Geography in Fiction and The Light of the Moon

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
It has been a dreadful week news wise. I think the image below, which I used earlier this week, says it all.


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. This time I’m looking at Geography in Fiction. A strange topic? I don’t think so. Geography plays a major role in so many stories and books. Can you imagine, say, The Lord of the Rings without it? Or Winnie the Pooh? Or The Wind in the Willows? And geography can help create stories simply by the problems it can cause, based on what we know here. Hope you find the post useful.

Geography in Fiction

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News wise, it has been a dreadful day. I wasn’t expecting war in Europe again, ever.

One of the roles of the creative arts, including writing, is, of course, to allow us to escape into what are effectively alternative universes for a while. They can make us reflect. Stories can show us the best and the worst of ourselves. They can console and cheer.

Yet, much as I love stories, I know they’re not the most important thing in the world right now. Despite that, I also believe they do have a vital role to play in emphasizing our humanity. I really cannot stress enough how important it is we don’t lose that.

So keep reading. Writers, keep writing. Stories matter.


Hope you have had a good day.

I’ve talked before about drafting a story and leaving it for a while before coming back to editing it. Once edited, I take another break from it and then I do a final edit. What is the point of one break, yet alone two?

The first break is to enable me to check my story structure and character works after that initial thrill of creation. (And I do get a real buzz from that. Pity I can’t bottle that feeling really). Happy with that, I make adjustments to my story to strength my characterisation where I feel that is needed. It is also at this point I may well spot an element of the storyline that could be improved so I do that too.

The second break means when I come back to the story again I spot the typos and grammatical errors. There inevitably are some (nobody gets away with these things entirely scot free) but I know to look for them and to trample on the lot!

I want to give my story the best possible chance out there so going over everything and ensuring there are no errors takes time but it is worth doing. I remember in my early days not doing that and spotting a glaring error after I sent the story off. No surprises when I tell you that story didn’t get picked. I did rework the story and sent it off elsewhere and if memory serves me correctly, it ended up on CafeLit.


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s Friday. It’s story time again. Pleased to share Light of the Moon, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Not everyone enthuses about the light of the moon – find out why here. Hope you enjoy the tale.

Screenshot 2022-02-25 at 16-16-25 Light of the Moon, by Allison Symes

It is difficult to know what to write after a dreadful news day. But I do know it is important to write. To tell stories. Stories can unite us, whether we write flash fiction or epic sagas. And stories encourage the imagination and can help with empathy. If you understand where a character is coming from, you’re well on your way to understanding where other humans are coming from, given stories reflect on us.


What do I do with flash tales which don’t get picked for a competition win or placing? I look at said stories again, polish them up, and send them out elsewhere. I have gone on to have stories published on the second or third attempt.

But it has to be said, the break away from the stories has meant I can look at them again with a critical eye and try and work out why it might not have been picked. Sometimes it is a question the story is just not to the judge’s taste – and that’s fine. You learn to accept early on that not everyobdy is going to like what you do. There are styles of story I’m not keen on so that’s fair enough.

But sometimes you do spot a character portrayal didn’t quite work out as you thought, maybe it was a little weak so I look at ways to improve things and then get my story out again somewhere else.

Waste not, want not!


Fairytales with Bite – Humour

I have a very soft spot for humour in any kind of fiction but especially in the fairytales. Many of them can be grim (some pun intended!) so something to lighten the mood a little I find helpful. While I’m not a huge fan of pantomime, I can understand it and the reason why roles such as the pantomime dame exist. Widow Twankey doesn’t have much of a role in the actual story of Aladdin. “She” does have a major role in the pantomime versions of the story.

I like the humorous one liners and these can work really well in short stories and flash fiction. (If anything they can have more of an impact because the forms are short). This is where creating your own characters and getting them to come out with those one liners is great fun! And they can make fantastic punchlines for your stories too. The key is ensuring that the one liner is something your character as portrayed would come out with. You can’t just tack a funny line on to them.

Humour should arise naturally so if your fairy godmother has a malfunctioning wand, then humorous situations would arise from that.


This World and Others – The Value of Humour

Does your fictional world value humour or suppress it? I am always wary of anyone who cannot laugh at themselves (as it makes me wonder if they have any empathy with human foibles at all and we all have some!). Is humour encouraged in your creation or firmly kept “underground”? Are there any off limit topics for comedy?

I know I deeply appreciate humour. Something that makes me smile or laugh is bound to add a bit of a shine to my day. It does for most people but how do your characters see it? Does their reaction here show you more about them that you can develop further for your tale?

Perhaps your character likes one-liners but has no time for the longer funny monologues. Does that reflect on them just wanting to get on with things quickly in other areas of their life? Perhaps they appreciate quick wit rather than farce or physical comedy? Maybe they were clumsy (or still are) and find physical comedy with its emphasis on slapstick and falls makes them feel uncomfortable. How do they handle that discomfort if this type of humour is normal for their world?

