Originality in Fiction and Alphabetical Writing Thoughts


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
It has been a busy few days. I have two blog posts to share tonight and a new story on Friday Flash Fiction. In most of the UK, it is a bank holiday this weekend so I hope those who can enjoy it. Wouldn’t mind the weather being a bit warmer though!

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today and More Than Writers

Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s a busy night tonight. First up, I’m pleased to share my latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today. I talk about Originality in Fiction and discuss whether or not we can be truly original in what we write given we are all inspired by what we have read and as there are only so many basic plots.

I also look at finding and making the most of your author voice (which is key to being original), and at how to put your own take on an idea. Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful and do share your thoughts on originality in the comments box.

Oh and talking of CFT, Janet Williams, my lovely editor, and I had an absolute ball at The Dragon of Wantley pantomime put on by the Chameleon Theatre Group last night. Oh yes we did! Review to follow in due course.

Janet and I very much treat our trips out like this as “CFT works outings”! They’re an absolute joy to go to -and the panto was a hoot from start to finish. The Chameleons had to delay this from January but it was definitely worth the wait! More to come in my review.

Originality in Fiction

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More Than Writers – the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers

My second post tonight is for More Than Writers, the blog spot of the Association of Christian Writers. I blog monthly here and my topic this time is Alphabetical Writing Thoughts. Great fun to do and I get to share a number of useful tips and hints. Again, I hope you find this one fun and useful.

 

Am off to the panto this evening with my lovely CFT editor, Janet Williams. Oh yes I am…!

So not too much on the writing front from me today though I will be making up for that tomorrow with my double blog for CFT and More Than Writers. That’s it. No blog for ages then two come along at once, you know how it is!

I have no idea what the storyline is behind The Dragon of Wantley, which is what I’m off to see tonight, but I do know it will be fun finding out. And it will be lovely having a nice night out with guaranteed laughs – that is the joy of panto. Yes, it may be unseasonal but The Chameleon Theatre Group had to put it off from January and I say better late than never, especially after the last couple of years where there was no live theatre at all. It is lovely having live events back again.

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It will be a double blog from me on Friday with my Chandler’s Ford Today post out on Originality in Fiction. Also my More than Writers post, where I blog monthly for the Association of Christian Writers, will also be out and I’ll be talking about and sharing Alphabetical Writing Thoughts. I look forward to sharing both posts later in the week. See above.

Don’t forget I send out my author newsletter on the first of the month so if you would like to sign up for tips, prompts, news etc., do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I’ve mentioned before for my fiction work I always have an Ideal Reader in mind. I do the same for my blog posts. I try to think of what they would find useful about this story or blog of mine and tailor them accordingly. I find doing this helps stop me going off at unhelpful tangents. Having an Ideal Reader in mind from the start helps with targetting your work to the right place (market or competition) as well.

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I hope you enjoy my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. The starting point idea for my story, Reflection, comes from a random object generator and I then took things from there as to why my character would want the object.

Screenshot 2022-04-29 at 19-00-20 Reflection by Allison Symes

I sometimes write historical flash fiction pieces. For these, I give my characters the benefit of being able to speak to us in language we understand so I don’t use Olde English. It’s not easy to read and clarity is everything for a story, especially a short one. What I do do is be accurate and everything I come up with is either based on fact or reasonable supposition given the known facts.

I sometimes get my characters to address us the readers and then go on to show us their perspective on things. I hope this is a way of making those characters seem more real. I think that is even more important the further back in time you go. It is easy to forget these were real people with real feelings. I hope my flash pieces here can correct that to an extent. Honesty in characterisation is vital as otherwise the reader simply won’t believe the people you present to them.

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Hope you have had a good day. Chilly today. Not that Lady noticed. She was too busy running around with her best buddy, the lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Whether I write my stories in the first or third person, I try to ensure my opening line has an intriguing hook immediately. There has to be something to entice the reader in to want to find out what happens next.

With my reader’s hat on, I know I want to be enticed to go on reading! Okay, okay, you don’t have to try too hard with me to get me reading. I do read the menu in the fish and chip shop because it is there, it has words on it, and words have to be read etc but I can be switched off by something that doesn’t grab me.

