Walkies and Interviews!

Image Credit:  As ever Pixabay or Pexels unless otherwise stated. The ones of Hiltingbury Flower Meadow were taken by me!

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My latest CFT post is called Walkies and I look at the joys of local walking and living with collies. I am also pleased to share pictures taken by me this week of our beautiful wildflower meadow at the Hiltingbury Recreation Ground. It is absolutely stunning and it always cheers me to see such brightness. See if you can spot the poppy by the way!

I also look at how walking dogs has helped me. I did think I would get loads of ideas for stories and blog posts when I was out walking a dog. My sum total of ideas that have come to me doing this is precisely zero!

I’m too busy keeping an eye on the dog, particularly my young mischief, Lady, but walking her (and my previous two) relaxes me, gets me out into the fresh air, and I come back, refreshed, having had a break from the writing desk. That is important. Tiredness is the biggest factor, I think, in stifling any kind of creativity.

Hope you enjoy the post.

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Many thanks to fellow Swanwicker, Val Penny, for hosting me on her blog today (9th July 2020). It was great fun to take part! Hope you enjoy.

Amongst other topics, I talk about my writing routine and share some tips I’ve found useful over the years. I also talk about how I got into flash fiction writing. It wasn’t something I anticipated when I first started out but it is easily my happiest “writing accident”!’

I also talk about what I like and dislike about marketing. See what you think – do you agree with my choices?

Transforming Communities Full

My CFT post this week will be called Walkies! I share the joys of walking with Lady during lockdown, the latest pics of our beautiful wildflower meadow, which is looking stunning right now, and share how walking has helped me. Link up on Friday.

I did think when I first became a dog owner 15 years ago, I would be able to think up ideas for stories while out walking Gracie, then Mabel, and now Lady. Not a bit of it! Haven’t thought of one story idea at all walking them!

Mind you, I have made many wonderful dog owner pals and Lady especially has made a few four-legged friends too.

What walking the dog does do though is enable me to unwind. Ideas for stories are far more likely to come to me when I’m in a relaxed state after getting back home again. And of course there are plenty of opportunities for practising observational skills. A particular colour of a front door might strike me as nice for Character A’s cloak in a flash fiction story – that kind of thing.

Never despise the little details! They may come in handy in a story one day.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It has been a good week with another flash piece up on Cafelit (Rotten Day) and my interview on Val Penny’s blog post (see next piece down for the link to this).

Oh and a bit of promotional news – From Light to Dark and Back Again is currently on offer on Amazon. So if you fancy quirky fiction at a discounted price, do check the link out. Reviews are always welcome too.

My favourite story in FLTDBA? Hmm… tricky one though I do have a very soft spot for Calling the Doctor which you can check out for free on the book trailer. (See below!).

Whatever you read or write this weekend, have a good one!


A big thanks to Val Penny for interviewing me on her blog today. (9th July 2020). See link for more but one of the topics I discuss here is how I got into flash fiction writing at all.

Let’s just say it wasn’t planned! Let’s also say I am very pleased with how it has turned out and hope to keep going with it for as long as possible!

On a side note, interviews like this really make you think about what you’re doing and why and where your writing journey has brought you to date. That’s no bad thing. And interviewing your characters can make you as their creator think about what they’re doing in your story and why. It’s a good way to see who is really necessary to your tale and who isn’t.


Much as I love listening to classical music when writing, I haven’t used it in my stories. The only time I use it is when trying to pick something what would work well in book trailers or when I am creating videos of flash tales to put on my website.

Music can set mood of course and I think I would rather my characters did that directly through what they say and do. (And isn’t it always more interesting when what they do goes against what they say?! Hypocrites are always good fun to write stories for!).

 

Fairytales with Bite – Fairytale Acrostic

F = Fantastic has to come into it somewhere, usually in the form of magic being performed, usually to help the deserving.
A = Animals often play a crucial role and sometimes at least prove to be more intelligent than the humans in the story.
I = Inventiveness can come into the stories – you wouldn’t usually think of turning a pumpkin into a coach would you?!
R = Realism? Well maybe. Fairytales can show a great deal of truth about human nature, not all of it is pleasant either, but it is accurate.
Y = Your fairy godmother awaIts… hmm… not necessarily. The character often doesn’t know they’ve got one until they show up. Best not to assume here!
T = Tension between the forces of good and evil is a given in this world.
A = Animated versions of the tale are generally good but some of them can’t be as originally written given the latter are often more violent!
L = Love and its importance is a key theme. Not just the romantic kind either. Think of Hansel and Gretel and their care for one another. Also I thought Gerta was a magnificent character in The Snow Queen with her commitment to rescuing Kay. (And I so loved the idea that the girl was rescuing the boy here).
E = Elephants! Have always had a very soft spot for Dumbo. Always will do. I see it as a classic film fairytale.
S = Stories. The classic fairytales have very strong storylines behind them. Wrong is righted. Evil is confronted. Good prevails. Not always a happy ending though. And I love fairytales for all of those reasons.

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This World and Others –

Questions to Ask Your Characters

One great thing about this topic is that it is a timeless one! (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?

What do you really want and why?

What stops you getting what you really want?

Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?

How are you going to achieve your objectives?

Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?

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. 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?).

What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?

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?).

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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Word Games

Image Credit: As ever Pixabay/Pexels, unless I say otherwise.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I set some anagrams and other word puzzles in this week’s CFT post, Book Games.

I also share some memories of word games played on car journeys when I was a kid (and most of them you could still do now, once we’re out and about again).

I also look at why word games can be helpful to a writer. Having fun with the language is a good thing! And for flash fiction writers like myself where I often want more than one meaning to words for punchline endings and the like, playing with words and exploiting those meanings is vital.

I’ll be putting up the answers mid-next week. No prizes but kudos to anyone getting them all.

Hope you enjoy.

Feature Image - Book Games

It was great fun setting some word puzzles for this week’s CFT post. I used to invent word searches for the church magazine when I was in my teens. (The last T-Rex had just left the planet. You get the idea of how long ago it was!).

I love playing with words and will often unwind by playing these after a writing session. Of course with the likes of Scrabble, you can get a side benefit of improving your vocabulary as you look up what those strange two and three letter words that ARE valid actually mean!

Looking forward to sharing a new Cafelit story from me which is due on site tomorrow. Have just submitted a short story to a competition. Need to pick on another one to have a crack at. I like writing to themes set by others. It’s a good discipline and makes me up my game here, which is never a bad thing.

Am also looking ahead with prepping material I know I’m going to need later in the year so busy, busy.

Whatever you’re doing this weekend writing/reading/both wise, have fun! Writing is hard work but it should be fun, most of the time anyway.

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W = Wonderful characters created by you.
R = Realistic or fantastical worlds? It’s entirely up to you.
I = Imagination stretched – yours and your readers!
T = Tension increasing as all manner of obstacles get in your lead character’s way but it is fun to drop them right in it!
I = Inventiveness is a great trait in your lead character(s) as they overcome what you’ve thrown at them.
N = Nearing the end of the story, the tension should not let up. There must be a proper and satisfactory resolution. It doesn’t have to be a happy one necessarily!
G = Genre – there are so many of these to write in but what will you choose and why?

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I’m sharing some anagrams and book title puzzles in my CFT post this week. I’ll also be looking at word games in general, how they’ve long been a part of my life, and why I think they’re good for writers. Link up on Friday. (Will post the answers in the comments box on this post at about this time next week. No prizes but plenty of kudos if you get them all).

