Bluebells, Beautiful Books, Ants, and Editing

Hmm… now there’s this week’s contender from me for Unique Blog Title!

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Bluebells out all over the place at the moment. It’s always great taking Lady out for her walks but this time of year is special. Not that she appreciates the local fauna. If it’s a convenient place for her to have a wee break, that’s precisely what she’ll do! (No. She hasn’t weed on the bluebells. Have had couple of close calls though).

I don’t tend to write much about nature partly because flash fiction is not the place for lots of lovely descriptions! I prefer to get my characters up and running quickly within their setting.

The weather, the nature of the area my characters are in are gaps for readers to fill in, though the clues are there. In my The Haunting my character is trying to get rid of a hated umbrella that somehow is managing NOT to be got rid of. The implication there is the weather must be reasonably okay. You don’t dump a brolly on a wet day generally. I don’t specifically spell that out but there’s no need to do so.

I’ve found it useful when outlining to work out what the reader HAS to know, ensure that gets put into the story, and get on with the action of said tale. It is all down to selecting what is the most important thing(s) for the reader to know. Often in flash fiction there will be room for one or two things. The trick is to ensure what you can’t put in can be implied in other ways.

Bluebells in Knightwood

Bluebells on a local walk.  Stunning sight.  And this is just a short section of them too.  Image by Allison Symes

When do you know you’ve finished editing a piece?

When you’ve put it away for a while, come back to it and read it, and can’t think of a single thing to change. Also that it has the impact on you that you wanted it to achieve.

Does that always take longer to achieve than you originally hoped?

Oh yes!

Went for a wonderful walk with better half and Lady to round off Bank Holiday Monday. The bluebells were amazing (though frankly I was far more interested than the dog was. Lady didn’t wee on them tonight so I guess that is a plus!).

I remember thinking ages ago that I’d use walking time to work out ideas for stories/articles/blog posts etc. I haven’t done that once! This is partly due to being far too interested (aka nosey) in what is going on around me including, tonight, trying to spot the noisy woodpecker who was clearly doing some DIY. (How apt for a bank holiday weekend!). The other reason is, of course, Lady and the need to keep an eye on her though, if she thinks she needs attention, she’ll give you a nudge with her nose.

But a break away from the desk does refresh the mind and the spirit and that feeds into my writing, so that’s okay. Pleased to say I sent off some submissions over the weekend and made good progress on my novel. Onwards and upwards!

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Enjoyed listening to the new Hall of Fame on Classic FM over the weekend. Mixed bag of results from my votes.

Jupiter (The Planet Suite) – Holst – down 18

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis – Vaughan Williams – non-mover

BUT

Danse Macabre – Saint Saens – (the wonderful piece I use for my book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back again went up a whopping 50 places. It was also used as the theme to Jonathan Creek to great effect).

I love music which conjures up a mood or in the case of the VW piece seems to take you back in time. Perfect background music as I work out what to do with my next batch of flash fiction characters. Will they meet a horrid end? Will I put them in humorous set-ups? Ah! The joy of creating!


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Do you use spider diagrams for working out story ideas? I do sometimes. They can be useful for working out variations on the “what if” question so you can decide which is the strongest to write up.

I like to start with a potential character name and a bizarre situation (but then I love reading and writing quirky fiction). I work out how the character could’ve ended up being in that situation before going on to work out how they get out of it. The nice thing with this sort of planning is I just need rough ideas at this stage.

If Character X is going to end up on Mars with a limited oxygen supply, then logic dictates they’re either going to be rescued or die. For me, the story there is how they got dumped there and above all, why. So a spider diagram for that could be something like this:-

Character X brags, is pain in backside etc – demands lead position on next space exploration. (Motive here immediately)
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Character X has been driving Character Y mad for years without being aware of it. Character Y is a quiet soul and for once would like an uneventful space trip. (More motive here).
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Character Y pushes Character X out of the space capsule and heads off, knowing Character X would insist on leaving the capsule first. Character X would swear profusely at this point but realises the need to save as much energy and oxygen as possible.

