Lessons from Writing and Scenic Scotland

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels. Scottish pics and images of Lady, the daft but loveable Border Collie cross, were taken by me, Allison Symes.


Book cover images for The Best of Cafelit 9 and Tripping The Flash Fantastic supplied by my publishers – Bridge House Publishing and Chapeltown Books respectively.


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


Pleased to share the link to Part 2 of my Lessons series on CFT. This week I look at lessons learned from the writing life, all of which are useful beyond that.
So over to you. What lessons have you learned from writing and how have you applied these in other areas of life?

Went back to Dunnet Bay. Such a wonderful beach. Lady thinks so too! Walked for miles though it always seems further on sand than it actually is!

Plenty of brisk fresh air. Managed to see buzzards fairly close up (could make out the colouring underneath. Don’t usually get to do that). Also spotted a kestrel, sand pipers, and oyster catchers.
Now drum roll please… Very exciting news on Tripping The Flash Fantastic to come soon but in the meantime, take a peek at this!


Achievement of the week and possibly the year for me  – I climbed 600 feet in about a mile exploring the track that runs behind where I’m staying. Yes, it was a very steep track! But see the views below. 

Lady bounded up it with no issues at all before going on to have a splendid playtime on Dornoch Beach later in the afternoon. Result? One tired but happy dog!

What would be the perfect day for your characters and why? What would they do to anyone or anything that got in the way of them having that perfect day?

There are story ideas there for a start but also use questions like this for outlining your people. Work out what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Different writers have varying requirements here but what you do need is enough for you to get going on a story with characters who deserve to be written about.




Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


I’ve learned so much from the writing life as I discuss in this week’s CFT post. The great thing is I know that learning will continue.
My hopes with regard to flash fiction is to continue to develop characters and stories.

Maybe try different genres within flash? Maybe write a novella in flash one day – who knows?

But while I know there is writing to do and things to try within that, I know the buzz of writing won’t diminish. And I love that!😄

Big news is that I can now do a book cover reveal for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Will be sharing more news soon on this.
I will be talking about TTFF as part of an author talk with Gill James and Dawn Kentish Knox on 26th September.

More details next week and my CFT post on 18th September will give details on how to register for the FREE Zoom event at the end of the month.

Am I a happy bunny right now? You bet!
Lovely day back at Dunnet today. One great thing about dog ownership is that our pets break down barriers. I’ve had far more lovely chats with people since owning a dog than before! 
Although 2020 has been an awful year, I am so pleased to hear in one week The Best Of Cafelit 9, where I have flash stories included, and Tripping the Flash Fantastic, are “out there”. (Kindle only at moment for TTFF but paperback to follow).
Would still like 2020 to dramatically improve though and I know I’m not alone there.

I love autumn. I love the changing leaf colours. And the heathers on the hills around where I’m staying at the moment are such wonderful colours.

But there is a sense of transition this early in September as we leave summer behind. 
Flash fiction is great for demonstrating those senses of transition in your characters.

They go from one state of being to another – that is the story you’re writing after all.

What you need to figure out is which moment of transition is the important one to write up.


Fairytales With Bite – Favourites


My favourite part of most fairytales when I was a kid was when the fairy godmother etc turned up and you knew somehow from that point, everything was going to work out okay.
My favourite part of a fairytale now is harder to define but I like to see characters contributing to the fairy godmother’s efforts to help them.

I also like to see the villains get their comeuppance.And I know that last like is something I’ll always have!
I refer to a lot of my work as fairytales with bite precisely because they are not twee. Nor am I writing to the children’s market (Roald Dahl was the past master there in my view!). 
I’ve never liked it when someone dismisses something as “just a fairytale”. There is no just about it. Fairytales are deeper stories than some give them credit for!

 

This World and Others – Geography


I don’t refer to geography a lot in my flash tales but did use it in my unpublished (as yet!) fantasy novel.

I needed to know something about the landscape my characters inhabit and whether that gets in their way. Also I wanted to look at the differences and similarities with our world.
This is where photos come in handy for sparking ideas. I totally understand why so many fantasy works have a map with them. (I must check out the Discworld one for The Streets of Ankh-Morpork as that is one map which will be fun!☺).
The nice thing now is there are far more avenues of research available now. Archives, libraries, the web etc. I guess the danger now might be you could have so much fun researching, the writing takes a back seat!

So it would pay I think to plan out your research just as much as you would plan out the story itself.

Think about what you need to know, jot down where you think further research might be needed later, and write.

Also make a note of sources of research in case a publisher asks and in case you need to retrace your steps. It happens!

Holidays and Publication News

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels. Scottish and Lady pics by me, Allison Symes. Book cover image by Gill James for The Best of Cafelit 9.

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Am heading to Scotland for a short break. First time I’ve been there in the autumn. Looking forward to lots of lovely walking on deserted sandy beaches and to exploring the forests.
Now the fantastic scenery won’t in itself inspire story ideas. My imagination doesn’t work like that.

What the scenery and walking will do is blow away the cobwebs and relax me. Then the ideas will flow. And I am all for that!😄

Gorgeous day walking at Lairg and Golspie. Dog very tired but happy. Literally dog-tired! Lovely to be able to join in with Zoom church service this morning too.

Planning to draft some blogs and flash tales this week. Writing and reading relax me so they are the perfect wind down.

There is a well-stocked book shelf here too so will be investigating that too. I recall the last time I was here there was a copy of Somerset Maughan’s A Writer’s Notebook. Must dip into that. Insights into the writing life always fascinate me.

Delightful day at St Dunnet Bay today, the top edge of the UK mainland. Lady had a wonderful time but is now struggling to stay awake. The price dogs pay for fun!😄😊
Am delighted to say The Best of Cafelit 9 is now out and I have stories in here. Hope to chat more about this next week but did want to congratulate all of the writers with work in here meantime.

If you like a good mix of stories and styles, do check out the Cafelit series.

Spent day walking along Golspie beach and at Lairg woods. It is amazing how much sand a black collie can collect! Lady is happily snoozing away as I write this. Always a good sign she IS getting her exercise well enough!

One major difference with us holidaying now rather than in May is that we’re not seeing the deer in the field opposite where we’re staying. We guess they’re up in the hills preparing for the rut.

Writing wise, I’m drafting bits and bobs as the wonderful Scottish fresh air is not just knocking Lady out for six! But am enjoying my “pottering” writing wise and my reading too. Sometimes it is good to “tick over”.

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From Light to Dark and Back Again

It is fascinating seeing the country change as I go up to Scotland for a brief holiday.

Changes are interesting. They are vital too.Changes in character behaviour are what drives a story. Something has to happen. Something has to change.

But a character changing their mind can be the trigger for your story. Change doesn’t necessarily have to be dramatic.

Elizabeth Bennet changing her mind about Darcy turns Pride and Prejudice (as does his changing his mind about her).

How has your Sunday been? I’ve enjoyed glorious walking with hubby and dog on the NE coast of Scotland. Fab weather and good temperatures too.

Am looking forward to my annual challenge of getting as much info on a postcard as possible and sending same to my nearest and dearest. Still this is appropriate for me – flash fiction has been called postcard fiction!

And an interesting idea that came out of the creative workshop via Zoom I “went to” recently was to use the text as well as the pictures on old postcards to trigger story ideas. I might try and use the pics on the cards I pick up and see what I can do.


It is a privilege and pleasure to have flash stories included in anthologies, as well as in my own books.

On that note I’m pleased to report I have stories in the newly released The Best of Cafelit 9.

I hope to chat more about this later in the week when back from Scotland but it is lovely to have further publication news to return home for.

Am surrounded by beautiful old stone walls where I’m staying now. So many stories behind the building of those I suspect.

One thing I adore about visiting places such as Salisbury Cathedral is you do get to find out how the building was constructed, the names of the families doing the work and so on. Glimpses into a past world.