Lady had a lovely day playing with a border collie lad and then went on to have a “girlie” party in the park with her best buddie, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, and a golden retriever friend. Fab time had by all. It was great to watch them “at work”. None of them were sorry the temperature has dropped! Must admit though it felt more like autumn at times out there today.

Do you find it easier to write in the summer months or when the nights draw in? I try to be fairly consistent but it is easier to focus at your desk when there isn’t the temptation to stay outdoors so I guess that says something positive about autumnal like weather after all!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve been talking about word games this week in CFT. So how do they help me when I write flash fiction?

Firstly, for my punchline ending tales, I’m often reliant on a humorous one-liner and for those to work best, double meanins of words come into their own. So I have to know ALL of the meanings of the particular words to come up with something suitable for my character/story.

Secondly, I’ve found that playing around with words via crosswords, Scrabble etc., can trigger story ideas and I’m never sorry to have plenty of those to work with!

 

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A = Always think of flash as being focused on the most important character, the most important situation they have to face.
C = Characters make a story so what is special about yours?
R = Reactions to your flash tale – what are you seeking to achieve here? Think about impact on your readers. What would be appropriate for this character and this situation?
O = Originality – it is said there are seven basic plots but what you bring to the mix which is unique is your writing voice. The more you write, the sooner you will discover what that voice is and then you can use it to great effect.
S = Story, story, story. What will keep your readers with you to the end of your flash tales?
T = Tension is even more important in flash fiction. You have ground to cover in fewer words. How can you use these to maximum effect? The tension should not let up until the resolution.
I = Imagination. As flash needs to be character led, flesh out your characters a bit before you write their stories. Make sure you know what they’re capable of and then have fun putting them in situations they have to resolve. Do or die? Literally maybe but not always. There are other ways a character has to overcome something and it is still absolutely vital. What can you explore here?
C = Change. Stories are about the most significant point of change in your character’s life. That literally is their story. So what matters to your character? What has to change and why? Does your character react well to that?

Happy writing!

 

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I suppose the biggest thing getting in the way of writing for me is if I’m really tired. One thing I do when I’m “buzzing and raring to go” is draft blog posts and flash fiction pieces so I have something to post fairly quickly. It makes me feel better (which in itself can help lift some of the tiredness. Feeling down because you’re shattered – well, it doesn’t help).

On days when I’ve been particularly busy, it’s a case of being kind to myself and not expecting too much. This is where having material good to go helps. A bit of polishing finishes the material off nicely and I feel as if I have done something positive. And THAT is always a good thing.

 

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Fairytales With Bite – 

What Triggered Your Love of Fairytales?

I have the nagging feeling I really should have asked this question a long time ago!
For me, the trigger for my life-long love of fairytales comes from The Reader’s Digest Collection of Fairytales which came in two volumes. Both are hefty hardbacks and you wouldn’t want to drop them on your foot!

I loved the stories and beautiful illustrations. These books were given to me by my late parents. I still have the books. The spine on Volume 1 in particular has been bound up by tape! I’m probably going to leave the building long before these books do!

The stories are those collected by Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, as well as originals by Hans Christen Andersen etc. I remember the shock at discovering fairytales didn’t necessarily have to have happy endings when I first read The Little Mermaid.

My favourite overall fairytale is Cinderella. Mind, my first published story was A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology. I look at the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of the younger stepsister who is not best pleased with the fairy godmother turns up again. Great fun to write and, being my first published story, it will always have a special place in my heart. I still love writing fairytales from different viewpoints. It’s good fun!

Looking at why you love stories can help inspire you write your own (and do so better!).

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This World and Others – 

Putting a Fictional World Together

The basic building blocks for putting a fictional world together are, for me, as follows:-

Species – Who will live in this fictional world? One species, a couple, many? If more than one, how do they interact with each other and if they don’t interact at all, what is the reason for that? If you have only one species, how are they sub-divided? Do you have the majority of the species living in an area and a minority live elsewhere? What are the reasons behind this?

Government and Society – This ties in with 1. How are your species governed and by whom? Are they governed well or badly? Can governments be changed? How is society organised? What is expected of everyone and does that vary from species to species? If so, what are the differences and why do they exist? What happens to rebels? (You can pretty much guarantee there will be those who do not like the status quo and won’t accept it so what happens to those who do this?).

Survival – How do the species survive? What do they eat/drink? Is their world an agricultural one and what shape does this take? Do they farm crops as we would know them or farm something very different? Climate and weather and their impact can come into this category too. How much do your readers need to know?

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Non-Fiction Journey and Author Interviews

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels, unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is always a huge pleasure to chat with fellow authors on Chandler’s Ford Today. There is always something interesting to learn. Every author’s writing journey is unique and I find that endlessly fascinating. Hope you do too.

This week I chat with Scottish crime writer, Val Penny, about her venture into non-fiction publishing with her recently released Let’s Get Published. Not that she has left her (writing) life of crime behind, I’m glad to say.

I love reading as well as writing author interviews. Every writer has their own insights into the business of writing, as well as thoughts on the ups and downs we all face, whether published or not. It is also good to know you are not alone on those ups and downs. (It is also reassuring to know that is normal!).

Hope you enjoy!

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The current hot weather is one of the few times I bless living in a north facing bungalow. It is relatively cool in here. The heat doesn’t affect my writing much in that I still get on and do it but I tend to finish earlier than normal knowing I’ll feel tired earlier than normal. Still I compensate by starting my writing session earlier so that’s okay.

Looking forward to sharing my interview with Val Penny on Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. She talks about her venture into non-fiction with her recent publication, Let’s Get Published. I’m always fascinated by other authors’ writing journeys. Each is unique to the writer and you can always learn something useful and interesting.

Am happily editing a short story which I hope will end up being published at some point! As ever, having a bit of time away from it has proved useful. That time away makes it much easier to see where the weaknesses are and therefore do something about them!

Have also been busy drafting flash fiction pieces.

I’ve also recently revised my Linkedin profile.

So not a bad old week so far but I must admit I won’t be that sorry when it cools down a bit. (And neither will Lady!).

Screenshot_2020-06-26 Allison Symes LinkedIn

 

I’ve mentioned before that sometimes I will start a flash fiction story by writing the ending first and work backwards from there. It’s a useful technique but I do sometimes find that by the time I’ve finished, I’ve thought of a better last line. But that’s okay. I just change it.

I remember I used to feel annoyed at that kind of thing. Why couldn’t I have thought of the better last line in the first place etc etc?

Now I know better than to waste time and energy fretting about that. Just change the line and move on. It’s a good sign the story has “go” to it when you can think of things to improve with it.

Yes, it would save a lot of time and effort if you could cut straight to the chase, but writing doesn’t work like that for me. I need to get some ideas down before I can come up with better ones.

What helped me to come to terms with that was on realising other writers find the same thing happens to them. It’s always good to know you’re not alone!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One thing I’ve learned to watch out for when editing my stories is my pet phrases. Most of the time with my flash fiction, they are amongst the first things to be cut, along with my wasted words of very, actually, and that. (Very few examples of that are actually necessary! If the story works just as well without them, out they come).

Every writer has their pet phrases. Sometimes they’re useful BUT not each and every time! Pet phrases can act as a kind of shorthand for you but if they’re not useful to your readers, it is best said phrases come out. (Another meaning for the phrase “kill your darlings” perhaps).

 

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Finding ideas for flash fiction is generally not an issue for me. It is working out which are the really strong ones and worth pursuing that can be tricky at times.

But I find character outlining helps me with that. By the time I’ve fleshed out what I need to know about my lead character, I can tell whether they’re “up” to being in a story.

I can also tell the kind of trouble they’re likely to land themselves in (with help from yours truly of course as I love landing my people right in it!) and from that the story starts to take shape. Away I go and write it before resting it for a while before editing it.

