What Writing Does For You

Image Credit:  As ever, the images are from Pixabay or Pexels, unless stated.  A big thank you also to The Chameleon Theatre Group for their pictures in the Chandler’s Ford Today post.

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I’m delighted to share Part 3 of the mini-series from The Chameleon Theatre Group’s look at life off the stage.

This week they share what their favourite performances have been. I would be hard pressed to name my favourite show from them. I’ve relished their classic drama and some wonderful comedy and hope it is not too long before they are able to be back on stage again.

Good writing, for me, is all about character portrayal convincing the audience (a reader) but it is also true for acting. Actors have to convince those watching them and a good show always leaves you with that feeling you have left the real world to enter another one for a short while.

A good show can leave you feeling a bit disorientated when you have to come back to the real world again, as indeed finishing a good book can do. And I am pleased to say every Chameleons show I’ve been to has left me with that feeling of total immersion in the world they’re showing me on the stage, which is a very good thing indeed.

It really is all about the characters and how they are put across, whether you are writing them or acting them!

Captions over on the CFT post.

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Another good show of support at 8 – well done all. Tonight, Lady decided to join in. Okay she can’t clap but she can bark so that counts! Now back on the sofa, dozing, duty done!

I’ll be sharing the latest in the Chameleons mini-series on CFT tomorrow. This time they’ll be sharing some of their favourite productions. I’ve been to a number of their shows now and I would be hard pressed to name a favourite though Blackadder was outstanding, as was All My Sons. Very different moods too

!What do I look for in a good show? There is a lot in common here with what I look for in a good book. I want great writing, moments that move me whether to laugh or cry etc and to be totally convinced by the characters (as written or as performed in the case of a show).

How does a character convince me enough to believe in their portrayal? For me, a series of different things need to add up. The main one is I need to know what their main trait is and how that manifests itself. It isn’t always directly either. Characters can fool themselves as to what their main trait is – it is how the great hypocrites of literature work after all. They never see their own hypocrisy!

I also need to see how characters react when things go wrong. Their reaction should be true to that major trait.

For example, take The Ladykillers (brilliant film and stageshow – The Chameleons performed it a while back but alas I didn’t get to see their version).

We know from the outset that the Professor is a master planner. As the story develops we see how that plays out but we also see how he unravels as things go wrong. That makes sense. Someone of that kind of nature would be thrown when their very clever plan is wrecked by something they didn’t anticipate. Couldn’t anticipate even.

Do check The Ladykillers out if you don’t know it. It’s a fab story and you’ll see what I mean about the Professor!

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Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers –What Writing Does For You

It’s my turn on More Than Writers, the blog spot of the Association of Christian Writers. My topic this time is What Writing Does For You.

I also ask how we can make the most of writing and how to ensure we keep on enjoying it. Enjoyment of writing is vital. It is that spark which keeps you going no matter how many rejections etc that come your way. I share a few tips too.

Hope you enjoy.

 

 

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Following on from yesterday’s post about the random generator (see below!), one of the questions from that would also be useful for setting up clashes between characters.

What is the meaning of life will have different meanings and nuances for different characters.

If Character A thinks the meaning of life is to be found in nature but Character B thinks it is all about development (both as an individual and as a society), there will end up being conflict. The latter is far more likely to consider development worth it regardless of the cost. Character A is unlikely to agree! And off you go with your story!

Also consider whether your particular clash could be used for comedy or tragedy. Some themes are useful for either so exploit that. There’s nothing to stop you taking a theme and using it in two different directions for two different stories after all.

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I had a quick look at the random question generator tonight for ideas on developing story ideas.

For example what emerged tonight included:-

1. What is the meaning of life?
2. Name three beautiful things in nature.
3. What is the biggest personal change you’ve made?

Firstly, you could use 1 for a character who is trying to find out the answer to this! I could see both funny and adventure stories emerging from how your character DOES try to find out an answer to this. Also do they succeed and how do they define success here? Is their meaning to life different from everyone else’s around them and if so how and why? What are the consequences? Definitely stories to be had there!

You can also use this question to work out what drives your character the most and again stories can come from finding that out especially if their driving ambition is at odds with those around them.

Secondly, you could use 2 to find out what your character thinks here. Can they easily come up with answers here or do they despise nature? What would they do to defend what they really like in the natural world? There are definitely stories to be told there!

Thirdly, you can obviously apply 3 directly to a character. What made them make their biggest personal change? Why couldn’t they have stayed as they were? Again there would be good stories to come from that.

Good luck and happy writing!

 

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As well as interviewing your characters prior to writing their story, a writer can always ask questions of their “stars” as they get the first draft down. It’s useful to check every so often that your characters are “up to the job” of being in your story.

Putting your characters through the emotional wringer is a lot of fun (for the writer naturally) but it is a good way of finding out what it is your people are capable of and whether they can surprise you.

If you envisaged Character A as being timid, quiet, unassuming etc., what would a dramatic event do to them? Would it change their personality for good and if so, how? Would having to say, come to the rescue of someone else, bring them out of their shell?

All worth thinking about. The point of change is not just about the dramatic events in the story. It is about the point of change in the characters too.

