Genres, Opening Lines, and Publication News

https://morethanwriters.blogspot.com/2021/06/genres-by-allison-symes.htmlImage 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 all is well with you. Glad to share two new stories this time – one from Friday Flash Fiction and another from my Youtube channel. Hope you enjoy. Also have publication news from CafeLit and an update about my contribution to Wendy H Jones’ book on Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing so plenty going on. (Images of me signing my contract for the latter were taken by Adrian Symes).

AE - July 2021 - Whether you love or loathe the characters, they should make you feel something


Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers

Delighted to share my blog on More Than Writers, the blog spot from the Association of Christian Writers. I talk about Genres this month and define a few (having fun doing so too!). I chat about why I love ghost stories where the ghost is not the villain, give you pointers regarding major things to look out for in a fantasy novel, and ask you what are your favourite genres and why amongst other things.

So what are your favourite genres and why? Fairytales/fantasy are it for me though I do love crime and historical fiction as well. Is there a book that took you by surprise as to how good or bad it was? For me, The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey surprised me in a good way and changed my view about Richard III.

I don’t have any time for the snobbery that can prevail around genre fiction. A good book is a good book and if it is accessible to more people because it is in a certain genre, so be it.

You sometimes have days when there is lots to announce. Today is one of mine!

1. I’ve seen the book cover for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion For Writing by Wendy H. Jones where I am contributing a chapter on flash fiction and short story writing. Can’t reveal the cover yet. Looking forward to doing so. It looks great. Trust me on that!

2. Delighted to say From Light to Dark and Back Again is now up on the Bridgetown Cafe Bookshop. Oh and the great thing about the bookshop is there are a variety of places to buy from too. See link for more.

3. There will be some fabulous author interviews to come on Chandler’s Ford Today, starting this very Friday, 2nd July, with part 1 of my chat with domestic noir writer, Helen Matthews. (I always learn a lot from reading/listening to author interviews which is why I love having writers on CFT).

4. I’ll be on the More than Writers blog spot tomorrow (for the Association of Christian Writers) with a humorous piece about Genres. Looking forward to sharing the link for that tomorrow. See above!

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Hope you have had a nice Sunday. It was lovely having family over in the garden yesterday (and what change in the weather today – it’s chucking it down as I type this!).

I’ll be sharing the first part of a fabulous interview with domestic noir writer, Helen Matthews, later this week on Chandler’s Ford Today. Looking forward to sharing that. I always learn so much from author interviews and it is a pleasure to be doing them.

I’m thrilled that so many wonderful comments are coming in on my latest #FridayFlashFiction story, Restless. You can check it out at https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/restless-by-allison-symes

Have sent another story in for them and I’m delighted to say I’ll be having another story up on CafeLit before too long as well. So it has been quite a productive weekend.

Hope you have a good week! (I also hope the weather improves somewhat but we shall see).

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Today (26th June) would have been my Dad’s 84th birthday. It’s a strange day in many ways, as you can imagine. I was pleased he got to see my debut published book, From Light to Dark and Back Again, as my late mum only got to see my first printed story, A Helping Hand in Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing). There is a kind of symmetry to that I think.

I occasionally use a character’s memories in my flash tales. The obvious two are The Pink Rose in Tripping the Flash Fantastic and They Don’t Understand in my debut collection.

Flash fiction can be a great vehicle for character studies like these precisely because they work best when kept short. The impact on a reader is greater too because of the brevity. What matters is getting across what is the important thing about the character you are writing about. What is it about them that readers have to know?

(Oh and on a very happy note, I’ve booked my train tickets for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Can’t wait to catch up with people there).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When do you know your flash fiction or short story character “works”? When they intrigue you enough to write their stories up is the answer that works for me. As I outline my character and discover more things about them, if they grip me at that point, they should do so for a reader as well so away I go.

Also just a quick reminder I share writing tips and exclusive flash stories over at my author newsletter which I issue monthly. The next one is out on 1st July so if you’d like to sign up for this do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where you’ll find the relevant sign up form. You’ll receive a welcome email initially with a link to a free pdf download where I chat about flash and share exclusive stories there. (And a big thank you to those who have signed up already – it is great to have you aboard).

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Pleased to share my latest story video here. Hope you enjoy Borrowing.

 

27th June
Delighted to say I’ll be having a flash piece, written as a result of a writing exercise I set for the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group, up on CafeLit on 5th July. That is what I call a result and I look forward to sharing it then.

I love opening lines as an exercise. There are usually at least two or three directions in which to take them too. (That makes me feel like a kid with the keys to the chocolate factory!). I suppose the reason I love them so much is I know I am “away” once I’ve got that line down, and knowing who my character is and what they’re capable of, means I’ve got the opening line and a structure in place. I find that so useful.

