Writing Prompts, Contract News, and An Artful Story

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images from the Share Your Story Writing Summit kindly supplied by the organisers. Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her.

Hope you have had a good week. Have had exciting contract news in the last couple of days which I share below. (Images of me signing said contract taken by Adrian Symes).

Thrilled to be taking part in a book about writing by Wendy H Jones

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share Writing Prompts, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. I share a few differing kinds, discuss why prompts are useful, and why it is a good idea to practice them. Hope you enjoy this and find it useful.

A number of my published stories started life as responses to writing prompts so you now know why I am fond of them!

Oh and I’ll get a quick plug in for my monthly author newsletter too as I share writing prompts there too. If you would like to sign up for this, please head over to my landing page right here at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

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Contract News!

Big news! Thrilled to say I have just signed a contract to produce a chapter on flash fiction for a book #WendyHJones is editing on writing. Look forward to sharing more as and when possible but meanwhile here are the pics of one very happy author!

Don’t forget my Chandler’s Ford Today post is up tomorrow and is all about Writing Prompts. Hope you find it useful. Link up tomorrow. (See above!).

(I couldn’t tell you how many writing prompts I’ve used in my time but they are a fantastic way to kickstart some writing and I have had published stories as a result of using them. What’s not to like about that?!).

Am also thrilled to bits that a dear friend of mine has a piece of flash fiction up on CafeLit. Do check this wonderful online magazine out. There is a wonderful mix of stories and styles here. Yes, yes, I know. I am biased, I write for CafeLit, yes, of course I’m biased but that’s not the same as being wrong! And I’m not here – go on, pop over and have a good read. You really will find several things to suit you here. 

Happy to sign a contract


Sun turned up today – hooray – and Lady got to play with many of her best buddies including the loveliest Rhodesian Ridgeback, a cute mini Jack Russell, a Hungarian Vizler, and a new chum, a lovely Whippet called Sky. Lady went home shattered but happy. Job done there then!

Questions to ask your characters. Bear in mind also if you’re writing non-fiction, if you are using a narrative voice, you can treat that voice as a character, so some of these questions at least may also be worth trying. So what to ask then as part of your outline?

  1. What do you really want and why?
  2. What stops you getting what you really want?
  3. Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?
  4. How are you going to achieve your objectives?
  5. Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?
  6. Are you making your life unnecessarily complicated? (Worth asking this one – any complications getting in the way of your character achieving what they want should be those that arise naturally out of the plot. There should be nothing that seems “faked” to increase the tension in the story. The tension should be genuine, the obstacles real and so on.
  7. For a non-fictional narrator, a good question to ask instead of this one is are you communicating as clearly as possible (i.e. go for clarity, not gobbledegook, don’t make your narration unnecessarily complicated? Are you conveying the facts reasonably? Are you backing the facts up with evidence? What are your sources?).
  8. What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?
  9. What if you’re wrong? (How would your character handle that? That could make for a really interesting story).
    Are there limits you won’t cross (and if so what are these? What is your thinking behind this?).
  10. Are there rules you are prepared to break? What would the consequences be? How are you going to limit your risk (or are you not worried about that? Some characters aren’t!).

Now if answering those questions doesn’t generate story ideas, I’d be very surprised!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to say I have another 100-word story on #FridayFlashFiction.
Assumptions is about Mary who thinks she is good at art but is she? Hope you like it.

BookBrushImage-2021-5-28-19-5636



I have very good cause to appreciate flash fiction. It has led to me having two books to my name (From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic). It has led to me taking part in an international summit (the Share Your Story Writing Summit back in March).

It has led to me giving Zoom talks to a WI group and writing groups. It led to me having a book signing in a railway station (yes, really and obviously before You Know What).

It has led to me being on internet radion and being interviewed by the lovely #HannahKate for her Hannah’s Bookshelf show on North Manchester FM.

Then there is the podcast appearance on #WendyHJones’ The Writing and Marketing Show. I’ve also judged flash fiction writing.

Talking of Wendy though, the latest big news is I will be contributing a chapter to her book on writing and naturally I’ll be writing about flash fiction. Am thrilled to bits. Will share more news as and when I can but meanwhile here are the very happy author pics!

(I don’t know whether it is a case of my finding flash fiction or flash fiction finding me but I am truly not sorry for a form of writing I discovered by accident thanks to CafeLit!).

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I sometimes have flash pieces published in the CafeLit anthologies and my Humourless is an example of this in the current book, The Best of CafeLit 9.

It is especially nice to have a flash story published here given CafeLit introduced me to flash fiction in the first place (and I am looking forward to sharing details of The Best of CafeLit 10 later on in the year where again I will have work published).

Do check out the CafeLit site. CafeLit are great in publishing a wide range of fiction, flash and otherwise, and from a diverse group of authors. It is always a joy to see friends’ work on here too.

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Fairytales with Bite – Changes

No world or character should stay static. A story revolves around change. The character does this, then that happens, this is what happens after that and so on. Of course, some changes are far more welcome than others and interesting tales can be generated by working out how your characters would handle the less welcome developments.

But changes shouldn’t be something that come out of nowhere. For example, if your change is where your character faces a magical disaster of some kind, there should be some hint early on in the story that magical disasters are a possibility here. For example if the build up of spare magical capacity can trigger earthquakes, your created world should have that as part of its history. Perhaps your story can then revolve around people not taking the necessary steps to prevent the disaster happening again. This means when your disaster happens your reader will not feel cheated. They know the possibility exists. The possibility happened.

Once the change has happened, there should be change in the characters too. Nobody remains unmoved by changes and that applies to characters too.

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This World and Others – Environments

What kind of environment is your story set in? Is it comparable to what we know here or something beyond the capabilities of our little planet?

Do your characters care about the environment they live in and how does that manifest itself?

Also think micro-environments – the immediate world around your characters. How does that impact on them? What are the threats they face? What are the nice things about their world they love?

Then there are things like political environments – dictatorships or democracy? How do your characters survive or thrive in these? Again, what is similar to here? It will be those things readers will latch on to – it is literally what we know and understand.

What dilemmas do your characters face as a result of their environment? The classic theme is survival in a hostile to life environment where the overall dilemma is to survive but there can be others. For example, if your character has to survive in their environment by killing something or someone, will they and how do they build themselves up to actually do that?

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Walkies and Interviews!

Image Credit:  As ever Pixabay or Pexels unless otherwise stated. The ones of Hiltingbury Flower Meadow were taken by me!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post is called Walkies and I look at the joys of local walking and living with collies. I am also pleased to share pictures taken by me this week of our beautiful wildflower meadow at the Hiltingbury Recreation Ground. It is absolutely stunning and it always cheers me to see such brightness. See if you can spot the poppy by the way!

I also look at how walking dogs has helped me. I did think I would get loads of ideas for stories and blog posts when I was out walking a dog. My sum total of ideas that have come to me doing this is precisely zero!

I’m too busy keeping an eye on the dog, particularly my young mischief, Lady, but walking her (and my previous two) relaxes me, gets me out into the fresh air, and I come back, refreshed, having had a break from the writing desk. That is important. Tiredness is the biggest factor, I think, in stifling any kind of creativity.

Hope you enjoy the post.

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Many thanks to fellow Swanwicker, Val Penny, for hosting me on her blog today (9th July 2020). It was great fun to take part! Hope you enjoy.

Amongst other topics, I talk about my writing routine and share some tips I’ve found useful over the years. I also talk about how I got into flash fiction writing. It wasn’t something I anticipated when I first started out but it is easily my happiest “writing accident”!’

I also talk about what I like and dislike about marketing. See what you think – do you agree with my choices?

Transforming Communities Full

My CFT post this week will be called Walkies! I share the joys of walking with Lady during lockdown, the latest pics of our beautiful wildflower meadow, which is looking stunning right now, and share how walking has helped me. Link up on Friday.

I did think when I first became a dog owner 15 years ago, I would be able to think up ideas for stories while out walking Gracie, then Mabel, and now Lady. Not a bit of it! Haven’t thought of one story idea at all walking them!

Mind you, I have made many wonderful dog owner pals and Lady especially has made a few four-legged friends too.

What walking the dog does do though is enable me to unwind. Ideas for stories are far more likely to come to me when I’m in a relaxed state after getting back home again. And of course there are plenty of opportunities for practising observational skills. A particular colour of a front door might strike me as nice for Character A’s cloak in a flash fiction story – that kind of thing.

Never despise the little details! They may come in handy in a story one day.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It has been a good week with another flash piece up on Cafelit (Rotten Day) and my interview on Val Penny’s blog post (see next piece down for the link to this).

Oh and a bit of promotional news – From Light to Dark and Back Again is currently on offer on Amazon. So if you fancy quirky fiction at a discounted price, do check the link out. Reviews are always welcome too.

My favourite story in FLTDBA? Hmm… tricky one though I do have a very soft spot for Calling the Doctor which you can check out for free on the book trailer. (See below!).

Whatever you read or write this weekend, have a good one!


A big thanks to Val Penny for interviewing me on her blog today. (9th July 2020). See link for more but one of the topics I discuss here is how I got into flash fiction writing at all.

Let’s just say it wasn’t planned! Let’s also say I am very pleased with how it has turned out and hope to keep going with it for as long as possible!

On a side note, interviews like this really make you think about what you’re doing and why and where your writing journey has brought you to date. That’s no bad thing. And interviewing your characters can make you as their creator think about what they’re doing in your story and why. It’s a good way to see who is really necessary to your tale and who isn’t.


Much as I love listening to classical music when writing, I haven’t used it in my stories. The only time I use it is when trying to pick something what would work well in book trailers or when I am creating videos of flash tales to put on my website.

Music can set mood of course and I think I would rather my characters did that directly through what they say and do. (And isn’t it always more interesting when what they do goes against what they say?! Hypocrites are always good fun to write stories for!).

 

Fairytales with Bite – Fairytale Acrostic

F = Fantastic has to come into it somewhere, usually in the form of magic being performed, usually to help the deserving.
A = Animals often play a crucial role and sometimes at least prove to be more intelligent than the humans in the story.
I = Inventiveness can come into the stories – you wouldn’t usually think of turning a pumpkin into a coach would you?!
R = Realism? Well maybe. Fairytales can show a great deal of truth about human nature, not all of it is pleasant either, but it is accurate.
Y = Your fairy godmother awaIts… hmm… not necessarily. The character often doesn’t know they’ve got one until they show up. Best not to assume here!
T = Tension between the forces of good and evil is a given in this world.
A = Animated versions of the tale are generally good but some of them can’t be as originally written given the latter are often more violent!
L = Love and its importance is a key theme. Not just the romantic kind either. Think of Hansel and Gretel and their care for one another. Also I thought Gerta was a magnificent character in The Snow Queen with her commitment to rescuing Kay. (And I so loved the idea that the girl was rescuing the boy here).
E = Elephants! Have always had a very soft spot for Dumbo. Always will do. I see it as a classic film fairytale.
S = Stories. The classic fairytales have very strong storylines behind them. Wrong is righted. Evil is confronted. Good prevails. Not always a happy ending though. And I love fairytales for all of those reasons.

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This World and Others –

Questions to Ask Your Characters

One great thing about this topic is that it is a timeless one! (Bear in mind also if you’re writing non-fiction, if you are using a narrative voice, you can treat that voice as a character, so some of these questions at least may also be worth trying). So what to ask then as part of your outline?

What do you really want and why?

What stops you getting what you really want?

Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?

How are you going to achieve your objectives?

Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?

Are you making your life unnecessarily complicated? (Worth asking this one – any complications getting in the way of your character achieving what they want should be those that arise naturally out of the plot. There should be nothing that seems “faked” to increase the tension in the story. The tension should be genuine, the obstacles real and so on. For a non-fictional narrator, a good question to ask instead of this one is are you communicating as clearly as possible (i.e. go for clarity, not gobbledegook, don’t make your narration unnecessarily complicated? Are you conveying the facts reasonably? Are you backing the facts up with evidence? What are your sources?).

What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?

What if you’re wrong? (How would your character handle that? That could make for a really interesting story).

Are there limits you won’t cross (and if so what are these? What is your thinking behind this?).

Are there rules you are prepared to break? What would the consequences be? How are you going to limit your risk (or are you not worried about that? Some characters aren’t!).

Now if answering those questions doesn’t generate story ideas, I’d be very surprised!

 

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May Memories

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay and Pexels supplied the images unless stated otherwise. I am glad to say I’ve contributed some pictures to the CFT post this week!

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

May is one of my favourite months of the year for many reasons. My CFT post, May Memories, takes a look at that and I also share memories of my grandmother who was also called May. I also share what is likely to remain the strangest deep memory recall I’ve had.

I give a round-up of my writing news as well this month and take great pleasure in sharing some gorgeous pics from Pixabay celebrating May (photos of roses always do that for me!). Some of the photos are from my garden too.

Hope you enjoy.

 

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I always enjoy writing my CFT posts but May Memories this week is one with personal recollections in it. I have very fond memories of my grandmother May and I’ve always liked it as both a name and a month. I also liked the old TV comedy series From May to December starring Anton Rodgers. Anyone remember that?

TV funnily enough has not yet sparked a story idea off in me. I tend to get my ideas from writing exercise prompts, proverbs (which give me a theme and often a title), thoughts about characters I could give a life to and so on and what would I do with them if I did write them up etc.

 

I’ll be sharing May Memories in my CFT post this week. It is one of my favourite months of the year for many reasons. (THE favourite is March, my birthday month so there!)😀

I share some personal recollections, a spooky (to me at least) deep memory recall experience – both of which are connected with my grandmother May – and a round up of my writing news for the month. We’re just coming up to the halfway point and it has been quite a busy month already!

But that is an encouragement to (a) keep going and (b) see what else I can get out there/get published etc. I’ve found that whenever I have anything published, it spurs me on to see what else I can do. When I have things rejected (or just not placed in a competition), that spurs me on to look at the story again and see what I can do to improve its chances when I sent it out into the big, bad world again. As I do.

Link up for CFT tomorrow.

PS As you will no doubt tell from the picture below, I can’t wait until I can get to the hairdressers again!

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Yesterday, I got to make my first video. It’s in connection with the Waterloo Arts Festival and I hope to be able to share it (or the link) later on after the Zoom WAF this year.

It was good fun to do and got me out of my comfort zone for a bit. Later, I also hope to put this up on my website and maybe do a couple of others where I narrate some of my flash fiction. Flash is great for this kind of thing. Doesn’t take long. Makes for good download times too!

I prepared notes. There was no way I could do something like this off the top of my head. Even if I could, I don’t think it would be a good idea anyway. I’ve long found preparation is key for so much in writing, even if you don’t always use all of the material you’ve drafted. (Some of it may come in handy as website material later).

Now on to my CFT post and this week I’ll be sharing some May Memories including writing news from me. Link up on Friday.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring writing wise!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction is a great vehicle for reading out loud precisely because it cannot take too long to do! Having made a video for the Waterloo Arts Festival event, I hope at some point to do more to put on my website as it occurred to me this would be another way of sharing stories online.

And I must admit I still love being read TO in the form of audio books. Much as I love reading to myself, there is something special about someone else telling you a story. So if you’re wondering what to read next, maybe it should be a case of what you’re going to listen to next?

Oh and a big thanks to Ana Coelho for the pic of me reading from my The Professional at last year’s Waterloo Arts Festival. (And also to Paula Readman for the Cafelit 8/Nativity shot, which is one of my favourite photos. Hey, I’m not going to pretend to be unbiased here!).

