Work In Progress/Flash Fiction Ideas

Image Credit: Unless otherwise stated, all pictures are from Pixabay.

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A week today and I’ll be at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School again. Can’t wait! Always good to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and learn so much from the different courses and workshops. The usual dilemma of which ones to go to applies… but I know I’m in good company with that!

Many thanks to all who’ve read Stolen on Cafelit.

Hope to get another story off for a competition this coming week. Am making a conscious effort to increase my throughput (so to speak) and am pleased I’ve done better this year on this than I did at the same time twelve months ago.

As for where I don’t hear what the results are or where I receive outright rejections, I will review those stories later in the year and see if I can submit them elsewhere. Usually, I can. Sometimes I can spot something, after a break away from it, that could do with strengthening so I work on the story and then re-submit it. Very little is wasted!

Update:  Am pleased to say I will have another story up on Cafelit on 12th August. More nearer the time.

And the first thing people will want to know is the title - Pixabay

I can’t remember what the first story I wrote was. It was not published but to begin with I didn’t write with publication in mind. My first thoughts were to see if (a) I could write a story at all and then (b) can I repeat the process?

I kept doing that for a while until I had a reasonable number and then started submitting work (on the grounds I had absolutely nothing to lose so may as well give it my best shot. If I was published I’d be thrilled to bits. I was – and I was! I still love that thrill of knowing something of mine has been accepted for publication. That’s the nice thing. That thrill does not diminish!).

I will always remember the first story that was published though! (A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology. I suspect time will stand still long before I forget that!).

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Pleased Just a Minute is back on Radio 4. That and Clue are the main comedy shows I listen to now. JAM is a wonderful way of discovering just how hard it is NOT to repeat, deviate, or hesitate when talking on a topic. Know I couldn’t do it.

Repetition in writing is something I have mixed feelings on. I sometimes repeat a word or phrase deliberately for emphasis. Sometimes I get a character to use a particular word so whenever it comes up, you know it’s that character who is speaking. (I avoid tags as much as possible but generally stick to he said/she said/it said when I do need to use them).

When I edit, I’m looking out for the repetitions I didn’t mean to do and there are always some! (This is another reason for reading work out loud by the way. I’ve found I’ve missed things even looking at a printout. Reading the work out literally brings home your repetitions and other failings as you hear yourself speak and realise you’ve used a phrase several times when you didn’t need to or mean to).

Delighted to say I’ll have another story up on Cafelit next week too. More details a bit nearer the time. Looking forward to sharing the link while I’m at Swanwick too.

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I don’t schedule posts as often as could but I will be preparing a two-part CFT article on Making Space, which I’ll schedule for this Friday and the one after. (I will be very tired but happy after a wonderful week at Swanwick for the second part of my post, which will focus on making space as a writer. More details on the first part tomorrow).

I usually schedule posts for when I’m due to be away but, increasingly thanks to Evernote and a smartphone, I’m drafting posts and then putting up later the same day. I often use train journeys for this as well as my flash fiction. It means I get a nice mixture of writing done.

I need to try to write up posts in batches more often and schedule them, as I’m sure that will prove to be more efficient. The nice thing is as well is if something topical comes up, you just change your schedule for whatever you WERE going to post. You can always use that another time. The only thing to watch is to ensure any batch posts are all timeless and could go up at any time.

Pleased to say I submitted another story yesterday for a competition. Have submitted more work at this time this year than twelve months ago so pleased with that. Need to catch up on the writing prompts in my diary too as I know those will trigger more stories.

As you can no doubt tell, I don’t have time to get bored! But that is a very good thing indeed…

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Favourite things about flash fiction for me:-

1. Can read a story in one sitting. (Invaluable when I’m short of time).

2. Great for twist endings (which I adore).

3. One-liners and punchlines work well here too and again I adore those.

4. You can set your character in any genre you want. It is only the word count you’re watching. I’ve found as a result the story has to be character led as that is more direct. There is no room for descriptions or interaction with many other characters after all.

