Creative Matters: A New Direction and Mom’s Favorite Reads

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing kindly supplied by Wendy H Jones (as was her own author pic). Some images for Creativity Matters created in Book Brush by Wendy H Jones and Allison Symes. Image of yours truly proudly holding up one of her copies of Creativity Matters taken by Adrian Symes.

Other images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos as usual. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

A busy week with Creativity Matters now being out and my latest article is also out in Mom’s Favorite Reads. 

Moms Favorite Reads - September 2021

Creativity Matters

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am thrilled to welcome back #WendyHJones to Chandler’s Ford Today to talk about Creative Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing.

Wendy shares with me what made her decide to go into publishing other authors and how she has found this aspect of her own writing journey. She also shares fabulous tips for writers on working with editors and publishers, as well as marketing tips.

All great information regardless of what stage you’re at in your own writing journey. I’ve found from experience that what might not be directly relevant to me now becomes so later on and I have been so grateful to have that information to fall back on when I needed it.

We also discuss the technical side of bringing books out and Wendy shares what skills she has had to learn to take on something that is brand new for her. She has written from the cradle to the grave, in terms of audience, but publishing others is a first. There are always learning curves but these are what keep us on our toes as writers and help us develop and achieve more than we might once have thought possible.

Wonderful information here and a big thanks to Wendy for sharing this.

Creativity Matters – Wendy H. Jones – A New Direction

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Pleased to say the September 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out. My topic this time is Frames in Fiction and I look at how I use a frame format for some of my flash fiction writing. See my article for more on why this is a useful thing to do and do check out the excellent stories that follow which are on the topic of framed. Loved reading those. Hopefully you will too! My story on the theme is part of my article.

What with Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing, it has been a busy week for celebrating and talking about flash fiction!


A huge thanks for all of the wonderful responses to my post about Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing yesterday. It is always a joy to share author pics, proudly holding book etc! Especially since in the early years, I received outright rejections or simply didn’t hear back from publishers. (The latter is even more common now given time constraints for most publishers and agents).

Persistence and willingness to learn from mistakes are crucial attributes for any writer. You do get better the more you write. You learn what works and, just as importantly, what doesn’t.

I recently judged a flash fiction competition for The Byre Writers. Great fun to do and many congratulations to the worthy winner, #SuzanneMilne with her Why Can’t You Hear Me? I often talk about impact in stories, especially flash fiction. You are looking for the “wow” factor. This one had that in spades.

When I enter competitions I try to come up with unforgettable characters who will move me. If they move me, make me laugh, cry, scream, or what have you, they’ll do that for someone else, including hopefully the competition judge!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Confession time: forgot to submit anything to Friday Flash Fiction this week but I was pleased to see more stories by more people I know on there. (Particular shout out to #HannahRuthRetallick, #VeronicaBright, and #ElaineLangford here).

Browsing the stories on here every week is a great joy and is a fabulous way to discover the wonderful world of flash fiction. Submission rules are easy to follow too so why not give it a go? (And yes I plan to get another story on there again soon).

Screenshot 2021-09-03 at 20-22-56 Friday Flash Fiction

Just a quick reminder that I’ll be talking with #WendyHJones about Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing tomorrow in Chandler’s Ford Today. Link further up. My chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories and it was a joy to write. I’m always up for celebrating flash fiction and spreading the word about what a wonderful format it is… not that I’m biased… much!

I am also in the September issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads and discuss using frames in flash fiction writing. See link for more. And don’t forget Friday Flash Fiction if you are looking for somewhere to send your 100-word stories. The feedback I have had here has been incredible and so encouraging. This is nice because this doesn’t always happen online. Happy to share the link for MFR twice – it is a fab magazine with a wide range of articles and stories. It is a joy and pleasure to write for it.

 

One of the things with flash fiction is working out exactly where to end the story. I know, I know, that’s true for any story, I hear you cry. True but given you have less room in flash, it is even more important to get it right.

This is one reason why I will often “start” with a closing line (which is often a twist or a punchline) and then work backwards to get to a logical start. Let’s call it writing from B to A rather than A to B. (Mixing up how you approach is a story is good fun and keeps you on your toes. It also encourages you to think in different ways which encourages lateral thinking and greater creativity as a result).

I aim to leave a story where the tale is concluded but the reader senses the characters could go on to “live” in other stories not told by me at this time. That’s a good sign of characters coming to life for the reader and helps maximise character impact. I know when I read works by other writers, one of the things I love most is, having got to the end, I can still envisage those characters living lives outside of the novel or short story concerned.

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Fairytales with Bite – Magical History Lessons

In your fantasy setting, what role does history play? How much of your created world’s history is known by your characters? And do mistakes from the past come back to haunt your characters now?

When it comes to education, whose version of history is the “accepted” version taught in schools etc? Is there an alternative history that is suppressed because it is a threat to those in power?

