Understanding, Publication News, and Aspects of Character

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.

Hope you have had a good week. Have had good publication news this week and I’m particularly proud of this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post. I hope it encourages reading and sheds light on what is needed to portray realistic characters. 

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post called Understanding. I look at how reading promotes empathy and understanding. I also discuss how important it is I understand my characters before I write their stories up. I have got to know where they are coming from regarding their actions and at least a little of how they got to that point.

I also share some thoughts and tips and discuss how a knowledge of human nature is crucial for being able to create characters readers can identify with (and it is okay not to like them by the way. I don’t like all of mine!).

I also look at “point of change” and how this applies to non-fiction as much as it does for fiction. Hope you find the post useful and thought provoking. I hope it encourages understanding of the writing process and encourages you to read even more. Reading is wonderful for encouraging empathy. After all we get “behind” characters we love, yes? Why do we do that? Usually because we can see where they’re coming from and there is your empathy right there!

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In separate news, I am thrilled to say a piece I’ve written about flash fiction will be appearing in Mom’s Favorite Reads (an online magazine) in June. Look forward to saying more about this nearer the time. Lovely way to end the working week (though really every day of the week is a working one for every writer I know – and for me!).

Always a joy to talk or write about flash fiction


Am making progress with swimming. Have got back to doing my old number of lengths per session so am pleased with that. Do I ever think about story ideas while swimming? Not a bit of it. I think about very little – and it’s that aspect I love. It is chill out time especially when, as with today, I swear the water was colder than normal! (I suspect this is done deliberately to ensure you get moving quickly!).

Lady has got used to me going out again well and I am pleased about that. She has loved having us all at home during the various lockdowns and I did wonder how she’d adjust as life slowly returns to some sort of normality but she has been fine.

When it comes to writing characters, do you focus on the glamorous side of things? That is you focus on your heroes and their marvellous qualities? I can understand that but when I’m outlining a character, I look for their major trait first and then how that can be both an asset and a right pain in the proverbial. Most traits can be used that way.

For example, take the trait of courage. The virtues of it are obvious but the downsides? Well, they could range from your brave character simply not being able to understand other characters’ fears and coming across as arrogant and highhanded to your character being reckless for the sake of keeping the brave appearance up to all and sundry.

I also sometimes look at what is behind a trait. Again with courage, what has led to the character developing this? Is it a front to keep their deep down fears at bay? Is it their coping mechanism and so on? What would happen if they were forced to confront those deep down fears? (I would suspect they would not react well – would they be able to get back to their normal courageous front?).

It probably says something about human nature that it is easier to imagine the flaws though!

Character Flaws


Hope you have had a good Wednesday. Lady and her best buddy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, did. Both went home tired but happy.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I’ll be talking about Understanding and I will look at how reading can encourage empathy as well. I’ll also chat about how I need to understand my characters before I can write their stories up and share a few tips.

Reading widely helps so much with your writing. For one thing, you take in how characters and storylines work. You can even do this by reading a book or story you don’t like. Why? Because you can work out what it was you disliked and then try to avoid that in your own work.

Looking forward to being back at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School later this year. I rolled over my place from last year and it will be so nice to get out and about on the train again too to get there. Will be wonderful to catch up with writing pals and be at a live event again.

 

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Just to flag up I will have a piece about flash fiction appearing in Mom’s Favorite Reads (an online magazine) in June. Will share more details nearer the time. Very pleased about this as you can imagine. It is always good to spread the word about flash fiction writing.

Delighted to say my story Got You! is now up on #FridayFlashFiction. Hope you enjoy it and a big thank you to all who have commented on my stories on this website – the feedback is incredibly useful!


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A standard length short story illuminates an aspect of a character’s life and there is usually room for a sub-plot. With flash you do have to focus on the most important aspect of the character’s life. There is no room for anything else but what I love about this is you can imply so much and leave the reader to make their own deductions.

For example, in my story They Don’t Understand (from my debut collection From Light to Dark and Back Again), I have my character come out with the thought “Same bloody patronizing attitude to us peasants”. I don’t need to tell you what this character thinks about authority given that line, do I? It’s obvious and I have found that this kind of implying things has helped me to show and not tell far more effectively.

Flash fiction, with its tight word count, has encouraged that development in me and of course that is going to help with my other fiction writing as well. Win-win!