I also find flash fiction writing to be a useful warm up or warm down writing exercise. From my viewpoint, it’s another piece of work produced which I can polish and hopefully find a home for in due time.

Whatever you’re working on at the moment, I hope the writing is going well and that you’re enjoying it. Enjoying your writing is so important. It helps to motivate you and to keep you going when all you seem to get are rejections or not hearing back from competitions etc.

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I’ve found it helpful to think of flash fiction as it being from the viewpoint of ONE main character getting across ONE vital point and there has to be transformation in it somewhere.

That’s why we read. We want to find out what happens to the character. Do they get their happy ever after ending? Do they muck it up big time but somehow manage to redeem the situation? (I LOVE those stories!).

One of the aspects of flash fiction I love the most and I think is one of the useful as well is that it does make you focus on what really matters to your character. You do have to work out what the story is so you can focus on it properly.

 

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Fairytales With Bite – Murphy’s Law of Fairytales

So how could Murphy’s Law relate to fairytales then? I offer the following thoughts.

1. Never be unkind to the wizened old crone or man etc. They are bound to be a powerful witch/wizard/fairy godmother in disguise. It will be just your luck to cross them and be turned into something unpleasant. These things happen in the fairytale world.

2. Never be rude to passers-by. You might be glad of their help later on, especially if you HAVE crossed the wizened old crone etc. You’ll need someone to tell you what it is you have been turned into. Then and only then can you scream.

3. You know that downtrodden kid everyone ignores or is rude to? Watch them. They’re either going to end up marrying Prince Charming or somehow do something heroic. In the fairytale world, that kind of character is always marked out for great things. They like humility here.

4. It is best to assume the animals you come across can talk, are intelligent etc., and a quick word to the wise – if you do come across bears who live in a house, never ever pinch their breakfast. It won’t end well.

5. Actively be kind. You may be rewarded. You may not. But you won’t end up crossing the aforementioned wizened old crone etc.

6. If you come across a sweet covered house, run the other way as fast you can. (Well, you don’t want to risk a huge weight gain thanks to gobbling all that sugar now, do you?).

7. Don’t try and eat the Gingerbread Man. He resents that kind of thing.

8. If you need to cross a bridge and you are not sure if there are trolls in the area, see if you can get some friendly neighbourhood goats to cross the bridge first. They are excellent at getting rid of unwanted trolls.

9. If you think Grandma has suddenly become very hairy, it is not a trick of the light. She has. Go and get the woodcutter NOW.

10. If something seems too good to be true, it is. Mind you, that applies to all universes so is a good general principle to go by.

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This World and Others – 

Creating Something Out of Nothing

I was listening to Classic FM when it was reported a well known composer still suffered nerves when coming up with a new composition. They were still made nervous by the blank page, despite their many years of successful composition. Ironically, this cheered me up somewhat. It’s the same for any creator and I know it’s true for me. That touch of nerves before you start writing is the worst bit. Once you get going, you’re absolutely okay.

I’ve learned over time to just get the words down any old how. Editing and polishing happen much later. Nobody writes a perfect draft. Shakespeare didn’t. Austen didn’t. Dickens didn’t. I’m certainly not going to but that’s fine! So how can you get over the nervous start bit or, at least, make it not so bad and easier to handle?

I’ve found having a range of ways to get started on stories or blog posts helpful. I also find having brainstorming sessions every so often useful to jot down ideas and when I am struggling, I can turn to these and find something to inspire me there. My range of ways to get started include:-

1. Using a random word generator, pick three, and put them into a story. Using random words like this makes me think deeper and if there is no obvious link between the three words, even better. It makes me think again!

2. Look back over my old blog posts and stories. Often there will a link there I didn’t follow up at the time but might prove useful now.

3. Take a well known saying and use it as a theme or title (sometimes both) for a story or article.

4. Use a spider diagram or flowchart to flesh out basic ideas. That will soon show if ideas in the back of my head do have some “legs” to them or not. Naturally I go with the ones that do! This is especially useful when used in conjunction with a random word generator.

5. Look up writing competitions. Sometimes I’ll enter said competitions. Sometimes I’ll just write up a story to the theme and not submit it deliberately. I will go back to that story at a later date to polish it up further knowing it is not ready for a competition yet but I can still write to the theme. Who knows? The story might end up in an anthology later. Themes come up reasonably often so there will be other competitions the story the might fit.

However you get over the blank page nerves, happy writing and good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking Back and Trailers/Videos

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I review last Friday’s online event for the Waterloo Art Festival’s Writing Competition for my CFT post this week.

It was great fun (though I admit missing getting together with the other writers involved in this. Still there’s always next year and I think Zoom has a role to play even when things get back to whatever comes to pass as being normal!).

I share the trailer for Transforming Communities, the ebook launched here. I also share a video where I read an extract from my winning tale, Books and the Barbarians. Enjoy!

Transforming Communities Full

It was a joy to review how the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Event worked as an online only “get together” last Friday for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I also share the book trailer for Transforming Communities. Also see below.

This ebook is a compilation of the fifteen winning entries and includes my story, Books and the Barbarians. I also share the link to the video I created for the Festival. I read an extract from my story on that. Hope you enjoy.

Zoom and other social media have been a lifeline in keeping some writing events together. Indeed as I write this I’ve just come off a very interesting Zoom session looking at marketing. (There is always something to learn with that topic!).

I take the view if I can’t together with author friends and go to writing talks in person then I will do so online whenever possible. I must admit though I am looking forward to the usual events being back again but I see a use for Zoom and the like long after “normality” returns.

I hope these platforms make events more accessible to those where transport is an issue for one thing. There is great good to be kept there I think.

 

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C = Creating new fictional people is always fun.
H = Heroes or Villains? You need both.
A = Aspirations of the characters are something a reader should identify with; ideally the aspiration of the villain should be in direct contrast to that of the hero.
R = Reasons for behaviours, attitudes etc of the characters should be sensible to them and a reader should be able to see where they come from here.
A = Agreeing with those reasons is not necessary!
C = Conclusion of the story should result in resolution of the conflict between your hero and villain.
T = Tension should ratchet up throughout the story as hero and villain race to try to achieve their objectives, knowing one of them has to fail.
E = Energy should come from your characters so your readers feel these people could be real in some world somewhere.
R = Rationality is in the eye of the beholder; a villain will find reasons to justify their actions and those reasons will be rational enough to them.
S = Super stories as a result of the above? But of course!

Happy writing!

 

I’m a fan of the quiz show Pointless and love the word rounds. No surprises there to be honest. I like Scrabble and the quick crosswords, things like that. What word games do you like? Do you find they help your writing?

When I have time, I sometimes use word games to help me relax AFTER a writing session as they can be a good way for me to wind down yet still have fun playing with words.

Many decades ago, I used to write wordsearch puzzles for our church magazine (and to show how long ago that was, the magazine was produced on an old Gestetner duplicating machine. (For younger readers, these are the days before the photocopier became readily available. The last T-Rex had just left the earth.. you know the kind of thing. 😆).

Words are fun. They’re even more fun in a story or blog post!

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It was good to see some fellow flash fiction writers as part of the Zoom course I was on this afternoon. I learned a lot. I was also encouraged a lot by it too. I also hope to put some more things into practice over the next few months!

One nice thing about flash fiction in particular is it is an easy form to share online. The reduced word count means it is easy enough to share a story and it is the best way I know of showing people new to the format what flash fiction is all about.

And it is lovely to share some new stories on this page too from time to time. I find it great fun to do and I hope to share some more before too long.

