Panto, Numbers, and Publication News

A real mixed bag tonight but hope you enjoy!

Image Credits:-

Firstly, a huge thank you to the lovely people at The Chameleon Theatre Group for kind permission to use their photos as part of my review for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I’ve included a couple of photos I’ve taken but the majority are from them.

Secondly, all thanks to Pixabay as usual for the other images used. Thirdly, thank you to Penny Blackburn for the picture of me taking part in the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic Night last year. Great fun! Now down to business…

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Delighted to share my review of the excellently performed show, Atlantis – The Panto. Well done to all at The Chameleon Theatre Group. Also I look at why an eclectic mix of music and a decent villain are vital to a good pantomime. Both are as important ingredients to a successful show as having a convincing Dame is.

I was intrigued by this story as it is not one I knew. How does an underwater adventure work as a pantomime? Well I had to find out…  Captions as ever for the Chameleon photos over on the CFT link.

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I loved going to the panto by The Chameleon Theatre Group last week. (Oh no you didn’t, oh yes I did, oh no…etc etc!). I had no idea what Atlantis – The Panto would be given it is not one of the classic fairytales pantomimes are usually based on. All I knew was it would have to have an underwater setting and I was interested to find out how that would be conveyed. (Good use of suitable music, the right costumes, props etc is the simple answer to that).

For stories, especially flash fiction, inference and implication play a big part in scene setting. If I told you someone was wearing a red coat, that would conjure up possible images for you. (For me, it would conjure up memories of a favourite red coat I had as a kid). If I then add one hyphenated word “moth-eaten”, that image will change, as will the mood of the story. The person wearing said moth-eaten coat is going to be poor, possibly homeless, and that will set the tone of the story too.

Facebook – General – and Publication News – Cafelit

Glad to say I’m Bored by yours truly is now up on Cafelit. If you ever wanted to know the true story of what happened to Humpty Dumpty, now’s your chance! Hope you enjoy it.

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I’ll be reviewing Atlantis – The Panto as my CFT post this week. Definitely a new story for me but that’s one of the joys of going to see the productions put on by The Chameleon Theatre Group. There is such a variety of work staged by them and it always makes for a fantastic evening out. I’m a big fan of taking in stories using various formats and going to see a good show is just another and very enjoyable way to do that.

Link up tomorrow. I’ll be looking at the signs of a good panto, why music matters for shows like this, and why there has to be a decent villain for the audience to boo at! It IS as vital to get the villain right as it is for the Dame to be what audiences expect. I’ll also have a look at why the panto, in my view, is vital for theatre going overall.

All good fun…

 

Facebook – General – Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers – Numbers and Creative Writing

There are more links between numbers and fiction than you might think. Hope you enjoy my latest blog for the Association of Christian Writers’ More Than Writers blog spot, which discusses numbers and creative writing and there are plenty of links between the two. Mind you, my first love will always be words, glorious words!

I also share some thoughts on how to manage word counts and competition deadlines.

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Can one word make a difference to a story? Oh yes. I talked about this over on my author page tonight (Allison Symes Fairytale Lady – https://www.facebook.com/Allison.Symes.FairytaleLady/).

One word can turn a mood. One word can change how a story ends. I’ve long thought of flash fiction as precision writing and this is why. It’s also why if you’ve got a powerful story that works really well at, say, 250 words, leave it there! Don’t try and edit it down to get it into a 100 word competition or market. Impact on the reader is the most important thing, then the word count, and not the other way round.

Story matters. The format less so. I like to take in my stories via:-

Books, obviously.
Kindle.
Seeing them performed as plays, pantomimes etc. (I love the whole concept of National Theatre Live. Brilliant idea).
Audio books
Magazines
The vinyl version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds as produced by Jeff Wayne (which is just brilliant. Richard Burton was a wonderful narrator).
Hearing them on radio. (You can count TV drama obviously though I admit I’m watching less TV and I wasn’t impressed with what was on offer over Christmas).
Via film.

For flash fiction the top two have been the main outlets for me. It is a hope of mine that flash fiction can draw in the reluctant reader and if that has to be via electronic means, so be it. Get hooked on books. You know it makes sense!

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I’ve mentioned before I always feel a certain amount of relief when I get a first draft done of any writing. I feel like I’ve “nailed something down” to the screen or paper (I still occasionally write in longhand) and from there onwards the draft is going to get better. It is precisely what editing is all about!

I also like to have more than one project on the go as while I’m working on one, my subsconsious can mull over any issues I’m having with something else. It is almost inevitable an idea to resolve those issues WILL occur when I’m working on something else.

I’ve learned not to fight that and just go with it. It’s what a notebook and pen besides the laptop is for after all so those ideas that suddenly come to me don’t disappear into the author’s hell-hole called Lost Ideas That Were Brilliant But You Will Never Know Will You Because You Did Not Write Them Down At The Time! (Most of us HAVE been there and often more than once!).

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Fairytales With Bite – Keeping Fairytales Alive

As shown above, the pantomime is one great way to keep fairytales alive given most of them are based on the classic stories. Long may that fantastic tradition continue.

I am, of course, very fond of fairytales told from the viewpoints of different characters as my first published story, A Helping Hand, in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology, comes into that category. It is a popular theme and I’ve seen it used in other competitions and rightly so too. There are a wealth of stories (and therefore characters) you could do this for.

The Disney adaptations also play a part in keeping fairytales alive though I would always recommend going back to the original stories to compare and contrast what Disney kept in and, often, what they had to keep out to retain a Universal certificate for the cinema.

I also can’t see good old-fashioned reading fairytales to children stopping either. Children know what they like in stories and fairytales do tick the right boxes there. Then the likes of Roald Dahl and David Walliams could be considered to be modern fairytale tellers too.

Long live the fairytale!

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This World and Others – How the Other Half Lives…

While readers don’t need to know the ins and outs of your creative world, they have to be convinced that in some dimension somewhere, your world is realistically enough portrayed to have a chance of existing!

Basically this means your characters need to have shelter, be able to eat, drink and so on and therefore a society has to spring up around them so these needs are met. Some of those societies will be close to what we know here. Others will be different but readers will be able to pick up on how it works. (Can’t say I’d like living in Mordor – it’s the ultimate in grim!).

One of my favourite quotes on this topic is from the much missed Terry Pratchett, who referred to building his Discworld “from the bottom up”. That is, he worked out how waste was disposed of, how water was supplied etc.

You need to decide what you need to know here so you can write with conviction about your setting and the characters in it. I’ve focused on system of government for a longer project I’m working on. Whatever way you go in for this, it does have to be something readers can identify with. Good luck!