Flash Fiction focuses on THE important aspect of a character's life


I often use proverbs/well known sayings as titles for my stories and the great thing about doing that is you not only have your title, you’ve got your theme as well.

In Tripping the Flash Fantastic, for my story A Stitch In Time, I take this idea and get my character to reject it and justify why they are rejecting it. That was a fun take to do on the topic.

In my tale The Power of Suggestion I get my character to live up to that title and face the consequences of doing so. There are always consequences!

But you as the writer can have lots of fun taking these proverbs and sayings and using them as you think best. I am fond of twisting them and it is a great way of mixing up how to approach a story.

My favourite method by far is to start with the character.

My second favourite method by far is to use a proverb or saying in this manner as they highlight the kind of character best placed to be in the story.

Fairytales With Bite – The Fairytale Code

If there was a fairytale code, what would you expect from it? My expectations would be such a code would lay down some guidelines for what you could expect to see in a fairytale.

For that I would include:-

  • Good to overcome evil
  • Calling evil out for what it is
  • Cheering on the underdog
  • Rewarding humility and punishing arrogance
  • Things often not being what they seem
  • Characters coveting power/abusing it
  • Characters wanting to thwart said power-mad characters.

What would you include in your fairytale code and why?

I have a soft spot for humorous fairytales (and have written some) but I do love the way such stories can cover a whole range of emotions. I cheered for when things worked out well for The Ugly Duckling. I was deeply saddened by The Little Match Girl (and rightly so too).

Above all, I want to see fairytales cherished by all and not looked down on. I loathe it when someone dismisses something as “just” being a fairytale. There is no “just” about such wonderful stories!

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This World and Others – Identifying Aspects

What makes your created world stand out? What would you say were its chief identifying aspects? What makes it unique? What is it that would attract readers and help us to “place” where we are so we can see what your characters see? I like to see vivid pictures so I can think I would love to live there or, conversely, be very glad that I don’t! But it is those pictures created by your words that have the most lasting impact on a reader.

Think about The Shire from The Lord of the Rings and certain images immediately come to mind, helped no end by the wonderful film adaptations.

What is it about your created world we have to know? What obstacles, natural or otherwise, do your characters have to live with or find ways of overcoming?

What does identity mean for your characters? Are names used or is social status more important? Are any species more important than the others and how did that come about?

Plenty of story thoughts there I think!

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Twitter Corner

 

I thought I’d share here a tweet from the Association of Christian Writers (I’m their Membership Secretary) and my reply to it. Hope you enjoy though I know several writers whose internet research history would make for far more interesting reading than mine!!

 

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Story Types

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Deeply sorry to hear of the death of HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh today – 9th April 2021. His marriage to the Queen is a truly great love story.

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


So sorry to hear of the passing of HRH Prince Philip today. The story of his early life is an amazing tale in itself.

Pleased to share Story Types, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. Hope you enjoy it. I discuss why I mix up the type of thing I read and share what reading widely does for me as a writer. If you ever wanted to know why every writer under the sun tells you to read widely and well, my post is a good place to start to find out why.

Looking forward to my new series which starts next Friday. One good thing about a series on book covers is that I’m not going to have any problems at all in finding pictures to use for this! A huge thanks in advance to the authors who are taking part in this series with me and I will share more on this next week.

Story Types

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Glad to say my new Chandler’s Ford Today post is up tomorrow. This week I’m talking Story Types. I look at the type of stories I like to read (as well as write) and share some thoughts about how mixing up what you read gives concrete benefits to what you write. I look at flash fiction and short stories, as well as novels, and share thoughts on how my reading feeds directly into what I write. It can be forgotten we take in more than we think when we read. For one thing, we unconsciously take in that this is how a book should look etc. Link up tomorrow.

From 16th April, I begin a three part series called Judging a Book by its Cover. Really looking forward to sharing that. I do share my own (of course) but plenty of guest contributors share theirs and what they hope a reader would take from them. Some fascinating insights here. So plenty to look forward to here for the rest of April.

Am so glad there wasn’t any snow today but it’s still cold! More irritated today by the temporary traffic lights just down the road from me were stuck on red in both directions. You can imagine the chaos. Any sign of workmen? What do you think?!

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Another cold day (and yes a little bit more snow today). Brrr…

I was chatting earlier today over at #Val’sBookBundle about book collections you either still have or remember treasuring as a child. And some great memories were shared. I love the whole idea of collections – what a great way to encourage you to keep on reading. (It’s why I also understand and enjoy series novels).

