Welcome Back, Chameleons

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

A HUGE thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Group for arranging access to pictures for me for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. So good to see you all back!

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And I’m off to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School tomorrow (7th August) where I look to meet up in person with friends I’ve not seen for two years and to hopefully make new friends by the end of the week.

Thanks to Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn for the two pictures of me reading at the Swanwick Open Prose Mic Night in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Images of the Swanwick grounds were taken by me, Allison Symes, in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is with real pleasure I return to reviewing The Chameleon Theatre Group for Chandler’s Ford Today. I loved their show last week and my review gives a flavour of (a) their performance and (b) what the plays (Lockdown in Little Grimley and Bombshells) were about. It was a great evening out (and very well organised in relation to social distancing and so on).

Welcome Back, Chameleons – it is good to see you back.

Welcome Back, Chameleons

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Back to the walking books and lightweight mac for going out with Lady this evening… hmm… even she wasn’t that impressed.

Does music change what you write and, if so, how? I find listening to classical doesn’t. What it does do is relax me and when I am relaxed, I write more. So win-win there. I have listened to pop and rock in the past when writing but found that the mood of the song could affect the mood of what I was writing and I didn’t want that. (It’s difficult to write a killer scene, say, when you’ve got a sweetly sick love song playing!).

Talking of moods, I must say a huge thank you for the tremendous response to last week’s Chandler’s Ford Today on Wildflowers which celebrated the local wildflower meadow in the park where I exercise Lady. There have been some lovely comments in on this over the week (on my Facebook timeline) so that post clearly hit a chord.

Mind you, after what we have all gone through during the last year, a gentle post like that was probably overdue. And I am glad I wrote the post when I did. The rain has been pouring down today so I think I got the best of the pictures possible for that post. (I suspect when I take Lady out tomorrow that poor meadow is probably going to look a bit flattened).


Nice task today – packing for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School! One or two last minute bits to add but I’m basically good to go. Looking forward to catching up with old friends and making new ones (this is one of the great joys of Swanwick). Can’t wait to explore the Book Room too – trust me, it is legendary.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is another great joy as it is my first review of a production by The Chameleon Theatre Group since their pantomime back in 2019. It was fantastic to see them back on the stage last week and I look forward to sharing my review on Friday. They staged Lockdown in Little Grimley and Bombshells. The latter was a series of five monologues from very different women and made for fascinating character studies. More details in the review but I liked this as I sometimes write character studies as they work well in flash fiction.

And the great joy of writing blog posts is being able to schedule them. Looking a little further ahead, I will be sharing a fascinating two part interview with #FranHill and #RuthLeigh about writing humour. Watch this space, as they say, for more details nearer the time.

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Story time once again. Am pleased to share Silence Is Less Damaging, my latest tale on #FridayFlashFiction. Hope you enjoy it. And if you ever wonder whether trying to understand nature could ever go too far, my story may well provide an answer to that!

Screenshot 2021-08-06 at 18-35-29 Silence is Less Damaging, by Allison Symes


It took me a while to find my voice for both my fiction and non-fiction work. And that’s fine. I think it does take time for a writer to realise what their voice is and run with it – I know it did with me. For my flash tales, I like a direct “take you into the mindset of the character immediately” approach.

This is one reason I do use a lot of first person narrative here (I see that as hitting the ground running!). It was when I realised I needed to focus on one major character, whether I was writing a flash tale or a longer short story, that my pace increased, the waffle was a thing of the past (most writers have been guilty of this at some point), and I suddenly found myself having acceptances. I say suddenly. The reality is I’d been working to that point for years (as most writers do).

It’s no coincidence that successful writers will often tell you they’ve been working away for years before anything of theirs saw the light of day. Also that stamina and the ability to keep going and going are essential. Building up flash stories and submitting them regularly is a good way of building up a track record as I mentioned yesterday.

In producing those stories all the time, you’re building up your own writing stamina too. I also find it a useful weapon against the dreaded Imposter Syndrome. Why? Because I can tell myself I have written a story once, I can do it again and again and again. Then I sit down and do so.

The nice thing with flash is the potential is there to have the rewards (publication) in print and in online magazines more quickly than in many other forms. And if you can write short, you can write long. It is harder to write to 100 words than to 10,000 ironically.

