Reasons To Be Cheerful

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, all images are from Pixabay or Pexels.

 

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Those of us of a certain age will recall Ian Dury and the Blockheads thanks to the title of my CFT post this week – Reasons To Be Cheerful.

I am on a “cheery post for the time being” roll for CFT for the moment! Hope you enjoy.

And please do send in your own reasons to be cheerful. A bit of cheer goes a long way for us all right now.

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Following on from my Reasons to Be Cheerful theme for Chandler’s Ford Today this week, what reasons could we have for the writing community specifically? Some thoughts:-

1. We get the joy of creating interesting characters and then dump them right in the mire. We then have the additional pleasure of working out whether they sink or swim.

2. Positive feedback from readers is truly wonderful. (We really do appreciate good reviews, folk!).

3. There is nothing to beat the buzz of knowing you’re going to be published whether it is online, in print, or both. That buzz does not fade over time either. How often can you say that about something?

4. Story creation occupies the brain, inspires the imagination (and the more you write, the more that happens), and is just a fabulous thing to do. And there are markets for it! Creativity is a major part of what makes us human and for someone like me who cannot draw, sculpt or what have you, writing gives me a creative outlet I can enjoy.

5. You get to explore ideas. You can “live other lives” through the lives of your characters. (Mind you, if you are a crime or horror writer, I wouldn’t take this literally!!).

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Have been catching up on reading this week and that’s been a joy. It’s nice to get back into it again. I still don’t really know what that took a dip when the lockdown started.

Maybe my subconscious felt you can do one creative activity, Madam, but you’re not doing two. Well if that is the case, my subsconcious can pack its bags. Don’t want that happening again. I love reading and writing equally and that’s the way it should be.

I’m looking forward to sharing my CFT post with you tomorrow. It’s called Reasons to be Cheerful (and yes I am of that age who recalls Ian Dury and the Blockheads!). I’ll be sharing some positives. It is very much a time for the more cheery post I think.

I hope there is plenty of cheering for the NHS and key workers shortly! (This post was written on Thursday 16th April 2020. Oh and there was!).

 

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Hope to get my flash fiction piece submitted later this week. Then time to pick another competition to try. It helps me “raise my game”. Anything that doesn’t get placed I can rework and submit elsewhere later on so I see that as a great way of ensuring I’ve got new material out and about somewhere.

Have been taking part in a friend’s book and author game today (my entries included Stormy Weather by Gail Force and Standing Upright by Ei Leen Right amongst others).

Fun and pun games like this are great for writers. Why? As well as being fun to do, it makes you realise how good or otherwise your vocabulary is to be able to find those puns! Another challenge to raise my game then! I’ve always had a soft spot for word games, I think most writers do. It’s great to play with the language and see what you can come up with. You can also use games like that to help get you into your writing session or as a way to wind down from one.

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I’ve been talking about reasons to be cheerful tonight but for flash fiction writing, I find I have to set the mood for my lead character pretty much from the outset. There isn’t the word count space to allow for much in the change of mood.

I use mood (shown through dialogue or thoughts) to indicate the attitude of the character. You will know within a line or so what my character is going to be like in terms of attitude to others and so on.

The advantage of setting mood quickly is I hit the ground running with my stories. I take you straight into the action/setting.

The disadvantage of doing this is you are showing your hand as a writer immediately. So any surprises you want to bring in do have to come as twist in the tale finales that are appropriate to the character and the set-up.

But then that’s fine with me! I love reading and writing those kind of tales. It’s just that if you want to show lots of mood changes, you would probably be better off with a longer, standard length short story, rather than flash fiction. Flash has to show up THE single most important point of a character’s story. Anything that is not directly relevant to the story has to be cut out. The message here is then to focus on what you really need to get across.

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Very good turn out for the NHS and key workers around my way tonight. Well done, all.

What can you learn from flash fiction?

1. What you really need to know about the character in it. A good flash fiction story will leave you with the feeling nothing more could be added to it. Also that nothing could be taken away. You will have insight into the lead character in well chosen words equally well placed. One word can completely turn the mood of a story.

2. What the story really is – with flash there’s no room for anything that isn’t relevant to the tale. This is why I think it is a great thing for all writers to do. Concise, precision writing is useful no matter what your main writing work might be.

3. What words give “value for money” and can carry weight for you. He raced uphill is far stronger in impact than he ran quickly up the hill and you save three words!

4. You will lose all fear of killing adverbs. No more “ly” words when a stronger word will do the work for you. No more she said irritatedly when you can say she snapped.

Whatever you are working on at the moment, have fun with it! I find flash great fun to write and having fun with your writing is vital. It helps keep you going.

One of the joys of loving stories is that this comes in really useful for you as a writer.

You can work out what it is about the stories and their characters you love. From there, you can try to work out how the writer achieved this. Is there something you can use there? If your favourite story has a feisty character, how has the author shown that? They won’t have just told you the character is like that.

Also it is the love of stories that drew us into writing our own in the first place so it is only right that we should keep that love going! We need to be inspired. Reading widely fires up our own imaginative powers so there you have it – the perfect reason to keep reading! But the better thing is to let that reading inspire your writing and you keep writing too!

 

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Fairytales With Bite – Why Analyse Fairytales?

Analysing any kind of writing will help you work out what made a writer decide to write the story in the way they have. There is a lot to be learned from that.

You can also learn from stories you’ve disliked. Work out what it was your disliked and why. Then you know what to avoid in your own! Also work out what you like and dislike about the characters for the same reasons.

Fairytales are interesting to analyse because most of them have a message behind them. Work out how the fairytale gets that across without being preachy. How can you use that for your own stories? How do the characters illustrate the points made? Do they learn from the mistakes they make in the course of the tale? When wrongs are corrected, how is that done?

Fairytales are realistic about cruelty. There is no glossing over Snow White’s stepmother’s deeds, for example. But the reason for her cruelty is pure and simple jealousy, which remains such a powerful motivator. So look at your cruel characters and ensure their motivations are strong enough to justify, if only to themselves, their reasons for being the way they are.

Fairytales can also be tales of redemption. Would such a thing work for your creations?

Fairytales mainly have happy endings. Is a happy ending appropriate for your tale? How can you make that happen in your story without it being sickly sweet? Characters in fairytales generally deserve their happy ending. Do yours?