That is very rough but you get the idea. Must admit though spider diagrams for me look better when drawn out on paper!

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Editing is a crucial skill whatever you write but writing flash fiction is a great way to improve what you do here.

I’ve found I’ve got into the mindset of looking at phrases to double check they make as much of an impact as possible in the fewest possible words once I’ve carried out an initial typo/grammatical error edit.

Often a tweak or two will (a) reduce the word count and (b) strengthen what it was I wanted to say. You never come out with the exact wording immediately. Well, I don’t anyway. Usually a stronger adjective than the one I’d originally chosen will increase the impact of that particular sentence.

It’s a great weight off my mind to know I don’t have to get it right on the first go!

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Managed to submit three flash fiction pieces over the weekend so pleased with that. Would like to try and get more out this coming weekend. I try to carve out a specific writing slot for sending submissions out and weekends tend to be my best time for this.

It always pays to double check submission requirements given these vary from market to market/competition to competition. There have been times I’ve been cross with myself for spotting a typo after I’ve submitted a piece. And that’s despite editing on paper, putting work aside for a while so I come back to the piece with fresh eyes etc The one comfort I take from things like that is this happens. It happens to a lot of writers at some point.

What I don’t want to ever happen is for a piece to fail because I missed something on the submission requirements. To date, it has never happened. So help me, it never will. It really does pay to take extra time to ensure you have got everything spot on here. Don’t rush this aspect.

I’ve found it useful to take at least a week off the official deadline of any competition etc to give me that breathing space I need to ensure everything is as perfect as I can make it. (I usually take two weeks off in fact). Give yourself time and space.

Time to have some fun with the random word generator again. I used a as the start letter and t as the final one and selected six words. These were:-

achievement
account
argument
ant
accept
announcement

Let’s see what can be done with these (and I won’t count the title as one of the words).

ACHIEVEMENT

The ant was of little account in the grand scheme of things. She was just one of thousands of worker ants whose greatest achievement would be to ensure the survival of their colony. There was no room for argument. Her role was her role and that was that. It was best to accept this. Everyone knew a sole ant would never survive long outside of the protection of the colony. For the colony to work, everyone had to fit in with their alloted roles. So when the announcement came the queen ant had died, there was consternation. There would be no more ants. No more worker ants like her. Not in this colony.

Ends

Allison Symes – 23rd April 2019

This is almost certainly the tiniest character I’ve created and is likely to remain so!

But have fun with random word generators and see where they take you. They can be great ways of triggering fresh story ideas.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Beautiful Books

I love books in all their different forms, of course, but I do appreciate the art in a really good book cover.

Difficult to say what my favourite cover is but I must say I love the children’s editions of the Harry Potter series and the original Discworld covers.

I don’t get the tendency to produce plainer covers for “grown ups”. Blow that. I want escapism in a good book and the cover has got to entice me in. A plain black or grey cover with sensible lettering just isn’t going to do it for yours truly.

I also appreciate beautiful bindings. I inherited my late mother’s collection of hardback Dickens (all in green with gold lettering) and they are a joy to look at. They are even more of a joy to read! I also have a fab Agatha Christie collection (red hardbacks with gold lettering). Great stories but my enjoyment is enhanced when I can appreciate the physicality of a book. (This is where the Kindle DOES lose out to “proper” books).

At the end of the day, it is the story which matters most of all, naturally. But I’m all for getting as much enjoyment out of a book as possible and beautiful covers and production standards can make books very special indeed.

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Mixing It Up

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Which author do you turn to when the world is grim and you just need to step away from it for a bit? My mother always used to say “stop the world, I want to get off” when the world seemed particularly madder than usual, a feeling I totally understand at the moment.

My go to choices are Pratchett, Austen or Wodehouse. In a grim world, comedic writing is very much my first choice of escapism. (And unlike alcohol and chocolate has no calories in either!).