Writing flash fiction has meant that I have to hit the ground running from the opening words. There is no room to “run into” the story. And if I’m not intrigued by the story premise, I also know nobody else will be either. I have to be excited about writing it!

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Fairytales With Bite – Fairytale Acrostic

F = Flighty fairies, not likely!
A = Able to conjure up spells to bring down the arrogant – and they do.
I= Intelligent and they see right through to a character’s soul.
R = Reality for them is coping with everything from a dragon to a witch trying to build gingerbread houses again.
Y = Young? Not necessarily. The best have been around for centuries. Age is not a thing for them.
T = Tough but kindhearted, yes you can combine the two. They are anything but twee.
A = Always ready to help someone in distress.
L = Like helping people, loathe liars and cheats.
E = Experts in getting to the truth of a matter and not caving in to evil.
S = So why would you annoy a fairy? Only if you’re incredibly brave or foolish and my money would be on the latter.

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This World and Others – Games and Puzzles

When I’ve finished writing for the day, I like to unwind with an online game of CrossCraze (a version of Scrabble). So words still come into my “play time”! But I inherited my love of word games, as I did my love of reading from my late mother.

So in your created world, are games and puzzles a “thing”? If so, can anyone join in or do certain species play one type of game or puzzle and others have their own they have to stick to? Are the games and puzzles anything like the ones we have here? If so, what is different about them that could only exist in your fictional world?

I love a game to relax but what does your world use them for? Could they use them to assess intelligence (and therefore someone’s role in their society)? Can they use the games to control people?

Or is this kind of thing seen as a waste of time? If so, what kind of recreational activities are your people allowed to do and why are they only allowed to do these?

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Murder with Ghosts Review, Publication News, and The Gift

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 kind permission to use their photos in my Chandler’s Ford Today post.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Nice intriguing title for tonight’s post I think! Hope you have had a good week. Am very much looking forward to going to the Brechin/Angus Book Festival next week. Many thanks to Sarah Archibald for the fab posters.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is always a pleasure to share on Chandler’s Ford Today a review of the latest performance by The Chameleon Theatre Group. This time, I review Murder with Ghosts, a spoof written by Simon Brett. It was lovely to meet up with my fantastic editor at CFT, Janet Williams, for a kind of “CFT works outing”, which was the first we’ve had since before lockdown.

We had a fantastic time watching the performance and there are plenty of literary influences at work in this play. See the review for more. This particular play also gave me a very pleasant wander down memory lane too – again see the review for what and why.

I look at the performance, the play, and the setting – plenty to enjoy here. And what is always nice is The Chameleons hold raffles in aid of a charity each year. Of course that also went kaput last year thanks to You Know What but they are back in business on this too and are raising funds for the Hampshire Air Ambulance, a most worthy cause.

Review: Chameleon Theatre Group – Murder with Ghosts

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Looking forward to sharing my review of the latest production by The Chameleon Theatre Group on Chandler’s Ford Today this week. They staged a wonderful spoof by Simon Brett called Murder with Ghosts. Think Agatha Christie crossed with P.G. Wodehouse and you get a good idea. Link up tomorrow. (If you get the chance to see this play elsewhere, do go. It was marvellous).

Many thanks for the lovely comments on my post yesterday about Resolutions by Bridge House Publishing. See post further down. It is always a lovely feeling having another story published in one of their cracking anthologies. And I can’t wait to catch up with fellow authors from BHP at the celebration event in London on 4th December. What will be especially nice this year is we’re having lunch together first as well. Plenty of time to chat! After that I might even begin to think about Christmas!

PUBLICATION NEWS

Am so thrilled to be able to announce further publication news. The buzz of being published never diminishes!

I am delighted to say my story Next Time, Maybe is in the hot-off-the-presses Bridge House Publishing anthology, Resolutions. As ever with the BHP books, there is a wonderful eclectic mix of stories and styles here. My tale follows the mishaps of Sandra as she tries to find a resolution that works for her. Great fun to write and a character I think a lot of us would identify with. Does she succeed in her quest? Well there’s only one way to find out!

Resolutions is out in paperback and on Kindle from the usual outlets but the link takes you to the Bridgetown Cafe Bookshop, the online shop for Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, Chapeltown Books.