But short story and flash collections encourage you to keep on reading too – just in a different way. I like to read through to see if there are links throughout the book. Even when there are no links, I want to find out what the next story or flash piece is all about. And then I like to work out which of the various characters I liked the most and why. (I can always learn from that).

The important thing then is to keep reading but I am preaching to the converted here, I hope!

My current read is The Diary of Isabella M Smugge by #RuthLeigh (and the hashtag is so apt here, just trust me on that one, or better still, check the book out and find out why).

Am moving on to the first Richard Osman one shortly after that so plenty to look forward to, reading wise. (Don’t watch nearly as much TV as I used to. To be honest, I don’t miss it. The time I would’ve spent watching the box I now spend writing and I feel bereft if I haven’t managed to have my usual creative session here. Anything special that comes on, I tend to record and watch while ironing etc. The glamorous writing life? Err… perhaps not! But it’s still fun and I can’t imagine my life without the writing and that’s a good thing).

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Each flash story I write is the important moment in a character’s life. That is what I want to highlight. You can imply back story but you don’t have much room in which to do it. So how I do this?

I sometimes get a character to remember something.

In my story Enough Is Enough, from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I show you the character’s back story as it leads directly into the action she is going to take.

Sometimes I get the character to relate some of their back story to another character. I do this in The Terrified Dragon where my hero reveals something of his past to the angry villagers surrounding him.

So there are ways in which to do it but, as ever with flash, it is best to be brief! Readers do pick up on things that are inferred and I must admit I love doing this myself whether I’m reading a flash story or a novel. I don’t want the author to tell me everything. I do want to work out some things for myself. I just need the relevant information for me to be able to do that.

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As well as picking appropriate names for your characters and their settings/eras, give some thought to place names. Especially for fantasy and science fiction, these should still be easy for your readers to pronounce. No Mxzyoriaquantian here, thank you!

Whatever you write, it pays to read your work out loud. For novels, a section at a time is good. (I know. I have it easier here writing flash fiction!). But the thing to remember is if you trip over what you read out loud, so will your reader. You don’t want anything getting in the way of their having a fabulous reading experience as they read your latest wonderful prose.

Names should be tested this way. I’d also flag up dialogue or thoughts too. What looks good written down doesn’t always read so well and testing this by reading work out loud will flag up what you may need to simplify. No reader is ever going to moan about having an easy, seamless read. They will moan (and worse stop reading) if you make life unintentionally difficult here.


When I pick names for my flash characters, I obviously try to make the name suit the story genre. For example, in Losing Myself in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, one of the characters referred to is Graxia. That is meant to conjure up an alternative, probably magical, world setting – and the story does take place in one.

In Identity I had an older man as the main character so I went for an older man’s name here – Walter. (That also happens to be the name of one of my grandparents but no my fictional Walter is not based on my granddad! But the name is appropriate to conjure up a sense of age given Walter is not a younger person’s name).

In Being Yourself I thought the name Jane Stephens would give an idea of a lady probably in her late twenties or early thirties and who you wouldn’t be surprised to find working in a library where the story is set.

Keeping an eye out on names prevalent now (as well as using older books of names) is not a bad idea if you need a hand in coming up with suitable names for your people. But always bear in mind your story setting. Does the character name suit that?

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Fairytales with Bite – The Villain

So what would be your definition of a “good” villain? For me, it would be someone (or something!) who is a worthy opponent to your hero and who has understandable reasons for doing what they are/being what they are. Okay, you don’t have to agree with those reasons, far from it, but you should be able to see where the villain is coming from here and what drives them to take the actions they are taking.

It is just as important for the villain to be as well rounded a character as your hero. You need them both to make a great story. No conflict otherwise. And the needs of the villain and the hero should be diametrically opposed. In The Lord of the Rings Frodo Baggins wants to destroy the Ring, Sauron wants to get it back and use its powers. No compromise possible there. There has to be an outcome too.

So thinking about what your villain and hero want and ensuring they are at cross purposes also helps gives structure to your story as there can only be one winner and one ending (happy or otherwise).

A good way of working out what your villain wants is to have a closer look at their background. If a villain, say, comes from a background where the only way out is to be more powerful than everyone else around them, well there’s a pretty powerful motive for you. It would also keep them going. The fear of falling back into being “weak” again would also kick in here.