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Competitions and Revamped Website

Image Credits:

1.  A huge thank you to Stuart Wineberg and The Chameleon Theatre Group for kind permission to use their photos for my CFT post. As ever, captions for the photos appear on the CFT post.

2.  Unless stated otherwise, the rest of the images come from the marvellous Pixabay as usual.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is a review of the latest Chameleon Theatre Company – Chandlers Ford production My Husband’s Nuts.

I discuss farce (well, with a title like that, this wasn’t going to be a serious documentary now, was it?!) and what it is meant to do.

I also research the background of plays etc that I review. Putting this title into a search engine produced some interesting results, including a link with candied almonds! See the post for more.

Also a big thanks to the Chameleons who seem to like the review!

Fantastic review of ‘My Husband’s Nuts’ by Allison Symes on Chandler’s Ford Today. Thank you, Allison! :

 

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Am revamping my Word Press website (this very one!). Enjoying doing so and looking forward to sharing the results once I’m done. (Mind you, I bet there’ll be something I’ll have forgotten to add and then remember later but hey, that is the way of things!).

My CFT post this week is a review of the latest play put on by the wonderful Chameleon Theatre Group – My Husband’s Nuts. I’ll refrain from further comment other than to say the link will go up on Friday. Fans of serious documentaries may wish to skip this one… titles DO give clues!

Many thanks to all who’ve given great feedback on my latest Cafelit story, Humourless. I will have more work up in November and look forward to sharing that. It’s hard to believe it WILL be November on Friday! I get a sense of how fast the year is going by every time I schedule a CFT post as I have to know the dates!

I do wonder what that blue tit is telling the other one in the first picture below (from Pixabay as ever). Any chance is it’s nagging the other one to get up earlier to give it the best chance of getting the worms, do you think?

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I hope it’s a good story the blue tit is relating here! Pixabay

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Reviewing is not the easiest thing to get right. You want to give a flavour of whatever it is you’re reviewing without giving away all of the “best bits”. It was good fun going to see The Chameleons’ My Husband’s Nuts and reviewing it this week for Chandler’s Ford Today though.

This play’s title confirms the importance of getting your title right to reflect the mood of your play, story, book etc! You just know this play isn’t going to be a serious documentary.

So how do you decide which title is right for your latest flash fiction story, say? The methods I use include:-

1. I use my titles to reflect the mood of the story.

2. I use my titles to reflect something of the main character.

3. I often keep my titles open so they can be taken in a humorous or other mood (e.g. Time Waits For No Man can be a funny story, could be a very sad one but the title flags up to the reader that the mood of the tale could go either way so that’s fine).

4. I sometimes use a pun as a title.

5. I’ll often use proverbs of famous sayings as titles, again because they can be open to interpretation. What I hope to do here is hook the reader’s curiosity so they want to find out which way the story goes.

If a better idea for a title occurs to me as I’m writing or editing the story, then I switch to that. You do get gut instincts that a title would be better if you went from Title A to Title B and I’ve learned to trust my gut instinct here. It’s rarely wrong.

 

 

Aside from writing flash, I, of course, read it, but I also like turning to longer works of fiction and non-fiction as something completely different.

It pays to mix up what you read to keep your reading life interesting AND ideas spark from all over the place so reading widely helps widen the areas where those sparks can originate from! And of course it is so much fun…

(One of my great joys is having books on my shelves at home written by friends. Always lovely to add to my collection there).

What do I look for when reading flash fiction by other authors?

1. I want to be hooked by the character(s).

2. I want to be surprised by the ending. (This does not mean it has to be a twist in the tale funnily enough, though I love those. I want to be able to foresee a good ending for the story and then discover the writer has come up with something better!).

3. I want to half wish I’d writen the story!

Why only half wish? Because I learned a long time ago I’m not in competition with other writers nor are they with me. Why? Because I write in my voice and they write in theirs. They are not the same.

You can take a dozen authors, give them the same word count and title and there will be a dozen different takes and styles.

The Waterloo Art Festival’s ebooks (produced by Bridge House Publishing) have proved that. My entries in To Be…To Become and, for this year, Transforming Being, are very different in style to the other tales. And that’s how it should be. Makes for a wonderful eclectic mix too.

Am revamping my Word Press website as I mentioned on my author page. I am hoping to have a specific flash fiction spot on this. Will share when it’s all ready. There is something creative in doing this though and I am enjoying it. I just feel that possibilities are opening up… (I do hope I’m right there!).

Flash fiction was known as postcard fiction and I can understand why. A story you can fit on the back of a postcard makes sense as a definition. Doesn’t really work for me. My handwriting’s tiny. I could get a three volume trilogy on there!😉😉😃

Flash has also been known as sudden fiction but I’m not keen on that definition. There can be some very poignant pieces written in flash and you’d hardly describe those as “sudden”.

The biggest challenge in flash fiction writing isn’t actually the word count – honestly. It’s coming up with different, interesting characters for each and every story you write. Mind, I love doing that. For me, it’s where the creative juices flow.

Fairytales With Bite – 

How to Tell If Your Fairy Godmother is Out of Warranty

  1.  Her wand keeps misfiring. You will get a lot of pumpkins but think of all the lovely recipes you can use those for!
  2.  Her spells will only last for so long and always expire at midnight. This may well prove not to be convenient but tough. There is nothing she, or you, can do about it.
  3. She proves to have a bit of a thing for changing animals into human characters – rats a speciality – despite knowing such a spell cannot last and it is going to really confuse the animals when they truly become themselves again. What memories will they have for a start?
  4. If she uses a sleeping spell on you, beware! Her alarm clock is stuck to 100 years, not a minute less. Again this may prove to be inconvenient. On the plus side, you’re never going to beat this for a lie-in!
  5. Your fairy godmother, if she is on the ball so to speak, will make herself known to you early in life so her arrival doesn’t come as a huge shock to you later on…  ah… I see you’ve only just met her… ooops.  Good luck. You’ll need it but you probably are in for an entertaining and unforgettable evening. Have fun!

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This World and Others – Foundations

What are the foundations for your stories and the worlds in which you set them? Mine are:-

  • I’ve got to know the characters really well, especially their major traits. I don’t necessarily need to like them but I do have to know how they are likely to react to events and why and whether anything could throw them.
  • I then visualise the setting in which these characters would fare best, work out why that is, and flesh out details of what the characters would face here. Not every detail will end up in the story but I will put in enough so readers can conjure up images of what the world is likely to be like.
  • I like to get a sense of how the world is governed (as that may well be the direct cause of conflict in my story. Even where it isn’t, I need to know what my characters could expect to face in terms of authorities, how they might interfere with what the characters are doing etc).

 

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What Writing Means To Me

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, the images come from Pixabay.