5. I love writing dialogue. Not a lot of room for that in flash but what I can do is show you some of my character’s thoughts and I love writing those too. The great thing with that is you will pick up on the character’s general attitude to life. In dialogue they may disguise that especially if they want to impress someone.

Sometimes a flash story tips over and becomes a longer 1500+ tale and that’s fine. It just gets submitted to a different market/competition.

I’ve learned over time to let my character(s) have their voice. The trick is ensuring that what emerges IS relevant to the story (or deepens it and makes it more meaningful).

Writers need to come with an in-built “you’re waffling and you know you are, cut NOW” detector!

The critical test for me is to ask myself does a reader really need to know this? Will their enjoyment of the story be greater if this is in the piece? If it’s Yes and Yes, the material stays in. If there’s any doubt on either, out it comes.

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Loving listening to the Pink Panther theme on Classic FM tonight. (You’ll be humming it all night now. I know I will but it is wonderful music! Loved the films AND the cartoons. I don’t know how many other films spawned cartoons either).

So you have distinctive and memorable pieces of music then across the genres. The challenge for writers is to make OUR writing distinctive and memorable.

For me, the only way to do that is to have stand-out characters. It’s never about the plot for me. It’s always about whether the character engages me regardless of whether the story is a 50 word dribble, a 100 word drabble, or a 250,000 word epic saga!

I find working out what my main character’s chief trait is going to be a useful way to unlocking what makes them tick, WHY that trait is their chief one and so on.

For my flash stories (and especially the first person ones), I have to know what my character’s voice is before I start writing them. Are they whiny? Boastful? Remorseful etc etc? Only when I think I’ve got a handle on who they really are do I start writing the story. Outlining like this has saved me a lot of time later.

Where I’ve found ideas for flash fiction stories includes:-

1. Proverbs (to use both as titles and themes).

2. Advertising phrases

3. Taking a period of history I like and writing from the viewpoint of one of my favourite characters from that period.

4. Other well known phrases (e.g. my Circle of Life, Pressing the Flesh, and Coming Up Roses).

5. Turning stereotypes on their head (e.g. my George Changes His Mind. Let’s just say I have an alternative view as to what happened when George met that dragon).

6. Using an alliterative title and seeing where it takes me (e.g. my Pen Portrait). The more open to interpretation the title, the better.

7. Taking a book I like (e.g. Pride and Prejudice) and writing a snapshot story from the viewpoint of one of the characters (e.g. my Changing My Mind is from the viewpoint of Mr Darcy).

8. Picking a fiction genre and seeing if I can write a flash fiction story in it. (I’ve written what I call light horror such as my Calling the Doctor in this vein).

9. Posing a question as the title and again seeing where it might take me.

10. Using a letter format from one character to another to generate a story.

What I like most is mixing up the methods used. It keeps me on my toes and I think makes the writing more interesting. It is really important to have fun with what you write, I think.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books You Can’t Finish

I’m glad to say there aren’t many books I haven’t been able to finish but I guess this is one of those things that happens to most of us.

I always think it’s a bit of a shame when this does occur and I ask myself just why I couldn’t finish the book. The answer is nearly always that the characters didn’t grip me enough to make me want to find out what happened to them.

These days, given life is short and I have to TBR pile to be seen to be believed (and on my Kindle too!), anything that doesn’t hook me quickly is discarded.

It’s a good challenge to me as a writer to ensure I do put plenty of hooks into my flash fiction and short stories.

It also makes you appreciate those wonderful writers who can keep doing this book after book after book over many, many years. When I think P.G. Wodehouse wrote over 90 books and was consistently funny, well for me that’s genius and should be recognised as such.

Now back to my reading…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PERSPECTIVE AND PUBLICATION NEWS

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Hope it has cooled down where you are. I prefer a temperate climate, as does the dog. I also find it easier to focus.