Reactions to humour vary from person to person. You can show elements of that with your characters too. If someone finds something funny and their closest companions don’t, how does that then change how they get on? Does that change how their overall “mission” pans out?

If humour doesn’t exist as we know it here, what would your created world have instead? How would your people cope with naturally funny things in a world that doesn’t acknowledge humour? And what might happen if someone dares to laugh when all around them dare not?

Food for funny thought there, I think!


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Talks, Stories, Mom’s Favorite Reads, and Swanwick

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

It has been an interesting few days what with my talk on flash fiction going down well with Byre Writers, some lovely comments on my writing and that talk on Twitter, and looking ahead to seeing friends I haven’t seen in person for two years at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

Talking of Swanwick, the image of me reading at the Open Prose Mic Night was taken by the lovely Penny Blackburn. The side image of me reading was taken by the equally lovely Geoff Parkes. All other Swanwick images were taken by me.

I plan to post as normal next week from Swanwick if I can but times are likely to be different. (Looking forward to having these two books in the Swanwick Book Room. Last time I went I only had From Light to Dark and Back Again out).

Framed Flash Collections

Facebook – General

Stories – I can’t imagine my life without them. I don’t care if they’re in written form, audio, film, or what have you, though I love them all. What I want is a good story well told which keeps me engrossed until those magic words The End. And for me that means being gripped by the characters and having to find out what happens to them.

The nice thing is stories come in all manner of styles and word counts. It has been a joy to discover flash fiction as a format (and especially since I’ve been published in it!). Styles and fashions in storytelling may come and go but the basic premise of having a story so good you have to finish reading it remains.

I look at some of the older novels I have on my shelves and the levels of description in them would almost certainly go above a flash fiction word count but most of these were written in pre-television and film days when most people, for example, would not have known what London looked like so did need a description to help them get their bearings in the story they were about to read.

The advantage we have as writers now is not having to do that. We can give a reader the salient details they have to know and they can fill in the rest themselves. Most will have an idea of what London looks like (and it is also easy enough to look things up now. Google Maps anyone?!). So we can focus on the things that will drive the story on (and our pace also increases as a result of that. Particularly useful for short form fiction writing of course).


Hope you have had a good start to the working week. (So looking forward to being at Swanwick next week!). Lovely to see Lady play with her pals this morning. Lady now happily curled up on sofa, snoozing.

Just to say the August 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out and I have a piece in there about Side Benefits of Writing. See link below for more. Have already submitted a piece for the next issue. It is great fun to write for MFR.
Hope to be sharing further publication news later this month too. Watch this space as they say.

Oh and to flag up Writing Magazine now have a Grand Flash Prize. I hope to have a crack at that one. (First prize is £1000, second prize is £250 and there are other prizes too – definitely worth a go).

Sorry I realised after it was too late yesterday I had sent out my author newsletter a day early. Oops! Mind you, I am finding it hard to believe it is August, given the recent bizarre weather. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it!

On the plus side, this time next week I should be enjoying my first full day at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Can’t wait for that. Am hoping for good weather (and am looking forward to being out and about on the train again too).

A huge thank you to #JuliaPattison and, separately, #PeterMarshall for your wonderfully encouraging comments respectively about flash fiction and the Byre Writers workshop I ran yesterday. Feedback like this is always welcome but especially so when it comes out of the blue.

Also a huge thank you to the lovely people at The Chameleon Theatre Group for arranging access for me to pictures from their recent comeback production. I will be reviewing their show next week for Chandler’s Ford Today but as well as putting on great shows, The Chameleons take some great pictures too. And I hope The Chameleons have got off to a good start with their charity fundraising for this year which will be for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance Service.

Last but not least, thank you also for the great response to my recent CFT post about Wildflowers. It seems to have struck a chord with people but then maybe we all need to take time out to appreciate the natural world more often, especially after the last very trying year or so.

It was a great joy to talk about flash fiction writing to Byre Writers this morning. Many thanks to #KathrynHolme and to all who came to the talk via the wonders of Zoom for making me so welcome. It was great fun.

One of the nice things about flash fiction writing is it is easy to demonstrate and I usually read out a couple of my published works at talks like this to show what flash can do and be. I like to choose stories with contrasting moods to show this. And, while flash is short, its impact is all the greater on a reader because of that. A well-told flash story can “hit the reader in the guts” very quickly indeed!

I like to mix up whether I produce stories to make readers laugh, shudder, or what have you. I like a nice mix of moods in the stories that I read so I like to reflect that in what I write.

In further news, my author newsletter went out earlier today. If you’d like to sign up for this, please head over to my website at

And a week from now I should be at the writing highlight of my year – the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. I plan to put up my FB posts as normal but times will differ and I hope to write up a review of this year’s school for Chandler’s Ford Today later on in the summer to give a flavour of what goes on. What am I looking forward to most? Easy-peasy. Meeting up with friends in person whom I have not seen for two years! Can’t wait.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Amongst the many things I’m looking forward to at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School is the Open Prose Mic Night. I’ve taken part in that a couple of times and hope to do so again. Flash fiction works wonderfully for this as, by its nature, it’s difficult to go on for too long (which is the besetting sin of any Open Prose Mic Night!).