I hope to catch up with some story writing over the weekend. Whatever your writing and/or reading plans are, I hope you enjoy them!

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Although flash fiction is necessarily short, I still mix up the length of sentences in my stories. I like a nice balance of short and longer sentences to give my tales a sense of rhythm. To me, this seems more natural to read. Nothing is at a fast pace all the time. Even in a flash story there can be pauses even if it is a pause of one line before the action starts up again.

Happily listening to Holst’s The Planet Suite on Classic FM when I drafted this. My favourite from it, Jupiter, is always one piece I turn the volume up for!

What I love about this suite is that each piece within it reminds me of a musical short story/flash fiction. Each piece represents each planet and they are so different. It is, to me, as if each piece is telling its own story.

And so nice to write and/or relax to as well!

Do you listen to music while writing? What kind helps most and why?

 

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Fairytales With Bite – 

Ten Things I Look For in a Good Story

I suspect there won’t be any great surprises here but each one should be a challenge to all of us to ensure we keep doing these!

  1. Characters I love or love to loathe. They’ve got to be memorable.
  2. Situations which are critical for the characters. They’ve got to strive for something important.
  3. A setting I would love to visit! (Anyone fancy a trip to The Shire in The Lord of the Rings? Mordor, I’d be happy to miss!).
  4. Great pace. Absolutely no boring bits!
  5. It’s a story I’d be happy to re-read at any time and enjoy it all over again.
  6. Humour, where apt for the story and the characters. I have a very soft spot for irony.
  7. Tragedy, when necessary as it often is, not to be overdone. (I think tragedy has much more of an impact when it does not become melodrama).
  8. Snappy dialogue.
  9. Catchphrases I can remember – and enjoy doing so.
  10. The story shows me something of the human condition which I’d either not considered before or reaffirms something. Funny stories can do this surprisingly well.

What are the most important elements to a story for you?

 

This World and Others –

Where to Find Ideas for Creating Your Fictional World

The best way by far is to read plenty of books across all genres and I do mean all. You can obviously learn directly from science fiction and fantasy as to how their worlds are set up. You learn a lot from what the writer decided you as the reader needed to know. But bear in mind you can also learn from history (fiction and non-fiction).

There is a lot of truth in the saying “the past is a different country, they do things differently there”. For a writer that’s wonderful stuff. So consider going back in time and having your fictional world set there. But do your research.

For example, readers may not need to know every detail of King Henry VIII’s court but they do need to know how many times he was married and how that affected life in the country (clue: it did and in a massive way!).

As for crime novels, again look at what the authors decided you needed to know. Setting is often used almost as a character in its own right in crime novels. What can you learn from that and apply to what you’re writing?

Work out a list of what you think you need to know. Then do a second one working out what it is a reader needs to know so they get the most from your story. And good luck!

 

Genre Fiction

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay and Pexels unless otherwise stated.

REMINDER –

WATERLOO ART FESTIVAL – WRITING COMPETITION – LAUNCH OF TRANSFORMING COMMUNITIES EBOOK ON FRIDAY 12TH JUNE 2020 FROM 6.30 PM UK TIME.

Just a quick reminder that the writing side of the Waterloo Arts Festival is on this evening, 12th June, from 6.30 pm to about 8.00 pm.

The event has to be online this year but it is free. You do need a ticket for the event but the link is here.

The launch is for the ebook of Transforming Communities, the theme for this year’s WAF writing competition, and my story, Books and Barbarians, is part of that. I am delighted to be a winner here again and many congratulations to all of the other winners too.

There will be videos, extracts of stories, and you can get to meet, via Zoom, the writers and publishers.

Hope to see you!😊

Image from link above to the Festival.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is all about Genre Fiction.  I share what I love about it and why I loathe the snobbery that can exist around it. Genre fiction is the bread and butter for publishing houses and helps fund literary fiction.

That’s fine but I do wonder if some of the snobbery is a hangover from the old “penny dreadfuls”. Though I’d argue even those had their place. They got people reading! Anyway, check out the post and see what you think. Do share your favourite genre books too. It’s another way of building up a reading list!

I’m taking part in the online Waterloo Arts Festival – Writing Competition Ebook Launch later on this evening and hope to report back on that for my CFT post next week. I hope some of you can “pop along”.

Zoom has been a lifeline for many writing events and I hope the good from that continues once we are back to any kind of normality again. It will make events more accessible for more people I think and that’s a good thing always.

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Funny old day weather wise here. Sun, thunder, lightning, heavy rain, sun again. Still it IS only June…!

Stages of Storytelling for me:-

1. Get initial idea for a character and flesh that out.

2. Get initial idea for a situation to dump them in and flesh that out. Well, I’m not going to make their life easy for them. There’d be no story otherwise.

3. Write first draft and put aside.

4. Start thinking of other story ideas and making notes.

5. Back to story 1 after a suitable gap away from it and re-read it on paper. Immediately notice lots of ways to improve it and do so. Put aside again.

6. Start fleshing out story 2 following steps 1 and 2 above.

7. Re-read my story 1. Less to improve on this time but I can see the odd awkward phrase so reword that. I can see how a change of phrase will make the flow of the story more even so go with that. I finish correcting any typos and grammatical errors.

8. I write the first draft of story 2.

9. Final read through of story 1. I often read dialogue out loud to make sure a reader won’t stumble over it and make any final changes.

10. Knowing the story is as good as I can make it, I ensure I am following publisher/competition guidelines and submit the story, well ahead of the deadline.

And then back to story 2!

My CFT post this week is all about Genre Fiction and what I love about it. Great fun to write. Hope you’ll share some of your favourites in the comments box when the post goes live on Friday.

I’ll also be interviewing authors over the next few weeks and am on the receiving end of the questions for an interview I’ll be taking part in. So busy busy and that’s how I like it.

Looking forward to Waterloo Art Festival on Friday night. I will share the link again for where you can get a free ticket at some point during the day on Friday so do keep a look out for that.

I hope to report back via CFT on how everything went. The strange situation we’re all in pandemic wise has led to some creative thinking about how we do things and I hope the good from that continues long after the pandemic is over (or as over as it ever will be).

Facebook – General – and Book Cover Challenge

See previous post for Days 1 to 5!

Day 6

I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #FranHill who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse. Wonderfully funny.

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A wonderfully funny writer!

Day 7

I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #DawnKentishKnox who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett. I love the Discworld series and this has two of my favourite characters in it – Sam Vimes and Moist von Lipwig. It’s also about trains and I have a soft spot for them too! Great storyline.

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One of my favourite Discworld stories.

Facebook – From Light To Dark And Back Again

Where does the time go? I was looking through my Cafelit stories and came across my first 100-word tale on there. A Study In Magic appeared all the way back in 2013! This story made it into FLTDBA and I’m looking forward to sharing more details about Tripping the Flash Fantastic in due course.

I must admit I couldn’t imagine my writing life without flash fiction now.

Can I see how I could improve this first flash tale now?

Of course. I’m not saying how though! Why? Simply because you write to the best of your ability at the time you write. Hindsight is a rotten mistress!

What you do though is pick up on how you can improve things and apply that to the next story, the one after that and so on. The idea is to try to continually improve on what you do. Doing that stretches you and, for me, it makes writing more fun.

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Flash fiction has to be to the point but that’s a good thing regardless of word count. Any story needs to reveal what a reader needs to know to make sense of it but no more. Flash fiction forces you to cut the waffle and I know that has gone on to help me with my blogging, short story writing, etc.

I keep some questions in mind for when I’m editing a story and have found these useful. Hope you do too.