As with any kind of characterisation, work out what you think you need to know about your people (alternative beings are available!). Work out what drives them. Work out what could get in their way. As you do all that, story ideas will kick in and a good structure along with it. What’s not to like about that?!

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This World and Others – What Helps Your Villains to Thrive?

Is there anything about your created world that encourages villains to thrive? In The Lord of the Rings, Mordor is such a suitable setting for Sauron. (Good question here – does the darkness of Mordor come from him or does he make Mordor dark or is it both?).

Is there anything about your setting that encourages your characters to turn to evil to make their lives better, regardless of what that does to anyone else? What kind of politics exist in your setting that would lead to someone wanting to do whatever it takes to get to the top of the political tree? (And how do they achieve that?).

In a magical setting, do your villains use magic themselves, are they aided by it, or is it something they reject and they obtain power another way?

What is it about your setting that makes it difficult for the hero to beat the villain? If a people have been used to tyrannical leaders for centuries, would they suddenly take to a hero who wants to usher in a more democratic system or would they reject the hero and enable the villain to continue? (There would be a fair amount of fear of change coming in here, another obstacle for your hero to overcome, but does the setting itself contribute to that?).

The obvious use of setting almost as a character in its own right is, for me, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis where it is always winter but never Christmas. That is a powerful image and made me wonder whether that could ever change. Of course, that is the whole point of the story – something has to change and here it is a question of reading on to find out how.

Could you use your setting in a similar way? Does it seem to hinder the hero?

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Editing, Author Newsletter, and Cherished Childhood Books

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And, here in the UK, spring is finally on its way! Have been delighted to see plenty of crocuses already out when walking Lady.

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Saw first lot of blossom out earlier when I was walking the dog. It did nothing for Lady, she is far more interested in sticks and/or squirrels, but it did cheer me up. (Lady was cheered up when she saw a Persian blue cat. Looked lovely. Lady is always curious about cats, wants to play with them, but can never understand why they don’t return the feeling).

Right, writing wise, I’m planning ahead for a couple of my CFT posts. Talking about Musical Connections this week is a real joy as I can share some of my favourite pieces and how I came to discover them. More on Friday. I plan to be writing a couple of useful posts for the two weeks after that which will be of interest, I hope, to newish writers. More nearer the time.

Am also looking forward to sharing more details about the international writing summit soon.

Prep work for my WI talk is going well and am loving getting that ready. Just hope they enjoy it too though I should add it is a good sign when a writer enjoys their work. Why? Well, you are your own first audience to a certain extent and if you don’t like what you’re doing, why should anyone else? BUT it does pay to put some distance in time between what you write and when you evaluate it, otherwise you won’t judge it objectively enough.

You’ll either think this is the best thing since Shakespeare or it’s total rubbish, whatever made me think I could write etc. Neither is true.

What will be true is you’ve got something with promise that needs a darned good edit or two before you submit it anywhere. Now where did I put my red pen?!

Thrilled to bits to send out my first author newsletter today. All went well (much to my relief). If you want to know more do see (the landing page of) my website – I plan to keep the newsletters to monthly only.

I’m using Mailchimp and am discovering new things about it which I know I’m going to find useful. The writing journey is one where you learn all the time and that is a good thing. It is how you make progress after all.

Am busy preparing for a talk I’ll be giving via Zoom next month and that is a lot of fun. Learning how to present material in an entertaining way and thinking about audience needs again is keeping me on my toes but it is all part of the writing life. You need to engage readers with your stories so seeking to engage with a talk is merely an extension to that.

I’m going to be talking about Musical Connections in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week and look forward to sharing that on Friday.

And I’m starting work on a third flash fiction collection too. I hope to have it ready for submission by the end of the year but know it will almost certainly take me that long!

I’ll be editing my non-fiction project fairly soon and hope to be submitting proposals for that during the summer. Normally with non-fiction you would prepare the proposal first but I wanted to prove to myself that I could write the book so I have got a first draft down. Not sorry about that but am always ready for changes! It is what the editing process is for after all.

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Hope your weekend has been a good one. Mine has been quiet but relaxing and lovely. Do you have any days of the week when you know your writing is going to be “down”?

My bad day here is Monday and I know it is because I am busy doing various things, so by the time I get to my desk, I’m pretty tired. So I focus on getting “little” writing tasks done and it is good to tick those off my list for the week. As the week goes on I have more time to write so can use those sessions for longer “creative sprints” – and I do.