And it is a joy to listen to the other participants. It is wonderful to be read to – doesn’t happen often enough for my liking – and the stories they come up with are amazing. I see that very much as an encouragement and Prose Nights are also a good way to test out material and get used to reading to an audience. That in turn is useful practice for book signings hopefully later on.


My latest YouTube video is called Not Taking Advice. It follows what can happen when someone doesn’t! Hope you enjoy it.

One of the joys of talking about flash fiction is it is very easy to demonstrate what it is by reading some examples. I did this yesterday for Byre Writers and deliberately mixed up the moods of the stories I read out to show just what flash can do and be.

Another nice thing about submitting regular work for #FridayFlashFiction is I get to read the other stories on there and can genuinely consider this market research! Market research in terms of seeing what other flash authors are doing, the kinds of stories the website likes and so on. That kind of research is never wasted. Best of all, it is great fun.

Oh and talking about flash fiction writing, the latest edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is out. I talk about the side benefits of writing in this issue. The theme I set for this issue for flash stories was coming out of your shell.

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Many thanks to the lovely people at Byre Writers for inviting me to talk to them about flash fiction writing this morning. It is always a joy to talk about flash. I shared some ways “in” to creating a flash story and the advantages of flash fiction writing. Even if you mainly write something else, there are still benefits to be had from flash writing.

Am looking forward to taking two books to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School’s Book Room next week. When I last went, I only had From Light to Dark and Back Again out. It will be really nice to see Tripping the Flash Fantastic in the Book Room this time as well. (I am also hoping to see some other books in there by Chapeltown writers).

Glad my Oddity, the latest tale on #FridayFlashFiction, is going down well. The feedback is much appreciated. And if you want to find out what flash fiction is out there, do check the website out. You’ll have a good read as well as get a good “feel” for the kind of stories you can produce for flash.

Screenshot 2021-07-30 at 18-42-48 Oddity, by Allison Symes

Goodreads Author Blog – What Do You Want To See in Your Favourite Books?

What I want to see in my favourite books are characters I can root for. Even when they’re villainous, I want to understand what drives them to be the way they are. Nobody says you have to like characters but you do need to be able to see where they’re coming from.

Stories can reflect on us. Unrealistic characters will not draw people in to read their stories. Yet a character you can understand, no matter how bizarre they and/or their setting might be, will draw people in to find out more.

I like crisp dialogue which gives me enough information to work some things out for myself. I like enough description so I can picture the scene but I don’t want too much of that. Again, I want there to be some gaps I can fill in for myself.

Above all, I want the “have got to keep reading to find out what happens next” to be there throughout the whole book or story. No dull bits. Life is too short for that.

And at the end of the story or book, I want to feel like I’ve been taken on a rollercoaster ride of emotions but for that to be a journey I would happily take again because I loved the story and book.

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Stories and Storms

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

Facebook – General

My favourite adaptation of stories are:-

1. The Lord of the Ring films.

2. A Muppet Christmas Carol.

3. War of the Worlds – the album by Jeff Wayne. (We still have it. Richard Burton was the narrator/lead. He had a lovely voice).

I’d like to sneak in a mention for The Daughter of Time on radio but it’s not really an adaptation. It’s a wonderfully produced reading of a great book set against some evocative music (The Princes in the Tower by William Walton). It is repeated every so often on Radio 4 Extra. Well worth checking out if you like history, detective fiction, or, if you are like me, you love both!

Adaptations are just great ways to enjoy stories in other formats but the ones that work for me are the ones where you sense the people behind them really do love the originals.

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I don’t know about you but it already seems to me as if January has been here forever and we’re still under the halfway point! What is it about January that makes it seem to drag…?!

Making good progress on one story I’ve got in mind for a competition. Have got an idea for another competition but that needs fleshing out.

I have found it to be true the more you write the more ideas you generate (and reading well boosts that further). I will often have ideas for stories pop into my head while drafting my Chandler’s Ford Today posts (and other blogs) so I just make a note of these and come back to them later.

Yes, I do get ideas for non-fiction articles while drafting stories! I think it must be an unspoken rule of writing that, when you write more than one type of thing, you will get ideas for whatever it is at the time you are NOT working on! Again I just make a note of these. Can you have too many notebooks? Definitely not!

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Lady set a new world record for quickest and shortest evening walkies this evening, encouraged by her owners! She’s not fazed by storms, thankfully, but we can be! (It truly is a night for writing “It was a dark and stormy night”!😀). Hope all is as okay as possible wherever you are. If I knew where my hatches were, I’d be battening them down.

Still I guess it is the perfect night for settling in with writing to be getting on with and reading to enjoy later on.