One of my big bugbears is why humorous writing can be looked down in certain circles. If something looks easy, that writer worked their socks off to get their prose to that point. Easy writing is hard writing and even harder editing.

I’m a big fan of the “what if?” school of developing story ideas. I look at all possibilities when I’ve got an interesting theme/title/character to play with (one of them is the trigger – it isn’t always the character for example. I would say it’s a pretty even split between my three triggers here).

I start by writing down the “obvious” links and dismiss those but in the act of writing those down, the thought “oh I could do this instead” crops up and that’s when the ideas really start flowing. It’s also when the writing really kicks off and that’s a great place to be.

I do use spider diagrams sometimes. Sometimes I draft a series of sentences outlining possibilities and then go with the one I like the best. (You can guarantee if it’s quirky, 95% of the time I’ll go with it!). But I like to play with ideas before I commit to one. The great thing with this approach is if Idea B appeals to me but Idea A is stronger and appeals to me more, than I’ll go with A. But there’s nothing to stop me having another look at B and developing that further for another story another time.

Busy night yesterday submitting flash fiction pieces so pleased with that. Third collection coming along well too.

I often draft fiction and non-fiction pieces with eyes open to potential markets and then submit at a later date. This is to give me time to put work aside for a while and then look at it with fresh eyes before editing and submitting those pieces.

Regarding the non-fiction, which is relatively new to me, I’m putting those pieces aside for a bit as I need to work on pitching to the markets I have in mind (but I wanted to make sure I had written the articles first. There is no such thing, to my mind, as wasted writing. If I find I can’t sell these pieces, I will end up recycling them in other ways. Also, you do write better the more often and regularly you write even if you can only write a small amount each time. It all builds up over time and I am one of those writers who likes to know they have the work to submit before approaching a market!).

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Am looking forward to seeing a local production of one of my favourite stories, A Christmas Carol, on Thursday night. Review will follow in due course.

Am also pleased to say I’ll have some publication news, from different places, over the next few days and am looking forward to sharing some links to new stories with you.

Am also looking forward to sharing an interview with an author of a very special cookbook via Chandler’s Ford Today in next couple of weeks.

My post this week will be looking at light and darkness. Link to go up on Friday.

Not impressed with the cold weather. Am very much looking forward to dodgy CH boiler pump being sorted out tomorrow. Meanwhile, I am wearing loads of layers! It is just a pity that writing isn’t a warmth generating activity but there you go!

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F = Fun stories, told briefly
L = Lights up the characters
A = Animated dialogue and internal thoughts
S = Show, not tell (and what else could this be)
H = Hard impact from few words

F = Fantasy and fairytales feature in what I do
I = Imagination running riot (what fun!)
C = Characters compel you to find out what they’re up to.
T = Truth emerges in fiction, better than straight telling.
I = Inventiveness emerges from using low word counts
O = Omnipresent narrator, first person or third? I use all.
N = Narrator must be intriguing to your readers.

Some thoughts about flash fiction!

Time for some more one line stories.

1. The swirling leaves made a great disguise for a human-hungry shapeshifter as nobody spotted him turning up for his latest snack.

2. When even the bats find the dark too scary, you know there is going to be trouble.

3. The fairy godmother smashed her wand against a pane of glass and watched as the splinters turned into a pair of beautiful shoes – one user only for these.

4. Find the monster, the people cried, though they screamed when it was found.

5. Being befuddled was Molly’s normal state of being, which is why they didn’t let her have her magic wand any more.

Allison Symes – 18th November 2018

I have three main triggers for writing flash fiction: a character who intrigues me, a theme I just have to write about, or a title with interesting possibilities so I just need to find out which is the most fascinating and go with that!

I’ve found it pays to have different writing triggers. It keeps things fresh and I’ve never believed in the “one approach suits all” school of thought. I’ve never seen how that can work! Being open to different methods helps with competitions where the theme is set for you anyway.