When it comes to fairytale history, do stories such as Cinderella and Snow White form the basis of what is taught as in a magical setting, those could be “real life” tales and be treated as such? Are there fairytales that are considered unacceptable and so are not taught? Why are these “banned”? What would happen if word about them got out? Would it make your people re-examine what they’d always taken to be the truth?

Whatever your setting is, whoever your characters are, there has to be something “behind” them in terms of history. Characters have a past. The setting also does (and you could examine what changes have happened over time here too. Are they better? Is the environment damaged by the changes? Has it affected people’s magical abilities in the same way pollution here on Earth would and does choke our planet? All interesting story ideas to explore).

What matters is getting across to a reader what they need to know but to do it in an interesting way. You almost slip the information in so readers pick it up, almost without noticing. What you don’t want is “info dump” and characters should never tell each other what they ought to know. Readers will see right through that, correctly too, as a way for an author to get information across without “telling” you but it doesn’t really work. Dialogue has to be what you would reasonably expect characters to say and I know I don’t tell people I know what I know they already know! So our characters mustn’t either.

What you could do is get a character to ask another what they opinion is on a historical event in their world which is having impact on their world today. We say history goes around in cycles. There’s nothing to stop that being true in your fictional creations.

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This World and Others – Compare and Contrast

A good way to get started with creating a new setting is to compare what you think you want to write about with what we know exists here. For example:-

Planet Earth has 71% of its surface covered in water. That in turn means we have all sorts of creatures living in water or around it or who are dependent on food from it. So what if your fictional world didn’t have water? What would it have it instead? What creatures would live in that substance? Equally if there is a reason for your world not to have water, as we know it, what is that reason? Is it because your world is a gas giant say and what your characters depend on is being able to breathe using that gas?

Politically, you can take what we know here about democracies and dictatorships and apply them directly to your creation or come up with direct opposites. Equally you can have your world have something that is far superior or inferior to what we have here, depending on your preferences.

For characters, you can take what we know about human behaviour and apply that directly to your alien being. Or your alien being has a totally different nature to ours – e.g. it is not motivated by a desire to survive, it is motivated by a desire to befriend other species so all survive.

But comparing and contrasting is a great place to start. It can help you find a way in to your world and character building.

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Thought it would be useful to share my latest newsletter here too. If you want to sign up please head up over to my landing page.

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Character Study

Facebook – General

Do your characters look back at their lives at all? (You should as their creator! Have they developed? If so, positively or negatively? How does this impact on the story?). If the characters do look back at their own lives, why are they doing it? Are they trying to learn from past mistakes and do they actually do so? How does that “look back” change their behaviour (for better or worse) and how does that change the direction in which they go?

Sometimes Character B can look back at Character A’s life and this can be because:-

1. They don’t like the changes in A’s life now (and they may be right to take that view!). By drawing A’s attention to this, B is hoping to get A back to where they used to be.

2. Character B is comparing themselves with A, especially if A has gone on to be really successful. (We all do this for real so why shouldn’t our characters do so?! What is interesting here is how does B respond? Are they jealous? Do they seek to improve themselves or try to “do A down”?).

3. Character B is delighted Character A has changed (and again they may well be right. Equally they may be pleased because A has worsened and it makes B look better! B does not have to have noble motives here!).

All three of these points could generate some fascinating stories.

Facebook – General

One thing to consider when creating your characters is to work out what impact they have on other characters. Naturally, this can be for good or evil. Equally, it can be a happy or sad impact. How would the death of a character affect your story world and its other residents?

There would have to be some impact made, even by a minor character (otherwise why are they in the story at all?). Is a character killed because the assassin(s) know the death will change the political situation in your story world (if so, how?) or it gets a rival out of the way? How did that character become a rival in the first place?

How does personal history impact on the characters themselves? Family background and circumstances usually do impact somewhere. Are they running away from something? Trying to better/prove themselves? Do they succeed?

The history of the story world and the general setting should have an impact on your characters. Someone being brought up in the country will have a different perspective on rural life than someone who has always lived in a town or city and does not know anything about rural life except what they see on the media.

So let your characters have an impact and be impacted upon. Both of these points should generate wonderful tensions within your story and drive the plot along beautifully.

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What do you look for when it comes to the ending of a story?

I don’t necessarily look for a happy ending. What I like to see (and indeed write) is an ending that is appropriate for the characters and the situations they are in. It is so important the ending doesn’t feel forced or “runs out of steam” because you, the writer, were getting to the word count limit!

You also want the ending to wrap up the story with impact. No damp squibs here, thank you!

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Facebook – General

I’m taking a shortish break from my 101 Things to Put into Room 101 on Chandler’s Ford Today. This week I’ll be looking at some of the frustrations of publishing and then lead into a two-part feature where I interview a fellow Chapeltown author. More details later.