And that is what flash fiction is all about – giving readers glimpses into the past, the future, the present, the strange universe you’ve created etc. You choose where to set your stories and what glimpses your readers see.

Goodreads – Holiday Reading

– Holiday Reading

Do you make promises to youraelf to do so much reading while on a break? I do! Most of them I do achieve.

This time, while I’m in Scotland, I’ve promised myself to catch up with one paperback and three books on Kindle. Can’t wait to “tuck in”! I hope to catch up on reviewing too.

And the positive thing about heading into autumn with the nights drawing in, it does encourage more reading.

Sweet Dreams and Reading Acrostics

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay/Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General – and Publication News:  Cafelit

Weather cooler again today – yippee! (Dog pleased too). Easier to concentrate and write too. Am preparing some blog pieces to send to various places in due course. As with the flash fiction, those are lovely to write during those pockets of time when I can only write for short bursts.

I forgot to share on this page the link for my latest Cafelit story, Sweet Dreams, (though I did share it on my book page). Hope you enjoy! This was a prompt from #GailAldwin in Gill James’ Prompts Book and it was good fun to write.

Now, without giving too much away, a favourite chocolate bar comes into this story. You’ll have to read it to find out why!

But it is useful to consider favourite and loathed things that your characters might have. Not only can you use those to add depth to your characterisation, you might be able to get short stories out of these things in and of themselves, as I’ve done here, thanks to Gail’s excellent prompt.

Oh and it’s a definite thumbs-up for writing to prompts set by others. They do make you think outside of your own writing box and that’s a good way to stretch yourself and what you can come up with as a result.

Happy writing!

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Hope you have had a good weekend and that the week to come is a productive and fun one. I did enjoy using the random noun generator (yes, there is such a thing!) to create a new flash story for my From Light to Dark and Back Again FB page yesterday. I will be using the noun generator again. NB.  The story I created, Misunderstood, will appear further down under the FLTDBA again section. Hope you enjoy it!

You can set as many nouns as you want and even choose the opening and finishing letters. I just went for two nouns at random and the great thing with that is you could use these as a title, the theme, or just work them into the story somehow.

I see all of the random generators I’ve used (word, phrase, question, noun, and even number!) as an alternative method of finding story prompts. And the great thing here? You’ve got an endless supply!

Give them a go and have fun. See what you can create. Playing with words and having fun in this manner is a wonderful trigger for creativity. And I’ve always found once you’ve got a creative spark going, you want to keep it going and you end up being more productive than you might have been otherwise.

Also the stories you draft here can be polished and edited and submitted later.

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I outline my characters as I’ve discussed before. What do I look for in said characters?

1. Basically a good reason for me to tell their story.
2. Go back to 1!

So what would count as a good reason then?

1. They have the qualities to overcome adversity even if they themselves don’t realise that to start with (and the best characters usually don’t). They don’t easily give up. They take good advice. They have the ability to recognise good advice when they hear it.

2. They are usually from a background that would make others consider them to be the underdog. I do love underdog winning through type stories and they are a mainstay of the classic fairytales too.

3. They have a moment of change they have got to see through, ensuring their lives can never be the same again. Stories like that are always fascinating.

4. They will often experience internal conflict as well as the obvious external type. Really gripping characters will have moments of self doubt (as we do) and that is what readers will identify with. It is then how the characters overcome that which will keep the readers reading!

 

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I’d thought I’d share some favourite moments in writing (and as ever this is not the be all and end all of lists. Am sure you can think of some things to add here).

1. Knowing I’ve picked exactly the right word for whatever it is I’m putting my poor characters through. I’m even more pleased if this is in dialogue. Good dialogue has emotional “whoomph” and shows a reader how the character is feeling.

2. Knowing my first draft is completed and I now have something to work with. This is where the work begins for me. It IS all in the edit(s) – and yes, there is always more than one! Sometimes considerably more than one!

3. Knowing my first edit has significantly improved my original story and I am getting glimmers of how it can be improved further. Out comes the trusted red pen and away I go…

4. Reviews for From Light to Dark and Back Again (and a big thanks to all who have reviewed it).

5. Having positive feedback on my Chandler’s Ford Today posts as that shows the piece has engaged with readers well.

So over to you then. What are some of your favourite writing moments?

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Well, the weather certainly lived up to “from light to dark and back again” yesterday! There was one storm but it was cleared by about 6 pm with drizzle for the evening. Having said that, it has been a lot cooler today for which I am most thankful (as is the dog).

LOVED meeting via Facetime some of my Swanwick pals yesterday evening. Great fun. Better still will be when we can meet in person at Swanwick, God willing, next year. (I’ve never been one to take things for granted anyway, life can have a habit of getting in the way at times, but if there is one HUGE life lesson to come out of 2020, that is it I think).

One thing I did forget to do yesterday, but which gives me great pleasure to do now, is to share my latest flash fiction story, Sweet Dreams. This appeared on Cafelit yesterday afternoon but I hope you enjoy! A story to finish the working week with is always a good idea, is it not?!

I loved writing this. It was a result of a prompt idea in the Prompts book by Gill James with the prompt itself coming from #GailAldwin.

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I’ve found a new random generator! I’ve sometimes used random word, phrase, question, and even number generators to trigger story ideas. And now I’ve found a random noun generator which could be fun. Let’s see what can be done.

I set the generator to trigger two random nouns for me. Nouns generated were “foundation” and “actor”. (Incidentally as well as choosing how many to generate, you can set the first and last letter of each noun as well if you wanted to but I like to keep things simple).

Now the nice thing with the generators is you can use what comes up as the theme of your story, the title, or ensure you use the words that are triggered in that story at some point. Or you can combine any/all of that. The important thing is to have fun with this!

So what can I do with foundation and actor then?

MISUNDERSTOOD
The actor frowned as he dug out the foundation for the new amateur theatre building. He’d been promised an audience. Sure he had one. They were all yelling unspeakable things along the lines of this being the hardest they’d ever seen HIM work. Not what he’d expected at all.

He expected the finest foundation all right. He expected it to be applied to his face as he gave the starring performance of his life, which naturally would then receive glowing reviews all over the country, and lead to bigger, better roles.

He guessed it served him right for daring to mention Macbeth on stage last week. HIs fellow actors told him it would bring him bad luck.

He’d laughed then. They laughed now.

Allison Symes – 15th August 2020

Hope you enjoyed that. I loved writing it.

 

Really loved using the random noun generator yesterday. Will definitely add that to my list of story prompt generators. You can never have too many of those! Okay, you need the time to write up all the ideas, I grant you that, but this is a dilemma every writer faces and has to find their own way of tackling.

Flash is an ideal vehicle for those lovely story ideas that are best shown quickly. My story yesterday, Misunderstood, worked best as a quick tale only. I often find my humorous tales work better that way. If flash has taught me anything (and it has taught me loads!), it is to never, ever pad your story out. If it works better at 100 words, keep it there. If it works best at 1000, keep it there and so on.

Have a good writing week!

 

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You’d think a flash fiction writer would have no problems coming up with the blurb for the cover of their book, wouldn’t you?!

Now, okay, the word count is not an issue for me here. What can be tricky is choosing what HAS to be on the cover and what would be nice to have but is not the end of the world if it doesn’t make it. Inevitably it won’t! Why?

As with the fiction itself, only the crucial details can go on. You want every word to hook in potential readers so there can be no preamble, waffle etc. You have to be realistic with yourself as to what could be seen as waffle and cut, cut, cut.

I change the way I lead into a story as this keeps things interesting for me (and I hope in due time readers as well!).

Sometimes I will use a character’s thoughts. At other times I will show you the character doing something.

I try to get into the scene quickly so a reader picks up where they are nigh on immediately and there must be something about the character to draw their interest to ensure they read on and find out what happens to them.

In She Did It Her Way, Kind Of, I start with the line “Jane Westbrook knew it was too late to do anything.” Now that sounds like it might kill a story right from the start but what I planned here was that readers would want to find out why she thought this and whether she was right or wrong.