1. Does this contribute to the story in any way? (If no, cut immediately!).

2. If yes, how vital is it? Is it something a reader absolutely has to know? If yes, fine. It stays as it is.

3. If no but the information is important enough to add depth to the story, then note it. At the end of your first edit, prioritise what information the reader has to know. Is this particular piece STILL vital after all of that?

4. If yes, keep it in. If no, then look at whether you can get this information into the story another way so it IS vital. If that’s not possible, then the information almost certainly isn’t as crucial as you first thought!

5. Does everything in the story move it on to the conclusion? If there is anything in there that doesn’t move the story on, then I’d remove it.

Happy editing!

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Another advantage to flash fiction is when it comes to Open Prose Mic Nights, you know you’re not going to send your audience to sleep. You’re not on for long enough!😆😆😆

Joking aside, flash fiction does work really well for this. You haven’t long to keep the audience’s attention but you are only reading/performing a short piece so that helps.

And of course you can also make a story trailer/video for your website and use that as an advert for what you do, writing wise.

On my book trailers page on the website, there are videos for FLTDBA, Nativity, The Best of Cafelit 8, and I experimented with one of my stories, Job Satisfaction, from FLTDBA too and produced a trailer for that. I hope to do more of this. It’s good fun to do and helps add interest to your website.

 

Fairytales With Bite –

Top tips for the Aspiring Character

You are a character who wants to come to life on your creator’s page but they’re umming and ahhing about whether you are really the character they want to lead what they laughingly call their story. It is your story, naturally. They just haven’t realised it yet. So what can be done to make your writer give you your proper place in the tale? Top tips include:-

1. Ensure your personality is strong enough. Don’t be a doormat. Doormats not only get trodden on but, far worse, they’re forgotten. That must not happen to you.

2. You must have good turns of phrase so your conversation is unforgettable too. If you can be witty and come out with appropriate one-liners, so much the better. Readers remember those. Your writer should remember that.

3. Are you prepared for adventure? Are you happy for your writer to drop you right in it, several times if need be and usually from a great height? Yes? Good! They can do what they like with you then and they will like that.

Good luck! (And tell your writer to get a move on and get you in the story).

Let your writer charge up their batteries and give you the proper star billing in the story.

 

This World and Others –

Do You Have Favourite Characters?

So do you have favourite characters of your own making and, if so, should you?

I must admit I can’t see how any writer can avoid having favourites amongst their characters. There are bound to be creations we prefer over others, simply for things such as we like Character A’s sense of irony, which Character B, noble as they are, simply doesn’t have. What DOES matter is that we are scrupulous about how we create our characters.

By this I mean when planning out characters, we should ensure each and every one of them has flaws and virtues. Each and every one of them must have good reasons for acting the way they are. Each and every one of them should feel real to a reader. No cardboard cut-outs here!

You, as the writer, have got to know what makes them all tick. You need to know what drives them, what would frustrate them, what would tempt them away from the path they’re supposed to be on, and how they handle weakness in themselves, yet alone in others.

A good sign of a “proper” favourite character is knowing you’ve created a character that for many reasons you dislike (e.g. you disagree with their attitudes) but have brought them to life in such a way your reader will be intrigued by them and there will be no sign of your antipathy towards them either. Good luck!

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Changing Direction

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My post this week looks at why changing direction in writing can be benefical and why it is inevitable at some point. After all when you start writing, you cannot know at that point for sure you will always write short stories, say. You may decide to write a novella or a play or what have you.

I share some thoughts about my own changes of direction and flag up a new one but see the post for more on that.

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Did you know what you wanted to write when you first began creative writing? Or was it a case of wanting to try different forms until you found the one you were most at home with?

It was those questions which led to my writing this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post on Changing Direction.

Writers are often urged to not give up and rightly so. Persistence does pay (it has for me) but it should also be said that it is perfectly okay to change direction if you want to do so. It was a turn of direction that led me to discover flash fiction after all. I hadn’t anticipated this at all when I began writing.

And so often writers will start by writing short stories, say, go on to write a novel, and then come back to the short form again.

The writing journey is not a straight line by any means. What it should be though is fun (at least most of the time!).

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Facebook – General – Book Cover Challenge

I was nominated to take part in this on 5th June. I thought I would share my posts here (and again on my next post) as there are some wonderful books to share. If you haven’t read them already, do consider adding them to your TBR list. (I will repeat this post next time so all of the book covers are together). Oh and do check out the writing of the authors I nominate too!

Day 1
I have accepted a challenge by Jane Brocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate Val Penny who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Changed my opinion about Richard III. Is also a different kind of detective novel. A gripping read. Hope you check it out.

Image may contain: 1 person, text

 

Facebook – General

It can sometimes be difficult stopping a story because you really love the characters and the setting and you want to keep writing but, of course, you can’t.

The story has to end at the right point for that tale. There has to be a point of change and we should see the results of that change. Literally end of story.

One advantage of writing flash for me is the fact I have to make myself move on to tackle the next 100-worder or what have you. The lower word counts with flash means I can’t have too long to fall in love with my characters and therefore face the temptation of extending the story out beyond where it should really go.

 

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Do you have pet phrases you like to use in your stories? Or do you find yourself coming out with the same turn of phrase more than once in a story as if you are on “hit default phrase selection” mode?!

Writing flash does help against that given the need to keep inventing new characters and situations. What I DO have to watch are my infamous wasted words and ensuring I don’t start each story in the same way. (That is particularly easy to do if you use the first person. Every story starts “I, I, I” etc etc).

I think it is useful to be aware of things like this so you can look out for them in your editing.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It seems such a long time ago that I took a change of direction with my writing and discovered flash fiction. Now there is one turning point I really don’t regret! And it has enlivened my reading too. Flash fiction collections are great fun to delve into (and ideal for a quick read when you haven’t much time).

Yes, yes, I know, I’m biased. Course I am. Go on check out some flash collections and see if I’m right or not then!

Do you work out your themes in advance of writing your story or does the theme arise naturally out of the tale you’re writing?

It has been a case of both for me. For example, I think I’d like to write a poetic justice story so I then plan out a character and a situation where that theme emerges.

The nice thing with that theme is sometimes poetic justice can have a humorous element to it (and I do enjoy writing and reading those kinds of stories).

There have been cases where I know who my character is and where they’re going plot wise and the theme then comes out of that.

Though in both cases I do like my heroes/heroines to have some fire in their belly. No time for wishy-washy characters here!😆]

I expect my characters to justify being created in that I WANT to write about them, there is no problem finding things for them to do or land themselves in or so on.

For my quieter characters, I want their trait of quiet determination to win through so it is clear to a reader that there is more to them than meets the eye. Any character like that intrigues me as I want to find out what that “more” is and I would hope a reader would feel the same for my people here.

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What do I like in an opening line, especially for a flash fiction story? Some of the things I look for here include:-

1. An interesting situation or character that intrigues from the start.

2. Dialogue that sets the scene and, usually, indicates the problem the character has to overcome.

3. Internal thoughts of a character showing them in some sort of turmoil. My story, Rewards, has as its opening line: ‘”She must go,” Becky thought.’

I referred to this story when I was on #WendyHJones‘ podcast The Writing and Marketing Show a little while back.

And the reason I went for this as an example of an opening line to hook the reader immediately is because I would hope you would want to find out who the “she” is and why Becky thinks she has to go. After that you would want, I hope, to find out if Becky did get rid of whoever “she” is and how.

I think the ultimate “rule” here is that an opening line which makes me HAVE to find out what happens next means that opening line has done its job!

Now just to deliver on the rest of the story!