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Fairytales with Bite – When The Magic Wears Off

There are times I wonder what happens when the magic wears off in a classic fairytale. Does Cinderella become fed up with her Prince Charming or he with her come to that? There are stories to be written there of course (and a fair few humorous ones at that!) but while magic is an important part of a fairytale, it is not the only one.

You still have to like the characters enough to root for them. You still have to think that, once the fairy godmother has packed up her wand and gone home for the weekend, the characters can get on with their happily ever after without her. They have to be strong enough characters in their own right to do that. No amount of magic wand usage in a story is going to save a weak character (in terms of how they appeal to a reader).

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This World and Others –

What Do You Need to Know About Your Created World Before You Write It?

Even for a piece of flash fiction or a short story set in another world, you ought to work out what you need to know before writing your story. It will affect how you write the tale for one thing (in terms of approach as well as what you put in the story).

If, say, your created world doesn’t have oxygen, your character is going to have to be breathing something else (!) – so what is this and how do they manage it? For example if your world is an underwater one, do all of your characters have gills? (They don’t necessarily need to be fish).

If it is a magical world, is your character able to perform magic or is he/she/it part of a lowly underclass forbidden from using it? (There could be some interesting stories there).

If your character is from one of the “lesser” species in your created world, why are you writing about them as opposed to the “top dogs”? What do you need to show us? (An obvious theme here would be to show that “lesser” species could produce heroes etc).

For a short story, a few notes will probably be enough to get you started. Working it out in advance will save you so much time later. I’ve found it helps me “cut to the chase” far more efficiently when getting that first draft down.

For a longer work, you will need a decent outline as it will be even more important for you to know your way around your own creation before committing too much to your story. Inevitably you won’t put everything in but the material you have left over may well be suitable for a second story or be excellent background material to share with future fans on your website.

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P’s and Q’s = Publication News and Questions

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

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What have I learned from books I couldn’t finish?

Thankfully these are few but even these can help a writer. How? What I’ve learned from these includes:-

1. What doesn’t appeal in a character (to me at least). From that I can work out how to avoid this in the characters I create.

2. What kind of dialogue switches me off. This is almost always dialogue that goes on for too long and/or doesn’t tell me or show me anything useful.

3. What kind of description switches me off. Again, it is almost always description that goes on for too long. I want to get to the core of what is happening and long descriptive passages slow the pace down. Not only that, if they go for too long, they irritate! What I am after is the telling detail I really do need to know.

On a more positive note:-

What have I learned from books I’ve loved?

1. What DOES appeal in a character.

2. What kind of dialogue makes me glad to be “eavesdropping” on the conversation between characters.

3. What kind of description helps me to visualise something beautifully and the turn of phrase that takes my breath away in a good way.

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Publication News

A big thanks to fellow Swanwicker #PatriciaMOsborne for hosting me on her blog again today. I have been on before with her sub-100 words story challenge and am on there again today with my tale, Danger of Not Listening. I suspect this may resonate with many of you!

Please see link below.

The story was great fun to write and I hope you enjoy reading it. A big thanks to Patricia for having the flash fiction challenge. It’s good fun to take part in and to read the stories coming in!

 

classic close up draw expensive

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Have picked another competition to have a go at for a short story. Also drafted more flash fiction over the weekend. Homes to be found in due course!

Favourite part of writing though remains that moment when I’ve got that first draft down and have something to work with. Even after all these years of writing, I still feel a sense of relief to have got to that point!

I like editing. I see it as giving my story or blog posts that “oomph” factor as well as taking out errors, repetitions etc.

When I started out writing, my goal was to prove to myself I could write stories. After that I aimed to be published. Then I aimed to keep on being published. Now my goal is to keep that going but to stretch myself with my writing (especially on the flash fiction), try competitions new to me, and explore my non-fiction side more.

The writing journey should be a fun one after all! It has its frustrations of course but generally you should be enjoying what you write. That enjoyment can make all the difference as to whether you keep going or not.

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I’ll have another story up on Cafelit next week and look forward to sharing the link. It’s definitely what I call fairytale with bite!

My CFT post this week will be Part 3 in the mini-series where our local amateur theatre company, The Chameleon Theatre Group, share insights into life behind the stage. This week they’ll be looking at some of their favourite performances and sharing the reasons why they’ve picked these. Link up on Friday.

Have started fleshing out ideas for another competition. I like this stage of working out possibilities. The nice thing with this is the ones I discard I may return to at a later date. It is a case of the best fit for the competition. The other ideas may well prove to be useful for other markets/competitions later on.

I find the Scrivener templates very useful for outlining. I start with my lead character and as their major traits and what they want come to me, so often so does the story. Or at least an idea of what the story is likely to be.

But you can set up your own template. My top tip always would be to focus on getting the character(s) right. Work out what it is about them that intrigues you (as it will intrigue a reader too).

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Finally got my story submitted today. Found one tiny error on my final read through, sorted it, checked it again, all okay, and send! I always do edit my stories on paper.

When editing on screen I think your brain fills in the gaps. It doesn’t seem to do it on paper. I’m sure there is some clever reason why that happens. All I know is it does and I’d never be without a paper edit and the old red pen!

Now to find another competition to have a go at …. and have got one! Not flash this time, a standard length short story, but I do like to keep my hand in there too!

Am continuing to draft flash from the Prompts book and hope to get those out to different places throughout the year.

