Favourite Characters and Misunderstandings

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Looking forward to giving a talk on flash fiction to Byre Writers later this week. Always good to share the joys of writing and reading flash fiction.

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Hope your Tuesday has gone well. Glad to be swimming this afternoon. Refreshing and it is the only sport I do with any reasonable proficiency. I don’t use the time in the pool to think out stories or articles funnily enough. Again, as with being out and about in the natural world, it is the break away from the desk that helps the most. (Lady still doesn’t understand why she can’t go with me. She would cause chaos – no chance at all of her keeping to the proper lane!).

I’m a bit later at my desk tonight for various reasons (one of those days for a start!) but what matters is getting there at all and making the most of whatever writing time I have. I won’t be writing so much this Thursday for example as I will be back at our local Ritchie Hall watching The Chameleons in their come back production after the pandemic. Will be so good to see them back (and what with singing in church again on Sunday, it does seem some normality has returned).

But whether I have a long writing session or a short one, I aim to have something done by the end of said session I can either develop further when I have more time or I have flash stories ready for editing later.

I’ve learned to appreciate that if I only have ten minutes to write, say, then I will make the most of those ten minutes.

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Hope you have had a great start to the week. Lady did as she got to see and play with her best buddie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Both dogs were so excited to see each other. Always nice to see that!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is going to be a bit different. I am celebrating the glorious wildflower meadow in our local park where the dogs play. It is a wonderful sight. The funny thing is the natural world in and of itself does not inspire my writing. What it does do is give me a much needed break so I can come back to my stories raring to go. Link up on Friday and I share some great pictures too.

Looking ahead a bit, I am relishing sharing a two part interview with two of the funniest writers I know – #FranHill and #RuthLeigh (and it is so appropriate I use a hashtag for Ruth as the interviews will make clear!). That’s coming in August and I am so looking forward to reviewing The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production, the first they have been able to put on since the pandemic began. That will go up in the first week of August, just before I head off to catch up with writing pals at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School after a two year gap. It will be so lovely to see people again (and not just their top halves thanks to Zoom!).

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Today has been lovely. I got to sing in church for the first time since March 2020 (and yes, I sang through a mask). It was wonderful. Really enjoyed that. Lovely to meet up with other congregation members, some of whom I haven’t seen since the first lockdown (as not everyone is into Zoom etc).

Had a lovely chat with Swanwick friends last night over Zoom. The next time I speak to one of them will be at Swanwick and that is a fabulous thought. So missed that and my writing chums there last year.

More comments coming in on Missing, my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Thanks, everyone, the feedback is useful and appreciated.

Am busy getting my latest author newsletter ready to go out on 1st August so if you would like exclusive stories, news, hints and tips etc., do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com.

Busy week ahead. Am looking forward to talking to Byre Writers via Zoom on Saturday morning about flash fiction.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Cooler today after last night’s thunderstorm.

Glad to share the link to my latest piece for Mom’s Favorite Reads. I talk about Patience in Flash Fiction Writing this time. I look at patience in characters (or the lack of it) and also at accepting the need it takes time and patience to hone your craft.

For example, I like to have a rough template to work to when writing a story and while that takes time (and patience) to begin with to get it set up so I know where I am going with my tale, I have found it saves me a lot more time later on. I also don’t go off at interesting tangents which are unhelpful to the story I am writing. (I would only have to cut these out later precisely because they don’t help the story along).

I also share my flash fiction story on the theme. Hope you enjoy and don’t forget the magazine is FREE to download from Amazon.

Screenshot 2021-07-10 at 16-53-46 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine July 2021 eBook Publishing, Goylake, Howe, Hannah , Smith,[...]Screenshot 2021-07-01 at 20-08-25 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine July 2021
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Many thanks for the respond to my latest story video, Misunderstandings, yesterday. See link below. These are great fun to write. I also share exclusive videos on my author newsletter (the next is due out on 1st August), so if you would like to sign up for that, please head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I like to write a variety of flash fiction lengths as (a) this keeps things interesting for me and (b) the story length has to be right for the character I’m writing. If they need more room to show me their story, that is what they get and that is when I tend to write the 750 to 1000 word flashes. Most of mine come in at between 100 and 600 and that’s fine too.

Time for another Youtube video. My latest story video is called Misunderstandings and looks at what might happen when a slightly absent-minded fairy comes across someone with peculiarly shaped teeth. Hope you enjoy it.

I’m giving another Zoom talk on flash fiction to Byre Writers on Saturday morning and am so looking forward to that. It is always a joy to talk about flash and to share how, despite the word count restriction, it is more flexible than you might think at first.