So another reason to be glad when Monday is behind me I guess!

It has taken me ages to learn how to use my writing sessions In the most productive way I can but it’s a good thing to be able to do. Overall, you will get more done. Even if you don’t plan out your stories or what have you, planning how best to use your writing time is a good idea.

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NOT a lifelike representation of my writing desk. This one is far tidier!

And she doesn’t look like she’s had a hectic Monday either! Pixabay image


It is lovely to be enjoying some almost spring-like weather in my part of the world right now. It is semi-official as Lady enjoyed her first roll on the grass, upside down, “pedalling” her back legs for all she was worth and having a high old time of it, earlier this afternoon. It is the simple pleasures….! (Oh and before you ask she wasn’t rolling in fox poo or the like as dogs, bless them, are wont to do. I am lucky with Lady there. She doesn’t do it! I know, I know, famous last words and all that!).

Had a lovely couple of Zoom sessions with writing chums from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and the Association of Christian Writers last night. Great start to a weekend and a real tonic. Many thanks, all!

Just a quick reminder to say I’m launching my author newsletter on Monday, 1st March. When you sign up to my email list, you receive a welcome email and in that is a link to a free giveaway containing free stories and thoughts on flash fiction amongst other things. See the landing page for more.

Am currently drafting a flash piece which is making me laugh so that’s a good sign. The story is meant to be funny! It’s not such a good sign when the piece is meant to be serious…!

Am looking forward to sharing more about the writing summit very soon too.

Have a fab weekend!

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Many thanks for the great response to my story video, Discovery, yesterday. (Video link below). I plan to chat a little bit about producing story videos and book trailers in a future Chandler’s Ford Today post. Will share more details nearer the time of that.

Writing stretches you in so many ways and it is good for you! I never envisaged writing flash fiction when I started out, I discovered the form thanks to a happy CafeLit accident. As for book trailers etc., they really weren’t about when I began writing seriously. (I’ve run the gauntlet of using manual typewriters to 486s and the modern laptop so I’ve been about for a while and trust me so much has changed! But generally all to the good. I can’t imagine my life without flash fiction now for one thing!).

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Pleased to share my new story video, Discovery, which I created via Book Brush and then uploaded to Youtube.This is probably the nearest I’ll get to a dystopian story. Hope you enjoy!

 

Do you find it easy to come up with ideas for stories of any length? I use a variety of methods to keep this aspect of things fresh to me and to encourage me to think in new ways when coming up with new characters and situations. From random generators to flicking through books of proverbs, ideas will start to form.

What you read/have read has an influence too and this is the key reason why everyone encourages writers to read, read, read, and then read some more. But bear in mind this reading can take many forms. What matters is taking in the stories. So I read books, I read on the Kindle, I listen to audio books, I read short stories, I read flash, I read novels, I read non-fiction and occasionally some poetry. So the wider you read, the deeper the pool you can fish from for ideas. Besides which it’s fun!

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Well, that’s February almost done and dusted. I like February as the early spring flowers are emerging and give us a hint of what is to come when spring is with us fully.

A good flash fiction story shows you what you need to know for a character in a moment but there should still be hints as to what the character is capable of outside of the story limits. For example, in my story Why Stop Now from From Light to Dark and Back Again, the character there is probably the creepiest one I’ve written. But you see through the narrative how that creepiness has built up.

Flash does have depths to it, despite its word count limit. I will often re-read flash tales to pick up on the hidden depths and in truly great pieces, I find plenty of those. And yes it is a challenge to me to make sure I do the same but that’s no bad thing. Writing should keep us on our toes. I want to find better ways of showing my characters, better ways of coming up with stories and so on. The writing journey is not a static one after all!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Cherished Childhood Books

I owe my late mother a huge debt. She encouraged my love of books and stories from an early age and she was thrilled to see my first story in print, A Helping Hand, in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology way back in 2009. Sadly, Mum didn’t get to see either of my two flash fiction collections (From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic) though my Dad did see the first one.

But thinking about them, and in particular, Mum, led me to recall some of my cherished childhood books. To name a few:-

Black Beauty
Heidi
The Famous Five – I had most of the set (close to about 20 books or so).
The Reader’s Digest Collection of Classic Fairytales – a huge two volume set beautifully illustrated too.