Curiosity about a character is a really good hook and one I enjoy using.

 

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Goodreads Author Blog –Reading Acrostics

R = Riveting
E = Entertaining
A = Alternative Worlds
D = Drama and Dialogue
I = Imagination
N = Narrative
G = Genre Fulfilling/Crossing

All of the above are what I look for in a good read.

Regardless of genre (and I have a soft spot for those books which cross genres), I want the book to be riveting, entertaining, and for the drama and dialogue to keep me gripped until I reach The End.

I want to be amazed (in a good way!) by the author’s imagination. There can’t be a dull moment in the narrative either.

And yet some people still think writing is easy!!

G = Gripping
E = Educational
N = Nuanced
R = Readability
E = Enchanting

And again, regardless of genres, I want whatever I read to be capable of the above. Yes, fiction can be educational. You can learn from the mistakes the characters make for a start!

For me, nuanced means the characters have to be balanced. Nobody is all evil or all good. The only over the top characters I accept are Mr Toad in The Wind of The Willows and Cruella de Ville in 101 Dalmatians but they are written specifically that way and their characters wouldn’t work any other way. But those are rare exceptions to the general rule. Characters should be balanced.

At the end of a book I want to have experienced an enchanting time reading said book. I want something about it to transport me to its setting and to regret leaving it at the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Why

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. A huge thank you to Wendy H Jones for supplying images for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is a real pleasure to welcome Scottish crime writer, Wendy H. Jones, back to Chandler’s Ford Today and for something very special indeed.

Wendy is the only UK author involved with The Power of Why, an inspirational book featuring 23 women who started their own businesses.

G capital

Wendy shares why the question of why matters. Below is a short extract from the blurb for The Power of Why.

The Power of Why

If you are not starting your business by asking yourself “Why?”, then you are starting in the wrong place.

Five main questions should be answered when contemplating starting a business – What, Why, How, When and Where? Often women entrepreneurs do not give thought to the order of these, yet research by top universities shows the most important is Why?

Compiled by Purvi Tantia, this book tells the stories of 23 powerful women from around the world, who share the fears and aspirations which led to their Why. This book should be the starting point for any woman wanting to understand the Power of Why in her life.

Wow! Now that is quite a statement but check out the interview for much, much more. You won’t look at “Why” in quite the same way again, I think.

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Despite not being at Swanwick as I should’ve been, today has been nice.

Firstly, I had my first swim since the lockdown. It was lovely and, yes, I was slow! Second question – correct, I don’t care! I will improve…! But it was so nice to be back and the centre I go to had laid everything out perfectly and the one-way system was easy to use.

Secondly, I was delighted at #PaulaReadman‘s post earlier about her excitement at discovering her single author collection, Days Pass Like a Shadow, is on Waterstones website. Huge congratulations to her. I thought I’d put my own name in the search bar and see below for what emerged!

SCREENSHOT - Allison Books on Waterstones online

Absolutely thrilled at this. Many thanks to Paula as, without her post, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to look. So this came as a nice surprise. Alternative Renditions, the other book shown, is where I had my first story in print published – A Helping Hand. I will always have a very soft spot for that particular tale!

I know that Paula and I would want to give a huge shout-out to our fantastic publisher, #GillJames, for all of her support at Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books.

Oh and finally the temperature has come down a bit in Hampshire. Thunder and rain this afternoon though it looks like there is more to come.

And I’ll be meeting up with some fab Swanwick ladies online shortly so, all in all, a great Thursday! Hope yours was a good one too. (It was so good to chat online with #ValPenny, #BeatriceFishback, #JenWilson,#JuneWebber, and #PennyBlackburn. See you good ladies another time!).

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My CFT post this week will be a wonderful interview with Scottish crime writer, #WendyHJones. She’ll be talking about a very special anthology called The Power of Why and showing why matters, especially to women. Very much looking forward to sharing the link for that on Friday.

(Oh and kudos alert: Wendy is the ONLY UK author featured in this book. Find out more about her involvement with this later in the week).

One of the joys of interviews is being able to set questions in such a way they encourage a discussion. The best author interviews I love reading always do that. What you want to avoid are the straight Yes/No answers so I try to never ask questions where that could be given as a response.

Now here’s a thought for the fiction writers. I outline my characters and work out what I need to know about them before I write “their” story.

So when quizzing your characters to find out more about them and what drives them, use some techniques from non-fiction interviews here.

Again avoid having a character be able to tell you a simple yes/no answer. You want to know why! The answer to why is where you’ll get the “gold” to work with in your story. That is what will show you what makes your characters “tick”.

I said why was important. And Wendy will confirm this on Friday! (Images of The Power of Why and Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by Wendy, all others from Pixabay).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Publication News – Cafelit – Flash Fiction

Well, the weather certainly lived up to “from light to dark and back again” yesterday! There was one storm but it was cleared by about 6 pm with drizzle for the evening. Having said that, it has been a lot cooler today for which I am most thankful (as is the dog).

LOVED meeting via Facetime some of my Swanwick pals yesterday evening. Great fun. Better still will be when we can meet in person at Swanwick, God willing, next year. (I’ve never been one to take things for granted anyway, life can have a habit of getting in the way at times, but if there is one HUGE life lesson to come out of 2020, that is it I think).

One thing I did forget to do yesterday, but which gives me great pleasure to do now, is to share my latest flash fiction story, Sweet Dreams. This appeared on Cafelit yesterday afternoon but I hope you enjoy! A story to finish the working week with is always a good idea, is it not?!

I loved writing this. It was a result of a prompt idea in the Prompts book by Gill James with the prompt itself coming from #GailAldwin.

chocolate-2202151_640

An appropriate image to go with my flash fiction tale, Sweet Dreams, on Cafelit. Pixabay image.

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Delighted to discover FLTDBA is on the Waterstones website. See the link. Nice to say you can get my book at Waterstones. Most authors dream of being able to say that… I know I have.

I found this out thanks to #PaulaReadman spotting her single author collection, Days Pass Like a Shadow (Chapeltown Books), was on there and I thought I’d just put my name in the search bar and see what happened. So glad I did.

I guess it shows another aspect to making writing friends. They can and do show you aspects to this business you might not have thought of. No one author can know it all after all. And that is something I learned a long time ago!

Mind you, the upside to that and it is a HUGE upside, is that there is always something to learn in writing, whether it is on the creative and/or marketing sides. This in turn keeps you on your toes and that is good.

Well, you wouldn’t want to become stale now, would you?

FromLightToDark_medium-2

Delighted to see this on the Waterstones site. Looking forward to seeing Tripping the Flash Fantastic on there too!

Alternative Renditions Small

A very special book in my memory! My first printed story, A Helping Hand, was in here!

Allison Symes - Published Works

Yours truly and some of my collected works! Image by Adrian Symes

What I love to see in flash fiction:-

1. Characters that intrigue me.

2. Characters I could see working well in other flash tales.

3. A punchy funny ending which makes me laugh (where appropriate of course).

4. A “killer” finishing line which wraps up the story and you just know it was the perfect ending for that tale.

5. An equally “killer” opening line which means you just HAVE to read on and until you’ve finished the story (which at least with flash is not going to take too long!).

6. A fabulous twist which I can either see coming (but I am looking for it to be delivered WELL here) OR one where I am wrongfooted by the author. (Always a good hat tip to anyone who can do that to me!).

7. A moment of illumination and reflection in quieter stories which have an impact long after that initial first reading. It is often this type of story I come back to again later when I want reading to soothe or reassure me.

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Fairytales With Bite – Fantastic Settings

No matter where your story is set, or how outlandish your fictional world is, it still has to be populated by characters whom we can understand and either root for, or love to hate. They must generate an emotional reaction in us. Their motives must be ones we can understand.

The setting should also be one we can get behind. After all, we know how our planet works/is run. How is this done in your fictional setting? Are there corrupt politicians for example? (I refuse to believe that could just be on Earth!).