After all I have written across many genres thanks to it. I go where my characters take me and I can set them any time and any where and I do. It is such fun to do too! After all, thanks to a challenge by Scottish crime writer #WendyHJones, I wrote a story about The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball! I’ve also written stories about a very creepy ghost, a witch who didn’t cheat in her magical exams (disappointing her mother a bit), and historical tales from the viewpoints of Anne Boleyn and Richard III.

And I am loving getting back to the drabble, aka the 100-worder, for#FridayFlashFiction, but I also love writing across the whole spectrum of flash. My natural home is 500 words or under but it is good to experiment and find out what works best for me. Sometimes my characters do need the whole 1000 words and that’s fine too.

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A huge thanks for the response yesterday to my post about titles. Also thanks to those who have commented on Missing, my latest #FridayFlashFiction story. I like open titles such as Missing as it gives me so many possibilities to play with – what or whom is missing? Are they found again? If someone is missing something, do they get it back? All sorts of stories can come out of writing the answers to those questions.

For flash, where sometimes the title is part of your overall word count allowance, it is even more important to come up with a crisp, intriguing title that will draw readers in and keep them with you. Random word generators can be useful for playing with ideas here.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Favourite Characters

Do you have an overall favourite character in fiction? I have too many to count! The characters that stand out the most for me are those who are unpromising at the start of the story and end up being heroes by the end of it. A hobbit is an unlikely adventurer but look what Tolkein did with his characters in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

I am also fond of characters who need redemption and find it. I also like stories where justice is seen to be done and in the right way. (I am not keen on the vengeance type of tale as you just know the character is likely to go too far with it).

I like characters I can understand even if I don’t agree with their attitudes and actions. One of my favourite characters is Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series as there is so much depth to his portrayal which is revealed over the seven novels.

So over to you then. Which are your favourite kinds of character and why?

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Talks, Flash, and the Character -v- Plot Debate

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Images of Lady, of CafeLit 10 books, and my stories in it, and screenshots all taken by me, Allison Symes.

Summer weather, a mini heatwave, finally here in the UK. The dog and I are busy keeping cool.

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Many thanks to the lovely people at #DundeeCityWriters for making me so welcome at last night’s Zoom talk. I spoke about short story writing as opposed to flash fiction this time. All great fun.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. It’s a local author news post this time about yours truly where I give an update on what has been happening/is going to happen over the summer for me. And I am glad to share news on both the fiction and non-fiction fronts for the first time here as well.

Lady, you’ll be glad to know, is keeping well and as cool as possible. She’s generally as daft as the proverbial brush but not when it comes to weather like this heatwave a lot of us in the UK are experiencing right now. (I know, it’s July, it is to be expected, but I have no way of telling the dog this!). She drinks plenty, stays in the shade, and enjoys gentler exercise sessions away from the main heat. She can go back to her usual athletic running about when the weather cools. And it will.

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Pleased to be speaking later tonight to the #DundeeCityWriters. Zoom is a wonderful thing!

Great to see so many lovely comments coming in on my #FridayFlashFiction story, The Unpaid Shift. Many thanks, all.

Working away also on my author newsletter. That will come out on 1st August. I share news, tips, writing prompts, and exclusive flash stories here amongst other things. If that sounds of interest, head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where you can sign up.

And if you head over to my From LIght to Dark and Back Again Facebook page shortly, you will find my latest YouTube video as well. See below!

(Lady keeping cool and drinking well. I’m drinking well but do feel as if I’m melting right now. But at least it is the kind of weather you expect for July!).

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Facebook – General – and Authors Electric

Pleased to share my post on Authors Electric this month. I talk about character -v- plot (and many thanks for the great comments which have come in so far).

I also look at a character I don’t care for much in this post even though I love the author. Mind you, this kind of thing is useful for me as I think about my characters. I do look at what I love and loathe about characters produced by other writers and I can learn so much from that. If a character is dire, I can examine why that is and try to avoid doing this for my own creations.

I also look at how a character makes me react and discuss series novels where a character can develop over time. I also name my favourite example of the latter as my top pick is a masterclass in how a character can develop over several books.

Screenshot 2021-07-20 at 19-35-10 Character -v- Plot by Allison Symes

 

Hope you have had a good day. A huge thanks for the wonderful comments on my The Unpaid Shift currently on #FridayFlashFiction. So enjoying writing the drabbles again. If you missed it, see the link.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post next week which will be a Local Author News one from me where I have exciting updates to share.

Am also looking forward to sharing great author interviews later on in the summer. So plenty going on here.

