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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Facebook – General

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.

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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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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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