Opening Lines, Dialogue, and Persistence

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. I use Book Brush for captioning etc. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as was the photo of Lady.
Hope you had a good weekend. My part of the world is experiencing a heatwave at the moment. Lady and I don’t really “do” heat so won’t be sorry when it cools down again.

BookBrushImage-2022-7-12-20-2651Facebook – General

What do I look for when reading a story by someone else and what can I learn from it for my own writing?

The main thing I look for is how the story made me feel. I then look at why it achieved that. I can then go back over the story (especially if it is a short story or piece of flash fiction) to look at how the author achieved this. It will inevitably be to do with how they portrayed the character.

I sometimes have fun trying to spot the turning point in a character. Sometimes the odd line will prove to be really important to the story later on and I like trying to guess what these might be. Sometimes I guess correctly.

A lot of the time I haven’t so I go back through the piece to see if I can work out whether I should’ve guessed correctly. You can learn a lot from doing things like this, including how to plant your own red herrings when the need arises!

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Wow! What a warm Monday! You’ll be glad to know Lady is fine, drinking plenty, and staying out of direct sunlight. It’s about the only time she is ever remotely sensible, not that I am sorry about this. She got to see her best mate, the Ridgeback, briefly this morning before it really heated up, which cheered both dogs up.

I suspect her buddie, like Lady, has spent the rest of the day curled up somewhere cool, pausing every now and then to get up and have a good drink. It truly is a dog’s life…

I mentioned last week I’d found a title for my “X” feature for this week’s In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Drum roll please… it is going to be (E)xcellence in Fiction – now before you all start shouting at me and saying I am cheating here, let me just say one thing.

You’re quite right!
Am I sorry? No!

I did consider other options such as X-Ray Vision and Other Special Gifts In Fiction. Now I could have written a post on that but obviously It would be heavily weighted in favour of sci-fi and fantasy writing so I thought a broader topic more people can get more out of would be the better idea. Link up on Friday.

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Writing Tip:

Keep it simple is a good maxim to go by for writing dialogue. I occasionally have a pompous character who won’t use contractions or will use complicated words and everyone else around them is wondering what on earth they’re going on about. Keeping the dialogue simple helps increase pace. Your characters can share information more quickly.

It is especially important in fiction for characters to get to the point – readers want to find out what happens after all. We all know those who “go around the houses” a bit in their speech – that’s fine for people we know. It’s not fine in stories. Readers will switch off. When you need a character like that, use the verbosity every so often. Readers will get the idea this character is like that but at the same time won’t be bored to ears by them either. They know to expect it.

I find the more verbose characters work best for humorous pieces (and ideally the story is on the relatively short side too. You don’t want to run the risk of the joke wearing thin long before the reader gets to The End).

Characters can bring each other up to date with story events via dialogue

Hope you have had a good Saturday. It was still well into the 20s temperature wise late last night. Thankfully Lady tends to crash out after a busy day and she loved her time down in the West Country yesterday.

The other half and I decided a day out would do us all the world of good and we had a fabulous time. Nice coastal breeze too. (We always carry water for Lady wherever and whenever we go out, including our local park, so she always has plenty to drink. She enjoyed some paddling yesterday – as indeed did I!).

Comments still coming in for Respect, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Many thanks, everyone. It seems people agree with my character’s attitude to nobody disrespecting her cat! See the link in case you missed the story – and beware the cat!

Do you have a particular kind of character you love to write about? I like the feisty underdog type of character. You know, the one most would overlook or dismiss as being unimportant yet who turns out to be the most important of all. I think this love comes from my love of fairytales and my faith too. (See Matthew 23: 12 – For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted).

Many stories revolve around a “turn around” in fortunes and so often with fairytales, the attitude of the main character will often dictate what happens to them. In Beauty and the Beast it was the arrogance of the prince that got him turned into a beast in the first place.

So what can you do with your characters that acts as a “had this coming” moment and can they redeem themselves or be redeemed someone else? Being redeemed I think for me gives a truly happy ending/happy new beginning.

20220708_122648Screenshot 2022-07-08 at 17-15-37 Respect by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am delighted to say I’ll be giving a flash fiction workshop online in September. Looking forward to doing that. I share news and tips on flash fiction writing via my author newsletter as well, which goes out on the first of the month. If interested, please head to my landing page at where you can sign up.