 

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Fairytales with Bite – Character Motivation

Character motivations can cover a wide spectrum. There are the “obvious” ones of love, revenge, seeking justice etc but motivations can be more subtle than that – for example the wish to prove someone wrong.

What matters is whatever the motivation is, it is the be all and end all to your character, even if it seems to everyone else they’re making a fuss about very little.

A motivated character will do whatever it takes to get what they want and the important thing is to ensure your people are driven enough.

It’s not enough for a character to just want to stay out of trouble. But if your character goes to extraordinary lengths to stay out of trouble then a great deal of humour or tragedy can result from that.

What could be behind that? Maybe they’ve got a bet on with a friend to stay out of trouble for six days, say, and the friend has always been right in the past but this time our hero wants to prove them wrong and is determined to do so. They’re fed up with their friend being right all the time and finally want something to go their way.

There, the motivation is powerful enough and understandable. Your readers have to get behind your character to carry on reading their adventures after all. Naturally your character’s friend will know or be able to guess at their friend’s motivation here and will do all they can to scupper any chances of success.

Voila! Instant clashes and tension as you work out how your hero does or does not prove the friend wrong.

This World and Others – 

Top Tips For When Writing Isn’t Working As You Would Like

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

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

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

3. Look at Where You’ve Come From Writing Wise. How much have you written over the years? Can you list publication credits (online and in print)? If not at that stage, have you had shortlistings? Are you simply submitting more stories for competitions than ever before?

Remember you define what success in writing is. Yes, publication is the obvious goal but it isn’t the only one. Saying you’ll write 3 or 4 stories and then try and get them published later is a fine goal too. Look at what you’ve learned as you have written more. Have you learned how to improve your editing skills? Have you picked up tips on the way that are helping you write better now (I would be surprised if you hadn’t)? All of these are good and worthy things.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books On The Radio

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is all about the links between books and radio. I also share the radio interview links for YA author #RichardHardie and myself when we were on #ChatandSpin radio recently.

(I also share the link with Wendy H. Jones‘ marvellous podcast The Writing and Marketing Show where I discussed, well what else, flash fiction!). This is a post you can read AND listen to! Hope you enjoy.

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It was good fun to take part in the Chat and Spin radio interview, as well as being a guest on Wendy H Jones’ The Writing and Marketing Show.

(For more see my CFT post this week called Books on the Radio – https://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/books-on-the-radio-local-a…).

Now I’ve mentioned before that preparation is key and it is. I prepared too much material for both shows but (a) I know I can use that material at some point and (b) it settled my nerves a bit knowing I had material to hand. I can’t overstate the importance of (b) there!

I hope to put some of that material on my website at some point (but you can still check out my website anyway meantime!!). See https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/

I also hope after the Waterloo Arts Festival event I’ll be involved in on 12th June to put the video I made for that on my website too.

And yes preparing material for future website usage is also a good idea and helps to keep that fresh and keep followers interested.

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Am at the very happy stage of the second edit on my Tripping the Flash Fantastic, which is due out later this year. Also planning my blurb and cover material. All good fun to do!

(Will be following my own advice on a recent CFT post in that I hope to have a cyberlaunch in due course and I will be preparing material for that too. It is always better to have too much material and not use all of it than be in a panic on the night because you haven’t got enough!).

Have also selected another writing competition to have a crack at. Deadline is not until July but that gives me plenty of thinking time. (I will set my own deadline for this to be the end of June so I make sure the story is in well ahead of time and I have time for that extra polish which can make all the difference beween a piece being accepted or not).

When I don’t have a lot of time to write, I draft blog pieces and build up a stock of these. It means I’ve got something ready to edit and send off where appropriate as I blog for the Association of Christian Writers and sometimes have pieces appear in their journal, Christian Writer.

I also like to have pieces to hand that I can adjust and turn into articles for Chandler’s Ford Today.

So always something to do then and that’s just how I like it!

 

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How do you feel when you get to the end of a first draft?

Relieved that part is over?
Sorry that part is over?
Dreading the edit(s) (especially as you know there’ll be more than one!)?
Wishing it hadn’t taken so long?

For me, it is a combination of the first and last ones! So over to you then. What is your reaction the moment you write The End for the first time?

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Facebook – General – and

Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers –

Honest Writing

A busy night for me this evening as it is my turn on the More than Writers blog spot. This is the Association of Christian Writers’ blog and my piece this time is called Honest Writing. Hope you enjoy.

 

Twitter News – @AllisonSymes1

I’m slowly learning to use Twitter more and I thought I’d share something here which is also a good piece of marketing (and great fun to take part in!).

The only book I couldn’t get into the above tweet was Magnetism where I have a short story. This book was produced by Gill James and features the work of Cafelit and Bridge House authors.  It is very much meant to give a flavour of what we do. To get a FREE COPY of this book, you just need to sign up to Books, Books, Books.

Magnetism Small

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The “oomph” moment in a flash fiction story can take different forms and be in varying places in the tale.

The whole mood of my story Calling the Doctor (see book trailer below!) changes on the very last word. This is why it is one of my own favourite pieces.

One of the challenges of flash is to find the right “oomph” moment for your character and to place it in exactly the right place in the story.

In this case, had I placed that particular word earlier in the story, the impact of the story would have been severely diluted.

But sometimes I start a story with a powerful moment where you know from that point onwards, something has got to change and quickly. The fun of those stories is in finding out what that change is and what its consequences are – and there are always some! – and it is just as much fun finding that out when you’re writing the tales!

My CFT post this week is about Books on the Radio and I’ll be sharing links to radio interviews on Chat and Spin Radio which YA author, #RichardHardie, and I took part in recently. I’ll also be looking at the general role of books on the airwaves. Link up on Friday.

Naturally for the radio interview I was waving the flag for flash fiction and books being a perfect form of escapism. And whether you write them or read them or do both, that escapism is so welcome right now!

My favourite flash stories are the ones that make me smile or laugh though. I do like the emotional ones where you really want the character to do well and they can’t/don’t but, for me, you can’t beat a good laugh.

Flash lends itself well to humorous stories because they often work so well when kept short. Flash helps a lot there!

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Fairytales With Bite – Making Space

I believe fairytales and fantasy fills the spaces between reality and chaos. Why? Because so many tales in these genres reflect what we can be like, while others give strong moral messages. Why do we need such things?

  • To guide us as to what our behaviour should/should not be;
  • To show us what life could be like without kindness, gratitude etc. Would you really not want things to come right for Cinderella, for example?

As writers, we also need to give our characters space to develop in themselves and as part of the plot development. A character who doesn’t change will be of little interest to readers.

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This World and Others –

How Do You Know When A World Is Going To Work?

I would say that a fictional world has worked for me when I can:-

  • Spot connections between the fictional world and the real one we know here.
  • See what is better on the fictional world and wish we had it here. (Flying carpets anyone? No emissions but I’ve always thought the landing on those things must be on the rough side and there is definitely no in flight entertainment. You’d be hanging on for grim life, yes?).
  • See what is worse on the fictional world and be glad it’s not coming here.
  • Can understand what the lead character has to contend with and how the setting helps/hinders them.
  • Can see further stories being set in that world, even if it is not with the same characters. That is always a good sign. For me, the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett really took off when it could “host” the Rincewind stories, the Vimes ones, the witches ones and so on. I also liked looking for the connections between the different series. For example a character would refer to another one not appearing in the story. It wouldn’t matter if you hadn’t read the other story. Referring to other characters like that implies a life above and beyond the immediate world of the story you are reading and that is great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lockdown Effects on Writing

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay or Pexels are the sources of the images unless otherwise stated.

