Characters, Conversation, and Chandler’s Ford Today


Image Credits:  All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Photo below taken by Adrian Symes (though Lady still has work to do on her literary appreciation techniques!). Hope you had a good weekend and an equally good start to the working week. Lady is in good spirits as she has met up with her favourite dog pals this week already.

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

Facebook – General

For Chandler’s Ford Today this week, I’ll be looking at Writing Techniques in Fiction. Now that could cover several books but I’ll be taking a brief overview at things like show, don’t tell and speech tags amongst other things. It took me a while to get my head around the show, don’t tell one. Writing flash fiction helped me enormously there (and of course still does). Link up on Friday. (I think I’ve found a topic for the letter X but I’ll post on that next week!).

Am looking forward to resuming author interviews on CFT again later in the summer. More details nearer the time.

Will be off on another CFT works outing with my lovely editor, Janet Williams, when we go to see The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production Hoovering the Edge, which we’ll be seeing later this month.

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)Hope you have had a good start to the working week. I wrote two flash pieces over the weekend which have specific times in them. Yes, there is such as thing as a random clock time generator! I’ll be sharing one of these on my Facebook book page (From Light to Dark and Back Again) shortly with the YouTube link. See further down. I hope to share the other one later on in the week. Good fun to do this. And as with all of the generators I use, you can set the parameters that suit you. Will be using this one again at some point.

Screenshot 2022-07-04 at 19-58-41 RANDOM.ORG - Clock Time Generator

What is it about a book or short story or piece of flash fiction that grabs you? As you know, for me it is always the character. I have to find out what they’re doing/going to do. What is it about non-fiction that grabs you given you don’t have a character as such? For me it is the narrative voice and a good opening hook. Questions are useful here as you know by the end of the piece some sort of answer has to be given and that is what keeps you reading. You don’t necessarily need to agree with the answer!

I’m a big fan of reading blogs as well as writing them and what I love most is the way you have a “compact” article in 500 words or so. Great way to take in useful information and tips quickly. For my CFT posts, I see these more as articles given I aim for 1000 to 1500 words a time (as any longer than that, it becomes a two or three part series. Beyond this word count it works better as a series and you can hopefully hook readers into wanting to read Part 2 etc).

Asking and answering questions sets up a structure for your piece of work

If you want a great read, why not download the latest issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads? You will find a great range of articles, including my monthly flash fiction column. This time I talk about Flexibility in Flash Fiction.

I discuss why flash is flexible with regard to word count (bar the the upper limit of 1000 of course), genre, and the use of first and third person. I’ve taken advantage of all of those things and created a wide range of stories as a result. You can too.

Best of all, the magazine is free! Time to put your feet up then, have a good read and have a decent beverage to hand I think. (For me that will always be tea!).

And check out the stories which came in as a result of my flash challenge – great tales all of them but don’t just take my word for it. Go on, it really is time for a read!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I sometimes write all dialogue flash stories which are fun to do. I love getting my characters to talk so this is a good format for me. I limit these stories to two characters only and I find most of my stories of this kind come in at the 200 words or under mark. The challenge here is to ensure the dialogue does tell a story and keeps the reader hooked. It can’t just be conversation for the sake of it.

The secret here is to have two strong characters with distinctive voices. Getting them to use certain types of words here can be a great way to tell them apart – one can use slang terms, the other doesn’t. One has a posher sounding name than the other (and I repeat names every so often as well).

Give it a go and have fun with it. You will find out quickly if your characters are strong enough to carry a tale of this type. If not then the conversation will fizzle out and there will be no story. If they are strong enough, you’ll have no trouble sharing their story in conversation.

A classic way in is to have one character want something and the other is stopping them but the conflict here still needs to be resolved via the dialogue only. So it would probably pay you to work out how that could be done first, then work out what leads up to it. The classic writing from B to A again which I use for twist and humorous endings too.

Dialogue resembles real speech but art has to be better than life for this

 

It’s Monday once again and time for another story. Hope you like my latest on YouTube. This one, called Deterrent, is based on clock times generated by a random clock time generator. Yes, really. Hope you enjoy it.

 

Flash fiction is a great format for those humorous pieces which stand alone well (but would not work if used to pad out a longer story. It would either seem like padding or would get “lost” in the overall story). My A Stitch in Time from Tripping the Flash Fantastic is an example of that.

This is another reason to love flash. It gives a vehicle for those tales which might not otherwise be told. For Open Prose Mic Nights, I like to have at least a couple of these funnier pieces in amongst the more serious stories. That in turn shows the range for flash – it can be funny, it can be tragic etc.

Whatever type of flash you write though, you do need to be able to get into your characters’ heads. Otherwise the reader won’t either. And it is the characters that readers want to find out about, whose story they want to read. You are your own first reader.

I like to keep an Ideal Reader in mind when I am going through my stories and to think about how this story would appeal, what would my Ideal Reader be likely to say to me about beefing it up where it is needed and so on. Having your audience in mind from the start has helped me not to go off on unhelpful tangents, which would only get cut out later anyway.

For the funnier tales, I have a fairly broad sense of humour so I try to aim my humorous tales to appeal to that kind of audience, someone like me with that kind of taste.

Laughter in fiction has a great range

Many thank for all the comments coming on on The Big Day, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Much appreciated. This tale came about as a result of my deciding to write a story centred around an anniversary or a birthday. I knew cake had to be involved!

I also mentioned about a week or so ago that birthdays, anniversaries and the like can make a great structure for stories. Something happens at these events. You can also look at how your characters react to them, whether the events go well or not, and so on. Anyway, I took my own advice here!