So just on these points alone, I think fairytales are well worth analysing for tips on improving your own writing!

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This World and Others – What Is Important?

This is a good question to ask because it will depend on your characters. A character on a quest is going to think getting to their destination is the most important thing of all. A ruler will consider achieving what they want to achieve is the most important thing (for good or ill. A real test of whether a ruler is a villain is whether what they seek enriches them or genuinely helps those who they rule over! Same as here really!).

So you need to decide what your characters think are the most important things of all. Then you put problems in their way to stop them achieving their most important things of all. The story fires up when they work out how to overcome all of that, assuming they do.

You also need to decide what is the most important aspect to your story. Yes, especially in a novel, there is room for sub-plots but they should seek to serve the main one and never be an “add-on”. They should blend seamlessly into the main narrative.

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Mixing Things Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Italian Job (with the wonderful Michael Caine).

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

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

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

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

And my own favourite one liner from a story?

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

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

Allison Symes and published works

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fairytales with Bite – The Downside of Magic

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

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

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

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

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

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This World and Others – Hobbies and Interests

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

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

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

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

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Merry Christmas, Everyone

Image Credit:  Pixabay, unless otherwise stated.

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Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope you have lots of lovely books as presents and plenty of time in which to read them. Now if that’s not a good wish, I don’t know what is!

Hang on, I can think of another. If you’re a writer, may you be inspired by plenty of excellent ideas and have lovely stationery as gifts to jot down those thoughts, which will surely become works of genius in years to come.

Yes, I think that counts as a good wish too. Not quite sure how Santa can deliver that one exactly but I am sure the great man will think of something!

Have a wonderful time. Will be back online in a few days.  NB:  I don’t know if I’ll be posting on Friday as, if I do, it will only be a link to my CFT post and I may save that until next Tuesday.

 

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I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Whether you write books or read them or ideally do both, I hope you find plenty of fascinating new material to be enjoying in 2020.

Not sure what my plans writing wise are for the rest of this week but I am planning a CFT post which will be a review of my writing year. I will also be sharing a few timeless wishes. Link up later in the week.

There is a surge of reading at this time of year for obvious reasons but I do hope that leads to a surge of reviews in the usual places in the New Year! As a certain supermarket would say, every little bit helps!

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I was reminded of the power of words and music to move the human spirit at the Carols by Candlelight Service I went to this evening.

Firstly, I heard the most beautiful rendition of O Holy Night I’ve ever heard (well done to the two ladies concerned) and it was one of the loveliest things I’ve heard EVER regardless of musical style etc. The congregation was deeply moved by it. I was close to tears (of the good variety).

Secondly, even without the familiar tunes, the carols are great poetry in and of themselves (and they all tell a story too so I’d love them for that reason alone).

I also read the poem Shepherd by Lisa Debney which was a great pleasure to do. It takes an unusual angle on the Christmas story – that of someone coming to terms with Jesus as a baby – and the words are so moving.

Words – and music – are wonderful things. Any of us working with either or both are so privileged. Enjoy!

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I’ve created a book trailers page on my website. As well as the one for From Light to Dark and Back Again, there are trailers for Nativity and Transforming Being, both of which I have stories in. A big thank you to #GillJames for her wonderful work in creating these three.

I’ve also included a short video I created for Job Satisfaction which is in FLTDBA. I hope to add more trailers (and things I creat too) on this page every so often.

Meanwhile I hope you enjoy the new page!

Nativity Medium

FromLightToDark_medium-2

Image from Chapeltown Books

Transforming Being

Transforming Being. Image by Bridge House Publishing.

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Merry Christmas, everyone. I’ll be offline for a few days. I hope you all have a lovely break – and enjoy plenty of flash fiction, whether you’re reading or writing it (or both), of course.

To finish here are some of my micro Christmas stories. Hope you enjoy!

1. Scrooge grimaced as he walked home, having heard some youngster tell a snippet of a ghost story. Ghosts! Whatever next?

2. In the bleak midwinter, they could have done with a snow plough.

3. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer found that telling everyone he was suffering from a nasty cold stopped the awkward jokes about what he was adding to his water trough to generate said red nose.

4. Frosty the Snowman was the first to admit he really could not appreciate the benefits of central heating.

Allison Symes – 2019

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Thought I’d share one of my flash fiction stories. Hope you enjoy it.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

She knew she had to stop it. It wasn’t doing her any good and any comfort she derived from it had vanished long ago.

She put on her huge black coat, it made her look slim, grabbed her cavernous bag and shook out the massive pork pie she stored in there. She grimaced at it, picked it up and, as she left her flat and walked out of the roadway, she dumped the pie in the community bin.

Today she would start again. Enough was enough. She took a deep breath and headed to where she knew the slimming group met. She’d put off going for ages. But today was different.

She was NOT going to be mistaken for a giant tomato on legs again by anyone. She would show the world she could do it.

And when she had she would get the most rotten tomatoes she could find, hide and hurl the things at those people who’d humiliated her tonight. She knew where they were. They did not know where she was. And it would stay that way.

A year later, the local papers appealed for help in tracking a mystery assailant going around pelting rotten veg at people coming off the 28 bus at different times.

She laughed.

ENDS

Have a wonderful, story filled Christmas and New Year!

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There are certain things about the Christmas story I particularly love – and those are the telling details (which is highly appropriate for a flash fiction writer as only the most important nuggets of information are included in our stories. We have no room for anything else and readers have to fill in the gaps though, for me, that is the joy of flash. I love having to work things through like that and picking up on the implications etc).

One such nugget is the Bible story says Mary was perplexed by the angel’s greeting to her and wondered what kind of greeting this could be. Firstly, I can just picture that (!), and secondly, it makes Mary so real. It would’ve been very odd NOT to react that way I think.

When it comes to our own stories, our characters’ reactions MUST be realistic to the situations we’ve put them in. Readers should be able to think yes, I’d react like that or yes, I could see why they would react this way but I would have…

So when reviewing your stories look at how your characters react to something. Is that reaction reasonable? If a character goes “over the top”, can a reader understand why they might do that?

Happy writing!

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I love the poem The Night Before Christmas. It’s a wonderful story told in rhyme. As is The Gruffalo. I admire hugely anyone who can tell a story in rhyme like that. It’s such a challenge NOT to go for slightly awkward phrasing just so you get the rhyme you want.

Flash fiction can be told in poetic form and I occasionally experiment with this. It’s an interesting challenge but not something I’d want to do regularly. If there’s an award for most difficult category of writing ever invented, I think it would have to go to poetry. So hats off to all poets out there!

But flash fiction writers can learn a lot from poets. DON’T go for awkward phrasing just so you can achieve a desired word count. Your phrasing has to read naturally. You don’t want anything to jar with a reader. You do pick up on “duff” notes in the rhythm of your prose and I know when I’ve come across it in something I’ve read, it throws me. The writing will have to be pretty special to make me keep reading after that.

I write a flash fiction piece, edit it until I’m happy with it, and THEN select the competition or market it is best suited for. When a competition comes up for, say, a 250 word piece, but my story works better at 300, I won’t crop it. I’ll save it for another competition.

Incidentally unless a competition or market specifically says otherwise, it is okay to come in UNDER the required word count. I’ve found though my work tends to come in at 20 or so words below whatever the limit is and that is deliberate on my part. It means I’ve got a little bit of room to manoeuvre if I need it and allows for those places where the title IS part of the word count. You’re never going to have a 20 word title, are you?!!

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Goodreads Author Blog – 

Why Everyone Needs a Writer in their Life

If you’re not a writer yourself, you definitely need one in your life somewhere. Why? Well for one thing, you’ll have an easy present buy for said writer.

If we don’t give you a list of books we’d like to find under the Christmas tree, we’ll always appreciate nice pens and notebooks!

But the chances of us NOT asking for books, in whatever format, are extremely remote. Nor will we ever moan about a book shaped present waiting for us! We don’t care we know it’s a book in there. We just want to find out which one you picked out for us!

And this is why I loved receiving book tokens as presents too. I relished the thought of going to pick up my own present after the Christmas holidays – the thought of all that choice…oh good!

I don’t know about you but I always find it a joy buying presents for people where I know they’re going to like said present. And writers as a rule fit that category very well.

I can’t think of any writer who would pass on the option to have books bought for them!

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What Books Mean To Me Part 3

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, all images are from Pixabay. A big thank you to my guests on the Chandler’s Ford Today Series What Books Mean to Me for supplying photos.

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I’m delighted to share the final, bumper edition of my What Books Mean To Me series for Chandler’s Ford Today. A big thank you to all of fantastic guests for sharing their insights here. It has been a superb series to put together and great fun!

This time Gail Aldwin, Paula Readman, Jim Bates, Wendy H. Jones, Val Penny and yours truly answer the three questions I set.

I asked which ONE book would you save in the event of a disaster, what does reading mean to you, and what do you think reading has done for you as a writer.

As ever, do share your thoughts on the books you’d save over on the CFT page.

A HUGE thank you to all of my guests appearing in the What Books Mean to Me series on Chandler’s Ford Today.

The series was great fun to put together. The wide variety of books chosen to save was amazing (as were the reasons why).

There is plenty to learn from also when my guests discussed what reading had done for them as writers (and of course continues to do).

If you were ever in doubt about the importance of reading for writers, do check this series out. My guests’ comments will leave you in no doubt that the best thing any writer can do to help them improve their craft – read and read widely and read lots. But, hey, don’t just take our word for it. Get on and read and discover how true this is for yourself (and the great thing is you can include reading the posts as part of that!).

Incidentally one of the joys of my CFT posts is choosing a Feature Image (nearly always from those magnificent people at Pixabay). Isn’t the library image for this week’s post just gorgeous?! See the slideshow!

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W = Welcome into a new world (sometimes it’s this one but seen from a new angle).

R = Real characters you can identify with come to life before your eyes as you read and you root for them all the way to the finish.

I = Imagination. The writer has clearly shared theirs with you. Does your imagination picture the world the writer has created clearly enough? Does the story spark your imagination and maybe inspire you to write your own stories or, even if that is not the case, can you think how the characters might live on after the book is finished? The latter shows the characters really are “live”.

T = Tension. There should be plenty of that, even in the funniest of books. Characters have to strive for something important. Other characters should get in their way for good reasons of their own. No tension/conflict = no story.

I = Intensity. Does the story grip you with its intensity? Do you feel the emotions the characters are being made to feel? (You should. No cardboard cut out characters here, thank you).

N = Narrative should be lively and speed the story along. The information given here should be crucial to your enjoyment of the tale.

G = Genre. Read widely in many! Think how many worlds you can explore through book covers if you do that!

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Looking forward to sharing Part 3 of What Books Mean to Me on Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. It has been great fun putting this series together and there have been some fabulous insights and books selected to be saved. More to come on Friday!

My guests this week are #GailAldwin, #JimBates, #PaulaCReadman, #WendyHJones, #ValPenny and…. er… Allison Symes. Well I thought I should answer the three questions I set! Never ask other writers questions you’re not prepared to answer yourself!

(And if the series gives you a marvellous Wish List for a certain season due in a couple of months’ time, even better!).

Second image in was taken on my phone at the pub just before the Waterloo Arts Festival in the summer. Here are three happy flash fiction writers – Paula Readman, Gail Aldwin, oh and me.

Many thanks to Wendy Jones and Jim Bates for supplying their pictures. Val Penny and I were having a selfie moment at the Winchester Writers’ Festival earlier this year.

Do check out everyone’s thoughts on what books mean to them on Friday. Meanwhile, there are Parts 1 and 2 to catch up on over at CFT.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Glad to say I will be having more stories on Cafelit later this month and into November. Two of them are linked. I’ve experimented with linked flash fiction stories this year and have found these to be good fun. I think the trick, if there is one, to them, is to ensure the link is strong enough and don’t keep it going for too long. Will keep you posted.

Tying in with my post on my author page, here is another acrostic which I hope shares some good tips.

F = Flesh out your character who is going to be the focus of your flash fiction story. Why are they the star of your story? What is special about them? Some of that needs to come through so your reader picks up on their special qualities and will want to read on. (Not necessarily all by the way. Readers won’t need the full biography! Just give the readers what they need to know.).

L = Lively pace. Well nobody wants a dull read, do they?

A = Animated character(s). They’ve got to be the type of people who readers will want to root for and, in the case of villains, are perhaps a little sorry when they lose (assuming they do).

S = Setting(s) to be places readers could picture, even if the setting is a fantastical world beyond any known galaxy. What is there readers can identify with? (That even on Planet QZog, the females of the species have trouble getting their men to put the bins out?).

H = History – character and setting. There won’t be a lot of room in a flash fiction tale of course, so imply what you can when you can. A character’s thoughts can be a useful device here as they consider what action they will take based on the circumstances you’ve put them in. They will decide what to do based on their past experience and also based on any known history of their country etc, as indeed we do.

What do I want my flash fiction to be?

1. Entertaining. (Never despite the value of the escapism value of a book or story. The ability to escape into a good story is invaluable and I’m convinced has health benefits too).
2. To have the impact on a reader I hoped it would, whether it be to make them laugh, scream, or, where appropriate, both.
3. To be something I can be proud of – not just now but years on when I can look back at it and think, yes I loved writing that story/book and I still enjoy reading it.
4. A good character study, even if my character is a rotten piece of work. (Marvellous fun to write up though!).
5. To sometimes, and where appropriate, give a reader (and me) pause for thought.

Fairytales with Bite – What Books Mean to Me

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed interviewing my guests for the Chandler’s Ford Today series for the past three weeks. But linking that into fiction writing, I’ve got to ask what do books mean to your characters? Are your characters set in a world where they can read and books are easily available? Or are their stories preserved in other ways?

When you think about it, we have not had the printed word for that long compared with how long we have had the oral storytelling tradition. I love both “formats” and long may they reign but what would your characters know best? What is their technological equivalent to the Kindle if they have it? What fictional books would they read?

You can also ask that last question as you create your characters. Their choices may well tell you a great deal about them (and do query why the choices are the ones they are. Do they love, as I do, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice because they appreciate irony? How do they express their own irony and is it appreciated? Does it land them in trouble?).

Thoughts to ponder!

This World and Others – Goalposts

When you create a setting for your characters, do you set up goalposts for yourself? What do I mean by that? Simply, do you set limits for the setting that you absolutely have to know about before you write?

For example, you may decide you need to know the history of the town your lead character lives in but not of the neighbouring villages. There’s one limit set (one goalpost if you like that you won’t cross!).

Look at what you decide you need to know and examine why you need that. You should have no problems justifying those choices. What does pay is if thoughts occur to you about your setting that do not appear to be relevant, do jot them down anyway. You may find they come in useful later on in the story draft.

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Post-Swanwick and Reading Time

Publication News

Another story, The Delivery, will be on Cafelit very soon. Will share more details and the link next time. One thing I absolutely love about writing is the thrill of being published never diminishes.

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I expect the post-Swanwick blues to hit me on Monday when up to neck in the daily chores once again. What will keep me going is (a) looking forward to next year’s event (can’t start that too early, can you?) and (b) cracking on with my writing goals.

There was a four letter acronym at one of the courses which I’m not going to forget in a hurry and which I won’t repeat on here. (Get On With It is a politer version!). Let’s just say it’s all the motivation I need when the blues strike!

And one of the things I love about writing is the fact it DOES take you away from the world for a bit. I always feel better after writing, whether it is a short session or longer one, and that, for me, will always be reason enough to write at all.

 

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Catching up with some reading now I’m back home again. It does seem odd NOT to be talking writing and books all the time (but for the sake of my family and friends, it is just as well!).

Have written down some goals and a rough timescale in which to achieve them. When outlining my stories, I do actually then get on and write them so am hoping the same will happen with the goals I’ve set myself. (It does seem more real putting them down on paper, which is vital).

Have some blog posts to prepare so time to get on but I’ll leave some mottoes for genre writers to consider!

Fantasy Writers – Off In a World of Our Own

Crime Writers – Desperately Seeking Someone Annoying to Kill for Next Book

Horror Writers – It is Always Fright Night

Historical Fiction – The Past IS my present (career!).

Delighted to say another story of mine will be up on Cafelit soon. More details later in the week.

I’ll also be sharing a few thoughts on why I love Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for CFT on Friday. I will also be looking at why writers should keep developing and honing their craft (which is only one good reason to love Swanwick as you have plenty of opportunities to do this there!).

Whether you go to conferences or not, getting out and about every now and then is a good thing for a writer. Trips out are splendid opportunities for people watching and you never know what you will come across on a visit.

One of the issues I have, given I write fairytales with bite, is it does make it difficult to find a place of direct relevance to my storytelling! I’ve yet to come across Fairyland…!😀😀 (And I am NOT the right age for Disney!).

But what I do is look for points of interest that may help feed the background of my stories later.

I went to Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight a couple of years ago and came across a psaltery there. You were allowed to play its strings and the sound was beautiful. Have not used this recollection in a story yet (note the yet!). It is funny what images and sounds stick in the memory though. What I do know is those images and sounds will come in useful for stories at some point.

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Well I’ve had my Slimming World weigh in. Only half a pound on, which is my best ever result after a week at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School! Now if I could only manage that at Christmas…

One downside to writing is it that it is not conducive to exercise! Exercising the little grey cells to come up with the next blog post or story doesn’t exactly shed the calories. My main exercise is walking Lady at least three times a day (though one of those walks is her sprinting after her ball. She’s been playing lately with an 8.5 year old collie called Mobi and it has been great hearing a thundering collie gallop in perfect stereo!).

My other exercise is swimming. I did thnk when I first started swimming, I would be bound to come up with story ideas etc during it. Not a bean! Aside from ensuring I’m not in anyone’s way and getting round those who may be in mine (!), I tend not to think of much at all. But that I guess is where the relaxing side to swimming comes in. Freeing the mind for a while frees it up later to be creative again.

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I was “mugged” by the dog on my return from Swanwick so I was in no doubt she WAS pleased to see me back!😃😃 Dogs are very in your face about how they feel – literally so at times. There is no pretence about them, which is one of their great strengths.

Humans… well that’s another story. We have to work out how people are feeling (or guess at it) when there are no obvious clues to work with.

How do your characters show emotion? (Not in quite the same way as my dog I presume!). Are they “open” emotionally or is it hard work to get any reaction out of them?

In a flash story, there isn’t much room for detailed emotional relationships. I tend to focus on one main character and love to show what their emotional state is via their thoughts. It is direct, saves a lot on the word count, and you as a reader see what the character really thinks (even if the character is kidding themselves).

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F = Fun to write
L = Lively character(s)
A = Action immediately
S = Stories great for ending with a twist
H = Heroes/heroines are dropped right in it from the start

F = Finite story length but you do have some choice
I = Imagination intense to make an intense story work
C = Character(s) has/have to grip you immediately.
T = Tension, yes there’s plenty of that and not a lot of space to resolve it.
I = Intensity can vary. Reflective pieces can work well but the character has to be compelling to make that successful.
O = Oh my… what is your flash tale’s “oh my” moment?
N = Narrative take? I often favour first person.

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Sparks for flash fiction ideas have come to me from:-

1. A scene in classic Ealing comedy, The Ladykillers.
2. Pride and Prejudice.
3. Historical events.
4. Fairytales including narrating from the fairy godmother’s POV
5. Frankenstein
6. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
7. St. George and the Dragon (though my take on this is not the usual one!).
8. Crime stories
9. Nursery rhymes
10. Owning a dog!

The more you can mix up where you get your sparks from, the better. The more you read and take in from different genres including non-fiction, the better. Yes, watching film can help too. (When all is said and done, you are taking in a story this way. It’s just in a visual format).

Happy ideas sparking!

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Unless I’m writing for a specific competition or market, I don’t always know what word count my flash fiction will end up being. I’ve learned not to worry about this.

I write my idea up and then see what I have to work with. I then edit it and polish it, and check the word count then. If it is close to a standard format (e.g. 110, 40, 230 etc), I will edit it to get to that point (e.g. 100, 50, 250). This makes finding a home for the piece easier to do.

If I really can’t polish the story any more, then I submit it to a market or competition which is open on word count. It really is a case of finding the right home for your story and sometimes that takes a little longer than I’d like but it is the only way I know of to increase my chances of story acceptances.

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reading Time

I’ve not long got back from the fabulous Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and, naturally, I picked up some wonderful books from the Book Room here.

What I didn’t get while I was there was any time to do any reading! After a full day of courses, workshops, catching up with old friends, and making new ones, I was far too tired to do much in the way of reading.

I managed to read two magazine articles while I was there! Hmm… not much at all in six days.

Of course, this has meant my TBR pile has increased but there are worse problems in life than that one!

Having said all of that, I was taking in plenty of great material via the course presentations etc and that was the important reading I did want to focus on.

Catching up with my reading will cheer me up immensely as the post-Swanwick and back to the real world blues hit home.

There is much to be grateful for when it comes to reading!

My usual routine is to give myself enough time to read before sleeping and I will often dip into a magazine at lunchtime, say. That was out of the question while I was away but being immersed in a world totally dedicated to reading and writing stories, books, scripts, non-fiction etc. was fantastic.

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Triggers and the Dreaded Lurgy

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On my desk is a calendar with pictures of dogs and a motto alongside them. Today’s one shows a puppy (who looks as if it has just been told off for something!) and the motto is “Even a puppy will endure the unendurable out of love”. And it is true. Dogs are so fantastically loyal and loving. But the motto led me to think about using that for character creation.

In the words of the Meatloaf track “I’ll do anything for love but I won’t do that“, well… just what WILL your characters put up with or go through for love? What WON’T they do? How did they develop the love they have? Is anything putting that love under strain? What would make them snap?

It’s not just romantic love either that can be the focus here. It can be the love of country, the love for an ideal or what have you. How would your characters react if that love was betrayed or spoilt in some way?

Hmm… good stories to be found there I think!

Looking forward to going to the Chameleons’ latest production during the week.

With a title of “They Came from Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen’s Guild’s Coffee Morning”, I think it’s a safe bet I’m in for a good laugh or several!

I’ll be reviewing the production in due course but will be looking at the importance of good titles in my next CFT post. This one though I admit is a great example of a title which tells you its genre – sci-fi spoof, a genre of which I’m very fond. (I do miss Red Dwarf!).

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Delighted to say I’ll have more publication news next week. Heard today so a great start to this week! The story concerned is a longer one than normal from me but one which has great personal meaning. So that will give you something to ponder! Can’t wait to share the link in due course.

Am currently preparing another story for submission and have a few very short pieces to submit elsewhere too. Making good progress on the novel too, though these things always take longer than you initially think. And that is still true even when you’ve been writing for years and know to allow LOADS more time than your initial estimate!

 

There are different ways to trigger flash fiction stories. A few I’ve used include:-

1. Set a word count and stick to it. (I did this when responding to Cafelit’s 100 word challenge and still do!). You can also use the Twitter character count here for the same thing.

2. Set a theme and stick to it – and then decide whether the story works better at 50 words, 500 words, or what have you and pitch to the appropriate market/competition. (I’ve done this too and how the story works has got to be the only benchmark here. The nice thing with flash is all of its sub-divisions in terms of word count so you will find something to suit).

3. Take a well known phrase or proverb and see what you can do with it storywise. (A favourite of mine. Usually gives you the title too!).

4. Find a source of pictures, pick one to write about. Come back to the others at later dates. My writing diary has inspired me here, I’m glad to say. Guess who will be trying to get the same diary next year. It has proved very useful!

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Sorry for the no-show last night. Bad case of the dreaded lurgy hit me yesterday afternoon and that was it for me for the rest of the day. Good to be back at the desk now though. I actually feel human again!

Gave Lady her first ever Kibble ice “lolly” today. After initially looking at me as if to say “what’s this then, Mum?”, Lady soon got the hang of it and demolished it quickly. Mind, she demolishes most things quickly. I suspect she’ll be having more of these “lollies” tomorrow. Due to get to 31 degrees where I am. Hmm…

Do I find writing more difficult in the heat? Not really. As long as I’ve got plenty of ventilation, I just plough on. Have got to go to London on Saturday. Am hoping it’s a bit cooler by then. It rarely gets cold on the Tube!!

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What sparks a story idea for you? It’s never just one thing for me but the following are some of my story triggers.