Especially in a fantasy world, some ideas of what it looks like, how the species live, what kind of wildlife is there etc deepen your characterisation of the setting itself. (Setting can often be a character in its own right and I don’t think it’s a bad idea to treat it as one. It means you think it out for a start!).

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This World and Others – 

What Matters to Your Character(s) and Why

Answering that one phrase gives you THE reason for writing the character’s story! From a world building viewpoint, what matters to your character is not the same as what the reader needs to know.

For example, if your character lives on a world where they don’t breathe oxygen but something else entirely, early on in the story the reader will need to know that.

The trick here is not to “tell” the reader this but to show them so they draw their own conclusions.

Yes, you can use description to show the point but an even better way is to have someone else observe it. The main character will not mention they’re breathing Gas X because they do it all the time, obviously, and so why would they draw attention to it?

An outside observer could do so. Say your character is being visited by someone who lives on a different part of the planet. Maybe the quality of their Gas X at home is not as good as it is here. They could comment on that to your main character. Job done. You can also show something of your character’s attitude by how they respond to their visitor.

Regardless of how strange the created world is, what matters to your character is something we should all be able to identify with and sympathise over. All species will need the basics – food, shelter, etc – but think beyond that too.

What is driving your character? Why does their story matter? Why should a reader want to find out? Don’t be afraid to dig deep. Your character has to be emotionally invested in the outcome of the story for your reader to care.

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Final Thoughts on The Writing Game

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels. A HUGE thank you to my fabulous guest authors for their pics, including book cover ones, for the Chandler’s Ford Today series, The Writing Game – and What to Watch For.

FINAL PART OF THE WRITING GAME – AND WHAT TO WATCH FOR TONIGHT.  Hope you find it useful and enjoyable.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m thrilled to share the final part of The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. HUGE thanks to all of my fabulous guests for the wonderful advice they’ve shared in this three-parter.  Do take a bow, everyone!

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Today my guests are from the world of independent publishing, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and Association of Christian Writers. Some of them cross more than one category!

 

Feature Image - Part 3 - The Writing Game and What to Watch For

Many, many thanks to all of my fabulous guest authors for taking part in The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. This is one of those series for Chandler’s Ford Today I should’ve written a long time ago!

Hope you enjoy this and find it useful.

Mind you, I can speak for all of my guests in that if this series stops one person going down the vanity press route, with all the heartache and expense that causes, we would be well pleased.

I know, looking back when I first started writing for publication seriously, the main problem is in NOT knowing what you DO need to know. As you start to make progress with your writing, you then REALISE you don’t know but your next issue is where do you turn to for advice? If you needed a really good reason to make writing buddies, this is it. And the best places to meet and make writing buddies?

Writing groups – online and otherwise. Creative writing conferences – day events and longer etc. At the moment so many of these have to be online via Zoom etc., but still take part in these things. You will get a lot from them.

Have a fab weekend!

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Facebook – General – and Publication News

Delighted to say the story I was working on inspired by a #GailAldwin prompt is going to be published on Cafelit later this month. Will share the link when I have it. I hope this will be next week.

It was great fun to write (and thanks to Gail for a great idea here. Given my love of chocolate, writing stories inspired by sweets could keep me busy for a while! Mind you I still have well over 200 prompts to work through in Gill James’ excellent Prompts book! Still they say slow and steady wins the race. If true, that means I’m in for a brilliant result!).😆😆😆

Fence news: have finished creosoting the wretched fence. Lady was most upset I would not allow her out to join me but I really didn’t fancy going back indoors with a Ronseal “Matured Oak” coloured border collie! (There is no way she would have kept her nose out of the tin either!). Not sorry to have this done ahead of the heatwave due this weekend – and yes, Lady will be kept nicely cool.

I’m looking forward to sharing the concluding part of my CFT series – The Writing Game – and What to Watch For – on Friday. My guests this week will be from the world of self publishing, the Association of Christian Writers, and Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Fabulous tips and advice to share once again. A big thank you to all of my great guests over this series.

Have been happily drafting a new flash fiction piece where the prompt was to write about a sweet. This was a prompt suggested by #GailAldwin in the Prompts Book by Gill James.

I’m slowing working my way through the prompts though it is going to take me well over a year to get through them all! I hope eventually to get another collection out of these pieces in time. I also hope to share some of them via Cafelit in due course too.

But what is lovely about writing like this is it means I can get a flash piece drafted in those short pockets of time which might otherwise be wasted.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The final part of my The Writing Game – and What to Watch For is now up on Chandler’s Ford Today. For the next couple of weeks, there will be some fab interviews with writers who are changing direction with their most recent publications. Looking forward to sharing those. Lots of interesting insights.

I love reading, as well as hosting, author interviews. There is always so much to learn. But that I think is one of the great things about writing. It spurs you on so. You take the view that “I’ve done this before, I can do it again, but can I do it better?”. The answer to that one is always yes, incidentally!

And that is the way it should be. You always want to strive. It is the striving that will make you the better writer. With flash fiction, I’ve had a lot of fun recently with haiku and hope to continue that. I’m sure there’ll be other kinds of flash to have a go at somewhen as well.

Have a fab weekend! (Must admit I am NOT looking forward to the heat. Lady and I will be doing all we can to stay cool).

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I’m aiming this year to have something submitted to Cafelit once a month. Am glad to report a story I was working on the last day or so will be on there later in August. Will share the link when I have it.

Submitting stories regularly helps give me focus. I can vary the length of story I send in and I sometimes use the Prompts book Gill James produced to trigger my submissions. (Many of the Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown authors contributed to the Prompts book including yours truly. Do check it out. It’s a fun book to work through – and you could play “lucky dip” with this too. Pick a page and write one or two of the ideas up from that etc. Pick an idea and write it to different word counts etc.).

 

Hope you have had a good Wednesday. I’ve been drafting some work from the Prompts book by Gill James, as I mentioned over on my author page here, but what are the advantages to working to prompts?

1. The prompt gives you a framework to write your story to and I’ve always found that so helpful. It is why I prefer a competition with a set theme rather than an open one as a rule. I’ve got something there immediately to have a crack at!

2. There’s nothing to stop you taking the prompt and writing one story, two stories, three tales from it. Why not take the theme in two or three different directions and see what you can do with it? If you get two or three different stories to submit, fabulous. If not, you pick the one you think is strongest and submit that one.

3. If you find you’ve written a story to a prompt and you really like the character, again why not write other fiction for them?

4. Writing to someone else’s prompt can “prompt” your own imagination to come up with ideas you might want to note down for future use. This happens a lot with me but that’s fine. It means I’ve got a good store of ideas to write up as and when I can.

Happy writing!

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Fairytales with Bite – 

Who Defines the Goodies in Fairytales?

Yes, I know, the writer does obviously BUT a lot depends on the reaction of the reader too. I can’t help but think of Alan Rickman’s wonderful portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The out-and-out villain almost had people rooting for him to win! Now that was not supposed to happen was it?!

And Shrek turns the idea of the ogre being the bad guy on its head. There is a lot of fun to be had writing fairytales from alternative character viewpoints. This is something I’ve done a lot and my first printed story, A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology, was written from the viewpoint of the youngest “ugly sister” to good old Cinders.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am rooting for the good folk in fairytales but bear in mind good can also encompass those who’ve been misunderstood. (I’ve not seen Maleificent but believe that is the crux of the plot there).

What makes a character good to me is that their actions and motivations are understandable and do not harm others. Courage in facing up to evil usually comes up to it somewhere too. (What is even more interesting is when a character realises the evil can lurk within themselves and takes steps to fight that).

So who are your good people in fairytales and why?

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This World and Others – Reflections

One of the joys of setting stories in alien worlds is they can often reflect on aspects of life right here on Planet Earth. The Lord of the Rings and The Narnia Chronicles both do that for me. What matters is being able to understand the characters and why they’re acting the way they are, no matter how outlandish their home planet is etc.