Some great insights to come from the interview and I suspect most of you will have had direct experience of the frustrations of publishing I will be talking about this week. This aspect of the writing life deserves a whole section in Room 101’s vaults! (It was easier to write about them separately though!).

Will return to the Room 101 series later (and look forward to doing so too. Is there any one of us who doesn’t like a good moan every now and again?!

Books invite you into their world - image via Pixabay

Books invite you into their world. Image via Pixabay

Baubles Medium

My story Helping Out is in Baubles, the Bridge House anthology for 2016

Good advice here - all writers need to fail better - image via Pixabay

Good advice. Image via Pixabay.

Humans are immensely creative - image via Pixabay

Let those ideas flow! Image via Pixabay,

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I love walking by water – so calming. Can also inspire how you create your own world. Image by Allison Symes

Use review questions to find out more about your characters, image via Pixabay

Use personal reviews to help you generate characters and story outlines. Image via Pixabay.

I'm not arguing with this - image via Pixabay

I’m not arguing with this one! Image via Pixabay.

Facebook – This World and Others

Do you have fun with your characters? There should be the initial fun of creating them, of course, but for me, I think the most fun comes when they develop and mature and truly take on a life of their own. You can look back at the earlier stages of their development and literally see how far they have come.

I also enjoy dropping my characters right in it when appropriate to do so but that probably says more about me than them. I will claim dramatic licence though! So yes you should have fun with your characters, especially for novel writing, you will be living with them for a long time. Even in flash fiction writing, while you will generally go from one character to another for each story, you should still know what makes that character tick and enjoy working out how best to get that across to your readers.

If you become tired of your characters, it does show through in your writing so love them, love to hate them, enjoy writing for them, enjoy putting them through the emotional wringer etc! It will help your writing flow and sparkle. Characters written like this always draw me to a story. I think it is the characters, more than anything, that makes a story unforgettable.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

There are certain ways of knowing your created world works. These are:-

You can picture in your head everything from how the world is run politically to who the beings are the world depends on to get anything done.

You can visualise the societies of your world – there are class systems everywhere – and how they interact or, conversely, why they don’t.

You can plan out what the history of the world was, how that affects the current situation you’re writing about in that world, and whether there’s an official version and/or revisionist one.

You can see how towns, villages etc are run and the life that goes on in them regardless of what your story is actually about. (The life of towns/villages etc is bound to affect at least some of your characters – are they rebelling against it? Does it inspire them? Are they acting heroically to defend it?).

You can ask yourself questions about your world and answer them!

And it doesn’t matter if you are “just” writing flash fiction, you still need to know where your characters come from, what drives them etc. How their world operates and how it affects them will have a direct impact on that so you still need to know enough about your setting so you can write about your characters with conviction. That in depth knowledge does show through in what you write.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One good thing about flash fiction is that there is nothing to stop you taking characters you enjoyed writing about in this form and then writing longer stories for them. I have done this occasionally (though I find I am so focused on the next idea, the next story, that I don’t do this as often as perhaps I could and should do, but it is something to bear in mind.). Also, a flash piece can be turned into a longer one (so you have two stories on your hands then!).

Another thing you could do is if you have a character in mind for a longer story but are not sure whether they have the capacity to carry the tale, then try them out in a flash piece first. If the character is strong enough to make a good impact in a form that demands a tight word count, no waffle, and getting the story down quickly, then they should have the strength to star in a longer work.

How do you define “good impact”? For me, the characters have to stay with me long after the story has ended. I have to find myself wondering what else they might get up to and so on.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I wear two writing hats (and often at the same time!). One hat is the flash fiction and the other is my non-fiction work – in particular, my writing for Chandler’s FordToday. But the great thing has been that skills I’ve learned for CFT (especially writing to a deadline and a word count) have been really useful for my fictional side.

So does it pay to expand on what kind of writing you do? I think so!

 

 

 

BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS

Well, it is an appropriate theme given we’re rapidly heading out of 2017 and into 2018.  Happy New Year to you all!  I hope your writing and/or reading brings you much joy in the New Year.  Literacy is a truly wonderful thing…

Facebook – General – Story Endings

When is a story finished? When the ending is appropriate for the tale and to add any more would be to “over-egg the pudding”.

I often get to a point when I’ve finished the story and realise I’ve gone on a bit beyond where I really need to be so out those extra bits come. They don’t push the tale forward or add anything useful.

For me, that’s the guiding principle when I’m editing. Do I REALLY need this in the story? The same goes for the ending though I’m also looking for maximum impact on a reader so I ask myself does this line achieve that? My finishing line must always be that one which does achieve that impact and then it is time to go!

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Facebook – General – Story Beginnings

When it comes to the start of a tale, I find I begin and then, later, cut until I get to the “real” beginning of the story.