I do recommend having brainstorming sessions every so often where you just jot down potential ideas. I must do so again myself soon but it is great to come back to these later and work them up into stories or articles for Chandler’s Ford Today, as the case may be. It also means never being short of anything to write about!

(And photos can make a great trigger too. Another reason to love Pixabay!).

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Publication news coming later this week with new flash fiction stories from me and in different places too. Looking forward to sharing the links with you as and when. Nice mixture of word counts here too.

What makes me decide when a piece really won’t work as a flash fiction story and that it has to be a standard competition length short tale instead?

When the theme is such a powerful one, I need to give the characters more room to explore it is the basic answer. As you write more, you develop a gut feel for when to stop a story (nearly always turns out to be a piece of flash fiction) or when you need to continue (this is where it can become a 1500 short story instead). Just be open.

 

Goodreads Author Programme BlogMixing It Up

I like to mix up what I read in terms of genre and word count. I love (and write) flash fiction, likewise short stories, but there are times when nothing but a full length novel will do. There is no way Tolkein could have done justice to The Lord of the Rings in three short stories!!

Having said that, I am still stunned they managed to get three films out of The Hobbit, given it was only one book. Hey ho…

The correct word count for any story, of course, is when no more can be said and when to remove anything would be to the detriment of the tale in some way.

I think as a reader of too many years to count, you do develop an instinctive feeling for when a writer has got the word count right. I want to feel at the end of a story disappointed it has come to an end, but at the same time, know within myself, there really was no more to be said. Naturally that’s a challenge to me for my own writing but this is a good thing. It keeps me on my toes!

One of the things I love about creative writing is one of the best tips any writer has to improve their skills is to read widely and across the genres, including non-fiction. You do learn by absorbing what others have done before you. Absolutely no problem with that, then, and bring it on!

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Stand Alones, Flash Fiction and Fairytales

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Many thanks again to Jennifer C Wilson, Val Penny, #AnneWan, Wendy Jones, and Richard Hardie for their further insights into the joys and challenges of writing series fiction. Amongst tonight’s topics is how to ensure each book in a series works as a stand-alone, given our series writers can never know which book a reader will actually start with. It isn’t necessarily book 1!

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What five things do I like to see in a character? Ideally they have all of the traits I list below but as long as a character has the majority of them, I’m likely to enjoy spending time in the company of that character as I read their story.

1. Courage.
2. Sense of Humour.
3. Loyalty.
4. They, at the very least, respect books; at best they have their own library!
5. Kindness.

Does that rule out the villains? No! Even villains can be kind to their pet cat, have a decent library etc.

Looking at that list, it’s what I like to see in myself and, before you ask, I’m working on the personal library bit! (It’s nowhere near as grand as the one in the pictures below though!).

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One of the things I love about going to writing conferences is that I always learn something pertinent to what I write. And it is not always an obvious link.

I’m off to the Association of Christian Writers’ Day on Saturday, the topic is Writing for Children and Young Adults, which is not directly what I do, but I just know I will pick up useful tips that I can apply directly.

And you never know – looking at what other writers do can help you re-examine whether you are working in the best way you can. It may also inspire a new direction of writing too! What I do know is it will be fun finding out if it does or not and what useful tips I’ll bring home with me.

The great thing with writing is you never stop learning how to improve what you do and that is so good for your brain!

(And networking is always fun!).

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A = Alliteration. Can be useful for titles in flash fiction (though I don’t use it much) but as with any story, it can grab the attention and help set the mood. Best not overused I think. You want each title to set the tone for what it is to come and a variety of methods for doing that is best. Keeps it fresh for you as the writer too.

B = Backstory. Not a lot of room for that in flash fiction! Best to hint at it through one or two vital details the reader has to know and leave it at that.

C = Character. The kingpin of fiction I think. Get the character right and the plot will come from them. Know your character inside and out – I find it useful to know their chief trait (and I piece together a mental picture of what they are like from there). Find the appropriate starting point for you but it is worth taking the time to know your character well before you start. Your writing will flow better because you write with that knowledge. It does come through in what you write.