This can work both ways round of course. An outlandish setting could seem ridiculous to our eyes but you could write a story set here in such a way it actually makes what we know the daft option!

Fairytales have, for centuries, reflected aspects of human nature. They’re not flattering when it comes to showing what characters (and therefore us) could do. The motivations of the characters are all ones we know about too.

So how can you make your world and characters understandable to us?

No matter what your setting, your character has to be striving for something important and the readers have to care about the outcome. So outline what your character could need to do and what is in it for them if they succeed and, even more importantly, what would happen if they fail. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a life or death thing (though it could be) but it DOES have to matter and the reader should be able to pick up on that.

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Favourite Things and Publication News

Image Credit:  Pixabay and Pexels unless otherwise stated.

PUBLICATION NEWS

As you will see from my posts below, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my second flash fiction collection, is almost ready to be published by Chapeltown Books. I will share more news when I have it but I can say now that the cover is stunning. I hope to share a book cover reveal in due course. Am I excited? You bet! This week has been very busy in working with the cover designer and ensuring there is nothing further to change to the text but it has been a great few days as you can imagine. I do hope to have a cyberlaunch in due course.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Favourite Things was such a fun post to write but with a title like that, it should be really! I share five favourites in various categories ranging from book genres to dog breeds to TV themes, stopping at favourite meals and drinks along the way.
Do check the post out and send your nominees in via the CFT comments box.
Also check out the fab TV themes I picked, they will bring great memories for many, and it was marvellous hearing them again.

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Gracie, my much missed bearded collie cross (with border collie). Image by Allison Symes

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Mabel, my much missed border collie. Image by Allison Symes.

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Lady, the border collie cross (flat coat retriever and chiahuahua, yes really,the inquisitive and loveable! Image by Allison Symes

Glad to see that the beautifully painted stones around my neck of the woods are still in place. I’ve enjoyed spotting those when out and about with Lady. I’ve no artistry at all when it comes to painting, drawing etc., but I do know what I like when I see it!
My CFT post is all about Favourite Things. I share various categories and pick my five favourites. Link up tomorrow. See what you think and do send comments in. There are also some TV themes from yesteryear as part of this post too and it was fun looking those up and playing them again. Hope you’ll enjoy them too. And with all of the categories I’ve chosen, I could’ve picked a lot more than five!
Incidentally, a good way to outline your characters is to think about what their favourite things are and why “they” would choose them. (By all means use the categories in my CFT post tomorrow to start you off and good luck!).

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Another nice day. I’m shortly going to start the final text checks on Tripping The Flash Fantastic so that will keep me out of mischief for a while.
I was also “on” a hugely enjoyable Zoom creative writing workshop this afternoon which was good fun. Live writing to different challenges and work produced I plan to polish up in the next couple of days. There will be a follow-up Zoom workshop to this one next week so am already looking forward to that.
Good workshops will show you what you can do and then set you the challenge to do it. They’re a great way of stretching your imagination. For example, I wrote a couple of haiku this afternoon. Fun to do, not my normal area of work at all, and will I write some more in due course? I expect so.
I write in notebooks;
I write on laptop and phone;
Edits by red pen!😊😊
Allison Symes – 15th July 2020

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

This week has been a very exciting one as I’ve worked with the cover designer from Chapeltown Books on Tripping the Flash Fantastic. I’ve also checked the text for the final time. So a busy but productive week and a lovely way to go into the weekend.
I hope in due course to post a cover reveal and I plan to hold a cyberlaunch. More details to follow.
This is the lovely side of writing. So much goes on behind the scenes and often for a long time at that. When you get to the point that the book is shortly going to be “out there”, then that’s the exciting and lovely pay off for all that hard work behind the scenes.

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I was at a creative writing workshop via Zoom on Wednesday afternoon. Great fun it was too and I have a few flash fiction pieces from it I will polish up in due course! Now there’s a result.
Okay, I could’ve done without the dog barking an hour into it but she doesn’t like disembodied voices. That’s not going to change any time soon. Even when I’ve been away at events like Swanwick and I call home, I am told she looks at the phone, she can clearly hear my voice, and she backs off from it. (Phone eaten Mum type of scenario in Lady’s head I guess!).
So is Lady an aide to my “muse”? Err…. no. That’s not going to change any time soon either though I have sometimes written dog related flash fiction stories.

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I need stories to make me react in some way, whether I write them or read them. A story that I’m indifferent to is one that has failed for me and it is always a challenge to make sure I don’t write tales that people would be half-hearted about.
This is the biggest reason I think why the characters are the most important element in a story. If I can’t get behind the characters, or see why they are the way they are, then why should I read on?
So when I write stories, I try to ask myself throughout editing, how do my characters make me react? Do they still make me laugh, cry, scream or what have you? Is there anything I can do to “beef up” their portrayal?
Sometimes slipping in an odd extra detail can help make that portrayal more realistic and add depth. But it’s not until I’ve read the story afresh I can see where that odd extra detail might be necessary.
(So for anyone thinking stories just get “bashed out”, they really don’t!).

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Nice day today working with the book cover designer on Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Look forward to revealing more later.
This, of course, is the lovely side to writing where you can see your work almost ready to be out there in the big, bad world. What isn’t seen is the writing, rewriting, editing etc that goes on to get the stories into shape for a collection like this.
It is so true that overnight success usually takes years! Meanwhile a story from From Light to Dark and Back Again to enjoy.

 

Fairytales with Bite – Murphy’s Law

Now we all know Murphy’s Law is no respecter of barriers. Whatever profession you’re in, whichever hobby you enjoy, it will strike at some point. So as to the actual creating of a story, what are the things to look for so you can avoid them?

Naming Characters

For longer works of fiction, it is too easy to give characters names that are too similar to others (for example Stephanie and Stephan. Two different characters but the problem with names that are similar is they can make the characters forgettable or interchangeable, neither of which you want).

I get around this by ensuring each of my characters has a name that starts with a different letter of the alphabet. It’s simple but it works.

Murphy’s Law can kick in here by making you not spot this until after you’ve got your first draft down. (Yes, it can be fixed at that point but it can be frustrating when you’ve got two similar sounding characters. The last thing you want is anything that might cause confusion in a reader or a sense of “what is that character doing here? I don’t see the point of them” reaction).

Outlining –

The query here is how much to do? Will Murphy’s Law strike in that you either outline too much or not enough? How can you judge what is correct for the writing you’re working on?

A rule of thumb I use is have I got enough to get started on the story? Have I got enough to get me to the middle of the story? Have I got enough to be able to conclude the story? You don’t necessarily need to outline everything. You just need enough to get you to the next stage in the story. Think of this as outlining the major markers. Get those right and it will help you get everything else in place.

You just want to stop yourself going off at unproductive tangents and that is where Murphy’s Law will trip you up. Stop the unhelpful tangents and you save yourself valuable time too. Work out what you think you need to know.

Settings –

The trap here again is detail. How much do you need to know before you write the story? What impact will the setting have on your characters? Preparation is the key to beating Murphy’s Law hitting you here.

Again work out what you think you need to know. And bear in mind the setting must have some kind of impact on your characters – they’re either going to love where they are (but it is under threat – which is where your story comes in) or loathe it and want to escape (which is where another type of story can come in).

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This World and Others – Making Space and Characters

Where does making space come into your creation of characters?

I think the best way to answer that is to list what I think a truly great character needs to have. Also, it really does pay to take time out (make space) to think about your characters in advance and plan them out. It doesn’t mean you have to plan everything but you do need to know about your people in enough detail to be able to write about and for them with utter conviction. You need to decide what you need to know first!

I am convinced that when a writer writes with conviction something of that does show through in your writing and readers subconciously pick up on that. I also think they pick up when a character really doesn’t work and I know, for me, when that has happened, it is nearly always due to my not taking the time to flesh my character out properly in the first place.

So a truly great character should:-

Be Memorable – (and that usually means having distinctive traits a reader will love to love or love to hate. Both work but not usually in the same character!).