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Will be happily waving the flag for flash fiction at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School from Saturday. So looking forward to that. Also looking forward to next Zoom meeting of the ACW Flash Fiction Group later this month. It’s always a good sign when meetings like that get everyone buzzing with ideas and people then get stories submitted. Win-win there. I like flash as it is a great way of building up a track record in being published too. It can be something to show a publisher or agent if you submit longer works to them later. All worth bearing in mind.

Always a joy to talk or write about flash fictionTime to Write

Fairytales With Bite – Magic – An Asset or a Pain?

Is magic an asset or a pain to your characters/your favourite characters to read about? Magic, as with any source of power, is open to misuse and abuse. The classic fairytales are full of examples of that.

Part of the reason I never understood all the fuss about Harry Potter was I saw the poor lad as someone suffering simply for who and what he is and that he needed to learn and use his skills to defend himself and others. Also, he was prepared to make sacrifices to help others. I had no problem whatsoever with any of that and I saw the stories as great examples of magic being misused, in the case of Voldemort and company, and that had to be stopped. Fire fighting fire and all that.

In the Discworld series from the late great Terry Pratchett, in Raising Steam, Moist von Lipwig wants the Patrician (Havelock, Lord Vetinari) to call in the wizards to help with building a railway in the time scale Lord Vetinari wants. The Patrician is having none of it, being all too aware of the damage caused to Ankh-Morpork before when magic ran riot. (See The Sorcerer for the full story of when magic alone did rule the city).

So I see a lot of the fairytales then as warning us of the misuse of power. Magic is something to be controlled and should be used for the greater good. So do your characters do this? Where magic is misused, who intervenes to stop that? Can the damage done be undone? There are classic and timeless stories to be had here because this is a great example of art imitating life. We have all known examples of abuses of power so stories reflecting that (and fantasy often does) will have great resonance.

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This World and Others – Who Lays Down The Rules?

Who does lay down the rules in your fictional world? Is it one universe with one ruler or a series of kingdoms and republics with monarchs and presidents/patricians/Lord Protectors etc? How long has your world been like this? Are the ruled over happy with the status quo or are they seeking change? If the latter, how will they do this and what do they want to see replace the old system?

If the rules are good (in a broad sense) and the government is accepted by most, then what challenges could your world face? Do threats come from another world or from malcontents who want to seize power for themselves? (They turn up anywhere!).

All great story ideas there.

If the rules are bad or have been misused, who would seek to change that? How? How would they garner popular support for change especially against a tyrant where most people would think at least twice about putting their own lives (and those of their families) at risk?

It is no coincidence that in past times, rebels would not only be executed by the king but their estates would be seized. The whole idea was to send out the message that not only would the rebel die, the family would be likely to do so as well (as there would be huge risks attached to helping the family of a proven rebel). With no estate or other support, the family at best would be likely to starve.

Looking into the history books to see how places were governed and how traitors were dealt with (one man’s traitor is another one’s freedom fighter) can also be a source of ideas for your own characters and stories.

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Favourite Characters and Misunderstandings

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Looking forward to giving a talk on flash fiction to Byre Writers later this week. Always good to share the joys of writing and reading flash fiction.

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Facebook – General

Hope your Tuesday has gone well. Glad to be swimming this afternoon. Refreshing and it is the only sport I do with any reasonable proficiency. I don’t use the time in the pool to think out stories or articles funnily enough. Again, as with being out and about in the natural world, it is the break away from the desk that helps the most. (Lady still doesn’t understand why she can’t go with me. She would cause chaos – no chance at all of her keeping to the proper lane!).

I’m a bit later at my desk tonight for various reasons (one of those days for a start!) but what matters is getting there at all and making the most of whatever writing time I have. I won’t be writing so much this Thursday for example as I will be back at our local Ritchie Hall watching The Chameleons in their come back production after the pandemic. Will be so good to see them back (and what with singing in church again on Sunday, it does seem some normality has returned).

But whether I have a long writing session or a short one, I aim to have something done by the end of said session I can either develop further when I have more time or I have flash stories ready for editing later.