But more immediately, I am looking forward to sharing my Authors Electric post tomorrow. This time I’m writing about the character -v- plot debate. Give some thought as to where you stand on that one and maybe pop a comment up when I share the post link tomorrow. See above.

Screenshot 2021-07-16 at 18-47-03 The Unpaid Shift, by Allison Symes

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Thanks for the lovely response to Self Defence, my latest YouTube video. These are great fun to write and produce. And they are a great way to use the mini-flash tales which are only a sentence or two. See below for video.

I was giving a Zoom talk to #DundeeCityWriters last night about short story writing but many of the techniques I use for flash I can and do use for the longer tales. For example, I have to have a rough template of what I am going to write and then off I go.

The main difference for a short story (anything over 1000 words) is I need to have some rough pointers for what happens in the central part of the tale so I avoid the dreaded saggy middle! (Not wanted in cakes. Not wanted in stories either!).

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Hope you enjoy my latest YouTube story video. It appears self defence can, in the right circumstances, apply to inanimate objects.


Thanks for the great response to my post yesterday about writing more in the first person for flash. I hadn’t anticipated doing this earlier in my writing career. I’m not sorry about the development as it had been a kind of writing I’d gone out of my way to avoid. Why?

Because all I could see were the limitations of it. You can only see through that one character’s eyes. Everything the character sees, hears, or could be reasonably expected to know is what you have to play with.

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What I hadn’t seen immediately was that kind of framework Is useful for stopping me head-hopping and in making me focus on the lead character. I can’t go off at a tangent here. That in turn encourages creativity as I work out what the lead character can see, hear, be reasonably expected to know etc.

I’ve also come to love the immediacy of the first person narrator.

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I’m writing more in the first person with my flash stories as it is a very easy way to “hit the ground running” with my character. I can literally take you right inside the “I” character’s head and show you their thoughts, actions, and reactions. I can’t “head-hop” either as I have to focus on just that one character.

But when I do have more than one character in a story (usually one of my 500+ word tales), I do work out who the lead character is and who the support will be. I still have to know whose story it is and why and what the role of the support will be. (Of course the support may do anything but support the main character but that’s fine. I just need a defined sense of who does what and why).

Goodreads Author Blog – Annuals

Did you use to get annuals when you were younger? Do you still get them?

I am fond of The Friendship Book (D.C. Thomson – those wonderful Dundee based publishers have produced this for decades). This is one of those books that is always on the present list at a certain time of year I won’t mention yet because we’re still in the summer. I refuse to think of the C word until the autumn at the earliest (and just wish the shops would do the same).

When my family was younger, they loved The Beano annual, and when we could get it, The Bash Street Kids one. They weren’t the only ones to read them either! I still have a soft spot for Minnie the Minx in particular. For anyone who might not know, The Beano is veritable institution amongst comics and again produced by D.C. Thomson and again going back decades. I think I’m right in saying it is well over 50 years old.

I’ve got no time for snobbery around comics, comic books, annuals etc. The important point here is they do get people reading (and the hope is of course they go on to read books with a higher text content later. My family did. What matters is getting that love of reading to develop and annuals and comics can be a great place to start).

I still like comics like The Beano. The world they take you into generally makes you laugh. And I count comics as much a part of the reading life as books.

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Numbers Into Writing Will Go

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

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I look at the links between numbers and creative writing this week for CFT. There are more links than you might think. I’m not just talking about word counts either (though naturally that is a priority for my flash fiction writing).

The inspiration for the title comes from when I was taught to do division at school many, many moons ago. Three will go into six (twice), three will go into seven (twice with one left over) etc.

I also look at how numbers come into my online writing and I share some tips for managing word counts.

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My CFT post this week is Numbers into Writing Will Go, a title inspired by how I was taught division many moons (and then some!) ago. (That is 2 will go into 4 twice, 2 will go into 5 with 1 left over – anyone else remember that style of teaching?).

There are many links between numbers and creative writing funnily enough and my post will be looking at some of these. Link up on Friday.

Talking of numbers, it has been lovely to see more followers recently for my website. Welcome to you and thank you to those who have been following the site for some time.

I hope to continue to add to this site throughout the year and will post latest pages etc. One of my most recent additions was the Book Trailers page where all the book trailers for anthologies I’ve had work in, as well as the one From Light to Dark and Back Again, are included. (A big thank you to Chapeltown Books – they make some great trailers. Yes, I know, I’d be bound to say that, wouldn’t I, but go on. Check the page out!).