Screenshot 2021-11-10 at 18-44-46 The Bridgetown Café Bookshop

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A huge thank you for the wonderful comments coming in on The Gift, my latest tale on #FridayFlashFiction. Feedback is always appreciated. If you have cats, have ever owned any etc., this story will have particular resonance for you. Hope you enjoy it (oh and by the way this tale proves I am unbiased. I am a dog owner!).

Screenshot 2021-11-12 at 16-51-35 The Gift, by Allison Symes

Now after yesterday’s exciting news about Resolutions, the latest Bridge House Publishing anthology, comes news dear to a writer’s heart. I designed some new postcards for publicity purposes and they arrived as I’d hoped in good time for me to take them to the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. I look forward to showing them off there first and hopefully again at the BHP celebration event on 4th December.

Am always pleased when something like this works well. They always look wonderful on screen but holding the actual product in your hand and really liking it is good. And this has a nice link to flash fiction as one of the names for flash is postcard fiction (I.e. what you can get on the back of a postcard – roughly 200 to 300 words, depending on how tiny your writing is or not!).

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Am back between the covers again for Bridge House Publishing with my story, Next Time, Maybe, for their anthology called Resolutions. Good to see familiar names in here with me. When reading a short story or flash fiction collection, I look for a good mix of styles and moods. You won’t be disappointed here. Available in Kindle and paperback. And it is always a thrill to be published.

Below this book on the Bridgetown Cafe Bookshop is a collection by Lynn Clement called The City of Stories. I will be interviewing Lynn for Chandler’s Ford Today soon as I met her a few years ago when I was a guest speaker at the Hampshire Writers’ Society. Delighted to see she too has embraced the wonders of flash fiction!

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Fairytales with Bite – Practical Magical Transportation

We all know the busy fairy godmother has to have reliable transport and it would be ideal if she didn’t have to coerce…err… change some rats and other wildlife who somehow volunteered into becoming that transport. So the answer is to arrange things herself and fly. No broomstick for her. (She doesn’t like the chafing). What she needs is a powerful set of wings that can take her through storm force winds, torrential rain, unusual tornados above Kansas and that kind of thing.

Clothing is important too. No stupid tutus for her. It gets cold up there. So thermals to cope with the thermals is a good idea. Another item on her list is smart separates, ideally of the fleecy variety. She’s not looking for style here. She can change into something stylish on landing after all. And now you know why you never see a fairy godmother land. She needs time to sort herself out and then appear in something suitably sparkly and bright, waving her wand about, to go and help the next client on her list.

Oh and a decent pocket or several where she can stow her wands while flying, her mini spell book (so useful for any occasion), and a hip flask and high energy snacks are also vital. Flying does take it out of a fairy godmother. Still she doesn’t have to worry about calorie counting so that’s a plus.

What she really doesn’t need are the birds getting in her way when she’s moving at speed. She feels they resent anything not a bird being up in the sky with them. Her attitude is tough but the other reason she has to change her fleecy separates so often is because many birds have an excellent and unavoidable way of showing their disapproval and have a great aim with said disapproval which they express in physical form.

Even when you’re magical, things won’t always go your way.

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This World and Others – Transport Systems

Assuming my fairy godmother character has got to her latest destination safely, let’s take a look at transport systems you might want to bring into your own fiction.

A lot depends on the time frame for your work – is it futuristic (in which case invent your own transport)? Is it contemporary (in which case you could take what we have here and add a unique twist to it to make it unique to your fictional world?). Is it set in the past (in which case look at our old transport systems and see if there is something you can take from that to use in your fiction?).

When my family was younger, we used to love visiting the transport museums and it was fascinating to see how, say, trains developed. Why not consider a visit to places like this and see if something sparks your imagination here? (You get a better idea of size and scale if you go in person. Pick up a guide book – you can use this as a basic research tool as most of these are well written with details you might be able to use to help inspire your own ideas. Seeing how we did things can inspire ideas for how your characters will do things and not just for transport).

You also need to decide whether magic will be involved in your transport system, whether it is to make it work at all, or whether it is the transport system. You will need to decide what power is used here and especially if you do use a magical system, is that power sustainable? How is it obtained/generated?