And then there were various Ladybird books as well. And I used to collect the old I-Spy books which were themed on topics and you scored points for everything you observed on that topic when out on walks etc.

The best gift that comes from having an early love of reading?

Well it’s a gift that doesn’t leave you and you keep on reading. What you read changes of course according to age and taste but there is a reading journey as well as a writing one. What matters is to ensure you thoroughly enjoy your reading journey (and if you have one the writing one as well).

 

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Holidays and Publication News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodreads – Holiday Reading

– Holiday Reading

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

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

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

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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Creosoting, Ideas, and Editing

How has my week gone? See the title of this post! (Oh and do look out for Part 3 of my CFT series The Writing Game – and What to Watch For – link up for Friday. The whole series has sparkled with great ideas and advice so don’t miss the last installment!).

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General

Many thanks, everyone, for the cracking response to Part 2 of The Writing Game – and What to Watch For, my current CFT series. All very encouraging (and most writers, certainly all the ones I know, always welcome encouragement!). Looking forward to sharing the equally cracking finale next Friday.

Have got another fence panel creosoted. (If you needed proof the writing life isn’t necessarily glamorous, I’ve just provided it! Lady was not at all happy I kept her indoors while I was working but I couldn’t risk her going back inside a different colour to when she came out! YOU try telling a dog they can’t “help”!).😆

Am enjoying some wonderful books on Kindle at the moment, though I have a long TBR list on there. Still I shall enjoy working my way through. DON’T send help, I shall be fine, thanks! (Am so grateful electronic book shelves cannot collapse under the weight!).

Some pieces are coming together on one of my longer term projects so am pleased about that. I’ve learned over time that when you’re busy on something else, good ideas for other projects you’ve got in mind pop into your head.

I’ve also learned not to fight this. Grab a notebook, jot said ideas down, work on them when you get chance etc. Rome wasn’t built in a day etc…

I’ve yet to work out a way of having ideas occur to me in a more convenient fashion. I don’t think that will be happening any time soon!

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Hope the week ahead proves to be a good one for everyone. I’ll be working on an interview for CFT to appear on 14th August after my current series.

All I’ll say now is it about a very special project and my guest author is the ONLY UK writer taking part in it. They will know who they are from that description! I look forward to sharing more about that in due course.

There will be further interviews later in the month too. There has been a lot of change of direction in the air recently, which has been my underlying theme for CFT this summer! And it is a joy and privilege to share some of those change of direction stories via CFT.

One of the great aspects to the writing life is it isn’t in a straight line. You can go off on this track for a while, come back to what you mainly do, then explore other forms of writing and so on. Enjoyment of what you do writing wise is crucial, whatever you write. If you don’t enjoy it, why would anyone else?

Enjoyed re-watching one of my favourite Doctor Who episodes tonight. Vincent and the Doctor (with Matt Smith as our hero) is wonderfully done. There is a lot of depth to this story. Hallmarks of a great story? When it can bear repeated re-readings/re-watchings etc.

Good challenge for me as a writer too!

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Busy Monday as usual. Still one good thing about that was it meant I had no time to cresote our front fence today. I’ll be back on that tomorrow. I know – the giddy whirl and all that.

I’ve been reading a good old mixture of funny stories and dark fantasy recently. All have made me react. Sometimes in horror at the attitude of the characters – and that is the right reaction too. Other tales have made me laugh out loud. Still others make me wince but I can fathom where the character is coming from. And that is important.

For a reader to enjoy YOUR stories, they’ve got to be able to get behind your characters or at least understand that, in this character’s shoes, they might do the same. So the challenge then is to work out what you want your readers to feel about YOUR creations – and then write it!

 

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Another panel creosoted, one to go. And that’ll be my treat for Thursday! Talking of treats, which do you prefer that relate to words or writing in some way?

Mine are:-

1. Playing a Scrabble-like game on my phone (it’s one where the adverts are at the beginning and end of the game and do NOT interrupt the game. Would the makers of the “real” Scrabble please note that? Thank you!).

2. Dipping into a flash fiction or short story collection in between “day jobs” and just luxuriating in escaping the real world for ten minutes or so at a time. (I save my longer reads for my bedtime read and it is a lovely way to finish the day).

3. I used to like the alphabet sweets (not the jelly type, the harder sugar ones. Yes, I do have some teeth left!). Anyone remember them? These days I’d probably make anagrams out of them before scoffing them because I am just like that!😀😀I am partial to a good anagram and a good sweet!

