Underlining In Fiction


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots and one photo were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good week. Mixed bag weather wise (hot, cold, windy etc). Will be having another story on CafeLit next week and am looking forward to sharing that. Working away on further workshop material too.

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Screenshot 2022-06-24 at 09-19-44 Underlining in Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post on Underlining in Fiction. I look at how writers can stress points without seeming to repeat themselves. Also I look at where repetition, carefully used, can be effective too in underlining an important point. I give an example of underlining that I use when running workshops. (It’s also a good example of show and not tell).

I discuss how characters themselves can do the underlining, whether they are conscious of that or not, and why it matters to pick the right thing to underline.

For example, I want my readers to pick up on my themes from what I show them through what my characters say, do and think. I don’t want to have to spell everything out (for one thing I think that’s boring – I love working things out for myself when I read other writers’ books. I just need the right clues).

The best underlining is subtle. You want your readers to absorb things and work things out and to have fun doing that!

Underlining in Fiction

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Cooler today though Lady, and her lovely gentleman friend, a wonderful Aussie Shepherd, were clearly happy about that as they ran around. It was a joy to watch them.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post (Underlining in Fiction) goes up tomorrow – I don’t know where the time has gone as I rapidly head towards the end of this series. Link up above.

I use a variety of ways to find ideas for my blog posts, as well as my fiction. Often the random generators (especially the theme and question ones) can be used to trigger ideas for a CFT post say.

For example this came up on the random question generator I often use – If you lost all of your possessions but one, what would you want it to be?

  1. I could invent a character here and get them to answer the question (and that would be the story. Nice thing about that is I’ve got a basic structure in place immediately too. Questions always need answering!).
  2. I could answer the question directly and frame a CFT post around it.

You get the idea so why not give the random generators a go if you are looking for non-fiction inspiration.

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Another hot day here though Lady was pleased to see her best buddies, the Rhodesian Ridgeback and a lovely Hungarian Vizler, today. Am looking forward to another swim tomorrow.

I’ll be talking about Underlining In Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today – post up on Friday. See above. Am busy getting my author newsletter ready for July. Do sign up for tips, stories, prompts etc at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com.

Do you find it harder or easier to write much in the hot weather? I must admit I flag a bit but this is where writing short pieces is a bonus as I still feel like I’ve got something useful done and that is enough for me.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s Friday. It’s storytime. It’s time for Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy my latest – A Picture Paints a Hundred Words. Written in exactly one hundred words of course, barring the title.

Screenshot 2022-06-24 at 11-42-40 A Picture Paints A Hundred Words by Allison Symes

Getting into the head of your characters is vital in any fiction but for flash, with the short word count, it is essential to do that from the get-go. This is why I outline what I need to know about a character before I start writing their story up. I need to know what their reactions to any situation would be at once – I can then decide which situation I’m going to throw them in! It is great fun dropping your characters right in it.

I read a wonderful short story ages ago in The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose (compiled and edited by the much missed Frank Muir) where the characters come to life and berate their author. Very funny – and a teensy weensy bit scary for any writer I think!

Knowing your character’s basic attitudes (and why they have them) is a good way in here. Fleshing your character out means you are more likely to write their stories up with conviction because you know your character is definitely capable of this. You’ve already seen how and why they would be like this.

I’m convinced a writer’s belief in their character does come through in the story. Certainly I can sense when a writer has fun with their character precisely because I do the same thing myself with mine.

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I have fun sometimes having titles which are capable of more than one interpretation. For example in my story Serving Up a Treat from From Light to Dark and Back Again, I can take that in a lighthearted way or not, as I see fit. (Not saying which way I did though – do check out the book! Yes, I know I’m bound to say that!).

I also see this as giving my imagination more room in which to work. Proverbs and well known sayings come in handy here. And guess what I just found? Yes that’s right – a random proverb generator! Will take up less room than the old book of proverbs I suppose but this will prove to be another useful tool to use to trigger story ideas. Hope you have fun with it too.

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Fairytales with Bite – Character Development

I am partial to character development in any story, regardless of what genre it is or its word count length. Indeed I don’t think you can have a story without it given something has to change and often it is the character that does the changing. Sometimes it is forced on them if they are going to survive. Sometimes they are happy to change. Maybe they have been waiting for the chance to do so and escape something.

In fairytales, I think this is even more important. I don’t think a wave of the magic wand should be the cure to all ills. Where’s the drama in that? Even when the fairy godmother turns up to help out, I still want the main character to have done something to merit that help and to still have problems to sort out after the wand waving!

To avoid the old problem of character cardboard cut-outs, your character does need to have some sort of back story which has a bearing on their story now but which they overcome. That is the kind of development I love to read and write.

So think about how your characters will develop over the course of your story. Where is the moment when they have to change and go on to better things? How do they make themselves face up to what has to change? Great conflict can come from a character’s internal struggle as well as external circumstances.

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This World and Others – Formative Experiences

One of my earliest formative experiences is that of my late mum teaching me to read before I went to school. Back in the day, she got told off for that. (These days they’d probably give her a medal). Apparently Mum taught me in the wrong way. Have I felt the lack? Not a bit of it. Am I grateful to Mum for giving me my life-long love of books and stories (and from there the wish to write my own)? Oh yes!

What kind of formative experiences have shaped your characters? What impact are they having on your characters’ lives now for the purpose of your story? I don’t always put such things into my stories but I need to know enough about my characters to be able to envisage what they would do and how they would react in any given situation. Knowing what drives them including formative experiences is so useful here.

Also bear in mind a society’s formative experiences as well. A society which has had to face continual threat of invasion is likely to have a reasonably strong military to try to counter that and/or seek alliances with other threatened worlds. So their attitudes towards diplomatic relations will be different from a strong, isolated kingdom which feels it has no need of anyone else. Their people’s views and attitudes will be coloured by things like that.

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Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions In Fiction


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good week. Am looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend at the end of next week. I’ll be running my flash fiction workshop at that. Good to have some gloriously sunny weather in my part of the UK. The dog and I have been making the most of it!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m pleased to share Reading, Rhythms and Resolutions in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Must admit I’m enjoying writing the In Fiction series. Only one more tricky letter to think about – X! Wish me luck!

In this week’s post I look at the reasons why writers should read widely. It’s something writers are often told to do but here I look at specific reasons why it is such a good idea. I also look at why making writer friends also helps with your reading “diet” – doing so myself has done wonders for mine!

I go on to look at rhythms in stories. Now these can vary depending on genre. Crime ones for example tend to have a fast rhythm to them, a reflective piece has a slower one, but all have to follow an internal rhythm we as readers subconsciously pick up on.

Occasionally I have read a story which hasn’t felt right to me and on looking back at it, this is because the rhythm of the story is wrong for the type of story that it is. Something feels out of kilter and it is nearly always the rhythm.

As for the resolution side of things, again a story has to have a resolution which works for it. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But it doesn’t always work out in practice. A resolution shouldn’t be based on chance. It should also be apt to the character and type of story. My post looks at this aspect of things too. Hope you enjoy the post.

Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions in Fiction

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Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions In Fiction is my Chandler’s Ford Today post for this week – link up tomorrow. See above.

I’ll be looking at why reading is so important for a writer, how stories should have a natural rhythm to them (though the rhythm can vary on genre – crime fiction will always be faster paced than reflective tales, say), and why resolutions should tie in with and make sense for your character and setting.

Just over a week to go to the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend. Am so looking forward to going and catching up with people. I’ll be running my flash fiction workshop and I hope people will leave it either with a draft story completed and read out later in the day or with something for them to take home and work on further (and then submit somewhere. I would love to hear of publishing success as a result of this). Looking forward to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School later on in the year too.

Writing Niggle Number 1890 – why is it I can never find a pen when I want one? I know I’ve got them. I’ve got loads in fact. But are they ever to hand when I need to jot something down quickly? Of course they’re not! For almost any other profession, this would be one of those things but for a writer? We’re supposed to have pens on us!

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Blustery day today, more like autumn out there. Not impressed! Am grateful writing is generally done indoors.

Do you have any writing niggles? If you’ve got loads, which ones particularly bug you? Mine are:-

1. Phone going just as I am completing an edit and I lose my train of thought. Okay, I can ignore the phone, but that train of thought has been derailed and nothing is bringing that back quickly. It is as if I have to step right back to just before that wretched phone rang…

2. Manage to do that and am settling down to editing the next bit when guess what… the phone goes again. Worse, it’s one of those fake Amazon/Inland Revenue calls designed to part you from your money. I’m usually thinking unpleasant thoughts at this point. May ask one of my crime writer pals (you know who you are) to arrange something to deal with these people in their next novel so the scammers never bother anyone again. How about it, girls? You would be doing the world a service here, honestly.

3. Getting off to a slow start with my writing session, then the spark really gets going and I can’t type fast enough. Okay it’s great the spark gets going but I prefer an even pace throughout and would like that spark to turn up sooner! I’m good to go, it’s just that my brain isn’t! Have learned to accept you do just get days like this. What matters is I am writing something which can be improved at a later date but it is frustrating at the time.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am pleased to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. This one is called The Heights of Equals and is based on a random generator which came up with “pet peeves” as a theme.

I chose one pet peeve for one character and created the story from that. It is also one where I have immense sympathy with my heroine here given I am also under five feet tall. Is it a coincidence I gave my heroine the same name as myself given this information? Err.. No! Hope you enjoy it.

Screenshot 2022-05-27 at 09-24-38 The Heights of Equals by Allison Symes

Really enjoyed the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Group meeting on Zoom last night. I set everyone a challenge too which I will also have a go at. Groups like this are great for encouraging you to write (a) more – if I do the challenge, I will have an extra story to my credit and (b) encourage people to write something short.

The nice thing with flash is you have a market now for small pieces. If time is tight as it so often is for most of us, five minutes is enough to draft something towards a complete flash story. You’ve then got something to carry on with the next time you’ve got five minutes spare. You can build up a story like that.

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I was chatting about writing niggles over on my Facebook author page and one that bugs me from time to time over flash fiction writing is when I’ve got an idea for a 100-word story and a competition/market to sent it to, but try as I might, the tale will end up at 150 words or so. I know now to leave it as it is and write something else for the 100 word market but it can be frustrating at times!

Having said that, this happens and it means I end up writing two stories so you could argue it increases my productivity.

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Fairytales with Bite – Using Minor Characters

I’ve used minor fairytale characters in stories. Indeed my first published story in print was about the youngest stepsister to Cinderella and appeared in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology back in 2009. It is great fun to write fairytales from the viewpoint of other characters.

Minor characters should have a vital role to play in your story, even though they’re not on the “stage” for long. This could be anything from providing key information to unwittingly getting in the way and having to be “removed” in some way so the lead character can get on with the job they’re meant to do. It should be clear to the reader why they’re in the story. The story should feel as if something was missing if they weren’t in it.

A good way of flagging up whether a character is important to a story is to name them. Unnamed characters are generally seen as “walk-ons”.

In longer works, minor characters can have sub-plots of their own which should add something to the overall plot. Think about The Lord of the Rings. The lead story there is Frodo’s quest to destroy the Ring of Power but there are many sub-plots including the role of Pippin and Merry. They’re not major in their own right (not compared with Frodo and Sam anyway) but their story adds something vital to the overall depth of that book.

Could your minor characters do the same for your story?

Always ask yourself what their role is to ensure there really is a place for them in the tale.

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This World and Others – Layers

What layers does your fictional world have? I think of layers as dimensions to the fictional world created. For example. Do you focus on the political side of things with layers of government etc. Or do you focus on the creative side of your world with the layers being the various arts and industries supported by those arts?

What is the most important thing about your fictional world and how does that impact on your characters?

What layers are there to your characters themselves? What hidden depths do they have (or are they strictly shallow)?

I focus on characters for my stories so I want to know what drives those people. I need to know what their major trait is as that will give me a rough picture of what they are like.

Minor traits tend to back up the major one. For example, if a character is brave, are they also honest, direct in their speech and actions etc? Answering those questions helps me build up a composite picture of my characters and then I get on with the draft.

Working out what you need to know, what layers your world/characters needs to have for you to write convincingly about them, pays off. It can can save you a lot of grief in the editing.

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Inspiration and Grouping Stories


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated (and many created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos). Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
I look at inspiration and grouping stories for collections this week, as well as have a look at what led to me creating this week’s YouTube story. 

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Facebook – General

Another mixed bag on the weather front today. Sunshine, strong winds, and rain. There’s bound to be something there someone will like!

Looking forward to going to the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend very soon. I’m running my flash fiction workshop there. I’ll be back at The Hayes, Swanwick. When I get back from that, I’ll need to think about booking my train tickets to go back there again (!) for The Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Hold the revolving door…!

Am running the ACW Flash Fiction Group Zoom meeting tomorrow. Always great fun and lots of information and tips shared. Online groups are a real blessing.

I hope to write up for CFT a report on my recent workshop at the London Jesuit Centre and the ACW one in June in due course but this week’s post really will be on Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions in Fiction. Link up on Friday for that.

Many thanks also for the views in so far on Beach Life – Maybe which is my latest tale/tail on YouTube.
Link to video further down, taster pic below!

Screenshot 2022-05-24 at 20-08-42 Beach Life Maybe - YouTube

Hope you have had a good Monday. Quote of the day from my desk calendar is “A dog is a smile and a waging tail. What is in between doesn’t matter much.”. Sums Lady up nicely!

I was back using the old random generators yesterday. I’ve created two stories based on the premise of “pet peeves”. I’ll be sharing one of those stories on YouTube over on my book page shortly. I must admit though this was a great topic to write about and cathartic too! Definitely a case of writing about what you know too.

And the great thing about using that topic for flash fiction? You can’t go on for too long either!

You could think about the kind of pet peeves your characters would have and why they have those ones. What is the story behind that? There is always a reason for a peeve so can you get a tale out of that? It’s worth a go!

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Glad to say the May issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now FREE on Amazon – see the link for more. (Below).

Now this time I have got things right for flagging up my next post on Chandler’s Ford Today. This coming Friday’s post really will be called Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions in Fiction!

Am currently putting the finishing touches to my flash fiction workshop for the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend at The Hayes, Swanwick, in early June. Talking of ACW, I’m also looking forward to its Flash Fiction group meeting this coming Wednesday, which I’ll be leading. Zoom has been a lifeline over the last two years and, for groups like ACW, it has made certain things possible.

For ACW, this has meant being able to have genre based groups where the members cannot possibly get together in person. One very positive thing to come out of the pandemic!

 

A lovely Saturday here in Hampshire.

Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on my poignant Another Birthday, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. All much appreciated. I don’t always sympathize with my characters but I do here.

I do always know where my characters are coming from and why but nobody says I necessarily have to agree with “their” conclusions. That is a mercy I think for any writer because do you really want to agree with your villains or those characters who are on the “selfish” end of the spectrum? I think not!

 

Facebook – From Light To Dark And Back Again

My inspiration for yesterday’s tale on YouTube, Beach Life – Maybe, (video below) came from a random generator which triggered the question about pet peeves. No problems coming up with a story based on that!

Taking that idea further, think about what your lead character’s pet peeve might be. Focus on just the one.

How would that peeve affect their attitude and behaviour? What would it make them do that anyone else would think odd or just not worth bothering about? Could you get a comic tale out of it, for example? Why not jot down some ideas about what a pet peeve could lead to and see what that could take a character?

AE - March 2022 - Lateral thinking encouraged


Time for a story – well it has been a long Monday so why not? Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTube, Beach Life -Maybe. I have every sympathy with my character, Basil, here.

When I give a talk on flash fiction, I am always keen to share why practicing it regularly helps with whatever other kinds of writing you do.

I’ve found the editing and writing to a tight word count are aspects I’ve carried across into my blogging, for example. It could also be argued a lot of my smaller blogs would count as flash non-fiction anyway (usual word count for that is 500 words to 1000).

Also knowing I am writing to a small word count encourages me to make even more use of those tiny pockets of time that would otherwise be lost. I know I can draft something useful in five or ten minutes to be added to and edited later on. The writing I can get done in that time will be developed further so there is every point in getting it down on paper/on screen.

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The nice thing about any good book is it can take you into different worlds (sci-fi and fantasy etc) and times (historical/futuristic) and so on. With story collections (short stories and flash ones), you can go into different worlds with each story or flash piece you read and all within the cover of one book.

That is what I love about reading flash collections in particular and one element I appreciated when I was putting my first two books together. I love the mixture and often I will use a flash piece or a short story that has especially gripped me to help me decide which novel I want to read next. If I was gripped by a short crime tale, I am likely to make my next novel read a crime one.

What is interesting is when it comes to grouping your short stories or flash pieces in your collection. Do you do this by genre or by mood or by linked characters etc? I do tend to keep linked character stories together as it stressed to the reader these are meant to be linked and I haven’t used the same one again by accident.

Otherwise, I go with mood. I like to read a few darker tales, then I want something to lighten the mood for a bit and so on. I also like to keep in mind what I think my Ideal Reader would prefer. Once I’ve got a rough running order together, I go through the book again to make sure it does work the way I think it will.

Sometimes I find I have to adjust again to make the stories flow better into one another but that’s fine. It’s an interesting aspect to editing and one I enjoy. It feels good when you know you’ve got the running order right and the stories flow seamlessly into one another, creating the impact you want in your readers.

Goodreads Author Blog – The Best Times for Reading

Do you have a preferred reading time? My book reading tends to be reserved for bedtime. Am currently loving dipping into a huge book by Classic FM of classical music facts and figures (the people as well as the musical numbers!). I love reading magazines (especially writing ones) while having my lunch. As for holidays and travelling on trains etc., the Kindle comes into its own.

I like to mix up books and magazines, short stories/flash collections and novels, print reading and electronic reading. I like to see it as keeping my hand in!

But the best time for reading is really any time you can. What does reading do for us?

Well, it entertains, it educates, it takes us away from our troubles for a while, and we can explore this world. We can explore other worlds and worlds which might exist in a parallel universe.

We can go back in time thanks to historical works (fiction and non-fiction) and we can go forward as well thanks to science fiction. We can follow real people’s lives in biographical works and made-up people’s lives across the wonderful vastness of the fictional genres.

Writers take in what works in stories as they try to write their own.

Characters reflect what we know about ourselves. It can be eye opening at times too.

Screenshot 2022-05-24 at 20-50-33 The Best Times for ReadingBookBrushImage-2022-5-23-21-3411

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Making an Impact with Words – and Delia’s Choices


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
When the news is so grim, and the impact from words can be dreadful, we need stories more than ever, I think.

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Facebook – General

Am delighted to share the link to the brand new edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads for March 2022. As ever the magazine is a wonderful mix of articles, photos, puzzles, and, of course, stories.

My column this time is called Random Generators and I share some of those I use regularly as well as share a story I created using one. As ever it was a joy to read the stories submitted on the the theme I used here. I’ll be sharing the topic for next time soon on the MFR Facebook page.

On a separate note, I was thrilled to see someone I know from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School mention they were inspired by some of my 100 word flash pieces for Friday Flash Fiction and then submitted a piece themselves to the Swanwick newsletter.

Flash is great fun to write – and addictive too! There is always the challenge of can I write a story in 100 words, then 50 etc? And you find you’re never afraid of editing again, as thanks to the restricted word count, you do have to develop a robust attitude and not be afraid to wield the red pen.

https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2022/03/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-march-2022/

Screenshot 2022-03-01 at 17-02-46 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine March 2022

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One good thing about having the 29th as my slot for More Than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers blog spot, is that I get every three Februaries off! Am looking forward to blogging again on there next month.

Now I’ve been planning my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today for a while and this week I’m up to H. My topic is Human Behaviour In Fiction. It’s the kind of topic you could write a treatise about but I’m keeping it to one blog post.

And is it timely with all that is going on in the news? Possibly. It is odd sometimes how something you prepared becomes timely. It can sometimes happen with fiction too. Always sends a shiver down my spine when it happens to me.

Anyway, I’ll be looking at how human behaviour is both reflected in fiction and why it is the cause of fiction. Link up on Friday. Oh and I’ll be sending out my author newsletter tomorrow as well. Went out on 1st March but I share a link to the newsletter further down.


Am thrilled to be back on CafeLit once again with my story Delia’s Choices. This story is a result of the ten minute writing exercise set by #AnnmarieMiles at the last Association of Christian Writers Flash Group Zoom meeting. I set the name thanks to using a random name generator.

Those of us at the meeting all gave this exercise a go and shared the results. There was a lovely range of stories all based on one character called Delia. Writing to a set theme does produce varying results as we all have our individual author voices and those come through especially well when you’re all writing on the same topic. Hope you enjoy my effort here (and do let me know what you think of my Delia).

https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2022/02/delias-choices.html

Screenshot 2022-02-27 at 16-09-25 Delia’s Choices

Many thanks for the comments coming in on Light of the Moon, my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. Much appreciated.

I’ll be sending out my author newsletter again next week so if you would like to sign up for tips, stories, news etc., do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – would be glad to see you.

A big hello to all who have joined since the last edition and many thanks to all who follow me here and on my website.

Now what is the most important thing about any character, regardless of genre, length of story etc?