Funnily enough it’s not a question of then joining the dots. I still have to show my character developing and changing but my structure means the change is reasonable for the character and so will make sense to a reader.

I can still wrongfoot a reader (and often do) but if you then went back over the story you would find the clues were there to indicate the wrong-footing was possible given what you are shown of the character. (I love this when other authors achieve this with me whether it is a short story or a novel. It keeps me on my toes and I have learned so much about how to place things in a story to achieve this).

Have managed to get another flash pieces “off” this weekend – another one to #FridayFlashFiction. I am having so much fun writing the drabbles (100 worders) again as those are what drew me into flash fiction writing in the first place.


One idea for a story is to take a date that is special to you and make it special for your character. The reasons could be the same or the polar opposite. Either way you could write an interesting character study out of this.

Dates mean something for a reason and, especially if you don’t choose the well known ones such as Christmas or Mother’s/Father’s Day, you could show us a character with a unique take on life due to the reason they cherish the date you’ve picked for them.

Also, are there dates your characters would be keen to avoid and what would happen if they can’t get out of whatever is happening on the date in question? There’s potential for comedy and tragedy there – up to you which direction you take it.

But having a special date will reveal something of your character to you as the writer. If that appeals, it will appeal to a reader also. (Also there would be broad sympathy given most of us have dates that mean something to use and not to others).

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Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes a Good Story Ending For You?

Story endings don’t have to be happy ones. For some tales, a happy ending would be inappropriate. But what would you class as a “good” story ending?

For me the ending has to be appropriate for the kind of tale being told and for the character.

It was clear in A Christmas Carol, for instance, that Scrooge would have to change. It was a question there of how it would be done. Had Scrooge not changed, there would have been no point in the visitations of the ghosts and there would have been no story.

So I am looking for change to have happened by the end of the story. Being a fairly positive person, I like these changes to be as upbeat as possible. Failing that, I’ll be happy with a kind of “yes, that’s appropriate for this character”.

What you don’t want is a feeling of disappointment that the story hasn’t been closed off properly. There should be no loose ends. The character should have learned something and moved on from the starting point of the story. If that learning something and moving on is something I can identify with, then that makes it an even better ending for me.

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The Joy of Editing

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.

Weather all over the place here in the UK – still it is only June! Writing wise, very pleased with response already to my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. (Screenshot of part of my latest story, Restless, taken by me, Allison Symes – hope it tempts you to read the rest! Link below).

AE - July 2021 - A great character drives the plot


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post about The Joy of Editing. I share my thoughts on why editing can be as creative as the initial act of getting a story down. I also share thoughts on how outlining characters or ideas for blog posts can save a lot of time on editing later on (and avoid that oh-so-easy-to-fall-into trap of going off on interesting but usually irrelevant tangents which only have to be cut out later). I also list what I think of as my editing stages and what I do for each one. Hope you find it useful.

(Oh and advance notice. I’ll be interviewing the lovely #HelenMatthews in an in-depth conversation on 2nd and 9th July. Helen shares lots of useful insights into the writing life and I am so looking forward to sharing these interviews).

(Further advance notice – my latest author newsletter will go out on 1st July. If interested please sign up to it at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com).

The Joy of Editing

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Enjoyed my swim earlier today but you can tell when the weather is “iffy” – the water feels cold. When It is hot, as it was last week, the water feels refreshing and I don’t want to get out. (Mind you what helps is knowing the shrivelled prune look when you have been in the water for too long suits nobody!).

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. This week I’m talking about The Joy of Editing. And, yes, I know you will say Allison, you are an editor as well as a writer, you are bound to be biased. Yes, sure, guilty as charged there, but there is much to be said for editing as I will share in my post tomorrow.

So looking forward to reviewing The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest (and comeback) performance later in the summer. Along with singing in church and meeting up with friends, I think not seeing their wonderful shows has been the thing I missed most last year. (Their performances also raise money for different charities each year so well done to them and it’s another great reason to go and see their shows if you are local to Chandler’s Ford. If you’re not, I’m sure there will be great amateur theatre groups you can support near you – try them out and see!).

From a writing viewpoint, it is interesting seeing words performed rather than just read.

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Hope you have had a good day. More like a proper June day today and Lady got to play with her best mate, the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Two tired and happy dogs went home.

Have got my ticket for the comeback shows from The Chameleon Theatre Group for the end of July. So looking forward to watching them on stage again. (Review to follow on Chandler’s Ford Today in due course naturally – it is so lovely to get back to this kind of thing again).