4. I do like the occasional crossword/arrow word/wordsearch but much prefer Scrabble.

I don’t know if any of these sharpen the old brainbox but I do know they help me relax. I write better when feeling relaxed – and that will do!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve mentioned before that flash fiction is flexible when it comes to format within it. I’ve written acrostic flash tales, poetic flash stories etc., and recently have written some haiku ones. I also like the flexibility of word count within flash.

Unless I’m writing for #ParagraphPlanet (75 words all in!), or a competition which has set a specific word count, I will write to the story requirements. Sometimes a tale simply works better at 150 words rather than 100. That’s fine. I just find the right market or competition for it.

How do I judge what works best? I look at the impact of the story. If it can make the impact I want it to have at 100 words, fine. If it can’t, it stays at 150 or what have you.

Each piece of flash fiction needs to be a contained story with a proper beginning, middle, and end. Each needs to impact the reader because they’ve been gripped by what you’ve put your character(s) through.

But the single person story works well in flash, as does monologue. I’ve tended to use the first person a lot but have heard some wonderful monologues read out at events such as the Bridge House Publishing ones. So having a go at a flash fiction monologue is going to go on my list of things to do at some point.

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Sunday already?
The week flies by, as always.
Shame housework doesn’t!

Allison Symes – 2nd August 2020

The only good thing to be said about housework is once it’s done, it’s done. Oh and the thought of getting to my desk to write is a wonderful spur!

I had hoped the drudgery of housework would free up my mind to come up with some wonderful ideas for flash fiction whilst doing the ruddy work! Not a thing!

All I think when doing said housework is something along the lines of “can’t wait for this to be done” interspersed with “what is Lady barking at now?”. (Answer: usually the postman, sometimes the vacuum cleaner).

There is a kind of writing housework too. Now I don’t mind that kind at all. This is mainly things like:-

1. keeping an eye on what stories I send where (to ensure I don’t unwittingly send something to the same place twice);

2. backing up files regularly as I know I WILL regret it if I don’t!

3. Planning what I’m going to write when and marketing work too. Having a plan is the only way I’ve found to ensure I get this done. It helps me keep a proper balance.

So whatever your writing housework is this week, I hope it goes well!😀

 

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Triggers for story ideas can come from all over the place which, I know, on the face of it doesn’t seem to be all that helpful, does it? How on earth do you filter these out to find out what would work for you because surely not every trigger would suit?

Correct! It IS a question of having an open mind to those triggers. When I’m brainstorming ideas, I write down several. I never go with the first couple. They will be the obvious ideas that will occur to most writers. But dig deeper and hey, you might find something you can bring your unique take and voice to.

Using competition themes (whether or not you enter them) can be useful. I don’t write love stories so I know any love themed competition isn’t going to be for me. But that’s okay. There are plenty of other stories, including relationship ones, to tell.

It is a question of working out what you like to read, what you would LIKE TO read, and what you like to write. In that happy triangle is your writing ground. Have fun with it (oh and keep the weeds out!).😊

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When do I know if a story is ready for submission somewhere?

Basically when I cannot think of anything else to change without it taking away something from the character and/or the plot.

On editing, I usually spot several things I could re-phrase in a better way for the added “oomph” factor (and often to reduce the word count too. Less is more is SO true in flash fiction!).

 

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Goodreads Author Blog –

Stories You Wish Would Never End

Have you any stories you love so much you wish they would never end?

I remember when I first finished reading The Lord of the Rings being just stunned by the sheer scope of it and wanting to dive back into that world immediately.

On a very different front, the same applied to The Wind in the Willows!

Of course, it is good the stories end. A lot of the time it IS the ending that makes the book stand out. An incomplete story is NOT a story. A story has to have an ending.

So I guess it is the entertainment and enjoyment we have had from these favourite stories that we really wish would not end,

The good news is they don’t have to – you simply pick up your favourite book and re-read it!

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Reasons To Be Cheerful

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

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Italian Job (with the wonderful Michael Caine).

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

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

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

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

And my own favourite one liner from a story?

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

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

Allison Symes and published works

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

Facebook – From Light To Dark And Back Again

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fairytales with Bite – The Downside of Magic

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

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

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

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

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

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This World and Others – Hobbies and Interests

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

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

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

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

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Merry Christmas, Everyone

Image Credit:  Pixabay, unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General

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.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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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