As ever, am planning to write flash fiction on the train journey to and from London on Saturday as I head off to a writing day run by the Association of Christian Writers. It’s amazing what you can get done on a smartphone with no interruptions! (Daren’t do this on the Tube though. Always worried I’ll miss my stop! I do think the Tube is a wonderful invention and you never get cold down there either…).

I also sometimes draft non-fiction articles and future blog posts when out and about. I just need a long enough train journey to draft a novel now. 😉😁Hmm….

 

When planning your story (you do, yes?), I find it useful to work out what the obvious ideas might be from a title I’ve thought of, and then work out what could come from those. I don’t plump for the first ideas that come to me. I try to make myself dig that bit deeper to come up with something that fits the theme, makes sense, but is also different precisely because I haven’t gone for the obvious ideas!

Spider diagrams or flowcharts can be useful here. I find I must have a title to kick start the process with, even if I do end up changing it for something better later. It is always a tad annoying that a better title idea crops up when you are writing the story and NOT before you get started, but that is one of those quirks of writing!

Picture of me reading was taken by the lovely #DawnKentishKnox at last year’s Bridge House event. Am very much looking forward to this year’s one too!

 

Gill talks with Dawn and I at the BH event, image taken by Paula Readman

Gill James talks with Dawn Knox and I at a networking event held by Bridge House Publishing last December. Am glad to report Dawn will also be in the Waterloo Festival Anthology. Image from Paula Readman and thanks to her for permission to use it.

Paula Readman, Dawn Kentish Knox and Allison Symes and books - with kind permission from Paula Readman - Copy

Paula Readman, Dawn Knox and I at the recent Bridge House celebration event. Many thanks to Paula for the image. Also Paula is another winning entry for the Waterloo Festival.

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Dawn Kentish Knox, fellow flash fiction writer, reads some work from her excellent book, The Great War. Image by Allison Symes

Lovely having an appreciative audience, pic taken by Dawn Kentish Knox

I read three stories from From Light to Dark and Back Again. Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for the picture!

Book Buying News!

From Light to Dark and Back Again is available from The Book DepositoryDelivery time on the paperback is 1 to 3 business days.  As ever, reviews are always welcome in the usual places.  The great thing is reviews do not need to be long but they all help the writer, even the indifferent ones!

Fairytales with Bite – Flash Fiction and Fairytales

Flash fiction is an ideal vehicle for fairytales.  Why?  Because the best fairytales set up their world quickly, have a definite conclusion, and often pack a powerful punch.  Flash fiction does this too so to my mind flash and fairytales are a match made in writing heaven.

Flash fiction has to be character led due to its limited word count but you can set that character wherever and whenever you wish.  A few telling details can set up a magical world quickly.  For example from my George Changes His Mind (in From Light to Dark and Back Again), I set up a magical world with the opening line “He refused to kill the dragon.”  The telling detail there is in one word – dragon! The story goes on to show what happens and that is the important bit of the story after all.  I don’t need to use thousands of words setting up the magical world in which this is set.  This is not crucial to this story.  What matters is it IS in a magical world and what George goes on to do or not do.

A lot of my stories are either reflections of a fairytale world or set in it and they are great fun to write but I always focus on what the lead character is like.  That is the crucial point of any story I think but in flash where every word must work hard to earn its place to stay there, it is even more so.

This World and Others – Stand Alone

Part 2 of my CFT mini series on The Joys and Challenges of Writing Series Novels looks at, amongst other topics, how to ensure a book stands alone given no series novelist can know at which point a reader will discover their writing.  It is highly unlikely to be book 1.  Indeed I’ve discovered series at the mid point! Many thanks again to my marvellous panellists – Jennifer C Wilson, Val Penny, Anne Wan, Wendy H Jones, and Richard Hardie – for some great insights.  Very happy to recommend their books to you too.  Great reads one and all albeit for different audiences!