I’ve learned to appreciate that if I only have ten minutes to write, say, then I will make the most of those ten minutes.

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Hope you have had a great start to the week. Lady did as she got to see and play with her best buddie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Both dogs were so excited to see each other. Always nice to see that!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is going to be a bit different. I am celebrating the glorious wildflower meadow in our local park where the dogs play. It is a wonderful sight. The funny thing is the natural world in and of itself does not inspire my writing. What it does do is give me a much needed break so I can come back to my stories raring to go. Link up on Friday and I share some great pictures too.

Looking ahead a bit, I am relishing sharing a two part interview with two of the funniest writers I know – #FranHill and #RuthLeigh (and it is so appropriate I use a hashtag for Ruth as the interviews will make clear!). That’s coming in August and I am so looking forward to reviewing The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production, the first they have been able to put on since the pandemic began. That will go up in the first week of August, just before I head off to catch up with writing pals at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School after a two year gap. It will be so lovely to see people again (and not just their top halves thanks to Zoom!).

The working of the eye is amazing
Today has been lovely. I got to sing in church for the first time since March 2020 (and yes, I sang through a mask). It was wonderful. Really enjoyed that. Lovely to meet up with other congregation members, some of whom I haven’t seen since the first lockdown (as not everyone is into Zoom etc).

Had a lovely chat with Swanwick friends last night over Zoom. The next time I speak to one of them will be at Swanwick and that is a fabulous thought. So missed that and my writing chums there last year.

More comments coming in on Missing, my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Thanks, everyone, the feedback is useful and appreciated.

Am busy getting my latest author newsletter ready to go out on 1st August so if you would like exclusive stories, news, hints and tips etc., do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com.

Busy week ahead. Am looking forward to talking to Byre Writers via Zoom on Saturday morning about flash fiction.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Cooler today after last night’s thunderstorm.

Glad to share the link to my latest piece for Mom’s Favorite Reads. I talk about Patience in Flash Fiction Writing this time. I look at patience in characters (or the lack of it) and also at accepting the need it takes time and patience to hone your craft.

For example, I like to have a rough template to work to when writing a story and while that takes time (and patience) to begin with to get it set up so I know where I am going with my tale, I have found it saves me a lot more time later on. I also don’t go off at interesting tangents which are unhelpful to the story I am writing. (I would only have to cut these out later precisely because they don’t help the story along).

I also share my flash fiction story on the theme. Hope you enjoy and don’t forget the magazine is FREE to download from Amazon.

Screenshot 2021-07-10 at 16-53-46 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine July 2021 eBook Publishing, Goylake, Howe, Hannah , Smith,[...]Screenshot 2021-07-01 at 20-08-25 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine July 2021
Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the respond to my latest story video, Misunderstandings, yesterday. See link below. These are great fun to write. I also share exclusive videos on my author newsletter (the next is due out on 1st August), so if you would like to sign up for that, please head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I like to write a variety of flash fiction lengths as (a) this keeps things interesting for me and (b) the story length has to be right for the character I’m writing. If they need more room to show me their story, that is what they get and that is when I tend to write the 750 to 1000 word flashes. Most of mine come in at between 100 and 600 and that’s fine too.

Time for another Youtube video. My latest story video is called Misunderstandings and looks at what might happen when a slightly absent-minded fairy comes across someone with peculiarly shaped teeth. Hope you enjoy it.

I’m giving another Zoom talk on flash fiction to Byre Writers on Saturday morning and am so looking forward to that. It is always a joy to talk about flash and to share how, despite the word count restriction, it is more flexible than you might think at first.

After all I have written across many genres thanks to it. I go where my characters take me and I can set them any time and any where and I do. It is such fun to do too! After all, thanks to a challenge by Scottish crime writer #WendyHJones, I wrote a story about The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball! I’ve also written stories about a very creepy ghost, a witch who didn’t cheat in her magical exams (disappointing her mother a bit), and historical tales from the viewpoints of Anne Boleyn and Richard III.

And I am loving getting back to the drabble, aka the 100-worder, for#FridayFlashFiction, but I also love writing across the whole spectrum of flash. My natural home is 500 words or under but it is good to experiment and find out what works best for me. Sometimes my characters do need the whole 1000 words and that’s fine too.