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It was great fun to be part of #PatriciaMOsborne‘s sub-100 words challenge again today. Link below.

I do have a very soft spot indeed for the drabble (100-words story). It forces you to focus on what matters in your tale but there is room for that lovely telling detail on which many a wonderful twist depends.

I would also recommend having a go at writing 100-words tales as a form of writing exercise. It is a good way to warm up your “writing muscles” and the great thing is there is now a big market for flash fiction, both in publications and competitions. So those writing exercises, once honed and polished, can find a home somewhere and add to your writing CV if they get published.

What’s NOT to like about that?

 

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I’ve been known to interview my characters from time to time. For flash fiction, where I generally only have one to two characters, this can still be done but I do this in abbreviated form (appropriately enough).

Whatever I write fiction wise, I need to know the character’s major trait and what it is they want. Answering those two things alone will give you a lot of the drive for you to write your story.

If you know your character’s major trait is a desire for peace and quiet and they want to get rid of their very noisy neighbour… well all sorts of things can come from that.

I would see those two questions as the foundations of a character outline. Then think of what else YOU need to know about your character so you can visualise them, hear them, know how they would act and react. Yes, they can surprise you but the surprise should arise naturally out of your outline.

In the example above, the character would do all the legal things to try to get the noisy neighbour to stop being so loud but what if that all failed? Could the character become angry enough to commit murder?

Or do they believe revenge is a dish best served cold and find another way to get their own back on the neighbour? I would then need to know why that character longs for peace and quiet so much. (Noisy childhood? Prone to migraines? Desperate to have their own little haven? Having worked so hard for it, they’re not going to see this snatched away from them etc). But once I knew what was behind their major trait, I could then work out what they were capable of. There is always a reason! And the storyline comes together nicely having thought this all through.

 

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As well as interviewing your characters prior to writing their story, a writer can always ask questions of their “stars” as they get the first draft down. It’s useful to check every so often that your characters are “up to the job” of being in your story.

Putting your characters through the emotional wringer is a lot of fun (for the writer naturally) but it is a good way of finding out what it is your people are capable of and whether they can surprise you.

If you envisaged Character A as being timid, quiet, unassuming etc., what would a dramatic event do to them? Would it change their personality for good and if so, how? Would having to say, come to the rescue of someone else, bring them out of their shell?

All worth thinking about. The point of change is not just about the dramatic events in the story. It is about the point of change in the characters too.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books for Difficult Times

Have your reading choices changed during this difficult period?

I must admit I’m not really in the mood for any kind of dystopian story when we seem to be living right in one!

For me, I’m reading short story collections, non-fiction on writing, and lighter works. I don’t need the “heavy” books in terms of mood right now.

One of the roles of a book, for me, is to provide entertainment, escapism, and uplift. So especially in difficult times, I don’t want difficult books to stretch me. I need to be in the right frame of mind for that.

I have found I’ve not had any problems writing stories during the lockdown. I have struggled to read. I can only assume my subconscious is fine with one creative activity but not more than that!

This is a pain but I know it will pass. If I become particularly tired, I find the same happens. When I am more rested, I’m away with reading again.

Have you found the desire to read increases or decreases with your mood? What do you do to overcome that?

For comfort reading, and there is a good role for that at the moment, I have to turn to cosy crime, short stories by Wodehouse, and usually favourite books I’ve read many times. I want the comfort of familiar material. Once I’m feeling better, then that is the time to try something new.

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What Do You Need to Know?

Image Credits:  A big thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Group for kind permission to use their photos for the Chandler’s Ford Today post.  All other pictures are from Pixabay or Pexels.

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It’s good to welcome the Chameleons back to Chandler’s Ford Today. The second part of their compiled interviews takes a look at the technical aspects of staging a production. Topics covered include lighting, sound, set design, and props. Hope you enjoy. Many thanks to them for the photos and info!

Looking forward to going back to seeing their fabulous productions again in due course. I am missing my “CFT works outings” with my lovely editor, Janet Williams.

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Always nice to have a compliment – many thanks to the Chameleon Theatre Group for the following:-

Great second piece today from Allison Symes in Chandlers Ford Today, utilising Sheila’s superb series of articles about all things behind the scenes.

Feature Image - Part 2 - The Chameleons Say Hello... to the Technical Side
It’s a joy to share Part 2 from the Chameleon Theatre Group for my CFT post this week. I love behind the scenes looks at most things being the nosey parker that I am so interviews like this give me a glimpse into different aspects of life. I find that endlessly fascinating.

Now what insights into your characters do you need to reveal to your reader? I’ve found it useful to work out what it is I need to know and what a reader needs to know. The two are generally not the same. I need to know, for example, a character is lazy. My reader just needs me to show the character demonstrating that.

Sometimes a character does need to “tell” something usually to another character, revealing something of their background and motivations. For example, in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, it is the ghosts who unlock the sadness behind Scrooge and which go some way to explaining why he became the man he did – and why he needed to be set free from that. I’ve always found the scene where Scrooge BEGS to not be shown any more incredibly moving. But we are reliant on the ghosts telling Scrooge his own past to make him face up to it. The story then becomes whether Scrooge changes or not.