I’ll be sharing a fabulous two part interview with #HelenMatthews on 2nd and 9th July so plenty of good things to come on CFT. I met Helen at the Hursley Park Book Fair which I reported on for CFT a couple of years ago and again at the Winchester Writers’ Festival. You never know where networking with other authors might lead you! Anyway, really looking forward to sharing this interview as it is packed with great author insights (just one of many reasons why I love sharing author interviews here!).

Behind the scenes, I’m also working on workshop materials so yes watch this space for further news in due course.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to share my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction called Restless. A HUGE thank you to all who have commented on the tale so far. This is so much appreciated. (I also love the way this kind of thing helps writers engage with readers directly).

Restless is a different kind of flash tale for me in that every sentence starts with the same word. It’s an interesting technique, fun to do, but is something I would only do every now and again. (Generally speaking given the restricted word count in flash anyway, I wouldn’t normally repeat anything other than say the unavoidable ones such as the, and, but etc.


Screenshot 2021-06-25 at 19-03-20 Restless, by Allison Symes


Thanks for the great response to my acrostic yesterday. I use the technique sometimes for mini-blog posts as well as flash tales!

Looking forward to taking part in the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction Group later in July. Glad to report we had our first Zoom meeting a week or so ago and it went down well. (I also get to write up flash tales from the exercises set, whether these are set by someone else or me. I’m sure I can find a home for these stories at a later date!).

The benefits of flash fiction writing are learning to write with precision, to think about impact, to think about what your reader needs to get from your story, and to lose all fear of editing. Those things transfer well to other forms of writing too.


F = Fun to write – but the work really begins in the editing.
L = Looking for maximum impact on the reader so word choice is so important here.
A = Any genre, any character – have fun with the format.
S = Story, story, story – it is your character’s tale, let them tell it.
H = Have an outline for your characters before you write the story – it can be as simple or as detailed as you like but it will save you going off on unnecessary tangents. You will know what your character is capable of and why. I know this tip alone has saved me a great deal of grief (and work) later on in trying to fix characterisation problems. By working this out at the start, you can hit the ground running with the story itself because you know what your character is likely to do and say.

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Fairytales With Bite – Why the Bite?!

The classic fairytales have plenty of bite. Indeed, that is one of the things I love most about them. They don’t mince their words when it comes to villains. The stories show you the villains for what they are. The wicked stepmother is wicked (and definitely not in a good way).

The classic stories also like their heroes/heroines to do or be something worthy of being helped by a passing helpful fairy godmother and the like. Said passing fairy godmother is not going to help the lazy, those who just want riches and so on.

Right is also seen to be done. Evil comes back to bite those who commit it (which so often doesn’t happen in life and even as a young child I was aware of that).

What fairytales are not are twee. The characters are clearly portrayed and they are what they are. They also show characters can be redeemed. Fairytales are about choices made and not every character makes the right one.

So bite then is a vital ingredient to fairytales. From my perspective, it is what makes a fairytale a fairytale, much more so than a magical being waving a wand about.

Fairytales are truthful too – and again bite comes in here too. They show you aspects of human nature, a lot of which are not the pleasant kind. They hold a mirror up to our own behaviour – you just need to accept some of what you will see through the stories will be the kind of things we usually like to pretend are not there. Our own stories need to reflect this to be true to the genre. Our characters need to reflect that.

Even the tales read to very young children will show this. We know from a very young age the Big Bad Wolf is not to be trusted.

So when it comes to writing our own tales, we need to be brutally honest with our character portrayal. Are they the kind of character a fairy godmother would help? If not, why not? What role will this character play in your story? If they’re not someone who would “earn” magical help, how are they going to get said help when they need it? Are they going to change in some way so they do end up “earning” that help and what makes them realise change is necessary? Plenty of story ideas here.

Character change is key to a successful story. And there’s nothing a fairy godmother likes better than a character redeeming themselves to get her help. Readers like that too. So give your characters plenty of bite. They must not be twee. We need to see where the characters are coming from and where they are heading.

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This World and Others – Reaching Out

How do your characters reach out to others? Are they the kind of characters who would help others? If not, why not? Are they held back by fear or resentment of others and can they overcome that?

Does your fictional world reach out to other worlds near it or is it an insular one?

When characters reach out, is that as successful as they hoped it would be or does it backfire? Are good intentions misunderstood, deliberately or otherwise? Does this stop your characters from reaching out after that (as it would, at best, knock confidence)?

What is the impact of reaching out on the society immediately around your main characters? Does your society encourage reaching out or make it more difficult? Can your society be changed for the better by your characters who do reach out to others?

Hmm… I think there are story ideas there!

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