Podcasting, Flash Fiction, and Spring

Now there’s a right mix for you!

Image Credit:  As ever, unless stated, images are from Pixabay.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today x 2!

CFT – Part 1 –

The Writing and Marketing Show – Podcast by Wendy H. Jones

The post below is an amalgamation of the FB posts I shared on my author page and book page during the week.

I thought I’d start by sharing the link to my Local Author News page on Chandler’s Ford Today earlier this week where my news is the podcast interview of yours truly by Scottish crime writer, Wendy H Jones, on my favourite topic, flash fiction. I also share the link to the episode I appear in (and I repeat the link below too).

I was delighted to take part in The Writing and Marketing Show, which is Wendy’s new podcast. It does what it says on the tin, folks! I’m on Episode 4 – How to Write Flash Fiction. Well, I wasn’t going to turn down an opportunity to talk about my great writing love now, was I?

As well as discussing flash fiction, I share some tips, particularly on nailing those crucial opening lines. I also discuss what you can do with cliches – now, now… tune in the show and find out exactly what it is I DO do with them!

Every so often CFT puts up Local Author News posts when local writers have book events etc. It is lovely to put such a post up for myself! (And a huge thanks to Janet Williams, CFT’s very supportive editor who is great at encouraging sharing news like this. It is appreciated and not just by me).

I also want to say a big thank you to Wendy H. Jones for inviting me on to her show. It was huge fun to take part – and do check out the other episodes too. Episodes are released on a Wednesday. Well worth making a note in your diary for especially if you are keen to have insights into the wonderful world of writing.

Episode 4 – How to Write Flash Fiction

CFT – Part 2 – Spring Approaches

It’s always a pleasure to write posts like the above which celebrate something positive. Despite Storm Dennis being on its way, there are still signs of spring out there and I’ve already noted the daylight lasting that little bit longer each evening.

I also look at spring in the terms of new life/new developments. What new developments, as a writer, are you hoping for this year? (The podcast with #WendyHJones earlier this week was a new development for me and so much fun to do). Comments as ever welcome over on the CFT page.

Feature Image - Spring Approaches

As part of my Spring Approaches post for Chandler’s Ford Today this week, I look ahead to the Chameleon Theatre Group’s next production. This has the charming name of Spring Quartet. Love the sound of that. I am hoping throughout the next few months to put up additional posts featuring members of the Chameleons. More details as and when.

Do you find writing easier or harder to do when the weather gets better (it will eventually, honestly!)? I have no real preference here though I can understand the lure of getting out and about when perhaps I should be at my desk writing.

Mind you, when I do go out and about, there is always part of me which sees these trips as great opportunities for “research”.

Now that can be anything from picking up inspiration for characters (e.g. overhearing odd snippets of conversation I know I could use in totally different contexts for a tale or two) to going to a specific place and learning from it. What I learn then ends up in a story.

It’s a great excuse and I’m sticking to it!

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Many thanks, everyone, for the lovely feedback on the podcast interview for those of you who tuned in when the link was shared on Wednesday this week. For those of you who haven’t, do check out the episode via the link above. It was a joy to talk flash fiction with #WendyHJones. (And do check out the other episodes too. The link to all episodes is in the top left corner).

My usual CFT post will be up tomorrow and it is called Spring Approaches. Now I know Storm Dennis is due (named after Dennis the Menace, do you think?) but, hang on in there folks, spring really is on its way.

There are already signs of it out there. Tonight I managed to walk the dog with my better half and we only needed a torch for the last 15 minutes. That figure will reduce week on week too and I love that. Two weeks or so ago, we needed the torch for 25 to 30 minutes so those lighter evenings are slowly coming in! (On a personal note, I find the increased light helps with my writing productivity too and I bet I’m not the only one who finds that).