I used a random noun generator to help me write my latest YouTube story, Crumbs! Link to video below.The words which came up were cookies and road. I love using the random generators as they’re great ways to get prompts for stories you might not otherwise have thought to write. I also like to mix up which ones I use and all of them are helping me to increase my productivity so win-win there.

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It has been a very hot Monday on 11th July 2022, hasn’t cooled down much since. Time to relax a bit. Hope you enjoy Crumbs! which is my latest YouTube video.

How many stories had I written before getting into print for the first time in 2009? I don’t know to be honest. I wasn’t keeping count of all those rejections! However, it would not surprise me if it was a considerable number.

Where I could get feedback, some competitions offered it, I always took it. I learned a great deal from that, as well as from reading writing advice columns in magazines and reputable websites. Listening to/reading author interviews was also enlightening here.

I was, and still am, greatly encouraged by those stories of people taking a long time to get into print and then they do it. I then became one of those people!

So it pays to persist, it pays to read up on your craft, go to writing events etc. The one thing nobody can give you is the determination to do all you can to improve what you do which greatly enhances your chances of publication. (It is a question of chances.

Always be wary of anyone guaranteeing publication – vanity publishers thrive on this – they’re trying to sell you your dream – and boy do they charge!).

This is where the support of writing friends is invaluable and why again going to writing events, and any opportunity where you can get to meet other writers is such a good idea. What is nice now is there are more opportunities out there – online magazines are now a “thing” as is the independent press. Then there’s print on demand, reputable self publishing services, and places to go to for advice (the Society of Authors and the Alliance of Independent Authors).

Good luck!


I first got into print back in 2009 with a re-telling of the Cinderella story in A Helping Hand in Alternative Renditions published by Bridge House Publishing. That was a standard short story but I have re-told fairytales in flash fiction too.

Sometimes I’ve taken a character from a fairytale and shown something of what has happened to them before the “big event” related in the standard fairytale. My Living the Lie is an example of this (Tripping the Flash Fantastic). It looks at the beast in Beauty and the Beast before he goes on to meet her. This kind of story is great fun to do.

And there’s a wide range of fairytales to choose from where you could do this. If you ever wanted to know what happened to a minor character in a story, here’s your chance to do so – you write that story!


Goodreads Author Blog – Opening Lines

When I have small pockets of time I jot down ideas for potential opening lines for future flash fiction/short stories of mine. It is a good use of time and the opening line is so important in hooking a reader in to reading your story and your books.

So it is worth jotting down ideas for me to work on at a later date. And it is opening lines which draw me into reading a book at all. Every writer knows they’ve got to polish these up and get them as good as possible.

It was a truth universally acknowledged – just that section of Jane Austen’s opening to Pride and Prejudice drew me in. Why?

Firstly, I wanted to know what that truth was.

Secondly, the word universally implies agreement but it also opens up the possibility someone somewhere won’t agree (and I wanted to find out if I might be that someone. I can only find out by reading on).

Thirdly, there is already a hint of irony here and in only six words. Now that is quality writing!

There has to be a sense you’ve got to find out what happens next. That’s how I know an opening line will work for me. If the opening line works, it is highly likely the first page, the first chapter will and so on and before I know I’ve read the book!

Screenshot 2022-07-12 at 08-32-42 Opening Lines

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Imagery in Fiction – oh and Cherryade too!

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. I’m talking about imagery this time and share a new tale on Friday Flash Fiction, which is loosely based on fact. One of the great joys of any of the creative arts is they are beneficial to you as the creator and not just to those you hope will read your work, enjoy your music etc. And in troubled times that is so important. It may not change the world but it will change you – positively.


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share Imagery in Fiction my latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today. I look at how writers “paint images” with words, how I use this for my flash fiction, and look at the role of book covers.

Imagery matters which might sound odd for something so obviously text based but let’s just say you’re not getting a pink fluffy cover for a Gothic novel!

And writers have to select the details the readers need to know to make sense of the story and to help bring that tale to life in the readers’ minds. So you plant images created by the words you’ve chosen. I also look at how objects can be used to represent themes in fiction so when you see that object referred to in the text, you see that theme. And then there are the images needed for marketing – chosen to represent the book well “out there”.

So imagery crops up more than you might think. Hope you enjoy the post.