 

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Does classical music influence what I write at all?

No! What it does do is relax me and when I’m relaxed, I’m more productive so win-win here.

I have found in the past other types of music can alter my mood and therefore what I write and that can be used knowingly and deliberately but you do have to be aware of it happening. I once tried to write a murder scene in a longer short story when a cute love song came on. Threw me completely!

So classical it is and will remain!

 

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I chose Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens as the music for the FLTDBA book trailer. I’ve always loved the piece (I got to know it through the Jonathan Creek detective series which used it as the theme) and I wanted quirky music to go with my quirky fiction!

The music also reflected the theme of From Light to Dark and Back Again pretty well too. The lovely thing is I am a great fan of classical music and I’m sure I can think of something suitable for Tripping the Flash Fantastic in due course. It’s not as if I’m going to run out of composers or anything…!

 

Fairytales with Bite – Three Words

For fiction writing, you could look at catchphrases for your characters.

Catchphrases have to be memorable to work, also you need not to get tired of them (and that’s even more true for your reader!), and so are best kept short to help achieve those points. I would opt for a three-worder here.

If your characters were limited to three words as their pet phrase, what would they be and why? (I suspect the most famous one here would be I’ll Be Back from The Terminator). But what would you choose for your creations?

Would your pet phrase match your character? That is, if they’re a feisty character, would their phrase reflect that? Or would they downplay that side of things a bit (especially if they wanted to put off an enemy)? Would they be sarcastic or would their phrase be a cover for what they are really like?

Food for thought, I hope. The important point is to know who your characters are, how they would speak and sound (to a reader) and, if a catchphrase would be appropriate for your characters, to choose one that fits them well.

 

This World and Others –

Questions to Ask your Characters

This is by no means a definitive list. I’m sure you’ll think of other questions to ask!

One great thing about this topic is that it is a timeless one! (Bear in mind also if you’re writing non-fiction, if you are using a narrative voice, you can treat that voice as a character, so some of these questions at least may also be worth trying).

So what to ask then as part of your outline?

What do you really want and why?

What stops you getting what you really want?

Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?

How are you going to achieve your objectives?

Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?

Are you making your life unnecessarily complicated? (Worth asking this one – any complications getting in the way of your character achieving what they want should be those that arise naturally out of the plot. There should be nothing that seems “faked” to increase the tension in the story. The tension should be genuine, the obstacles real and so on. For a non-fictional narrator, a good question to ask instead of this one is are you communicating as clearly as possible (i.e. go for clarity, not gobbledegook, don’t make your narration unnecessarily complicated? Are you conveying the facts reasonably? Are you backing the facts up with evidence? What are your sources?).

What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?

What if you’re wrong? (How would your character handle that? That could make for a really interesting story).

Are there limits you won’t cross (and if so what are these? What is your thinking behind this?).

Are there rules you are prepared to break? What would the consequences be? How are you going to limit your risk (or are you not worried about that? Some characters aren’t!).

Does fear of or respect for others hold you back from achieving your objectives? How do you feel about this?

What are you like under pressure?
Now if answering those questions doesn’t generate story ideas, I’d be very surprised!

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Put Three Words Together and Questions to Ask Your Characters

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week looks at Put Three Words Together And…

I look at how it only takes three words to make an impact on readers and share positive and negative examples. The latter reflects on a brutal part of our history too, something I’m glad is long gone. The post also looks at alternative meanings of the words in question – there is a wide range! The meaning of the words taken together goes far beyond the meaning of the individual ones. Never underestimate the power of words!

Many thanks to all who have commented on this already. Good discussion going, thanks all.

I must admit I was surprised, when drafting this week’s CFT post, to find it only takes three words to make an impact on readers. (I had always thought it was a little more than that based on Ernest Hemingway’s For Sale: One Pair Baby Shoes). Still I guess it goes to show how you CAN pare things right back when you want to!

Happy writing, editing, re-reading, editing again etc!