So what do you need to know about your characters? How can you best show things to a reader? In many ways your characters act their scenes out. I’ve found that thought useful to help me make sure my characters only reveal things that they would be reasonably expected to know or deduce. They see what they see. They do what they do. They deduce based on reason. The readers draw conclusions from that.

Good support for the applause for carers round my way, well done all. Also got to see two bats fly overhead. That’s a bonus. I like bats. Much misunderstood creatures though you have to admit they wouldn’t get very high in the All Time Graceful Flying Stakes! (Some pun intended).

I’m not struggling to write at the moment but I am struggling to read much. I know I’m not alone on this right now, I also know it will pass, but it has bemused me a bit. I tend to read more when upset etc, especially the humorous prose, so this has surprised me.

Looking forward to sharing further publication news next week.

Am preparing non-fiction material at the moment so will “indulge” in some flash fiction writing at the weekend. I like the contrast between the two types of writing and it keeps me on my toes. Never a bad thing that.

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My CFT post this week will be Part 2 – The Chameleons Say Hello… to the Technical Side. Our local amateur theatre group have been conducting a series of interviews which I’ve compiled into articles. This week’s one looks at lighting and sound amongst other delights. Link up on Friday. And I must add I am really looking forward to their next production whenever that may be.

Insights into how things work are always fascinating especially if you’re curious (and I SO am!). A writer needs to have at least a basic level of curiosity as to what makes people (and therefore characters) tick to be able to write at all, I think. That curiosity develops into what would Character A really do if push came to shove. It is always fun to find out!

 

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When it is possible to do so, I enjoy my “CFT works outings” with my lovely editor, Janet Williams, to the excellent productions staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group, who are featured in my CFT post tonight. Am really looking forward to resuming being able to do these again!

Janet and I have enjoyed National Theatre Live productions too. So what it is about plays that attracts a flash fiction writer then?

Simply, it’s because it is huge fun spotting the pivotal moment in a play when you know everything is going to change, whether for better or worse. Working out what the tipping point is helps fiction writers of all kinds too.

My tipping points can be the very last word of a story (Calling the Doctor is an example of that). It is often the line before I deliver a punch line or finale which has a twist in it. It is sometimes towards the beginning of the tale. My Punish the Innocent with its opening paragraph has the reader knowing from that point that everything is going to change dramatically for the characters in the story. What follows through then is how.

Have fun working out where the best place is to put your tipping point. Early can work well because your reader will want to follow through on the outcome. Right at the end can also work well because you have carried off a very successful twist ending if you can keep a reader guessing until then.

 

Time for some one liners, though I will admit to sharing one on the Association of Christian Writers page earlier today.

1. The dragon decided to turn veggie.
2. The house was empty because the walls seeped.
3. Mary decided she had a talent for art but she was alone in that view.
4. The genie took one look at who had rubbed the magic lamp and vanished inside again.
5. Treasure was meant to be found, not bite hard the person who found it.

Hope you enjoy. One-liners can of course be used as a writing exercise as an opening or closing line.

 

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Masks are symbolic of drama of course but you could argue characters in stories sometimes wear them. (Best one for me here remains Severus Snape and I’m not going to say more though I strongly suspect this would not be a plot spoiler by now!).

How do your characters hide the traits they themselves aren’t proud of? How do they convince other characters they really are “the business” when perhaps deep down they know full well they’re not? If they are a double agent, how do they convince both sides they’re working for them?

Masks can be used by characters in more subtle ways. A character is heartbroken for some reason but they have to carry on and appear to be “strong” to help someone else cope. How do they do that? DOES it help? When does the mask come off? What are the consequences?

Now there’s definitely a story or several in there! Have fun…

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Fairytales With Bite – What Fairytales Don’t Do

Fairytales don’t gloss over the reality of human nature. So many of them show cruelty (Cinderella and Snow White to name but two) and there is no glossing over this. Others show poverty. Others show the importance of love.

Think about Hansel and Gretel. It has always bugged me why the father didn’t show the stepmother the door for even suggesting abandoning the children to their fate but there you go. I’ve mentioned before Disney couldn’t film the stories as originally written. Fairytales were often (and still can be) used as warning tales. We talk about wolf like behaviour – a nod to the Big, Bad Wolf I think.

Fairytales, despite their magical elements then, are realistic about behaviours and motivations then. They don’t flatter. There is a blunt honesty about them that appealed to me even as a kid. The ring of truth always did hold appeal to me.

I couldn’t get on with characters that were too good which is why I always found it easier to sympathise with vain Amy rather than saintly Beth in Little Women. (Before you ask, I was sorry Beth died. I thought that whole storyline was beautifully done and I also liked the way the impact of her death was shown too).

I’ve always loved those tales where great wrongs were put right. Even as a kid I knew full well that didn’t always happen in life. There is a comfort to fairytales I think that shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to things like that.

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This World and Others –

How Does Your Created World Help or Hinder Your Characters? 

This is an interesting question because it can be taken in several directions. Firstly, think about the political landscape of your world. If the politics define that a character from an area should never associate with anyone from another area because of past history etc., what would happen when characters are forced to ignore all that and go against what their society would expect from them?

Secondly, there is the geographical aspect too. If you’ve got a long journey to take and there are mountains in the way, some thought has to be given as to how your characters tackle those (and that does include finding another route of course).