Be Someone –  Be someone a reader would want to identify with or be happy they’re nothing like them!

Be Put in Situations – Be put in situations a reader has to find out whether the character resolves or not (and how. Failure to resolve something can ironically be a resolution of sorts. For example, a character wants to achieve a goal, they find they can’t do it, but they do achieve something positive they had not done before despite the overall “failure”. Readers will pick up on something being achieved, a positive point of change for the character, and everyone accepts not all endings are happy ones necessarily. Endings do have to be appropriate).

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Hair Cuts, Publication News, and Editing

Now there’s a combination for you!

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General

Big news in the Symes’ household is we all managed to get our hair cut this week – AND I’ve mowed the lawn so that’s trim too now. Absolutely nothing else here will need a cut for some time so that’s good. (Lady doesn’t need a trim, ever. Cleaning, yes, especially if she’s rolled in rabbit/deer poo again but a trim, no. Funnily enough, she tends to leave fox poo alone and yes I am grateful for that.).

I only wish I could say my writing never needs cutting but alas! Editing is what makes a story come to life for me. Why? Because the wasted words come out, anything that needs trampling does get trampled, and what I’m left with is the real story. I wish there was a quicker way to get to the “meat” of the story but I suspect every writer has wished that at some point before picking up the red pen and getting on with the edit!

 

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Reading widely and well helps fuel your own imagination. It is also a huge challenge to you as a writer. After all, if you read a story that makes you go “Wow”, your next response is probably going to be along the lines of “I want my stories to have the ‘Wow’ factor”.

How to achieve that? There is no one quick fix answer to that (given the wide differences in reading tastes etc), but for me character development is a major part of it. Why?

Because if a reader can follow how your character develops and changes during the course of a 100-word story, a 1500 worder, or a 100,000 words novel, then they are hooked. It is only by being hooked to the story you’re reading the author has any chance of generating that “Wow” factor at all.

And it is always, for me, the character that keeps me reading. I want to find out what happens to THEM rather than discover how clever the plot is (though the really great “Wow” stories achieve both and I can guess at the hard work that has gone into getting to that point).

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How has your Monday gone? As ever, mine went by in a whirl though the best bit by far was Lady having a great playtime with her best buddie, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback. Always lovely to watch them play.

There will be a new series coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today by yours truly towards the end of this month where I talk about useful tips for newbie writers to know. There are wonderful guest contributions and it should make a good insight for someone at the start of their writing journey. More details to be put up nearer the time.

And the great thing with series like this is, given there is always something for writers to learn and apply to their own writing, there will be something in this for the more experienced writer too.

No one writer knows everything but the sharing of knowledge and advice is invaluable. I know I’ve been most appreciative of the knowledge and advice that has come my way.

I’ve had one of those lovely tasks to do – choose a book cover pic for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Job done. Really enjoyed doing that and can’t wait to share it with you in due course.

Meanwhile, with feet back firmly on the ground, I’ve plenty of editing and writing to be getting on with. Mind you, another task I’ve loved so far this week has been to put the finishing touches on my CFT post for Friday. I’ll be looking at certain favourites covering lots of different categories and there are a few reminiscent Youtube clips with this post too.

Looking forward to taking part in a Zoom workshop tomorrow afternoon. That should be good fun and keep me on my toes. (Just hope Lady keeps quiet while it is on! I guess she could run a Woof workshop if it came to it…!).

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction may be quicker to write due to the reduced word count but it takes as much craft as its longer cousins in getting the stories ready for submission.

You still need to edit and check that every word you leave in adds to the story and that the tale would lose something important if you take it out. (That “something important” can be anything from character development to the story not making grammatical sense without it).

I’ve mentioned before that I often read stories aloud to literally hear for myself how the tale sounds. What looks good on paper doesn’t always read well so out comes the editing pen.

The huge advantage of flash fiction here is that this reading out loud process is quicker to do – not so much to read out loud for a start! But I think because flash has to make a powerful impact due to its reduced word count, even more care has to be taken to ensure that every word you leave in punches its weight and contributes.

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Pleased to say I’ll have another flash fiction piece on Cafelit soon. Will say more later in the week and share the link in due course.

I do love writing and reading the very short form. I suppose what I like most is there isn’t long to wait until the pay-off! It also means even when pressed for time, I can make time for the two minutes read!

Do I prefer stories that deliver on the premise or the ones that wrongfoot me? I love both.

It can be fun to try and guess at the ending of a tale (though this is harder to do for a 100-worder. Why? Because the 100-word form is roughly a paragraph so it would be very easy to read the whole thing before remembering you were going to try and guess what the ending was!).

I’ve talked about titles before but some tips I’ve found particularly helpful include:-

1. Keep your title short. It makes it more memorable and saves on word count.

2. Impact of title is more important than word count (but that’s true for the story too!).

3. Does your title idea reflect the mood of the story or can it be open to interpretation? I am very fond of the latter as it gives so much flexibility but there are times I want to set the mood so I choose an appropriate title accordingly.

4. Alliteration Always An Idea but Don’t Overuse It!

5. Never be afraid to change a title if the one you first came up with really isn’t working for you. I find I need a title to work “to” when drafting but have changed it when a better idea comes up and it often does as you’re writing that first draft.

Put yourself in a potential reader’s shoes and ask yourself if your title “grabs” you the way it should do. This is again where time away from the story helps. I recommend at least a week away from it (and ideally a fortnight). Time away makes all the difference in terms of the fresh perspective you have on the story when you re-read it.

 

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Nice day today working with the book cover designer on Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Look forward to revealing more later.

This, of course, is the lovely side to writing where you can see your work almost ready to be out there in the big, bad world. What isn’t seen is the writing, rewriting, editing etc that goes on to get the stories into shape for a collection like this.

It is so true that overnight success usually takes years!

 

Goodreads Author Blog –

The Short Read or the Three Volume Epic?

Okay, so what would be your first choice? I must admit I’m torn as I love both.

A lot would depend on time available and I love reading, as well as writing, the short forms of fiction. I love the idea of crystallising a whole world in a few hundred words or so.

Short story and flash fiction collections have the huge advantage of giving you a chance to taste an author’s work and see if you like it before you read their longer works. From a writing viewpoint, it is lovely to be able to write and submit short stories and flash tales to different markets and competitions while working on longer term, bigger projects in the background.

But for the creation of a huge world it’s hard to beat the three volume epic and The Lord of the Rings is the definitive version of that for me. (Just don’t drop the book on your foot!).

It is a little ironic that, as a flash fiction writer, I veer between the quick read and the very long one! But then maybe that is why. There are times I need to read the exact opposite of what I do.

Hmm… I guess that means I ought to get around to War and Peace then!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storylines, Dialogue, and Publication News

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General – and Publication News:  Cafelit

Am pleased to share one of my humorous fairytales with bite, Rotten Day, which is now up on Cafelit.

See http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/…/07/rotten-day.html – hope you enjoy!

This kind of story is always great fun to write!

This story came about as a result of an idea suggested in the Prompts book by Gill James. I am slowly working my way through the ideas in here, some of which I contributed.

Is it odd I’m writing a story to my own initial prompt? A bit but still good fun. And I didn’t make my opening lines, my favourite form of prompt, too easy either! There’s no fun in that. You have to rise to the challenge of the prompt but that means it does have to be challenging!

Oh and before you ask I deliberately sent the prompts in without having written the stories for them first. I wanted to come to these prompts “fresh” and tackle them as if they had been written by someone else.

Now that’s not a bad idea for those odd times when you’ve got a few minutes. Jot down ideas. Put them away for a while. Come back to them later and then see what you can do with them. Above all, have fun!

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Hope you’ve had a good weekend. Blustery here, most unseasonable, but Lady’s had plenty of exercise and is now napping on the sofa. I know… ahhh….