My CFT post this week will be Numbers into Writing Will Go. Sometimes a post proves to be more fun to write than I anticipated and this was one such. I enjoy writing all my posts of course but I love it when one just “takes off” and this one has. Link up on Friday as usual.

The image of Lady I would caption as “There’s a dog in here somewhere!” (All other images from Pixabay).


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I’ve sometimes talked about writing tips I’ve found useful but what have you come across in the writing world which is anything but helpful?

1. No publishers will take work unless you have an agent. Not true. There are plenty of indie publishers who will! It is a question of seeking these out and following their submission guidelines to the letter. Yes, the very big publishers will want you to have an agent but always look out for submission windows. Some of the big publishers have imprints which have these windows so it is worth keeping an eye out for these too.

2. Blogging will open doors in the publishing world. Ahem. Blog because YOU want to. I like blogging as it is a great way to share thoughts and advice. I am not expecting it to pave my way to fame and fortune. That really is not the point of it. It is an outlet, a place where you can share publishing news etc. See it first and foremost as a useful tool for you. Also see it as a way of engaging with potential readers and potentially building up an audience. It is important to be consistent so people know when to expect your posts. Think about what audience you would like to reach and tailor your posts so these will be of interest to them.

3. Short stories have no market. A big no to that one. Yes, they do. Magazines are still the main one but there are indie publishers who cater for short story and flash fiction collections. There are online markets too (and these can be a great way to raise your profile). It is true you have to be a big name to have a big publisher bring out a book of your short stories. But there is always room for good quality anthologies out there. I know, much as I love the novel, I like to read story collections too and I refuse to believe I’m the only one!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t always set out to write flash fiction. I know that sounds odd coming from me but occasionally I will set out to write a standard length short story (1500 words) and realise it has far more impact if I leave it at 150!

But that’s fine. It is the impact on the reader that matters the most and I try to have the needs of the reader in the back of my mind all the time. Yes, I write what I love to write but I also want to get it to an audience if I can so the happy situation here is to write something you love that is likely to have others liking it too.

Easier said than done I know but what I have found has helped enormously:-

1. Is knowing there’s no time limit on practising your craft and trying to hone it. I’m not in a race with other writers. I need to get to a point where my voice shines through in what I write at the pace that I can manage. If it takes two years rather than two months, so be it. I have found trying to submit work regularly means I’m getting that practice in regularly. It mounts up.

2. The really important thing is to enjoy your writing. If you enjoy it, someone else will too. From your viewpoint, if you enjoy it, you will be able to sustain your writing.

3. By thinking about what I want to read and why I have the preferences I do, I can use that to inspire the creation of my characters. It is nearly always characters that fascinate me enough to make me want to find out what happens to them. So I spend time in getting my characters as right as I can manage in terms of being able to see how they would appeal to readers. I find the Scrivener character templates really useful here but you can create your own. Think about what you need to know about your characters. Think about what you like about other writers’ characters. Story analysis is worth doing.

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What I love about flash fiction is being able to glimpse into a character’s life for a brief period and still being able to work out a great deal about them, when that is not part of the story. (It’s a sign of a great flash tale when you can do that. So much has to be implied but there should be plenty of implications for you to pick up on).

Flash fiction is like a mirror held up briefly. You get one glimpse and that’s it until you pick up the mirror again. Repeated readings of a flash tale should enable you to pick up on clues and inferences you missed on the first read. (A good book or film is always worth re-reading or re-watching for precisely that reason. You are focused on finding out what happens on the first reading/viewing.You pick up more on nuances on repeated reads/views).


There was an impressive flash of lightning tonight, while I was out with the dog, that lit up the whole sky. (Naturally these things would happen while I was out as opposed to being nicely cosy indoors but this is Rule 1 for the Murphy’s Law for Dog Owners. You WILL get a soaking every time the heavens even think of opening! Rule 2 is you can never have enough towels for drying the dog).

The ideal flash fiction story should also show an impressive amount of information even if at first read it doesn’t appear to do so. I usually find on subsequent re-readings, there’s more to a character than I first thought and I love that. I also love picking up on the little details that add “oomph” to the story which I may not have given enough attention to on the first read. (I’m too busy trying to find out what happened!).

But I have found it always pays to re-read stories, your own and others, as you will pick up something new. You can then look at what you could add to your own stories to give your own “oomph” factor.

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Am re-reading my Tripping the Flash Fantastic and looking forward to sharing more news on that as and when I can.

I am planning to change the title of this Facebook page later on when I know roughly when my second flash fiction collection will be out.

I have thought for a while that, given I focus on flash fiction advice and tips here, that a title based on that would be preferable anyway. Will let you know more on that later in the year. (It is lovely having plans like this though!).


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Goodreads Author Blog –Reading Preferences

My reading preferences depend on what mood I’m in. I will go through a spate of only wanting to read humorous prose, then go through another where I’m on a diet of crime stories, before moving on again.

