good thing. It shows they’re real and if they engage you, they’ll engage readers too.

Flash fiction is wonderful for stories which are moments in time for a character. These moments are not enough in themselves to make a standard length short story but are of enough interest and insight to justify being “out there”. And those moments can be as funny or as sad or as horrific as you care to make them.

The great irony with flash fiction is, despite its restricted word count, it does actually give the writer a great deal of freedom as the stories HAVE to be character led. Of course it is up to you where and when and how your characters lead us! The important thing is you as the writer have fun here and we as the readers will pick up on that and love reading what you write.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Going Away

Sorry, post a day later this week, as have been away this weekend, but I use opportunities like that to revise what I am reading and what I want to take with me while away. It helps with packing too! I won’t take the huge volume of stories which takes up far too much room. I WILL take the Kindle and one of my slimmer paperbacks..

So when you go away what crucial books do you HAVE to take with you?

I was catching up on Peter Ackroyd’s The Civil War over the weekend – like his style and this is a period of history I know a bit about but am conscious I ought to know more. Good to get back to this book again.

I usually finish Kindle books before I move on to something else but can sometimes get sidetracked, especially if a friend has a book out I really want to get on and read, but I do catch up in the end. Am always glad to do so too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I'm not at my desk, I'm likely to be in the swimming pool or walking the dog (never both at the same time!). Image via Pixabay.

FAIRYTALES IN ONE LINE

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Fairytales in One Line sums up some fairytales, 1 nursery rhyme and a pantomime favourite in one line.  See what I make of Cinderella, Mother Goose and Robin Hood to name some of those in this post.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

The Working Day looks at how your characters organise their time, what kind of work is important to your fictional world and asks just what do your characters do in terms of income so their needs are met.  The questions here I hope make for some good writing prompts!

FACEBOOK PAGE

I discuss a pantomime I’m due to see on Thursday.  Our local theatre group, The Chameleons, will be staging Robin Hood.  This is one of my favourite stories.  I also mention my favourite Sheriff of Nottingham performance too.

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The magic of stories.  Image via Pixabay

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay