Living Up To A Name and Writing Challenges

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of The Writer’s Diary taken by me, Allison Symes, as this fab book was one of my Christmas presents!

Facebook – General

Brrr…. Another chilly day today, not that Lady seemed to notice.

My writing diary has a wonderful template for outlining characters and one aspect to that is talking about a character’s needs. These range from the basic needs (food, drink, shelter etc) to psychological needs (needing to be loved etc). But there is another aspect to this.

What does the character think they need? This will often not be the same as actual needs (basic, psychological or otherwise). The character may or may not be right to think they need these things. But what makes them think that they do?

This is a useful thing to consider when outlining your villains especially. Why does a villain think they need to dominate the world (and generally they so do!), for example? What drives them? Yes, the obvious reason will be the drive for power but what’s the reason behind that? That will colour how you outline your character so well worth giving further thought about.

If they honestly believe their actions are the only way to secure their own safety, that will drive them to keep going no matter what. It would also make their attitude understandable to a reader.

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Just to flag up Amazon have the paperback of Tripping The Flash Fantastic on offer right now. See http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent for more.

Have also just sent off a blog piece where I’ll be the guest sometime in March. Have another one to prepare. All great fun.

Am drafting a short story for submission later this month/early February. I have totally fallen for my lead character. It is a wonderful moment when you know you’ve got right under the skin of your character so accurately. It’s also nice this character is someone I wouldn’t mind having coffee with if they were for real. I can’t say that for all of my “people”. Some are definitely meant to chill you! Some are historical figures and long gone…!

Chilly one over at the park today though at least Lady got to have a good run around with her best buddie, the loveliest Ridgeback in these parts. Another doggy pal of them both came over and the three were very happy and above all warm, unlike their owners! Stamping life back into your feet can take a while…


I always find the time between Christmas and just after New Year a strange one. For a start, it can be tricky working out which day of the week it is (and not helped at all by the pandemic with most people being at home and again losing track of the days of the week). I guess this shows I need structure and I’m not surprised by that.

I have a structure to my writing after all, not just in terms of outlining my stories and characters, but also in terms of what I’ll be doing and when. For example, my CFT post for this coming Friday is already up and scheduled but I am working on the one after that and hope to get that sorted out probably by Wednesday or so.

I finish my day’s writing either by writing flash fiction, working on my non-fiction book or another longer term project. By the time I look back at the week that has just gone, I will have wriitten several thousand words and made good progress on my project. You build up on what you do. And I find that structure works for me.

I just can’t wing it though I have no problem doing that when I am set writing exercises say at places like Swanwick, I guess I know I’m going to be set those so subconsciously I’m ready for them even though I won’t know the topic.

The tricky thing is finding time to do the “housekeeping” (for example, updating the website and so on). These tasks I try to do at least once every couple of weeks (though with my twice weekly round up, I am adding fresh material to the website all the time).

Does a structure work for you? I find I do get more done than if I didn’t have one. Why? Simply because I tick things off my list as I go and it always makes me feel better to see that list go down a bit.

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Hope your Saturday has been okay. Nice quiet one here though appreciating the central heating right now! One good thing about the cold, dark nights is that it does mean an evening at the desk writing is even more appealing than it usually is!

Writing challenges that always need to be met:-

1. Getting started!

2. Committing time to write. (And if you only do have 10 minutes, commit to that. Over the course of a week, a month etc, those pockets of 10 minutes build up. And it’s a good time slot for drafting a piece of flash fiction say or trying out a writing exercise you’ve come across. I hope to be talking about writing exercises in a future CFT post. Watch this space!).

3. Silencing your inner editor. There is a time for your inner editor to get on and do some decent work but it’s never while you’re trying to get the first draft down. Just get your ideas and thoughts down. What needs to come out will come out in the edit later on. Don’t let your inner editor stump your efforts to get any work down at all. It can happen.

4. Convincing yourself you can write. Confidence is an issue for most writers. And most of us have had to fight (and keep fighting) Imposter Syndrome regularly. See that as part of the writing life. Rejections are part of the writing life too. These things are obstacles to be overcome. You can write. You can improve what you write (and therefore up your chances of being published). This takes time. It is not a race. Willingness to learn and improve what you do is what matters here. You can write. Nobody but nobody writes perfect prose at the first go. You do get better over time at avoiding the basic mistakes (as you’ve learned what to look for and avoid!).