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A huge thanks for the response yesterday to my post about titles. Also thanks to those who have commented on Missing, my latest #FridayFlashFiction story. I like open titles such as Missing as it gives me so many possibilities to play with – what or whom is missing? Are they found again? If someone is missing something, do they get it back? All sorts of stories can come out of writing the answers to those questions.

For flash, where sometimes the title is part of your overall word count allowance, it is even more important to come up with a crisp, intriguing title that will draw readers in and keep them with you. Random word generators can be useful for playing with ideas here.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Favourite Characters

Do you have an overall favourite character in fiction? I have too many to count! The characters that stand out the most for me are those who are unpromising at the start of the story and end up being heroes by the end of it. A hobbit is an unlikely adventurer but look what Tolkein did with his characters in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

I am also fond of characters who need redemption and find it. I also like stories where justice is seen to be done and in the right way. (I am not keen on the vengeance type of tale as you just know the character is likely to go too far with it).

I like characters I can understand even if I don’t agree with their attitudes and actions. One of my favourite characters is Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series as there is so much depth to his portrayal which is revealed over the seven novels.

So over to you then. Which are your favourite kinds of character and why?

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The Joy of Editing

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Hope you have had a good week.

Weather all over the place here in the UK – still it is only June! Writing wise, very pleased with response already to my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. (Screenshot of part of my latest story, Restless, taken by me, Allison Symes – hope it tempts you to read the rest! Link below).

AE - July 2021 - A great character drives the plot


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post about The Joy of Editing. I share my thoughts on why editing can be as creative as the initial act of getting a story down. I also share thoughts on how outlining characters or ideas for blog posts can save a lot of time on editing later on (and avoid that oh-so-easy-to-fall-into trap of going off on interesting but usually irrelevant tangents which only have to be cut out later). I also list what I think of as my editing stages and what I do for each one. Hope you find it useful.

(Oh and advance notice. I’ll be interviewing the lovely #HelenMatthews in an in-depth conversation on 2nd and 9th July. Helen shares lots of useful insights into the writing life and I am so looking forward to sharing these interviews).

(Further advance notice – my latest author newsletter will go out on 1st July. If interested please sign up to it at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com).

The Joy of Editing

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Enjoyed my swim earlier today but you can tell when the weather is “iffy” – the water feels cold. When It is hot, as it was last week, the water feels refreshing and I don’t want to get out. (Mind you what helps is knowing the shrivelled prune look when you have been in the water for too long suits nobody!).

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. This week I’m talking about The Joy of Editing. And, yes, I know you will say Allison, you are an editor as well as a writer, you are bound to be biased. Yes, sure, guilty as charged there, but there is much to be said for editing as I will share in my post tomorrow.

So looking forward to reviewing The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest (and comeback) performance later in the summer. Along with singing in church and meeting up with friends, I think not seeing their wonderful shows has been the thing I missed most last year. (Their performances also raise money for different charities each year so well done to them and it’s another great reason to go and see their shows if you are local to Chandler’s Ford. If you’re not, I’m sure there will be great amateur theatre groups you can support near you – try them out and see!).

From a writing viewpoint, it is interesting seeing words performed rather than just read.

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Hope you have had a good day. More like a proper June day today and Lady got to play with her best mate, the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Two tired and happy dogs went home.

Have got my ticket for the comeback shows from The Chameleon Theatre Group for the end of July. So looking forward to watching them on stage again. (Review to follow on Chandler’s Ford Today in due course naturally – it is so lovely to get back to this kind of thing again).

I’ll be sharing a fabulous two part interview with #HelenMatthews on 2nd and 9th July so plenty of good things to come on CFT. I met Helen at the Hursley Park Book Fair which I reported on for CFT a couple of years ago and again at the Winchester Writers’ Festival. You never know where networking with other authors might lead you! Anyway, really looking forward to sharing this interview as it is packed with great author insights (just one of many reasons why I love sharing author interviews here!).

Behind the scenes, I’m also working on workshop materials so yes watch this space for further news in due course.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to share my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction called Restless. A HUGE thank you to all who have commented on the tale so far. This is so much appreciated. (I also love the way this kind of thing helps writers engage with readers directly).

