All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Images of Elizabeth Hurst and her book covers for Siren Spirit and A Friend In Need were kindly supplied by Elizabeth Hurst.
Images of me signing Tripping The Flash Fantastic were taken by Adrian Symes.
Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today
I’m delighted to welcome fellow Swanwicker, Elizabeth Hurst, to Chandler’s Ford Today this week.
We discuss her Lost Souls series and her love of history. Her stories take history and combine it with romance, ghosts, and strong female characters. Plenty to keep the pages turning there I think!
(And I have a soft spot for cross-genre stories. They work so well – and it never did the Harry Potter series any harm now, did it?).
Elizabeth also discusses the challenges she faces in writing her stories, including the issue of research, and how she came into writing late.
This is one thing I adore about the writing world. Age is no barrier (and nor should it ever be. Also think about Mary Wesley who broke through with The Camomile Lawn very late in life).
Elizabeth also shares her three top tips and what she loves about the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Both of us are very much hoping to be back there in August 2021.
It was a joy to chat with Elizabeth. I always learn something useful from every author I interview for CFT and it reminds me of what a big writing world it is out there.
It also reminds me of what a supportive world it is and that is so encouraging to us all I think.
How would you describe good writing? For me, good writing is material that moves me and makes me feel something (usually sympathy for the character in the story I’ve read or glee they’ve got their comeuppance – there is no middle ground with me here!).
I love witty turns of phrase and relish, in humorous prose, those lovely “in-gags” which are a delight to “get” but which do not spoil the story if you don’t get the other meaning. Terry Pratchett and P.G. Wodehouse both excelled at these as well as the more obvious “in your face” humour.
Good writing leaves you with a feeling you are glad to have read it. For fab books, it is a case of putting said book down with reluctance when duty calls. (In some cases, duty has been known to yell at me to put the book down and get on with what I’m supposed to be doing).
Am posting early tonight as I’ll be “going” to a couple of Zoom events this evening. One is a book launch and the other is a Bookbrush seminar. Looking forward to both. And am looking forward to a lovely Zoom chat with writer pals tomorrow night too. I might not be going out anywhere much right now (unless it is with the dog) but the diary still gets full – with good things and I do consider myself blessed for that.
Hope to continue with good progress on my non-fiction project after the Zoom sessions. Happy with how it is going but plenty still to do. But then writing is a marathon and not a sprint so that’s okay. It is a question of pacing yourself.
11th November – Remembrance
Many thanks, everyone, for the great response to my post yesterday about TTFF being on Barnes and Noble. I like nice surprises like that!
For Chandler’s Ford Today this week, I will be interviewing #ElizabethHurst, author of the Lost Souls series. Link up on Friday.
Looking forward to sharing that as she shares some wonderful insights into what drew her into writing romance with history – and with a twist too. Let’s just say there’s plenty to keep the pages turning but more in the post on Friday.
Other items on the horizon are the Brechin/Angus Book Festival taking place online on 21st and 22nd November. Looking forward to being part of that. Naturally there will be a CFT post about it!
Very happy with progress on my non-fiction project. Is coming along nicely. My goal for the end of November is to have a first draft down though I know it is going to need several good edits before I even think of submitting it anywhere. But that’s fine. Am enjoying the challenge of writing something different to what I usually do too.
Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again
Flash fiction has an advantage for writers whose main work is elsewhere. How come?
Simply because a flash fiction story makes a good warm-up writing exercise and, with good editing and polishing, those pieces could find a home somewhere. And that is a great way to build up a track record of publication credits.
Just a thought… never waste a writing exercise again!
I also think writing flash can help with producing a blurb and synopsis. After all, anything over 500 words is lengthy to me (!) but most blurbs etc do have to be under that.
It also helps to work with what the ending is and then put in the most relevant things that lead to this point. Of course deciding what the most relevant things are can be the problem (!) but flash writing makes you focus and it is that focus you want for this kind of writing too.
And if time is tight, as it so often is, drafting a flash story or even a flash article (yes, there is flash non-fiction now), you are still getting writing done.
You can expand on this or not, as you choose, later on, but you will at least have something to work with. As has been said, it’s impossible to edit a blank page.
Hope you enjoyed The Best Laid Plans yesterday. This is a good example of taking a well known phrase and writing to its theme. I don’t often write all dialogue stories though they can be fun to do. Generally I do need to put in a little bit of “action” which is not speech for most of what I do.
But it is an interesting technique to try as it means you have to get your characters showing you the story. What they actually say also has to be what you would expect characters to say in “real” conversation so absolutely no author speak. No sense of the author pulling the strings either.
A good test for whether dialogue works is to read it out loud. If you stumble over it, a reader will. Also you can literally listen to how your dialogue sounds.
Does it sound natural to your own ears? Recording it and playing it back can also help enormously here.
Ask yourself always if the story situation was real, would your characters really speak in the way you’ve depicted? You want a firm “yes” for that one!
Stories have to read naturally so the characters have to act and speak naturally. (The only over the top characters I can think of that work are Mr Toad from Wind In The Willows and Cruella de Ville in The 101 Dalmatians. That’s because both of these are set up as OTT characters early on so readers know what to expect).
Hope your Wednesday has been okay. Time for a story I think. This is one of my all dialogue ones. I find these work best when kept short and I prefer the 100 mark or under for these. Hope you enjoy.
THE BEST LAID PLANS
‘I never forget a face, sunshine. I wish I could make an exception for you. You never liked soap and water.’
‘Where has keeping squeaky clean got you, Mister? I know where the money is. Give me the key and I’ll reveal what you want to know. Then you need never see me again. That suits us both.’
‘The key is in Maisie.’
‘My spaniel ate the key this morning. See you this time tomorrow.’
Allison Symes – 11th November 2020
Fairytales With Bite – The Biter Bit
This is a common theme in classic fairytales. The villains getting their comeuppance has always been one of the most satisfying aspects to fairytales with me. Even as a kid, I knew the world was far from fair. In the pages of a book, it can be fair! And I loved (and still love) that.
What interests me far more now is understanding where both the villain and the hero come from. I’ve got to understand their motivations, even if I don’t agree with them. I’m always torn when there’s a villain I can understand but the hero is priggish. Who should I support there?!
So for the biter bit to work effectively, you need to show why the villain should have their comeuppance at all. The comeuppance should be in proportion too. There has to be a sense of fairness about it.
I dislike over the top reactions in life, yet alone in fiction, and readers see right through it. You run the risk of turning your story into melodrama. For me, stories work best when they keep to the point.
A good tip for this kind of story is to work out what the ending is first. Write that wonderful comeuppance scene and then work out what would have led to it. There will almost certainly be more than one possible starting point but in working out different possibilities, you can more easily spot the strongest one and go for that.
The lovely thing with biter bit stories is both the biter and the one biting back have to be strong characters. They’ve got to draw your reader in so they will be anxious to find out what happens.
So think about how you can show the best and worst sides of both of them. Give your readers dilemmas here. They know they should support the hero but they can understand the villain… On the other hand the villain did this, this, and this so they really should be brought down.
And humour is a possibility here too. The biter bit works well for characters who are pompous who need bringing down several pegs or so.
Above all, have fun with what you write here. It should be fun!
This World and Others – Identification
How do your characters see themselves? Are they right to do so or are they fooling themselves? What does identify mean to them? Are names used as we do or are your characters identified another way? Is there such a thing as fingerprints?
Identification ties in closely with class/social status so how does that work in your world?
No matter how strange your world or how odd your characters look, sound etc., there has to be something about all of this that readers can identify with. Certain struggles are the same no matter what the universe. Beings need to eat, drink, find shelter etc., so how is all of that done?
And the possibility of conflict, the driving force of stories, is always there. Envy is not just confined to human beings!
And then there’s ambition. We know it can make people do all kinds of things. This can be true for your fictional world too so how does this manifest itself?
What would your characters do to defend their identification and how they are seen by others? How does your fictional government identify its citizens?
What do you want your readers to see?