5. Avoiding the scammers and vanity presses. There is always someone out there waiting to trip up the unwary writer. Always ask for advice from the Society of Authors and/or Alliance of Independent Authors.

Happy writing! (I appreciate happy editing is possibly not for everyone though I like editing, as you would hope!).


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the great response to my story video yesterday (see post below). One/two line stories like Living Up To A Name, my story from yesterday, work wonderfully for this kind of thing.

Writing such stories is also great practice for writing a blurb for books etc given they usually have to be one to two lines only. The more I write flash fiction, the more I appreciate (a) the beauty of the short form and (b) the shorter the form, the more difficult it is to do well (so a big shout out to all poets here as well by the way!).

Flash fiction to my mind is precision writing. You do have to think about whether each word is really punching its weight in your piece or whether a better word would have more impact. (This is something that all poets do too).

But it is huge fun to do – and a good challenge. Challenges keep you as a writer on your toes and that’s no bad thing.

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Story time – and a timely one too given it has been so cold throughout most of the UK. Hope you enjoy.

Living Up To A Name
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BHYEO8Cv98


My new writing diary comes with plenty of prompts and I hope to get around to do at least some of this year. Flash fiction is perfect for this kind of writing because often you’re asked to write 500 words on this or that or you find the topic given is best suited to a short piece. So using prompts as a way of practicing your flash fiction writing is a good idea. And if you can polish those prompts up and get work submitted and accepted as a result even better! Definitely worth a go!


One of my goals for this year is to get a third flash fiction collection together. I’ve written a reasonable amount on this already but it will be what I return to when I’m resting my other big project, a non-fiction one.

Getting a collection together is an interesting process. As well as looking at the individual stories I’m looking at how well the collection will work as a whole. Does every one of my selected stories help enhance that theme in some way? If they don’t, well those are stories I save for another collection and another time.

What has been fascinating is seeing what my editors have picked up on for both of my books and it has always been a lightbulb moment for me of “oh yes”. That’s a good sign. It means the editors have picked up on things I’m too close to see as the author. You need an editor to point these things out. Do see your editor as your best ally in helping you to get your work as good as possible. It is what we are here for!

Oh and I am probably going to leave the name of this page as it is because (a) I like it and it’s a nice nod to my first book, (b), it is different, and (c) the link to flash fiction is apparent as you read through a post or two!

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Goodreads Author Blog – BOOKS Acrostic

B = Beautiful, bindings to suit (paperback or hardback or chapbook, brilliant at taking you into other worlds.

O = Original thoughts from writers and can make you look at our own world in a different light while reading fantasy and science fiction

O = Overdosing on books is fine. The worst you will be is well read and short on book shelf space.

K = Kindle. One way around the shelf storage problem and you don’t have to limit books to take away with you on holiday, when we can do such things again.

S = Stories in so many forms including non-fiction because that tells factual stories.

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Twitter Corner

 

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Mixing Things Up

Image Credit:  As ever, the images are from the fabulous Pixabay.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today looks at why mixing things up is so important for writers. I share some thoughts and tips as to how to do so too. Hope you find it useful and enjoyable. I also look at the advantages and disadvantages of writing to set and open themes for competitions. (And good luck if you’re entering any soon!).

Mixing Things Up is the theme and title for my latest CFT post of course but it would also make a great theme for stories!

How would your characters mix things up? Would they do this out of maliciousness or from a sense of mischief? What would the consequences be for them and for others?

Asking what the consequences would be is a great way of developing your story outline! To quote Isaac Newton: “To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.”

Good thought for story writing too (though I doubt if he would have thought of it that way!).

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Am loving listening to Danse Macabre on Classic FM as I type this (on 19th March 2020). This is the theme used on my book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I think of it as “my song”! 😆😆 See below!

I write with classical music on and find it relaxing. When I’m relaxed I find I write more. So that’s added reason to relax then! I don’t know quite what it is about classical music for it to have this effect. I do know other types of music simply don’t do the same thing – for me at least.