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What does writing mean to you? For me it’s:-

1. Escapism. (Always welcome that!).

2. Writing stretches and challenges me. I came up with blog posts or stories yesterday, can I do the same today? (The discipline of daily writing is very good for developing your imagination and stamina and is also brilliant for keeping the brain active).

3. Writing has given me a creative art form I can take part in and love. I’m useless at art (my kid sister was much better there – and still is) but I can use words. I believe most of us have a creative streak somewhere and it’s a question of finding the one that suits us best. Being creative does something positive for my soul/mental well being/self-esteem etc and that is a good thing for my sake obviously but also for those around me.

4. Writing has led me to doing things I would never have dreamt of doing (such as reading publicly from my own work).

5. Writing has given me wonderful friends who understand the joys and frustrations of writing and that wonderful buzz when your books arrive with your stories in them!

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So what does the coming writing week hold in store for you?

I’m currently preparing a review of the play My Husband’s Nuts performed by The Chameleon Theatre Group for Chandler’s Ford Today. Yes, it really is called that. Reviews can sometimes be tricky. How much do you reveal about the plot? My approach is to give enough of the “flavour” of the play without giving away spoilers. And yes, this one is a farce. Well with a title like that, it kind of had to be really.

I’ve just submitted work to a competition and I plan to work on my big projects throughout the week. Am making good progress on one in particular. I also want to get another flash fiction collection together at some point.

Delighted that the Best of Cafelit 8 with its lovely green cover goes beautifully with the cover of my From Light to Dark and Back Again. They’ll look good together on a book stall! The Cafelit series always has the same cover image, just the colour of the cover changes, and the Chapeltown flash fiction collections always have a frame around a differing central image. Branding, folks, branding – it does matter but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple ideas here can work wonders.

Publication News

Delighted to share my latest story on Cafelit called Humourless. Hope you enjoy. Definitely not something that could be applied to me, I’m glad to say.

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When something unexpected happens, how do you react? Okay, okay, I know. It depends on whether the unexpected happening is nice or not. (I was nominated for Miss Slinky in my Slimming World group tonight – very nice surprise and it brightened up my Tuesday considerably!).

Okay, next question. How would your characters react? Same response from you? Yes, and rightly so too. But it pays you to know how your characters are likely to react, no matter what turns up in their lives.

Also think about why they would react the way you think they will. If someone reacts badly to a balloon bursting, is that because their link that sound to a bad memory? There should be a reason for their reaction, especially if other characters seems to consider it an over-reaction. You can ask yourself if it IS your character over reacting and then think about why your character might do that. Trying to get sympathy perhaps?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I occasionally write a piece of flash fiction where the first letter of each line spells out a word. Let’s give that a go again now and appropriately I think I’ll go for Autumn. (Now this is where I could cheat and go for the American word of Fall here to make my life easier but I won’t!).

AUTUMN

A = Allison finished digging in the garden not a moment too soon as the rain started pelting down.
U = Urgent requirement for a hot cup of a tea and a Hi-fi bar made her put her spade away in record time.
T = Turning away from the garden shed, she ran indoors, put the kettle on, and grabbed her bar from the larder.
U = Unaware her actions had been witnessed.
M = Missy, next door’s dog, got through the gap in the fence and went to where Allison had been digging.
N = Never had a body been uncovered again so quickly; never had Allison shooed a dog off so quickly before as she rushed to cover up her work.

Allison Symes – 26th October 2019

Not based on a true story, honestly!

 

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Reasons to engage with other writers positively:-

1. It’s fun – best reason of all.

2. You will learn useful information – I’ve found out about competitions etc thanks to chatting with other writers. Some of it I’ve used, some of it I may use in the future, some I may never get to use at all.

3. When you can share useful information, see it as paying your dues. I know I’m grateful for the good advice from other writers that has helped me so pass it on.

4. Ultimately, we all want to write good material, whether it’s flash fiction, or an epic saga. There are things on our writing journeys that we will share in common. You don’t have to cope with these things on your own!

5. You can be warned about scams. No industry is exempt from these so why should publishing be?

6. Linking with 5, other writers can tell you where to go for good advice and what has helped them.

7. I was told about Cafelit and from there found out about flash fiction and I’ve been very grateful for finding out about those!!😀

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Pleased to have another story up on Cafelit – Humourless. More to come too.

http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/…/10/humourless.html

For Cafelit, you need to assign a drink to your story and I try to match the mood of the tale with an appropriate beverage. I sometimes find that harder to do than write the story and I’ve often searched cafe menus for inspiration!

It is a great way to discreetly flag up the mood of the tale though. This, and finding pictures for my CFT posts, are probably the main ways where I’m “forced” to think laterally sometimes. But it is worth persisting with doing that. Other story ideas have come to me that way.

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I always feel a certain amount of relief when I’ve got the first draft of a story written. I never worry about making each line or paragraph “perfect” before moving on because I know if I took that approach, I would get very little written. Also, there’s no such thing as “perfect” writing anyway.

I like to get a first draft written, move on to another piece I’m editing or submitting somewhere, then come back to that draft to give myself enough distance from it to be able to judge it as objectively as I can.

There are two reactions made by a writer to something they’ve written.

1. This is genius. Not true, sadly.

2. This is awful. Whatever made me think I could write. Not true either and that’s better news!

It is inevitable as you read through a piece, ideas for better ways of phrasing things occur to you so go with that and don’t worry about it.

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Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers – A Season For Everything

Do you find the seasons affect your writing? I can’t say they do with me. One good thing about the evenings drawing in earlier is the lure of a cosy room, my desk, hot drinks on the go, and an evening’s writing is even more appealing than it normally is!

I don’t write much about the seasons. Flash fiction with its word count limits means I have little room for description. If I want to show it’s cold, I’ll get my character to put on their big coat, having established they usually wear shorts or something daft like that.

Sorry to all shorts fans out there but I’ve never liked them. I’d also consign flip-flops to history’s dustbin. If I ever come up with a character I really can’t stand, I could make them wear shorts and flip-flops in freezing weather and make them suffer! I guess that could be fun…

Is there any writer who doesn’t get some enjoyment out of putting their characters through the mill, especially when those characters have it coming? I refuse to believe that is just me.

If I have seasons to writing, it is not in the quantity of what I do but in the tasks themselves. I will have weeks where I’m submitting work all over the place. (I finished drafting this after sending three stories off to Cafelit).

There will be other weeks where I’m editing work I’d deliberately put aside to look at again with fresh eyes prior to submission. It does pay to give yourself that time so you return to your story afresh. It’s the only way I know that works where you do come back and read your work as a reader would.