My post celebrates the approach of spring then but also looks at how, given we rightly associate spring with new life, what that can mean for us. A new life can mean new starts or developments. (Being interviewed for a podcast was a new and enjoyable development for me!).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

F = Fun to write
L = Length of story can vary but should not go over 1000 words.
A = Alliteration can be effective in titles but best to use sparingly (otherwise readers will tire of it. You don’t want anything to seem “faddy”).
S = Story should focus on ONE important point only as you won’t have room for more, particularly in a sub-500 words tale.
H = Have fun mixing up which genres you write your flash fiction in as the good news is you don’t have to stick to one!

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When you want to mix up your flash fiction writing, how do you go about that?

Some of my favourite ways to mix things up include:-

1. Work out an ending to a story and work backwards to the start instead of working linearly. (If you usually start this way, simply reverse the process and start at the beginning!).

2. Try writing a flash fiction story in a genre or format you’ve not tried before. If it doesn’t work out, why worry? You were playing with words. I would suspect also some of what you write you would probably be able to use elsewhere. Equally if you discover a new way of writing flash, even better. This is how I started writing historical flash fiction pieces. Until fairly recently, it wasn’t an area I had explored.

3. Write to different word counts. While my natural home is between the 100 to 250 word count limit, I do write much shorter than that. I also go up to the top end of the scale for flash at 1000 words.

And why mix things up at all?

Firstly it keeps things interesting for you. You really don’t want to become bored with what you do.

Secondly, a variety of stories, whether it’s in genre or word count or both, means you have a wider selection of markets and competitions to aim those tales at! Good luck.

Fairytales With Bite – 

When the Magic Wand Isn’t Enough

One of my favourite things about fantasy fiction is when magic is limited in some way. That is a character can only do so much with their powers and no more. Or if they go beyond that, then there is a dreadful price to pay.

What is fascinating there is finding out how the characters get around this. When you can’t or dare not use your special skills, what do you do?

Likewise if two magical characters have the same kind of powers, then you know they’re going to cancel each other out effectively. What does each of them do to try to get the upper hand on the other?

I believe more of the real personality of the characters comes out when they can’t just rely on magic to get them out of trouble (and even more when they know using it will exacerbate their problems).

I love stories which show the downside of using magic and where characters have to use their wit and intelligence to overcome problems. My favourite of all here has to be Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series given, when in doubt, she goes to the library to look things up! What’s not to like about that?!

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This World and Others – 

What Do Your Characters Make Of Their World?

Asking yourself this as you outline your fictional world is useful as:-

(a) it will show you insights into what your characters really think revealing more of their attitudes which should prove useful later and;

(b) it will show you what your characters think is the most important aspect of their world. It might not be what you originally thought!

I would then probe further as to why that is. If you thought the most important thing was your created world’s fantastic lakes but your character thinks the best thing since sliced bread is the mountain behind their village, look at why. Have they got a fear of water, say? Have they got a famous ancestor who was the first to climb that mountain? Could that come into your story at some point?

How do your characters react to their world during the course of the story? What aspects of it get in their way on whatever their mission is? What aspects help them? Does the transportation make their mission easier to carry out or more difficult? How easy is it for them to get provisions? What do other characters think of their mission? What and/or whom gets in their way?

If your character is trying to save their world, are they doing so out of love for that world or knowing that whatever the world is facing is too dreadful to contemplate allowing to happen so has got to be stopped no matter what else they think? Is the world around them grateful for their efforts?

Above all, what changes have to happen in and to the characters to make them want to carry out their mission? It is not uncommon for the hero/heroine to be reluctant to take on their quest and they have to be persuaded into it. So who does the persuading? What makes the character “bite”?

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Character Types and Story Essentials

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today – and More Than Writers (ACW blog page)

Busy day on the blogging front. Firstly, my CFT post is about Signs of Spring– the ones I love and some I loathe. Comments as ever welcome on the CFT comments box.

Image Credit:  All the images are from Pixabay as usual, do see the CFT and More than Writers’ links for the captions I put to these originally.  Hopefully the pictures will intrigue you.  I love the one showing clocks going off into space!