Does the time of year affect what you write? I can’t say it does for me as I write a mixture of light and darker pieces throughout the year.

If the seasons do affect what you write, how can you play to the strengths of this? I would’ve thought it is probably better to work with it rather than to try to fight it, if only because you’ll feel less frustrated that way.

Analysing how you work is a good idea, whether you’re affected by the seasons or not. For me, the amount of time I have per writing session is more important and I aim to make the most of each slot. My goal is to be able to look back and feel it was a good writing session, regardless of whether I had ten minutes or three hours.

Happy writing!😊

 

Image Credit:  Generally Pixabay as usual but the Scottish beach and loch pictures were taken by me earlier this year.

Glad to be home from a very busy day in London yesterday. Loved visiting the Sky Gardens. They were great and the views incredible. I’d never seen the Tower of London look like it was a Lego sized kit before! I guess it just goes to show perspective is everything.

Perspective is everything for your characters too and indeed for you as you write the story. Just who is your lead and why have you chosen them? Why does it matter to show their perspective and not another character‘s view of the world instead?

What is fun is to write from the perspective of a character you know you wouldn’t sympathise with in any kind of life yet alone the real one. The challenge here is to write about them convincingly despite your own antipathy to them.

Working out how to get into their head to show their reasons for being the way they are will push you into exploring how they got to be at this point in the first place. That will make for interesting characterisation for one thing. It will almost certainly increase the drama in your story too.

Images below taken by me as at 27th July 2019. It isn’t often I get to take a shot with the caption already on it! Also have fun spotting the landmarks.

Publication News

A busy day on the writing front. Glad to share the links for my ACW More Than Writers’ blog which discusses whether or not it is easier to write during the summer.

Also glad to share the link to Stolen, my latest story on Cafelit. This is the nearest I’ve got to an autobiographical story (and probably the nearest I will get I think. I identify with Sarah in this one).

The nature of this story meant I knew it wasn’t going to be a flash piece but that’s fine. The story has to be what it is. If it’s over 1000 words then so be it.

 

Am sharing an extract from both More than Writers and Stolen here as a taster. Hope you enjoy.

Summertime and the Writing Is Easy…

Or not maybe… Apologies to George Gershwin for misquoting his classic (though I still prefer Rhapsody in Blue).

Do you find writing in summer easier than during the winter? The jury’s out for me here. I try to keep a consistent writing level up for most of the year because, regardless of season, there are always distractions. But there are times when I write less and I’ve learned to come to terms with that…..

Stolen

by Allison Symes

cranberry juice


I’m not going to the bloody doctors.  I couldn’t tell you how often Sarah goes on about it.  When will she take the hint?  I do know my own mind.  I swear she thinks I’m going loopy.  She says not but why else would she want me to go to the doctors when there’s nothing wrong with me?

It’s perfectly normal for older people to forget things sometimes.  Hell, she’s done so herself.  She forgot my birthday last week.  I was really hurt by that.  I was bloody annoyed when she told me my birthday is next month.  I should know my own birthday.

Oh my cup of tea has gone cold.  Did I forget to drink it?  Did I forget to put the kettle on at all and just poured cold water into my mug?  I did do that last Wednesday but I’d had a stressful time of it arguing with Sarah again and well that kind of thing is bound to make you forget odd things, isn’t it?  I didn’t tell Sarah I did this.  She’d have seen it as proof I do need to go and see Dr. Page.

Sarah keeps telling me I shouldn’t be afraid to go to the doctors.  Dr. Page is sympathetic, is bound to have treated patients with memory loss before and there is more awareness now of “mind” issues.  Sarah says this covers everything from depression to dementia.  Sarah is right on all of this but how it applies to me I couldn’t tell you.  I am perfectly healthy.  Sarah says I’m in denial.  There is something wrong when your own daughter tries to tell you what to do.