It is true that every writer stands alone, even those that collaborate as they have to go off to write “their bits” before coming back and swapping notes with the other one(s) in the project.  We have to judge whether our work is strong enough to submit and, if there is a choice of places to submit to, which is the best one.  We have to judge whether we have edited a piece enough or if it still needs work.  The call is with us and we are going to get it wrong.  The joy, of course, is when we get it right and a piece is published.

This is where meeting other writers, whether at conferences, online, at courses etc., is invaluable.  There is nobody like another writer to know exactly how it feels when you’re struggling to get the words out or who knows the joy of the words pouring out and work going well.  You do have to share this sometimes for the sake of your own sanity!

I learned a long time ago no writer is a competitor to me.  I write as I write.  I cannot write as you would.  We all bring our unique perspectives to what we write – and that is the great thing about it!

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Time Pockets and Titles

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Managed to draft a little non-fiction whilst out and about today. I love Evernote and my smartphone! Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers’ Day on 20th October. As well as hearing inspiring speakers and learning so much there, the train journey to and from is also very useful for getting some more work done!

I learned a long time ago it pays to use whatever pockets of time you have to write. Those pockets mount up literally over time and I’ve learned to adapt. If I’ve got 10 minutes, say, I’ll use that period to brainstorm ideas for stories and CFT posts. If I’ve 30 minutes, I’ll draft a couple of flash fiction stories (though I will edit separately later).

Favourite things about titles? I love titles that can carry more than one meaning or take the reader in more than one direction. (It also has the advantage of being a wonderful shortcut when writing flash fiction – think of all those words saved!).

I love titles that can conjure up the mood of the story to come (and usually it ends up conjuring up the genre too). I like those titles where an author has taken a well known saying or proverb and twisted it to suit their purposes. (I do this too). That triggers instant curiosity in me to find out whether the story delivers on the promise of that title. I’m glad to say the vast majority do.

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I sometimes use spider diagrams to help me work out the best ideas for a story. This technique is most useful when I’ve got a promising title to work with but want to work out all possible options coming from it. (I want to make sure I don’t miss any and also not to go with the most obvious option).

There is something about seeing a diagram that encourages lateral thinking. Also flowcharts could work well too.

Sometimes photos can inspire story ideas. If you have a family portrait, who are they, is there anyone missing from the picture (and if so who and why), and what led up to the portrait being taken. Was everyone happy to take part or is the portrait a picture of a group hiding secrets and resentments? Plenty of food for thought there I think!

Many thanks to Peter Hitchen and the Hampshire Writers’ Society for an excellent summary of last Tuesday’s event.

What was fascinating from my viewpoint was that with flash fiction, you have to leave gaps for the reader to fill in with rheir imaginations. You give them the telling details, the what they need to know, and they do the rest. You could call it interactive fiction.

This tied in beautifully with Ian’s fascinating talk given ruthless editing and leaving the gaps is crucial to games writing too.

Again, many thanks. It was a great evening.

POSTER SHOWING ALLISON AS GUEST SPEAKER AT HWS OCTOBER 2018

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Many thanks to the Hampshire Writers’ Society for the image and to Peter Hitchen for the great write-up.

Hampshire Writers’ Society have kindly put up a great summary of last Tuesday’s meeting where Ian Thomas, games writer, and I were speaking. Many thanks to them!

My CFT post this week will be part 2 of The Joys and Challenges of Writing Series Novels. Once again, thanks to my guests, #JenniferCWilson, #ValPenny, #AnneWan, #WendyHJones and #RichardHardie. More great insights here which we all hope will be encouraging to other writers. Link up on Friday.

Making good progress on my third collection of flash fiction, though I think it is the way of things that progress is never as quick as writers would like! Have edited a novel I wrote ages ago and need to put those amendments in, so hope to get on with that soon too. Any chance to get bored? Not a bit of it and that’s just how it should be!

 

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Flash fiction may be short but it should still reveal character and, with that, something about the human condition.