I often find the spark for moving on to a different genre for a while will come from something I’ve read in a writing magazine. An interview with an author can lead me to checking their work out but also going on to read more in their genre once I’ve read their book.

One thing I will try and do better on during this year is posting reviews. I do appreciate receiving reviews myself. It’s remembering to post them that’s the issue and not just for me I suspect.

As for where I prefer to read, that’s easy enough – in bed at the end of the day. It’s the perfect way to relax before sleeping.

Do I ever dream about what I’ve read? Not usually though I occasionally get strange dreams where it’s clear something of what I’ve read has seeped in. The problem with those kind of dreams is they are disjointed and I’m not sorry I can’t remember them!

My overall reading preference is to keep on reading widely and well. I’d like to read more non-fiction this year too. Have you set any reading goals this year?

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Celebrations, Reading Work Out, and Framing Stories

A nice mixed bag tonight I think!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is the review of the recent Bridge House event, Celebrations, Crackers, Chapeltown, and Cafelit, though I’m quite pleased I managed to come up with an alliterative title! I also look at how reading work out is useful to writers, as is listening to others reading their work out. For one thing, you literally hear a story’s rhythm and can apply that to your own stories.

Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for kind permission to use some of the images in this piece. I’ve yet to find a way of reading work out and taking my own pictures of me doing this at the same time! (Oh and before you ask, I am really not keen on selfies!).

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My CFT post this week will be a look back at the Bridge House celebration event held on 1st December. I’ll also share some thoughts on the benefits of reading work out loud and on being read to, both of which are lovely!

One of the nicest things about this time of year is that it is very much a time for stories, which is a theme I will be looking at for CFT before too long. Naturally, I love the Christian Nativity story but I also love those wonderful tales associated with it. For example, how did the robin get his red breast? By burning himself on a fire he was fanning to keep a fire going to keep the Holy Family warm.

I also like to have a general review of the year (and also a specific writing review. How did things go? Did I achieve all the goals I set myself? What goals would I like to set for 2019 etc?). So that’s my CFT posts sorted until the year end! Just have to finish writing them now…

One of the great joys of stories (both writing and reading them) is their escapism value, especially if the news is particularly grim. That shouldn’t be underrated.

Whether you read or write humour, horror, sci-fi, or what have you, a story, of whatever length, should transport you into its world. You should be happy to stay there for the duration too! That, ultimately, I think is the biggest challenge to a writer. But it’s a great challenge to have a crack at!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I like to choose themes which can be open ended. Love, for example, can obviously provide happy stories. It can also provide tragedies, something Shakespeare took good advantage of in Romeo and Juliet.

I’ve found that picking the theme I would like to use and then deciding on the mood of the story is so helpful in giving me a “frame” for my story. Then the title comes into play and again I try to choose one which is open, unless I specifically want to put a twist into the tale right at the beginning (my Punish the Innocent is a good example of that).

I find it useful to have my “frame” and then write. It helps me focus.

When drafting a story, what is the first thing you are keen to get right?

For me, it’s ensuring I know my character well enough to know how they would react/act regardless of what situation I drop them right in! (Dropping your characters right in it can be a great way of finding out just what they’re made of). I also like to know what would shake my character out of their sang-froid and what their general beliefs are. Naturally, there should then be something to challenge all of that!

I like to use things that inspire me as a source of story ideas. The great thing with this method is what inspires me and how I combine these to create a new tale will help my writer’s voice to come through. Nobody’s tastes and inspirations are exactly the same. The way these are combined will also differ from writer to writer. So list what your inspirations are. Think about how you can use these. At the very least, you should find some great themes emerging. Good luck!

Fairytales With Bite – Why Fairytales with Bite?

It occurs to me I should have written this post long ago but never mind!

I use the phrase “fairytales with bite” as a lot of my flash fiction work, in particular, is set in a fantasy world and I use a lot of irony. There really is a bite to a lot of what I write. I like quirky writing – my own and that of others! I also use twist endings a lot and there can be a great deal of bite behind those. I am, after all, looking to make an impact with my stories.

My catchphrase is also a reaction against those who think fairytales are twee. I know I’ve touched on this topic before, here and on other blogs I’m involved in, but fairytales can show up human nature for what it is and are anything but twee as a result. Think of all the tales where kindness is rewarded and/or greed is punished. What happens to the villains in lot of fairytales is anything but twee!

Of course, with the Big Bad Wolf, you could argue the fairytale with bite is literal here!

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This World and Others – Reading Work Out Loud

This theme ties in with some thoughts I share on this as part of my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week called Celebrations, Crackers, Chapeltown, and Cafelit.  The latter is a look back at my publisher’s annual celebration event but one part of this is where some of the writers, including me, read some of our stories out to our audience.  Good fun whether you’re taking part or not, but for a writer it’s incredibly useful and here are some reasons why.

1.  You quickly realise if you stumble over words, so will your readers, so out comes the editing pen again.  Always better though that this happens before you submit the story anywhere.  By reading the work out to yourself before submission, this acts as another editing layer and can save your blushes!