Restless is a different kind of flash tale for me in that every sentence starts with the same word. It’s an interesting technique, fun to do, but is something I would only do every now and again. (Generally speaking given the restricted word count in flash anyway, I wouldn’t normally repeat anything other than say the unavoidable ones such as the, and, but etc.


Screenshot 2021-06-25 at 19-03-20 Restless, by Allison Symes


Thanks for the great response to my acrostic yesterday. I use the technique sometimes for mini-blog posts as well as flash tales!

Looking forward to taking part in the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction Group later in July. Glad to report we had our first Zoom meeting a week or so ago and it went down well. (I also get to write up flash tales from the exercises set, whether these are set by someone else or me. I’m sure I can find a home for these stories at a later date!).

The benefits of flash fiction writing are learning to write with precision, to think about impact, to think about what your reader needs to get from your story, and to lose all fear of editing. Those things transfer well to other forms of writing too.


F = Fun to write – but the work really begins in the editing.
L = Looking for maximum impact on the reader so word choice is so important here.
A = Any genre, any character – have fun with the format.
S = Story, story, story – it is your character’s tale, let them tell it.
H = Have an outline for your characters before you write the story – it can be as simple or as detailed as you like but it will save you going off on unnecessary tangents. You will know what your character is capable of and why. I know this tip alone has saved me a great deal of grief (and work) later on in trying to fix characterisation problems. By working this out at the start, you can hit the ground running with the story itself because you know what your character is likely to do and say.

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Fairytales With Bite – Why the Bite?!

The classic fairytales have plenty of bite. Indeed, that is one of the things I love most about them. They don’t mince their words when it comes to villains. The stories show you the villains for what they are. The wicked stepmother is wicked (and definitely not in a good way).

The classic stories also like their heroes/heroines to do or be something worthy of being helped by a passing helpful fairy godmother and the like. Said passing fairy godmother is not going to help the lazy, those who just want riches and so on.

Right is also seen to be done. Evil comes back to bite those who commit it (which so often doesn’t happen in life and even as a young child I was aware of that).

What fairytales are not are twee. The characters are clearly portrayed and they are what they are. They also show characters can be redeemed. Fairytales are about choices made and not every character makes the right one.

So bite then is a vital ingredient to fairytales. From my perspective, it is what makes a fairytale a fairytale, much more so than a magical being waving a wand about.

Fairytales are truthful too – and again bite comes in here too. They show you aspects of human nature, a lot of which are not the pleasant kind. They hold a mirror up to our own behaviour – you just need to accept some of what you will see through the stories will be the kind of things we usually like to pretend are not there. Our own stories need to reflect this to be true to the genre. Our characters need to reflect that.

Even the tales read to very young children will show this. We know from a very young age the Big Bad Wolf is not to be trusted.

So when it comes to writing our own tales, we need to be brutally honest with our character portrayal. Are they the kind of character a fairy godmother would help? If not, why not? What role will this character play in your story? If they’re not someone who would “earn” magical help, how are they going to get said help when they need it? Are they going to change in some way so they do end up “earning” that help and what makes them realise change is necessary? Plenty of story ideas here.

Character change is key to a successful story. And there’s nothing a fairy godmother likes better than a character redeeming themselves to get her help. Readers like that too. So give your characters plenty of bite. They must not be twee. We need to see where the characters are coming from and where they are heading.

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This World and Others – Reaching Out

How do your characters reach out to others? Are they the kind of characters who would help others? If not, why not? Are they held back by fear or resentment of others and can they overcome that?

Does your fictional world reach out to other worlds near it or is it an insular one?

When characters reach out, is that as successful as they hoped it would be or does it backfire? Are good intentions misunderstood, deliberately or otherwise? Does this stop your characters from reaching out after that (as it would, at best, knock confidence)?

What is the impact of reaching out on the society immediately around your main characters? Does your society encourage reaching out or make it more difficult? Can your society be changed for the better by your characters who do reach out to others?

Hmm… I think there are story ideas there!