RADIO NEWS – CHAT AND SPIN RADIO

photo of a copper audio mixer

Photo by Dmitry Demidov on Pexels.com

RADIO NEWS:

I’m thrilled to say I was on Chat and Spin Radio on Tuesday, 19th May at about 9.35 pm (UK time) talking about my great writing love – flash fiction – and From Light to Dark and Back Again. See www.chatandspinradio.com

AND if you like their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/chatandspin, you’re in with a chance of winning a £20 shopping voucher too.

I’ll be talking more about this later in the week, especially when I have a link to share! (See below)

Now for actors you say “break a leg” as a kind of good luck thing (though I know it sounds anything but!). What do you say for this? Don’t lose your voice, I guess!😀

 

sound speaker radio microphone

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RADIO INTERVIEW LINK

A big thank you, everyone, for your support following  my interview on Chat and Spin Radio. It was good fun to do and I’m now thrilled to be able to share the link.

I appear at the 27 minute in stage. Appropriately for a flash fiction writer, I’m brief (!) but it was a fun experience to take part in and I hope to do it again at some point.

Hope you enjoy. Also see their website.

The first link given above takes you to their Facebook Groups page. The second one takes you to where the show starts playing. And if you’re a fan of 1980s music, you are in for a treat there too.  My favourite genre is classical  but I have fond memories of 1980s pop and what I heard as I was waiting to go on the show brought back good recollections!

It was also great to put in a good plug for Cafelit as well! I also got to talk about how I got into flash fiction writing in the first place.

 

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

And now on to other things!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week, Lockdown Effects on Writing, is one of the few things I’ll write about coronavirus. I look at how the lockdown has affected my reading and writing. I also talk about the first video I’ve made for the Waterloo Arts Festival, given that has had to go online only this year.

The upside to all of this is having to learn new things and develop other ways of reaching out to people.

The great thing is that, regardless of format, books and stories remain wonderful entertainment, whether you write them, read them or, ideally, do both.

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I’ve deliberately chosen not to write much about the coronavirus so my CFT post this week and one other item will be about the sum of it for me.

There are various reasons for this, not least of which is that when life gets grim, I automatically turn to the lighter side of things. I feel the need for balance. I can see me “using” coronavirus in future stories but mainly as a way of giving a period setting! There will be excellent stories and articles directly about the virus but it just isn’t me to specifically write about it.

And I’ll always wave the flag for books and stories that “only” strive to entertain. These things may be easy to read but I can tell you their authors would have worked phenomenally hard to get to that point. I learned a long time ago if someone makes something look easy, they worked hard for years to get to that!

Mind you, the Feature Image I’ve used for CFT this week is probably my favourite Covid-19 related photo (and as ever is from Pixabay).

Feature Image - Lockdown Effects on Writing

What a week it has been! A lot of learning, a new writing experience (radio interview), and a flash piece submitted (tonight).

My CFT piece this week will be Lockdown Effects on Writing and I also talk a bit about my video production and why it was done too. Link up on Friday.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It has been quite a week what with my first radio appearance and in my CFT post tonight I also talk about why I made my first video recently. Both of these are waving the flag for flash fiction as well as for FLTDBA specifically. Plus I’ve learned so much about Zoom and Skype recently.

I’ll also have publication news next week so look forward to sharing that and I’m working on my Edit 2 of what will be my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, as well. Glad to say that’s going well though it is lovely to be at the “almost there” stage.

Plans for the weekend are to continue the editing and I hope to batch write some 100-worders. I find it useful to do that as I can then choose where and when to send them over a month or so. It’s always good to know you’ve got something to send out when you want too!

Happy reading and writing!

Pleased to have sent off another 100 worder tonight. I often batch write these and hope to have another good writing session on this over the weekend. (Is it just me or will it simply not feel like a bank holiday again?).

I often use first person for my drabbles as it gives a sense of immediacy and that is so useful for the shorter flashes.

 

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Fairytales with Bite – Characters With Bite!

My favourite types of character are those with bite (and I’m not a vampire fan either!). So what does with bite mean here?

I adore characters who:-

1. Say what they mean and follow up on what they say they will do (equally applies to villains!).

2. Are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in (and can apply to villains too!).

3. Have good, understandable reasons for their actions, even if you don’t agree with them.

4. Are memorable. Some will have distinctive phrases but for me the most memorable ones are the ones with attitudes I remember and agree with or loathe. Whatever way it is, they stick in the mind, which is precisely what you want your characters to achieve.

5. I love characters with a sense of humour (and even more so if they can laugh at themselves).

6. I adore characters with courage. (Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee and a host of others).

7. I love characters who fight for their own happy ever after, even if they fail. I loathe wishy-washy characters. I’ve got to feel the character has done something and that the story would be incomplete without them. If I feel why is this character in here then there’s something amiss.

What would you list as the attributes your characters must have? And how do you go about showing those in your stories?

By far the best method is to get your character demonstrating cowardice or courage or whatever the attribute is and then readers will pick up on that without you needing to spell it out.  What can be both funny and tragic is when a character thinks they’re brave but their actions show otherwise so do bear that in mind as a possibility as well. Actions speak louder for characters as well as for “real people”!

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This World and Others – What Books Mean To Me

What do books mean to your characters? Is their world a literate one or is the oral storytelling tradition the strongest influence? Are stories welcomed or do your characters have to stick strictly to the facts and imagination is discouraged, punished even?

Can your characters read any books they like or do they have to stick to an official list? Is there a secret underground world of books where banned items can be read?

Do your characters treasure books themselves or do they leave that to others? If so, why?

Attitudes to books and stories can reveal so much about characters and their world settings. There are stories to be written here – lots of them ideally!

 

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May Memories

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay and Pexels supplied the images unless stated otherwise. I am glad to say I’ve contributed some pictures to the CFT post this week!

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

May is one of my favourite months of the year for many reasons. My CFT post, May Memories, takes a look at that and I also share memories of my grandmother who was also called May. I also share what is likely to remain the strangest deep memory recall I’ve had.

I give a round-up of my writing news as well this month and take great pleasure in sharing some gorgeous pics from Pixabay celebrating May (photos of roses always do that for me!). Some of the photos are from my garden too.

Hope you enjoy.

 

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I always enjoy writing my CFT posts but May Memories this week is one with personal recollections in it. I have very fond memories of my grandmother May and I’ve always liked it as both a name and a month. I also liked the old TV comedy series From May to December starring Anton Rodgers. Anyone remember that?

TV funnily enough has not yet sparked a story idea off in me. I tend to get my ideas from writing exercise prompts, proverbs (which give me a theme and often a title), thoughts about characters I could give a life to and so on and what would I do with them if I did write them up etc.

 

I’ll be sharing May Memories in my CFT post this week. It is one of my favourite months of the year for many reasons. (THE favourite is March, my birthday month so there!)😀

I share some personal recollections, a spooky (to me at least) deep memory recall experience – both of which are connected with my grandmother May – and a round up of my writing news for the month. We’re just coming up to the halfway point and it has been quite a busy month already!

But that is an encouragement to (a) keep going and (b) see what else I can get out there/get published etc. I’ve found that whenever I have anything published, it spurs me on to see what else I can do. When I have things rejected (or just not placed in a competition), that spurs me on to look at the story again and see what I can do to improve its chances when I sent it out into the big, bad world again. As I do.

Link up for CFT tomorrow.

PS As you will no doubt tell from the picture below, I can’t wait until I can get to the hairdressers again!

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Yesterday, I got to make my first video. It’s in connection with the Waterloo Arts Festival and I hope to be able to share it (or the link) later on after the Zoom WAF this year.

