Effects, Impact, and Hidden Gems

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you have had a good week. Lady, so far, has had a brilliant one though she wasn’t impressed at my signing copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic! Image taken by Adrian Symes.

Lady looks distinctly unimpressed! Image by Adrian Symes

Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Lady played with her “gentleman friend”, Bear, today. Bear is a lovely tri-coloured Aussie Shepherd. Lady generally prefers to play with her girl friends (and she got to do that again today with the smashing Coco) but Bear is one male dog Lady does have a soft spot for. And boy can they both run! Took home a tired but very happy dog.

Looking forward to giving a talk about flash fiction on Zoom next week.

For my Facebook book page a couple of days ago, I suggested a new way of finding ideas for a story (using a random word generator and Pixabay) and mentioned I would have a go at this myself. I duly did so and I will be posting the results on my From Light to Dark and Back Again page shortly. (Also see below in my From Light to Dark and Back Again section here – the image below is the image I’ve chosen for my flash story idea).

Always good to keep ways of finding story ideas fresh and challenging. Mixing up ways of approaching a story I find makes things interesting for me (and hopefully for a reader). The one thing that does not change, whichever method I use, is ensuring I do know the character well enough first. For me, that is the only way to be sure the character is “worthy” of having a story told about them! Well, they are the leading character. They’ve got to be up to the role!


Lady had a great time playing with her pals over the park today. Came back tired out but happy. And it takes a lot to tire out a collie!

Looking forward to sharing the final part of my Chandler’s Ford Today series, Judging a Book by its Cover, on Friday. This week I’ll be talking covers with guests from CafeLit, Bridge House Publishing, and Chapeltown Books. This has been a great little series. Many thanks to all who have taken part so far and who will be joining me in Friday’s post.

Loving listening to Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams on Classic FM as I type this. It is one of my favourites, I voted for it again in the Classic FM Hall of Fame, and was pleased to see it went up to No. 3. I love this music because it seems to take you right back in time and that is such a wonderful effect to create.

Of course as writers the effects we create are with words but positioning of words, thinking of strongest impact possible on a reader etc., all have a part to play in making sure what we create is exactly what we mean to create. Flash fiction writing, where you are honing your word count right down, encourages the creation of effects via the minimal amount of language so every word I do use really does have to punch its weight to justify being in the story at all.

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Hope you have had a good weekend. It is nice coming back from a long walk with Lady without having to clean all the mud off her! (And you should see where she can get the mud. She also believes in sharing it around – but at least it is only mud!).

Do you remember the first characters who made a huge impact on you at the time of discovering their stories? Mine mostly come from books but there are some TV characters who made a huge impact on me too – mainly because they were girls who did things (Including writing!) and didn’t just hang around waiting to be rescued. I became tired of that very quickly, even as a kid.

My favourite characters include Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), George (The Famous Five), Jo March (Little Women), Lady Penelope (Thunderbirds), Sarah Jane Smith (Doctor Who).

As for my own characters, unless they do something useful, they’re not making it into any of my stories! After all the whole point of a story is to find out what happens and you need your characters to make things happen.

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Glorious sunny day today. This is more like it! Great to have a Zoom chat with writer pals yesterday – always a great “pick me up”. Looking forward to when we can get together for actual live events again.

Do you find it hard to get motivated to start writing sometimes? I find that is more of a problem if I am really tired so I just go easy on myself. Just draft something useful I can turn into a blog or short story later on. I always feel better for having done something creatively and that in turn helps me for the next writing session. I am encouraged to go on with the thought well maybe I can do something with what I drafted yesterday and if I could write something useful then, I can do it again now.

It is important to be kind to yourself. If you can only manage five minutes writing, for whatever reason, then go with that. Don’t despise small pockets of writing time like that. They build up over time.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


I mentioned a new way of creating a story using Pixabay and a random word generator the other day. (See post further down). I selected my sixth random word and the sixth image I found on Pixabay relating to my topic. The topic I chose was raindrops. And here is the result! Hope you enjoy.

Hidden Gems
‘Boring, Dad, this is so…’
‘I know, boring!’
I wish I could say I was surprised at Karen’s attitude but unless there was a decent shopping centre within a mile of her, she made it clear to the world at large she was hard done by. Why bring her to this wildflower meadow then?
I promised her mother I would try to get some love for the natural world into our daughter before she hit the terrible teens. Since losing Sarah to the Big C, all Karen wanted to do was shop, shop, shop.
Even the kingfisher in flight hadn’t impressed Karen mainly because I swore she missed seeing it, though I was amazed at that flash of brilliant blue.
‘There are hidden gems everywhere, Karen. Keep your eyes open.’
‘Yeah, Dad, right. I know Mum wanted you to bring me here but this is so boring. And it’s been raining.’
I knelt by a flower. ‘Isn’t this beautiful with the raindrops on it?’
Karen gave me the “you must be kidding me” look.
I sighed. ‘Okay, Karen, tell me, if this was a piece of artwork would you want it? Go on, get down and have a good look at the flower and see what you think.’
To my surprise, she did. And it started something special.
Karen is in her thirties now, just married and I hope at some point she and her chap, Stephen, will present me with a grandchild. But what does Karen now do for a living?
She’s not become a botanist or anything like that.
She’s a jeweller. She creates exquisite items based on inspiration from the natural world.
I guess it is one way of learning to appreciate the joys of our planet!
Her pieces sell well too.
She presented me with a smashing tie pin. It was in brilliant blue and in the shape of a kingfisher. On the card that came with it were the words ‘I didn’t miss the kingfisher, Dad. Is it really twenty years ago since we saw that?’
I smiled. Those words meant I kept my promise to Sarah after all.