2.  You literally hear the rhythm of the story.  There should be a natural ebb and flow to it.

3.  Especially if you write in a genre where you’re inventing names/place names etc, you can literally hear if what you’ve come up with is pronounceable!!  So no more Xxxrbtrzog (try saying that sober yet alone if you have had alcohol!) but something like Xerstone is “do-able” and still conveys to a reader they are in a setting NOT of this world.

4.  As you listen to someone else’s work, take note of what makes a real impact on you.  Is it the power of the dialogue?  Is the sentence structure hitting home well?  I usually find short, simple, and to the point works best.

5.  As you listen, watch out for where you are anticipating what comes next.  What MAKES you wonder what comes next?  Can you apply those thoughts to your own writing?

6.  We all love a story, it’s why we’re writers, and the oral tradition of storytelling is fantastic.  Without it we would have no stories at all so it is a joy to take part in and kind of “support it” ourselves.

Love your reading!





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Had a lovely day out at Swindon (yes really!) visiting the Steam Railway Museum. Great place and one of my favourite things there is being able to walk under a locomotive so you can look up at the workings etc. It is strangely beautiful, especially the brass.

What gets to me every time I visit a place like this are the personal stories. The stories of the navvies (how many of them were killed cutting out the routes for the lines?), the stories of the workshop men creating every single piece for a train by hand, and later the way women took over the roles of men during WW2 and had to give those roles back again. (One soul on a video being played admitted she’d loved her job, didn’t want to leave, but was glad it was because the men were coming back and hadn’t been killed. Lovely lady, lovely attitude).

Having said all that, I was not impressed with the way people were crammed on to GWR trains today. Hardly the legacy Isambard Kingdom Brunel would have wanted to leave – the GWR was very much his railway – but that is another story….

Just had a look at the new Doctor Who trailer. Looks interesting. Have no problem with 13 being female (I thought Missy was great too). What I do want from the new series is good, strong storylines. Looking forward to seeing the series. Doctor Who is one of the few things I will tune in to watch live.

Favourite episodes to date? Hard to say but I did love Matt Smith’s “Vincent“. One of those stories you wanted to be true! Great introduction to the works of Van Gogh too (which is fantastic anyway but also ties in with the original idea behind the commissioning of Doctor Who. The idea was to entertain AND educate, show viewers history they may not know and so on. If you’ve not seen An Adventure in Space and Time which tells the story of Doctor Who itself, I’d recommend it. Good insights.).

Images below taken by me at the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff back in 2010. Very sorry that’s gone now.

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One of the joys of writing shorter fiction is that, if you have a longer project in development, you have something you can submit to markets and competitions in the meantime. So this is one reason why I believe that for novelists, it is a good idea to write shorter fiction too.

Assuming these shorter pieces are published, well it all adds to your writing CV and helps to raise your profile. (I’ve always thought that a strange phrase incidentally. Has anyone ever wanted to sink their profile?!😁).

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When I’m engrossed in a story, I just want to read on for as long as possible before I have to sleep. Always, always, always it is a case of the characters gripping me enough to want to find out what happens next.

This can be a good test for your own stories. Put them aside for a while and come back to them and read them as a stranger would. Are you engrossed with the story? Is there anything you would skip? Does anything “jar”?

Naturally the answers to those should be “yes”, “no”, and “no” though I concede it can take several edits to get to that point!

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Good tip for developing characters is to go and visit any kind of museum where you find out how people lived in the past. (It should also make you grateful for the many blessings we have now!).

Why? I am always moved by the personal stories that come out from visits like this and you find yourself wondering whether you could have been like that person. What would your reactions and actions have been? Could you have worked so physically and mentally hard as they did and keep that going day in, day out? (It does develop a certain amount of grit and you could show your characters developing this even if their situation is very different. Why and how did they develop THEIR grit?).

Then you could think of a character, perhaps one that has been “brewing” in your imagination for a bit, and put them in that historical situation and see how they’d manage.

The great thing is this technique does not have to be confined to historical stories. Going back into the past is like visiting a different world so you could have a fantastical world which has developed way beyond ours, or is way behind ours and set your stories there

Let’s say you’ve been to a museum which involves craftsmen (wood, metal etc), well what would the equivalent be in your story world? What people or strange alien beings would they employ? What would they need the craftmen to produce for everyday use or special occasions? What are these craftsmen like?

Something to ponder I think…

Many thanks to all who liked or commented on my recent stories on Cafelit. Much appreciated!

I loved writing those stories (and indeed love all that I write) and hope some of that love of writing and the characters comes through.

Certainly when I am reading works by other writers, I think you can sense the author enjoyed their work and that kind of enjoyment is contagious in a good way, even when the story itself makes you shiver with fear or laugh your proverbial head off! And that’s just how it should be…

Happy reading and writing!

My favourite trigger for a new flash story is coming up with a title and having fun with the different possibilities that offers.