For me, they have to be relatable whether these characters are human, animal,some odd alien species or what have you. There has to be something I can identify with (though I don’t necessarily have to agree with the character)

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/light-of-the-moon-by-allison-symes

Screenshot 2022-02-25 at 16-16-25 Light of the Moon, by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to get my author newsletter out earlier today. Do take a look (see link at https://mailchi.mp/5955992ab501/allison-symes-march-2022-newsletter-heading-north-again). If you’d like to sign up head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com.

And a big thank you to the lovely comments in on Blue Memories, my latest YouTube story.

Screenshot 2022-03-01 at 20-14-12 Allison Symes - March 2022 - Northward BoundScreenshot 2022-03-01 at 10-10-11 Your Swanwick Newsletter 1st of March 2022

 

 

 

It’s Monday. It’s story time. Hope you enjoy Blue Memories, my new YouTube video. I’ve taken a random object, a blue hanky, and based my tale around it. I’ve done the same for the one I hope will appear on Friday Flash Fiction later in the week. The moods of the two stories are different too. It’s good to mix the moods up and I am relishing getting two ideas out of one randomly generated item.


Flash fiction is the ultimate in the quick read but that doesn’t mean the stories are quick to write. I can get a first draft down in minutes (especially for the 50 to 100 word tales) but the crafting takes much longer. And for me a story isn’t written until it is fully edited and “out there”.

With the limited word count, I am always asking have I really expressed this in the best way possible? Is it better to have extra word count here because it gives more depth to a character and/or moves the story along, and if so (and the answer to this is nearly always yes), what do I cut elsewhere?

Equally do I accept the story is better at 150 words rather than 100? Often the answer to that one is yes too. So all sorts of things come into play when I am putting the final version of the story together and that takes time – as it should do.

What I want is the most powerful story in terms of impact on a reader in the fewest possible words yet to have the best characterisation possible within that limit too. I don’t want much, do I?!

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I read flash collections as well as write them, as it is important to read what is in your genre as well as reading widely from outside it. Firstly, it is important to support the industry I am in and, secondly, it helps me to see what is out there in terms of flash and that in turn encourages me to up my game. I also have come to love flash, as you know, so it makes sense to feed that love by reading it.

Advantage to flash is setting characters anywhere

Goodreads Author Blog – Making an Impact with Words

One of the joys of stories and books is when the words flow, you have to keep turning the pages, and the language just hits you “right there” as it is so appropriate for the character or what have you. And the very best authors add words to the language too, Shakespeare being the obvious one there. There is more than one way to make an impact with words then – have some of your invented ones make it into the dictionaries!

As a flash fiction writer, with a maximum word count of 1000 words per story, I have to make an impact with words quickly. So anything that doesn’t add to my characterisation or moves the plot along gets cut out.

The joy of the novel is having a wonderful reading experience and looking back at that – reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time was a fantastic experience once I had finished the book. It was only by finishing it I could really appreciate the depth and scale of the work. For the short story and flash fiction formats, you get the “pay back” of impact that much quicker.

But the joy of reading widely, in whatever form or genre, is you take in words and their impact and you can learn from how other authors do this to improve your own works so other readers get the impact from your stories, your words.

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Back From Brechin

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Many thanks to Sarah Archibald for Brechin/Angus Book Festival related material. Also a huge thanks to Wendy H Jones, Caroline Johnston, Tony Collins, Maressa Mortimer, Ruth Leigh, and Sarah Grace for their fab author and book cover photos for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week.  My book cover images are from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

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Am pleased to share Back from Brechin, my latest post on Chandler’s Ford Today. I look at how the event went, the benefits of events like this, discuss my talk and workshop here, and give a shout-out to the contingent from the Association of Christian Writers who went, especially Wendy H Jones, who hosted us and ferried us around. (A huge thanks also to Maressa Mortimer for her valuable taxi services too!).

There were eight of us all including me and we covered a wide range of writing between us – literally everything from children’s fiction to crime to flash fiction to memoir and narrative non-fiction and YA stories to historical novels and Christian chicklit.

The event was great fun and useful experience, as well as it being the first major book event I’ve taken part in since before lockdown. What with this, and the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School back in August, it is good to be out and about again. I love Zoom but getting together with people at in-person events has been something I’ve missed over the last year or so and it is good these are coming back.

Back From Brechin

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Brrr… back to the biting cold again. Not that Lady worried as she was too busy playing with Coco and Katima, two of her pals today. Mind you, Lady might have wondered why her owner insisted we kept walking around the park instead of staying still to watch her and her pals play. I was trying to get some life back into my feet!

Will be sharing my Back From Brechin post for Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. It was such useful experience and good fun taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Link above.

Now I’ve talked before about using a variety of methods to trigger ideas for my short stories and flash fiction pieces. I do much the same for my blog posts. Events I go to are obvious topics to write up but I also look at aspects of writing which intrigue me (and I won’t be the only one to be intrigued – what fascinates one writer will fascinate others) and I adore interviewing other writers. I always learn something interesting and interviews make a great way about sharing who you are and what you do in an entertaining way without being too “in your face” with the old “buy my book” routine.

I’ve learned over time to keep a watching brief out for topics I think might be of interest to others. And that is the point – it is vital to think of your audience, always, regardless of what you write. It is also vital that you enjoy what you write as that comes through. It also makes it easier for you to sustain your writing over time.

 

Today has been one of those days though the highlights were seeing Lady play with her best buddy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and Coco, the lovely Labradoodle. Even better their mutual pal, a very smiley Hungarian Vizler, came and joined in the fun. The other highlight was getting my hair done. But other than that…!

Sent my author newsletter out earlier. See link. Always good fun to put these together.

Looking forward to going to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event on Saturday. Will be lovely to catch up with friends. (Zoom and Facebook have been a lifeline but you can’t beat getting together in person where possible).

As you know I blog for a number of places and I can’t recommend drafting posts for future use highly enough. It has often proved a lifeline for me as it means I know I always have something which will be “good to go” as and when I need them. It pays to have a “stock” in of these and whenever I go out by train, I always draft blog posts like this once I’ve finished drafting some flash fiction of course!

Screenshot 2021-12-03 at 19-45-49 Allison Symes - December 2021 - Festive Flash and More

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My latest story on Friday Flash Fiction is called Specialist Subject where my heroine, Doreen, finds a way of dealing with the local bore. Find out how via the link. My sympathies are entirely with Doreen incidentally!


Screenshot 2021-12-03 at 17-08-27 Specialist Subject, by Allison Symes

Unless I am writing for a specific website such as Paragraph Planet or Friday Flash Fiction or Mom’s Favorite Reads, I don’t worry about the word count until I’ve got the story down. With the three sites I’ve mentioned, I know their word count, what it looks like on a page, and know what to aim for so away I go.

But if I’m not writing for a specific market, I want to write without having to worry about the word count too much. Once I’ve edited the story so I know it is as good as I can make it, I then think either where can I send this piece (and I will know of a few places, I can also research some) OR I save these for open competitions.

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Amongst the many random generators out there is a random object one. Having a quick look tonight, I set two items as my parameters and came up with the words balloon and box.

Now you could just find a way of getting these words into a story. You could get your character(s) to love or loathe these things and your story is about why they feel this way and what led them to that. In the case of loathing, you could also examine what happens if the character is forced to deal with these items again. They’re in a situation where they can’t avoid the things. How do they handle that?