Also is transport available to all or only the elite? Are there classes of transport and people use the kind assigned to their ranking? Are there roads as we would know them? Do your characters travel much or is this a rare event only done in an emergency? How do your people get from A to B?

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Coming Home, Consequences, and Getting Ready for Brechin

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Scottish photos taken by me, Allison Symes. Screenshots also taken by me (though a huge thanks goes to Sarah Archibald for the Brechin/Angus Book Festival poster).
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Today was marginally less hectic than yesterday. Am hoping Wednesday will be better still!

I issued my November newsletter a little early (as it was easier for me to send it out before I went on holiday). If you would like to sign up for a monthly round-up on news, tips, prompts etc., do head over to my website (landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Was good to get back to submitting work to #FridayFlashFiction on my return too. Am loving reading the other stories on here too.

Will be a busy period on Chandler’s Ford Today for a while too. As well as my forthcoming Chameleons review, I have a smashing interview coming up with an author I met as a result of my being a guest speaker at the Hampshire Writers Society (it really is a small world), and of course I will be reporting back from the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. I’m also looking forward to reporting back on the Bridge House Publishing event in December.

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Why is it Mondays are always the most hectic day of the week? Still, it was lovely to see Lady have an absolute ball this morning playing with her best buddy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and her other pal, a charming Hungarian Vizler. The latter, I swear, has the sweetest smile in the park and is always so pleased to see us! Both dogs also make their appreciation of being able to share Lady’s water bottle known as they have their own ways of saying thanks!

I’ll be reviewing Murder with Ghosts, the most recent production staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Some of my favourite influences make themselves apparent in this play. More on this when I share the link on Friday. And if you think the title sounds fun, you’re right!

Sent off my box of books for the Brechin/Angus Book Festival today. It’s always difficult to estimate how many books you will need for events like this but I was pleased to get my parcel off on its way.

And talking of books, I hope to share further publication news soon.

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It is true what they say about needing a holiday to get over your holiday! Having said that, it is lovely to be back at home after a lovely break away.

Am delighted to say the November issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out. See link below. My article is about Memories, appropriate for November of course, and there are splendid flash pieces in as a result of my theme. Do check them out and I hope you find the article inspiring. What role could your character’s memories have in their stories? What happens if memories “clash”? Perspectives differ after all. Plenty of food for thought for stories there.

I’m also pleased to be the featured author on Page 50 of the magazine. And remember it is FREE.

The journey home acts like a grand tour of Scotland. It is fascinating to see the landscape change from mountains and rivers to farmland to lowland. In previous years, when we’ve been here in late May, there has still been snow on the mountains.

As ever, Lady didn’t really want to go home. She loves it on the beaches here but she will adore seeing her friends again next week.

I shall be finishing my prep work for the Brechin/Angus Book Fest this week and resume flash fiction writing so plenty to look forward to there.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One of the reasons I love the 100-word story is the fact you don’t have to wait long for the pay-off! I also enjoy the challenge of having to keep coming up with characters and story lines. And stories like this are easy to share on social media and I think make a great advert for what flash fiction is and can be.

Flash as a whole has sharpened my writing considerably and I find myself asking where is the story in this character I’m thinking of writing up. That’s a good thing. Knowing where the story is helps a lot later on too when you need to tell people what your tale is about. You will definitely know and you do need to be specific. What you don’t want is the glazed expression on the face of your audience as you try to tell them!

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Pleased to be back creating YouTube videos once more. Hope you enjoy Consequences. It was great fun to write though I have muted sympathy for my character here.

Good to be back home again after a wonderful Scottish break. (Particularly pleased to be home as weather conditions yesterday were horrendous and I hope everyone is okay). Looking forward to being back in Scotland next week too! Have had the delightful task of boxing up books ready for the Brechin/Angus Book Festival, which will be from 19th to 21st November. I plan to write up a report on the Festival for Chandler’s Ford Today after I get home again (and hope my current post there on Making the Most of an Author Event proves useful).

One lovely thing about events is I can often get to demonstrate what flash is by reading some out. It doesn’t take long and it can lead to sales! Am also looking forward to running a flash workshop and giving an author talk about The Ups and Downs of Becoming an Author as my route to the writing life has had its fair share of cul-de-sacs! Nor did I expect to end up being published in flash fiction. I do not regret this however!