It was a relief NOT to get a soaking while out with the dog today. Plenty of tree debris around but at least things are calming down here a bit. Mind you, our local park will continue to be a mud pit for some time to come!

Back to unhelpful writing advice that I was talking about in my last round-up on Tuesday.

1. Of course you can edit on screen… ahem. You do miss things this way. Print your work out and edit on paper. (It can help to change the font or the character size to make your work seem different when looking at it on screen BUT I still recommend printing it out. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve picked something up this way that I missed on screen).

2. It won’t matter if you get a competition entry in JUST after the deadline. Oh yes it will. It’s called being late and a judge would have to turn down late works as it is not fair on those who did get their entries in on time. My top tip here is to take a week to ten days off the official deadline and make that your OWN one. It gives you a few days in hand for final tweaks should you need it and you’ll then still submit the piece in good time.

3. If I send my work (especially if it’s a book) with fancy ribbon on it, it will make it stand out. Yes, it will but for all the wrong reasons. I’ve heard many agents and publishers at writing conferences say basically how irritating this kind of thing is – all you need to do is follow their guidelines to the letter and leave it at that.

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What do I enjoy writing the most in a flash fiction tale?

When I come up with a “killer line” whether it is a punchline to end a humorous story or a twist to conclude the tale. I love that feeling you get when you know what you’ve come up with is absolutely right for that story. Gives me a very good buzz.

I also love that moment when writing the first draft and you know you have got the idea and characters spot on. It’s then a question of fine tuning the story and cutting out what doesn’t add to the tale but you know at this point that you’ve got something to work with and your editing will improve the story.

I almost always find I’m about halfway to two-thirds of the way through a first draft when I know yes this is going to work or it will work if I end the story this way instead. It’s a relief to get to that point too!

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I think it helps to have a fascination with what makes people tick when it comes to character creation. This is especially true for flash fiction writing where I’m coming up with so many different characters for my stories (though I am beginning to link a few stories. This is where I either use the same character in another story or Character A in Story 1 is referred to by Character B in Story 2. Good fun to do and this is something I hope to do more of in future).

I do find the Scrivener character templates enomously helpful for outlining “my people”. They make me think about why I’m creating the character the way that I am and that will add “oomph” to my story. When reading, a character gels with me far more if I sense there is depth to them, even if I don’t discover those depths for a while. With flash, I need to give hints as to how deep my characters can be and then show a reader what they need to know to make those connections to hidden depths for themselves.

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Themes I love in my stories include:-

1. Poetic justice. I do love giving a character who deserves it what they’ve got coming. It’s fun!

2. An underdog winning out in the end. (This is a huge theme in fairytales of course and I’ve always loved that idea).

3. Alternative character stories (my Getting It Right gives the wicked stepmother’s viewpoint on the Snow White tale).

4. Types of character I love – feisty ones (especially older female characters who can still show those far younger than them a thing or two about how to tackle problems); magical ones (especially those who’ve discovered the downside to magic and are fighting back against that).

5. Historical themes I love (and these will turn up in Tripping the Flash Fantastic too).

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Fairytales With Bite – Going Back in Time

Fairytales are some of the oldest stories in literature, of course. This is another reason why I don’t understand why some dismiss them as “twee tales for kids”. If they read the original stories, they’d know fairytales are anything but twee and their intended audiences were definitely not children!

I associate fairytales with many happy memories of enjoying The Reader’s Digest Complete Fairytales (two volumes, both beautifully illustrated), which was a childhood present. I still have those books though their spines are taped up to give them extra support. I read those books a lot when I was younger!

When I read I want to escape to another world for a while and fairytales for me have always been a great outlet for that. A really good story will make you feel as if you’ve escaped time for a while.

I’ve always found it fascinating that there are countless versions of our classic fairytales in different cultures (Cinderella especially). The themes are timeless and will remain so. Fairytales often do reflect on aspects of human nature and they don’t always present a pretty picture either.

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This World and Others – Your Historical World

Whatever your setting, it has to have a past. It may not play a major role in the story you’re telling but there should be inferences to it somewhere in your tale. Your characters’ actions and reactions are based on what? Being attacked by an enemy? Well who is the enemy and what is the personal history here?

How is your world governed? Who runs it? Is there any opposition? How does it get on with other worlds around it? What happened in its past to influence how it is run now? What kind of ceremonies and rituals does it have and does your lead character go along with these or rebel against them?

History is important to us. It helps shape us. It should do for your characters too, even if you imply what that history is. Information is best drip fed into a story in any case but readers do put two and two together. I love doing that in books I read. I get a complete picture of the fictional world doing that and it makes the story stronger for me, always.

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