1. A snippet of overheard conversation. It doesn’t have to be particularly “juicy” either. Something as mundane as “I told her the hat looked stupid” can stir up story ideas.

2. A phrase or proverb which I know will make a great title. It’s then a great challenge to find a story idea to suit it! But I like titles and challenges like that. I just have to write to the title.

3. Clothes/hats if they’re particularly striking will make me wonder what characters of mine would wear something similar and in what circumstances. Good start for a story that.

And a particular favourite of mine…

4. Taking the viewpoint of fairytale characters but not those of the main “stars” of said fairytales. My first story in print was A Helping Hand in the Bridge House anthology Alternative Renditions and tells the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of the youngest stepsister. Good fun to write and still a favourite of mine.

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What can a flash fiction story do better than a longer standard length competition kind of tale?

1. Level of intensity is stronger in flash fiction. When you want to make a huge emotional impact on your reader, the less said the better a lot of the time. This of course is where flash comes into its own.

2. One-liners can lose some of their impact in a longer story. They can work really well as the ending of a flash fiction piece. Leave your audience laughing etc.

3. Every story should create images and emotional reactions in their readers. Flash can get to the heart of all of this that much quicker.

4. Sometimes THE moment is THE story and flash with its word count restriction would serve this kind of tale well. It doesn’t work for everything. Hamlet can’t be less than it is for example but where you only want to show the impact of one action on one character, a flash story is almost certainly the best vehicle for this.

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The dreaded lurgy yesterday afternoon meant the only flash I was capable of was the quick dash to the bathroom, hence the no-show. Is it a bird, is it a plane, no it’s me and nothing but nothing is stopping me getting to the loo in time! Am so glad to be feeling much better today. Must admit the heat does not help. I prefer a much milder temperature, as does Lady, my border collie cross.

The worst bit of yesterday was the feeling I just couldn’t focus, no matter how much I wanted to, so in that situation, you’re better off giving in to the inevitable. Did I miss my writing yesterday? You bet. Did I resent being poorly and keeping me away from said writing? Oh yes…!

The nearest I’ve got to writing about poorly characters is my Calling the Doctor (which is in the book trailer on this page so please do check it out). I suppose one reason I don’t write on this angle much is because I really do enjoy dropping my characters right in it and see how they manage! (I know, I know – I’m all heart!). I guess if they were poorly, I don’t think I could do that to them (told you I was all heart) and therefore I think it scuppers my writing for them.

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Goodreads Author BlogI’m “Just” Reading

Do you ever feel guilty when you get to relax with a book? I must admit I do sometimes. There are always other things I could be getting on which would be more obviously useful.

However, that is the point. Those other things will always be there. And all writers know you need to read widely and well to feed and nurture your own imagination.

So I will continue to “just” read as and when I can though the majority of my reading time is at bedtime. It is the perfect way to wind down before sleeping (though this may be why it is just as well I’m not a huge fan of horror. I don’t want to be too scared to go to sleep!).

Flash fiction and short story collections are a great boon for people whose reading time is limited, given they make good books to dip into for those breaks in the day when you have a lovely ten minutes to relish a cup of something nice and get to “steal” some reading time to go with it. (So now you know what I do when I have a cuppa!).

I’ve never had time for those who look down on genre fiction as somehow being less worthy. Genre fiction – and reading for entertainment only – brings people into reading. Who knows what they will go on to read but it is vital that spark to read is ignited. Besides being able to entertain others with words you’ve written is something rather special.

The purpose of reading from a writer’s viewpoint is to engage with the reader whether you’re reading something serious or something light. Nobody says it has to be deadly dull and worthy. Let it be what it is – an entertaining read. It really is good enough (and more difficult to achieve than some people think).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books, Books, Books!

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I suspect I’m preaching to the converted with the title for this post but never mind!

Books have been a vital part of my life since goodness knows when but I’ve only been writing since I turned 30…. X number of years ago!! Quite a considerable number of years in fact but not so many as when I first discovered the joys of reading and would spend many a happy hour in the local library.

Why did it take me so long to make the connection between “you really love books and stories” and “you really like writing your own stories” so you should become a writer? Goodness knows. Looking back on it, it is daft I didn’t start writing sooner but the main thing is I am writing now!

My advice to anyone pondering if they should write or not is to give it a go and have fun creating characters and stories. Whether you then try to get published is up to you. There’s nothing wrong with just writing for your own satisfaction. What matters is you’re writing and loving it.

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I loved watching the TV series of Black Beauty when I was a kid. That encouraged me to read the book by Anna Sewell. Southern TV, as it was back then, adapted some of the Enid Blyton Famous Five books and I loved those too. Pity they lost the franchise because that ended the series pronto!

So a good TV adaptation can encourage people to get back to the books, which is very much A Good Thing! This also happened with me with Oliver Twist. Alec Guinness and Oliver Reed were superb as Fagin and Bill Sykes. Had to read the book after watching the film.

With The Lord of the Rings, I had read the trilogy first. The magic of those films was bringing to life the images I had conjured up in my head of what Middle Earth looked like. (I still like the look of the hobbit holes. I’m about the right height to live in one too!).

I love it when creative media feeds off AND benefits other creativity like this.

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So terribly sad to see the news about Notre Dame. I hope the damage is as limited as possible. Also that restoration can take place as soon as possible too.

On to other things…

The only time I specifically write to a theme is when entering competitions. I’ve usually got a character in mind when I’m thinking about a new flash fiction story and work out, from their main characteristics, what theme would best suit them. I can’t say whether this is the right or wrong way to do things but I do know it works for me.

My other use of themes is to trigger ideas for a new story and then I spend some time working out which kind of character would best suit it. If I can’t work out a suitable character I don’t write the story.

For me it is all about the characters, always.

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I suppose my first introduction to short stories must have been the Reader’s Digest Collections of Fairytales, which I still have.

I was never conscious of this when reading these books (over and over and over and over again etc!) though I do recall being stunned at how long The Little Mermaid was and that it really didn’t have a happy ending. That was an eye opener for me. I didn’t know stories could be like that!

I also loved The Snow Queen with Gerda being the “action lead”. That was an eye opener too. Here was a girl off having all kinds of adventures to rescue her neighbour from said Snow Queen (and the splinter of the evil mirror in his heart). Loved that on first reading.

Here is where you meet ideas for future characters of your own – by reading widely and discovering them in other stories, then wondering what YOU could do with a character like that. You then wonder what setting YOU would put them in and what adventures/problems YOU set them. YOU wonder how your characters would sound and act and react and all of this comes together, creating a story that is uniquely yours. Writing and reading are truly wonderful things.

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The Book Depository UK has FLTDBA listed as available within 2-3 business days. Amazon currently has it available as one month plus! I don’t know why this happens but it does pay to check out online retailers for availability, whether it is in books or anything else!

And I will put in another word about reviews. They really do help authors. Amazon sit up and take notice if you have 50 reviews. If you’re not sure what to write, one line saying what you liked (or loathed) about the book is sufficient. It is a great irony that even a review where someone didn’t like s book still helps the author of that book when it comes to the “numbers game”.

My own policy for reviews, whether it is for groceries or books, is to have a good look through what people have said. Usually there is a consensus and I can then go with that or not as I see fit but I find reviews a useful guide when I’m on the other side of the fence. So please do review! Thanks!

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I sometimes use alliteration in my flash fiction titles (Pen Portrait, Telling The Time etc) but I haven’t deliberately done this. In each case the title has been the right one for the story and the alliteration is a nice side effect!

I also think it is better to have things that way round rather than try to think of a clever title and try to make the story fit it. I can never see how that would work. Something would feel artificial about it.

I have to have a title to work to when writing a story (of any length) but I will change it if something better pops into my head as I’m working on the first draft. I use my titles to help me set the mood for a story. I sometimes use titles which can have a secondary meaning that the story makes clear.

The important thing is that the title suits the story.

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Once I’ve got a flash fiction collection written and edited, I spend some time working out what would be the best “running order” for the stories. This can take some time but it’s worth it.

From Light to Dark and Back Again lives up to its name (!) but the big plus with that was it helped me group stories beautifully!

The reason for all of this? I don’t just want my individual stories to make an impact on a reader. I want the book as a whole to do so too so taking a step back and planning what stories goes where helps enormously with that.

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What is the worst aspect of writing flash fiction?

For me, it’s coming up with a character with a strong enough voice. Once I’ve got that (after some outlining), I can set that character wherever I want and away they go!

It’s not enough for a character to be pushy or what have you. There has got be strong enough reason for them to be like that. Give them this and you will take the reader with you even though the reading journey for flash fiction is necessarily a short one!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Playing with Genre

With my flash fiction, I like to play with genre a lot. As flash fiction has to be character led due to the strict word count, I can have great fun putting that character wherever and whenever I want. I’ve written fantasy flash fiction, historical flash fiction, crime flash fiction etc as a result.

I’ve read excellent collections by other authors too. Some focus on one genre. The Great War by Dawn Kentish Knox is a great example of a themed historical flash fiction collection. Do check it out. The characterisation is very moving.

But it is not just in the flash and short story form that genre can be played with, far from it.

I love the crossover novel. It blends the best of the two (usually) genres it is mixing and gives something unique to the reader as a result. A good example to check out here is Jennifer C Wilson’s Kindred Spirits series which crosses ghost stories with historical fiction. Great mix!

I think readers are much more flexible over this than writers/publishers realise at times. I know what I like when I read it even if I can’t categorise it! And while categories ARE important, I don’t think they’re meant to be straitjackets either.

Have fun with your reading/writing and mix those genres!

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Reading Journeys and the Role of Stories

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I look at how what I’ve read has changed over the years in my CFT post about Reading Journeys this week. I also look at how the Kindle has impacted on my reading life too (and boy has it! My suitcase is a lot lighter thanks to it!).

I can’t remember what the first book I read all by myself was but wouldn’t be surprised if it was a picture book. I am still very fond of The Reader’s Digest Collection of Fairytales which is beautifully illustrated. I’m also a sucker for a good map (see The Lord of the Rings!).

I’ve said it before, and will no doubt say it again, but adult fiction writers owe a huge debt to those who write for youngsters. So many readers of fiction for adults come from a background of having always read books/had books read to them. It is just a case of tastes changing over time. It is difficult to understate how important it is to create that wish to read spark off in the first place.

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My favourite moment when writing a story or a CFT post is when the piece “takes off”.

For a story, this is when the character hits their stride and there’s no holding them back. You, as the writer, are keen to find out what happens next (which is always a good sign!). And yes I outline but I deliberately don’t put down every detail. I need signposts but what happens between them is the really fun bit!

For a post, it is when one idea leads to another and that leads to more and before you know it, an article is written.

The scary moment? When you’ve outlined an idea and you begin writing and at that point you don’t know whether it is going to “go the distance”. There’s always a certain amount of relief when things “take off” and you realise the post or story will be fine (after editing later, naturally).

Image Credit:  The picture of From Light to Dark and Back Again was taken by my cousin, Raewyn Berry.  My book is on display at her guest house in New Zealand.  It is easily the furthest my book has travelled!

My CFT post this week will take a look at reading journeys and how they change and develop over time (as they should). Good excuse to put lots of pictures of lovely books up too! Win-win! I also look at how methods of reading have developed. Who would have predicted the Kindle when I was growing up in the 1970s?

Do you have a reading list of books you simply must read (in whatever format suits best) before the Grim Library Keeper tells you that you are way overdue and it is time to go?

One of my favourite cartoons is the one of a woman in bed ringing to tell someone her other half has been crushed by his To Be Read pile. I have a nasty feeling life could imitate art for many of us here on that front! So don’t pile them too high, eh?

And I really must go and reduce the height of mine!

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The spark for a new flash fiction story comes from a variety of sources for me. These include:-

1. Hearing a turn of phrase which catches my fancy.

2. A well known saying or proverb. (I can often twist these too so double whammy as far as I’m concerned).

3. I sometimes use a question as the story title. The story of course is then found in answering that question!

4. Writing prompts – picture based, theme set or what have you, I find all of these useful. (My writing diary is a boon for these. I should have 52 new stories by the end of the year at least given there is a prompt set every week!).

5. What is lovely is when a character I’ve created sparks off an idea for a follow-on story but the character and the follow-on idea both have to be strong enough for this to work.

6. I will sometimes put a character name into my title (for example George Changes His Mind). The idea here is to provoke curiosity as to find out who the character is and, in this example, what he changed his mind about! The implication also is that it has to be something reasonably important otherwise there would be no story.

F is for Fun which writing should be
L is for Lines for your characters to say
A is for Action without which a story is dead
S is for Story, the “must know how it ends” reaction
H is for Heroes, of all kinds, caped or not.

F is for Flashbacks which should be kept brief
I is for Imagination – feed yours by reading well
C is for Characters we all want to root for
T is for Truthful Narrators or ARE they? Make us guess!
I is for Illumination, that lightbulb creative moment
O is for Original – you have a unique writing voice
N is for Names – what do they reveal about your “people”?

Allison Symes – 14th February 2019

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Flash fiction can be great for giving little insights into a character and/or their setting which would not be enough for a standard length short story. You can imply their world without going into lots of description.

My Every Little Detail doesn’t spell out who the reader mentioned in the story is until literally the last word but so much is implied in the run-up to that, my closing word acts as a confirming punchline in many ways.

I relish writing stories like that. The fun comes from working out what clues to put in and how best to do so. The reader needs to work things out without you spelling everything out but the clues must enable them to do that.

Fairytales With Bite – Character Traits

I like to look for a major trait in a character and use that to help “round them out”.  For example, if I decide a character is a coward, I dig deeper and look for what has led to the character being like that.  I can also look at whether they’re ashamed of this or not.  Not everything I outline here will make it into my story but I know that if I know what the answers are here, I will write my character with more confidence (and therefore conviction as well) and I believe THAT comes through to the reader.

So useful character traits to consider then could include:-

  1. Cowardice/Heroism;
  2. Being a Liar/Being Honest (the latter could cause as much trouble as the former and the potential for comedy is here too);
  3. Stubbornness/Being Flexible;
  4. Being Unfriendly/Being Sociable;
  5. Being Prejudiced/Being Open.

There are of course many more traits than these and practically every trait has its opposite flaw/virtue which could also be used.

Questions to ask yourself when using these:-

 

  1. How did the character develop this flaw/virtue?
  2. Do they see it as a flaw or virtue?  Are they right about this?
  3. How do others around the character react to them and their flaw/virtue?
  4. What are their society’s expectations?
  5. Does the character change – for better or worse?

Have fun!

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This World and Others – The Role of Stories

We all know how important stories are to us personally and to our society but when creating your own world, what thought have you given to the role of tales there? Does your world have its own legends? What are these? How are these legends shared?

Was/is there an oral storytelling tradition? Are only certain stories allowed (and who chose these and why)? Are books easily available to all (or the technological equivalent)? Is reading encouraged? Are there libraries?

How does your world decide whether something it is civilised or not? You’ll guess from the questions I list above I consider the ready availability of books, libraries, stories being generally available etc to be major considerations as to whether I think something is civilised!

How do the characters in your stories treat books and stories? Do their views agree with those held by their society or not?

The role of stories is important (they’re a great way of getting a message across without preaching and are a wonderful form of entertainment. Does your fictional world treat them in the same way? If not, why not?).

Publication News:  Cafelit

I will have two new stories up on Cafelit on 16th February and 16th March.  Will share links as and when.  I am also pleased to say two stories of mine are being voted on for consideration for the Best of Cafelit 8 print anthology due out later this year.  Will keep you posted on how I do but do check out the Best of books as there are wonderful stories in here from a lovely variety of writers.  (How do I know they’re lovely?  I’ve met them!).

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Collaboration, Picture Books, and Characters

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post is an interview with local children’s writer, Anne Wan. For her latest book, Manners Fit for the Queen, she teams up with local illustrator, Sally Goodden.

The interview looks at the colloborative process needed to produce a picture book and why picture books matter.

For most of us, one of our first introductions to the wonderful world of stories would have been through a picture book. I still love a well illustrated book. (The maps in the Lord of the Rings are fab!).

NB.  I love it when a title for a post just “comes” to me and I particularly like this week’s one.  Picture Books and Other Hooks has a good rhythm to it!

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Looking forward to having a go at the writing prompt for this week from my diary. The prompt is to show the groundhog’s point of view as it prepares to meet his/her public for Groundhog Day (great film incidentally)!

Will have a crack at that challenge over the weekend. Should be fun! I can categorically state I’ve never created a groundhog character before! Am probably unlikely to do so again but it will be fun to find out what comes from this.

Later in the year, there‘s another prompt asking me to list 10 words associated with a train journey. People could have a lot of fun with that depending on which train operator they use regularly! (I think there should have been a comment in the prompt to “keep it clean” but that’s just me!).

As you will have gathered, I love this writing diary!

 

My CFT post this week will be an interview with children’s writer, Anne Wan, and illustrator, Sally Goodden. They recently had a story and craft event at Chandler’s Ford Library based on Anne’s most recent book, Manners Fit for the Queen, which is a picture book.

The ladies discuss how they worked collaboratively and how they met. Picture books look “easy” but are notoriously difficult to get right. The pictures need to convey enough of the story but without giving it all away. The text needs to be pitched right for the age range.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When did you first come across flash fiction? I ask as my latest CFT post looks at picture books and interviews Anne Wan/Sally Goodden on their colloborative work here. It made me realise that my way into reading, as it would have been for many of us, was via well cherished picture books. So on to my great love now – flash fiction – how did I get into that?

For me, it was via the 100-word challenge issued by Cafelit. Prior to that, I’d not heard of the form, yet alone had a go at it! I think part of the “not hearing” about it was due to the term used. I HAD heard about micro fiction but had not been clear about what that meant. I know now!

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A good story will always make you react in some way. I’ve read (and written) stories that are meant to make you laugh or chill you to the bone.

So if a story isn’t working for you as you draft and edit it, look at what impact it is making on you as you read it. Is there an impact at all? If not, there is where the problem is! So think about what impact do you want it to have? How can the characters generate that impact?

If a character isn’t strong enough, ask why. Are they the right character for this story? Do you need to outline them in more depth to get right into their soul and really find out what makes them tick and react?

I’ve found a good way to get started is think of an extreme situation and look at how your character responds to it. For example, a fire breaks out in the character’s house so what do they do? What do they HAVE to save before they get out and why?