I sometimes use spider diagrams to work these out, more often or not I jot down a quick note as to story idea A and then again for B and see what I like best. I do know now not to necessarily go with the first idea I’ve come up with but to dig deeper and to see what else I can come up with.

Another favourite starting point is the lead character. I tend to hear how they sound rather than spot how they look straight away, but if their voice is powerful enough and intrigues me, I get on and draft a story about them.

The nice thing is there is no one way to generate ideas for stories, all have their merits, and I think it both useful and fun to mix up how you do this. I think it helps to keep your enjoyment of writing fresh.

LIKES POST - editing - Pixabay image

The joy of editing! Image by Pixabay

LIKES POST - a familiar sight to us all - Pixabay image

Sadly a very familiar sight! Pixabay image

LIKES POST - Far too elegant a desk for me! Pixabay image

Wonderful writing desk. Pixabay image

LIKES POST - Losing yourself in a book - Pixabay image

Being lost in the world of your story. Pixabay image

LIKES POST - when is your writing time - Pixabay image

When is your writing time? Pixabay image

My late mum always believed in being short and to the point. Think she’d be pleased I take the same approach by writing flash fiction!

You lose any fear of killing adverbs or cutting whatever isn’t necessary for your story when you write flash and, of course, you can carry that over into whatever other writing you do. There’s no chance of getting confused over your characters either given, realistically, you only have the room for 1, maybe 2, main people.

I admit I do miss the fact you can’t have subplots in flash fiction, that really is the privilege of a short story or a novel, but I do love being able to cut to the chase with the very short tale. Definitely a case of you pays your money, you take your choice here.


Carols, Stories and Comedy

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Really enjoyed the Carols and Lessons at Romsey URC on Sunday though am so glad I was nowhere near the candles! Lovely though they were, I must admit I’m not much of a fan of candles. The practical side of me keeps thinking “fire hazard”.

(On the other hand, I DO love four candles… Two Ronnies anyone?).

The church looked lovely, I enjoyed the Christmas story as ever and there were some thoughtful poems too. Had a good old sing too. Good for the lungs and the soul!

Over the next week or so, I’ll probably watch A Christmas Carol. (My favourite version is the Muppet one with Michael Caine. I love Marley and Marley with the two old hecklers).

Then I must try and watch Hogfather but I must admit I don’t think you can beat Dickens for a corker of a Christmas story. Indeed how many writers can say they add to the Christmas traditions? (I’m thinking Christina Rossetti for In the Bleak Midwinter and Clement Clark Moore for The Night Before Christmas but it is Dickens I think of first when it comes to festive tales).

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Which type of stories grip you the most? The twist in the tale or the “slow burn” story where it takes a while for the tale to “get going”? I love both. The slow burn story often resonates with me for a long time after initially reading it. I would count many of my character studies as being slow burn type tales.

I like a story to have a good pace (and for it to be appropriate to the tale). I like a good ending (i.e. one that’s suitable for the type of story. I love story endings that surprise me even better as I enjoy guessing how the story will finish long before I get to that point. I like being right but all kudos to any writer who can outfox me.). I look to be totally immersed in the world of that story for the duration of it.

Character types that particularly appeal to me are those that overcome adversity (especially if they are not expected to). I like brave characters, even if their bravery is limited to a domestic environment. Which type of characters appeal to you the most?



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Following on from my recent post about what stories grip you, what story format do you prefer? I must admit nothing, to my mind, will ever beat the paperback but I love the Kindle (especially when going on holiday. It makes packing books a doddle!).

I’m also very fond of audiobooks, as are other members of my family who wouldn’t wade through a “proper” book. (Given the size of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, to name one example. I can understand this. Don’t agree with it but do understand it!).

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My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will take a look back at my writing year. I’ll also be sharing some Cafelit stories of mine too. Well, you have to have stories at Christmas, don’t you? More on Friday.

Have been doing plenty of carol singing the last couple of days in church and whenever Classic FM puts some on. The latter has meant Lady has been a bit bemused. (She has almost certainly put it down as one of those strange things her human does – and quite right too!). I do like a good sing.

Am enjoying reading the joint biography of Morecambe and Wise on Kindle at the moment. It’s bringing back many happy memories and I still love Eric and Ernie. Happily, this means I can link back to classical music again. Anyone for Grieg’s Piano Concerto by Grieg as played by Eric Morecambe?


Classic music can make a classic film

Classical music is wonderful.  Combine it with classic comedy and it’s even better.  Image via Pixabay.


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Rudolph the red nosed reindeer
Knew the others would just sneer
At his odd nasal arrangement
Their teasing was just torment
What he wouldn’t give for a beer!

Copyright:  Allison Symes – December 2017

Okay, the Poet Laureate’s joke is safe but I am partial to the odd limerick. Some of mine are very odd!

Am editing what I hope will be book 2. Hope enjoying re-reading what I wrote some months ago now is a good sign. Below is a link to a recent story of mine on Cafelit. For some reason, there seems to be a Christmas theme!