I was watching one of my favourite films earlier – The Ladykillers with Alec Guinness and a very young Peter Sellers in it. (Possibly his first movie too as this came out in 1955). It is a masterclass in tight storywriting and seamless editing. The storyline is excellent and there is a lovely twist at the end. All of my favourite ingredients in a story basically.

Important point: not a word out of place. No scene felt unnecessary either. And that I can apply to whatever writing I do too.

So I’m not going to call it taking time out to watch a film. I’m going to call it visual research into storytelling techniques – and that IS my story and I’m sticking to it!😆😆

(I took the image of Lady, of course, the rest are from Pixabay).

 

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Lady played with her best pal, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, this morning so both of them got their Mondays off to a great start! Why is it when dogs play together they feel the absolute need to run into their owners when they’ve got all the space of the park around them? Answers on a postcard…

You do develop quick reflexes to dart out of the way though!

Writing wise, I’m working on material I will need for later on but can’t say any more than that at the moment.

I’m looking forward to sharing a new CFT series later in the month which will, I hope, prove particularly useful to writers, especially those starting out on their writing journey. More details later in the month though I will say a big thank you now to those authors who’ve already sent wonderful contributions for this. I’m looking forward to putting this together in due course.

I try to write a couple of series a year for CFT where I invite guest contributions, alongside author interviews etc. I find there is always something to learn from these.

One of the great aspects of writing that I love is, no matter where you are in your journey, that learning process is ongoing. You don’t want to stop developing as a writer. There is never a point where you can feel “well, that’s it now”. What you aim for is to be the best you can be in what you do and seek to refine and hone your skills in those areas.

What do you like about writing dialogue the most?

I love it when I’ve got two characters talking and it is apparent to me that, other than the odd he said/she said tag every now and then, it is clear who is speaking and what their attitude is!

To me this shows this is a “live” dialogue and, while it will need editing later (everything does!), it will have the benefit of not being clunky or awkward to read out loud.

When you know how your characters would speak, what kind of words they would use, which phrases they would never use and so on, that’s great. It means you know your characters well and I’ve found when I’ve outlined mine properly, when they are in “conversation”, it almost feels as if I’m taking dictation from them.

Moments like that are lovely because it nearly always means I can’t get the words down quickly enough and my characters and I are on a roll!

I occasionally give a character a pet phrase though I prefer to get them to use a particular word and repeat that every so often. It flags up to the reader when there are no tags this must be Character A speaking because they’ve used the word carbuncle again or what have you! Not that I’ve used carbuncle in a story yet…

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A new flash fiction story, Rotten Day, is now up on Cafelit. See http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/…/07/rotten-day.html – hope you pop over and enjoy the tale. Let’s just say I think many of us may identify with the way my lead character feels in the closing line! I know I’ve felt this way especially when particularly busy.

Now the problem with any kind of humorous writing is it has to be subjective. People’s sense of humour varies of course. So I am more than happy if a tale like Rotten Day makes one person laugh and another one smile broadly. Absolutely fine with me, that!

What I do when writing these is ensure that the humour arises naturally out of the situation I’ve dumped my character in. That is far more likely to make people smile. It also won’t come across as forced humour, which I loathe.

If someone tells me I have to laugh at this, well often I don’t. I decide what I find funny, thanks very much!

But a situation where I can see the predicament the character is in and empathise with them, then I am much more likely to cry, laugh, scream, or whatever the appropriate response to the story is and which the author intended to be the reaction.

Nothing forced about that at all and that is exactly how I like it in stories whether I read them or write them.

Stamping on an adverb until it is dead is not the problem it once was for me. Turning to flash fiction writing cured me of any addiction to these. If it can be cut out, I cut it. Just as well I didn’t go into medicine I think!😊

Wanting to achieve the maximum impact on a reader has also helped me with editing my own work. It IS a question of cutting to the chase here. Ironically I was going to put in the word “really” in that last sentence but cut it as it wasn’t going to add any extra to what I was trying to say.

And that’s the whole point. I’ve learned over time to not add words which don’t serve a purpose and/or to cut them when editing. Nobody writes the perfect first draft but adverbs are amongst the first things I look for when I’m brandishing my red pen.

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Some of the tips I’ve found most useful for writing flash fiction include:-

  1. Keep a dictionary and thesaurus handy. I use the Compact Oxford which covers both nicely. You will want alternative words and to check on meanings, especially if you’re writing humorous tales, which are often dependent on double meanings to work.
  2. Learn what words can be hyphenated. They count as one word for flash fiction! I’m sure you can make good use of that!
  3. Always think about impact on your reader. You want them to respond to your story, whether it is to make them laugh, cry, scream, or what have you. When you read your story through after a break away from it, ask yourself what impact the tale has on you? Is it what you intended?

I love flash fiction collections, not just because I write them (honest!), but I’ve always been a big fan of books where I can dip into stories as and when I want to. I can read those stories individually, as well as read the whole collection reasonably quickly. Just love having that flexibility.

I also like reading short forms in between reading novels. I like to think of this as the equivalent of having an appetiser before enjoying the main course! There is much to be said for appetisers like that. They can make a meal. Sometimes they can be the best bit of it!

So what do I want my flash fiction appetisers to do then?

I’d say whet a reader’s appetite so they look forward to the next collection but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?! But it is a good thing to aim for. Always leave your audience wanting more and then they’ll be pleased to see you again!

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reactions to Stories

How do you react to stories? I know, I know, what kind of question is that? So much depends on the story you’re reading, right?

Yes, fair comment and all that, but what I am getting at here is do you react to a story in the way the author intended?

Now I must admit if someone tells me “oh, Allison, you’ve got to laugh at this”, a lot of the time I won’t! I want to decide what I find funny, thanks!

But it is true that in whatever story I read, if the situation and the characters come across as natural to me, I am much more likely to react in the way the author wants.

Puppet on a string here? Perhaps. But I want the author to put in the work to set up a situation and character so I will want to react the appropriate way. I see that as part of the “deal”.

The author has set up a funny situation (though it often isn’t to the character, which makes a situation even more funny a lot of the time) and I will react to it. What I don’t want is something coming across as forced.

Even in the most fantastical worlds and situations, there has to be something that I as a reader can empathise with and react to – as the author would want, of course!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waterloo Arts Festival Online and Story News

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay and Pexels generally unless stated otherwise.

Plenty going on over the last few days… phew!

Facebook – General

Had a wonderful time at the online Waterloo Arts Festival launch for Transforming Communities last night (Friday, 12th June 2020). Great to see many friends there and the readings were fantastic. Well done, everyone.

I’ll be sharing a book trailer for Transforming Communities later in the week but meantime I thought I would share this…

Hope you enjoy. Video also below.

As well as my video being here (with a taster of my story, Books and The Barbarians), there is a great intro for #MaxineChurchman too.

There is a series of these Meet the Winners posts, each combining a video with a short text from two winners. These will give you a good flavour of the wonderful mix that has gone into this ebook. Do check it out.

 

I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend. This one has been really nice for me. I

Loved being part of the Waterloo Arts Festival online on Friday. It was good fun and it was great to see everyone. I always love hearing extracts from stories. What’s not to like about that?

For the first time since lockdown, my sister and her partner came over for tea and cakes in the garden and a lovely time was had by all. Amazing how the simple things can boost your morale the most at times.

And I’m reading some smashing short story collections on Kindle at the moment so my reading drought is over. Hope to review in due course.

I’m preparing interview material where I’m on the receiving end of the questions AND where I’m setting them. Watch this space as they say!

And the ebook of Transforming Communities is now on my Amazon Author Central page. It is lovely to see the number of books increasing here! I can’t wait to be able to see Tripping the Flash Fantastic up on here too!

Hope you have a fabulous week.

Facebook – General – Further Publication News!

Lovely start to the week. My story It Is Time will be published in Bridge House Publishing’s Mulling It Over anthology later this year. Always a pleasure to return a signed contract to a publisher! I could do with more Mondays like this…

Many congratulations to all of the other wonderful writers in the collection. Good to see some familiar names here and equally great to see names that are new to me in this anthology.