Ends.
Allison Symes – 27th April 2021


Pleased to share my latest story video on Youtube with you. Hope you enjoy A Rotten Day. We all get days like these…

One of my nice tasks for the week is to create a story video and schedule it on Youtube. I look forward to sharing my next one with you tomorrow, having set one up today. (I do love scheduling!). But the images I use for my stories don’t always tie in with the tale itself so, as for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts, I have to think laterally. Sometimes I go for a relatively plain background image if there is no obvious link I can get to directly or laterally.

But it occurs to me there is nothing to stop you (or me for that matter) looking up random images on Pixabay and the like and using them as an inspiration for a flash tale. You could even use a random word generator to trigger words to put in the search bar for Pixabay and perhaps decide you will pick the sixth picture (or whatever number you decide) as the image you will use to generate your next flash tale.

Worth a go? Definitely. And I will give this a go myself and report back I hope later in the week. (See post above). I’ve selected the sixth random word and the sixth image on Pixabay for my topic. Hope to share a new flash tale based on this later in the week.

And do have fun with this!

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I chatted over on my author page about being kind to yourself when you’re finding it hard to start writing anything. Just write for five minutes and see this as something you can polish up later on. The great thing with flash of course is it is perfect for short periods of writing time and, once polished up, those little bits of work can become published stories and, eventually, make it into a collection.

Five minutes of writing time is always better than none and I must admit I always feel better in myself when I have written something. I also feel better knowing what I’ve drafted has the potential to become something that can be published and that spurs me on too.

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Disappointments

Are there any books that have disappointed you? I’m glad to say mine are few and far between and it is almost always because I’ve not been convinced by the characterisation. Something doesn’t quite ring true for me and that lets the whole story down.

The good thing about that is you can learn from it if you’re a writer. I do try to analyse what I liked or disliked about a story and its characters. I also look at how the author shows us what their characters are like. I want to see for myself that Character A is mean to their granny or what have you. I don’t want the author telling me. I want to work it out myself. And great stories and books always allow you to do just that.

After all, what do we look for in a good read? A story and characters that will take us away from our daily lives. Therefore the characters have to “take us with them” on their journeys and be such that we will want to go with them.

Even in the case of a villain, it will be a case of wanting to find out how they get their comeuppance but if you have got to the stage where you want that, the author has written their character well to get you to feel that way.

I must admit I resent book disappointments more now than I used to as I don’t want to waste time on reading something that is going to let me down and make me wish I’d been reading something else instead. Also I am only too aware there are so many wonderful books out there, so I don’t want duff stories getting in the way!

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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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Storms, Flashes, and Podcast News

Image Credit:  As ever, unless otherwise stated, all images come from the magnificent Pixabay.

Podcast News

I’m delighted to say I am the guest on Wendy H. JonesThe Writing and Marketing Show talking about flash fiction tomorrow, Wednesday, 12th February. Wendy is a Scottish crime writer of the DI Shona McKenzie series and also writes about Bertie the Buffalo for children. Do check her website out for more information.

The podcast was a wonderful opportunity to chat about why all writers should write flash fiction, even if is not their main work. More on the show and I look forward to sharing the link on the next post on Friday.

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And In Other News…

Am very pleased to say my website links are now included on:-

  1.  Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Swanwick Connections page.
  2.  The Association of Christian Writers’ Members’ Website page.

Facebook – General

I’ve set up a page on my website where from time to time I share some flash fiction stories and look at how I wrote them. I hope this will be useful for other flash fiction writers and entertaining anyway!

I had great fun yesterday evening putting together a simple video for Putting My Face On and think it works well. (See below and on the link too).

Hope you enjoy!

 

Horrible day weather wise with the storm (Sunday, 9th February in the UK – Storm Ciara). Hope and trust everyone is okay. Did like seeing the full moon rising tonight and the way it lights up the clouds though. The clouds DID have a silver lining tonight! (One sign to confirm the weather is truly awful is when Lady wants to finish her walkies quickly and she did today).

Good day today. I’ve finished drafting a standard length short story which gave ME the creeps (and yes it is meant to!) and I’m looking forward to polishing that and submitting it later this week. Will have more news on the publication front fairly soon too.

Have a good week and I hope the weather soon calms down.

 

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I can hardly believe it is the 80th anniversary of the first Tom and Jerry cartoon. Always loved those two (but then I’ve always been a fan of the kind of story where the underdog clearly has the upper hand of the “master”. The Jeeves and Wooster stories by P.G. Wodehouse are the sublime prose example of those).