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Secondly my spot on the Association of Christian Writers’ More than Writers blog is about When Writing is Difficult. I share some hints and tips. Hope you find them helpful.

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Had a lovely mini-Swanwick meet up with the fab JuneWebber in Winchester today. Lovely weather, great company, and lots of talk about writing and stories. Now that is what I call a good day. Looking forward to Swanwick itself in August of course.

My CFT post this week will be a seasonal one, all about the signs of spring I love (and a couple that I loathe). Link up tomorrow.

Have almost got my 750-word story ready for submitting. I always find the first edit to reduce word count is the easy one. I take out my known wasted words, find ways of rephrasing things etc and that brings the word count down significantly. The hardest edit is when I’ve done all this and I still need to reduce the word count yet without “losing” the story itself. Almost there though.

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Righty-ho, on to the final section of my What I Like From a Good Book A to Z.

U = Uniqueness. There must be something about the book that makes it stand out (and most of the time this will be down to how good the characters are. I’m on the characters’ side in the character -v- plot debate because a weak character will drag down a strong plot. I think it is the “cast” people remember from a good book, rather than the plot. How often have you said, when asked if you’ve read a certain book, something like “oh is that the one with so-and-so in it?” I know I have, too many times to count!).

V = Variety (of pace). I want plenty of fast paced action/dialogue etc but I also want the “in between” bits which move the story on, tell me what I need to know, and give me chance to get my breath back before the next action scene.

W = Writing that is a sheer pleasure to read because it flows. Yes, clever lines are wonderful, but it is the overall effect I’m after here. You want to feel at the end of the book that the writing couldn’t have been better (whoever said writing is easy hasn’t done any!).

X = Xeno. Okay, confession time. I looked this one up. It means strange. I wasn’t going to cheat by using eXtraordinary for this one or anything like that and X-rated seems too easy! So then, strange (oh and trust me I’ll be remembering xeno the next time I play Scrabble!) – well I love quirky fiction so this ties in beautifully with that. I love stories of strange creatures and worlds BUT they have got to make sense within that setting and still have something we can identify with to make us want to read on to find out more. So xeno or being strange has its place in a good book but it has got to be integral to it and not an add-on.

Y = Yield. An odd one to choose? I don’t think so. A good book at the end of it should have yielded to you the reader an enjoyable read when all is said and done. For me it is always the characters that make a book work or not. Also it is interesting to follow characters working out when they should yield on a point to develop the story or to get themselves out of a big hole. Whatever the reason for a character yielding or changing their mind, there should be a justified reason for it.

And finally…

Z = Zero. This is in terms of feeling that absolutely no words have been wasted. There is nothing that could be changed without spoiling the story in some way.

Happy reading!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I find I have to know the voice of my character before I can really get into the story and do it justice. This is where outlining is so useful.

For flash fiction, I often find a line or two about what the character’s attitude to life is and why is a good place to start. I soon know whether a character is bossy but kindhearted with it, a pain in the neck to all and sundry etc. I see this kind of prep work as essential. It’s just that novel writers have to do more of it!!

Themes for any story are best kept simple to (a) avoid overegging the pudding and (b) avoid you managing to tie yourself up in knots as you write the thing.

The strongest themes can often be condensed to one word only – love, revenge, justice, adventure etc.

The best plot lines are exactly that – a line. For example:-

Mother vows to avenge child killed by drunk driver. (My Punish the Innocent).

Villager vows to stop the animal cruelty going on at home. (My The Circle of Life)

Now the nice thing here is the take you put on these themes is up to you. Punish the Innocent is a serious crime story. Couldn’t really be anything else I feel.

For The Circle of Life, I turned this into a humorous story (my character finds a very neat way of thwarting his fellow villagers who don’t share his views).

The great thing is to have fun with what you write. I’m convinced it does show through in what you produce.

Fantastic day out today as a post-birthday treat with better half and Lady at West Bay in Dorset. Lovely weather. Good time had by all. All shattered.