It was good fun to do and got me out of my comfort zone for a bit. Later, I also hope to put this up on my website and maybe do a couple of others where I narrate some of my flash fiction. Flash is great for this kind of thing. Doesn’t take long. Makes for good download times too!

I prepared notes. There was no way I could do something like this off the top of my head. Even if I could, I don’t think it would be a good idea anyway. I’ve long found preparation is key for so much in writing, even if you don’t always use all of the material you’ve drafted. (Some of it may come in handy as website material later).

Now on to my CFT post and this week I’ll be sharing some May Memories including writing news from me. Link up on Friday.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring writing wise!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction is a great vehicle for reading out loud precisely because it cannot take too long to do! Having made a video for the Waterloo Arts Festival event, I hope at some point to do more to put on my website as it occurred to me this would be another way of sharing stories online.

And I must admit I still love being read TO in the form of audio books. Much as I love reading to myself, there is something special about someone else telling you a story. So if you’re wondering what to read next, maybe it should be a case of what you’re going to listen to next?

Oh and a big thanks to Ana Coelho for the pic of me reading from my The Professional at last year’s Waterloo Arts Festival. (And also to Paula Readman for the Cafelit 8/Nativity shot, which is one of my favourite photos. Hey, I’m not going to pretend to be unbiased here!).

 

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Does classical music influence what I write at all?

No! What it does do is relax me and when I’m relaxed, I’m more productive so win-win here.

I have found in the past other types of music can alter my mood and therefore what I write and that can be used knowingly and deliberately but you do have to be aware of it happening. I once tried to write a murder scene in a longer short story when a cute love song came on. Threw me completely!

So classical it is and will remain!

 

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I chose Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens as the music for the FLTDBA book trailer. I’ve always loved the piece (I got to know it through the Jonathan Creek detective series which used it as the theme) and I wanted quirky music to go with my quirky fiction!

The music also reflected the theme of From Light to Dark and Back Again pretty well too. The lovely thing is I am a great fan of classical music and I’m sure I can think of something suitable for Tripping the Flash Fantastic in due course. It’s not as if I’m going to run out of composers or anything…!

 

Fairytales with Bite – Three Words

For fiction writing, you could look at catchphrases for your characters.

Catchphrases have to be memorable to work, also you need not to get tired of them (and that’s even more true for your reader!), and so are best kept short to help achieve those points. I would opt for a three-worder here.

If your characters were limited to three words as their pet phrase, what would they be and why? (I suspect the most famous one here would be I’ll Be Back from The Terminator). But what would you choose for your creations?

Would your pet phrase match your character? That is, if they’re a feisty character, would their phrase reflect that? Or would they downplay that side of things a bit (especially if they wanted to put off an enemy)? Would they be sarcastic or would their phrase be a cover for what they are really like?

Food for thought, I hope. The important point is to know who your characters are, how they would speak and sound (to a reader) and, if a catchphrase would be appropriate for your characters, to choose one that fits them well.

 

This World and Others –

Questions to Ask your Characters

This is by no means a definitive list. I’m sure you’ll think of other questions to ask!

One great thing about this topic is that it is a timeless one! (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?

What do you really want and why?

What stops you getting what you really want?

Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?

How are you going to achieve your objectives?

Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?

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. 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?).

What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?

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?).

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!).

Does fear of or respect for others hold you back from achieving your objectives? How do you feel about this?

What are you like under pressure?
Now if answering those questions doesn’t generate story ideas, I’d be very surprised!

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Zooming Around and Cyberlaunch Tips

Image Credit:  Pixabay and Pexels as usual, unless otherwise stated. Many thanks.

Special Note:  Today, 8th May 2020 is the 75th anniversary of VE Day. My parents and grandparents, who lived through this, are sadly gone, but to all who gave up so much so that we could live, thank you. You are not forgotten. Nor should you ever be.

My parents were evacuated, my father more than once as many East End families came back to London before having to leave again due to the doodlebugs.

My grandparents? One served in the Forces before being invalided out and then working as an ARP warden. He saw things as an ARP warden nobody should have to see. My maternal grandfather was in a reserved occupation – he worked in munitions and was often bombed out.

There is much to be thankful for despite our current difficulties.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I hope this week’s CFT post, Zooming Around and Cyberlaunch Tips, proves particularly useful. I share my thoughts about Zoom. I go on to share hints and thoughts about having a cyberlaunch. I discuss what I found useful when I had mine for From Light to Dark and Back Again and what I learned from this.

Naturally in the fullness of time I’m looking forward to having another one for Tripping the Flash Fantastic!

What I do know though is preparation is key! And a cyberlaunch should be fun for you as author/host. That fun will be picked up on by those attending your launch.

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I hope the tips on cyberlaunches in my latest CFT post, Zooming Around and Cyberlaunch Tips, prove useful. The good thing about holding events like these is you will always learn something from them in what worked well, what you could have done better and so on. Those you take with you to your next event!

Going to other cyberlaunches, as well as being great fun and supportive of other writers, also provides good opportunities to learn.

I held a raffle when I had mine for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I used a random number generator and allocated a number to every visitor. When it came to doing the draw for a prize, I simply put in the range of numbers from smallest to largest and picked out the winners that way.

That wonderful tip was something I picked up from a cyberlaunch I went to (and I’m sorry I have forgotten whose that was but I will say a big thank you now as it did prove useful and I am sure it will again!).

Facebook – General – and Publication News

Good support at 8 pm for the Clap for Carers though Lady decided not to use her vocal talents this week. I’m sure she’ll make up for it another time…

Am absolutely thrilled to say I am one of the winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival’s Writing Competition. Many congratulations to all of the other winners who are:-

Mehreen Ahmed: Dolly
Gail Aldwin: The Price of Firewood
Christopher Bowles: Chroma
Maxin Churchman: Pulling Together
Jeanne Davies: Utopian Dream
Jo Dearden: A Small Clay Vase
Linda Flynn: Fishing in Troubled Waters
Anne Forrest: Number Twenty-seven
Dawn Knox: Rising from the Ashes
Roz Lyn: Circle Time
Paula R C Readman: Cobalt Blues
Hannah Retallick: Bookclub for the Elderly
Theresa Sainsbury: Transforming Teenagers
Allison Symes: Books and Barbarians

I will miss enormously NOT going up to London for the Festival, meeting up with my fellow writers for a very convivial pub lunch etc, but there will be online events so I will look forward to those.

What with the news of two of my stories being in Cafelit 9 later this year, it has been quite a week! This is the lovely side of writing of course. What doesn’t get seen is the work that goes into those stories over weeks, writing them, honing them, sending them off, and then waiting to hear.

This is why I like to have something I’m about to send off, another competition in mind to have a go at, and something I’m resting ready for editing after a suitable time break away from it. Over the course of a year, it means I’ve submitted a number of stories. Some will be accepted, some won’t but even there I can revisit the tales and try them out again with another market/competiton. I’ve had work published doing that.

Now on to the next story, which is almost ready for submitting!

 

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Another reason for outlining my characters is I want to be able to see the world through their eyes and until I know certain things about them I can’t do that. What their attitudes are is, to me, far more important than knowing what they look like.

I know some writers need to know the physical appearance of their characters first and then work out what else they need to know from there.

But what matters here is finding the starting point that works for you, whichever way around it happens to be!

It took me a while to work out which way WAS the best route for me to take. But all that practice in writing early on, though the results were never published, has paid off now. I know what works for me and I go with that.

Where variety comes in is how I approach writing the story. Sometimes I start with the end line and work backwards. Sometimes I use the more conventional start to