Without a time break, I’ve found you can be too close to your own work to be objective about it. This is why when there’s a competition deadline, I take off at least a week from the official end date and that will be the date I aim to submit the piece by. If life gets in the way as it does sometimes, I still have a few days in hand to still submit that piece.

I am so grateful for email submissions! I did start writing seriously when everything went in by snail mail (it was just after the last T Rex left this world). Some things have definitely got better. (I don’t miss typewriters, carbon paper or Tippex either. I did use to cut and paste literally).

I’ve found it pays to have periods when I’m creating new work. While I’m working on the second story, the first one is having its “time break” for me to edit effectively later.

There is always something on the go  writing wise and that’s how I like it. I have a very low boredom threshold and the lovely thing with creative writing is that threshold is never tested. There is always something to do.

Happy writing, editing etc etc!

Goodreads Author Blog –

What Do I Want Books To Do For Me?

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Meanings

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, the images come from the marvellous Pixabay

Facebook – and Chandler’s Ford Today

For this week’s CFT post, I look at Meanings, how comedy writing depends on there being multiple meanings to get the laughs (particularly true for puns), and discuss how certain radio shows can help you as a writer learn about the use of language. Hope you enjoy.

Feature Image - Meanings

My inspiration for my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Meanings this week comes from going to see My Husband’s Nuts, the latest production from the Chameleon Theatre Group. (Review next week).

I guessed that there would be at least some reference to the various meanings of nuts within the play (you can fill in your own gags here!) and that led me to look at how much comedy writing depends on multiple meanings etc.

Ideas can be funny things at times. All it needs is that initial spark to create a starting point and you go from there. You just need to be open to recognising that initial spark for what it is AND to see that it really is just the beginning.

I’ve found reading and writing more makes it easier to recognise those initial sparks. And ideas do come from all over the place (and not always at convenient times either!) but you get used to that.

I have brainstorming sessions every so often and just write down all the ideas I come up with then. A lot I do go on to use either for story ideas or CFT blog posts and some I discard.

Closer examination, after a break away from that brainstorming session, leads me to critically decide which ideas have the “legs” and which don’t. But coming up with ideas I don’t take further later on is not a waste of time. Far from it. Sometimes I have to add another element into that initial idea and then it has the “legs”. What matters is there ARE ideas I can flesh up and write up. I think there is a certain element of having to think through ideas to get to the nuggets you can do something with.

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Posting early today as off to see The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production, My Husband’s Nuts, later tonight. I make no comment on the title except to say I’ll be reviewing the play and production next week for Chandler’s Ford Today. This week’s post will be all about Meanings. Read into that what you will! 😀😀

I’ll be meeting up with my lovely CFT editor, Janet Williams. Going to the plays has become something of a CFT tradition for both of us. I like to think of it as a kind of works outing! What I do know is this evening should be a lot of fun!

Have put in my order for the Best of Cafelit 8. Looking forward to that postal delivery. You never lose the thrill of being in a book!

Am working on a story for a competition and hope to get that submitted over the weekend. I really don’t miss the old days of having to get everything sent off in the post – email submissions are so much easier.

I’m looking at Meanings for this week’s CFT post. I look a little at how the use of certain English words has changed.

I also discuss how radio shows like Just A Minute and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, as well as being great fun, are excellent for writers to learn from. This is particularly true for JAM. (If you get the chance, do check out earlier series where grammatical deviation challenges are particularly useful for writers to learn from).

I look at how comedy writing is so dependent on getting the right meaning from the right words to get the laughs. Well, where would puns be without having more than one meaning?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to say I’ll have another flash fiction tale up on Cafelit soon. Will share the link obviously. Very pleased with the look of The Best of Cafelit 8. Receiving parcels with books with your stories in is a great joy. It doesn’t dim!

How do I decide what is a great moment in a character’s life that deserves having a flash fiction tale revealing said moment?

Well firstly that moment has to grip ME. A writer is their own first reader and if you’re not gripped by the characters and situation you’ve put them in, nobody else will be.

Secondly that moment should reveal something interesting to a reader.

That can be anything from the character finally learns a much needed lesson (humour can work well here), the character changes their ways or deals with a conflict and resolves it.

I’m always interested in how characters resolve problems and why they’ve gone the route they have. I think most readers are fascinated by that. It’s why we read to the end if we are gripped by the tale. We have to find out what happens and that urge to find out has been with humanity for centuries. It’s not going anywhere any time soon!

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Posting early as off to see My Husband’s Nuts, the latest production by The Chameleon Theatre Group, later on. Oh the power of a title!!

I look at Meanings (including how comedy writing depends on words having multiple meanings to get the laughs at all) for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post. Link up tomorrow.

I sometimes know the title of a flash fiction story immediately because I’ve come up with something I really want to write something to and so off I go. At other times, the title emerges from the character and the story but at all times I have to have a draft title to get me started. I do need a “peg” like that but once I’ve got one, away I go!

But I’ve learned not to worry about changing the title if a better one comes to me. Only the Ten Commandments were set in stone, folks.

(Oh and have literally just had The Best of Cafelit 8 delivered – at 5 pm on Thursday 24th October. I like getting parcels like that! So naturally that needs a photo!).

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For someone who writes flash fiction, I can’t say I have that many flashes of inspiration! I don’t usually get an idea out of the blue. What I do hear is a character’s voice and I can detect from that something of what their major traits are likely to be.

Assuming I like the sound of this character (whether they’re hero or villain doesn’t matter – all I need is to see possibilities for them), I ask myself what situations would they hate having to deal with and why. I then dump them in those situations. It’s time for my character to sink or swim then! No shortage of conflict here either (especially internal conflict). And yes, I know, I’m all heart to my characters – NOT!

There’s no point in putting your super duper character in a situation you know they can handle. Where’s the story in that? Give them hell and then some. It will challenge you to work out how your character deals with it and that is where the story is!

Have fun dropping your characters right in it then!

Fairytales With Bite – What I Like in a Fairytale

  • Strong characters (even if they themselves don’t think they are but prove it later)
  • To see wrong being righted (with some help from a fairy godmother and a magic wand. Be prepared for pumpkins to be involved. Just go with it… it’s part of the fairy godmother’s stock in trade).
  • Humour. While the character of Buttons is not in Cinderella to the best of my knowledge, I can understand his addition to the traditional pantomime. If the main character can’t be humorous, for whatever reason, best to get a sidekick to do it then!
  • A good and appropriate ending, usually a happy one though there are exceptions (The Little Mermaid as told by Hans Christen Andersen is a classic example here).

 

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This World and Others – Deciding on a Setting

How do you decide what setting is best for your characters?