But time to do something different every now and then is useful both in terms of health but also for your writing. You do come back to it refreshed and that’s important. I see writing as very much a long haul thing and stamina is needed (to cope with the rejections and other disappointments along the way for one thing). So breaks away can help with that enormously.

Another way of giving yourself a break, when going to the beach is not immediately available as an option (!), is to give yourself time to free write, brain storm, jot down notes for future ideas etc. I find this great fun, put said thoughts aside for a while and come back to them later. If the ideas still appeal (and they don’t always), I then write them up!

Goodreads Author Blog – Books to Dip Into

I love books you read straight through from cover to cover but I also adore those where you dip into them as and when.

Things like the Guinness Book of Records come into that category. I’m currently reading a “big book of facts” produced by Classic FM but will almost certainly have regular dips into this, rather than read it straight though. (To be fair it is a HUGE book).

I also like the way this mixes up my reading a bit as I read flash fiction (as well as write it), short stories, and novels. I also dip read. Dip reading is also useful when I’ve finished a book and am not quite sure what I’m going to read next.

I often fancy a change of mood after completing a novel and until I know what is next on my reading “menu”, I will dip into books like this until such time as I do know.

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Fairytales With Bite – Favourite Character Types

This is by no means a definitive list and I suspect you could add many of your own but my favourite character types include:-

1.  The underdog. (Most of the fairytales have good examples of these.  Cinderella is not expected to do well by her stepmother and stepsisters!).

2.  The character who is not expected to be a hero but becomes one.  (Frodo Baggins is a great example).

3.  The rebel (especially one who can see through the faults of their own side and has tried to rectify them but to no avail.  My fairy godmother character, Eileen, is of this ilk.  Characters like that are great fun to write for).

4.  A well rounded animal character.  I have a soft spot for anthropomorphism. Where would The Wind in the Willows be without it?! I also adore Gaspode in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

5.  Those who deal out justice to those worthy of receiving it!  This is usually where some character thinks they’ve got away with something and our hero/heroine turns up to prove them wrong. Or it can be someone like Terry Pratchett’s Lord Vetinari who deals out what he feels is appropriate justice (and is usually right.  Look at how he deals with Moist Von Lipvig in Going Postal).

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This World and Others –

The A to Z of Story Essentials Part 3

Moving on from last week then…

K = Killer Lines.  The ones that make you gasp, laugh out loud, or simply make you wish you could’ve written something that good!  Use them as inspiration to do exactly that!

L = Logic.  A strange thing to put for this perhaps?  I think not.  A story must make sense, even if it set in the most fantastical place imaginable.  The characters must make sense.  Your story needs a structure that follows through from start to finish.  So the story then must have its own internal logic.  Anything that doesn’t “feel” like a story when claiming to be one will, I think, put readers off.  We have expectations that stories will work and it is because the logic of them works.

M = Murder.  I do love a good crime story and most of those are based on murder.  But this can be applied to other genres here if you take murder to mean “killing your darlings” if they’re in the way of your story. When you read of the death of a character in a story, there should be a point to it and move the story onwards.  A character that doesn’t do anything for the story should not be in it and good writers will ensure their characters do earn their place.  Sometimes that will mean literally killing them off as part of the story.  Sometimes it will mean realising this character isn’t strong enough so back to the drawing board for one that is!

N = Narrative. Should be compelling, drive the story on, tell the reader things they need to know in a way said reader is going to find entertaining (no lecturing!) etc.

O = Overwhelming Odds.  I do love a character that has to face up to these and overcome them.  It is fascinating to find out how they do it. It should also show depth to that character and it’s even better when the character is surprised as they look back at how far they’ve come on, what they’ve been able to achieve etc. Incidentally the overwhelming odds can be something as dramatic as Frodo Baggins’ quest in The Lord of the Rings but it can be something which, to us, might seem mundane, but to your character is everything.  As long as reader knows it really is everything to that character and why, they should want to find out whether the character overcomes or not.

More next time…