And you could find a way of framing your title around the items too. Plus you could have two characters with opposing views on these objects. How do they resolve their differences? For the above example, what if one character wants their kid to have loads of balloons and boxes at their party, it’s what they always had, while the other believes these are wasteful and doesn’t want any of them?

I’ve found using the different generators enormously useful in (a) coming up with ideas and (b) making me think differently about how I approach writing a story. They’re fun too!

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Fairytales With Bite – Fairytales in the Christmas Season

Fairytales are a popular feature at Christmas of course thanks to pantomime in particular. (Think Cinderella, Babes in the Wood, Sleeping Beauty etc). I enjoy a pantomime where it is clear cast and audience are having lots of fun but overall I prefer reading the original stories.

What I hope the pantomime season does is encourage people to check out the original stories (even if the younger fans might be better off leaving that until they are a little older. Many of the original tales could not be staged as they were originally written).

Where I do enjoy my fairytales at Christmas even more is in certain films. I adore The Polar Express and consider that to be a fairytale (and one with an edge to it too). The same goes for Shrek where I love the way the ogre is the hero here. Fairytales have often been “subverted” and the Shrek films are great examples of that.

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This World and Others – Communal Celebrations

Does your fictional world have communal celebrations? If so, are they based on religion, on seasons of the year, or both? Does everyone take part in these? Are any celebrations from the past now banned and, if so, why was that done? How tolerant are your differing peoples of the celebrations of others?

Communal celebrations serve to bring people together and to lift the spirit (especially winter based events as these are often connected with celebrating light and foreshadowing the return of spring). Are these aims achieved in your fictional festivals? Do your characters join in with the events or choose to abstain? Is joining in compulsory?

What foods and drinks are served and who prepares these? Is magic involved in the celebrations? Answering questions like these will help you to picture what your fictional world would do. If that makes things clearer for you, it will do the same for your readers.

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Book Festivals, Inventing Characters, and Going Home

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Many thanks also to Sarah Archibald for the Brechin/Angus Book Festival materials – it is a joy to share them!

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Absolutely shattered last night after getting home from Scotland but it was an enjoyable trip and I have to say I liked LNER. I’ve not travelled with them before but liked the trains. Also impressed with very high standard of cleanliness – and a charging point at every seat. Great idea.

Am getting back to my usual writing routine (though whether I’ll get around to a YouTube video and/or submission to Friday Flash Fiction this week remains to be seen). I will be getting my author newsletter for December ready soon though (and you can sign up for that at my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com).

Looking forward to the next event – the Bridge House Publishing celebration on 4th December. Will be so good to meet up with friends again there too and catch up with what everyone has been doing.

Heading home from the Brechin/Angus Book Festival and enjoying great scenic views on the way as I travel through Scotland and a fair bit of England too. Had a lovely time.

It was great catching up with friends from the Association of Christian Writers and meeting new people. Some of us have a regular meet up on Zoom. This was the “live” version in many ways!

A huge thanks to Wendy H. Jones for being a fab hostess and organising all that needed to be organised, and to Sarah Archibald and her team behind the festival.

Looking forward now to being back at home with my family and Lady. Reports tell me she has been checking my side of the bed every night to see if I’d somehow sneaked back home while she was not looking! Not a chance even if I did have access to a portal etc. The postie only has to put one foot in the drive before she tells us about it!

In other news as they say, I look forward to sharing Part 2 of a great interview with Lynn Clement, whose The City of Stories was recently published by Chapeltown Books. This week we discuss the editing process – Chapeltown has a vigorous three stage plan for this. I had the privilege of editing Lynn on this and I look forward to sharing the link on Friday.

Had a lovely workshop session at the second day of the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. It was great to share ways into flash fiction and read some of my stories. That does two things – it shows what flash is and hopefully entertains the listener.

Later I gave a talk on The Ups and Downs of Becoming An Author where I talked about my circular route into becoming a published author. All good fun and many thanks to those who came to listen.

It has been particularly nice to meet new people and get chatting about books and stories.

Lovely to be at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. It’s wonderful to see lots of lovely books (and equally lovely authors) out and about again.  

There is a great contingent from the Association of Christian Writers here. So shout-out to Wendy H Jones, Maressa Mortimer, Ruth Leigh, Heather Flack, Tony Collins, and Sheila Robinson (writes as S.C. Skillman).

Also lovely to meet in person those I’ve only met on Facebook and/or Zoom

Have also taken part in my first professional photo shoot with the other authors. All of us held up our latest book with pride! Great fun. Will appear in The Angus Courier next Thursday.

Book stall all set up to go at The Northern Hotel, Brechin

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve mentioned before my love of using random generators to help trigger different story ideas. I’m convinced these work because they force you to think outside of your usual creative box. You are being set a prompt to work to after all by something that has not come from you.

But don’t forget you can get even more from these by changing the parameters for these things. For example, for the random word ones, I often choose to generate just two words but there’s no reason why I can’t pick far more than that.

I’ve found using two will often give me a title and, yes, it can be easier to fit two words into a story rather than ten or so but that’s precisely the reason to change the parameters! It encourages you to think about how you can get these ten words into the story so it makes sense, adds to the character or the plot in some way etc.

Stretching yourself like that is a good thing. I’ve come up with more stories as a result of experimenting with parameters like this.

It was a pleasure to read from my flash collections at my workshop and tallk over the weekend at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival.

Doing this shows what flash is and the impact it can have so effectively. I just tailor which stories I read to suit the audience. I also like a balance of tales to make people smile and others that trigger other responses (such as a twist ending for a crime story, say).

I don’t read the same tales at every event (though I do have my own favourites I will often use).

Last day of the Brechin/Angus Book Festival and it has been fabulous to talk about flash fiction, sharing what I love about the form. As I mentioned yesterday, it is the continual inventing of characters I find the most fun. It is also the most challenging but it keeps me on my toes!

Writing flash fiction has meant I get to do what I love most – invent characters. Even more fun can be had because those characters don’t have to be human.

Why do I love inventing characters? Simply because they are fun to “play with”.Characters give me ways in which to explore motivations and what anyone might do in any given situation when under duress or where normal expectations don’t exist or are challenged.

How a character reacts is something that fascinates me. And with flash I get to do this over and over again.The joy of my two collections – From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic – is I can reflect a number of scenarios and settings and that is also fun.

Goodreads Author Blog – Advertising Books

The best advertising for books is word-of-mouth. If someone I know tells me about a book I am more likely to sit up and take notice.

But getting awareness of available books out there is difficult.No author wants to come across as too pushy (instant turn-off for potential readers). But you equally can’t be too shy and retiring.

What I have found helps me is having a brief spiel prepared covering what flash fiction is (my main genre), why I love writing it, and then I go into my two collections. Often I’ll read from them too.

And readers do need to know the stories are out there. This is where book festivals and fairs can play a major role. So if you can support them, do. You will get to see potential good reads new to you and you support books in general as well as the authors.

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Random Generators, Endings, and Exercise

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. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
A good start to the week – new story up on Friday Flash Fiction and a new video to share. Also getting closer to the Brechin/Angus Book Festival (19th to 21st November 2021) and am so looking forward to taking part in that.