  • The setting has to meet the character’s needs. If a character is on a quest, where are they likely to meet those who will help them/supply them etc? Also where are they going to and why? What kind of obstacles must they overcome to achieve their objective?
  • The setting has to be appropriate to the characters. You wouldn’t get a mermaid to live in an inner city etc (well she wouldn’t last for long if you did!).
  • What kind of world do you want to create? Have you got a hankering for forests? Then create a world which has plenty of them and think about what kind of characters would live in woodlands? Which characters would hate that? Would there be conflict between the two types (I should think so but good stories always come out of conflict!)?

 

 

 

The Writing Life and Publication News

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, the images are from Pixabay.

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I drafted this post on my way to a Writers’ Day (19th October 2019) run by the Association of Christian Writers. (I’m their Membership Secretary). I do love a good train journey and Evernote! I adjusted to using a stylus quicker than I thought I would too.

The event itself will be good fun and it will be nice catching up with friends too. Am enjoying seeing the sun rise over the Hampshire countryside as I draft this. Will be seeing the sun set on my way home. (And I did. It was lovely).

Writing wise, I’ll have a story up on Cafelit tomorrow so look forward to sharing the link for that.

I’m also looking forward to seeing the next production by The Chameleon Theatre Group called My Husband’s Nuts next week. Should be fun. Review to follow in due course.

Am making progress on projects I’m working on but why is progress never as quick as.I’d like it to be?! Oh well says she, pressing onwards!

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Publication News

Delighted to say The Best of Cafelit 8 is now available in paperback as well as in ebook form. Reviews welcome, as always!

I have two flash stories in here – The Art Critic and Dignity and Injustice. Very different moods for those two as well! Great collection of stories so if you’re not sure what you fancy reading next, try this assortment! You’ll find something to suit…! Lovely eclectic mix of authors, styles, and moods. (Pleased to say Cafelit 8 is now up on my Amazon Author Page too!). Thanks to my recent CFT series on What Books Mean to Me I can share some of the images of the authors in Cafelit 8 but do check the book out and catch up on all the authors included here. There is a great mix of styles but you don’t just have to take my word for it!

Also thrilled to share my latest story on Cafelit called Takeover. The thrill of being published in print, online or both never dims!

 

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Favourite moment in editing? When you know the changes you’ve made have strengthened your story/book and your only regret is not having spotted the necessary changes when you were drafting the tale in the first place.

The one thought that has always cheered me up here is that nobody writes a perfect first draft. Shakespeare didn’t. Dickens didn’t. I’m not going to – so that’s okay then. What matters is the edit. And it does pay to take your time over it, leave the work for a while, before then re-reading the piece as a reader would.

Least favourite moment in editing? Checking for typos and then spotting one after you’ve gone through the document several times. The one comfort here is that this happens to us all at some point so you’re definitely not alone!

 

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S = Spellbinding characters make you have to find out what happens to them so you keep reading.
T = Tall tales, flash fiction stories – there’s something for every word count!
O = Originality. I find it fascinating how writers create unique characters and keep doing so and, of course that is a challenge to me too.
R = Reading – the other side of writing. Two wonderful creative arts in one in many ways. You have to read well to be able to write. Name a better way of working out how a book works, how characters come across on the page etc.
I = Inventiveness. I love inventing new people and situations to put them in. Exercising the imagination regularly like this has to be good for the brain – and your writing muscles.
E = Entertainment – stories cover the whole range. Some are entertained via tragedy, others via humour, crime, historical fiction. There are plenty of wonderful books out there. And don’t forget the anthologies – flash fiction and short stories. Perfect for quick reads.
S = Setting. Via a book, I can visit fantasy worlds, places on this planet I may or may not get to see for myself, places I’ve never heard of – does this give another meaning to losing yourself in a good book? You can lose yourself in an enthralling setting. The world of The Lord of the Rings is a good example (though I admit I’d never visit Mordor out of choice if that option was available).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was listening to the gloriously peaceful music of Sailing By on Classic FM as my train left Basingstoke when I drafted this earlier today (on my way to the ACW Writers’ Day mentioned earlier). Quite a contrast in images there! Flowing water, sunny days, and a big town!

Contrasting images can work well in flash fiction but, due to the word count limits, contrasts are best shown sharply. You are flashing a brief light on the lives of your characters to your readers when all is said and done. So what is the contrast they must pick up on? Focus on that.

For the longer flash stories, there may be room for subtle contrasts to come in but again focus only on what your reader needs to pick up. You still won’t have room for more than that. Flash is all about focus (which is why it is a great discipline for any writer).

 

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Places I have drafted flash fiction stories:-

1. At home on laptop (very conventional!).
2. On the train on Evernote.
3. In a notebook using good old pen and paper while waiting for my phone to recharge! (There is much to still be said for pen and paper).
4. On a car journey.
5. Just the once – at the end of a church service, I had a very strong idea for a story which I knew I just had to write down a few notes about so I could write it up properly later. I usually hear my characters speaking, then visualise them. For this story, it was the other way round. Yes, it does have a faith based theme but I just had a very strong compulsion to get this story idea down quickly – so I did, using Evernote.
6. When I’ve got ten minutes before I have to go out anywhere… well it’s useful writing time and I flesh up the stories properly later on.
7. At writing conferences when I’ve been set a writing exercise. Nearly all of mine turn into a first draft af flash fiction.

I have NEVER followed the advice to keep a notebook by the bed to jot down thoughts that occur over night. This, I know, simply wouldn’t work for me. I sleep very heavily as a rule and don’t often dream so this is a no-go. I am never at my best first thing anyway so any notes jotted down would make no sense to me yet alone anyone else!

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Why do I like using the first person in flash fiction so much?

1. It’s immediate. I can take you right into the thoughts (and attitudes) of my characters.

2. It reads like a first-hand account (which from the character’s viewpoint is, of course, the case!).

3. I can get my character to refer to other characters and give a sense of a life being lead without actually bringing those other characters into the story itself. It saves on word count, obviously, but if I just need to show Character X hates Character Y, I can show you that by revealing X’s thoughts about them. I don’t need to bring in Y at all. It is more direct and, to me, comes across as more natural.

4. I find first person works really well in the sub-500 words stories so it does tend to be my “go to” when I specifically want to write to that limit or under.

5. There isn’t a lot of room for dialogue and character development in flash fiction. Flash is, as I mentioned the other day, all about focus and I’ve found it best to focus on one to two characters at most in a sub-500 words story. In sub-250 words, one character works very well (and therefore the means of showing their story is often best done via the mouth of the character concerned).

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Goodreads Author Blog – Travel Reading

I tend not to read much while travelling. I’m usually drafting blog posts and stories on my phone for one thing! But I like to take a good mix of good reads for when I get to my destination.