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Flash fiction has to condense all that you look for in a standard short story into a much tighter word count, yet still be entertaining/gripping etc. Learning to write for flash fiction has improved my editing skills a lot for I know now what my wasted, often repetitive, words are (so those can be cut immediately).

Stories often shed light on what it is to be human. With flash, it is a case of shedding a powerful spotlight! Dare you be caught in its beam?!


Flash fiction for impact. Image via Pixabay


Flash – for light or dark fiction! Image via Pixabay

Not all of my flash fiction ends up at the 100-word mark. I find that my next category tends to fall anywhere between 150 and 500 words and these are often my character studies, where I need just that little bit more room to “show the characters off”.

The most important thing is that the story is the correct length for what you want to convey in that tale. Some of my tales simply wouldn’t work if I tried to compress them to 100 words. Simple answer – don’t compress them! When editing I look at the story first, has it said all I wanted it to say? Then I look to see if can do that in fewer words. Often I can, sometimes I can’t, but I have learned not to worry about that!















This statue reminds me of myself when I was a lot younger. Okay I wasn't made of stone (I'm still not!) but I did always have my head in a book. (And do so as often as I can now!). Image via Pixabay.



In Signs of a Good Character, I list 10 things I would count as being signs of a well written and developed character.  I include things like a good character has depth to them and how they handle crises reveals more of that depth.  Do you agree with my list and can you add to it?


Putting Your Characters on a Diet is, for me, when you give the readers everything they need to know about the characters but no more than that. Cut out all the flab!


The theme of characters continues as I discuss what is it about them that is the real draw to any story or book.

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

The magic of stories – and it is the characters who cast the spell. Image via Pixabay


Books help you wind down. Was glad of them after a stressful weekend. Pity this option is not available to my border collie. Still lots of cuddles did the trick there! Image via Pixabay.



I’m back to my lists again with Ten Things Never to Tell a Fairy Godmother (well, I’m assuming you like living). From the “you’re not as good as you used to be” to the “there’s  not much difference between you and a good witch”, there is plenty to insult the average fairy godmother should you wish to do so.  As ever, can you add to the list?


Spotting the Difference highlights three ways of showing differences between two characters during dialogue in a story without the need to say Character A said this, Character B said that continually.  There are more ways than this but the three ways I list here are the ones that struck me as being the most useful.


I discuss my favourite things about reading and writing tonight.  Do you agree with my verdicts?  If not, what would you choices be?



Books and stories are wonderful but what would be your favourite things about reading and writing?



Fairies are definitely not twee and you do not want to come across one that has had a bad day due to Murphy's Law affecting her. She will take it out on s


Sorry – shorter post tonight.  Weebly are carrying out essential maintenance works so have only been able to update my Fairytales with Bite website.  Still I hope you enjoy reading Murphy’s Law for a Fairy Godmother.  I love writing posts like this.


Murphy’s Law for a Fairy Godmother actually lists five laws.  Can you add to this list?


I discuss why writers get more joy from reading other people’s stories than anyone else on the planet.  I discuss the “guess the influence” game and urge support for your local anthology writer(s).  The fact I am an anthology writer has EVERY bearing on this!

What is a fairy godmother supposed to do when she turns up to support a client and there isn't a pumpkin in sight?! Fortunately NOT a problem here. Image via Pixabay.

What is a fairy godmother supposed to do when she turns up to support a client and there isn’t a pumpkin in sight?! Fortunately NOT a problem here. Image via Pixabay.




A Magical, Classical Night out. Image via Pixabay.



The Role of Classical Music in Fiction asks if music is controlled in your fiction setting – that is, can musicians play what they want or do they have to stick to a repetoire?  What are the consequences if they don’t?  Also is your world developed enough to have radio or when people want music, is it a question of going out to concerts?  Does the state encourage people to do this?  (Too busy enjoying music, too busy to question them!).


Now you may spot a theme developing when I mention my post here tonight is called Musical Tastes.  (A) You’re right (!) and (B) the theme all ties in with my Chandler’s Ford Today blog for this week.  More on that shortly.  But in this post, I ask what the status of music and musicians are in your fictional world?  What can you reveal about a character’s love (or otherwise) of music to show more about them?


I write all of my CFT posts as a labour of love but every so often one stands out, for me at least, as a particularly special one.  Tonight’s post is one of those.  My Top 10 Classical Music Greats shares my favourite pieces of music, some wonderful You Tube clips and I hope also brings back some memories.  For example, one piece I’ve chosen is Ravel’s Bolero.  Where were you in 1984 when Torvill and Dean raised figure skating to an all time high with their dance on ice interpretation of this?  Hope you like the post.  I loved writing it and comments as to your favourite classical music pieces would be very welcome in the CFT comments box.


No surprises here but I talk about my CFT post and again provide a link.

Classical Music score. Image via Pixabay.

Classical Music score. Image via Pixabay.