And I’m simply not having that.  Sarah ought to be pleased.  If ever there was proof I do know my own mind, this is it, surely……

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The challenge of writing stories like Stolen, when they pack an emotional punch, is keeping your own emotions out of it while you’re writing it. You have to put some distance between yourself and the voice of your lead character(s) so it is THEIR story coming through and not yours as the author. You also want the emotion to be authentic and not spill over into melodrama.

This is why it is crucial to put a story aside for a while before revisiting it to edit it. I’ve found it is the only way to get the necessary distance so I can judge what I’ve still got to do on the story objectively (and there is always something!).

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What is your favourite form of flash fiction? The 100-worder? The 500-worder? Funny? Darker? I love them all of course but if there is one kind that sneaks its way to the top of my list, it is the 100-worder with a humorous twist. So here goes…

Late Running

The ghost train ran straight through the station. It must make up time.

If you thought fines issued to late running train companies on earth were inadequate, you wouldn’t be disappointed here.

Miscreants were treated according to species. Ghosts were obliterated. Vampires were drained down. The rumours tonight were not good.The controllers were more foul than usual. The Boss was due to visit to check all was well…or as bad as this service was meant to be. He wouldn’t be let down by sloppy staff.

Bonemeal was mentioned.

After all, the train was run by a skeleton crew.

Ends.

Allison Symes – 27th July 2019

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If there’s anything odd going on tonight, the cat will not spill the beans.  Pixabay

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Speeding restrictions apply to all but there are always some who ignore the rules. Pixabay

Must ‘fess up and say I’ve got a few writing prompts to catch up with in my diary but all have the potential to make promising flash fiction stories. Will probably have a go at some of these later in the week. (I tend to get my CFT post sorted first, then resume work on fiction).

Was pleased with my Late Running story I wrote on the train yesterday. Hope you enjoyed it. I am partial to puns and they can be used in flash fiction effectively. You can’t go on at length in flash as you’d defeat the whole object of it so a short pun as a twist ending or as part of a character’s thoughts can work well.

I love writing as well as reading these but, as with most things I guess, puns etc work best when not overdone.

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My latest story on Cafelit, Stolen, isn’t a flash fiction piece, far from it. The nature of the story meant it had to go well over 1000 words but that’s fine. Not only do I keep my hand in writing a mixture of fiction, it kind of proves the point the story has to be what it has to be.

It never pays to try to cut a story so you can get it to count as flash somewhere.

The stories that work best as flash fiction are those where you want to focus on one intense moment in a character’s life and nothing else. Where there is more than one, you are better off writing a longer story to begin with, otherwise you will sell it short (and reduce your publication chances too).

Time can be an awkward thing to write into flash fiction stories. Most will consist of one vital moment to a character and so the span of time where the action takes place is very short. I’ve found I’ve needed stories towards the upper limit of flash (1000 words) to be able to show action taking place across a longer time span.

For example my Rewards has a time span of one evening and the next morning while my Expecting refers to time as a character realises they haven’t heard from someone for a while.

Flash I think does work best when it is for the moment. Even when I write historical flash, I’m looking at one incident in one character’s life. Time comes into the setting I’ve chosen to use and acts as a backdrop.

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Goodreads Author Blog –

What a Good Book Can Lead To

Have you known a good book to change you?

For me, The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey has led to a huge interest in Richard III and conviction he is not guilty of the murder of The Princes in the Tower, assuming they were killed.

There is no evidence they were killed and my own view is at least one was smuggled out of the country. Richard himself was smuggled out as a boy so it would’ve been known it could be done and Henry Tudor was never able to prove where the boys were, else he would’ve done. That really would have damned Richard.

That aside, good books have expanded my view of how irony works thanks to Austen, Wodehouse, and Pratchett. Now there’s a trio for you!

Good books have expanded my ideas of what can be done in fiction, especially in fantasy. There’s a reason The Lord of the Rings is considered an epic. It is! The sheer scale and scope of the trilogy will always amaze me.

Good books open your mind and imagination.

Happy reading!