I prefer light reads when away. I am escaping from the usual routine so want to escape through books too. I’m currently enjoying Ben Macintyre’s The Last Word on Kindle which takes a light look at the use of language and is good fun. Highly recommend.

I also loved his Operation Mincemeat. Not a light read so to speak but a cracking and true story told at a great pace.

What do you look for in a good read?

I like to be entertained, escape my cares for a bit, and ideally learn something too.

When reading fiction, I learn something from how the characters are portrayed, how the dialogue is put together etc. I get so much from books and hope you do too.

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They Came from Mars and Other Top Tips

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When a spoof works… CFT Review – They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning?

Delighted to share my review of this fabulous production, the latest to be staged by The Chameleon Theatre Company – Chandlers Ford. It was huge fun spotting the references and recalling the musical links.
I also go on to discuss the “rules” for a good spoof and why I think humour is the hardest genre to write well.

Spotting all the references and gags here would take at least two visits to the show!

Images supplied by Lionel Elliott, Mike Morris and The Chameleons. A huge thank you as ever. Captions on the CFT post.

 

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Further to my earlier post about The Chameleon’s latest production, just why is humour so difficult to write well?

(Said production incidentally easily has the longest title of a play I’ve reviewed and I can’t see it being beaten any time soon! Well, what do YOU make of They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning? Try saying that quickly! Go on give it a go!).

So humorous writing – the pitfalls (and this is not a comprehensive list by any means):-

1. Humour is subjective. Not everyone gets your style of joke.

2. Sometimes you will come across people who really don’t like funny writing of any kind. My late mum loved books across a wide range of genres (including sci-fi) but just didn’t get funny writing. It was her blind spot. This happens. Nothing you can do about it. (And yes I went the other way and LOVE funny writing!).

3. Humour doesn’t always translate well between countries, cultures etc. So to get something that does cross boundaries is pretty special.

What is your favourite form of humorous writing? Where the humour is “in your face” or do you prefer the subtle one-liner etc?

I love all humorous writing but if I had to pick a favourite, I adore those one-liners which can turn a story on its head and make you laugh at the same time.

You can bet the writer would have written and re-written that line several times to get it spot on and it wouldn’t have just been the words themselves. The rhythm of a sentence can make a difference to how funny it is perceived to be. Punchlines are generally short for maximum impact for that reason.

As part of my CFT review of The Chameleons’ latest hilarious production, I’ll also be looking at what makes a spoof work and what I think some of the “rules” are. Link up tomorrow.

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My CFT post this week will be a review of the Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production. They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning doesn’t trip off the tongue but is a classic example of a title showing clearly what the story is – a spoof!

I will be discussing spoofs and comedy as well as part of the review. Link up on Friday.

What amazes me with the Chameleons though is I have seen them stage everything from Arthur Miller’s All My Sons to Blackadder to hilarious pantos and all of them have been wonderfully entertaining.

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Five top tips:-

1. Never be afraid to change a title if the one you first thought of just isn’t making enough impact on you. (It won’t on anyone else either. Trust your gut here and don’t be afraid to play around with titles until you find one that does hit home).

2. Think about the emotional impact you want your story to have on a reader before you write it. Take a little time to figure out how best to achieve it. This is where outlining is useful, even if you do a broad outline.

3. Once the story is written, put it away for a while. When you re-read it, read it out loud. Hear how your dialogue sounds. Is there anything in it to trip you up or does it sound clunky? What looks good on paper or screen doesn’t always translate well into being read out loud.

4. Assume you will have to edit more than once. We all do! (But see it as getting your story into shape and helping increase its chances of being published).

5. Be open to trying new forms of writing as you may discover avenues you hadn’t considered but which you discover a skill for. I hadn’t started as a flash fiction writer! ‘Nuff said.

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Favourite endings for flash fiction tales for me include:-

1. A punchline that turns the story on its head.

2. A laugh-out loud moment. (You then read the story again and pick up on the clues that show this moment is coming but which you missed first go, being too eager to find out how the tale did end. Guilty as charged on too many occasions to count on that one).

3. A poetic justice ending. I love those and several of my stories include this. (Subconscious wish to put the world to rights I suspect is coming out here!).

4. A revelation. This can be a character finally showing what has motivated them, some aspect of their personality that hasn’t come out until the end and which makes a huge difference to the outcome, or an action to finish the story on.

Fun with Flash:-

1. Flash stories can be ideal for those characters who would drive people nuts if their tales went on for too long so have some fun with this. Keep your tale short and you can use characters you might otherwise have to discard.

2. Punchlines work well in flash. I sometimes use them as twist endings to a story. But again punchlines work best if they’re kept short so flash fiction can be a good vehicle for them.

3. If you have a short scene in a longer work that you’d like to keep in but can’t justify as it is an amusing character sketch (for example) but nothing more, how about turning it into a piece of flash fiction? Let it stand on its own. Flash is brilliant for focusing on one character and one moment in time. Waste not, want not. (You may find in turning it into a story, the scene suddenly develops “legs” after all).

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Fairytales with Bite – They Came From Mars

My CFT post this week is a review of a wonderful spoof staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group. The title is likely to remain the longest of any play I’ve ever reviewed. Try saying They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning in a hurry!

No matter where your story is set, or how outlandish your fictional world is, it still has to be populated by characters whom we can understand and either root for, or love to hate. They must generate an emotional reaction in us. Their motives must be ones we can understand.

The setting should also be one we can get behind. After all, we know how our planet works/is run. How is this done in your fictional setting? Are there corrupt politicians for example? (I refuse to believe that could just be on Earth!).

Especially in a fantasy world, some ideas of what it looks like, how the species live, what kind of wildlife is there etc deepen your characterisation of the setting itself. (Setting can often be a character in its own right and I don’t think it’s a bad idea to treat it as one. It means you think it out for a start!).

Images for the review are on the CFT post and many thanks to the Chameleons for them.  Images below are from the ever marvellous Pixabay.

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This World and Others –

Top Tips for When Writing Isn’t Working as You’d Hoped

It happens. You go through phases where writing is either difficult or simply isn’t working out as you’d hoped. Lots of submissions. Lots of rejections. Few acceptances. Do you wonder if you should keep going? Some tips I’ve found useful to keep me going during difficult times include:-

1.  Read More. Feed your own imagination. Remind yourself of why you love stories and why you wanted to write any.

2. Remove the Pressure.  Deliberately write just for your own pleasure. Make up complete nonsense. Have fun. (Later, if you can do anything with the writing, even if it is just the odd line or two makes it into a story, say, then fab. Even if not, you’re taking time out to play with words and again remind yourself why you wanted to write).