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Hope you have had a good day. Busy but enjoyable one here. Managed to get out for a swim today and set a personal best so well pleased with that. When I started swimming regularly, I did think I would use the time in the pool to think out story ideas etc. Not a bit of it!

I just don’t think of anything other than trying to keep count of what number length I’m up to but I guess in some ways that is the point. I come out of the pool refreshed and it is that which helps get the writing brain going again after a break from the desk.

So having found this to be the case, it gives me reason to plan out my exercise spots to ensure I do get regular breaks from the desk. Writing is wonderful, great for the brain, but is stationary so the swimming and walking the dog are the two things I do to balance that out a bit.

Busy start to the working week. I submitted a new story to Friday Flash Fiction yesterday and created a new story video for my YouTube channel. Sunday is rapidly becoming flash fiction and story day! Not that I mind. I find it helpful to have a writing structure for the week as a whole. It also means I tend to get straight into my writing day by day and end up getting more done so it does pay to plan out what you’re doing over a week.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be about book lists. I prepare two of these a year – one for my birthday and the other for Christmas. I look at the value of lists like this. Let’s just say it makes me easy to buy for! But posts like this are great fun to write as it is a celebration of books in general and there is always time to write posts like that!

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Pleased to share a link to my recent feature in Mom’s Favorite Reads. My theme for this month was Light and Dark in Flash Fiction. You can have a lot of fun with both of those themes. I share several ways in which you can take these themes too. When I was putting my debut flash collection together for Chapeltown Books, I found my stories fell into these two basic categories so used that to inspire the title – From Light to Dark and Back Again.

Do check out the flash fiction stories other writers have come up with to my theme. There are some fabulous stories coming into the magazine. Don’t miss out. It is free and a good read.


Hope you are having a good weekend. Can’t get over how quickly it gets dark now and we haven’t even turned the clocks back in the UK yet.

A huge thanks for all the comments coming in on Clockwork, my latest #FridayFlashFiction tale. Much appreciated.

Advance notice: I’m not going to be about on 1st November so I will be sending out my author newsletter on 29th October, a couple of days early. This time I’m doing this deliberately! If you’d like to receive said newsletter, please head over to my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – the landing page takes you straight to the sign up form.

It’s going to be a busy few weeks. I’m off to see Murder with Ghosts staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group on Thursday and I’ve a number of writing things I want to either wrap up and schedule or prepare to take with me as I enjoy a short break from the end of next week.

And I’m getting ready for the Brechin/Angus Book Fest too in November and am looking forward to that and joining up with fellow Bridge House Publishing authors at their celebration event in December. In between all of that, I might just get ready for Christmas!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I use a variety of random generator (words, numbers, adjectives, questions, nouns – just to list a few) as all of these give me different trigger points for getting “into” a story. They also make me think outside the box a bit too which is a good thing. It keeps me on my toes. It also means I will never run out of prompts!

And practicing writing to these different types also gives useful practice at writing to different prompts set in writing classes, conferences, and the like because you can never know what will come up with those. (Well, not unless you’re the speaker and you set the things anyway!).

I’ve found it gives me even more fun in coming up with stories precisely because I’m stretching myself here to use things I would not ordinarily have come up with by myself. I’ve written a story this week where I had to use the words egg and bear in it. Done. Submitted it. But I would not have come up with those two things in one story. They’re not an obvious combination.

You can also think of using generators as a warm up writing exercise. Write for five/ten minutes on what comes up. Edit and polish later. Submit later!

Hope you enjoy my latest YouTube story, About Time. This story was triggered by my using a random time generator (yes, really!) to give me the time that appears in this tale. I realised after coming up with the title that it was even more appropriate than I realised when I first read through my initial draft of this. Serendipity perhaps? Maybe but I like it when it happens.


Endings don’t have to be happy in stories. They do have to be satisfying though. The ending has to make sense of what has gone before and be appropriate for the character. In the case of A Christmas Carol, that ending would not have worked unless we had seen Scrooge undergo his transformation from the greatest miser to someone who has learned the value of generosity and kindness. It took something spectacular to shake Scrooge up – and he got that in the form of the three spirits. (I refuse to believe that’s a spoiler now after all this time!).

All stories pivot on a point of change and it is the character who changes in some way. Not all change has to be positive though!

In my story Rewards from From Light to Dark and Back Again, my character’s point of change is when she gets rid of someone who has been in her way for far too long. You’ll have to read the story to find out what my character did and why and what the outcome of that was but the point remains – change does not have to be positive. We read stories to find out what happens so must ensure that something does happen!

This is why for my twist tales I write that twist down first and then work out what could have led to it. This ensures I do go the best plot line leading to this point. And it means I have my appropriate ending all set up good to go. I just need to go back to the beginning and fill the rest in but I do know where I am heading.

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I’m busy preparing for the Brechin/Angus Book Fest which is from 19th to 21st November 2021. I’m running a flash fiction workshop here and giving an author talk.

So looking forward to doing that and catching up with writer friends at this event too. Always happy to spread the word about flash fiction (and often at events one of the best ways of showing what flash is and can be is to read some. That has always gone down well. I’ve often felt adults like being read to as much as children love being read to – it’s just it doesn’t happen so often for us).

See below for more details on the Brechin event. There is a rather familiar looking book in the top right hand corner! This festival will be my first in-person book fair kind of event for at least two years and it will be lovely chatting to people in that kind of environment again. Book festivals are always great fun (and of course are great places to go if you want to get on with your Christmas shopping!).

Goodreads Author Blog – The Role of the Indie Press

Now I’m not unbiased here. I’m published by the indie press and the big thing they do for the world of literature is give many more authors a voice. The world of books is richer for that. There is more choice out there. It is just a question of knowing where to look (and why it is even more vital for authors to have their own websites so we can point people in the right direction!).

Naturally authors like me who are published by the indie press will support said indie press. It is literally in our own interests to do so but I would like to encourage others to try out books brought out by them too. The indie press does provide more variety so why shouldn’t we have that on our book shelves?

And a lot of the indie press will bring out short story, flash fiction, and poetry collections. That give us so much more variety in our reading and what’s not to like about that?

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A Great Day, Picture Prompts, and The Incredible Miss Amy

Image Credit:

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Photos of me signing books (big clue there as to why I’ve had a good day!) taken by Adrian Symes. Images of Scottish lochs taken by me, Allison Symes, when on holiday in September. Was pleased with the play of the light on the water on these.

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As well as the fab comments from #MaressaMortimer earlier today about Tripping The Flash Fantastic (see below), I spent this afternoon signing copies of the paperback for a customer. I then very happily played “Postman Pat” and delivered said books. Good fun and a great way to spend a Tuesday!

I am happy to sign and post books in the UK so please do DM me if interested. (Visitors to my website, please do use the contact form here).

Now I sometimes blog for A Publisher’s Perspective which is run by #GillJames. Today’s piece is based on a Powerpoint presentation I gave at a workshop she ran (the other author taking part was #DawnKnox). But the presentation also makes for a good interview so am happy to share the link here. Hope you enjoy!

Enjoying my workAlways lovely getting to do some signings

Many thanks, #MaressaMortimer, for the wonderful comments here. Much appreciated.

Screenshot_2020-10-20 (2) Maressa Mortimer Facebook

Well, I WAS going to love the above, wasn’t I?!

Delighted to say Tripping The Flash Fantastic is now up on the Association of Christian Writers‘ online book shop under Anthologies and Short Stories. Well, flash, like me, IS short!😊

Am also hoping to share other news soon so watch this space.

It is a difficult balancing act to manage effectively new creative writing, editing work, and marketing without “losing out” on any of these important things.

I have found working in different writing sessions to be a good way of managing things. I also look at the week as a whole and have ideas as to what I would have liked to have achieved by the end of it. I’ve found that useful too. (Largely I do achieve what I set out to do but I also break down longer projects into mini-stages and that works for me).

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Hope you’ve had a good weekend. Plans for the writing week to come are to continue marketing Tripping The Flash Fantastic, write my next Chandler’s Ford Today post, hopefully get some flash tales submitted, and get back to one of my two long term projects.

Am catching up with some of my reading too, which is a joy, and hope to be posting some reviews soon too.

Oh and talking of TTFF. If anyone is after a paperback edition, Amazon DO stock them (as do Waterstones). What you’ll see on the Amazon page is something like “one in stock and more on the way”. AND you can always DM me if you’d like a signed copy.

I mention this as (a) it’s part of my marketing for today (!) and (b) I know it had read temporarily out of stock on Amazon. It’s not. The book is a Print on Demand so that really isn’t an issue.

Screenshot_2020-10-20 Tripping the Flash Fantastic Amazon co uk Symes, Allison 9781910542583 Books

There is a picture prompt in my writing diary this week of a charming, autumnal woodland scene. (Definitely the sort of place Lady would want me to take her for a good, long walk). Now the challenge here, I think, is to write something and avoid the cliches.

I don’t know if I will write something to this prompt but I do know if I do, I would want to look beyond the picture itself. I would be thinking of the character(s) I would place in this scene.

Maybe one of them loves autumn walks, maybe the other hates them but it is crucial that that they meet at this point. How does the one who hates autumn walks overcome their hatred or are they just driven by the need to get this meeting over and done with? For me, THERE’S the story rather than in the picture itself. The charming scene is a backdrop.

Mind you, I would love to know why anyone would hate autumnal walks on a sunny, dry day as the picture shows it. In the pouring rain, I can understand. I’ve not come across a picture prompt yet that shows a woodland scene when it has chucked it down with rain and there is mud everywhere! I can’t think why that is…!😊.

The important point though is to look beyond the obvious and see what unique element you can bring to your story using a picture or indeed any other kind of prompt.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Today has been a nice day. One of the loveliest moments in an author’s life is to sign books for customers waiting for said books. Am happy to do more of this!!😊

And I am also keen, for obvious reasons, to share the joy that is flash fiction. No more excuses about having no time to read, perhaps? Anyone can manage a 100-word story, right?! (Well I like to think so!).

There are certain lightbulb moments that occur to writers and one of mine was in realising flash has to be character led but it was entirely up to me what I did with said characters.

I have to admit I’m generally not that nice to mine (though you’d expect that really) and it is great fun giving some villain their well deserved comeuppance. So satisfying that… (it’s also satisfying to read too!).

Signing TTFF


I’ve been preparing a piece for submission where I talk about flash fiction being a kind of happy writing accident for me. And it was. I hadn’t set out to write flash. Indeed, I hadn’t heard of it when I stared writing seriously for publication. (To begin with, I just wrote for myself and it must have been a good couple of years or so before I decided I would try and get my work out there).

But, obviously, I am very happy about this kind of writing accident! And it kind of confirms a point I’ve made before about being open to trying new forms of writing.

I started out writing standard length short stories (circa 1500 words) and still write them but flash is my big love, writing wise, and I think always will be.

Will that stop me trying a new form of writing that takes my fancy? Oh no.

You do have to try things sometimes and see where they lead you.

After all flash fiction writing has led me to two published books with Chapeltown Books and being one of the winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition three years in row.

Yes, definitely a happy writing accident and am open to more of them!

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Many thanks, everyone, for the tremendous response to my post yesterday about the random adjective generator. It was great fun using that to come up with my story The Incredible Miss Amy! Keep reading – story follows below (this is the problem with doing a round up post in date order!).

What I like about the random generators is you can use them in so many different ways and all of them can be springboards for new stories.

The random number generator, for example, you could use to set the word count for the story you’re going to write.

Equally you could use the number as a time and have a story plot revolve around the importance of that time. Or the number could have special meaning (for good or ill) for your lead character.

You could take that same one number generated and use it in two or three different ways. That has got to be worth having a go at!


I’ve been having fun with the random adjective generator. Yes, I know. I probably should get out more but it’s tricky right now!

Okay, so what came up on said generator tonight then? Ta da… “fearless” and “mushy”. Now there are two words which aren’t usually seen together…!

So what can be done here?

Well, firstly, you can create two characters, one of whom is fearless, one of whom is…. you get the picture.

Secondly, you have one character who is usually fearless but when confronted by a kitten or a puppy suddenly shows a mushy side to them their friends and family don’t usually see. (They’d probably tease them about it too. How would your character respond to that?).

Thirdly, you can use the words themselves and place them at different points in your story. And this is what I have done below. Hope you enjoy.

The Incredible Miss Amy

Miss Amy took no nonsense from anyone but then given she had the ability to jump hundreds of feet in one go, not much was going to worry her.
That all changed on Tuesday last.
Why?


The fearless Miss Amy had almost squashed that poor defenceless, cute looking furry monster, which somehow seemed to be out on the streets on its own (where was its owner?), with a single bound.

Nor could Miss Amy understand why the locals were all shouting at her to get away from the beast. Had they not seen how she’d almost jumped on the thing from a height of over twenty feet?

Certainly the monster looked startled – for a moment.

It admired fearless humans. They usually did stupid things. And then they became all mushy as he squashed them and then ate them. Whole usually too.

And Miss Amy went down a treat.
Ends
Allison Symes 17th October 2020

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Covers

I’ve been thinking about book covers a lot in the last few months. That’s partly due to the release of my own new book, Tripping The Flash Fantastic, but the book cover is the first thing that draws a potential reader. If they like the cover, they’ll look at the blurb. If they like the blurb, they’ll probably look at the first few paragraphs and then hopefully buy the book. I’ve done this so often myself.

So what is a great book cover? For me, it has to be relevant to the book. It has to be open to different interpretations (so you have to open the book and see which one would be the right one). It has to be attractive, memorable etc.

A tall order? Perhaps but it is so worth getting it right. I don’t know about you but an ill-thought out book cover puts me off from wanting to find out more about the book itself and that would be a shame.

We really do judge a book by its cover!

 

Being Interviewed

Image Credit:  As ever Pixabay/Pexels unless stated.

Interview News:  It was fabulous being interviewed by Paula C Readman on her blog. More details below.

Facebook – General

Is it me or are the nights drawing in earlier than usual for August? Still I suppose the upside to that is it encourages me to be either at my desk writing or curled up with a good book reading.