Thirdly, the state of development in your created world makes a difference too. Your character is off on a quest (note: it is never for something as mundane as nipping to the shops for a pint of milk, your character must have real problems to solve!). Right, that’s fine, they’re all geared up to go but how do they do it? What is the transport like? Must they walk? Are horses considered sacred and only certain kinds of people can ride them? (Naturally here your character will not be of that class and again will defy expectations here. There should be consequences).

Think about what your character needs to be able to fulfil their quest. Think about how what is around them will help or hinder them. Usually it will be a question of both. A created world will have something practical your character can use (otherwise there is no chance of them fulfilling the quest).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quizzing and Questioning

It’s not often I start a post using the letter Q (which is generally best saved for getting a high score in Scrabble!).

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

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Quizzing your characters can be great fun and often leads to you to finding hidden depths to your creations.

Sometimes you can find your characters are more shallow than you thought initially they would be but you can use that. Shallow characters can be used for comic effect. They can also be a pain in the neck to your lead character.

Work out what their place is in your story. Work out if there is a reason to their being shallow. Do they develop at all? If not, how do they help or hinder your lead?

Work out what you think you need to know about your characters. You should find that leads to other questions but the more you can envisage your creation, the better it is for you to write them into existence. Because you know them well, you will write about/for them with conviction and something of that does come through to your readers.

 

It’s my turn on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog More Than Writers. This time I discuss Feeding Your Writing. (For gardening fans, I will say now it doesn’t involve Baby-Bio, though I admit I love the image from Pixabay below. Given some of my flash fiction is fantasy based this is particularly apt!).

I share some thoughts as to how you can feed your writing and why it is so important. Hope you enjoy.

 

I’m going to be sharing Part 2 of The Chameleons Say Hello series for Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. Their Spring Quartet production, due to be staged in April, is now off, unfortunately but understandably. The Ritchie Hall where they perform does not have a big stage. It is amazing what The Chameleons achieve given the limited space but it does make the 2 meter rule nigh on impossible to achieve. (I’m still in awe at the amazing set they built for Blackadder).

Do check out the interview later in the week and the previous one (there’ll be a link back in the post I put up on Friday). The interviews make for a great look at life behind the stage.

Being the nosey parker that I am, this kind of thing always fascinates me. The world of books can show you different life experiences, real or imagined. Interviews can also you aspects of life that you won’t experience directly but are fascinating to read about nonetheless.

And I hope it is not long, relatively speaking anyway, before The Chameleons get to entertain us again ON the stage.

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I’ve just discovered a new random generator – a random question one! I think I could have some fun with this.

Firstly, you could use the questions to help you develop your characters. Quizzing characters is a great way to finding out more about them before you write their story.

I’ve always found that this leads to better depth of characterisation. I need to know Character A loathes cheese because they were forced to eat it at school because cheese is somehow going to feature in my tale and it will be a major issue for them. Now that’s just a very random example but you see the point.

Secondly, you can use the questions as titles and/or themes.

Thirdly, get your character to answer the question and make that the story!

For example, one question that came up when I found this was:-

If you inherited or won a million pounds/dollars etc, what’s the very first thing you would do with the money?

Now there is definitely a story in that! I shall explore more of this generator. Really pleased to have found it.

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Following on from yesterday’s post, I did write a story based on the random question generator question I shared with you yesterday. Will polish and submit that in due course.

Having another look at the generator, I’ve found you can change category of question as well. That will be useful.

Another thing which will be useful from this is you can ask yourself WHY you have answered the question the way you have.

For example, the question that has come up tonight for me is “If you could start a collection of one kind of item, what would it be?”.

(In my case, books. I already have a good collection but that’s not a good enough reason to stop buying books! All I’m limited by here is budget and, for print books, shelf space! Oh and while I think about it, a big thanks to all of my writing friends for writing wonderful fiction. I’d always been a little bit lacking in reading contemporary fiction. Classics not a problem, contemporary was. Not any more it isn’t! One of my little pleasures in life is walking past my book case with my friends’ books on and even more so at the moment given I can’t see any of them for goodness knows how long. You good people know who you are! Well done and thanks, all!).

Now as well as answering that question directly for a character you’re creating, look at WHY the character would collect antique cuckoo clocks or whatever it is you have chosen. Are they trying to compensate for something they felt is lacking in their life? Are they fixated by time? What problems could that cause them? Have they a deep appreciation for the cuckoo (and yes the possibilities for a funny story are there!)?

So dig deeper. Answer the question. Then look at why. See what you come out with. There will be stories in the answers to the “why” question as well as to the “what” one! Try it and see. Have fun.

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Moving on from random things, which kind of writing competition do you prefer? One with a set theme or one which is open?

I love and take part in both but must admit I do prefer the set theme. It provides a framework for me to work to and I find that useful. It also forces me to think outside the box a bit more because I don’t want to go with a take on the topic that is likely to be a very popular one.

Whatever take I do use is something I want to be able to make unique. So, okay, there’s no new love story in the world for example, but that won’t stop them being written and rightly so. What is wanted is your unique take on a love story and your voice coming through and appealing to an editor.