I am very much looking forward to reading the collection in due course. What can be guaranteed is a fantastic mix of stories in terms of style and mood.

 

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Many thanks for the good wishes and congratulations yesterday on my recent publication news. Very much appreciated!

My CFT post this week is going to be a look back at how the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition Event worked as a purely online Zoom affair. It is the first time I’ve taken part in a festival in this way. All good experience! (And for the WAF running it too I should think!).

On to other issues and question of the day is what it is about stories you love the most?

For me, it is always about the characters. I’ve got to be intrigued enough by them to want to read what they get up to but how about you?

My big problem with books, though it is a lovely one to have, is having too many I want to read and not enough time. Doesn’t matter if they’re paperback or ebook, I have the same dilemma. Still I’m never short of a good read! How about you?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The Waterloo Arts Festival ebook launch for Transforming Communities went very well last night. Great mixture of styles and stories. Was lovely to hear the extracts and I enjoyed reading mine too.

If you want to check the stories out in full, see the link above or my Amazon Author Central page (link further up this blog post)!

Transforming Communities Full

 

I was having some fun with the random word generator tonight and selected choosing four words at a time. The ones that came up were:-

Experience, Elect, Rebellion, and Uranium.

Now there’s an explosive mix for you!!

So how could you use these in a story?

1. You could try getting all four words into your story in any order.

2. If you want to make your life a bit more difficult, get them into the story in the order in which they were generated.

3. Pick one of them as your theme and/or title but get the others into the story itself.

4. Ensure your first paragraph contains the four words.

5. Or finish your story with your last paragraph containing the four words.

The nice thing with the generator is you can choose the number of words you go for. So play around with things like this and see them as a generator for story ideas. The fact you don’t know what will come up forces you to think creatively around what DOES emerge.

Have fun!

 

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Great start to the week with my It Is Time being accepted for the annual BHP anthology. That will be called Mulling It Over and will be released later this year.

One joy of writing both flash fiction and short stories is while nobody should underestimate the time taken to produce these and edit them etc., because you are writing so many more of them, publication news can come in much more frequently than if say you were writing a novel a year.

That is one aspect to writing in the short form I like a lot! And I highly recommend it!

One thing I learned years ago was that if writing appears to read easily, regardless of whether that work is a novel, a play, a 100-word story or what have you, the guarantee is that the author worked hard for years to get to that point. And continues to work hard!

On that particular piece of work they will have edited, put aside for while, edited again and again.

I do find deadlines useful here. It can be easy to put off submitting something because you’re not quite happy with your story. Having a deadline (even if it is one you impose on yourself) is a great way of making yourself submit work.

I can’t recommend enough getting into the habit of regularly submitting work. It makes you produce more stories. The more you write, the more you will learn, the more chances you have of one of your pieces or more being “out there” and therefore in with a chance of being acepted.

I found it helped a lot when I recognised rejections were nothing personal, that every writer has them and keeps getting them, but you learn from what works and what doesn’t.

Good luck!

Many thanks for all the support after yesterday’s publication news. It has been a good couple of weeks! 😆😆

Of course the reality is I wrote those stories a while ago. You can’t know if your work is going to be accepted or not. And stories I’m writing now or have done in the last few weeks… well it is likely to be at least a couple of months before I know anything about those.

I do know a couple of competition entries haven’t been placed (no hear basically!) so I will be looking at those again at some point and seeing what else can be done. There is always room for improvement in these things!

But taking the long view, having work nearly always out there or on the point of being about to be out there, ARE good things and I’ve found both very useful. No time to mope over no hears or rejections for a start! On to the next story. Allow a little time to go by. Look at the old story and see if it can be revamped or whether it is worth trying a different competition with it.

Always things to be working on!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Ebook -v- Paperback

Now I must declare an interest in this topic. I’ve been published in both formats and so, naturally, I love both. Well you would, wouldn’t you?

My trusty old Kindle goes with me whenever I’m away at events or holiday (not that this is happening right now!). But when I want some comfort reading, I will nearly always turn to a trusty paperback.

Flash fiction and short story collections I nearly always have on the Kindle. Most of the novels I read are in paperback.

I have a nice mixture of ebook and paperback for non-fiction books. (And yes I do take advantage of special offers on ebooks. It can and does make the difference as to whether I buy a book at all at times and this is another reason why I have no problems with book format. I also don’t mind at all if my book and the anthologies my work has appeared in sell well in either format! Naturally, ideally I’d like them to do well in both!).

So however you read, enjoy.

Whatever you read, enjoy!

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Genre Fiction

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay and Pexels unless otherwise stated.

REMINDER –

WATERLOO ART FESTIVAL – WRITING COMPETITION – LAUNCH OF TRANSFORMING COMMUNITIES EBOOK ON FRIDAY 12TH JUNE 2020 FROM 6.30 PM UK TIME.

Just a quick reminder that the writing side of the Waterloo Arts Festival is on this evening, 12th June, from 6.30 pm to about 8.00 pm.

The event has to be online this year but it is free. You do need a ticket for the event but the link is here.

The launch is for the ebook of Transforming Communities, the theme for this year’s WAF writing competition, and my story, Books and Barbarians, is part of that. I am delighted to be a winner here again and many congratulations to all of the other winners too.

There will be videos, extracts of stories, and you can get to meet, via Zoom, the writers and publishers.

Hope to see you!😊

Image from link above to the Festival.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is all about Genre Fiction.  I share what I love about it and why I loathe the snobbery that can exist around it. Genre fiction is the bread and butter for publishing houses and helps fund literary fiction.

That’s fine but I do wonder if some of the snobbery is a hangover from the old “penny dreadfuls”. Though I’d argue even those had their place. They got people reading! Anyway, check out the post and see what you think. Do share your favourite genre books too. It’s another way of building up a reading list!

I’m taking part in the online Waterloo Arts Festival – Writing Competition Ebook Launch later on this evening and hope to report back on that for my CFT post next week. I hope some of you can “pop along”.

Zoom has been a lifeline for many writing events and I hope the good from that continues once we are back to any kind of normality again. It will make events more accessible for more people I think and that’s a good thing always.

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Funny old day weather wise here. Sun, thunder, lightning, heavy rain, sun again. Still it IS only June…!

Stages of Storytelling for me:-

1. Get initial idea for a character and flesh that out.

2. Get initial idea for a situation to dump them in and flesh that out. Well, I’m not going to make their life easy for them. There’d be no story otherwise.

3. Write first draft and put aside.

4. Start thinking of other story ideas and making notes.

5. Back to story 1 after a suitable gap away from it and re-read it on paper. Immediately notice lots of ways to improve it and do so. Put aside again.

6. Start fleshing out story 2 following steps 1 and 2 above.

7. Re-read my story 1. Less to improve on this time but I can see the odd awkward phrase so reword that. I can see how a change of phrase will make the flow of the story more even so go with that. I finish correcting any typos and grammatical errors.

8. I write the first draft of story 2.

9. Final read through of story 1. I often read dialogue out loud to make sure a reader won’t stumble over it and make any final changes.

10. Knowing the story is as good as I can make it, I ensure I am following publisher/competition guidelines and submit the story, well ahead of the deadline.

And then back to story 2!

My CFT post this week is all about Genre Fiction and what I love about it. Great fun to write. Hope you’ll share some of your favourites in the comments box when the post goes live on Friday.

I’ll also be interviewing authors over the next few weeks and am on the receiving end of the questions for an interview I’ll be taking part in. So busy busy and that’s how I like it.

Looking forward to Waterloo Art Festival on Friday night. I will share the link again for where you can get a free ticket at some point during the day on Friday so do keep a look out for that.

I hope to report back via CFT on how everything went. The strange situation we’re all in pandemic wise has led to some creative thinking about how we do things and I hope the good from that continues long after the pandemic is over (or as over as it ever will be).