Talking of which, most of my reading I do at bedtime. I’m not seeking to analyse a story at this point! I just want to be entertained and go to sleep having enjoyed a good read. I DO, however, make a note of whatever particularly grabbed me about the book/short story. You can learn a lot from that.

I mix up reading fiction and non-fiction too. A good non-fiction book will grip me just as much as an excellent novel etc and reading non-fiction regularly can help trigger ideas for stories. Having said that, you should see my TBR pile, “real” and electronic versions! Still, those will keep me out of mischief for some time and that is never a bad thing!😀

I am delighted to be on the other side of the interview desk tonight with my appearance on #PaulaReadman‘s blog, Funeral Birds to Stone Angels. Hope you enjoy the interview (and do check out the other interviews on here too (see the Guest Book Tour Page). The chats are fabulous and I find I’m always entertained by what other authors have to say. I usually learn something useful too so win-win!).

Allison Symes - Published Works

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

FromLightToDark_medium-2

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

I do enjoy writing character thoughts. I love creating dialogue too but with my 100 word stories in particular, I often don’t have room for my characters to get a conversation going!

I can get them to think though and thoughts reveal so much about the character.

What would you make of a character who thought something such as “I can’t be bothered to go to Helen’s”?

What would your initial thoughts be? That the character was lazy? Dog tired and just can’t face going out?

A lot of the assumptions you make here will depend on how much of the story you’ve already read.

But what if that was the opening line? You would be expecting to see a lazy character maybe get their comeuppance perhaps? That might be the point of the story. And it may well be BUT one thing I also love is layering so how could I layer that line to get something more from it?

“I can’t be bothered to go to Helen’s. I’ve been around there so often in the last few weeks and yet she never comes here.”

Now what would you think? Maybe you would feel more pity for this character now? I know I would.

The lovely thing about layering is you get to direct how it goes and you can throw in a red herring too.

“I can’t be bothered to go to Helen’s. I’ve been around there so often in the last few weeks and yet she never comes here. I reckon that agoraphobia she says she has is just an excuse to never go out. It only needs one bus ride to get here. Just what is her problem?”
Allison Symes – 24th August 2020

Any sympathy for this character has now gone right out of the old window, yes?

Work out what you want to reveal about your character and remember you don’t have to share it all at once!

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I can’t say I was impressed with Storm Francis. (I should imagine the Pope might not be too happy at having a storm named after him. I wasn’t impressed there was a Storm Alison a few years back – okay having the second l in the name was probably too much to hope for. I know I can be a right shower at times but a storm? Really?! 😀😀).

Have got an interesting challenge for this week’s CFT post. I’m reviewing the summer! No. Stop it. It is NOT a two word article ending in the word “awful”. Honest. Link up on Friday. Probably best leave it there I think!

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I hope you enjoyed my story, The Special Offer, in my last post. It was great fun to write and I do love using the random generators to trigger ideas. With most of them you can set your own parameters too.

The great thing with all of them is you can choose how to use what you generate. Will the words be a title, a theme, or just be placed in the story somewhere? And you can combine all or any or all of that of course.

With the number generator, you could use the numbers for times (as I’ve mentioned before), but how about a number being used as a house address where something spectacular happens? Or where the number has special meaning for your character?

It can be useful to write down a list of ideas that occur to you. The first few will be the “obvious” ones but those further down the list are unlikely to be so self-evident. THAT is where you may well find the germ of an idea that YOU can turn into something special.

Have fun!

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It was great fun taking part in #PaulaReadman‘s post on her blog today. Just so you know, I do have an interview page on my website, to which I gladly added my appearance on Paula’s blog earlier today. Scroll down and enjoy the read! Hope you enjoy the other interviews on there too. (And Paula is very generous with the cake too!).

It’s always an interesting experience for me being interviewed given I spend a fair amount of time doing the interviewing for Chandler’s Ford Today. Best thing of all? I get to talk about my big fictional love – flash fiction!

 

I hope Monday has been okay for you. Can’t say I’m looking forward to the storm that’s heading to most of us in the UK tomorrow. Still I guess I won’t need any help blowing away the proverbial cobwebs tomorrow!

I’ve just shared on my author page a flash story I created to illustrate a point I was making about layering your characters and not revealing everything about them all at once. I’ll share that story here too.

“I can’t be bothered to go to Helen’s. I’ve been around there so often in the last few weeks and yet she never comes here. I reckon that agoraphobia she says she has is just an excuse to never go out. It only needs one bus ride to get here. Just what is her problem?”
Allison Symes – 24th August 2020

Now you’ll notice immediately there’s one thing missing. Something I’ve often said is important to a tale and that is the title. It is the first “lure” into a story for your reader. So how do I go about choosing a title

?Sometimes a title comes about as a result of the theme of the story. Sometimes it can be based on the character name or their attitude. But here what would I go for and why?

I’d probably call this I’m Not Going Again because (a) it fits the story and (b) will hopefully intrigue a reader enough to find out who is the I in the tale and why they’re not going to somewhere again.

The reason why is important in fiction. Readers lap up a story because they have got to find out what happens. And that’s a good thing.

Think of the stories you’ve loved. What kept you reading them?

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I was right not to be impressed with the storm. Oh it was windy and rainy all right, but Lady and I were not sorry to get back home after our walk today. Was nice to see some sunshine later though.

Now when it comes to my flash tales I write a mixture of “sunny” tales and others which are darker in tone. This is partly due to my writing reflecting what I like to read and directly inspired my first book’s title of course.

Also because I cannot write “light” all the time.

I think it was Terry Pratchett who said you needed to have some tragic relief sometimes. The older I get the more I appreciate that.

My first love will always be light prose (and ideally funny with it) but I do think you need the darker stories as well. Doesn’t that reflect the human condition? Okay there is a limit to how dark I go but I love a well crafted crime novel as well as a funny memoir or short story collection. And there will always be room on my shelves for both.

Flash fiction is fantastic here as the form lends itself well to playing with character and seeing what you can do with them. Therefore it gives you plenty of opportunities to write lighter tales and darker ones and every which shade in between.

Goodreads Author Blog –The Wonders of Non-Fiction

The majority of my reading, whether in paperback or on my trusty Kindle, is fiction to be honest. But I’m a fiction writer so you would expect that.

However, my non-fiction “reading diet” has increased over the last couple of years, partly because I also blog for an online community magazine and a good general knowledge, as well as good sources of research, are useful for that.

But I have found I wanted to read more factual work in between the escape from it all in fiction kind of books.

I’ve enjoyed a few of Ben Macintyre’s books and have developed a greater appreciation for what is known as creative non-fiction.

Gone are the days of worthy tomes gathering dust on shelves somewhere and rightly so. You want books to be in the hands of eager readers and that goes for non-fiction too.

And non-fiction writers still have to know their audience and draw their readers in every bit as much as fiction writers must do.

So what do I look for in a good non-fiction work?

1. I still want to be entertained and often that is with a narrative that grips and is telling me an exciting “story”. The only difference with fiction is that here the story is a true one.

2. I want to learn something new and/or back up the knowledge I already have on a topic. (Ideally I’d do both).

3. I want the non-fiction book I’ve picked to encourage further reading on the topic and give me a source of ideas as to where to turn next.

So what are your favourite non-fiction books? Have you made any great discoveries this year?

 

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