Taking part and being one of the winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition has been a joy due to this aspect. One theme. One maximum word count set for us all (1000 words so handily just counts as flash fiction!). Fifteen winners. Fifteen different stories and styles. A jjoy to be part of. An even bigger joy to read the collection of stories (and if you want to know more, do check out my Amazon Author Central page – the two collections to date are Transforming Being and To Be…To Become).

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At what point do I know if a story has come to life?

For me, it’s when I can anticipate the character reactions and actions based on the set up I’ve created for them.

If, say, I’ve created a character who is greedy, I can anticipate them carrying out some action which will help them satisfy that greed. (It doesn’t mean I have to like them OR their actions!). The anticipation should be realistically based on how I’ve portrayed the character.

Sometimes a character surprises me but it will still be in keeping. For example, my character could be greedy for money but what if they’re NOT keeping the money for themselves? What if they’re helping someone else or they’re being blackmailed?

Now that would change the course of the story BUT the greed still makes sense. The actions to satisfy that greed makes sense. It’s the motivation that will change what a reader thinks of the character and that is a good place for a surprise to come in I think.

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Goodreads Author Blog –

What Is It About Reading You Love The Most?

Hmm… could write chapter and verse on this one. I mean, where do you start? But here goes:-

My great love is characterisation so the success of a book to me is dependent on how well the characters appeal to me.

To be honest, much as I love Jane Austen, I’m not keen on Mansfield Park. I much prefer the more rounded Austen heroines in Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion etc.

My second great love here is when the book makes me forget time and the world around me because I’m too engrossed in the world of the story. Now that is an undisputable sign of a great story.

I love it when reading shows me worlds I have not known, including right here on Planet Earth. Good non-fiction comes into its own here.

I love it when I discover new genres. I’ve always loved fairytales and still do, but finding the wonderful worlds of well written historical fiction, crime stories etc., has been fantastic.

I love following the development of characters in series novels. It is like catching up with old friends when you come across them in Book 2 etc and discover in this one they’ve married someone they weren’t dating in Book 1! (You’ve got to find out why, right?).

And, like so many writers, I’ve got a soft spot for quietly overhearing conversations (well, you never know when you’ll hear something interesting that could spark an idea for a story of your own!), reading dialogue in fiction is exactly like that.

Reading helps me unwind, entertains me, informs me – what is there not to like?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind The Scenes

Image Credit:   As ever, unless stated, most of the images were from Pixabay or Pexels. A big thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Group for their images. Also thanks to Richard Hardie for supplying images related to his and Francesca Tyer’s events for World Book Day.  (And yes it has been a busy few days!).

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today x 2!

Yes, count them, not one but two CFT posts this week.

First up, the start of a new mini-series.

I’m delighted to share a new mini-series on Chandler’s Ford Today. The #ChameleonTheatreGroupChandlerFord share interviews showing what life is like behind the stage. They share some fabulous insights into directing amongst other things in Part 1 (see link).

This series will run at intervals over the next few weeks. Many thanks to The Chameleons for wonderful material and the photos, as ever.

I’m looking forward to their next production, Spring Quartet, in April.

 

I’m always interested in behind the scenes looks at life, whether it is to do with creative writing or amateur theatre. So it is a joy to share a new mini-series on Chandler’s Ford Today where The Chameleon Theatre share their insights into life behind the stage.

Why the interest on my part? Well, partly it IS because I’m nosey (!) but that’s a good thing. Why? Writers have to be interested in what makes people tick. Knowing that helps us to develop convincing motivations for our characters and make their portrayal that much more believeable.

I’m also interested in behind the scenes looks because it opens up worlds that are new to me. That’s a good thing for increasing knowledge and understanding, I think. Understanding is also crucial in creative writing. You also get to understand yourself better I think.

And now for my second CFT post this week!

Am pleased to share a bonus CFT post this week. Every so often CFT has Local Author News slots. The last one was for me when I appeared on #WendyHJones‘s excellent podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show talking about all things related to flash fiction.

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-writing-and-marketing-show/e/67280384

Up tonight is a piece with news from local YA author, #RichardHardie, and debut Authors Reach novelist #FrancescaTyer. They share news of their World Book Day eventsrecently. Francesca’s debut novel The Firestone was recently published.

Hope you enjoy. (Oh and remember the best things you can do to support local authors you know are to go to their events where possible and review their books in the usual places).

(My normal CFT post link will be up tomorrow where I start the first of a mini series from #ChameleonTheatreCompany-Chandler’s Ford. They share insights from life behind the stage. More tomorrow).

 

My CFT post this week is Part 1 of a mini series which will be spread out over a few weeks. As you know, I often review plays put on by our excellent local amateur theatre company, Chameleon Theatre Company.

They have recently been putting together some mini interviews which give a fascinating insight into life behind the stage. With their blessing (obviously!), I have compiled some of these interviews and Part 1 will be up on Friday.

Many thanks to the Chameleons for their wonderful material and photos and I look forward to sharing this post and the others to come.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What fascinates you most about a character?

For me, it has to be their motivation. I’ve got to know why my character thinks it is okay to act the way they are, especially when they’re the villain! It doesn’t mean I have to agree with them though…

The LEAST important thing for me is knowing what they look like, funnily enough. I find once I can hear their voice and know their motivations, physical appearance comes to me then. Mind, I’m not motivated by physical appearance myself. After all the best con men often wear a suit!