Image Credit:  As ever, thanks to Pixabay. Captions over on the CFT page.

 

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Many thanks to everyone who has liked my Facebook author page. Now up to 100 likes – thanks, all.

Looking forward to sharing my CFT What Books Mean to Me series soon. It’s always interesting discovering the different responses by authors to the same questions.

It’s also why I love taking part in anthologies and competitions where the theme is the same but you just know the take on said theme will be so varied amongst the authors taking part. It is literal proof of some very active imaginations out there (which is always a cause to celebrate).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One of the biggest tips I can pass on when writing flash fiction is not to have too many characters. In many of my stories, I only have the one!

I often get a character to refer to another one (usually they’re thinking about Character B – and not always pleasantly either!). Or we see Character A reflecting on what Character B has just said/done or both (!) to them.

But the important thing is to focus on THE important point of your story. There really is no room for anything else. And generally I find one to two characters are plenty enough to convey that.

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I’ve occasionally written all dialogue flash fiction tales but don’t find them particularly easy to do. Firstly, they are best kept very short (I think the novelty of dialogue only would wear thing pretty quickly if you kept it up for long). Secondly, I’ve got a natural preference for showing you a character’s thoughts (and from that you’ll get their attitudes as well). I think you get more mileage from the latter and so I tend to stick to that.

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Publication News

Delighted to share again my Three Wishes story on Cafelit. I also want to flag Cafelit up in general as there is a great mix of stories, authors, and styles on here. There is bound to be at least one to suit you! Do check them out.

And how often is the next big thing on the news unremittingly grim - Pixabay

I can dream!  Pixabay

 

Fairytales with Bite – Put Three Words Together And…

My CFT post is Put Three Words Together And…  I look at negative and positive impacts of three words when they’re used together (and how those impacts can vary widely from the individual meanings of the words concerned).

As for fiction writing, well we need more than three words for that but you could look at three word catchphrases for your characters. Catchphrases have to be memorable to work, also you need not to get tired of them (and that’s even more true for your reader!), and so are best kept short to help achieve those points.

If your characters were limited to three words as their pet phrase, what would they be and why? (I suspect the most famous one here would be I’ll Be Back from The Terminator). But what would you choose for your creations?

Would your pet phrase match your character? That is, if they’re a feisty character, would their phrase reflect that? Or would they downplay that side of things a bit (especially if they wanted to put off an enemy)? Would they be sarcastic or would their phrase be a cover for what they are really like?

Food for thought, I hope. The important point is to know who your characters are, how they would speak and sound (to a reader) and, if a catchphrase would be appropriate for your characters, to choose one that fits them well.

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This World and Others –

Questions to Ask Your Characters

One great thing about this topic is that it is a timeless one! (Bear in mind also if you’re writing non-fiction, if you are using a narrative voice, you can treat that voice as a character, so some of these questions at least may also be worth trying). So what to ask then as part of your outline?

  1. What do you really want and why?
  2. What stops you getting what you really want?
  3. Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?
  4. How are you going to achieve your objectives?
  5. Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?
  6. Are you making your life unnecessarily complicated? (Worth asking this one – any complications getting in the way of your character achieving what they want should be those that arise naturally out of the plot. There should be nothing that seems “faked” to increase the tension in the story. The tension should be genuine, the obstacles real and so on. For a non-fictional narrator, a good question to ask instead of this one is are you communicating as clearly as possible (i.e. go for clarity, not gobbledegook, don’t make your narration unnecessarily complicated? Are you conveying the facts reasonably? Are you backing the facts up with evidence? What are your sources?).
  7. What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?
  8. What if you’re wrong? (How would your character handle that? That could make for a really interesting story).
  9. Are there limits you won’t cross (and if so what are these? What is your thinking behind this?).
  10. Are there rules you are prepared to break? What would the consequences be? How are you going to limit your risk (or are you not worried about that? Some characters aren’t!).

Now if answering those questions doesn’t generate story ideas, I’d be very surprised!

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