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.
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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!
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.
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).
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.
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 https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com 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.
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).
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!
liked Allison Symes's blog post: Opening Lines https://t.co/eLXKAzCI2A via @goodreads I look at opening lines this week and share why the first six words of a very famous opening line hook me in – and I haven't even got the end of that line! pic.twitter.com/pCyTKvGcyL— Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) July 9, 2022
Many thanks @Val – my flash collections below. https://t.co/hT53qDDgvE pic.twitter.com/b7KAMqo4LV— Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) July 10, 2022
It has been a very hot Monday. Time to relax a bit. Hope you enjoy Crumbs! which is my latest YouTube video.https://t.co/xkMhu0loJY— Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) July 11, 2022