Also pleased to be the featured author in the November issue of Mom’s Favorite ReadsAmazon Link for this further up.

And I hope to share further publication news later this week too. It’s all go right now but that is good! (Also can’t wait for the Bridge House Publishing celebration event on 4th December in London. So looking forward to catching up with writing friends there. We last met up in person in December 2019 though Zoom has been a lifeline – and a great way to share the wonders of flash fiction writing!).

Every story has to have a turning point. In flash, of course, you reach that point a lot sooner. That in turn makes you focus on what leads to that point.

It is why twist in the tale stories work so well in flash and why I often write that line first before working backwards to reach a logical beginning.

But there is nothing to stop you having that turning point right at the start of your tale. When I do this I have already sketched out various ways in which I could take that promising start. The one that has the most impact (by having an equally intriguing middle and satisfying ending) is what I go with. It pays to take time out to work out different possibilities. Best of all it’s fun too!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Mixing Up Your Reading

I like to mix up my reading in different ways.
Firstly, I mix up fiction and non-fiction.
Secondly, I mix up reading novels and short stories/flash fiction anthologies.
Thirdly, I mix up reading in paperback/on Kindle.
Fourthly, I watch stories (via film) and listen to them (via radio, audio books).
But the important thing is getting the reading in and doing so regularly. What I love to read directly inspires what I write.

Online retailBooks are books regardless of format

books signage

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people reading books in library

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assorted books

Photo by Tuur Tisseghem on Pexels.com

opened book on tree root

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BookBrushImage-2021-9-17-20-3426AE - July 2021 - Great characters will keep you turning the pages

Book Lists, Writing Days, and Competition

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good week. I’m off for a short break from 30th October. I plan to keep posting but internet connections may get the better of me so I will see how things go! (Definitely back here on Tuesday, 9th November if I can’t post).

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Chandler’s Ford Today and Association of Christian Writers

29th October – CFT

Am writing on a topic close to my heart for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I’m writing about Book Lists. Every writer has two – one for books they want to read and others they want to write! I’m focusing on the ones I want to read for this one. Posts like this are a celebration of books in general and those are always a good thing to celebrate! Hope you enjoy the post.

Book Lists

 

 

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29th October – ACW

It’s a busy night on the blogging front for me today but I am delighted to share my blog on More Than Writers. This is the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. This time I talk about Writing Days and I share hints on how to make the most of these as well as how to re-create some of the buzz from events like these when you’re at home. Hope you find it useful (and a big thanks for the wonderful comments already in on this one).

https://morethanwriters.blogspot.com/2021/10/writing-days-by-allison-symes.html

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Am posting very early as this evening I’m off to the theatre again. I’m going to see Murder with Ghosts staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group and I hope to review this show in due course. I’m also meeting up with my lovely editor, Janet Williams, so it will be a Chandler’s Ford Today “works outing” in many ways. Haven’t had one of those since December 2019 when Janet and I were at the Chameleons last show before You Know What disrupted everything. I love a good spoof and the title of this play sounds very promising!

Talking of CFT, I will be sharing my post tomorrow about Book Lists. (You must have at least one on the go, yes?).

It will be a busy day on the blogging front as my post for the Association of Christian Writers is also up tomorrow. Plan to do two separate posts about these. See above.

I may need to share my author newsletter a couple of days early as I won’t be about on 1st November. You know how sometimes things pan out beautifully – one thing comes along, then another, then another and all is well. Well, sometimes you get everything happening at once and I’m at that point right now! Takes deep breath, will stay calm and carry on!

 

Lady had a fabulous time with her best buddies, the Rhodesian Ridgeback and Hungarian Vizler today. It was lovely seeing them run around. Lady has to have a good run once a day (the rest of her exercise is walking) and what is nice is I can always tell when she’s really enjoyed herself. How? On the way home, she will look up at me with bright shining eyes and her tail is going nineteen to the dozen as if to say “thanks, Mum, I needed that.”. Dogs are honest about how they feel. We, and our characters, aren’t necessarily!

If you have a character who has to hide their true feelings, they’ve got to have a decent reason for doing so. It is a common theme in romance of course but it can apply to other genres too. Ironically in crime stories, often you will know who the murderer is, it is case of finding out how the detective finds them out. That wonderful series Columbo was brilliant at that. As the story plays out , we find out how the murderer tried to cover up their tracks and of course they can give away no signs of guilt etc.

So how can we have our character do one thing but feel another? Internal thoughts can of course reveal how they are really feeling. But showing a character hesitating before taking a certain course of action can also show a character who has split feelings.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My latest #FridayFlashFiction story is called Competition and you find out what could happen when Humpty Dumpty talks with one of the bears from Goldilocks. Great fun to write and a huge thank you for the wonderful comments in on this so far. Feedback is always appreciated, writers learn a lot from it, and a pat on the pack is particularly nice at the end of a busy week! Also a quick shout-out to another friend of mine making her debut on Friday Flash Fiction – well done to #RosemaryJohnson.
Screenshot 2021-10-29 at 17-09-06 Competition, by Allison Symes


I’m looking forward to being at the Brechin/Angus Book Fest from 19th to 21st November where I’ll be running a flash fiction workshop and giving an author talk. What is nice about the workshop is there are various ways “into” starting to write flash pieces and I will be sharing some of those for that. I hope these encourage people to give flash a try.

The nice thing with creative writing is there isn’t any competition as far as I’m concerned. We all have our own unique author voice and it can take a while to find what yours is, it took me ages to find mine, but once you have it, away you go.

As well as being published in the form, flash has brought other opportunities to my door, including Brechin, radio interviews, taking part in Open Prose Mic Nights and it has all been great fun. Long may this continue!


Most of my flash fiction tales come in at the 100-word mark (and even more do so now I’m submitting tales regularly to #FridayFlashFiction). It’s also apt as it was the good old drabble as the 100-word story is known which got me into flash fiction writing in the first place.

But I do like to write across the spectrum. It’s good practice. It means you have an even wider of competitions and markets to approach. Having said that, the vast majority of mine still come in at 500 words or under. I do think you eventually find what is your natural writing zone and that appears to be mine!

But I worry about the word count aspect only when I’ve got the story down. Putting it aside to rest for a while, I can come back to the story and read it as a reader would. That makes it easier to spot the flaws and there are always some of those! But I also get to see more clearly thanks to giving myself some distance from that first draft the “heart” of the tale and from that can work out what I need to keep and what needs to come out.

Sometimes it works out a story works better at 500 words rather than 250 and that’s fine. Usually it is a case I have details which add depth to my character(s) and the story would be poorer without those details in so I leave them in.

Fairytales with Bite – Setting Scenes

What aspects of your magical setting does a reader need to know? And how can you indicate this is a fantasy setting where magic will happen? How will your readers find out what your characters can’t do/are banned from doing? (The two aren’t the same and there will be many a story to be had from following the adventures of characters who decide to defy whatever the ban might be).

I’ve talked before about telling details and writing down possibles here can help clarify things for you. (I often use spider diagrams and the like to work out different story possibilities but you can use the same things for working out what scenes have to be in your story and also what needs to be in those scenes).

Fantasy settings can be indicated by things like:-

  • Colour of sky/ground/seas if different from Earth.
  • The kind of buildings that exist
  • Showing a character using magic as a matter of routine
  • What your characters look like. If they’re humanoid how do they differ from us? If they’re not humanoid at all, your readers will need to know what they are to be able to visualise them.

Examples of telling details could be:-

  • Colour of hair (or equivalent) especially if different from us
  • How characters speak, write etc again especially if different from us
  • How the world is governed (you won’t need everything here. What readers need to know is whether your characters live in a free society of under a dictatorship).
  • What would count as standard “powers”? What would be extraordinary? (And you can show that by contrasting two characters with different skill sets. One will be seen to be lower than the other in terms of how their skills are valued – this will also show something of the class structure in your world too).

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This World and Others – The Need to Know Question

Ah but who needs to know what in your created world, that is the question. Forget the to be or not to be question posed by Shakespeare. Information is power no matter what world your characters are in so how is information shared in your setting or is it only available to the privileged few? Is information manipulated before being “allowed out there” and what kind of technology does your world have to share it?

What would happen if your government really does need the populace to take in necessary information but they won’t do so, being cynical of any government pronouncement? How do the powers that be get around that one?

Also who decides who needs to know? Can they be bribed or threatened to make information available to others?

Who needs to know? Is there such a thing as whistleblowers in your creation? What happens to them?

Who creates the information in the first place? Do journalists, writers etc., have any say in what information they produce?

Think about what might happen if a long cherished nugget of information is exposed as a lie. What ramifications would that have?

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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Competition, by Allison Symes – Friday Flash Fiction <a href=”https://t.co/XIwz3UQNlz”>https://t.co/XIwz3UQNlz</a&gt; Delighted to share the link to my latest drabble on Friday Flash Fiction. What happens when Humpty Dumpty has a chat with one of the bears from the Goldilocks story? Find out here! <a href=”https://t.co/n6bde4xJQa”>pic.twitter.com/n6bde4xJQa</a></p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1454118628777988101?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 29, 2021</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Book Lists <a href=”https://t.co/Sqsf1Z3UwL”>https://t.co/Sqsf1Z3UwL</a&gt; My topic for CFT this week is close to my heart – Book Lists. Every writer has two – one for books they want to read and others they want to write! I’m focusing on ones to read. Posts like this celebrate books which is always worth doing!</p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1454142514554888194?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 29, 2021</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>More than Writers: Writing Days by Allison Symes <a href=”https://t.co/494Qu84AS7″>https://t.co/494Qu84AS7</a&gt; My turn on the ACW blog again this month. I share hints and tips on making the most of a writing day and how to re-create the buzz from these when you're at home. Hope you find the post useful. <a href=”https://t.co/uxgfKfKFbH”>pic.twitter.com/uxgfKfKFbH</a></p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1454143450144706564?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 29, 2021</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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Triggers and Descriptions

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. Image of me signing at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School was kindly taken by Fiona Park while the photo of Lady and I examining my books was taken by Adrian Symes. I took the photo of my two flash collections for sale at Swanwick in August 2021.
Hope you have had a good few days. Writing going well. Weather less so right now!

Facebook – General

I swear it was almost time to call Noah out again given the amount of rain that has fallen in my part of Hampshire today! Hope it is not too bad where you are.

Have booked my train tickets for the Brechin/Angus Book Festival in November. I always get tickets posted so hopefully these will be with me in a few days.

Have got my train tickets for the first Association of Christian Writers in-person to be held since before lockdown – that will be on 9th October. Looking forward to that and seeing everyone again. I will make use of my railcard this year! (And it will be nice to hopefully sell a few books in person again too!).

My lovely editor at Chandler’s Ford Today and I are planning to be at the next production by The Chameleon Theatre Group in October (which will be Murder With Ghosts – sounds fun!). Definitely time for another CFT “works outing” I feel. Not the same when I go on my own!

Hope you have had a good Monday. Was pleased to get a significant amount of editing done over the weekend on what I hope will end up being my third flash fiction collection. And I managed to draft some future blogs so those will come in handy in due course.

Am enjoying the new series of Just a Minute. It is odd not having Nicholas Parsons in the chair but Sue Perkins is doing a grand job. One of the reasons I love this show is there is some wonderful word play and I always have a lot of time for that! It also shows how difficult it is not to repeat. Every word has to count – and I guess that would always prove popular with a flash fiction writer.

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Many thanks for the comments coming in on An Undesirable Property, my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Much appreciated. Am currently working on another story for this week’s submission and hope to get that polished and sent off later this evening.

I’ll be looking at Pinch, Punch, The First of the Month as my topic for Chandler’s Ford Today this week given Friday will be 1st October. I’ll also look at how we can use sayings in our fiction and non-fiction. I’ve used several sayings as titles and/or themes for my flash fiction stories, for example. So don’t throw out your books of proverbs and well known sayings. Mine them for ideas!

Talking of the first of the month, my author newsletter will go out on Friday as well. I share tips, news, writing prompts, and stories here. If you’d like to sign up head over to my website (landing page).

 

Hope you have had a good Saturday. Nice to catch up with friends and family today. Lady loved seeing everyone. She loves people (and the food they drop of course). Autumn evenings drawing in – getting dark here before 8 pm.