Imagery In Fiction

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I’ll be sharing my Imagery in Fiction post for Chandler’s Ford Today – link up tomorrow. See above.

Being a flash fiction writer means I have to choose my words for my stories with particular care as I am looking for the maximum impact in the fewest possible words. So I am thinking of those choice words and phrases that will conjure up the most powerful images in my readers’ minds.

But whatever length of fiction you write, this is a great habit to develop. It will make your writing more striking. Readers will remember the images you create that much better. Tight writing is taut, powerful writing. Choosing the details you need your readers to see is good fun and you only show them what is the most important things for them to know.

So images then have a purpose in our prose. When you know the basics you want to get across, it is then a question of asking yourself have I chosen the very best images to show your readers? I’ve lost count of the times I’ve gone through my first draft and then spotted something that could be strengthened by replacing one word with a more distinctive one. Details matter.

Screenshot 2022-03-11 at 09-56-15 Imagery In Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

Is it true that nothing you write is ever wasted? I think so. I can’t tell you how many rejections I’ve received in my time (and these days they tend to take the form of not hearing back from a competition etc). What did happen is where I could ask for feedback on my work (usually at a modest additional fee), I did that and learned a lot from the judge’s comments.

I’ve also found the more I write, the more ideas come to me (ideas have this lovely habit of sparking off other ones but you to have to learn to trust the process). And in writing story after story after story, you get better over time at figuring out what works and what doesn’t. You learn a lot from what doesn’t work, funnily enough.

And I can’t stress enough the importance of studying the market you think you might want to write for, whether it is a print magazine or an online one. For one thing, you will pick up on “house style” and for another, you get to see what they like and can work out from that whether your piece is likely to fit in.

You do want to be a square peg in a square hole!

BookBrushImage-2022-3-9-19-571Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am pleased to be back on Friday Flash Fiction with Cherryade, a flash acrostic. This one was great fun to write especially as it is loosely based on fact! Hope you enjoy it. And do check out the other stories on there. You’ll be in for a fabulous read. Perfect start to the weekend, perhaps?

Screenshot 2022-03-11 at 09-56-02 Cherryade - What Not To Do by Allison Symes


Don’t forget Friday Flash Fiction will have new stories up tomorrow. See above. I hope to have something in there but will report back on that one! Meantime, do check out the wealth of stories here. It will give you a good “feel” for what flash fiction is and can be. It is a great way of getting in contemporary reading in my field in as well so win-win there! And you can literally see what 100 word stories actually look like.

Now I deliberately mix up how I write my stories as you know. I love playing with acrostics, all dialogue tales, setting stories in the past, the present and the future etc. It keeps things interesting for me (and I hope readers).

What you don’t want to do, regardless of what you write, is to rest on your laurels. You need to keep striving to (a) write better, (b) discover new markets for your work, (c) to develop being able to respond to different writing challenges and (d) to get work out there.

Persistence pays. And when a story doesn’t work in one market, have another look at it, Maybe you can send it out elsewhere. I’ve done this and have had work published on a second or third go.

Screenshot 2022-03-10 at 20-01-14 Friday Flash Fiction

When I am writing to a specific word count, I tend to have the ending of my story in mind first. This is so I have a clear goal to aim for, of course, but also I then work out what “juicy details” I need to get to that ending. I select only the very best.

The ones that impact on me the most will have the same effect on a reader and I do have an Ideal Reader in mind all the time. It is a good habit to get into to think of your intended audience from the word go. I’ve found just doing that has stopped me going off at unnecessary and ultimately unhelpful tangents. These only get cut out in the edit anyway.

When I’m writing to a more open word count, I focus on how much can I “wring out” from my unfortunate characters! This is because with 1000 words to play with, I can give more depth and show you more of my character’s life as they overcome whatever obstacles I’m making them face. I may even be able to give them more than one hurdle to overcome. But when the character has done all they need to do, I stop, whether that story is at 400 words, 750 words, or right up at the flash fiction limit.


Fairytales with Bite – Using the Senses

Now in fiction, we are always advised to use all of the senses (where appropriate to do so naturally). It is easy to focus on what a character hears or sees. It’s easy to forget to use the sense of smell (which can evoke memories and powerful associations for your characters).