3.  Look at Where You’ve Come From Writing Wise.  How much have you written over the years? Can you list publication credits (online and in print)? If not at that stage, have you had shortlistings? Are you simply submitting more stories for competitions than ever before? Remember  you define what success in writing is. Yes, publication is the obvious goal but it isn’t the only one. Saying you’ll write 3 or 4 stories and then try and get them published later is a fine goal too.  Look at what you’ve learned as you have written more. Have you learned how to improve your editing skills? Have you picked up tips on the way that are helping you write better now (I would be surprised if you hadn’t)? All of these are good and worthy things.

4.  Find supportive writing buddies via online groups or in creative writing classes. We all need to be reminded we’re not alone. Others do understand our compulsion to write. Others understand the frustrations of trying to get published. You need that support. It can make all the difference during low times, creatively speaking.

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Titles and Quirky Characters

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Ahead of a review on They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning, which has to be a strong contender for the all time longest play title (!), I look at titles in general.

I look at the role they play, why I change my use of them for flash fiction, and discuss how they can set a mood you want your reader to pick up on or can be used to keep said reader guessing.

How easy (or otherwise) is finding the right title for you? I share a few thoughts on that too.

Image Credit:  As ever, the marvellous Pixabay.  Captions on the CFT post.

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Looking forward to the Chameleons’ production of “They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen’s Guild’s Coffee Morning”. Just try saying that quickly! Should be good for several laughs and I look forward to reviewing this next week.

Lady and I have not enjoyed the heat. Shout out to all our human and doggy friends. You know who you are. Keep cool! Glad it’s going to cool down tomorrow. The thought of the Tube in this heat on Saturday when I’m in town… uggh. Sympathies to all who’ve endured it today (or will do shortly). Still I guess it’s a great test of whether your deodorant works or not…!

How do I go about writing reviews for local theatre productions and the like? I always try to find something positive (I’ve never been a fan of hatchet jobs. I think it says more about the reviewer than whatever it was they reviewed). I look at the story. I look at the performance of that story. I also look at the background to the story (and I am looking forward to researching tonight’s one. Is going to be fun!).

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I thought From Light to Dark and Back Again was a long enough title for my flash collection, but it is well beaten by They Came from Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning, the play recently staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group.

I look forward to sharing a review on that on Chandler’s Ford Today next week though I do discuss the importance of titles on CFT this week.

I’ve discussed titles before here but I can’t stress enough how vital it is to get them right. I must have a title to work to when writing almost anything but if a better idea occurs to me as I’m writing (and it does), then I’ll switch. Only the Ten Commandments were set in stone!

For flash fiction competitions where sometimes the title is part of the word count, I take extra care. I work out whether I want my title to give a good opening to the story, or whether I want it to set a mood, or to be open to more than one take on it, so I can keep a reader guessing. What I decide here will determine how long that title is and that will then set how much room I’ve got left for the story itself.

Where I don’t have to worry about the title being part of the word count, then I tend to focus on the impact I want it to have and I can give myself a bit more leeway as to how long I want the title to be.

Generally, though unless you are writing a spoof as the play clearly is, you are better off keeping a title relatively short.

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Having spent most of the day feeling like I was being roasted (goodness knows what my cooking time to the pound would be and yes that does show my age!), along with the rest of the country, it’s a relief to get to my desk where it is relatively cool. Note the relatively.

I find with flash fiction I can get the story ideas down fairly quickly (which is fab. Nobody wants to work too hard in this weather). Where the time and effort comes in is in the crafting of those ideas. Have I really used the right words to conjure up exactly the images I have in mind? Can I think of anything better? The answer to that is almost always yes!

The one thing that cheered me up a long time ago was knowing that nobody but nobody has ever written the perfect first draft! So I never worry about perfection in my writing. It’s not going to happen. Even when you send a piece out, it’s as good as you can make it at that time and that’s absolutely fine.

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Fairytales with Bite – Quirky Characters

There are those who might feel that the reason I love quirky characters is because I am one!  Hmm…

So what is it about quirky characters that appeals to me so much, both in terms of reading about them and writing them myself?

  1. Humour – there’s usually a lot of humour, often irony, involved here. That appeals directly ever since I first came across irony in Pride and Prejudice which I read at secondary school many, many moons ago. That book was an eye opener for me in terms of how irony can be used (and the best kind is subtle with it too). It paved the way for me to appreciate more direct irony in the works of Terry Pratchett and P.G. Wodehouse, to name but two, later on
  2. The Unexpected – The irony (!) here is you expect the unexpected from quirky characters. You’d be a bit disappointed to say the least if they didn’t come out with something. Often this is the pivoting point of the whole story too. What is fun is trying to guess what they come up with.
  3. Memorable – You remember quirky characters. It’s why I’ve always loved Jo March in Little Women and George in The Famous Five. Again I wanted to find out what they could do and whether they could surpass what had gone before. It kept me reading! The trick for a writer is to achieve the same thing. It is also the challenge! What is it that makes your characters memorable?

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This World and Others – Titles

I look at Titles in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week and hope you find it helpful as I share some thoughts on where to find good title ideas. I also discuss the uses of titles. But now to look at the topic from a different angle…

Firstly, the world in which your story is set – do they use titles to denote rank? Do these differ between species? Are some species excluded from any titles at all? How are titles given? Can they be earned and, if so, how?

Secondly, property (you knew it had to come in somewhere!) – how does your world distribute title to property? Can anyone own property? Do your characters have to earn their right to obtain title like this? Or is all land owned by one feudal or royal overlord and all title is held by them?

Can title (of any sort) be challenged or revoked? Who would do so and why?

Now there are some thoughts for story ideas for you!

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Publication News

I look forward to next week when I can share publication news of a story that has a special place in my heart. More details next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Triggers and the Dreaded Lurgy

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On my desk is a calendar with pictures of dogs and a motto alongside them. Today’s one shows a puppy (who looks as if it has just been told off for something!) and the motto is “Even a puppy will endure the unendurable out of love”. And it is true. Dogs are so fantastically loyal and loving. But the motto led me to think about using that for character creation.

In the words of the Meatloaf track “I’ll do anything for love but I won’t do that“, well… just what WILL your characters put up with or go through for love? What WON’T they do? How did they develop the love they have? Is anything putting that love under strain? What would make them snap?

It’s not just romantic love either that can be the focus here. It can be the love of country, the love for an ideal or what have you. How would your characters react if that love was betrayed or spoilt in some way?

Hmm… good stories to be found there I think!

Looking forward to going to the Chameleons’ latest production during the week.

With a title of “They Came from Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen’s Guild’s Coffee Morning”, I think it’s a safe bet I’m in for a good laugh or several!

I’ll be reviewing the production in due course but will be looking at the importance of good titles in my next CFT post. This one though I admit is a great example of a title which tells you its genre – sci-fi spoof, a genre of which I’m very fond. (I do miss Red Dwarf!).