My post on CFT tomorrow will be Mixing Things Up and I will share some thoughts as to how a writer can do that and, just as importantly, why it matters.

 

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I’m glad the one-liner post the other day went well! The films were:-

The Italian Job (with the wonderful Michael Caine).

Carry On Cleo (with the wonderful Kenneth Williams. He had a marvellous narrative voice too).

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (With the wonderful Bob Hoskins). Bear in mind this film was made before CGI and he was acting to “air”. The cartoon figures were added in later including the anatomically impossible Jessica Rabbit!

It was great rediscovering The Great Escape a few months ago. Fabulous and true story, well acted, and a great score to it too.

Favourite film adaptation of a book for me is and remains The Lord of The Rings. No surprises there…

And my own favourite one liner from a story?

Probably “Still as I told Mother, if this is what I can do when I’m honest, just think of the possibilities when I’m not!”

For the rest see my Making The Grade in From Light to Dark and Back Again!

Allison Symes and published works

Allison Symes and some of her published works. Image by Adrian Symes

Facebook – From Light To Dark And Back Again

Used one of the prompts in the Prompts book by Gill James to write a flash tale that I have now submitted. It was good fun to write.

My week so far has mainly been on non-fiction work so it was good to get some fiction writing in. That should be my main focus for the rest of this week now.

Will have more news on another book but will save that for tomorrow night’s FB posts. (Well, we all need something to look forward to at the moment, right?!).

 

The one thing I hope to come out of the current crisis is that people read more and keep the love of reading going when things eventually calm down again.

Reading is a wonderful way to relax and for writers it is the flip side of what we do. To write well, you need to read well. (It’s also a bit daft to say the least NOT to support the industry you want to be in so go on get those books in, you know you want to!).

I love flash for its immediate impact, the longer short story for being able to expand on characterisation, and the novel for depth of plot etc. And the great thing with reading? There’s no limit on what you can read in terms of genre, length, topic etc. So go on, get stuck in!

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Do you find it easier to write the ending of a story or its beginning?

I usually know when I’m brainstorming ideas whether a line I jot down is going to make a superb opening (I hope!) or a stunning finish. I then work out ideas from there and often use a spider diagram to help me get to the better storyline. (It is very rarely the first one I come up with!).

Sometimes the line can be open to being placed at either end of the story (and I love those). On my To Do list is to try to write two consecutive stories where the finishing line of one becomes the opening line of another. That could be fun to try (and good luck if you get to do that before I do! More than ever especially at the moment, it is important to still have fun and enjoy life as much as possible. Enjoying your story writing can be a key part of that).

 

Fairytales with Bite – The Downside of Magic

I’ve mentioned before that I like stories which show the downside of magic.

Firstly, something that powerful has to have disadvantages and would be prone to misuse/abuse (as with any kind of political power etc), though great stories come from exploring that.

Secondly, I love characters who use their wit and intelligence to get out of trouble in any genre and I want to see that in fairytales and fantasy too. Where magic is used, I want it to be appropriate.

I also believe there should be a downside to using it even when the intention is good. Something that powerful ought to have an effect on the user. For me, that’s realistic. I’ve always loved the section in The Lord of the Rings where Frodo offers Galadriel the Ring of Power because he clearly thinks the wretched thing would be best in the hands of someone good who would only use it for good (that’s my interpretation) and she reveals what that could mean.

What you don’t want is a wave of the wand getting characters out of trouble. Well, it’s not very interesting is it? Where a wave of the wand gets the character out of trouble but lands them right in it again in a different way because magic was used, now that is a lot more interesting to follow.

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This World and Others – Hobbies and Interests

So you’ve created an interesting world for your characters to inhabit. You’ve creating fascinating characters that will keep us glued to your book. Excellent!

Now think of rounding out your characters that bit more. What are their interests and hobbies? Why are they interested in these?

If your characters are on a quest, what interests have they had to give up so they can go on the quest? Is there any chance of them being able to resume that old life again? What are their attitudes to having to give anything up? What do they do in their down time?

I’ve always found when reading series novels that a character with interests is going to attract me more for the good simple reason that the character concerned has a rounded life and that’s what I want to read about. What they do about their main work in the story adds depth to them.

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