I love stories and books that “just” entertain. Yes, sure, I like those that give good messages too but there is a lot to be said for sheer escapism value, especially when life is more challenging than usual.

Let’s just say I probably won’t be reading much in the way of dystopian stories for a while. (It is definitely not a good sign when you can get your requirements there by tuning into the news…).😕

So how to go about being “just” entertaining? As ever, for me, it is all in the characters. I do enjoy setting up a character knowing I’m going to be throwing all manner of things at them to knock them right back down again (and ideally to make me and potential readers laugh). Okay, okay, nobody said a writer had to be nice to their characters. Indeed, it is better when we’re not as any crime or horror writer would also tell you!

I love those characters who deserve being knocked back a bit too. You know the kind of pompous character who needs bringing down a peg or several. The ultimate fall guy in many ways! (Well, they are for me).

For humorous prose especially I do need to get a sense that the writer enjoyed creating their characters. I believe something of that fun does come through in the writing.

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How difficult do you find coming up with a suitable title for your story?

I know I need a “peg” from which to hang my story so I always have a working title. Most of them don’t change and suit my purposes just fine. Sometimes though a better title idea will occur as I draft my tale and that’s fine too. I just swap to the better idea.

I’ve mentioned using phrases and proverbs before and I often use them as themes, but don’t overlook them for use as potential titles. I’ve used a few that way.

You can also see them as a way to get started on a story if, like me, you need some kind of peg to help you get on your way with a draft. I think I have a bit of a mental block over any story that doesn’t have a title to it! There’s some unconscious thought at play here which associates no title with no story. I can’t be having with that so I put in a title to get me started. Nothing is set in stone after all but that is a great thing about a draft. You know it’s not going to be the final version. I’ve found it helpful to take that attitude with titles too.

Fairytales With Bite – Wishes

One of my favourite things about fairytales is when wishes are granted. The greedy never get away with theirs precisely because they always ask for the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

I love that aspect of things. I was very conscious even as a kid there was so much unfairness and cruelty in the world. The idea of a fairy godmother turning up to put things right for their ill-treated goddaughter always appealed (though I still wonder why Cinderella’s one turned up so late in the day. Come on, she could’ve helped Cinders a lot sooner. There is only so much domestic drudgery that could be claimed to be good for the soul and Cinders had gone well past that point when her fairy godmother deigned to make an appearance).

So in the grand scheme of things, what would your characters wish for and why? You are their fairy godmother as you bring them to life on the page. So what attributes would you grace them with and why? What would your characters strive for and why?

Do you think your characters are worthy of achieving their objectives? They don’t have to be. Villains are never worthy but should have understandable reasons for being what they are. What do you want your characters to be and why?

If your characters are allowed wishes, how will these turn the story and in what direction? Wishes being granted but proving to not be all that the character wanted could make a good story too.

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This World and Others – World Essentials

For me, what I want to see in a created fictional world would be:-

1. A system of government (even if it is not the point of the story. There should be some sort of reference. For one thing, a reader would want to know if the main character was one of the governing or one of the governed).

2. What characters eat and drink and how those things are produced. A line or two is usually enough to convey that. When a character is on a journey, what food do they take with them? Where did they get it?

3. A sense of where the world is going. In The Lord of the Rings there is no doubt the world there is in turmoil and every part of that world is affected by it.

4. What your characters make of the world they’re in. They don’t have to like it!

5. How is transport organised? Does everyone have access to the same kind of transport? Is there a “them and us” situation here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Landmarks, Flash Fiction, and Why Fairytales With Bite

Image Credit:  

As ever, unless otherwise stated, the images are from Pixabay.

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is Landmarks With Meaning. I share some of those that have the most meaning for me but I admit some are a lot more scenic than others. I’ve found the landmarks which mean the most almost always tie in with special memories/family connections and that is how it should be I think.

I don’t just stay with my local area either and found an excellent example of photo editing involving an elephant and Big Ben but you’ll just have to look at the post (or the slideshow below!) to see that one for yourself! I share a few thoughts on cathedrals I’m particularly fond of too and one of them has close links to one of my favourite authors, Jane Austen.

Hope you enjoy the post and do share in the CFT comments box what your favourite landmarks are and why.

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What have I learned from the various stories I’ve read over the years (and there’s far too many of them to give you a number!)?

Firstly, you do take in how a story is laid out and that covers everything from punctuation usage to indenting (or not where appropriate). You get a feel for a publisher’s house style even if you’re not aware of it at the time. This is why it is important to read contemporary fiction as well as classic by the way. Styles change.

Secondly, over time, you work out what your tastes in fiction are and discover what you don’t like too. Funnily enough, the latter is useful. It tells you what you don’t want to happen with your own creative output. Work out what it was you didn’t like and why. Did the dialogue not ring true? Was it over complicated? Then work out what you would do about the piece if you had been writing it. What you pick up answering those questions will help you a lot when it comes to editing your own output.

Thirdly, you do discover what it is you like about the characters. I’ve always loved heroines who know their own mind (which covers a lot of ground, fortunately. I’m a big fan of Elizabeth Bennett, Jo March, George from the Famous Five, to name but a few). Work out what it is you like about your favourite people. What character traits would you want your people to have and why? When creating villains, give them good reasons to be the way they are.

There is always a back story. It may not make it into your main tale but you need to know why your characters are the way they are. You can also ask yourself questions about characters from your favourite authors. What made the writer develop them this way?
And you get a darned good read out of it all too!

 

I’m looking at landmarks with meaning for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. I share a few of my favourites and why they mean so much. Link up on Friday.

In other CFT news, I will be sharing a mini series over the next couple of months or so, spaced out at roughly three to four week intervals.

Our excellent amateur theatre company, The Chameleon Theatre Group, have been sharing a number of mini interviews which make for fascinating reading at life on the stage and behind it. First post up for that will be on Friday, 13th March. Looking forward to sharing that with you.

Am off to the Association of Christian Writers’ event in Birmingham on Saturday. The topic is Effective Public Speaking. Should be interesting and useful.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It was lovely having another flash story on Cafelit earlier this week (Taking Time Out From the Day Job). I am very fond of humorous stories.

The main point I have in mind when I’m writing these is that the humour must arise naturally out of the situation I’ve put my character in. That is the only way funny stories work for me whether I write them or read them. You can’t force humour on to a character or the story. It never works.

But I always love those moments when a good line emerges naturally from what my characters are saying or doing. I love those characters who I know can drop themselves right in it (so often a great cue for humour) because I’ve outlined them well enough to know what they are capable of doing/saying so they would drop themselves right in it. It all has to seem seamless to the reader.

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When I don’t have a lot of time to write, I will often jot down what I think will make promising opening or closing lines to flash fiction stories and then write them up at a later date.

Where possible I will also add in a quick note or two as to how I think the story will go. For example, a line like “The thief realised they would not get out alive” seems to be a dead end line (in every sense!). I could make a note here to say this will be a closing line, mood of story = sombre or poetic justice. I could then add in a note to ask what the thief was trying to steal – fire from the gods.

Hmm… that was never going to work out well, was it? It does mean though, when I’m next at my desk with more time to write, I’ve got the outlines of a story already there, just begging to be written up and away I go.

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How do I judge if my own flash fiction stories are ready for submission?

Obviously I check for typos, grammatical errors, and my hated wasted words. (I do feel a certain sense of satisfaction in erasing THOSE!). But I ask myself some questions:-

1. Does the story make the impact on me I thought it would? Usually the answer is yes and I’m happy but sometimes I have to go on and ask myself something else.

2. If the answer is no, is the impact I have created BETTER than my initial thoughts? Sometimes it can be. I’ve sometimes written a piece where I wanted the impact to be that I had made people sympathise with my character. All very nice and all that but if I can make myself feel like crying in sympathy with that character, this is even better. It means the impact is deeper than I originally planned. There is literally more feeling, I see that as a bonus, always. People remember stories for how they feel about them (which is why childhood stories are so often favourites for people throughout life).

3. Last but not least, I put the piece away for a while, re-read it at least one more time (and often twice) and again ask the impact questions. I also ask if I could improve the piece any further and if so, how? When I get to the point where I can’t think of anything here, I send the story off.

Of course meantime, I’m also drafting other stories so I always have something to work on. I love drafting stories while I’m “resting” others. It helps with work flow rates no end!

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Fairytales With Bite – Why The Bite?

I came up with the title Fairytales With Bite as a way of showing that yes, I write fairytales but they are not twee. The original fairytales are anything but twee of course, indeed many of them act as warnings (beware the Big Bad Wolf being just one of them!), but a good fairytale should have bite to it.

I’ve always loved the fact most fairytales ensure evil does not triumph. Even as a kid, I was deeply aware the world is so often unfair. Fairytales were and remain a great way to escape that for a bit but they can still get a powerful message across, while being an entertaining story.

The Little Match Girl from Hans Christen Andersen is a stinging indictment on poverty and homelessness, which hit me hard when I first read it (and it it still does). But it is a phenomenally good tale. A good story, whatever its genre, should have the power to move readers, whether it is to make them laugh, cry, or scream, or what have you.

That’s where the bite comes in – and the good thing is you don’t have to include vampires in your story to get that bite in!

 

 

This World and Others – Stories In Other Worlds

What do I love most about reading stories set in other worlds? Well, they can reflect on aspects of our life here (which can be illuminating at times!). The way an alien society is run can reflect well or badly on how we do things here on Earth.

What should come through in such stories, and the ones we write, is being able to understand the characters in those stories and worlds, their actions and motivations and so on. Those basic elements don’t change much. Every species needs food, shelter, to be able to reproduce itself etc. We can understand what characters are capable of doing to ensure they have those things.

Societies need to be governed in some way so how would yours differ from what we know here? Why have you chosen those differences? Would you want to visit if you could?

Now I’m sure there could be some interesting answers to that last poser! If the answer is no by the way, do look at why. You may well be right to not want to visit the world you’ve created. What is the “message” behind that? If your created world is a heavily polluted one, say, you wouldn’t want to visit but look at why it is worse than what we know? How did it get to that state? Is anyone trying to do something about it? What obstacles are in their way?

There should be some cracking story ideas there. Happy writing!

 

 

 

 

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…

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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.

Facebook – General

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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.

Facebook – General

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