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Needs Met, Flash Fiction, and Mom’s Favorite Reads News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Screenshot of my Youtube channel front page taken by me, Allison Symes, as was the screenshot of a lovely description of me by fellow flash fiction writer, Rosemary Johnson, earlier this week.

Picture of Lady helping me to open my box of books taken by Adrian Symes.

Back to cold and wet weather in “summery” Britain right now…

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Facebook – General

Many thanks for the great response to my post yesterday about Mom’s Favorite Reads being at No. 1 in the Amazon charts. Much appreciated. Still buzzing from that news too!

Just a quick reminder that I post new story videos on my Youtube channel on a Monday. Do check them out at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

Screenshot 2021-06-22 at 20-21-14 Allison Symes - YouTube

My most recent story is Needs Met, which is on the darker side, but if you like a tale that can make you shiver, this is one for you. I like to mix up what I share here, as indeed I do with my flash collections. After all, life is a mixture of light and dark and my fiction reflects that.

Have subbed another drabble for #FridayFlashFiction. The latest one is called Restless and I hope I can share the link with you on Friday for that one.

I’m preparing an excellent two-part interview for Chandler’s Ford Today at the moment. I love chatting to other writers here. Every writer has a unique journey and (a) I always find this fascinating and (b) I always learn something useful I can apply immediately or which might become relevant to my writing later. After all it is by chatting to other writers I have learned about markets and competitions. Looking forward to sharing the interview early on next month.

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News – Mom’s Favorite Reads

Hope you have had a good Monday. Weather wise, it has been more like autumn here. Not nice!

Delighted to that the June 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is doing so well on Amazon. See screenshot. (Thrilled my piece on Flash Fiction and Sharks is in this one. Have recently subbed something for consideration for the July issue). I’ve never been part of something that is No.1 on Amazon before! Now that is what I call a great start to the writing week.

Screenshot 2021-06-21 at 17-33-53 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine June 2021 eBook Publishing , Goylake , Howe, Hannah , Smit[...]Screenshot 2021-06-21 at 17-33-20 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine June 2021 eBook Publishing , Goylake , Howe, Hannah , Smit[...]
Also looking forward to being able to book my ticket to go and see The Chameleon Theatre Group when they return to my local stage in July. The Box Office is open again from tomorrow. Well worth seeing them. I was especially impressed by their version of Blackadder a couple of years ago. Also looking forward to reviewing the latest shows, which will be comedies, for Chandler’s Ford Today again.

And I have ordered a new railcard. I usually renew this annually and did so just ahead of lockdown so last year’s one was a complete waste of effort on everyone’s part! Still, I look forward to using the new one for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August, I have an ACW meeting in London to go to later in the year, plus I am taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Fest in November so I will be out and about on the train again, hooray! I’ve always loved train travel and usually get a fair bit of writing done on said train trips so it will nice to resume that again.

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My old grandfather used to say a British summer fell on a Wednesday afternoon. Given it is overcast again here today, I think he had a point.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is all about The Joy of Editing and I’ll be sharing some thoughts and tips. I like editing because I know it is here that my stories or blog posts will improve so take the view what’s not to like about that. Link up on Friday.

Busy getting my next author newsletter ready to go for 1st July. If you’d like to sign up please head to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – would be pleased to welcome you aboard.

Delighted to have taken part in a new flash fiction writing group earlier this week. Good fun and looking forward to doing more of this in due course. I set some writing exercises for this group and I plan to write mine up soon. I love writing exercises. I get useful draft stories out of them!

Have a good week.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Changeable weather here today.

One of the joys of Zoom has been in being able to keep in contact with writing and other friends around the country. That has been such a boon.

I’ve submitted the chapter I’m contributing to #WendyHJones’ book on Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion For Writing. There will be edits to come of course but am looking forward to working on those In due course.

A big thanks to all who’ve commented on my story, Security, on #FridayFlashFiction. The overwhelming feeling here is sympathy for my hero – for more see here.

Pleased to put in an order for Tripping the Flash Fantastic via Hive.co.uk (see https://www.hive.co.uk/ for more info). Yes, it does mean I’m gearing up for live author events (hooray!) and the lovely thing with Hive is I can donate a percentage of my order to an independent bookshop of my choice. I chose P&G Wells in Winchester (they’re the bookshop for the Writing Festival there).