I often don’t know the “real” start of the tale until I have written the whole thing and look back and see this point here would make a better start than what I originally came up with, but that’s fine. I see my original start point as the basis for getting on with the story. Everything, including that, can be tidied up or cut as appropriate later.

The deciding factor is which starting point has the most impact. It’s the same factor that helps me work out what the ending should be.

Happy New Year to you all. Happy writing and editing too!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Contrary to its name, flash fiction isn’t written in a hurry! The real work comes in when you have a story and you need to edit it down without losing its meaning and yet it still counts as flash.

There are other names for flash fiction. I think my favourite of these is postcard fiction as this sums the genre up very well. What you can write on a back of a postcard basically would be a flash fiction story. (This gives me some scope as my handwriting is tiny and my postcards to friends and family are legendary for the amount of information I can get on these things!).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Firstly, happy New Year to you all! Secondly, hope 2018 is a great writing year for everybody.

The highlight of 2017 for me was obviously the publication of From Light to Dark and Back Again. Am currently putting the finishing touches to the follow-up book. Would like to write more stories in 2018 than I did last year and have some thoughts as to how I will achieve that. Will hopefully say in a later post if what I think works!

I hope flash fiction continues to go from strength to strength and that more reluctant readers find it a useful way of getting “into” stories at all. Now that would be a result…

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Goodreads Author Programme – Blog

I must admit the book cover has got to lure me into wanting to read the blurb. Once the blurb has then interested me, I will read the opening paragraph or two and then if still interested, I buy the book.

There are exceptions. I’m a huge fan of history (fiction and non-fiction) and almost anything on Richard III is going to trigger my immediate interest. Much as I love the Bard of Avon, I don’t rely on HIM for historical accuracy!

One of my favourite novels is The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. The title comes from the phrase “Truth is the daughter of time”, which I think is lovely. It is also one of the few books to make me change my mind about something, in this case, the guilty of Richard III regarding the Princes in the Tower.

The book’s “star” is Inspector Alan Grant who is confined to a hospital bed by a nasty accident and who decides to investigate Richard III from that bed as a means of passing the time (Grant is VERY bored in the hospital). The conclusions Grant reach are startling. Highly recommend this great book.

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Allison Symes’s books on Goodreads

 

STORY ENDINGS AND MAKING AN IMPACT

Am definitely on a theme tonight!

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

In Story Endings I look at how I finish a flash fiction piece. I’m looking at the impact my story will have on a reader and it does influence how I write the story. I also discuss the classic “happy ever after” fairytale ending and how these days I am much more sympathetic with the “happy for now” approach.  (For one thing it is more realistic!).

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

In Making an Impact (I told you there was a theme!), I again discuss story endings and their impact but I also talk about the advantages of outlining here.  You can work out what impact you want your story to have and, given there is bound to be more than one way you could achieve that with your characters, you can work out what you feel would work best and then go with that.  (This approach can save a lot of rewriting later – and has done for me).

FACEBOOK – GENERAL AND FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN

The theme continues!  I also share another joy of flash fiction, which is, having written your piece, there is nothing to stop you from developing it further into a longer, standard length short story or even a novel if the premise/characters are strong enough and you love the story enough to do so. (Both aspects of that would be necessary as the plot really does have to be strong enough and you’ve got to be prepared to put the work in especially for a novel.  This is where your loving the story so much you have to write it up as a book will help you enormously, but it can be done).

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Back cover of From Light to Dark and Back Again

Back cover of From Light to Dark and Back Again

 

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Flash fiction has the capacity to make a very strong impact quickly – image via Pixabay

 

 

Where almost all stories spring from these days. Image via Pixabay.

AND THEY ALL LIVED…

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

And They All Lived… discusses the classic fairytale ending and also looks at the importance of ensuring your story has the appropriate ending for it and its starring people.  The best of plots can be let down by weak characters.  Strong characters can end up in a story with “not enough to do” so each story must be strong, its characters must act and react in ways that are rational (if only to the character themselves), and the ending must be appropriate.  Note appropriate, not necessarily happy!

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

When Told to Jump looks at how your characters react, especially when put under duress.  The answer to the statement is “how high” if characters want to ingratiate themselves.  Are your characters vulnerable to being pressurized and can their enemies exploit that?

FACEBOOK PAGE – FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN

I hope to share news of a book trailer soon!  Meanwhile I have put up another post sharing answers to an imaginary interview.

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FACEBOOK PAGE – GENERAL

Another short post so have copied here.  What do you look for in a good book?

What do I look for in a good book? Generally escapism (given the state the world’s in, escapism is a logical route to go!).

When reading non-fiction I’m looking to learn from it but also I want to be entertained at the same time. The days of being able to get away with just listing facts and figures are, thankfully, long gone. I’ve read examples of well crafted non-fiction which has used story telling tips to improve its readability. It generally works too.

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay