Brand Recognition and Why Reading Into Writing Will Go

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 Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her. Image of Joy Margetts kindly supplied by her.  Image of Maressa Mortimer kindly supplied by her. Images of me, Allison Symes, happily signing a contract taken by Adrian Symes. Think that covers everyone!

Hope you have had a good week. Busy on the blogging front today – more below. (And I have some exciting non-fiction publication news too).

IMPACT - Blogging. Pixabay

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post on Brand Recognition and Why It Matters. Years ago, any kind of marketing was done by publishers on behalf of their authors. That practice went out when Noah left the Ark…

Now every writer has to carry out at least some marketing to get their voice heard and books known about so it means we do all have to think about what “brand” we want to get across to potential readers. You want something so that people recognise yes, this is X’s kind of thing etc. In this post, I share some thoughts on creativity, persistence, accepting building a brand takes time, choosing a platform and so on.

Hope you find the post useful.

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Facebook – General – and Authors Electric

It’s a busy day on the blogging front for me. Am pleased to share my latest Authors Electric post – Reading Into Writing Will Go.

I think a love of reading is the biggest creative kickstart for writing there can be. A love of stories and storytelling has to come from somewhere after all.

I also share in this post how that love of reading, started by my late mother, was fuelled even further by excellent English teaching at school. What I wasn’t aware of at the time was the kind of teaching I had was going to come in so useful for writing my own stories so many years later.

And reading so well gives you an almost subconscious method of spotting how a book should look, how dialogue should be set out and so on. So let’s hear it for reading!

PUBLICATION NEWS


Am thrilled to announce I am taking part in a non-fiction book produced by #WendyHJones. What I can say now is the book will be called Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing and I will be “between the covers” with the following lovely people, as well as with Wendy herself.

Kirsten Bett
Lorraine Smith
Allison Symes (I have heard she’s okay – honest).
Nanette Fairley
Jennifer Ngulube
Andrew Chamberlain
Maressa Mortimer
Elizabeth Power
Janet Wilson
Fay Rowland
Joy Margetts

Looking forward to sharing more as and when I can. What I can also say now is this book will be the third in Wendy’s Writing Matters series (and it so does!). Very excited about this as it will be my first venture in print with the non-fiction side of what I do. Yay!

(And yes I am rather chuffed about it all as you may be able to tell).


Hope you are all well. A tad cooler today though storms are predicted later. Thankfully Lady is not fazed by thunder. My other two collies were terrified of it. Lady is not fazed by fireworks eit- ther though she does get annoyed thanks to the idiot near me who sets off the very loud ones late at night (and they really do sound like a bomb going off). You can hear Lady’s annoyance in her bark. Very much a “would you shut the hell up” kind of bark. No prizes for guessing where my sympathies lie.

Where do you go for publishing advice if you’re new to the business? There are two major ports of call as far as I’m concerned.

Firstly, the Society of Authors saved me a small fortune by pointing out what was wrong with a very dodgy contract I’d been offered. Beware the vanity press!

Secondly, the Alliance of Independent Authors is an umbrella group designed for indie authors and the self published so do check them out.

Thirdly, do regularly look at the Writer Beware! website. While US-based, the advice given is sound and boundaries are meaning less here as scammers will always seek to scam in more than one market if they possibly can!

Always check things out before signing up to anything.

You can (and should) walk away from anything you’re not happy about (I did and I had no sign of being published anywhere else at the time but I have never regretted doing this).

Never sign anything you have not had checked out by reputable sources.

Do check out the writing forums. People do share their experiences of publishing companies and services here and you can learn a great deal here.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to share my latest tale from #FridayFlashFiction – this one is called Security. It is not easy being a leprechaun charged with not allowing anyone or anything to steal the gold. See how he gets on in my latest 100-word drabble.

Screenshot 2021-06-18 at 11-42-11 Security, by Allison Symes


One of my favourite tricks of the trade is to stamp on adjectives. I know, I know. There ought to be a campaign against cruelty to adjectives but there isn’t so really tough luck. (See what I did there).

To be serious for a moment, I no longer worry about cutting words like this out. Why?

Compare the following:-

She ran quickly up the hill.
She raced up the hill.

For my money, the latter is by far the stronger image. You have a sense of speed and determination with that word “raced”, even a sense of urgency and that is conveyed in one word. Running quickly is far weaker. What is quick after all? That can vary so I would say this was not specific enough. It does not give you the sense of speed, determination, and urgency either.

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Many thanks for the great response to my WordPress blog round up on my https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com site yesterday. I issue these every Tuesday and Friday. I like to see them as a kind of magazine style round up (and it makes a great place to share videos and flash stories in one place). And this is it, of course, but I was particularly pleased with the response on Facebook for when I shared the link for Tuesday’s post. It was a good one!

Flash is a great vehicle for sharing on social media. I sometimes take part on Twitter in those posts which put up a picture and ask you to submit a six words or fewer story in response to it. All good fun.

The biggest overall benefit for writing flash though has been to sharpen up my writing across the board including for my non-fiction. It is an ongoing benefit too! It has taught me to look for where I can tighten my writing. There always is something. But that’s what the editing process is for after all.

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Fairytales with Bite – Top Ten – What Not To Do In a Magical World

  • Annoy anyone who looks as if they could wave a wand about menacingly. It’s never a good move.
  • Judge beings by their appearance. Best to assume even the most unlikely looking being is more powerful magically than you are. You won’t offend. They won’t curse you.
  • Assume just because you can read, you can make a spell book work for you. Things will go horribly wrong.
  • Gaze into a complete stranger’s crystal ball. What you will see will not be pleasant. Any sensible owner of such things will put something horrible over it to prevent what we would know as hacking.
  • Eat or drink anything where you don’t know what the ingredients are. This is a good move in non-magical worlds too.
  • Call for a republic when you’re in the Fairy Kingdom. It’s not going to go down well.
  • Despise the youngest of three – they usually turn out to be the hero/heroine. You will want them to remember you, be kind to you, and maybe help you get home again.
  • Refer to dragons as great, big ugly brutes. Not only do they want to be treated with respect, they have remarkable powers so assume your comments would be overheard. They would want revenge though it would be quick one.
  • Eat a complete stranger’s porridge, break their chair etc. It’s been done and it didn’t bode well for the culprit last time.
  • Buy cheap looking building materials from anyone wearing what looks like a very hairy suit. If you want to build a house to live in, always go for brick. The one in the hairy suit has motives of their own for selling you shoddy materials (though he does have a dinner date in mind. A one-sided one but it would be a dinner date).

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This World and Others – Classic Mistakes

Now a topic like this can cover classic mistakes made by characters or you, the writer. I’ll focus on the latter for this post as my Fairytales with Bite post above does indicate mistakes that can be made by characters.

Don’t feel you need to put in all the information you needed to create your world into your story. You need enough to convince yourself your world is real but the reader doesn’t necessarily need to know all of that. What a reader will pick up on is the writer’s confidence in their creation. Focus on showing your readers what they need to know to make sense of your world.

I love writing dialogue or even a character’s thoughts in my flash fiction and short stories. But it has to be relevant to your story and to keep it moving forward or it reveals crucial information. It is so tempting to keep an interesting conversation going between your people when it isn’t that important to the plot.

Don’t use too much of whatever language you’ve invented because readers will quickly become bored of it if they can’t work out what is meant from context. Use a little sparingly to give a flavour and that will work far better. I find reading Old English incredibly difficult, to name one example, and it is the story you want to get across to your readers, not the ins and outs of what you’ve invented to give them the story. (With The Lord of the Rings it is the overall story I’m interested in, not necessarily the appendices!). Keep it relevant Is a good motto.

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Finding Themes

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.

It has been a reasonable week. At least the summer has now turned up (not before time in the UK if you ask me!) and I share a new Friday Flash Fiction acrostic story too. (Screenshot of part of that story taken by me, Allison Symes. You’ll need to follow the link below to read the rest of it!). Screenshot of my profile page on CafeLit also taken by me, Allison Symes.

And whatever your writing/reading journey has been this week, I hope it was a good one.

All forms of fiction and non-fiction, short or long, will take you into different worlds and sometimes back and forward in time too

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


Pleased to share Finding Themes, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. Glad to see comments coming In already. Do feel free to comment on the CFT page.

I discuss some of my favourite themes here and why I find having a theme useful in story telling. I also look at spotting the underlying themes in stories and what the purpose of themes is for a writer.

Of course any writing competition which isn’t an open one gives themes for writers to try so it is worth practicing writing to a theme. The classic ones come up time and again and rightly so as these have powerful resonance.

There is never going to be a time without love stories, justice tales etc. We relate to these things at deep levels. Fiction reflects life and what matters to us after all (and yes even the fantasy ones do as it tends to the characters we related to based on our own experiences of life).

Hope you enjoy the post.

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Finding Themes, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post, is up tomorrow. Do themes come easily to you? I have certain ones that I adore (justice will out, eventually is one of mine) but I find that my characters can dictate the theme. For example in my The Pink Rose from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my two characters, mother and daughter, make the theme obvious – love continues no matter what life throws in the way. (Also that simple ways of showing love are often the best).

Certain themes dictate the kind of characters that have to serve them. For example, a justice will out theme has to have an antagonist and a protagonist. Someone must have done something wrong for that wrong to be righted. What can vary here is the kind of people you use here. They don’t have to be all action heroes. Perhaps an older person (or other being of choice) finds a way of righting a wrong they themselves committed long ago and they finally want to make atonement.

Link up for CFT tomorrow. (Comments always welcome on the CFT page incidentally).


Another lovely day and Lady gets to play with her best buddie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Both of them had an excellent day! Looking forward to a refreshing swim tomorrow. You can tell the weather is hot outside when the pool water feels refreshing rather than perishing cold (though I think the latter is a ploy to make you start swimming quickly – it works too!). Had my hair done again today too – lovely job done as ever by Lisa from Snips.

Writing wise, I’m busy drafting pieces for submission in the next week or so and I am trying to keep at least a week ahead on my Chandler’s Ford Today posts. I have found that pays off, especially with my longer projects on the go. My CFT theme this week is, appropriately, Finding Themes. Link up on Friday.

I have got into the habit of drafting blog posts for a variety of places, including here, that I can schedule in advance or have to hand to share when writing time is limited or if tiredness is getting the better of me. (It does for us all from time to time!). This is a great use for those pockets of time when I’ve got time to draft something short and fancy writing some non-fiction in that time. (Naturally when I fancy fiction, I’ll be drafting flash fiction stories).

There is no one way to write that will suit every author. How can there be? No two writers approach what they do in exactly the same way. We are all inspired by different things (though there will be things in common too). What is the “secret”for an effective and efficient writer is to work in a way that you can manage and sustain and still find enjoyable after xxx numbers of years writing.

I can’t imagine writing on the fly, so to speak. I am one of life’s planners. What I do like is jotting down ideas that I can play with and write up later. I don’t have any preset ideas here as to how I’m going to write up those notes but ideas do come. I think it is the case the act of jotting down that note plants something useful in my subconscious I can draw on later. It is also a question of refilling my imaginative well regularly too (and the best way of doing that by far is by reading! What’s not to love about that?).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thrilled to say my New In Town, a new acrostic flash tale, is now up on #FridayFlashFiction. Many thanks for the comments that have come in on this so far – the feedback on this site is so useful. Like to think of this one as a cautionary tale. Hope you enjoy it.

Screenshot 2021-06-11 at 16-34-07 New In Town by Allison Symes

For the rest of the story, see the link!


I like to mix up the kind of flash fiction I write in terms of word count. Keeps life interesting! My favourite is the 100-worder (aka the drabble) but the advantage of the longer form (say between 750 and the 1000 words maximum) is that I can have more than one character in it. There’s even a little room for a minor sub-plot (but it has to be minor and serve the overall story to justify being in it).

Sometimes a flash story takes off and I end up with a 1500 words plus short tale instead but I simply edit this and then submit it to a diffferent market. Another lovely thing about CafeLit is they like tales of varying length too so do check them out if you like writing short stories and flash tales. There is a great mixture here.

My most recent one here, That Was the Week That Was, comes in at just under 500 words and spans a week in the life of my character. (Using a time frame for your story can work wonderfully for flash and short stories and I need to try and use this more often because it is an easy thing to overlook. Can help increase tension too as you read what happens day by day or hour by hour or what have you. Also there is a good structure built in with this kind of frame. You just need to decide how long that frame is going to be. In this case I knew it would be a week).
Allison Symes - Cafelit Profile page
I mix up the way I open a flash tale (or short story come to that). Sometimes I ask questions, which I then need to answer in the course of the story. Sometimes I make a statement which is out of the ordinary so readers have to read on to find out what is going on.

Sometimes I take a reader straight into my character’s head and that can be a fascinating, funny, or horrific experience, depending on the character I’ve written up and the genre of the tale. But what is common to all of this is that the opening has to intrigue. If I’m not intrigued by it, then a reader is unlikely to be.

And being intrigued enough to want to read on to find out what happens is the goal of any writer. Hook, hook, hook them in!

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Fairytales with Bite – Magical One-Liners

Potential throw-away lines from fairytale characters could include the following:-

Cinderella – You expect me to dance in glass slippers without cutting my feet to ribbons? Your wand is playing up isn’t it, fairy godmother?

Snow White – Of course I’ll have an apple with you, old apple seller. We’ve got to get our five a day in somehow, yes?

Goldilocks – What kind of bear has porridge for breakfast and lives in a house? Someone clearly hasn’t heard of the call of the wild then…

Sleeping Beauty – Time to wake up already? Can’t I just have another 48 hours? A girl needs her beauty sleep.

The Little Mermaid – Don’t let that fishmonger anywhere near me. I didn’t like the way he was looking at my tail….

The Snow Queen – It is never time to get the sunscreen out. We keep it chilled here. Mind, I do like ice in my drinks. It’s funny you should ask.

Hope you enjoy. (And I sympathise with Cinders here. I’d have been miffed to have gone out anywhere in uncomfortable footwear yet alone to a royal ball. Can you imagine the blisters on her feet the next day?!).

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This World and Others – World Building Favourites

When creating your fictional worlds, what aspect do you like best and why? For every type of story I write from the 100-worder upwards, it is the characters who intrigue me. I love inventing people (or those of other species. I’ve written a story from the viewpoint of a mother dragon in my time – well someone had to do so!).

Do you like the actual world building? I can imagine the great joy to be had in creating fantasy maps and the like – great fun to do I would have thought but given I’m useless at drawing (trust me Pictionary is not the game for me!), that one bypasses me completely.

I suppose because I am on the side of character in the great character -v- plot debate, it is no great surprise that I come in on the side of those who drive any story. It is the characters and what happens to them that we as readers want to find out more about.

But it is important to have fun with your writing, whichever aspect of it you like best. That fun and enjoyment helps to keep you going.

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Summer Here, Maybe; Gossip, and Transformations

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 reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic Night taken by Penny Blackburn. Thanks, Penny! Also image of writers including yours truly at Swanwick was taken by Cheryl Holland on my phone. Thanks, Cheryl.

Screenshots re Mom’s Favorite Reads taken by me, Allison Symes.

Strange weather again this week but am pleased to be expanding my non-fiction work. And there is a new story to share. It is so good to be writing 100-worders aka drabbles again.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post, Summer Here, Maybe? Given the weather this week, it is an appropriate title. (Still have central heating on in June… not good!)

I look at my writing plans, look forward to writing events, and discuss holiday reading. One lovely thing about books is they can help you escape from the cares of the world for a bit, so even if you’re not having a holiday as such, a good book and time to enjoy it can make you feel as if you have got away for a while, if only into the world of that book. (Yet another reason for me not to read too much dystopian fiction! When I escape into a book, I want to emerge feeling as if I have been refreshed and entertained, not plunged into doom and then face the news!).

I am also delighted to hear that our wonderful local amateur dramatic group, The Chameleon Theatre Group, are planning to be back later this summer. So hopefully that will mean a return to “CFT works outings” for my lovely CFT editor, Janet Williams, and I! And it will so be good to welcome the Chameleons back. They have staged wonderful shows.

Summer Time, Maybe…

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Lovely chat with fellow dog walker in the park this morning. Her wonderful Hungarian Vizler is so polite. Whenever this Vizler shares water with Lady, she then gives me a huge lick as if to say thank you! (Lady’s best buddie, the Ridgeback, does this too). Lady, I’m afraid, gets her water down and doesn’t give another thought to it. What she will do is look up at me with happy shiny eyes after her playtime as if to say “Mum, that was great”. (Another good sign Lady has had a fab time is when she crashes out on the sofa – as she is currently doing).

So thrilled to be in Mom’s Favorite Reads this month. See https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2021/06/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-june-2021/ for more info. I’ve been wanting to expand my non-fiction work for a while so this is a great development.

(And of course preparing talks has been a new thing for me this year and that comes into this category too. All great fun to do, wonderful experience, and something I never anticipated doing when I started out. This is where it is wonderful that you don’t know where the writing journey will take you. There have been some lovely surprises along the way and this is one of them).

For your fiction, do your characters ever surprise you? Because I outline them before I write, I know what mine are generally capable of but every so often they can take me aback. I then look at my outline to see if I really did know my characters as well as I thought I did. I also look at the surprise they’ve given me (and it’s never without good reason) and work out what I can do with it. I also look at how that affects the earlier part of the story.

A “good” surprise (in terms of plot development) stays in. A “weak” surprise which doesn’t add anything useful but is merely an extension of the character’s personality stays out. I find better ways of showing the extension to the personality instead – and there always are better ways. Usually it’s because I haven’t been clear enough on something earlier on so that gets changed and beefed up accordingly.

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Strange day today. Started off warm and sunny. By lunchtime it was raining! Have gone from bodywarmer to thick dog walking coat in a space of a couple of hours. Hope tomorrow is more settled.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is called Summer Here, Maybe? Given today’s weather my question here is not so inappropriate after all! But I do share positive things in this post and talk about summer plans and holiday reading amongst other things. I also look at my writing plans and am thrilled to say The Chameleon Theatre Group, our excellent amateur theatre company, are planning their return this summer. Am so looking forward to seeing and reviewing their shows again.

It pays every so often to take a little time out to work out where you are with your writing. Are you where you wanted to be? Is there something you’ve always wanted to try but have never got around to writing?

Firstly, don’t worry if the answer to the first question is No. Plans change. You may discover new forms of writing, as I did, and focus on that. Also it is too easy to underestimate the time you need to find your writing voice and hone it.

Then there is the discovery of what works when submitting to this market, what works to submitting to that one and so on. One of the lovely things about writing is there is no retirement age. Have fun writing and if it takes you thirty years to get published, so be it. Your main focus must be on writing what you love to write. That love will help you keep going when the rejections come in and they will.

Secondly, if there is an area of writing you’d like to try, go for it. Do it for fun. Experiment. Have fun playing with words and if something comes from it, brilliant. If not, you will at least have the satisfaction of having given it a go.

And good luck!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thrilled to say my latest drabble, Gossip, is now up on #FridayFlashFiction. Hope you enjoy. This is one of those tales where the mood changes on two words – see if you can spot what they are! I love doing this kind of thing with my flash stories. Great fun and it is also a case of working out exactly where to place those “change” words for the best effect. It isn’t always right at the end of the story funnily enough. It isn’t here.


Thanks for the great response to my post about Transformations yesterday. I do miss going to the Waterloo Arts Festival and catching up with many Bridge House Publishing and CafeLit friends. (But I hope we can get to meet up later in the year and I am so looking forward to catching up with friends from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August).

Characters transform of course. That is the whole point of any story. There has to be change. Sometimes it is positive (Scrooge), sometimes it’s not. (Think about Marley with those chains on him for eternity. The only thing he could do was to try to help Scrooge. Marley’s realisation of the need to change came far too late).

But changes don’t always have to be the obvious “dramatic” ones. In flash fiction, changes can be more subtle. What your reader wants is to follow a character’s journey through from beginning to end and see how what character changed. In my character study They Don’t Understand the point of change for my lead here is in realising how one mistake made many years ago has led him to the situation he is narrating to us.

Changes also have to be reasonably realistic for your characters too. Unless set in a magical world, your lead character is unlikely to suddenly sprout wings and be able to fly out of trouble. (It is a good trick if you can do it though – it just wouldn’t make for a convincing story, even in fantasy. The ability to fly has to be signposted earlier on, you can’t just spring things on your reader!).

 

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I was delighted when Transformations came out. This is the paperback/ebook compilation of the winning stories from the last three years of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition. I was privileged to win three years in a row with stories in very different moods.

My Progressing is a humorous fairytale, The Professional is anything but funny but shows my character justifying what it is they do, and Books and the Barbarians looks at how emerging literacy changes a community. All great fun to write but so different in mood.

And I love that about flash fiction. All three of these tales are at the 1000 word maximum word count for flash but I took my characters in very different directions here.

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Fairytales With Bite – Magazines for the Magical

I’ve been delighted this week to appear in Mom’s Favorite Reads for the first time with an article on flash fiction (and I share a tale here too). See https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2021/06/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-june-2021/ for more info. (You can also find out what role sharks play in my writing journey too).

But this led me to wonder what kind of periodicals might be found in a magical environment (as you do!).

Witch Wand – well there has to be a magazine dealing with magical equipment. If you’re going to show off with what you’ve got here, you want to have the equipment with the best reviews. This magazine will help a lot there!

The Best Spells for Arrogant Heroes – one for the fairy godmother or witch wanting to cut someone down to size. This is usually done by transforming said arrogant hero into an unsightly beast for a bit. So your average fairy godmother and witch will want a useful guide as to which spells would work best so to have all that info in an easy to read magazine would do the job nicely.

Wizard World – definitely one for the blokes and has a handy job adverts page for those wizards seeking apprentices.

Food and Drink – A Magical Guide. Useful for evil stepmothers to work out the best foods to use for poisoning purposes. Also useful for those wanting to plant edible things that a visitor to their world will want to eat or drink so they can get to the next stage in their journey. (Greedy girls called Alice will like that).

Wildlife Care – Useful for those fairy godmothers who like transforming wildlife into footmen, coaches etc. Will give advice on how to look after those creatures before and after their transformations (assuming they survive it of course).

 

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This World and Others – Literacy

Is your fictional world literate? If not, why not? What does it do to be able to communicate and make its people(s) understand instructions etc if reading and writing are not options?

If it is literate, what is this based on? Texts as we know them or work that is written on stone tablets? Are only certain beings allowed to be literate? How is literacy taught and is there such a thing as fictional books in your world?

If you have a world that is trying to improve itself via literacy, what made them decide to do that? Are they making good progress?

If literacy is forbidden, why is this? Are there “underground” libraries or readers? Are books valued by the general population?

I know I appreciate literacy. I love history, both fictional and fact, and am well aware had I been born in medieval times, I would’ve been an illiterate peasant! I can’t imagine my life without books but that’s a good thing. But stories can be created by coming up with worlds and peoples where literacy is not a given thing.

Happy writing!

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Writing Prompts, Contract News, and An Artful Story

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.

Images from the Share Your Story Writing Summit kindly supplied by the organisers. Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her.

Hope you have had a good week. Have had exciting contract news in the last couple of days which I share below. (Images of me signing said contract taken by Adrian Symes).

Thrilled to be taking part in a book about writing by Wendy H Jones

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share Writing Prompts, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. I share a few differing kinds, discuss why prompts are useful, and why it is a good idea to practice them. Hope you enjoy this and find it useful.

A number of my published stories started life as responses to writing prompts so you now know why I am fond of them!

Oh and I’ll get a quick plug in for my monthly author newsletter too as I share writing prompts there too. If you would like to sign up for this, please head over to my landing page right here at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

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Contract News!

Big news! Thrilled to say I have just signed a contract to produce a chapter on flash fiction for a book #WendyHJones is editing on writing. Look forward to sharing more as and when possible but meanwhile here are the pics of one very happy author!

Don’t forget my Chandler’s Ford Today post is up tomorrow and is all about Writing Prompts. Hope you find it useful. Link up tomorrow. (See above!).

(I couldn’t tell you how many writing prompts I’ve used in my time but they are a fantastic way to kickstart some writing and I have had published stories as a result of using them. What’s not to like about that?!).

Am also thrilled to bits that a dear friend of mine has a piece of flash fiction up on CafeLit. Do check this wonderful online magazine out. There is a wonderful mix of stories and styles here. Yes, yes, I know. I am biased, I write for CafeLit, yes, of course I’m biased but that’s not the same as being wrong! And I’m not here – go on, pop over and have a good read. You really will find several things to suit you here. 

Happy to sign a contract


Sun turned up today – hooray – and Lady got to play with many of her best buddies including the loveliest Rhodesian Ridgeback, a cute mini Jack Russell, a Hungarian Vizler, and a new chum, a lovely Whippet called Sky. Lady went home shattered but happy. Job done there then!

Questions to ask your characters. Bear in mind also if you’re writing non-fiction, if you are using a narrative voice, you can treat that voice as a character, so some of these questions at least may also be worth trying. So what to ask then as part of your outline?

  1. What do you really want and why?
  2. What stops you getting what you really want?
  3. Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?
  4. How are you going to achieve your objectives?
  5. Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?
  6. Are you making your life unnecessarily complicated? (Worth asking this one – any complications getting in the way of your character achieving what they want should be those that arise naturally out of the plot. There should be nothing that seems “faked” to increase the tension in the story. The tension should be genuine, the obstacles real and so on.
  7. For a non-fictional narrator, a good question to ask instead of this one is are you communicating as clearly as possible (i.e. go for clarity, not gobbledegook, don’t make your narration unnecessarily complicated? Are you conveying the facts reasonably? Are you backing the facts up with evidence? What are your sources?).
  8. What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?
  9. What if you’re wrong? (How would your character handle that? That could make for a really interesting story).
    Are there limits you won’t cross (and if so what are these? What is your thinking behind this?).
  10. Are there rules you are prepared to break? What would the consequences be? How are you going to limit your risk (or are you not worried about that? Some characters aren’t!).

Now if answering those questions doesn’t generate story ideas, I’d be very surprised!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to say I have another 100-word story on #FridayFlashFiction.
Assumptions is about Mary who thinks she is good at art but is she? Hope you like it.

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I have very good cause to appreciate flash fiction. It has led to me having two books to my name (From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic). It has led to me taking part in an international summit (the Share Your Story Writing Summit back in March).

It has led to me giving Zoom talks to a WI group and writing groups. It led to me having a book signing in a railway station (yes, really and obviously before You Know What).

It has led to me being on internet radion and being interviewed by the lovely #HannahKate for her Hannah’s Bookshelf show on North Manchester FM.

Then there is the podcast appearance on #WendyHJones’ The Writing and Marketing Show. I’ve also judged flash fiction writing.

Talking of Wendy though, the latest big news is I will be contributing a chapter to her book on writing and naturally I’ll be writing about flash fiction. Am thrilled to bits. Will share more news as and when I can but meanwhile here are the very happy author pics!

(I don’t know whether it is a case of my finding flash fiction or flash fiction finding me but I am truly not sorry for a form of writing I discovered by accident thanks to CafeLit!).

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I sometimes have flash pieces published in the CafeLit anthologies and my Humourless is an example of this in the current book, The Best of CafeLit 9.

It is especially nice to have a flash story published here given CafeLit introduced me to flash fiction in the first place (and I am looking forward to sharing details of The Best of CafeLit 10 later on in the year where again I will have work published).

Do check out the CafeLit site. CafeLit are great in publishing a wide range of fiction, flash and otherwise, and from a diverse group of authors. It is always a joy to see friends’ work on here too.

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Fairytales with Bite – Changes

No world or character should stay static. A story revolves around change. The character does this, then that happens, this is what happens after that and so on. Of course, some changes are far more welcome than others and interesting tales can be generated by working out how your characters would handle the less welcome developments.

But changes shouldn’t be something that come out of nowhere. For example, if your change is where your character faces a magical disaster of some kind, there should be some hint early on in the story that magical disasters are a possibility here. For example if the build up of spare magical capacity can trigger earthquakes, your created world should have that as part of its history. Perhaps your story can then revolve around people not taking the necessary steps to prevent the disaster happening again. This means when your disaster happens your reader will not feel cheated. They know the possibility exists. The possibility happened.

Once the change has happened, there should be change in the characters too. Nobody remains unmoved by changes and that applies to characters too.

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This World and Others – Environments

What kind of environment is your story set in? Is it comparable to what we know here or something beyond the capabilities of our little planet?

Do your characters care about the environment they live in and how does that manifest itself?

Also think micro-environments – the immediate world around your characters. How does that impact on them? What are the threats they face? What are the nice things about their world they love?

Then there are things like political environments – dictatorships or democracy? How do your characters survive or thrive in these? Again, what is similar to here? It will be those things readers will latch on to – it is literally what we know and understand.

What dilemmas do your characters face as a result of their environment? The classic theme is survival in a hostile to life environment where the overall dilemma is to survive but there can be others. For example, if your character has to survive in their environment by killing something or someone, will they and how do they build themselves up to actually do that?

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Reflections

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.

Images from the Share Your Story Writing Summit held earlier this year kindly provided by them.

Hope you have had a good week. I share a more thoughtful post on my Chandler’s Ford Today column this week and share a new story too. Weather wild and blustery here. Lady and I are not too impressed by it.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post on Reflections. I look at this topic from a variety of angles. I consider how it is vital to the creative life.

You do need to take time out every now and then to work out where you are with your writing and how you would like it to develop further.

I also look at how character studies (ideal for flash fiction as these work best when kept short) can not only show you the character reflecting, they can cause you, the reader, to wonder whether you would have done the same thing as the character or not.

I also share how I’ve expanded my blogging activities recently and this was due to taking time out to look at ways of doing this, and taking opportunities that came my way to aid this.

Reflection can also play a part in a story as a character learns from their mistakes and (hopefully) goes on to better things. Stories hinge on a moment of change for a character. Sometimes that moment of change can literally be dramatic. But at other times, such as in character studies, the moment of change is when the character learns something or is prepared to accept they’ve made mistakes (which they weren’t prepared to do at the start of the tale).

So reflection has a big part to play in the creative life then.

Hope you enjoy the post.

Reflections

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Very gusty in Hampshire today. Am still in my huge dog walking coat and boots whenever I take Lady out. Had so hoped I’d have seen the back of those for a few months but clearly that won’t be happening for a bit yet. (And yes, this soft southerner does still have the central heating on!).

Just a quick reminder my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Reflections will be up on site tomorrow. I’ll look at how reflections impact on the creative life, your writing journey, and I ask whether reflecting is peaceful or scary. I also chat about how characters can reflect. Hope you will find it a useful and thoughtful post. Look forward to sharing the link tomorrow.

Am also looking forward to sharing my next author newsletter on 1st June. If you’d like to sign up please head to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com for more on this. I share stories, tips, writing prompts, as well as news here.

Just to flag up there is currently an offer on Amazon for the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic for more details.

Last but not least, I have seen that our excellent local amateur theatre company, The Chameleons, are looking to restart their wonderful plays from July. Very much looking forward to seeing their shows again and reviewing them for Chandler’s Ford Today again in due course.

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Hope you have had a good Wednesday. Have had lovely sunshine, heavy rain, and a right mix bag of weather today though it has been nice Lady and I have managed to miss most of the deluges.

I was chatting over at #Val’sBookBundle earlier today about childhood books. My favourites included The Famous Five. (A big thanks to all who responded to this post too). But I know it was my childhood love of reading that got me into stories and therefore writing at all.

Do you know what got you into creative writing and what helps keep you going when the words don’t seem to flow so easily? For me, I just know I feel better in myself when I’ve got something written down and that does help keep me going. Having deadlines (such as Fridays for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts) helps a lot too.

I also have specific writing sessions where I will draft blogs I know I’m going to need in the next couple of weeks or so. This means I have something to hand should I need it – and I often am grateful for having this to fall back on. (Life does get in the way sometimes, it can’t be helped, and it is a question of going with the flow and doing what you can when that happens).

Jotting down ideas for future use

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Thrilled to say I have another drabble (100-word story) up on #FridayFlashFiction. Hope you enjoy Sibling Surprise (though it is debatable whether one of the siblings in my story will!).


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I will just mention I share flash tales and writing tips over on my monthly author newsletter. Some of these tales will end up in a collection later on, I hope, but readers to my newsletter get a first read on them! If you’d like to find out more, please sign up at my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – next newsletter is due on 1st June and it is great fun putting them together.

I like a nice chatty newsletter myself and prefer the monthly type on the grounds you don’t have too much hitting your inbox with this time scale but you get a nice read when you do!). A newsletter is something I should have got around to doing earlier, to be honest, but it was the Share Your Story Writing international summit I took part in back in March that made me finally get around to this.

I’m working on two major projects at the moment, one of which I hope will prove to be my third flash collection. I am at the heavy editing stage but this will knock that book into shape nicely once done.

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I was chatting over on my author page about what keeps you writing during difficult times. One huge advantage of flash fiction writing is it doesn’t commit you to too much in one go. So if life has got in the way and I only have time for a quick ten minute draft of something, I will usually draft a flash tale (100 words or less) or start making notes for future blog posts. I still feel like I’ve written something useful (and I have).

Another thought is to just jot down thoughts for future flash fiction stories. Later, when there is more time, you can write up the ones you like best. Random generators are useful for encouraging you to think differently and I have often found what comes up here produce story idea triggers. So I jot those down and come back to them later.

This is especially useful if I feel tired and uninspired (and it happens to everyone). I will just write down what the generators come up with and I can start forming links from that. Usually the act of writing them down helps kick start those links forming which is great as those links lead to a story outline and away I go later.

Writing, of all kinds, takes stamina and it pays to accept the fact that there are times when you will feel ground down etc and not feel up to producing as much as you would normally. That’s fine – and where flash fiction can really be your friend. A short story in not too many words – what’s not to like there!


Fairytales with Bite AND This World and Others – The Magical ABC


This post combines elements I would write for in Fairytales with Bite and This World and Others so I have combined this into one long blog spot split by pictures about half way through. Hope you enjoy.

A= Always ready with a wand or other magical implement, even when you’re not competent. (See The Sorcerer’s Apprentice for more on the lack of competence issue).

B = Books to be treasured either for their spells or legends and myths relating to the world your characters live in.

C = Charms – to be ducked if hurled at you by a witch.

D = Danger – to be expected in a magical world. It is all about who controls the magic/power and there will always be a Dark Lord somewhere who wants to grab that top spot.

E = Expectations – often turned upside down in a magical world. The little old man or crone is often much more than they appear to be. Expect the unexpected. You won’t be disappointed.

F = Fairies. All sweetness and light? Hmm…. Maybe not. Tinkerbell had a vindictive side.

G = Greatness. Don’t take this at face value either. Often the humble characters tend out to be the real heroes, the ones destined for greatness as it were.

H = Heroes. See G above but also bear in mind heroes don’t have to be humans here. So what kind of creature will your heroes be?

I = Imagination. The more imaginative the magical being, the more creative their spells are likely to be (with equally creative results. Could be good news. Could be bad news if you’re on the wrong end of this).

J = Judging by appearances is rarely good here. See E for Expectations above. It is best to assume there is more to someone than what they look like.

K = Kindness. Along with humility, kindness is greatly appreciated by the discerning fairy godmother and the like. They prefer their clients to have these things. They’re not going to help some arrogant so-and-so who needs a quick spell to get them out of trouble or to give them riches the fairy godmother knows they will only waste.

L = Language. Can be flowery, especially when spell reciting. Listen for tone. If a magical being seems grim when uttering their spell, you can be their spell will be equally grim. Best get out of the way and hide.

M = Magic of course. As with any form of power, it can be used for good or evil. There should be a counter-balance between good and evil in your fairytales. An all evil character needs a worthy opponent to deal with after all. An all good character needs to be tested and the evil character will do that well enough.

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N = Natural world. Now what does count as “natural” in a magical environment? Which geographical features would we recognize? Which are unique to your creation? What about the wildlife? Are they all magical or are there any non-magical ones? Do dragons and the like prey on the latter? If so, how do the latter survive? What advantages might they have on the magical creatures (and in the interests of fairness, they ought to have something! Will give them a chance to survive for a start!).

O = Overview. Is magic seen as a good thing by the majority of your population or as a menace? What does magic contribute to your society? Can anyone learn it or is its use restricted? If the latter, how is it restricted and why do the magical beings accept those restrictions?

P = Portents. Is prediction of any kind used in your magical world? Who has the ability to come up with these? Does anyone control them so only portents which suit the rulers ever get issued?

Q = Quest. Name a magical world without one of these! But the quest must be a matter of vital importance and ideally have a range of characters, including some very unlikely heroes. (Hairy feet and having second breakfasts have been done – see The Lord of the RingsI).

R = Reading. Yes magical beings need to read (their spells for one thing and accurately at that). Is magical ability linked to the ability to read? You could use literacy or its lack to control who could use magic. It would be a good way to keep the main population under control. They can’t read. They can’t do magic. They have to do as they’re told. So what would happen if someone rebelled against that and learned to read when they are officially not allowed to do so?

S = Spells. Like characters, there are nice ones, nasty ones, downright evil ones. Are there antidotes to spells or, in the case of Sleeping Beauty, can spells be modified to limit damage?

T = Taming the Beast. See Beauty and the Beast for a great example of how this is done. The Beast, after all, is cowed by the witch who cursed him and later by Beauty. But how about the magical creatures in your world? Can they be tamed or their potential damage limited in any way? Who could do this? Are there benefits to the beast as well as to your other characters? (You could say certain creatures got to live rather than being hunted to extinction because of their more dangerous qualities).

U = Universe. Is your created world a solo one or is it linked to others in its immediate universe? If the latter, how well do the different worlds get on or is there a history of war?

V = Vilification. This is as easy as breathing for your villainous characters. They of course are going to want to “do down” the heroes. You start by vilifying them (and the parallels with our own world here are not coincidental. I wish they were but that’s another matter).

W = Witches and Wizards. Both will consider themselves to be superior to the others, usually because of gender too. How does that work out in your stories? And can they ever get along for the common good?

X = Xeric. It is a word, honest and one I’ll remember for Scrabble the next time I play it. It means little moisture. So how does your magical world fare up when it comes to water supplies? Is it a green and pleasant land or prone to desert? That will directly affect how your characters live and drive their needs. Is magic used to conjure up water where supplies are short? What are the downsides to magical water as opposed to natural?

Y = Yummy. Is magical food and drink as delicious as it looks or does it hide something nasty? The visitor to the magical world would do well to avoid suspiciously red, shiny apples especially if being sold by an old woman with a basket.

Z = Zest. Be wary of young apprentices who show zest for using magic even though they are not fully trained. This takes us back nicely to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice again!

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Understanding, Publication News, and Aspects of Character

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. Have had good publication news this week and I’m particularly proud of this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post. I hope it encourages reading and sheds light on what is needed to portray realistic characters. 

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post called Understanding. I look at how reading promotes empathy and understanding. I also discuss how important it is I understand my characters before I write their stories up. I have got to know where they are coming from regarding their actions and at least a little of how they got to that point.

I also share some thoughts and tips and discuss how a knowledge of human nature is crucial for being able to create characters readers can identify with (and it is okay not to like them by the way. I don’t like all of mine!).

I also look at “point of change” and how this applies to non-fiction as much as it does for fiction. Hope you find the post useful and thought provoking. I hope it encourages understanding of the writing process and encourages you to read even more. Reading is wonderful for encouraging empathy. After all we get “behind” characters we love, yes? Why do we do that? Usually because we can see where they’re coming from and there is your empathy right there!

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In separate news, I am thrilled to say a piece I’ve written about flash fiction will be appearing in Mom’s Favorite Reads (an online magazine) in June. Look forward to saying more about this nearer the time. Lovely way to end the working week (though really every day of the week is a working one for every writer I know – and for me!).

Always a joy to talk or write about flash fiction


Am making progress with swimming. Have got back to doing my old number of lengths per session so am pleased with that. Do I ever think about story ideas while swimming? Not a bit of it. I think about very little – and it’s that aspect I love. It is chill out time especially when, as with today, I swear the water was colder than normal! (I suspect this is done deliberately to ensure you get moving quickly!).

Lady has got used to me going out again well and I am pleased about that. She has loved having us all at home during the various lockdowns and I did wonder how she’d adjust as life slowly returns to some sort of normality but she has been fine.

When it comes to writing characters, do you focus on the glamorous side of things? That is you focus on your heroes and their marvellous qualities? I can understand that but when I’m outlining a character, I look for their major trait first and then how that can be both an asset and a right pain in the proverbial. Most traits can be used that way.

For example, take the trait of courage. The virtues of it are obvious but the downsides? Well, they could range from your brave character simply not being able to understand other characters’ fears and coming across as arrogant and highhanded to your character being reckless for the sake of keeping the brave appearance up to all and sundry.

I also sometimes look at what is behind a trait. Again with courage, what has led to the character developing this? Is it a front to keep their deep down fears at bay? Is it their coping mechanism and so on? What would happen if they were forced to confront those deep down fears? (I would suspect they would not react well – would they be able to get back to their normal courageous front?).

It probably says something about human nature that it is easier to imagine the flaws though!

Character Flaws


Hope you have had a good Wednesday. Lady and her best buddy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, did. Both went home tired but happy.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I’ll be talking about Understanding and I will look at how reading can encourage empathy as well. I’ll also chat about how I need to understand my characters before I can write their stories up and share a few tips.

Reading widely helps so much with your writing. For one thing, you take in how characters and storylines work. You can even do this by reading a book or story you don’t like. Why? Because you can work out what it was you disliked and then try to avoid that in your own work.

Looking forward to being back at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School later this year. I rolled over my place from last year and it will be so nice to get out and about on the train again too to get there. Will be wonderful to catch up with writing pals and be at a live event again.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Just to flag up I will have a piece about flash fiction appearing in Mom’s Favorite Reads (an online magazine) in June. Will share more details nearer the time. Very pleased about this as you can imagine. It is always good to spread the word about flash fiction writing.

Delighted to say my story Got You! is now up on #FridayFlashFiction. Hope you enjoy it and a big thank you to all who have commented on my stories on this website – the feedback is incredibly useful!


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A standard length short story illuminates an aspect of a character’s life and there is usually room for a sub-plot. With flash you do have to focus on the most important aspect of the character’s life. There is no room for anything else but what I love about this is you can imply so much and leave the reader to make their own deductions.

For example, in my story They Don’t Understand (from my debut collection From Light to Dark and Back Again), I have my character come out with the thought “Same bloody patronizing attitude to us peasants”. I don’t need to tell you what this character thinks about authority given that line, do I? It’s obvious and I have found that this kind of implying things has helped me to show and not tell far more effectively.

Flash fiction, with its tight word count, has encouraged that development in me and of course that is going to help with my other fiction writing as well. Win-win!

Flash Fiction focuses on THE important aspect of a character's life


I often use proverbs/well known sayings as titles for my stories and the great thing about doing that is you not only have your title, you’ve got your theme as well.

In Tripping the Flash Fantastic, for my story A Stitch In Time, I take this idea and get my character to reject it and justify why they are rejecting it. That was a fun take to do on the topic.

In my tale The Power of Suggestion I get my character to live up to that title and face the consequences of doing so. There are always consequences!

But you as the writer can have lots of fun taking these proverbs and sayings and using them as you think best. I am fond of twisting them and it is a great way of mixing up how to approach a story.

My favourite method by far is to start with the character.

My second favourite method by far is to use a proverb or saying in this manner as they highlight the kind of character best placed to be in the story.

Fairytales With Bite – The Fairytale Code

If there was a fairytale code, what would you expect from it? My expectations would be such a code would lay down some guidelines for what you could expect to see in a fairytale.

For that I would include:-

  • Good to overcome evil
  • Calling evil out for what it is
  • Cheering on the underdog
  • Rewarding humility and punishing arrogance
  • Things often not being what they seem
  • Characters coveting power/abusing it
  • Characters wanting to thwart said power-mad characters.

What would you include in your fairytale code and why?

I have a soft spot for humorous fairytales (and have written some) but I do love the way such stories can cover a whole range of emotions. I cheered for when things worked out well for The Ugly Duckling. I was deeply saddened by The Little Match Girl (and rightly so too).

Above all, I want to see fairytales cherished by all and not looked down on. I loathe it when someone dismisses something as “just” being a fairytale. There is no “just” about such wonderful stories!

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This World and Others – Identifying Aspects

What makes your created world stand out? What would you say were its chief identifying aspects? What makes it unique? What is it that would attract readers and help us to “place” where we are so we can see what your characters see? I like to see vivid pictures so I can think I would love to live there or, conversely, be very glad that I don’t! But it is those pictures created by your words that have the most lasting impact on a reader.

Think about The Shire from The Lord of the Rings and certain images immediately come to mind, helped no end by the wonderful film adaptations.

What is it about your created world we have to know? What obstacles, natural or otherwise, do your characters have to live with or find ways of overcoming?

What does identity mean for your characters? Are names used or is social status more important? Are any species more important than the others and how did that come about?

Plenty of story thoughts there I think!

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Twitter Corner

 

I thought I’d share here a tweet from the Association of Christian Writers (I’m their Membership Secretary) and my reply to it. Hope you enjoy though I know several writers whose internet research history would make for far more interesting reading than mine!!

 

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Favourite Lines, Talking Flash, and Getting It Wrong

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 – it feels more like March than May right now.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


Pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post about Favourite Lines. Great to see good comments coming in on this already. Keep it up, folks! And do share your own favourite lines (but keep them suitable for a family audience, thanks!).

Do you find you remember a favourite novel or story by one particular line? I do. It can also apply to favourite shows. (Lubbly jubbly, anyone?!).

I also look at the role of catchphrases and repetition in helping favourite lines to become so well loved. Repetition is a strange thing here. Generally, we don’t want to repeat ourselves in our work.

This is especially true for flash fiction. I’ve got to make the most of my limited word count so am not going to want to waste words by repeating some!

But for catchphrases, repetition is unavoidable because they can’t become catchphrases without that repetition. The positive thing here is that the repetition leads to stories and books becoming well loved and cherished because we hone in on what we love best. And often it is what we remember the most clearly.

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Just to say Favourite Lines will be my topic on Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. I’ll be looking at the role of catchphrases and repetition (used in a good way) to help develop said favourite lines amongst other thoughts shared here. Looking forward to sharing that.

Many thanks to all who have recently signed up to my author newsletter. Welcome aboard, everyone! Do see my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com for more.

Am looking forward to Wordy Chat a little later this evening. Given I produced a flash fiction tale about a ping pong ball’s contents from the last one, it will be interesting to see what comes up in tonight’s chat!


Funny old day with the weather and still strong winds. I thought it was March that was meant to come in as a lion, not May. Oh well. Lady had a splendid play session with her best buddy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and another pal, Coco. Lady came home happy but very tired – and I assume her friends did the same!

When I’m not writing flash fiction and short stories, I draft a lot of blogs. Some of these I use immediately but others I draft for use later. I know there will be times when I am short on time so having a blog prepared “good to go” is a useful thing.

Murphy’s Law being what it is, I find it often happens when I’m drafting a blog, I get some ideas for flash tales! So I jot the ideas down and come back to them later. If they still seem promising, I write them up. And yes, when I’m writing fiction, ideas will come for blog posts for Chandler’s Ford Today etc. So I just jot those ideas down and again come back to them later. Sometimes an idea which seems a cracker at the time proves to be a damp squib after some time away from it and coming back to examine it in the cold light of day.

So it always pays to have a notebook or something useful to jot down notes! And it pays to give yourself time to assess your ideas well enough. Distance away from them will show up whether these really are “goers” or not.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When I talk about flash fiction one of the first things I stress is what it is not. It is not truncated prose. Each piece has to be a complete story with a proper beginning, middle, and ending. It is just shorter than the standard magazine type short stories you see.

But if you have ever completed writing exercises while on a course, in a writing conference etc., do take your notebook back out and have a look at what you jotted down. Could you polish those drafts up into flash fiction tales to submit to publishers and competitions?

It is also encouraging to see that if you do a quick web search, numerous flash fiction competitions come up. This is useful. This is how I found #FridayFlashFiction and I am delighted to say my latest story, Getting It Wrong, is now up on site. Hope you enjoy it!


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Yet another lovely thing about flash fiction is it is easy to share on social media and can be a great way of giving “value” to those who follow your blog, postings on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc. I’ve found with the latter the very short stories work best. (Basically 50 words or under. When I first started making the story videos, I did use some of my longer pieces but I think the impact is better with the shorter tales).

One other use for flash is in giving new life to those writing exercises you had a go at when going to (at the moment on Zoom!) writing workshops and the like. Polish your creations up and see if you can submit them to a market or competition. I use the Writing Magazine’s competition guide, which comes out twice a year, but also Mslexia have a directory of competitions in their quarterly magazine, which is always worth looking at.


I write a lot of my flash fiction in the first person. This hasn’t been deliberate. I certainly didn’t foresee that happening when I started writing flash fiction.

But there are times when I’ve come up with a character where I’m better off showing them as an “I” character. They have a strong voice. They want to make their voice heard and a name would not add to their qualities, could possibly detract from them. It can also be something that is not the most relevant thing about them. It is what they do and say that is.

When I do name a character, you can be sure that name is important to the story and my character portrayal. Sometimes I use a name to indicate the character is not of this world. I sometimes use it to indicate social status. And sometimes for my creepier tales, it is more scary to keep my character as an “it” or an “I” so you, the reader, wonder just what these creatures are.

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Fairytales with Bite – Twists

Fairytales have often used twists but we now recognise these things as standard “ingredients” for a fairytale. For example the old crone or man who turns out to be a powerful witch, fairy godmother, or wizard in disguise and turn the tables on another, usually arrogant, character. Beauty and the Beast is a good example of this in that the beast’s curse was put on him due to his arrogance.

But when this idea first came out, it would have been seen as a twist in the tale. Old crones and old men are usually just that! The idea of them being powerful beings in disguise would’ve been a surprise.

The ultimate twist for me here is that fairytales generally do see wrong righted, justice done etc., when we know so often in life it doesn’t happen. (It is one of the comforting things about fairytales for me).

And usually the underdog does come out on top in a fairytale.

So the twists are there – given again, in life, it is far rarer for an underdog to come out on top – but they are hidden in plain sight so to speak.

When it comes to writing our own fairytale twists, a good thing to consider is whether an aspect of your character’s life is where the twist comes from. For example, if you have a character who has a talent for art, can the twist come from them using that talent to help someone or even turn the tables on that same someone who perhaps has humilated them?

A successful twist has to seem reasonable to a reader based on what they know about your character(s) and also the setting of your story. If it is a clear fairytale, then those standard ingredients (the tropes) will be expected and it will be a question of working out how you can use them to best advantage for your creations.

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This World and Others – Differences and Similarities

One of the joys of reading fantasy and science fiction in particular is spotting the differences and similarities between the created world and what we know here. But take that idea further and look at the differences and similarities between the characters in those stories. Can you apply any of what you spot here to your own creations?

If in the fictional world, everyone has to have a certain amount of magical ability in order to be able to survive, can you compare that to our need to have a certain amount of money in order to be able to survive? Will your characters do anything to get the magical abilities they need? Are they driven by greed to get more than they need?

How do they treat those who are not as “well off” as they are? If they are at the bottom of the pile, what do they do to improve themselves? And does anyone rebel against the system because they can see the cruelties of it and want nothing to do with it?

Using the traits we know about ourselves is a fabulous way to create characters. Using what we know about our planet can fuel ideas for how you create a world that is far removed from our own as it can be a great place to start. We need oxygen. What would your fictional world need for your characters to survive?

Give some thought as to how sustainable your world is too. If it relies on magical energy, where does that come from? Is there any danger of it running out?

Great fantasy and science fiction stories can take what we know about this world and reflect it back to us in fictional worlds we love to read about. And you can use that thought for your own writing.

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Finding Ideas, Themes and Judging a Book by its Cover Part 3

Image Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Many thanks to my guests for Part 3 of my Judging a Book by its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Author and book cover pics were supplied by Amanda Huggins, Dawn Knox (with Colin Payn), Gail Aldwin, Alyson Rhodes (who writes as Alyson Faye), Jim Bates, and Paula R.C. Readman.

A huge thanks to all of my guests over the last three weeks. It has been a joy to discuss and share book cover thoughts! Hope you have all had a good week. Looking forward to giving another talk about flash fiction via Zoom next week.

Oh and my author newsletter goes out tomorrow, 1st May. Do sign up at my landing page – https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – for more details.


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share the final part of my Judging a Book by its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Many thanks to all of my guests over the last three weeks for their fabulous contributions. For this post, I chat to guests from Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books.

Also a shout out goes to #WendyHJones as a comment from her gave me the spark for the idea for this series. As I mentioned for the More Than Writers blog spot I shared yesterday about Finding Ideas (see below), ideas are there. The trick is to spot them and yes they can come from comments from other writers or things you overhear. The clever bit is gathering those ideas up and running with them! (It is also why it is a good idea to keep a notebook on you as we slowly go out and about in the world once again. Never rely on your memory to record a good idea. You do forget!).

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Bonus Post – My Interview by Francesca Tyer for the Authors Reach website

A little while ago I was interviewed by Francesca Tyer for the Authors Reach website. Francesca has been a guest on Chandler’s Ford Today too.

Delighted to now be able to share the link to that interview. Hope you enjoy it and a huge thank you to Francesca and Authors Reach for hosting me.

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers blog spot

Pleased to share my latest blog on More Than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. I discuss Finding Ideas and hope you find it useful. I share a few thoughts on how I find ideas.

Earlier this week I came up with another useful method which was to use a random word generator to come up with a random word and then use that as a topic for the picture site, Pixabay. I then used a random picture from them based on that topic to inspire me to write a story to fit the theme. Good fun and I hope to use that method again.

For my MTW blog, I also take a quick peek at how I find ideas for blogs. Well, that is useful to find ON a blog, yes?!

Hope you enjoy.

Hope you have had a good day. (Lady went bonkers, in a good way, with her girlfriends, Khaya and Coco, in the park today. Wish I had half their energy but there you go).

Have a new ACW blog post to share tomorrow and the final part of my Judging a Book By Its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday.

Submitted my flash piece to the Bridport Prize. Glad to get that done well ahead of the deadline (end of May so there is still time to enter if you’re interested. There are other categories too including short stories and poetry).

I chatted over on #Val’sBookBundle earlier about whether poor proofreading would put you off reading the story afflicted by it. It wouldn’t necessarily put me off. It hasn’t put me off the book I’ve just read which had so many poor word end splits. But I was itching to get my red pen out. And that is never a good sign.

What is important to remember though is, while books do get out there with this kind of thing happening, we still need to get our books and stories out there and ensure they are at the highest standards possible. We owe it to our wonderful stories to make them the best we can make them so they have the best chance of attracting readers. So take your time over your own proofreading.

For short stories and flash fiction, check them several times before you submit them everywhere.

For a novel, you do need an independent editor here.

The big problem every writer has is we are far too close to our own work to always spot things that need correcting. So it is a question of accepting that and being prepared to invest in our work.

The dream ticket here is having a writer who has got their work polished as much as possible before it goes to an editor. That editor will see what the writer has done, will understand the story, but will pick up the things and ask questions the writer may not have thought of but which, when answered, will strengthen that book and give it a better chance out there.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Will be sharing my author newsletter tomorrow. I issue this once a month on the 1st and I share exclusive flash fiction tales here. I hope later on to gather some of those into a further collection but you do get to have the first read! For more do go to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

It is hard to say what I love most about flash fiction. Yes, I am always going to have a very soft spot for the form given it was my way in to having books published with my name on them (and on the front cover too!). But I’ve always loved inventing people. That, to me, has been the big thing about stories so getting to do this all the time for various flash fiction tales is a win-win for me.

I suppose the foundation of all storytelling (and this can apply to non-fiction too) is to have a curiosity about what makes others tick. There has to be a certain amount of curiosity to make you want to find out what happens to the characters or what the writer of the non-fiction piece comes up with as a conclusion.

So my job as a writer is to try to make my characters as intriguing as possible so others will want to read about what happens to them. If I’m intrigued by the characters, others will be too.

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Do you have favourite themes for stories? I’m fond of the “underdog” winning through kind of tale (and you can set those in any environment. A lot of fairytales are based on this). I also like to see justice being done stories (again fairytales often have this as a theme, though not always. You could argue there wasn’t any for The Little Match Girl by Hans Christen Andersen).

I also like characters who are not all they appear to be and the great thing with that is you can take this in two directions. Make the character turn out to be a villain or a hero. You can have great fun going with either of those options. Though I would add there should be some indication early on this character is not all they’re cracked up to be otherwise a reader may feel cheated.

I love it when I read a story like this as I look back at it to see where it was the author planted the first clue to flag up to me as reader I really should look out for what this character is going to do and be. I can learn from that for my own writing and I love that too.


A huge thank you to the wonderful response to my story, Hidden Gems, yesterday. This story came about as a result of using the sixth random word to come up on a random generator. That gave me a topic. I then put that topic into the Pixabay search bar and used the sixth image that came up. I then based the story around that image.

I will certainly use the random word and random image idea again. It made me think outside the box and that is always a good thing.

Am looking forward to sending out my next author newsletter (1st May) and I often share exclusive flash fiction stories here as well as useful tips. If you would like to know more please sign up at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com and you will receive a welcome email with a link to a giveaway too.

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Fairytales With Bite – Defining Happy Ever After

Do your characters have a happy ever after or just a happy for now? And how do you define what happy is anyway? So much depends on what your characters want and whether they achieve that (or something better).

Also does one character’s happy ever after mean ruin for others?

That usually is the case with fairytales. Cinderella is a classic case in point but there is no question that the wicked stepmother and the Ugly Sisters had that ruin “coming”. But you are not told that. You see the “coming to ruin” play out as the story goes on and the attitudes and actions of the characters show you whether or not said characters deserve to be brought down.

So we need to set up our characters so a happy ever after or happy for now is seen to be merited. You want the reader to root for their success. (Wishy-washy characters simply don’t do that for me which is why I dislike Miss Price from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park).

Likewise the characters deserving to be brought down – they too need to be fully rounded individuals, who by their actions and attitudes, show the reader they’re not going to be redeemed. And again you get the reader rooting for these folk to get their well deserved comeuppance.

All stories focus on actions and consequences, conflicts and resolutions so a happy ever after or happy for now has to be the logical resolution to what comes before.

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This World and Others – Making Your Characters Stand Out

How do your characters stand out? What is special about them? I feel it is vital for the author to be totally committed to their characters to be able to write their stories up effectively. Therefore something about the character has to grab the author. That same something is likely to be the element which grips a reader.

So ask yourself what is it about characters you yourself love to read about? Can you apply that to your own characters? If you like characters who are feisty but with hearts of gold, those are the kind of characters you want to write because you will write from the heart because you yourself love these.

It may help to list qualities you want to find in a character (and don’t forget the villains here. You need to give plenty of thought to them too. Your hero/heroine has to have an opponent who will test them, bring out the best in them and so on). Then work out ways in which you can show those qualities.

For example, if you love honesty in a character, then you can use that honesty to land that character in trouble. (This could make a great comic piece). They are bound to say things that, with hindsight, might have been better expressed and with less bluntness, for example. That will have consequences.

It will also imply they have got to come up against another character who doesn’t appreciate that honesty. And the second character has to have good reasons not to appreciate it so work out what those reasons could be. Perhaps they dislike being spoken to like that because it reminds them of a family member who used to do so and it caused great upset. Perhaps they don’t like the main character speaking out because the second one is up to no good and they’re concerned they’ll be found out.

Have fun playing with ideas here. But think about the one thing that will make each of your characters stand out. What is it they are best known for? How does that play out in your story? What makes your characters deserve to be written up?

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Judging Book Covers Part 2, Planning, and Openings

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. 

Many thanks to Val Penny, Jennifer C Wilson, and Teresa Bassett for their author and book images for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

Many thanks to Penny Blackburn for her image of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. I adore Swanwick and am always happy to sneak in extra pictures if I get the chance and given Val and Jennifer are both Swanwick friends, I thought it was a good opportunity to do that again!

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Later on in this post, I’ll be looking at openings for magical stories but you still can’t beat the one below!

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Pleased to share Part 2 of my Judging a Book By Its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today. This week I chat about book covers with guests from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, Val Penny and Jennifer C Wilson, and from Authors Reach, Teresa Bassett.

Between them my guests have written crime mysteries, romantic historical fiction, ghostly historical fiction, non-fiction, and YA books! Not a bad checklist that!  And a wide range of cover experience to discuss and share with us. Hope you enjoy. I share the final part of this series next week and hope the entire series proves especially useful to those considering their cover designs now.

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Lovely day, despite a chilly breeze, and Lady had a smashing time playing with her friend, Coco.

Looking forward to sharing Part 2 of my new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Judging a Book by Its Cover. This week I chat to guests from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and Authors Reach about their most recent covers. They share their thoughts on what makes for a good cover. Link up tomorrow.

I don’t know about you but you do know a good cover when you see one. It can be hard to define exactly what it is that has drawn you in. What matters is that the cover has drawn you in to want to find out more. And once you’re drawn in, off you go for hopefully another wonderful read! No pressure then…!!


Lady had a smashing play time with her best buddie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and her “gentleman friend”, Bear, who is a lovely tri-coloured Aussie Shepherd. Lady generally prefers playing with her girlfriends but Bear is one of the exceptions and he is a gent of a dog, which is probably why Lady likes him. And she can play with his Chuckit ball while he plays with her Chuckit ball etc. Three tired but happy dogs went home again… Delightful to hear a lot of thundering galloping going on here. Three reasonably big dogs at full pelt is a sight to be seen and heard.

Talking of being heard, how well do your character voices come across? Can you picture your people (or other beings) when you read their stories? When you have more than one character in a story, can you tell them apart by the way they speak? This is where pet phrases or certain words used by certain characters can help. I’ve written stories in the past where one snobby character did not use contractions at all. Good way of telling them apart from everyone else.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


I’ve mentioned the need to really know your characters before but how does that work for flash fiction with its word count restrictions? Simple! You have a simpler set of questions to ask your characters!

You’re not going to need to go into as much back story as you would if you were writing a novel but what I have found useful to know before writing that first draft of a flash tale can be summed up below.

 

Character Type – Not does not have to be human.
Character Mood – Doesn’t have to be a positive one!
Major Trait – Again doesn’t have to be a positive one.
Theme – And sometimes the theme can make a useful title as well.

I’ve outlined an idea for a mini-flash tale (50 words or under generally) as a quick line or two on a piece of paper as I realised I had two ways of taking that particular story and I needed to know which would work best.

Jotting things down on a piece of paper or in an Evernote file on the old phone still has much to commend it. I’ve always found an outline, no matter what its length, keeps me on track for my story and saves time and heartache later on.

The heartache can come if you find out no matter what you do the story isn’t going to work and you’ve written a load of it already and can’t see ways of salvaging it. That has only happened to me twice and for the same reason – I didn’t know my character well enough.

Lesson learned. A little forward planning pays dividends and if you’re not really a planner just jotting a note to yourself of where you think your character may take you is still useful.

Am currently preparing something to submit to The Bridport Prize in their flash category. (Wish me luck. I would love to be longlisted here!). Hope to sort out the final polish and submit over the weekend.

What is encouraging though is that flash, while now a regular part of this competition and many others, wasn’t always recognized. It is great to see opportunities like this and yes you do have to be in it to have any chance of winning it.
Incidentally my final polish will be to make sure I have followed the entry rules to the letter. I can’t stress how important that is.

I have judged competitions and you don’t want to have to disqualify entries because of that but it is unfair on those who have followed the rules to allow any to go through that have not done so. So don’t make the judge’s life easy. Follow everything to the letter so the judge doesn’t have “easy” reasons to turn your entry down. Much the same applies for submitting work to a publisher and/or agent of course.


There are many things I love about flash fiction but the chief one, I think, is being able to set my characters wherever and whenever I want. So I do! I’ve written historical flash, ghost mini-tales, crime ones, acrostics, and my trademark fairytales with bite (aka fantasy with a twist, often an ironic one).

But I also love using the first person for flash tales as I get to take you straight into the head of my lead character. You see what they do. You see why they think as they do. The immediacy of flash is what gives it its emotional impact I think.


Fairytales With Bite – Once Upon a Time – Opening a Magical Story

Once upon a time is the classic way to open a magical story, of course. Those four words immediately conjure up a world far, far away (in both distance and time) and encourage me to settle down for a good read. It also immediately sets up the magical environment in which the story is going to be set.

Those words are a good example of repetition (in so many stories) setting up a link that goes deep into our subconscious. Everyone who has read or heard a fairytale will know those words and have a good idea of what is come.

Anticipation of having a story delivered is also an important part of reading. After all, what draws you to a book? The thought of a good read? But that good read can only come from you taking in the opening and deciding you would like to buy or borrow said book.

So how to open a magical story? With my flash fiction, I often set a clue in the opening line or two that magic is likely to appear. For example, in my Seeing Is Believing from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I open with “When Ben was unwell, strange signs appeared in the sky above his house.”.

So I am upfront right at the start of the story magic has to turn up in this tale somewhere – what else could explain the strange signs? Doing this again gives readers a sense of what this story is likely to be and hopefully be intrigued enough to read on to find out whether or not they were right.

For flash fiction, I keep the level of details down to a minimum (as I need to due to the restricted word count of 1000 words maximum. The advantage of that restriction though is it makes you keep in the story only what really matters to the story. For an opening, it means I have to draw a reader in quickly so I want to make the most powerful impact I can with my opening lines).

For any kind of story, magical or otherwise, those opening lines are vital to the success of your story. I’ve found it helps to put myself in the reader’s shoes and ask myself what would I want to read here? What do I absolutely have to know? And those are good questions to ask yourself as you edit your story. They will help you make your opening lines as strong as possible.

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This World and Others – World History

Does your created world have much of a back story in its own right? If you needed to write a history of it could you do so and which aspect would you look at?

History covers a huge field from the traditional wars and battles that changed history to changing cultural history and so on. Most of this would not be directly relevant to your story but is phenomenally useful for you to know. Why? You need to be able to give your characters a sense of the world they belong to – they should know where they come from and that in turn will influence their attitudes and decisions. That will affect your story and rightly so!

So work out what you think you will need to know. If one of your characters is an artist, what kind are they? Does their culture encourage creativity or stifle it? If, say, they’re a painter in a world where only sculptures count for anything, how do they handle that?

History feeds into the lives we lead now and this is just as true for our fictional creations.

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Judging a Book by its Cover

Image Credit:- 

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

I’m starting a new three-part Chandler’s Ford Today series this week called Judging a Book by its Cover. Hope you enjoy it. A huge thank you to my guest authors for taking part and for supplying their author photos and book cover images.

Tonight’s guests are from the Association of Christian Writers – Fran Hill, Joy Margetts, Ruth Leigh, Wendy H Jones, Maressa Mortimer and I all contribute to this week’s edition.

Images of me reading at Open Prose Mic Nights were taken by Geoff Parkes (Swanwick) and Dawn Kentish Knox (Bridge House Publishing events) and Ana Coelho (Waterloo Arts Festival events).

Hope you have had a good week. Will have publication news from CafeLit next week and am looking forward to sharing that.

And it seems to have finally stopped snowing…. not before time it must be said.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share Part 1 of a brand new series for Chandler’s Ford Today called Judging a Book By Its Cover. Over the next three weeks, I set my guests three questions to answer and they have shared some fabulous information with me. I start the series by having a look at the cover for my own Tripping the Flash Fantastic and then go on to chat to my guests who this week are from the Association of Christian Writers.

I chat to Wendy H Jones, Fran Hill, Maressa Mortimer, Ruth Leigh, and Joy Margetts about what they think their latest book covers “say” to their potential readers. They also share a tip about book covers they have found works for them. I also set a challenge at the end of this post. Anyone who loves reading will be well up for this!

So then – judging a book by its cover – the old proverb says we shouldn’t but for books themselves we absolutely do and rightly so! Covers are a vital element. They are your book’s first advert and have to draw the reader in. So what works for you when you’re choosing your next read? Comments welcome here and over on the CFT post as usual.

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Hope you have had a good Thursday. Had my hair cut yesterday! What a wonderful feeling… and I no longer have a fringe that needed holding back with industrial strength hairspray.

Today I was back in the swimming pool for the first time in well since goodness knows when. For some reason I’m feeling rather tired this evening! But it is great things are slowly returning to normal and I am looking forward to having my second jab in June. That is something I never expected to say! It is an odd world when vaccinations are something you anticipate keenly…

Glad to say Part 1 of my new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Judging a Book by Its Cover, starts tomorrow. Guest authors and I look at some of our covers, analyse what we think they say to potential readers, and share tips on what makes for a good cover. Link up tomorrow and a huge thank you to all taking part in this three-part series. Tomorrow’s guests will be from the Association of Christian Writers. More details tomorrow. See above!


I was chatting over at #Val’sBookBundle earlier about the joy of audio books but what I am greatly encouraged by is that there is a format to suit everyone when it comes to stories. I can think of family members who won’t read a huge book but will watch the film adaptation of it or listen to the audio book of it.

I like to mix up reading “proper” books and ebooks. The Kindle is a great invention. I’m looking forward to taking that with me once again when I hopefully get back to the #SwanwickWriters’SummerSchool in August. I want to save room in my case for the books I’ll buy from the Swanwick Book Room after all!

But what matters is you read, no matter whether you use an e-reader or go for a good old hardback or listen to your stories. It is difficult to overestimate how much reading helps a writer. And you do learn by absorption how books are set out, how dialogue should be and so on, as well as being inspired by the characters you read.

As for my own stories, I try to think about the impact I want my tales to have on a reader and then work out ways of achieving that. As you know, the story for me is all about the characters and they’ve got to interest me to make me want to read on.

So when it comes to editing my own work, I do ask “what is in this for a reader to enjoy?”. It is a valid question.

By putting yourself in your readers’ shoes, you are more likely to write something they will enjoy. You will be thinking about how your character comes across. What is it about them that makes you love or hate them? If you feel that way about them, your readers are likely to do so too.

And it is a useful way, when editing, of ensuring that everything in your story matters to the story and your readers have to know what you are sharing with them. No matter what the length of your story is – 100 to 100,000 words – every word must move the story on and share something important with the reader.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Putting a collection together is interesting in that several things have to be taken into consideration. I’m looking for the right balance in my stories in terms of mood but also in terms of story length. I have more drabbles (aka 100-word) stories in From Light to Dark and Back Again then I do in Tripping the Flash Fantastic. But in the latter I have more of the longer (500 word+) tales and I have taken my characters that bit further as I’ve written historical flash stories for the first time for this book.

I also like to make sure I have “light relief” stories in my collections so they are not overly dark but I also want some of the darker material to ensure there is a bit of “bite” to my books. I am fond of twist in the tale stories and there are plenty of examples in both of my books but I didn’t want either volume to be dominated by them.

I am also thinking of my audience as I get a book ready for submission. (I aim at YA upwards, anyone who can appreciate irony since that does feature in what I do). I want to give a good mixture of stories so people hopefully feel they have had a a darned good read after finishing the books OR it is the perfect thing for them to dip into. (I love “dipping in” books myself).

But overall I want the books to be a good representation of what flash fiction is and can be. And that’s always a great challenge to rise to!


I don’t always name my characters. Sometimes this is because I feel they will be more scary left unnamed (and this is especially true for my stories where the character is an “it”. You can have a lot of fun wondering just what the “it” is!).

What matters more to me is conveying what those characters are like and why their story matters. For example, in my story The Silence (Tripping the Flash Fantastic) I start by saying “It was the perfect way to shut up Mr Know-it-all.”
You don’t need a name there. What you have got is the attitude of the narrator and the attitude of the unnamed character being referred to as there has to be a reason why our storyteller is referring to him like that. Hopefully that would make you want to read on, if only to find out what the perfect way was and was it as perfect as our narrator is claiming?

Where I do name a character, it can indicate they’re not of this world, or I will pick a name like Mary or Ben and get something extraordinary to occur. Most of us will know people called Mary or Ben. We can conjure up in our own minds what a fictional Mary or Ben might be like – and I can then get to turn the tables on said characters. All great fun!

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Twist endings work well for flash fiction, as do “punchlines”, but everything in the story must lead naturally to that point. This is why for this kind of tale, I write the ending first and then spend some time working out ideas that could have led to that point arising naturally. I then go for the one I like the most as that will be the one which has “grabbed” me and hopefully, later, will “grab” a reader too (in the nicest possible way of course!).

I’ve used spider diagrams for working out different possibilities though a simple flowchart works just as well. (All those years ago when I was working on flowcharts in Maths etc., I never dreamed I would end up one day using them for storytelling but there you go!).

But it does pay to take time out to work out different possibilities. Especially if you are entering a competition, the same ideas will come up time and again but it is your take on them that can make your story stand out and give it more of a chance. Writing down various ideas will help you whittle out and discard the weaker ones.

I’ve also found in jotting down ideas, other ideas come to mind as well. It is almost as if you’re unlocking your imagination here and it will be the ideas that come from that which are most likely to be the strongest ones to go with.

Fairytales With Bite – Magical Hierarchies

There are hierarchies in any created fictional world but I think it is fair to say with magical ones, the sparks could really fly!

So how do you judge who should be the most powerful beings? Who can hold them to account or do they rule over everything and their reign is a tyranny?

If that is the case, there has to be someone or something that can bring deliverance (or at least the hope of it) to the rest of the population, otherwise you have no story. There has to be conflict and resolution.

If you are reading a story where the majority are “subjected”, what we as readers want to find out is whether anything or anyone can free them from that and usher in a better age/better way of governing. (Let’s just say I was relieved Sauron didn’t win in The Lord of the Rings and I refuse to believe that’s a spoiler after all this time).

You could, of course, have two equally powerful magical species and they act as a check on each other but stories here could arise from when those checks go wrong. What happens? Can things be put right so the balance is right again? Who does this and so? Have you got anyone prepared to rebel against their own side if necessary?

Give some thought also as to how those hierarchies develop and what sustains them or breaks them. Conflict, consequences, resolution – the three golden ingredients for any good story.

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This World and Others – Where Magic Fits Into the Non-Magical Elements

Is there anything in your created world where the magical elements are controlled by non-magical ones? If so, how and who is doing the controlling? (That’s always interesting to know!). Can politics be used to control those with powers who, if let loose, could destroy everything?

(One aspect I love about Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is how the wizards are far more fond of big dinners than magic and the Patrician knows this. Do check out Sourcery in this series for what happened when magic did take over Ankh-Morpork. It’s a great tale and an interesting study in magic not being the be all and end all).

If magic is used as a tool to help your fictional world, how is this done? Is it like engineering, say, when it is used to fix specific problems or develop your society in some way? Is the development to the benefit of all or a mere elite? Can anyone study magic or do you have to be from the right background? How does magic affect the lives of the majority or does it pass them by?

Hope you find some interesting story ideas there.

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