What makes you hiss the villains in stories or cheer on the heroes/heroines? Their characters, as well as their actions, have you reading on and on to find out what happens. One of the things I love about fairytales is generally justice will be done in some way by the end of the story. We all know that so often doesn’t happen in life.

Ultimately, a story should leave you wondering whether YOU would do as the lead(s) did in the tale if you were facing those circumstances or if your actions would be somewhat different. (And what WOULD you do instead? A story to be written there perhaps).

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I’ve occasionally used alliteration in my story titles (Telling the Time in FLTDBA) but don’t use this method much. Not sure why other than that I absolutely love using well known sayings, proverbs etc as my source of inspiration for titles. (Often make great themes for the stories too of course).

I suspect though that alliteration is probably best treated a bit like chilli powder. Use alliteration to attract attention to your story, it can and SHOULD liven things up, (and ensure your tale delivers on the promise given by the title).

However, too much of it and you will regret it (and this comes from someone who DID put too much chilli in a con carne once. Once done never forgotten, trust me on that!). From a writing viewpoint, I suspect too much alliteration will simply become tiresome and would look gimmicky, definitely things to avoid.

Have fun with flash fiction and experiment with the form. It can be written poetically. It can be all dialogue. It can be all narrrative (though I think all dialogue is easier to do and easier to get a good pace continuing throughout).

Then there are the one line stories, the one paragraph tales and so on. Have fun experimenting with the mood of the story too. As with any story, your characters are going on a journey. It’s just that in flash it’s an abrupt one!

Set your stories in the present day, in the past, in the future. Set them in this world or in something made up. Have characters you love and those you loathe.

Above all, enjoy your writing. There really should not be a dull minute!

 

 

When a writer creates a world, you usually think of epic stories (such as sagas, fantasy etc) where that creation runs to several tens of thousands of words! Not the case in flash fiction where you might have tens of words at best and that’s it! Quite a difference…

So what are the telling details then that can conjure up a world in such few worlds? I’ve found that showing something of the lead character’s attitude to their world can be revealing. (Said character usually goes on to reveal why they love or loathe it – there’s rarely any middle ground here).

Getting the character to have a “quick look around” and summarise what they see is another good method to conjure up pictures quickly.

Getting a character to query something odd (to them) is also handy. Why is it odd? Do we know what the item is?

In all of these methods, you are following the old maxim of showing and not telling too.

Goodreads Author Programme Blog –

Images and Stories

Can you think of one image that conjures up a story so much so that when you see these images you can’t stop yourself recalling the tale? Some of mine are:-

1. A wardrobe. (Narnia). (Can make life awkward when walking past a furniture shop. I walk past, see the wardrobes and smile, though really I am a bit disappointed if I see someone open said wardrobe, and there are no pine trees, a lamp post, or lots of snow to be seen anywhere! I accept this may just be me).
2. A phone box (Dr. Who – and do check out the novels. They’re great).
3. A block of marble. (King Arthur). (Sometimes get to see these when visiting historical buildings, cathedrals etc).
4. A bow and arrow (Robin Hood – and I still love the Disney version of that).
5. A bonnet. (I instantly think of Pride and Prejudice, though I usually only see said bonnet if going to some sort of exhibition).
6. A cigar. (Hamlet – yes I know! I AM old enough to remember the advert for Hamlet cigars but these days I see the product and think of the wonderful production of Hamlet I saw with Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. I have at least gone upmarket a bit!).
7. A typewriter. I think of P.G. Wodehouse and his wonderful Jeeves and Wooster and Blandings stories in particular here.
8. White and red roses. I think of The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey which is a wonderful read and made me change my view on Richard III.
9. Daffodils. Yes, Wordsworth’s poem comes immediately to mind. A story captures a moment in time for a character but poems can as well even if the “character” is the poet and you are sharing with them one of their life experiences.
10. A picnic. Conjures up images of the Famous Five by Enid Blyton – and yes I’m partial to ginger beer too.