Incidentally, never worry when they say “out of stock” on sites like Hive. All it means is it is a print on demand book and they have to order it in. I like having alternative places to shop for books and being able to support independent bookshops as well is a huge plus for me.

I get the double joy here of putting the order and looking forward to my books turning up. Always a nice parcel to get!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I usually listen to Classic FM when I’m writing. I find it relaxing and being in a relaxed frame of mind helps me to write more (and I hope better). Do I ever find it distracting or altering the mood of what I intended to write? Glad to say the answer to that is no. (Interestingly that wasn’t the case when I listened to pop/rock music – that did effect mood. Why this should be I don’t know. I just know it’s true for me).

Where I tend to block out the classical music is when I’m editing. I just get in the “zone” and I can be oblivious even to things like the 1812 Overture, cannons, fireworks, bells and all. (Wonderful piece of music it is too but I can be so focused on editing, I am oblivious even to that – and rightly so).

Mind you, I don’t know where my flash fiction would relate to in classical music terms. Definitely wouldn’t be a symphony! (I think the novel would have that accolade!). Short instrumental piece perhaps? Maybe.

I do know crafting a short piece of fiction takes as much care as does a longer work. I suspect the same is true for music too.

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If you like a little bit of horror in your fiction, my latest story video, Needs Met, is for you. The opening line was something I set as an exercise for a flash writing group I was leading last week (Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group) and this is my take on it. Note I don’t go in for a lot of description. It isn’t needed.

Oh and a shout-out to friend and ACW Committee colleague, Rosemary Johnson, for referring to me as a “flash fiction writer extraordinare” in her blog post which you can read here. (Lovely start to a Monday though I concede my story video is a creepy start to a Monday!).

Screenshot 2021-06-21 at 17-42-27 Reviewing, Flash Fiction and Other Things


Judging the length of a flash fiction story can be tricky at times. I write the story first, polish it, and then worry about the word count. Sometimes I’ve ended up with a 200-word tale where to take a word out would spoil it, as would adding another one. So I leave it alone and then look for a suitable market for it. I may have originally planned to write a 50 or 100 worder but if any alterations to a story would spoil it in some way, then I know now it is best to leave it be.

This is where it pays to draft and work on a series of stories though. You will then have a “stock” to consider for the latest writing competition or market to catch your eye. Hopefully you will end up with a batch of 100 worders, a few at 200 to 500 say and so on. You can then choose how to use them. Win-win there! And all the time you’re drafting stories, you’re giving the old imaginative muscles a good work out!

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I’ve become involved in a writing group recently (all about flash fiction – and fabulous fun!) and we were talking about openings. Especially for flash stories where every word has to punch its weight to justify its place in your wonderfully crafted tale, opening lines are key.

You are after the “have got to find out what happens next” moment. The next line of course then makes the reader to keep on wanting to find out what happens until you reach The End.

What I find helpful here to think along the lines of He/She/It (I’ve written many a tale from the viewpoint of an It!) and Action/Reaction. Anything that intrigues me writing the story is going to intrigue the reader.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Giving Up on a Story?

With my writing hat on, I must admit I’ve only ever abandoned two stories in my time and for the same reason. I managed to box myself in a corner and that was because I didn’t know my characters well enough. I avoid that mistake now by using a simple template that ensures I do know my creations well enough to write their stories up.

Have I given up on books by others though? Occasionally yes but I am glad to say it is a rare event. And it is for the same reason – their characters have not gripped me enough to make me want to continue to read their stories. There has been a lack of the “got to find out what happens here” in the novel or short story collection. Now this is useful. It tells me what to avoid!

You improve your writing skills by reading well. You learn from what others do. You look over well loved books and tales to figure out what it was about them that worked for you and then try to replicate that with your own creations. But it can work the other way round. You can learn what not to do!

But I am glad I only rarely give up on a book. Life is too short to waste time on a book that doesn’t grip you. I always think it a shame when you come across a book like that.

 

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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.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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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Facebook – General – and

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.

 

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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.

Facebook – General

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

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Facebook – General

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).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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!).

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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.

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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.

 

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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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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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