Screenshot 2022-07-01 at 09-21-26 The Big Day by Allison Symes

Goodreads Author Blog – Story Collections

One of the earliest books I had (and still have) are the Reader’s Digest Fairytale collections. These are two huge books full of the classic tales by Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christen Andersen, and so on. You don’t want to drop these books on your foot is what I am saying here!

I spent hours as a kid looking at the wonderful colour illustrations and later reading and re-reading the tales. I loved The Snow Queen. For the first time I came across a girl as the heroine, the one doing the “derring-do”, and I loved that (and still do).

What I deeply appreciate here is the way people collected these old tales so we still have them now. Invaluable. I also appreciate it from the viewpoint that short stories are worth collecting – they so are!

My late mother collected the works of Dickens, I collected the works of Agatha Christie. Both Mum and I used a book club for these. (Mine was via Odhams Publishers but they set up an Agatha Christie collection kind of club and naturally I wanted the lot. Never regretted getting those).

What story collections do you treasure and why?

Screenshot 2022-07-05 at 20-40-45 Story Collections

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Verbs and Verbosity in Fiction

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good week. I think I may have found my favourite title for a Chandler’s Ford Today post (see above and below!). Strange weather week here – had sun, gales, heavy rain and that was just by Wednesday. Welcome to the British summer!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share Verbs and Verbosity In Fiction, my latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today. Hope you find it useful.

I look at the crucial role verbs play in any fiction and look at whether verbosity could be useful. Natural instincts would say otherwise. Surely you want to keep to the point, especially if you’re writing to a right word count as is required by flash fiction?

Generally, yes, but there is a place for well thought out verbosity funnily enough. See the post for more. I also share how I specifically use verbs to trigger story ideas.

Verbs and Verbosity in Fiction

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Had a lovely time at the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group last night. Good to see everyone.

Writing wise this week, my Chandler’s Ford Today post will be about Verbs and Verbosity in Fiction. (Love it when I get some alliteration into a title!). Link above. Can verbosity be useful in fiction? Yes. Will share more about that in the post. Link up tomorrow. Also out tomorrow will be my author newsletter.

Writing Tip: I blog for various places as you know so I plan out what I’m blogging where and when. It’s a good idea to have a diary – great way to ensure I stay on track as well as helping me with that planning. I also aim to get a blog post up a few days before it is due out (earlier where and when possible) so I have time to go back in and do a final check on it.

For example, I will be carrying out a final check on my CFT post for this week shortly after I post this! Occasionally I pick up an odd error but at least I then have the time to amend it before the blog goes live. Did I pick up anything when doing this? Oh yes. And doing this gives me a final chance to check links etc are working properly.

29th June – More than Writers
It’s my turn once again on More than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. This time I talk about Working Out a Writing Schedule. I look at why I find these useful and why it is so important to build in flexibility.

Life does get in the way at times after all but I’ve found knowing what I’m going to be writing on any one day means I am more productive. I can get straight to my desk and get on with things and I like that.

Screenshot 2022-07-01 at 09-24-51 Working Out a Writing Schedule by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My latest story on Friday Flash Fiction is an upbeat one. Hope you enjoy The Big Day. I have every sympathy for my character, Janine, here. See what you think!

Screenshot 2022-07-01 at 09-21-26 The Big Day by Allison Symes

30th June
How is it the end of June already?! Time marches on (which makes a great theme for a piece of flash fiction!).

Don’t forget you can use time as a structure for your story (as well as a theme). How? Well, I’ve written the odd diary style story. (That one took me up to the 1000 words limit but that was fine. The story was great fun to do and you can find it in Tripping the Flash Fantastic – Losing Myself).

But you could also set a story which has to happen over a few hours and you put in time progression as the story goes on.

You could also show what happens to a character over a longer time period, which could work well as a series of linked flash stories. I’ve sometimes used Time as a character too.

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Am posting earlier than usual today as I’ll be leading the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction group on Zoom later on. Always good fun and much learned and shared. Always a joy to talk about flash fiction too!

My more reflective pieces (such as They Don’t Understand from From Light to Dark and Back Again or The Pink Rose from Tripping the Flash Fantastic) are hard stories to do. Why? Because I still have to ensure there is a story in there.

I have to ensure my character voice is strong enough to “carry” the tale so you want to read what they have to say. This is where planning out my character helps enormously because it means I’ve got to know them well enough to know where they are coming from and why they have got a story to tell. That in turn makes it easier to write said story.

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Fairytales with Bite – Where Fairytales DO Bite

It has always annoyed me fairytales are considered in some circles as twee little tales for the kiddies. It does tell me one thing immediately though – the person saying that has not read fairytales in ages. They certainly haven’t read the originals which are often violent. Disney has had to water them down for family viewing!

Fairytales are unflinching in showing cruelty up for what it is too and that justice is often on the rough side. Think of The Red Shoes. The wicked stepmother in that has to dance in those shoes until she drops down dead. The Big Bad Wolf is boiled alive in The Three Little Pigs.

Twee – definitely not then.

I do love their robust honesty about what human nature can be like though. Fairytales don’t pull their punches. And that is how it should be.

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This World and Others – Society Norms

Following on from Fairytales with Bite, I think fairytale reflected society norms (and can still do so). People were used to the idea of short lives and for their society to be often violent and unjust. Fairytales were a way of showing that justice could be done, even that too was rough at times.

Though, thankfully , we have moved on (at least in general terms – the UK no longer has the death penalty for example) there is still a deep down wish evil should not prevail. Injustice rightly angers us.

So when it comes to your own created world, what are the society norms there? Are people so used to the violence around them they just accept it? How do your characters seek to improve things (and I’m taking it as a given they are seeking to improve things – there’s a great story structure right there)?

What do they have to overcome? Who helps them? Is magic involved? What are the end results? How are society norms changed by what they do? And there should be change.

Story is all about change, conflict and resolution after all, regardless of genre.

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