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Delighted to say I’ll have more publication news next week. Heard today so a great start to this week! The story concerned is a longer one than normal from me but one which has great personal meaning. So that will give you something to ponder! Can’t wait to share the link in due course.

Am currently preparing another story for submission and have a few very short pieces to submit elsewhere too. Making good progress on the novel too, though these things always take longer than you initially think. And that is still true even when you’ve been writing for years and know to allow LOADS more time than your initial estimate!

 

There are different ways to trigger flash fiction stories. A few I’ve used include:-

1. Set a word count and stick to it. (I did this when responding to Cafelit’s 100 word challenge and still do!). You can also use the Twitter character count here for the same thing.

2. Set a theme and stick to it – and then decide whether the story works better at 50 words, 500 words, or what have you and pitch to the appropriate market/competition. (I’ve done this too and how the story works has got to be the only benchmark here. The nice thing with flash is all of its sub-divisions in terms of word count so you will find something to suit).

3. Take a well known phrase or proverb and see what you can do with it storywise. (A favourite of mine. Usually gives you the title too!).

4. Find a source of pictures, pick one to write about. Come back to the others at later dates. My writing diary has inspired me here, I’m glad to say. Guess who will be trying to get the same diary next year. It has proved very useful!

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Sorry for the no-show last night. Bad case of the dreaded lurgy hit me yesterday afternoon and that was it for me for the rest of the day. Good to be back at the desk now though. I actually feel human again!

Gave Lady her first ever Kibble ice “lolly” today. After initially looking at me as if to say “what’s this then, Mum?”, Lady soon got the hang of it and demolished it quickly. Mind, she demolishes most things quickly. I suspect she’ll be having more of these “lollies” tomorrow. Due to get to 31 degrees where I am. Hmm…

Do I find writing more difficult in the heat? Not really. As long as I’ve got plenty of ventilation, I just plough on. Have got to go to London on Saturday. Am hoping it’s a bit cooler by then. It rarely gets cold on the Tube!!

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What sparks a story idea for you? It’s never just one thing for me but the following are some of my story triggers.

1. A snippet of overheard conversation. It doesn’t have to be particularly “juicy” either. Something as mundane as “I told her the hat looked stupid” can stir up story ideas.

2. A phrase or proverb which I know will make a great title. It’s then a great challenge to find a story idea to suit it! But I like titles and challenges like that. I just have to write to the title.

3. Clothes/hats if they’re particularly striking will make me wonder what characters of mine would wear something similar and in what circumstances. Good start for a story that.

And a particular favourite of mine…

4. Taking the viewpoint of fairytale characters but not those of the main “stars” of said fairytales. My first story in print was A Helping Hand in the Bridge House anthology Alternative Renditions and tells the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of the youngest stepsister. Good fun to write and still a favourite of mine.

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What can a flash fiction story do better than a longer standard length competition kind of tale?

1. Level of intensity is stronger in flash fiction. When you want to make a huge emotional impact on your reader, the less said the better a lot of the time. This of course is where flash comes into its own.

2. One-liners can lose some of their impact in a longer story. They can work really well as the ending of a flash fiction piece. Leave your audience laughing etc.

3. Every story should create images and emotional reactions in their readers. Flash can get to the heart of all of this that much quicker.

4. Sometimes THE moment is THE story and flash with its word count restriction would serve this kind of tale well. It doesn’t work for everything. Hamlet can’t be less than it is for example but where you only want to show the impact of one action on one character, a flash story is almost certainly the best vehicle for this.

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The dreaded lurgy yesterday afternoon meant the only flash I was capable of was the quick dash to the bathroom, hence the no-show. Is it a bird, is it a plane, no it’s me and nothing but nothing is stopping me getting to the loo in time! Am so glad to be feeling much better today. Must admit the heat does not help. I prefer a much milder temperature, as does Lady, my border collie cross.

The worst bit of yesterday was the feeling I just couldn’t focus, no matter how much I wanted to, so in that situation, you’re better off giving in to the inevitable. Did I miss my writing yesterday? You bet. Did I resent being poorly and keeping me away from said writing? Oh yes…!

The nearest I’ve got to writing about poorly characters is my Calling the Doctor (which is in the book trailer on this page so please do check it out). I suppose one reason I don’t write on this angle much is because I really do enjoy dropping my characters right in it and see how they manage! (I know, I know – I’m all heart!). I guess if they were poorly, I don’t think I could do that to them (told you I was all heart) and therefore I think it scuppers my writing for them.

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Goodreads Author BlogI’m “Just” Reading

Do you ever feel guilty when you get to relax with a book? I must admit I do sometimes. There are always other things I could be getting on which would be more obviously useful.

However, that is the point. Those other things will always be there. And all writers know you need to read widely and well to feed and nurture your own imagination.

So I will continue to “just” read as and when I can though the majority of my reading time is at bedtime. It is the perfect way to wind down before sleeping (though this may be why it is just as well I’m not a huge fan of horror. I don’t want to be too scared to go to sleep!).

Flash fiction and short story collections are a great boon for people whose reading time is limited, given they make good books to dip into for those breaks in the day when you have a lovely ten minutes to relish a cup of something nice and get to “steal” some reading time to go with it. (So now you know what I do when I have a cuppa!).

I’ve never had time for those who look down on genre fiction as somehow being less worthy. Genre fiction – and reading for entertainment only – brings people into reading. Who knows what they will go on to read but it is vital that spark to read is ignited. Besides being able to entertain others with words you’ve written is something rather special.

The purpose of reading from a writer’s viewpoint is to engage with the reader whether you’re reading something serious or something light. Nobody says it has to be deadly dull and worthy. Let it be what it is – an entertaining read. It really is good enough (and more difficult to achieve than some people think).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plays, Ingesting Stories, and Writing Games

Now there’s an eclectic mix just in the title alone!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is a review of the latest production from The Chameleon Theatre Group – Spring Trio of Plays.

One of the reasons I love going along to their performances is that the shows give me a chance to enjoy stories in a different format – i.e. plays.

Reading widely will always be important for a writer to help feed and nuture their own imagination BUT taking stories in via different media is also very useful. Particularly with plays, you get to “see” how dialogue works, how pauses are used to good effect and so on. This is obviously directly useful if you plan to write plays yourself, but even if you’re not, listening to dialogue and how it comes across can be a useful aid for how YOU write it when it comes to your stories and books.

So support your local theatre company. As well as being a good night out, it can and should benefit your own writing.

Image Credit:  Many thanks as ever to Stuart Wineberg, Lionel Elliott and the Chameleons for kind permission to use their excellent photos.  Captions on my CFT post!

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