Touch is probably easiest to use for the romance writers amongst us but it can be easy to forget to bring that one in too. Having a character pick up a photo frame with their loved one’s picture inside it will resonate with readers. We’ve all done that. Taste can be brought in obviously for food and drink scenes but in your magical world, are there other senses which you could bring in?

Can your character detect when magic is about to be used, for example? What reaction does that cause in them so they can detect it? Do they generate it themselves when they are about to let fly with the magic wand? Are their “normal” senses heightened in an way in the presence of magic? How can you use these things to help or hinder your character in your story?


This World and Others – Cooking and Culture

One of the nicest ways of appreciating other cultures is to discover their food and enjoy it! Everyone needs to eat and drink after all. So can you use that element in your stories? Which cultures would you bring together? Which foods do they have in common? Which foods are distinctive to each one? How is cooking done in your stories? Is it as we would know it or by magic?

I maintain there is nothing as good as properly produced food and I would worry about whether magic could contaminate the food in some way. After all if you’ve just used your wand to turn someone into a frog, would there still be elements of that spell remaining in the wand when you then use it to whip up a souffle?! (You could get humorous stories from that kind of scenario).

Sometimes cooking can divide people as to the best way of producing a meal. In the UK, there are two ways to have scones with cream and jam. Some maintain that the cream must go on the scone first, then followed by the jam. Others insist it is the other way around and never the twain shall meet! So you could use things like that to cause division and conflict in your stories that your characters must find a way of overcoming.

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Images from the magical world... Image via Pixabay



One thing I love about fairytales (and fantasy in general) is that the themes the stories tackle are themes I adore.  For example, justice will happen eventually and monsters will be defeated.  I list five themes in Themes that particularly appeal to me.


Keep on Keeping On was one of my late mother’s favourite phrases and it emphasizes the need for persistence and not to give up easily.  That is vital for us as writers if we are not to be knocked back by rejections.  It is also crucial for our characters to be able to show real grit and persistence.


I discuss what I like most All You Need to Know about Classical Music and why it is important writers are thoroughly nosey!

The ultimate book circle perhaps? Image via Pixabay.

The ultimate book circle perhaps?  Certainly enough stories to start with! Image via Pixabay.

Says it all really. Image via Pixabay.


Just want to say, as a tennis “nut”, I am thrilled Andy and Jamie Murray have ended the  year as world number one in the men’s singles and doubles.  Fantastic, historic achievement.  I’m also pleased to see hard work, persistence, not giving up etc paying dividends for them both.

Also glad to report issues I had yesterday with titles on my Weebly websites (especially This World and Others) appear to have been resolved.  Am now hoping that is not going to prove to be my famous last words!  I’ll know tomorrow…


Just to also add I have added Grammarly to my Firefox toolbar (it’s free) and am finding it very useful in picking up odd typos but mainly my grammatical weaknesses.  Have only been using it for a couple of days but you have a green icon appearing whenever you type something.  Get something wrong and that green icon becomes a red one.  Hover over it and you get a description of what you need to amend.  Very helpful so far.  I do occasionally test free add-ons like this.  The last one I added on was E-Pub Reader for Firefox and I find that useful too.


Making History refers to the Murray brothers’ excellent achievements this year but also discusses how our characters should make history.  The point of any story, regardless of genre, is to show moments of change (which lead to conflict and drama).  The point of any character is to contribute to that in some way (otherwise why write them in?  Even the most minor of characters must have a role they and only they can play in your tale).


Boring Traits discusses why the virtues of persistence, patience and so on are vital, whether you want to achieve success as a sportsman or a writer or as a character in a story.  Even your villains must have determination, a clear aim, patience (nobody achieves all they want immediately) and so on.


Again I celebrate the Murrays’ achievements.  I suppose the thing I like most is that their persistence has paid off.  I love it when virtue gets it own reward.  It doesn’t always, sadly.  I also discuss how persistence is vital to a writer.  None of us can foresee how things will actually pan out.  I still haven’t published my novel but am thrilled to bits my first flash fiction collection will come out soon.  I didn’t foresee that!

Never give up, work hard, be disciplined... all valuable traits for success, whether you're a tennis player, a writer or a character in a story! Image via Pixabay.

Never give up, work hard, be disciplined… all valuable traits for success, whether you’re a tennis player, a writer or a character in a story! Image via Pixabay.