Never despise “light” entertainment whether it is in the form of a cartoon or book. Escapism is invaluable and something I think most of us need, for one thing. For another, this kind of thing is harder than it looks to write. If anyone makes anything look easy, you can bet they’ve been working quietly away for years to get to that point.

I do take some comfort in knowing there are no shortcuts in writing (it means it’s not just me taking the scenic route!), but I take even more from knowing very little is ever wasted. Even rejections can teach you something you can use to improve your writing. And I’ve lost count of how many stories of mine didn’t get placed somewhere, I’ve looked at them again, reworked them, submitted them elsewhere and, as a result, got them into print/on to screen (sometimes both).

Persistence is a virtue when it comes to writing but a better one is being open to looking at your writing and thinking well, I could do this bit better… Time away from the piece is crucial here for being able to give yourself distance but it does pay off.

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I was delighted to find this picture on Pixabay (and you wonder why I like them so much!). Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

What is your inner vision and are you making progress towards it

What is your reaction when you come across a book you don’t like? Do you carry on reading? Do you abandon it and maybe try it again at a later date?

In my time, I’ve done both. The latter has been more successful. For example, I tried reading The Hobbit when I was at junior school but I just couldn’t get into it. Now, of course, I have no problems with it. Sometimes it is a case of timing. YOU sometimes have to be “ready” for a book.

Very rarely do I abandon a book altogether. Even then I feel a sense of failure. I do wonder if it’s just me. What is useful though is to analyse what it is was you didn’t like and make sure nobody can say the same of your books and stories! So even a book that, for whatever reason you couldn’t get on with, has its uses for a writer!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When do I know a flash fiction piece is going to work?

When the story makes me feel the way I want it to make a reader feel, whether it is to make them laugh, cry, or, on occasion, scream!

One of the joys of flash is its almost instant impact but there definitely has to BE an impact! Incidentally slice of life studies can work well here too because the impact there is to make you care for the character you’ve just read about.

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Today was the perfect day, weather wise, to stay in and write and/or read! It’s about the only good thing to say about the horrible weather… I trust things are calming down where you are. Trees down here but it looks like damage is limited.

I don’t use the weather a lot in any of my stories partly because, with flash, there is limited room for description, and I always think the character is far more important anyway. I would rather show you a character battling through the elements than focus on the elements themselves. I’m also determined not to be caught out by the “dark and stormy night” cliche!

 

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How to spot a writer Part 1:-

1. They mutter and probably swear at spotting yet another typo in whatever it is they’re reading. (Guilty here: last one that really annoyed me was the ITV news report online which had Isle of White instead of Isle of Wight. Someone didn’t check the place names there…).

2. Their other half has to drag them out of bookshops OR plot a route around any area that is lucky enough to still have said bookshops. This is particularly important if they have an appointment in two hours time or less as it will be the only way to ensure that appointment isn’t missed. If you tell me you couldn’t possibly spend two hours in a bookshop, then I’ll know you’re not a writer!

3. Flash fiction writers are easy to spot. They will get their smartphone out at every opportunity and will tap away on it. Some of them might even use a stylus (Guilty as charged). If desperate, they will grab a napkin and draft something on the back of that. (Before you ask, not yet, but I suspect I will do this at some point!).

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How to spot a writer Part 2:-

1. You can’t move for them in stationery shops. (We are all suckers for lovely pens, notebooks etc). Guilty as charged on this one.

2. In coffee shops, they are likely to be in a corner, phone or laptop plugged in, and they’ve made one drink last at least an hour so they can get some writing done. (Not quite guilty on this one. I always buy a hot drink and at least one other cold drink if I know I’m going to be there for a while).

3. The flash fiction writer will be keen to explain what their genre is to anyone who will listen so it is more of a case of them spotting you. On the plus side they will know the importance of Less is More for their genre and will keep their talk short and to the point. (Another clue as to who the flash writers are is in their speech. If they seem to cut out all adverbs even when talking, you know you’ve found one). Ahem…

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Goodreads Author Blog – Why Read Then?

Strange question to put on Goodreads, isn’t it? We all love books and stories. Reading is a way of life.

Celebrating books at literary festivals and/or writing conferences is a lovely part of life too!

But it is easy to forget reading isn’t a way of life for everyone. Books have to compete with other forms of entertainment for people’s attention. Sadly, books don’t always win.

I was deeply saddened once, when on a book stall with some other local authors, I heard someone walk by and loudly exclaim “I don’t do books”. Hmm… I wonder why that is? Nervousness about reading? Too many associations with bad experiences at school? I thought the comment was so sad, and I still think that.

I read to:-

1. Escape the world for a bit. (It is beyond me people don’t latch on to this more. The great thing books are legal, they won’t make you put on weight, or give you a hangover).

2. Be entertained in a way that suits me. I don’t have to commit to reading for three hours at a time (though chance would be a fine thing!). If you’re in the cinema and it’s a long film, you really do have to love it otherwise you’re in for a dull evening.

3. Discover different worlds in a way that I choose. I vary my reading. I’ll read crime books for a while, then historical fiction, then short story collections etc. But I choose which worlds to explore and when and I like that.

What I don’t want to see is books being seen as “elitist” or anything like that.

Happy reading, everyone!