I don’t use a lot of description, mainly because in flash room for this is limited. What I look for is the telling detail, something that will show a reader setting, character age/class (often done via the name I give them – names can date people – mine does as I mentioned the other day), or story mood.

It is a case of working out what a reader has to know and what can be left for them to pick up on inference/context. I ask myself when editing a story, does the tale make sense without it? Does the tale lose anything if I take this out?

I am more interested in character than description anyway. I want to know what a character is like. Finding out where they live is, for me, something I will pick up as I keep reading. What I don’t want is to be switched off by long descriptions.

I want the dialogue, the character’s thoughts etc and description slipped in every now and then. I will “assimilate” that. I don’t want a great big block of description (and I am wary that kind of thing is likely to switch a lot of readers off. They want to know what is happening as opposed to what something looks like).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Triggers for story ideas can come from anywhere – and at unexpected times. (Not always convenient times either). I’ve never used the keep a notebook and pen by your bed so if you wake up with a great idea you can jot it down quickly. Why? Because when I’m asleep, that is it.

I don’t tend to dream story ideas. They come to me as I’m getting on with other things, which is fine if I can pause to jot things down, but that is not always possible. I have had odd ideas come to me when in the shower, when I’ve just parked, when on the loo etc. What I will do here is grab my phone and use Evernote to jot things down as quickly as I can after the idea has occurred. Best endeavours and all that).

But I worry less now about “missing an idea” because I know now in a way I didn’t when starting out that ideas will crop up. It’s not as if you have one “go” at getting ideas, far from it.

The best trigger I know and often make use of is to ask the old “what if” question? For Being Yourself in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I knew my character was going to be accused by a love rival of being cold. So I asked myself what if my character could become cold? What would that make her capable of and how could she use this against her rival?

And random generators can be a good way of triggering words to put into a story. I’ve done this recently and I came up with promising words and then asked the what if question. That showed me how to use this words well and two of my more recent videos on my YouTube channel came about because I did this.

 


Delighted to share my latest YouTube video called Housework. Even dragons tidy up when they have a strong enough motivation to do so. Hope you enjoy.

F = Fun to Write – and you can write across genres too.
L = Less is More – what are the telling details your reader must know?
A = Always axe anything that does not move your story along in some way.
S = Story, story, story. What happens? How does your character change? What is the important thing we need to know about your character in this tale?
H = Has an upper limit of 1000 words but you can write across the spectrum. There are different categories including the dribble (50 words) and drabble (100 words – and my favourite). You can pack a lot into a tiny tale whether or not you go to the upper word limit.

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I was talking over on my author page about not wanting a lot of description. There isn’t room for it in flash anyway. I chatted about telling details and working out what a reader has to know. Some examples from my published stories include:-

Making the Grade – one word, “magical” ahead of the word “exams” shows my reader the character is not in any ordinary school and they have talents we do not.

Pen Portrait – “brushed her hair once a day” shows you my character, whatever else she is, isn’t vain.

It Has to be Me – the words “you break customs at your peril” shows you my character lives in a repressive world.

There is an indication of setting in two of these as well.

Also, given we live in a TV and film era, the days of long descriptions are behind us, I think. Someone like Dickens had to spell out what London looked like for readers who would probably never go there. We, on the other hand, can take shortcuts here as we can set a story in London and most people will have their own ideas as to what that looks like.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Shopping

Book shopping is an absolute pleasure, of course, and I like to mix up how I do this. I do shop online but mix up the retailers I use (and I like to also support those who support independent bookshops. I have used You Know Who and I have found them helpful with out of print books in the past. I also believe in not putting all my eggs in one basket here but that goes for You Know Who as well as the other retailers here).

I also love going into a “proper” bookshop and browsing. Have not done the latter yet since the pandemic restrictions were lifted but hope it will be something I get back to before too long.
And the nice thing here is that book shopping is easy enough for family and friends to do for you for Christmas etc. Just give them a list of the books you want and send them to Waterstones!

I also like to mix up asking for paperbacks and ebooks (though usually I’ll sort out the latter myself). And I like to have non-fiction as well as fiction on my Wish List. The downside of all of this?

I know I need to sort out my book shelves. Adding more books is not going to help! But it is a nice problem to have!

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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.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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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